From Hobby to Forced Labor – The World of Crochet

I remember the first time walking through Target seeing crocheted bags and tops with only one thought running through my head, “Imagine the hours, it would have taken me at least six to only get half way through.” Then it hit me, imagine the hours, the hours it took someone else to make. The labor that went into making this, only for it to be sold under 30 dollars. A common misconception or myth is that companies have “crocheting machines” to make all of these items, but there is no such thing a crochet machine, the patterns and designs are so complex for a machine to recreate.

Basics to Crochet – Granny square

Granny Square Blanket” by Breibeest is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Yarn, scissors and a hook are necessary to start any crochet project. Granny square are “motifs” are consists of slip stitches and double crochet stitch (dcs), worked in groups of 3 dc it begins to create the classic square look, that has no limit to how large they can be. Once multiple squares are created they can either be stitched together first or for a more clean look, the square are “blocked.” Meaning all the squares are sprayed typically with water, stretched out to lay flat and pinned down on a foam pad until they are completely dry. This process allows the pattern of the project to show and allow for it to drape evenly. [2] People often add their own twist to the motif by switching colors to show a hearts or flowers and even making other shapes like a hexagonal granny square.

Crochet vs Knitting

Crochet/knitting machine by COMEZ

A major difference between knitting and crochet that many people don’t know about is that crochet can ONLY be made by hand. While crocheting is easier to learn and master than knitting, the complexity of the patterns created by one hook, a strand of yarn, motion of yarning over and pulling through a loops is too difficult for a machine to learn or replicate. Some companies try to convince the public that “crochet machines” exists such as the COMEZ crochet and knitting machine (as seen on the left), but this is far from the truth.

Process as a whole

There is a lengthy process that goes behind creating and releasing patterns. Creators will often start with drawing out what they envision the pattern to look like, write out the stitches and in the end crochet it. Now no matter how experienced someone is at crocheting, the first version of their pattern usually isn’t the first one, but rather more of a rough draft. They will rewrite and fixed certain things until they are content enough to release it. However, once they have the final version written out they will have to go through a process where they will promote and select testers to test the written instructions for the items. This process could take on an average about a month (depending on how big the project is) where the creator gets feedback from the testers to see if any changes need to be made to their instructions before finally releasing it. Once this process is complete, the price of the pattern will be determined, typically free patterns are easy and beginner level, whereas more complex patterns will have a price on them. I, myself, have bought patterns before and have also downloaded free patterns, its a work of art and very intense process to be able to create anything I would want. I spend at least eight to ten hours to finish medium size projects, and if given the chance, I would not have sold it for less than $75 dollars.

This is a clip from a crochet creator, Destinymakes

I have crocheted some of the items from this website and the Hand Wave, although it was a while ago, had taken me somewhere between 2 to 4 hours to complete. This is a free pattern that anyone would be able to download and complete it by themselves. And if they don’t want to learn how to do this, they are more then welcome to pay the creator $50 for a completed version of this, not including shipping. When looking at the other tapestries on his website, there is a reason why they are prices over 200 dollars, the labor and hours behind making these items. It would probably take any experience crocheter over 10 hours to complete these. Currently, I am in the process of crocheting a tapestry from a different website, in about 6 hours I was able to complete a little under half of the rows.

Target Controversy

Women’s Crochet Crafted Cardigan – Wild Fable – sold at Target in February 2022

“When asked how long it would take her to make a single granny square herself, Martinez guessed around 30 minutes. There are more than 20 squares on a single cardigan—meaning more than 10 hours of hand work.” [6]

TikTok Is Wondering How Target Can Sell A Hand Crocheted Cardigan For So Cheap – Observer

Yvonne Martinez was questioned about a particular item – Women’s Crochet Crafted Cardigan – Wild Fable – that was being sold at Target for $28, giving her personal estimate as to how long it would take one person to finish. Worker who specialize in crocheting these items would have to be paid under 1 dollar for this cardigan to be sold at the cheap price. Along with Martinez, another textile artist, Rhianna Dean, would have priced the Target Cardigan at almost 10 times the amount it was being sold at. [6] Although Target seemed to be the only ones taking the heat for this, they aren’t the only ones who are selling these items, brands like Fashion Nova, Urban Outfitters, and especially SHIEN.

Crochet Fast Fashion? Death Of Small Designers by Littlejohn’s Yarn

The following link is a video to a youtuber, Alysha Littlejohn, who makes a living from crocheting. She creates patterns and posts them for free, making them accessible to everyone. She dives deep into how fast fashion affects small businesses and the unethical labor practices that take place. Not only is SHIEN a major part of the unethical labor environment and pay but they are also stealing the work of other small owned creators from Instagram and Esty, to sell on their website for less and 10 dollars. Not taking into account the cost of the yarn, where one skein (ball) on average is about 8 dollars, if it’s not thrifted. Most items that are being sold online, are shown using more than one color of yarn, in the target cardigan there’s about 8 different colors being used. Of course, multiple sweaters can be made from 8 balls of yarns but, not enough for a cardigan to be sold for 28 dollars. [5]


Despite all the information and digging I have done thus far, trying to find how much these workers are getting paid is close to impossible. Going into this, I had made suspicions that corporations wouldn’t release information like this so easily. Someone in the world, even as you read this, people are being forced to make bags, tops and other items. The following is a website that has done was I wasn’t able to do and really investigate the source of where clothing comes from, not specifically crochet.

Works Cited

  1. Destiny. “Destiny Makes.” Destiny Makes,
  2. Doraexplored. (2022, August 2). Blocking explained: When and how to block crochet projects. Dora Does. Retrieved April 18, 2023, from
  3. Fashion’s Impact in Numbers.” CNN, Cable News Network,
  4. Julia. “Is Crocheting Expensive? A Break down of Costs in 2023!” Little World of Whimsy, 1 Jan. 2023,
  5. Littlejohn, Alysha, and Angela Ader. “The Truth about Crochet Manufacturers & Fast Fashion.” Littlejohn’s Yarn, 6 Feb. 2022,
  6. Millman, Rachel. “TikTok Is Wondering How Target Can Sell a Hand Crocheted Cardigan for so Cheap.” Observer, 11 Feb. 2022,