The week before last was Mental Health Awareness Week, with this years theme being Body Image #BeBodyKind. We can all do with being kinder to ourselves - our bodies and our minds. Now, more than ever, it’s important that we take an active role in protecting our own well-being and happiness. Caring for ourselves, or self-care, involves maintaining a healthy relationship with ourselves and taking charge of our physical, mental and social well-being. Self-care is not selfish and the more you put into caring for yourself the better able you will be to care for others. It’s not something to do once a year, when you treat yourself to a day off, but something that should be incorporated into every day of the year. Self-care is a necessity not a luxury.
There is a multitude of research behind the health benefits of knitting and crochet. As crafts that are meditative*, therapeutic, stress relieving, soothing, and make space for creativity, they’re ideal to incorporate into a self-care routine. As part of last year’s Mental Health Awareness Week Stitch & Story took part in a knitting workshop promoting mental well-being at Save the Children’s London offices, which you can read about on our UK website here. While self-care is uniquely personal to everyone, taking time to enjoy a craft like knitting or crochet not only benefits your mental health but contributes to your physical and social well-being as well.
* You can read our blog post on mindfulness and knitting as a joint meditative practice on our UK website here.
While taking the time to knit or crochet is considered an act of self-care, in today’s world of “no time” and “perfection”, it’s easy to put pressure on yourself and turn what should be an enjoyable experience into a stressful one. So in the spirit of being kind to yourself, we’ve put together a few ways to ensure your crafting time is truly a moment of self-care.
‘All great achievements require time.’ - Maya Angelou
Even the World’s Fastest Knitter takes three minutes to knit 262 stitches. Knitting or crocheting an item takes time so don’t pressure yourself to finish within a certain period. While the goal is to produce a finished piece the essence of crafting is to enjoy the journey. Sometimes complicated stitch patterns or sewing up can take a while so be patient and enjoy being in the moment. Expertise is something that is developed over time and with knitting and crochet there is always something new to learn.
Don’t force yourself to finish a project in one sitting. Learn to take breaks. If you find yourself getting tired or tense this will become apparent in your work. Fighting with your materials or pulling on your yarn will result in uneven tension. The needles/hook will determine the size of each stitch and not how tightly you hold or pull the yarn. Knitting and crochet shouldn’t result in aches and pains so relax your body, take regular breaks and if something isn’t working put it aside and come back to it at a later point. A fresh pair of eyes may be all you need to master that new stitch/technique.
‘You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.’ - Zig Ziglar
It’s okay to rip everything out (frogging) and start again. Knitting and crochet is about trying something new, making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. Even the most advanced knitters start projects again. If you’re really struggling with something, put it down and take a break from it - remember point 2 above. Come back to a project at another time, re-energized and with a fresh perspective (perhaps having watched our online video tutorials or asked for help - see point 6), and you’ll be surprised to find it works itself out.
As a beginner, don’t worry too much about getting even tension, or holding the needles/hook or yarn perfectly. If you relax, don’t panic and just keep going you’ll eventually learn how to create an even tension and find a way to hold your needles/hook and yarn that’s most comfortable for you. There is no right or wrong way to knit and crochet, just your way. So take it easy, relax and enjoy and eventually it will all fall into place.
The beauty of knitting and crochet is that they can be taken and enjoyed anywhere - sitting in a café, while on public transport, indoors or outdoors. If you’re at home and carving out a bit of self-care time then take a moment to set the mood for yourself. That might be putting on your favorite music or film, lighting a candle, or making yourself something nice to drink while you craft - you do you. If you feel like incorporating your social well-being into your knitting or crochet self-care then joining a knitting/crochet group or attending a knitting workshop might be just the thing to set the mood for you.
Never be afraid to ask for help. With crafting there is always something to learn, no matter how long you’ve been knitting or crocheting for. If there’s something you don’t understand or would like to learn then reach out to a friend, ask at a workshop, utilize online resources like the Stitch & Story’s Beginner’s Guide blog or video tutorials, or contact us directly via Facebook, Instagram or email - the supportive Stitch & Story customer service team are always ready to help where they can.
‘It's a bit like cooking; some people like it sweet, some people like it salty.’ - K.W.
Don’t be afraid to break the rules. Once you know the basics, experiment with yarns, needles and patterns to make your knitting and crochet projects work for you. If using long knitting needles doesn’t feel comfortable for you then switch to a shorter pair. If you want to make a scarf wider or narrower, then cast on a few more or less stitches to create the width that’s perfect for you. If you prefer the magic ring (magic loop) method to joining foundation chains, when crocheting in the round, then switch them up. It’s all part of the learning process.
Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. Engaging your brain, as well as your hands, is beneficial for your health. If the patterns you’re following are starting to feel easy then challenge yourself to move up a level. As long as you practice patience (point 1) and aren’t afraid to ask for help (point 6), if needed, then there is no reason you couldn’t manage a more difficult pattern or knitting/crochet kit. Completing a more challenging project has the added benefit of satisfaction at mastering something new. If you’re unsure of Stitch & Story’s kit levels and which may be best suited to you then read our blog post here.
Hopefully we’ve inspired you to incorporate knitting and/or crochet into your self-care routine or, at the very least, shown you how to make crafting an act of self-care. If you feel guilty about taking the time for self-care, remember that it is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle and can be as simple as taking ten minutes out of your day to do something just for you. Do you use knitting/crochet as a form of self-care? We’d love for you to share your crafting self-care moments in the comments.