(plus: a fidget toy crochet pattern)
By Anna Brewski
These days, I rarely leave the house without a crochet hook and a ragged ball of wool. Crochet has become a coping mechanism, a means of surviving uncomfortable situations that I simply don’t feel ‘wired’ to deal with. As a neurodivergent individual in a world full of ‘normal’ people, these situtations tend to crop up a lot. But crochet helps by keeping my fingers busy and my mind occupied; it imposes both physical and mental separation from the outside world. I typically get overwhelmed by a crashing tsunami of external input that someone else could simply brush aside, or consumed by a persistent, gnawing anxiety that refuses to budge. But with crochet, I can stay just that little bit further away from it all. After all, it is harder for that lingering fear to creep in or the cascade of noise and information to sweep you under, if some part of you is simply not there, but rather resolutely counting stitches inside your head. Looping the wool over the hook over and over stops me from incessantly picking at the raw cuticles of my nail beds; focusing my gaze on the orderly rows of stitches is one way of lessening the glare of too-bright light and ‘should I be making eye contact or not?’. With crochet, I can get by.
The term ‘stimming’ is often used to describe the coping mechanisms some neurodiverse individuals use to manage stressful situations. Typically a repetitive movement or vocalisation, stimming can help by soothing, blocking out external sensory input, or relieving built-up emotions. Crochet, you could say, has become my means of ‘stimming’. But whilst I am able to crochet freely in public, some individuals are ashamed of their stims and feel like they must stifle them. This is because common stims, be it flapping your hands or biting your nails, clicking your tongue in a quiet room or humming softly in a loud one, are just not ‘socially acceptable’.
Why not? We know that it is wrong to ridicule someone using crutches, or mock a person’s hearing aid; why should an ‘undesirable’ self-soothing behavior shown by a neurodivergent individual be treated any differently? After all, the crutches, the hearing aid, and the behaviour serve much the same function: they are adaptations to manage in a world that isn’t quite suited to that person’s needs. The only difference is that the former help the body whilst the latter helps the mind.
It would be ideal if all coping mechanisms were unconditionally welcomed without disapproving glares or muffled sniggers. However, all too often those – like me – that identify as neurodivergent are forced to hide the strategies and stims we use to get by. By shaming us for our ways of managing, society refuses to fully accept our differences.
So for now, I continue to bring my crochet hook and wool with me. It helps me stay that little bit more in control. Plus, it often produces useful things – such as this soft, tactile, infinitely-looping fidget toy.
You will need
- DK wool
- 3.5 mm crochet hook
- Wool/tapestry needle
Stitch index (US terms)
- Ch – chain
- Sc – single crochet
- Sl st – slip stitch
- Dc – double crochet
- FO – fasten off
Ch 15. Sk 1 chain then sc into the back loops of the remaining 14 chains.
Bring the two ends of the crochet piece together, twisting one by 180° to form a twisted loop. Sl st into what is now the top of the other end of the piece.
Change colour. Ch 1 then sc into the same stitch. [2 sc in the next stitch, 1 sc in the stitch after that] for the rest of the round. When you come to the join for the first time, continue on, so that you end up working into both sides of the crochet piece. Sl st into the first stitch of the round.
Change colour. Ch 3 then dc into the same stitch. [2 dc in the next stitch] for the rest of the round. Sl st into the topmost chain of the ch 3.
Change colour. Ch 1 then sc into the same stitch. [2 sc into the next stitch, 1 sc into the stitch after that] for the rest of the round. Sl st into the first stitch of the round. FO and weave in the loose ends.
This type of fidget toy is great because it is so versatile. You can twist it, feed it through itself, attach it to a keyring or bag, and slide it comfortably onto your fingers. This particular pattern makes a toy that fits most medium-sized fingers. If you want a larger fidget toy, either ch 18 (instead of 15) in step 1, or use a larger-sized crochet hook.
This fidget toy is also unusual because of its mathematical properties. It is a Möbius strip: an infinite loop with just one side. Trace a line along its surface and keep going until you get back to the beginning; no matter where you start from, you’ll cover all faces of the ring without ever lifting your finger off the toy.
Customise your fidget toy by varying the colours or crocheting additional round.
Anna says: “is a short musing about one particular difference in the way that neurodivergent and physiodivergent individuals are accepted in society, alongside a crochet pattern for a fidget toy”