By Lily Miniken
When you read or hear the word ‘crochet’, your first thought may be of your grandma, or perhaps a scene from a Jane Austen novel. For me, crocheting means self-expression and hours of fun, not to mention a way to preserve my sanity during the mess that has been the last two years. Crochet has always received plenty of love from a wide range of people, but during the Coronavirus pandemic, it has had a sort of renaissance, especially amongst the young women of Generation Z, and I am one of them.
The pandemic has seen a resurgence in multiple household skills and activities such as baking, knitting, embroidery and cross-stitching, but the one that has influenced my life and has seen the most growth in the wider world is crochet. While such skills have been previously linked to ideas of domesticity and homemaking, today a whole new generation is discovering and using crochet as an embellishment of their identity. And frankly, it is very trendy.
My crochet journey
I first started crocheting when I was fourteen and I was truly terrible. I didn’t even follow any patterns; I just forced my yarn into wonky headbands. But in early 2020, at the age of 21, I realised that I was going to be confined to my home for a long period of time, so I tried again.
It all began with bucket hats. I must have watched the same YouTube tutorial at least 20 times before I finally started to get it. During this endeavour, I began to learn the language of crochet, discovering the different types of stitches and understanding their meaning. As I moved onto more challenging items, the whole process became more and more relaxing and I found myself gravitating towards it to curb my anxiety. One of my favourite things to do now is to listen to a podcast or story, such as Stephen Fry’s audiobook of Harry Potter or Office Ladies, whilst I create.
Since the start of my crochet journey, I have made a dozen hats (bucket and beanies), shopping bags, backpacks, coin purses, jumpers, tops, earrings, coasters and other oddities. I just can’t get enough! Instead of YouTube tutorials, I now follow written patterns, getting the majority of these from Etsy. There is something so exhilarating but humbling about making your own clothes and accessories: they aren’t always perfect, but they wouldn’t exist without your determination and perseverance. I have even sold a few of my items!
A brief history of crochet
Before I delve into the reasons behind this recent revival, let’s look at the history of crochet just to bring you up to speed. I should also clarify that crocheting is not the same as knitting. With crochet, you only use one hook, while two needles are needed to knit.
Knitted textiles have been around for centuries, but tangible evidence of crochet first emerged in the 1800s. Crochet was first conceived as a technique to serve as a cheaper alternative to traditional lace. Throughout the 1900s, crochet was used to make entire garments of clothing such as hats, gowns and cardigans, but it really took off in the 1960s and 70s. Alongside crocheted clothing items, there was a huge trend in crocheted homewares and the ‘granny square’ was born. We are certainly seeing the biggest comeback since this 60s–70s era.
Why is crochet becoming cool again?
As the world slowed down during 2020, people started looking for new ways to keep themselves busy and to explore their creative abilities when in isolation, leading to the rise of overlooked household skills.
Crochet started trending because it has the same pull and attraction as thrifting does, which is also incredibly trendy amongst Generation Z. Making your own clothes is a form of sustainable slow fashion. Despite whether you use ethically sourced yarn or not, you are at least in some way avoiding the endless cycle of waste that is synonymous with the fast fashion industry. Additionally, the crochet boom can be linked to the resurgence of 70s fashion trends that we have seen over the past few years in the form of platform boots and flared pants.
Personally, I believe the rise of crochet amongst Gen Z is due to TikTok and YouTube. Crochet is largely considered to be part of the ‘Cottagecore’ aesthetic of TikTok and Gen Z – think countryside scenes and peasant dresses. There are tens of thousands of TikToks related to crochet: tutorials, hauls – you name it, it’s there. Crochet was able to go viral on TikTok because of the unique nature of the app’s algorithm. Depending on what type of TikToks you watch and ‘like’, the app will continue to show you like-minded or similar TikToks on your ‘For You Page’ (FYP). Basically, once you are on crochet TikTok, the more crochet content you will be exposed to!
The best YouTube videos for crochet are definitely the numerous beginners tutorials or the ones from the experts who may have forgotten one of the trickier stitches. Tutorials that teach viewers how to make certain celebrity clothing items or accessories (such as the viral Harry Styles Cardigan) are also becoming extremely popular. With these videos getting hundreds of thousands of views, there’s an endless amount of variations for you to choose from. Another type of video trending on YouTube is compilation videos of different crochet TikToks, showing how these two platforms are able to cross over successfully.
The outcome of these viral videos can be seen on Depop, a fashion marketplace platform. Depop enables users to sell and purchase clothing items, often second-hand or hand-made to create a more sustainable shopping experience. Depop functions on a peer-to-peer basis, meaning anyone can post their items for sale. As such, there is a wide range of crocheted items available which sell for increasingly higher prices, especially if they contain some of the viral crochet TikTok creations such as the strawberry or frog bucket hat.
I am so happy crochet is ‘in’. If anything, learning to crochet has provided me with an outlet for my stress and anxiety during difficult times and has taught me a little more about resilience. Not to mention that there is honestly nothing better than being able to make things for the people I love. Hopefully I’ll have my own Etsy store up soon!
Lily Miniken is a 23-year-old Publishing Communications student at the University of Melbourne. Lily has previously been published in Farrago and is currently our website editor and co-editor of the Publishing and MZ blogs.
Cover photo by JOONY on Unsplash.