Thursday, 13 February 2014

MCTD - Mandatory Crochet Therapy Daily

When I put my hooks down in December I discovered the true importance of crochet as a preventative therapy.

2013 was a huge year of constant crochet for gifts and fundraising, with a steady stream of requests to keep me busy, not that I needed to be kept busy.  I am never bored. There is always something to do.

I like to be busy; I hate sitting still. 

When Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD) frustrated my ability to do my usual physical activities, I chose crochet to keep my mind active and channel that need to do something.

Sweet Pea Shawl
designed by Amie Hirtes
I loved the look of lacy crochet and wanted to be able to make all of those beautiful shawls that are so expensive in the shops.  Crochet was affordable, portable, didn't take up a lot of room in my small home, and if I fell asleep in the middle of it, it didn't matter (unlike sewing, for example, where falling asleep on the job could be injurious!).

It also helped that my local church had a weekly craft meeting and a friend (Laurel D) who could take me there to learn the basics.

When I learned that I had an autoimmune disease that can affect the joints, I decided to make crochet a daily habit to keep my hands moving.  With arthritic conditions it is important to "use it or lose it" and I soon learned that keeping active is less painful in the long run than sitting still.

That didn't count during the times of immense fatigue when I was restricted to bedrest or the couch; when I slept many days away.  During wakeful times, I was able to pick up a crochet hook to distract myself from the pain; to distract myself from the desire to be out in the sunshine or doing the daily chores and errands.

At least crochet had its own physical benefits to complement the psychological.  It kept my hands moving which kept my joints mobile and my hands warm by improving circulation.  These are important because my MCTD is a crossover of conditions including Raynaud's Phenomenon, Lupus, Sjögren's Syndrome and Scleroderma.

While I always knew crochet was beneficial, this fact recently 'hit home' for me.

Hooks all tucked away in their pretty tin.
On 10 December I decided to put my crochet hooks down and ignore them for an entire month. On purpose.

2013 had been such a huge year that, by December, I was very tired.  I hadn't even started my Christmas preparations.  I needed time to organise my family's Christmas celebrations, plus time to complete those unfinished tasks that had been postponed during the school year.

I did not want to suffer 'burn out' from 'crochet overload'. I love it too much.  It was an opportunity to give my hands a rest and focus on home and family for a while.

On 20 December in the blog entry "Downtime", I observed the effects of scleroderma on my skin. Into January, I noticed my hands and fingers were stiffening up, both in the joints and the skin. 

"Is this what happens when I don't crochet?" I wondered. It seems crochet is important for keeping the skin supple too. 

I conscientiously avoided crochet as planned until 13 January 2014 when I wielded the hook again. My first project for 2014 is already complete - a new cover for my phone.

Pleasingly,  with a return to crochet, my hands have regained mobility and are improving everyday.

I shall add a new acronym to the prescription:

MCTD - Mandatory Crochet Therapy Daily

Links & Further Information

Arthritis Victoria, <>
Information about arthritis and other autoimmune conditions like scleroderma, Sjögren's syndrome and lupus/SLE.

Better Health Channel, "Raynaud's Phenomenon" State Government of Victoria, Australia, updated 24 January 2014, <'s_phenomenon>
This article was prepared in consultation with Arthritis Victoria. It distinguishes between primary and secondary Raynaud's phenomenon, and discusses symptoms, complications, diagnosis, prevention and treatments.

Hirtes, Amie, "Sweet Pea Shawl" crochet pattern:
Lupey Loops, "Downtime" blog entry, 20 December 2013, <>
This entry has links to information about autoimmune disease in general and scleroderma and MCTD in particular.

Lupey Loops, "Diagnostic Hoops" blog entry, 24 January 2013, <>
This entry has links for information using specific search terms; e.g. mixed connective tissue disease,  lupus, Raynaud's phenomenon, arthritis, Addison's disease (hypoadrenalism), vasculitis.


  1. Interesting observation! A friend of mine also reported improvement in the swelling of her hands (RA) by learning to crochet.

    1. That is interesting that crochet is helping someone else in the same way and I am not the only one. I appreciate your feedback very much, Stel.

  2. Today I discovered that the material from this page on my blog has been illegally copied and published on another web site without my permission:

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