Why is craft so good for you? Here's my experience.
Updated: Mar 6
For many of us, modern life is hectic. A chaotic place where we are at the center of our own little doing cyclones. It’s very easy, in this fast-paced digital world - where there's an endless stream of information - to put so much on our plate. We bluster through, ticking boxes of our never-ending to-do list.
I live in a regional area, not surrounded by roads, city lights, and noise. It’s very peaceful in my neck of the woods. Yet I still ascribe to a state of constant cyclonic 'busyness'. I can spend entire days without any real human connection aside from a few mumbles to my partner before I pop myself into bed, tired and weary, and ready to do it all over again. My alarm will ring, and the cyclone will start again.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful life. I have a beautiful family that I cherish, and a successful craft business I can be proud of – but I often feel zapped, like I need to just, sit, stop and reset.
There’s one thing that I find always allows me to do this. That is, sitting down in my studio and crafting away, tucked into my own little creative time warp. I’ve always known that I love to craft. I just never truly understood how beneficial it was for my mind, body, and overall health. It wasn’t until I started to connect with other crafters and could see the positive effect it had that I began to see the tranquillity it brought to my own life. It's mindfulness made easy.
I've been unwittingly practicing mindfulness through my craft for years!
Slow stitching patterns onto upcycled clothes, or weaving old fabrics and plant fibers might not sound like the perfect anecdote for modern life stress - but for some, including myself it is just that. The use of needle and thread to stitch a pattern or mend a tear, or the interconnecting of materials to weave a basket are all conscious acts of doing, where time can just disappear.
According to positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, what we experience when we are completely immersed in an activity like this, is a state of flow. This state of flow is mentally rewarding, makes us feel good and - this is my favorite bit - can make us more creative!
So is crafting the new yoga? Well, in a way it does have similar benefits (although it might not make you flexible). Crafting is about slowing us down by connecting the mind and body through purpose - it’s a way to connect with ourselves, and regulate the breath; breathing in and breathing out as we work in a rhythmic flow.
Over the years I've seen these benefits as unintended consequences of my craft workshops. I was teaching a weaving workshop some time ago - from memory, we were making textile baskets from recycled fabrics. There was a woman who sat up the back who seemed fragile, she sat quietly, not saying much. At one point the group got talking, and she began to share her story. She told us she had recently lost her home in a house fire. She'd lost everything. Regardless of this intense tragedy, and amidst one of the toughest times in her life, she had turned up to learn how to weave a basket from spare fabric. She found it soothing, she said. The process. The making. The act of sitting with others without judgment and just crafting.
Craft is like that. It’s about connection, not just to yourself, but to others too.
The Slow Craft Movement is certainly having a moment. Craft is no longer just the domain of older women. Textile crafts have become popular across younger age groups and genders, not just because of their creative aspect, but because they make us feel damn good. Science is taking notice too: a study from Brunel University in London showed that textile crafts can reduce depression in people with chronic illness. Other studies found a relationship between crafting and feeling calm and happy.
It might not cure all your mental health woes - but craft sure is a great coping mechanism. While most of us can’t avoid the busyness of modern life, we could benefit from adding crafting on that to-do list a little more often.