When was the last time you had a hobby that wasn’t digital? Besides using technology for work or school, is digital media like social media or movies the first thing you turn to in your free time? Everyone has their own definition of ‘taking a break’ from everyday boredom: from solitary pursuits to more outgoing refreshments, there’s immense value in having an ‘off the clock’ activity to keep busy. But how often are these breaks based on technology?
With our lives drowned in social media and online news at our fingertips, it’s hard to stay clear of the inevitable “doomscrolling” through the mess. However, a revival of the hobby has replaced sweeps with stitches: crochet. Unlike knitting, crocheting only requires one hook, some yarn, and lots of patience to learn the techniques of the craft. Due to the minimal supplies required, the activity is an accessible venture for novices and veterans alike. A throwback look at a not-so-retro trend puts crochet at the heart of the conversation, bringing brightness to a dark time indoors.
As with most pleasant and unexpected surprises, the crochet trend begins with a curious subject: a cardigan. Specifically, it starts with a colorful cardigan worn by singing sensation Harry Styles. In February 2020 – before the phrase ‘quarantine trends’ became part of everyday vocabulary – the British pop star wore a patchwork cardigan during a sound check for her performance on the ‘Today Show’. Although the garment is a far cry from the costume outfit Styles wore for his actual performance, avid fans raved about his cozy cardigan.
As Teen Vogue remarked on how “appropriate” the cardigan was for the singer, “the vintage-inspired style features squares in shades of bright green, red, orange and yellow and it’s is definitely something Harry would gravitate towards.” Soon after, even her fans couldn’t deny how perfect the garment was, to the point that they needed it for themselves. Unbeknownst to the singer, Styles and her sweater “breathed oxygen into the craft’s rise in popularity” and paved the way for crochet.
Fast forward to a world teetering through repeated lockdowns and loosened restrictions, and Styles’ cardigan came back into the conversation. Knowing that the iconic cardigan was virtually unattainable – due to its exorbitant four-figure price tag – fans took matters into their own hands and made versions for themselves. TikTok’s platform especially boosted Harry Styles cardigan’s urge to reach new heights. Through the app, users shared their interpretations of how to “make” the gorgeous garment: from self-created patterns and impromptu tutorials, Styles fans were keen to hack the secrets of the sweater . Today, two years after the trend was born, the “Harry Styles Cardigan Tutorial” tag surpassed 100 million views on TikTok. It seemed like everyone, crochet lover or not, wanted to try their hand at making the colorful cardigan.
Eventually, the trending label caught the eye of the original cardigan’s designer, JW Anderson. With the designer so moved by the global creativity surrounding his work, the company has released the official downloadable pattern for the wanted sweater. Fans would no longer have to imagine a fake design or learn how to make fakes from TikTok – they could reproduce an exact copy of the cardigan, without waiting for shipping and handling. In a quote from Vogue Business’ interview with TikTok about the phenomenon, the company said, “This is a great example of how TikTok creators have showcased their crafty skills and expressed their fandom for Harry Styles’ iconic looks.”
Beyond mere entertainment, Styles’ different interpretations of the crochet cardigan stemmed from a dual love for an idol and the need to express that love in something tangible. Crochet turned out to easily fill that need because of its ease of pick-up: with a handful of supplies and a slew of guides online, anyone can learn to crochet anything. Even the designers behind Styles’ cardigan agreed on the accessibility of their own designs, saying, “The great thing about this design is that anyone can learn these stitches.
The trend has also caught the interest of British diver Tom Daley. When he’s not diving into pools from 10-meter platforms, Daley can be found crocheting and knitting on his social media. Jumping on the trend, the diver showed off his version of the “Harry Styles cardigan” to his beloved TikTok followers. However, the stitches don’t stop there: the Olympian has also returned to the comfortable trade following various pandemic lockdowns. Her outlet above the water caught the attention of fans of her online presence and those on the stands. Images of Daley crocheting on the sidelines of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics quickly went viral, which subsequently boosted sales of yarn and knitting supplies.
