How Crocheting Keeps Me Sane

Keeping my hands occupied improves my focus greatly; with a simple enough project, I can watch movies with my full attention, never looking down at the needles.
Publish date:
March 22, 2014
crochet, knitting, college, adhd, sanity

Read more from Danielle on xoVain!

I’m a DIY fanatic. Once I figured out how to sew, a veritable rocketship launched in my atmosphere, and the ideas never stopped pouring in. One skill led to another, and my attention-span issues led me deeper into the maze.

Growing up, I was heavy into painting, poetry, politics, journalism, art history, and foreign cultures -- instead of simply reading about a saree, I wanted to wear one. Exposure to arts and music coaxed out my hands-on skills.

As I progressed in years, my attention issues were self-managed. I got through high school by crocheting and knitting during class, much to the chagrin of my class bullies, who would balk at my being allowed to do so. We were honors students -- how was I allowed to crochet during lecture? Because my teachers knew that I could participate in a lecture and repeat whole sentences from memory BECAUSE I crocheted during class.

Keeping my hands occupied improves my focus greatly; with a simple enough project, I can watch movies with my full attention, never looking down at the needles. (This, I suspect, also delayed my ADHD diagnosis until college, when my professors did not allow me to knit or crochet during class.)

To this day I can only watch TV or movies without a project in my hands right before bed or when I am physically and mentally depleted. Now I know one of the reasons for this is my learning disability, which I always managed to stay one step ahead of, until now.

Currently I am unmedicated because stimulants make me aggressive, crave cigarettes and alcohol, and have no sex drive or appetite whatsoever. All that sounds pretty shitty to me, so I have been avoiding them for about a year now. I’m insured again, and living a freelancer’s dream of being able to float from project to project freely every day, which has left me considering medication again. Since I know I don’t enjoy it -- I like food, after all -- I have decided to try out my old self-help: needlework.

Having long-term yarn projects has always been pretty satisfying. I once took every single scrap I had of yarn and crocheted hundreds of squares, flowers, and segments to make an ugly blanket for myself, but someone convinced me I was hoarding so I threw it out. Sadface. Those patterns all came from the vast library of DIY encyclopedias from the 1960s-1980s at an assisted living home I worked in during high school. That, my friends, was a lovely job for a teenager. It is important for shitty, pompous little teens to learn to not only respect elders (who aren’t related) but to enjoy their company. I felt like those residents were my friends, and they respected me, tattoos and all.

Imagine my surprise when, 10 years later, I stumbled upon a similar book collection in NYC. I was selling my clothes and accessories on the street outside the Morgan Ave L train. Bushwick is a place where you can still get away with that from time to time -- there are a few people who sell books and vintage knick-knacks there almost every day. The regular bookseller looked at my work and said I needed to see this collection he had. He could sense my hoardy-ness and knew I would want the whole set. Maybe he could also sense my taste in recreational drugs, because he flat out offered to trade me these 1970’s ‘Make it Yourself’ books for a nice pinch of weed. He would not accept money.

Lucky for him I had just enough of my personal stash to give to him, which he promptly walked around the corner to sample. Upon returning, we joked about potency[Styles P - Good Times (Explicit)], and he thanked me for giving the books a new home where they will be used, not just decoration. I was SO touched by this, and these books are 1. Immaculate and 2. PACKED with insane projects and patterns.

The first project I took on was a net grocery bag. It is one of the more simple patterns with a lot of single crochet (one of the more basic stitches) to get myself back in the groove. Thanks to my thrifting habits, I also have a decent stash of yarn, which usually comes about 5 skeins for $1. That's cheap, yo.

Here I am, below, already almost 90% done with my first project. Look out for me crocheting on the train, on the bus, in the car, on the couch, before bed, or while watching TV, like I did in high school to avoid using stimulants to control my inattention. These days, I try to create consequences and deadlines that are actual and real to keep myself motivated, because when I don’t, I just comment on dis shit all day (love y’all).

Now that I will be juggling writing, designing, and other odd jobs, It’s time to bust out the needles to keep the car running. I would ideally like to complete small projects at the rate of one per week, with larger ones clocking in at once per month, and have selected some beautiful projects that are vintage at heart but would fold right into a modern closet!

I know there are more of us out there: the doodlers, the fidgeters, the antsy pantsys -- and people tend to think we are rude, which can add to the anxiety. What do you do to help keep your mind calm and hands busy?