When Mukul Verma first picked up a ball of yarn and a crochet needle, he just wanted to get away from a heartbreak and ease the maelstrom in his head.
With his hands occupied in untangling the yarn and his mind in learning different stitches, Verma no longer had time to think about the love that couldn’t be because he had found a new one – crochet.
“Those few months I was quite depressed and taking up crochet happened on an impulse. I would spend hours crocheting without the gloomy thoughts that often occupied me earlier,” Verma, a Delhi-based medical professional, told PTI.
The mental image crochet conjures up is of old women sitting hunched over their needles crafting delicate lace doilies. But that is changing rapidly.
Leaping across the traditionally gendered boundaries of the craft, 35-year-old Verma is one of the many young adults breaking the crochet stereotype. The motivations could be as simple as a wish to learn something new or as complex as tackling depression and booting harmful habits.
The tools are simple and inexpensive.
A basic crochet kit requires a set of crochet hooks, which range between Rs 100-1,000 and more based on the material and style, and yarn, the price of which again depends on the brand and quality.
Some also use stitch markers and darning needles for a more convenient crochet experience.
While perfecting the craft may take anywhere between months to years, it is a practice that is easy to get a hang of. Stitches such as single crochet, double crochet, half double crochet and treble crochet are fundamental in a wide range of crochet patterns, making the craft easier to get used to through repeated movements.
The stress-busting skill can be acquired through YouTube videos or classes.
Before learning the art of crocheting, Kunal Chaurasia would stress about his marketing job that filled him with anxiety over deadlines during the lockdown.
But that was then.
The 24-year-old, based in Mumbai, has now given up his job and taken to crochet full-time, and also earning his living through it.
It has been about two months. And even though he has been crocheting without break, he said he has never felt more stress free.
Now he makes more than 60-70 crocheted items in a month, earning three times more than his last drawn salary.
It was the motivational company of his maternal grandmother who would deftly crochet items for the family that inspired Chaurasia to learn a few basic stitches of the craft.
Chaurasia then went on to YouTube to find more about crochet and soon had an Instagram page where people showed interest in buying the products he made.
“At first I was curious about learning a new craft, but soon I found that it gave me peace after a stressful day of work. I had anxiety and stress issues because of my work, but when I crochet I get lost in it. And the finished product makes me very happy,” he said.
Depending on the intricacy of the work and the size, crochet pieces can go for up to several thousand rupees.
According to senior clinical psychologist Manju Mehta, any physical activity helps with mental health but learning and practising crafts like crocheting and knitting add a sense of achievement.
“I have seen improvement in my patients once they started handicrafts like knitting and crocheting. It acts as a distraction. And once you complete something, it gives you a sense of achievement. It helps with positive hormonal changes,” Mehta said.
When an activity that gives you joy is turned into a profession, it acts as further motivation instead of becoming another stress-inducing job, she added.
The pandemic motivated Lahari Basu, a media professional, to brush up her crochet skills that she dropped nearly 12 years ago.
The 30-year-old learned crochet from her mother and grandmother when she was barely 18 as something that “she should know” only to pick it up again during the lockdown.
“I didn’t personally go through any stressful or traumatic events. But my mother had anxiety issues and it has really helped her a lot with that. Also when you create something from scratch it gives you happiness,” Basu said.
Now the mother-daughter duo run a crochet business through their Instagram page.
Back to Mukul Verma, who didn’t turn his hobby into a profession but did use it to get over the habit of chain smoking.
After a few months of crocheting, Verma decided to use the hobby to kick the butt once and for all.
“Every time I had an impulse to smoke I would busy myself with crochet. I was smoking nearly 30 cigarettes a day, and dropped to zero within a day,” Verma added with a hint of pride in his voice.
Four years down the line, Verma has not touched the cigarette since and settled down with a life partner who appreciates his love for crochet. And on those cloudy days of grey gloom, he still finds solace in the intricate patterns of his scarfs, sweaters and more.
Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.