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My 9-year-old daughter is one of those kids who needs to be doing something all the time, and frankly, it can be exhausting. So a few years ago I doubled-down to find her activities that she could do without my help. I thought back to my own childhood, trying to recall how I spent hours entertaining myself before smartphones and tablets even existed, and I decided to introduce her to latch hook. I bought her a kit for Christmas, taught her how to do it, and she was, well, hooked.
For those not in-the-know, latch hook involves taking a precut piece of yarn and using a hooking tool to loop it around a rung of a piece of canvas that’s imprinted with a design. All you have to do is match the yarn to the color of the rung in the row you’re working on et voilà, the pattern or picture will emerge. It is an easy, meditative craft that offers pretty instant gratification as you watch your rows stack up.
During my youth, latch hook was—for a time—all the rage. Everyone was doing it. And I’m here to suggest that we should all do it now. We’re spending an unprecedented amount of time glued to screens these days—whether for work or school or socializing—and we need screen-free outlets that also allow us to unplug mentally. In the depths of winter, we’re all going to be indoors even more: We’ll need more than playing Among Us and baking sourdough to get us through. I recently started a puppy latch hook while my daughter completes a cupcake, and I can confirm that the hobby is as simple and satisfying as I remembered. Bonus: It’s mess-free, affordable, and fun.
Extra bonus? Back in the day (the day being the ’70 s), the market for latch-hook designs was dominated by cats, horses, and sad puppies. Today there are some more pleasing designs out there. And if you plan well this year, you can make latch hook a family activity, or a holiday gift-making one. You might even stumble into spring with a vaguely usable latch-hook item for your home.
Here’s what you need to get started:
Many latch hook kits come with a hooking tool, but a lot of them don’t. Be sure to check the contents of any kit you buy—especially if it’s your first—and get yourself a hook if needed. There’s not a lot to worry about in terms of quality as most hooks are created equal, like this one.
Find a design that sparks your joy. Or at least one that you think you can stand to look at when you’re done. Maybe you’re into sad puppies, and if so, those designs are still out there. But you might prefer this daisy or a colorful mandala to get lost in. Don’t get too stressed deciding, though. The appeal of latch hook is mostly its process—the blissful, repetitive, mindlessness of it all.
My childhood bedroom had at least a few throw pillows that were made from latch hook designs I’d completed; I remember a lion and a dog set against a cool mint-green background. Whether you intend to turn a latch-hook project into a pillow or not, your small people are going to be more motivated to sit down and hook some yarn if they’re excited about the image they’re making. If your kid is into unicorns, or Star Wars, or Disney favorites, you’re covered. An older child or teen who’s into music might like this treble clef or perhaps a “Bring Your Own Yarn” kit, which allows your kid to inject a bit of their own personality and style into the finished project.
Most of us are not visiting friends these days, but we can visit with members of our own household across a table, and even take turns working on larger latch hook projects the same way families work on puzzles together. My family just got a dog so we’re thinking of making this welcome mat. You may prefer a cute round cat rug. Or this colorful “LOVE” bus for a playroom. This small rug design is lovely and pretty neutral … and this Christmas one might spark the joy of the season.
The allure of a mindless craft can start to wear off after a while, and you may want to produce something that’s a bit more utilitarian. If you don’t want to graduate to more complicated crafting like cross-stitch or crewel embroidery, there are some latch-hook kits that yield more useful items.
This owl design is pretty cute and can be made into a doll for cherishing or gift-giving. These slippers are super fun for a tween on your list—maybe a gift from one crafty cousin to another. And if you’ve got nothing against plain old latch hook rugs but just can’t find a design you love, you can buy a blank canvas and get creative. I’m thinking of trying to DIY a RBG collar design this winter, or maybe a Baby Yoda. The possibilities are endless … and still perfectly mindless.