Meditative Stitching: Embroidery, Knit, Crochet, and Calm

Knit one, purl one. Knit one, purl one. Stitch, wrap the needle, pull it through, French knot. Stitch, wrap the needle, pull it through, French knot. Yarn over, through the stitch, pull through the loops. Yarn over, through the stitch, pull through the loops.

Repetitive motions are the backbone of most crafting experiences. Knitting, stitching, crochet, and many others teach a basic stitch, and using that stitch or group of stitches, create useful art. It has been this way for generations, but our current society has a different use for meditative stitching – anxiety relief.

Why Does Crafting Help with Anxiety?

Calm colors and soft textures

Several studies have been done that show the restorative properties of repetitive motion, and crafting supplies both the repetitive and meditative rhythm, and encourages the mind to distract itself from rumination. Learning a new skill is one of the best systems to mitigate anxiety and depression, and mastering that skill provides a sense of accomplishment.

Mindful crafting is rapidly emerging as a home therapy, and mastering the precise movements of completing a craft both encourages the individual to learn, but also causes conscious movement.  An online study by Betsan Corkhill found that crafters who engaged in their activity more than 3 times per week were more relaxed, happier, less anxious, and more confident.

The levels of anxiety and depression in our very wealthy modern world are a fairly new concept on such a large scale. Many people aren’t comfortable talking about what’s going on in their head or are unable to voice their experience with a therapist due to cost or availability.

Crafting is a fairly inexpensive way to mitigate some of that anxiety and depression while encouraging active creativity, satisfaction, and meditative space.

Crochet’s rhythm is very soothing

Why Can’t I Just Meditate?

You can! However, many people (myself included!) find that the pressure to meditate and clear one’s mind of outside thoughts results in even MORE negativity. I start thinking things like, “Gosh, I can’t even meditate right…” That’s not helpful.

Crafting produces similar concentration effects in the brain as yoga and allows your mind to focus on a task while not specifically trying to clear it of the clutter. It naturally happens as you begin to be absorbed in learning or making. The repetitive motions of an experienced crafter leave behind the learning element and create a safe rhythm of familiarity, much as jogging or running does for those who can do that.

For some, regular meditation practice is a very helpful way to mitigate their anxiety and depression. For others, having a focused task can allow for similar results, but without the pressure of being unable to shut one’s mind off.

A neuroscientist, Sarah McKay, writes about how to maximize mindfulness in crafting. She also notes the benefits of crafting include memory formation and retrieval, and increased dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and patience. Not a bad set of benefits!

Any Ideas on New Ways to Meditate?

OH GOSH YES!

Sashiko Embroidery – Beautiful Mending

Wait, was that too excited? I use the term “panic crafting” in my life. Whenever I feel stressed, I go try to find some new, often obscure method of crafting, and practice it. As a result, I have TONS of ideas on where you can start. For something easy and beautiful, try Sashiko embroidery. For something a little more challenging, try needle lace.

You can start with an “everything included” kit to knit or embroider, or you can pick up something at the store and just go at it on your own. The practice is the important thing – remember that you probably won’t create an heirloom on your first try.

However, you might be able to stitch shut a torn pair of jeans, knit a pair of fingerless mitts, or create some usable dishcloths!

Everything that you are able to do will become a story of your victories. A dishcloth will remind you of that time you made it through a really bad day at work with flying colors. A patched pair of jeans might tell the story of triumph over family anxiety.

Everything in our lives can tell stories, and we can learn from, and celebrate our victories. Let your victories be crafted into positive reminders of your strength!

What Do I Do With My Finished Products?

Use them! One of my favorite panic crafting results is a dishcloth. It is easy to make, takes about an hour, and by the time I’m done, I’ve calmed down quite a bit. I also am left with something useable.

Washcloths to give away or keep!

This is why I also encourage people to try Sashiko embroidery. It’s easy, beautiful, and useful. Finding a way to turn anxiety into something you can either use yourself or gift to someone ( I promise, if you start giving away crocheted washcloths, people will come find you for more!) creates a wonderful positive out of a culturally negative emotion.

We in the West experience so much pressure and anxiety around success and consumption, that to give a handmade gift to someone is so immensely special. Even to look at something you have completed with pride is helpful.

Meditation, Anxiety, and Wellness

Wellness is a catchphrase in society now, and one to be cautious of. You can hear wellness tips and tricks from all sorts of sources. Keep in mind that the persons most qualified to help you define your own wellness are your doctor and your therapist. 
Before you start any wellness programs, talk to them about your needs, your goals, and healthy ways to reach them. Anything can become unhealthy if it is taken to extremes, and our lives are all about balance.

Creating art is one way of tackling our day to day struggles with anxiety, but there are many more.

Try a craft like stitching, knitting, and crochet. Give it some time to become a safe place for your mind to retreat in rhythm and safety, but don’t replace therapy and healthy habits with yarn and thread.

Let me know in the comments below how crafting helps you manage your anxiety, depression, or maintain wellness! I love to learn from all of you, and often find ways to manage my own anxiety that I hadn’t thought of. We are all in this together!

18 thoughts on “Meditative Stitching: Embroidery, Knit, Crochet, and Calm

  1. Today i got a panic attack from drinking one cup of coffee. One cup of coffee! I can’t deal with this any longer. At this point i’m ready to try everything to help me with my nerves. Never thought i’d even consider knitting, but here we are. I just need to do something to take my mind off all these stressful thoughts that i’m having. It’s a never ending circle. So, thanks for this post. Just reading it made me feel a little better.

