How Crocheting Saved My Life

IMG_1773Okay, so that title is an example of hyperbole. Crocheting didn’t save my life but it certainly saved my sanity during a really trying period of my life!

All of you with a creative outlet know how important that outlet can be in times of trouble. When you’re under stress and your brain is working overtime and imagining the worst, having busy hands and a project that needs concentration can distract and calm you.

And that’s what crocheting did for me. I didn’t crochet before and I don’t crochet anymore. I honestly don’t really enjoy crocheting (sorry to all who love it!). But I needed it.

Here’s my story: My husband and I had just moved to a home on Lake Champlain in upstate New York. Three weeks after we moved in, Lake Champlain reached record high-water levels and our house was surrounded by water. We had to leave and leave pretty fast.

The lake isn't supposed to be on this side of the house!

The lake isn’t supposed to be on this side of the house!

We spent 6 weeks in a tatty motel. Our cats spent 6 weeks in cages at the vet’s. It rained relentlessly and the flood waters kept inching up and we didn’t know if the whole house would flood but we knew the basement and garage were full of water. We could get to the house but only in hip waders.

Yes, a boat in the driveway.

Yes, a boat in the driveway.

One of the worst aspects of this was that we had nothing to do. We don’t really care about TV or movies or shopping. There are only so many walks a person can take in a day. So we sat around the motel and worried ourselves sick.

And that’s where crocheting came in. I needed something to distract me and crocheting seemed to be the simplest solution—after all the supply list is truly minimal. All I needed was one crochet hook and a ball of yarn and my trusty iPad, for instruction.

I spent 6 weeks obsessively learning one crochet pattern. I found a pretty picture of a 16-circles square on the Internet and set out to learn it.

This was the picture that inspired me. From

This was the picture that inspired me. From

Because I had no background in crochet or reading the language of the patterns, my progress was really slow and really painful. BUT it took my mind off all the other painful worries and focused me. And I finally learned to make the squares and made enough of them to out together a decent-sized throw.

And this is what mine looked like.

And this is what mine looked like.

And I’m happy to report that by the time I had enough squares to stitch together, we were back in our house! We didn’t have running water for weeks, because the well and the septic system were completely compromised, and pretty much every shrub and perennial in our yard died a horrible death. We had scum all over the garage and black mold growing up the walls, but the flood waters had not made it into the main part of the house.

Now, two years later, everything is groovy. The house and gardens look great again and we love living on this beautiful lake, when it behaves!

I tried to keep crocheting but, somehow, I just can’t get into it. It’s as if it served its purpose and now I can move on. But I’m keeping my crochet hook . . . just in case. Has your form of creative expression helped you through a difficult time? I’d love to hear about it!


48 thoughts on “How Crocheting Saved My Life

  1. Years ago, when I was having some health problems, I did cross-stitch every day. It helped me in so many ways 🙂 Annie

  2. That’s a beautiful throw. Congratulations.
    I knit and crochet constantly to help me to think and deal with stress. I couldn’t do without it. Certain projects remind me of the stressful events and it reminds me that there is something positive I created out of something negative. Works every time!

  3. That is a beautiful blanket and a sad but also a good story. I have a few items of intricate knitting and embroidery I made during trying times: I treasure them and they represent that ‘all will be all right and often better in the end’ ;0) Thank you for sharing, Johanna

  4. Oh crafting is great for getting through stress. I started patchworking when I was finishing my PhD thesis and the stress was getting on top of me. It really helped to calm me after a long day. Then, a few years later, my brother died in tragic circumstances and crafting really helped me keep an even keel, particularly in the 1st year after his death. I’m not in a stressful place right now, but I still craft and it’s good to know I have something there if anything worrying happens.

  5. A beautiful blanket, well done.
    I also turned manically to crochet when I got my cancer diagnosis. It got me through the toughest times, took my mind of everything else. Now I’m over the worst but I keep on with the crochet……I think I’m addicted now!!

  6. This is such an interesting post, I’ve always crocheted and stitched but have noticed that I tend to do more when under stress,
    And it doesn’t matter if you don’t do the craft now because if you ever get stressed again you can go back to it 🙂

  7. Wow, what a great story. So glad you turned your stress into creating such a beautiful blanket! I had forgotten how to crochet, and just recently, because of stress, decided to re-learn it. What a blessing it has been! Not only does it help, but I am having so much fun with it! I love going down the aisles in the craft stores, choosing pretty colors and “happy combinations”! I also sew, and do photography, but because of my husband’s job, we have to travel by car for hours at a time and I am really enjoying taking along (like you said) the simple elements of yarn & hook! Thanks for sharing such a personal story, I can tell by the comments that it was inspiring to more than just me 🙂

    • Thanks for the nice comment! It’s so great to have something to DO when stress takes over. And regarding color combinations–the colors I choose for that blanket are not like anything I would usually choose. But the flood happened during the spring and killed most of our plants so, when I look back, I think I chose those colors because they made me think of a garden–like I could create my own!

