Crochet is trending - but at what cost?

Crochet is in. Made clear by the Spring/Summer “24 runways, fashion created around the inspiration of crafts is making a comeback. However, the debate between the benefits and ethics behind the production of crocheted items remains.

Created in the 1800s, as a cheaper alternative to traditional lace, crochet now acts as a fond pastime of many across the UK. Therefore, crochet becoming a trending feature to fashion this summer will probably be a delight to most Brits. And whilst creating such garments for one’s own purpose or even for bespoke businesses isn’t problematic, when mass produced, they become an ethical issue. The thing with crochet is that, unlike knitting, it cannot be replicated by machine, due to the three dimensional layers crochet is composed of. Therefore, when mass produced, crochet products are either hand made or actually aren’t crocheted at all. Those who crochet regularly understand the discomfort of your hands cramping after an intense round with your yarn and hook. But the effects of crocheting all day everyday for a long period of time are unimaginable. Workers forced to manufacture such products are at risk of developing conditions such as Repetitive Strain Injury, which causes numbness, swelling and aches, among other symptoms. Combined with severe back pain, RSI can restrict one's ability to complete everyday chores and tasks, in turn stripping away their dignity. However, retailers continue to exploit cheap labour in order to keep up to date with trending styles. As consumers, it is our job to refuse to indulge ourselves in such products because the customer holds the most power when it comes to purchasing wardrobe staples. Because many would find this difficult, a good question to ask yourself is: ‘Do I love this trend enough to make it for myself?’, and if the answer to that is no, it is your sign to move on. However, if your answer is yes, allow yourself to discover the endless highlights of crocheting your own wardrobe.

Being able to create your own garments, perfectly made to measure, feels so freeing. Those who are able to do so enjoy multiple benefits:

Saving money - Apart from the initial cost of crochet hooks, the only item you need to purchase is the yarn itself. Whilst the price of yarn varies proportional to its source and quality, it is a very accessible material. For most crochet products, the cost of yarn is only a fraction of the retail price of a similar item, because the time taken to produce a crocheted garment is more expensive than the material required. If you are on a tight budget, some charity shops sell inexpensive wool, which although isn’t known to be the highest in quality, still functions as well as other yarns.

Reducing screen time - If you find yourself completely hooked on the endless algorithms of social media, crochet can help you battle the mental challenge of switching off. Set yourself achievable goals for your crochet projects and use social media as a reward, instead of completely cutting it off. Over time, increase your ambitions, and after a while you’ll find yourself forgetting the addictive qualities of online platforms, and switching your phone for a ball of wool.

Gift giving made easier - If you hate finding presents, or keep putting gift finding off, use your skills to create a heart felt, handmade item. A simple search online or scroll on Pinterest will soon provide you with the inspiration you need to create the perfect present. The bonus with crocheting is that it's a fairly quick craft, meaning you could make a small project the day before your gift is due. 

Supporting your mental health -  It seems mental health across the country is suffering, but crafting can combate negative thoughts, and transport you to a place of calm for a while. Many take up crochet to improve their mental state, because the intense concentration it requires, forces the mind to stop wandering and to focus its attention on the project in hand.

Having unpicked the key benefits and ethical issues behind crochet items trending this summer, the conclusion that purchasing mass produced crochet is never worth feeling stylish has become clear. However, if such trends allow younger generations to experience the positives of creativity, and improve their mental well being, the runway’s influence could be deemed as positive, despite the workers that suffer when high street retailers demand stock of trending items.