    1. I totally get it! I panic craft like crazy during the school year, balancing school and work. Knitting, stitching, drawing, painting – all of these types of things are super great for helping distract your mind from rumination. We are definitely culture driven to pursue / succeed, and anxiety is a result of that. I hope you find an art form that helps! Woodworking is another option. 🙂 YOU COULD EMBROIDER BICYCLES!! (Pictures of bikes, I mean!)

  2. This post was MADE for me! I love crafting and I suffer from anxiety. I never put the two together. All I knew was that I felt better once I had created something artistic. I found it to be a way of meditation, like you said, not to mention the gratification you fell after you’ve accomplished or finished a project youre proud of.

    I love this idea of releasing stress and anxiety through arts or in this case crafts, Thank you for this awesome post, it was so fun to read! 🙂

    1. Madysen, thank you! Anxiety is SOO prevalent in our society, especially for parents! There are so many things to worry about when you have littles – it’s important to find an outlet. Taking care of us is just as important as taking care of our little ones!

  3. I agree with you, Crafting can be a huge help to reduce anxiety. In fact, it can help get rid of it if it is mild. Meditation is a good thing to do for our bodies but it is not for everyone. Crafting is a skill that anyone can learn through life and that what makes it special and achievable. The other thing that makes it perfect for that, after finishing your small project you will feel confident and happy which promote and improve the brain and body health and help to release happy hormones same as eating an IceCream or chocolate!

    Crafting produces similar concentration effects in the brain as yoga and allows your mind to focus on a task is precise and to be honest there are several treatments physicians use to make the patient have this feeling of concentration on doing this task which has the same effect as crafting.
    Awesome Post! Thank you

    1. Crafting has definitely worked for me as a tool to assist therapy and an antidepressant. It may not be as directed as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, but not everyone can afford a therapist. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and informed comment!

  4. Hi Johnstone,
    When I read such an article I can only say WAHOOOOO!!!!!
    I’ve learned a lot through your article. This is true when I manage to learn something new I have a strong sense of accomplishment and it makes me happy and very confident. But I didn’t know that mindful crafting is a therapy that can be practiced at home. I really bless God for discovering your article. The tips I have discovered will now help me to fight the anxiety that is not lacking in this world where social pressure is intense.
    Thank you for this helpful post and may God bless you so much!!!
    All the best!!
    Sebastian

    1. Sebastian, I’m so glad you found the article helpful! You’re right, social pressure is intense – not just in Western culture, but everywhere. I hope you find a craft that works for you!

  5. Dear Hilary
    Thank you very much for your fantastic website. It is amazing that you show people where to start and what steps to make towards their amazing, healthy and relaxing hobby – crafting. I hope more people will know about your website and follow your guidance.
    Kind regards,
    Andrey

    1. Thank you, Andrey! I hope people will find the craft that works for them. It truly is amazing to have a sense of completion after learning something new, and it helps redirect away from rumination. Sometimes it’s hard to find a “how to start” place with everything already compiled, and that is what I hope people will find here.

  6. Very useful information, I have pretty bad anxiety myself. I love embroidry and I can crochet. I usually paint, now I blog. So many of us suffer with anxiety and this is very helpful for anyone looking for some help and ideas. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Tracy! We all cope in different ways, and sometimes we don’t even realize we’re coping. 🙂 I would love to learn how to paint – it’s one art I haven’t tackled yet, but it always seems so relaxing. I’ve also found writing to be a great outlet for my anxiety, especially writing about crafting, lol!

  7. I believe this is an awesome way to keep the mind sharp and provide you with an awesome skill at the same time. We all need a good hobby and it seems the motions involved in stitching really helps.

    I wonder what are your ideas that a male can do to gain some of the same results? Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Nate! I know some pretty spectacular male crafters who knit, crochet, and embroider! However, if that’s not your thing, painting, drawing, woodworking, and crafting clay or resin are all helpful places to get started too! I hope you find a craft that works for you!

  8. Hi, this is a wonderful article. I studied mindfulness and meditation for 3 years during my degree and found that often the most simple repetitive things were what calmed my body and mind and helped me to become much more present in that current moment and not what someone had said a day ago, or what was coming up tomorrow.

    I have done mindful colouring and meditate every day, but I had never thought about mindful crafting or ‘fixing’. As a child and now into an adult I have never really been a crafter, my Mum and both Nans all knitted and did crochet and sewing, I never really found any interest in it, until I had children. I then started having to sew and fix things, and found this incredibly therapeutic and rewarding, seeing something that was ripped or that I would normally throw away, fixed or converted to something new.

    I believe in this modern fast throw away world, it is so important to be mindful of the present moment and how our minds and bodies are feeling Your article has guided me to many ways to do this, thank you.

    1. Sara, thank you for your immensely thoughtful comment! I love that you do meditations every day. One of the interesting things about meditative crafting is that it is incorporated directly into the project – no need for a special time or place to do it. It really is about incorporating mindfulness into every day life. 🙂 I love that you also fix things for your family – the slow fashion and repair movement is so important now. I love sashiko embroidery for this reason, and my husband and I are committed to less consumption. It’s so gratifying! Thank you again for your awesome comment and the time you spent here.

  9. Can’t believe that crafting can help with anxiety and depression, usually I do exercise for dealing with my pressure, maybe I’ll try Sashiko embroidery next time, thanks for your informative post:)

    1. Any sort of repetitive motion that lets your mind focus on rhythm and challenges the mind away from rumination is helpful! I’m glad you have an outlet for stress, but I always encourage people to try Sashiko embroidery, too! 🙂

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