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Zen And The Art Of Mindful Crafting

Today is National Stress Awareness Day, so what better day to talk about mindfulness? In modern society, we put an awful lot of pressure on ourselves – to succeed at work, to manage and clean our homes, to look after children and pets properly, to look good all the time, to feel good all the time; the list goes on. It all adds up – and it can seriously affect both your mental and physical wellbeing, not to mention your relationships with friends and loved ones. In this unusual time of pandemic and enforced lockdowns, your health is particularly important to look after and mindful crafting can do this wonderfully. So what exactly is it?

What is mindful crafting?

The very simple idea behind mindful crafting is that you take a slower, more thoughtful approach to making or repairing something. It gives your mind time to calm down and relax while you take a much more considered approach. Instead of rushing and making lots of mistakes, you can take as much time as you want to get things right. Note that this isn’t about perfection at all, that can be just as unhealthy as pressuring yourself to get things done. It’s about getting your project to a point where you’re happy with it, including accepting any minor mistakes as part of the item’s character, so that you’re proud of what you’ve made or repaired.

Knitting is a wonderful mindful craft
Knitting lends itself naturally to mindfulness given the repetitive nature of the stitches

Mindful crafting can take many forms – you can adapt a craft you’re currently interested in to be a mindful one on a project by project basis if you want to, or you can try and learn something new. Several crafts and skills lend themselves naturally to mindfulness. Personally I find crochet really calming as the repeating nature of crochet stitches help to clear my mind; I don’t need to think about anything other than the number of stitches or the pattern they form. Stress has affected me quite badly in the past, causing issues with my health and dramatic weight loss, so I’m really happy to have found something that calms me and helps me manage my stress levels.

Learning New Techniques is Mindful

If you sew, you could hand sew a patchwork project and learn some Japanese sashiko techniques in the process, or perhaps learn traditional embroidery as part of repairing your clothes. Alternatively, try hand sewing an item of clothing instead of machine sewing it. If you knit or crochet, you could learn to spin your own yarn or perhaps learn macrame techniques. You could even learn to weave on a small loom or perhaps explore some leather working techniques. By nature, all of these options take time, and mindful crafting isn’t limited to these suggestions by any means.

Leather working can be a great mindful craft
Leather working can be a great mindful craft, as you have to be aware of where you punch your holes (once they're there, you can't get rid of them!)

You could have a go at something completely unrelated to what’s commonly thought of as “crafts” if you wanted to. You can apply the techniques of mindful crafting to cooking just as easily, for example. Think about it: how often does a home cooked meal taste better than a ready meal, or even something made from scratch rather than out of a jar? Most of the time, if not always. Just as with crafting, cooking from scratch takes time but you’ll enjoy the end result even more.

Whatever you choose to try, keep in mind that the point of mindful crafting is to help clear your head and calm you down – if you start getting frustrated or find you aren’t enjoying what you’re doing, put the project down for a while. Take a deep breath, try again another time – and if you’re still not enjoying it, give something else a go. It might simply be that the craft you were trying wasn’t the right fit for you – and that’s okay. It’s important to remember that no one is amazing at absolutely everything, but equally no one is instantly incredible at something they’re trying out or learning.