When was the last time you had a hobby that wasn’t digital? Aside from using technology for work or school, are digital outlets like social media or movies the first thing you turn to in your free time? Everybody’s got their own definition of “taking a break” in the everyday tedium: From solitary activities to more outgoing refreshers, there’s immense value in having an “off-the-clock” activity to keep busy. But how often are those breaks tech-based?
With our lives drenched in social media and online news at one’s fingertips, it’s hard to stay away from inevitably “doomscrolling” through the mess. However, a hobby renaissance has swapped swipes for stitches: crochet. Unlike knitting, crochet only requires one hook, some yarn and a lot of patience for learning the techniques of the trade. Because of the minimal supplies required, the activity is an accessible venture for hobby novices and veterans alike. A retrospective run-down of a not-so-retro trend puts crochet at the heart of the conversation, bringing brightness to a bleak time inside.
As with most unexpectedly pleasant surprises, the crochet trend begins with a curious subject: a cardigan. More specifically, this begins with a colorful cardigan worn by singing sensation Harry Styles. Way back in February 2020 — before the phrase “quarantine trends” was a part of everyday vocabulary — the British pop star wore a patchwork cardigan during a soundcheck for his performance on the “Today Show.” Although the garment was nowhere near the suit get-up that Styles wore for his actual performance, keen fans took an inclination to his cozy cardigan.
As Teen Vogue remarked on how “fitting” the cardigan was for the singer, “the vintage-inspired style features squares in shades of bright green, red, orange and yellow and it’s definitely something Harry would gravitate to.” Soon after, even his fans couldn’t deny how perfect the garment was, to the point where they needed it for themselves. Unbeknownst to the singer, Styles and his sweater “breathed oxygen into the rise in popularity of handicrafts” and paved the way for crochet.
Fast forward to a world wavering through repeated lockdowns and loosened restrictions, and Styles’ cardigan swept back into the conversation. Knowing that the iconic cardigan was practically unattainable – due to its whopping four-figure price tag – fans took matters into their own hands and made versions of it for themselves. TikTok’s platform especially bolstered the Harry Styles cardigan craving to new heights. Across the app, users shared their interpretations of how to “make” the gorgeous garment: From self-created patterns and impromptu tutorials, Styles’ fans had their hearts set on hacking the secrets of the sweater. Today, a significant two years after the trend first came to life, the tag “Harry Styles Cardigan Tutorial” surpassed 100 million views on TikTok. It seemed as if everyone, crochet enthusiast or not, wanted to try their hand at crafting the colorful cardigan.
Eventually, the trending tag caught the eye of the original cardigan’s creator, JW Anderson. With the designer so moved by the worldwide creativity around his work, the company released the official, downloadable pattern for the sought-out sweater. No longer would fans have to dream up a faux design or learn how to make knockoffs from TikTok — they could replicate an exact copy of the cardigan, without waiting for shipping and handling. In a quote from Vogue Business’ interview with TikTok on the phenomenon, the company stated, “This is a great example of how TikTok creators showcased their crafty skills and expressed their fandom for Harry Styles iconic looks.”
Beyond mere entertainment, the various interpretations of Styles’ crocheted cardigan came from a dual love of an idol and the need to express that love in something tangible. Crochet, as it turned out, easily filled that need due to how easy it is to pick up: With a handful of supplies and a slew of online guides, anyone can learn how to crochet anything. Even the creators behind Styles’ cardigan agreed on the accessibility of their own patterns, stating, “The great thing about this design is that everyone can learn these stitches.”
The trend also piqued the interest of British diver Tom Daley. When he’s not plunging into pools from 10-meter platforms, Daley can be found crocheting and knitting across his social media. Jumping onto the trend, the diver showcased his version of the “Harry Styles cardigan” to his beloved TikTok followers. However, the stitches don’t stop there: The Olympian has also picked up the cozy craft as a result of various pandemic lockdowns. His out-of-the-water outlet has garnered attention from the fans of his online presence, and the ones on the stands. Pictures of Daley crocheting on the sidelines at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were quick to go viral, which subsequently increased sales of yarn and knitting supplies.