      • Wow, that makes it even more meaningful. The pattern is beautiful. I have tried to follow written patterns but I just can’t do it. The only way I was able to finally learn again was viewing the youtube tutorials. Maybe when I get past the “beginner” stage I’ll be able to do it? I don’t know! haha

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  9. That’s a lovely story! Yes, crafts can be very helpful in trying times – I’ve experienced this myself, and often hear it from customers (I sell embroidery kits). Doing crafts seems to use a part of the brain that can help us ‘shut off’ unwanted thoughts, because they need total concentration! It’s a bit like meditation, I think (only better, as you end up with something you can see at the end of it!).

    • It was! Now, every spring, we watch the lake like eagles, to gauge its level and rise. I don’t ever expect to see a flood like that again (she says, with fingers crossed!)

  10. Yikes, that is a lot of water. But I am so glad that you were able to move back to your house. Bet the cats were happy too. After the earthquakes I couldn’t settle to anything. But after awhile I managed to knit peggy squares and then a while after that I was able to start reading again. I haven’t done any knitting in ages now. The peggy squares were stitched together to make pot holders. Your throw is beautiful.

  11. In November of 2008, my mother died. I couldn’t read or concentrate so I picked up yarn at a craft store. I ended up making 3 afghans that winter and gave them as gifts. The crocheting was therapeutic because all I could think about was the next stitch instead of my grief.

    • I completely understand that and am glad you discovered a way to deal with the grief. To be diverted AND to be creating something practical and lovely–I think it’s all very restorative.

  12. Thank you for (re)sharing. I have crochet, cross stitch and quilted throughout my life. It has helped when sitting in a doctor’s or hospital waiting room, or just when daily chores made me feel unproductive. Being creative, in any craft, does help make it through the challenges of life! I have crochet baby hats to fit preemies for the NICU of the local hospital, and made pillowcases & quilts for hospital patients and others that just need a ‘hug.’ Nothing can make you feel better than doing something for another!

  13. What a traumatic time for you! I can only imagine how awful it must have been to have to vacate your house and to lose your home comforts, routine and your precious cats. So many of us use our creativity to help us through rough patches. I think we are lucky really, because what do people who are not blessed with that gift do when times are tough? It is a way of channeling the unacceptable and transforming it into something better. I love your blanket with it’s little rose bud like splashes of pink amongst the pure white. I too have made many items, from big quilts to gardens when times were tough, but interestingly, when I had surgery, last year, which went wrong and I was in a wheelchair for a time and unable to walk for 10 months, I completely shut down and made nothing. All I wanted to do was walk and be free and without that I was no longer ‘me’. Now I am beginning to reconnect with my ” hands at home” and I am so comforted by the fact that I can sew again! Hooray!- Karen

    • That must’ve been terrifying, to be wheelchair bound and feels so alienated from your true self! It sounds like you might’ve been struggling with some depression, and you’ve worked your way out of it. You certainly seem full of life, and energy, and joie de vivre now!

  14. I remember reading, and very much enjoying this post before, so I’m surprised I haven’t commented on it! This sounds like a horrible 6 weeks and a very distressing experience but the part about how crocheting helped you is lovely. This summer I graduated for University and spent 6 months struggling to find a job. Writing my blog, and making things which I would then post on the blog really helped me have some focus and fill my time with something meaningful. I really don’t know what I would have done without it! It’s a shame you didn’t get into crochet again, but this throw is lovely! I really like the tie dye wool xx

    • You’ve found such a productive way to help you make your transition from university to the next step, whatever it is. I can read your blog and actually see how much fun you’re having and how you’re evolving as a blogger!

    • Well, I hope you don’t need a crisis to push you into action! Looking back, I can see I was trying to make a springtime garden with those colors. We missed out on our entire spring at home and almost all our flowers and shrubs died from being under water for so long. The colors I picked aren’t ones that normally appeal to me and the throw doesn’t go with anything in my house . . . but it was my substitute for spring, I guess.

  15. How awful! This reminds me of the great flood over here in 2002. My mom was also surrounded by water. And poor kitties… I truly hope you’ll never have to experience ever again!!
    Your crochet blanket is absolutely gorgeous! Sewing has a calming effect on me 🙂

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