Emma Leith’s 5 simple steps to mindful craftingPublished on 8 October 2019 By Merion 5 min read
People of all ages and abilities are discovering the therapeutic benefits of crafting with mindfulness at its core. If you’re starting on this journey, Emma Leith, maker extraordinaire and author of Mindful Crochet, is here to share her experience and top tips on how best to do this with crochet, knitting, sewing or stitching. You won’t look back!
There is no denying that the stresses of modern living are affecting our mental health and wellbeing. In recent years we’re seeking new ways to harmonise our lives so we can maintain good mental health. But with so many distractions in our daily lives, it’s a struggle to find the time to switch off and relax. It can feel like there’s always something else we need to be doing - so taking time out to sit quietly and craft can feel like an indulgence. But it needn’t be this way. If, like me, you have a tendency to overthink things, suffer from anxiety, or live with chronic pain and the mild depression that often accompanies it, then it may be time to consider the practice of mastering your mind.
Put simply, mindfulness is about being fully present in the moment. It’s about calming the mind, focusing our awareness and being grounded in our bodies. I’ve benefited from this way of being for two years now, and whilst crafting doesn’t make all the bad stuff go away, done regularly, and with mindful intent, it certainly helps towards a more balanced way of being. So, sit back, relax and enjoy my top tips to help you on your way to more fulfilling mindful crafting.
Pay attention to your breathing. Begin to deepen and lengthen each inhalation and exhalation. Try synchronising your breath with your stitches too. I've found this technique especially helpful when my heart rate's high and my mind's jittery, flitting from one thing to another. It’s a great way to come back into the present moment. Breathe in slowly through your nose for a count of 4. Fill your lungs and make your belly rise as you do this. Hold your breath for a count of 4 and exhale slowly for a count of 8. And... relax.
Slow everything down.
Let each movement be purposeful and deliberate. You may find it useful to have something simple to crochet or knit for this exercise - like a granny square or a row of a blanket. Whatever it is, make it about the journey and not the destination. Become aware of the sensations of the yarn and the movement of your hands. Align the rhythm of your crochet or knitting to the flow of your breath and I promise, this will help you feel calm and relaxed. Don’t aim to finish the row or round, just enjoy each stitch as it unfolds.
Sometimes when I am designing a crochet project I notice myself become tense over time. It’s a bit of a creeper because at first I feel great. I’m hugely grateful to have made crochet my career and spending time everyday with my hook and yarn is a wonderful thing but sometimes without knowing when or how I realise my shoulders are tense my breath is shallow and my brow is furrowed! As soon as I become aware of this tension I stop, stretch. And breathe. It’s like a mini reboot!
Touch it, feel it.
Simply noticing the feel of the yarn as it glides off the hook can be a beautiful experience especially if the yarn you are using is soft to the touch. I love the sensation of mohair and lace weight yarns for their elegant lightness. When using these yarns slow the pace and draw your focus toward the softness of each stitch as it passes through your fingertips. By placing the emphasis on exploring the physical sensations of working the yarn we reconnect with our body and quieten the mind.
make it about the journey and not the destination"
Every stitch we make creates muscle memory and with enough repetition we end up doing it without thinking. This is supremely relaxing. It softens our mind allowing it to gently drift in and out of thoughts without attaching judgement to them. Keep your stitches moving, your breath deep and steady, and observe where your mind takes you. Bring your attention back to the body, your hands, your craft and your breath and begin the process again. Keep doing this and enjoy the ride.
Let go of judgement and the pursuit of perfection.
This is a big one and whilst it’s great to create a perfect piece of crochet, knitting or stitching, there is merit to be found in the mistakes too. Sometimes pulling out the work and starting again is what we need to do but there’s benefit to be found in accepting the minor imperfections and carrying on with the project. Know where you went wrong, accept it as it is, and keep going if you can. Nine times out of ten we can pick up a missed stitch later on in the round…repeat after me…it’s only crafting!