As CNN stated, the “wholesome” nature of the crochet trend is mainly favored over other hobbies since “Affordability is a top priority, with many replicating garments that would otherwise be well out of their price range.” First seen through the rapid responses to Styles’ sweater and Daley’s own creations, recreating desirable items in budgets that hit closer to home makes crochet attainable to wider audiences.
There’s no strict standard that hobbyists need to abide by; the crafting community is just happy to bring in new members who want to stitch together online and off. Since the yarn yearning launched from surprising celebrity origins, where else has it evolved beyond those fanbases? Scrolling through the crafty corner of TikTok, crochet lovers have moved past just replicating Styles’ cardigan or copying Daley’s crafts. The yarn crafts and tutorials have expanded to fit other creative demands besides these fleeting fads. Even though most products that come out of the crochet trend support small businesses, some creations are brought to life for the simple joy of the task.
The crochet trend has proved to be the most endearing among the “quarantine trends” that have dominated time indoors. Collecting 7 billion views on TikTok and 40 million #crochet posts on Instagram, the numbers support the lasting impression of the yarn obsession. To reinvent “grandma’s” pastime for a 2020s audience sews together old techniques with timely interests. For example, many TikTok crochet accounts take inspiration from the Japanese art of making amigurumi figures, using crochet to make adorably soft animals. While amigurumi techniques can overlap with crochet, the TikTok takeover of the single-needle crafts has developed some pretty particular plushies. Only on the platform can you find tutorials for a “strawberry cow” or “chonky dinosaur” plush occupying the same, stitch-obsessed space. Crocheting isn’t just about the product — no matter how cute — but the hobby is beloved for the calming process and rare satisfaction of self-production.
What makes the crochet trend especially lively is its right-place-right-time rise during the revival of hobbies. To brush off the sugarcoating, the transformative years that have followed the COVID-19 pandemic rewired everyone’s relationships to life online. At a time when the digital space became one of the “safest” places to thrive in, it also developed into one of the most harrowing consumers of one’s attention. Yet taking a step back from the internet is no easy task, because of the increasing reliance on technology for a semblance of connection during lockdowns. So how does someone catch a break? As the BBC reported on the comfort of hobbies like crochet, “With much of the world facing travel restrictions and in need of a break from ‘doomscrolling’ and Netflix, many turned to hobbies as a way to soothe their work-from-home burnout.”
While coining the term “doomscrolling” explains the constant influx of not-so-good news, that digital pastime doesn’t suffice as “de-stressing” from each day. Since “Millions of people were forced to come up with new ways of keeping their hands busy,” trying to do so without the crutch of tech sparked a need for “creative” alternatives, such as handmade hobbies. With a little yarn and a lot of time, crafters can submit their stress to the comfort of crochet. The tactile features of methodically weaving yarn together and watching the creation physically come to life, adds a sense of control back into a time that may seem uncontrollable in every aspect.
To put down the phone and pick up the crochet hook is a sign of release from that media cycle while serving as a quaint reminder of the healing power of crafts. By placing the tools a person needs to create something literally in the palm of their hands, this action leaves no time to break for “doomscrolling” or looking up the news. Instead of one’s attention getting clogged in a web of articles, crafts allow a person to be captivated by a coping mechanism in their physical presence. A non-digitized craft emphasizes “tuning out” the tech-world noise and tuning back into the activities that bring out smiles in everyone, without demanding “likes” or “views.”
Looking back to the cardigan that kick-started the crochet trend, Styles’ original garment is currently housed in the V&A museum for posterity. With the worldwide influence that this sweater had — from its own fandom to the crafty creations that followed — it’s no wonder that the original piece must be treated as “artwork.” However, the crochet craving does not stop at this exhibit: New tutorials for crocheted plushies and garments continue to pop up each day. The constant sharing of ideas via TikTok or viral fashion trends also keeps the yarn crafts in style year-round. Even though the crochet trend did get its footing in social media, it is the aspect of producing such items for oneself that brings it back to the home and heart of the individual. Placing power into the hands of crafters all over the world, crochet brings out the down-to-earth warmth that is lost when attention is steeped in the digital clouds. More importantly, having the first and final say in craft-based projects offers the smallest sliver of control over something, within a world where everything can shift overnight.