As CNN stated, the “healthy” nature of the crochet trend is mostly favored over other hobbies since “affordability is a top priority, with many garments replicating that would otherwise be well out of their range. of price”. Seen for the first time through the quick responses to Styles’ sweater and Daley’s own designs, recreating desirable items in budgets closer to home makes crochet accessible to a wider audience.
There is no strict standard that amateurs must meet; the crafter community is just happy to welcome new members who want to assemble online and offline. Since the lust for the yarn was launched from surprising celebrity origins, where has it evolved beyond those fanbases? Scrolling through TikTok’s Crafty Corner, crochet enthusiasts have gone beyond simply replicating Styles’ cardigan or copying Daley’s craft. Yarn crafts and tutorials have grown to meet other creative demands in addition to these passing fads. Even though most products from the crochet trend support small businesses, some creations come to life for the simple pleasure of the task.
The crochet trend turned out to be the most endearing among the “quarantine trends” that dominated the indoor weather. Collecting 7 billion views on TikTok and 40 million #hook posts on Instagram, the numbers support the lasting impression of the yarn obsession. Reinventing the “grandmother” hobby for a 2020s audience brings together old techniques with current interests. For example, many TikTok crochet accounts are inspired by the Japanese art of making amigurumi figures, using crochet to create adorably soft animals. While amigurumi techniques may overlap with crochet, TikTok’s takeover of single-needle crafts has developed some rather peculiar fluff. Only on the platform can you find tutorials for a “strawberry cow” or “chonky dinosaur” plushie to occupy the same dot-obsessed space. Crocheting isn’t just about the product – cute as it is – but the hobby is enjoyed for the calming process and rare satisfaction of self-production.
What makes the crochet trend particularly lively is its rise in the right place at the right time during the revival of hobbies. To sweep away the sugar, the transformative years following the COVID-19 pandemic have rewired everyone’s relationship with life online. At a time when the digital space has become one of the “safest” places to thrive, it has also become one of the most heartbreaking consumers of attention. Still, taking a step back from the internet is no easy task, due to the growing reliance on technology for some semblance of connection during shutdowns. So how does anyone get a break? As the BBC reported on the comfort of hobbies like crochet, “With much of the world facing travel restrictions and needing a break from ‘doomscrolling’ and Netflix, many have turned towards hobbies as a way to soothe their home-based burnout.”
Although the coining of the term “doomscrolling” explains the constant influx of bad news, this digital pastime is not enough to “de-stress” every day. As “millions of people have been forced to find new ways to keep their hands busy”, trying to do so without the crutch of technology has sparked a need for “creative” alternatives, such as hobbies handmade. With a little yarn and a lot of time, crafters can subdue their stress in the comfort of crochet. The tactile characteristics of methodically weaving threads together and watching creation come to life physically, add a sense of control to a time that can feel out of control in every aspect.
Putting down the phone and picking up the hook is a sign of release from this media cycle while serving as a picturesque reminder of the healing power of craftsmanship. By placing the tools a person needs to create something literally in the palm of their hands, this action leaves no time to stop for “doomscrolling” or searching for the news. Instead of obstructing one’s attention in a web of items, crafting allows a person to be captivated by a coping mechanism in their physical presence. An undigitized craft emphasizes “cutting out” the noise of the tech world and activities that make everyone smile, without requiring “likes” or “views.”
Returning to the cardigan that started the crochet trend, Styles’ original garment is currently housed at the V&A Museum for posterity. With the worldwide influence this sweater has had – from its own fandom to the clever designs that followed – it’s no wonder the original piece should be treated as a “work of art”. However, the crochet urge doesn’t stop at this exhibit: new tutorials for crochet stuffed animals and clothes keep popping up every day. The constant sharing of ideas via TikTok or viral fashion trends also keeps yarn crafts in style all year round. Even though the crochet trend has gained a foothold in social media, it is the aspect of producing such items for oneself that brings it home and into the heart of the individual. By placing the power in the hands of artisans around the world, Crochet brings out the down-to-earth warmth that is lost when attention is immersed in digital clouds. More importantly, having the first and last say in crafting projects offers the least amount of control over anything, in a world where everything can change overnight.