The NHS ‘5 steps to mental wellbeing’ give a broad overview of activities that can help with our mental wellbeing. They also nicely correlate with craft activities, especially knitting and crochet*, further enhancing the benefits of making.
These five distinct and separate ideas each contribute to improving our mental wellbeing in different ways.
- Connect with other people
As knitters and crocheters there are a variety of ways you can connect with like-minded crafters.
- Many local yarn shops have knitting and crochet groups that are free or low cost to attend.
- The Knitting & Crochet Guild has branches all over the UK that are usually free to attend (meeting both online and starting to meet in person again), and they also list non-affiliated craft groups here on their website.
- Taking part in online activities can help you to connect with others if you’re unable to meet in person; there are active chats on Ravelry and in Facebook groups or you could join an Instagram challenge, such as #SeptTextileLove.
- Be physically active
This one isn’t such an obvious link to knitting and crochet, but with a little thought you can work in some physical activity with your making.
- Get up and walk around or stretch after a set amount of time or number of rows. If you get too absorbed in your work to remember to do this, perhaps use a kitchen timer or set an alarm on your phone.
- Walk or cycle to your local yarn shop or knitting and crochet group. Or perhaps take a walk to a garden or park to sit and make outside, alone or with others.
- Move while you make. I often see a woman knitting and walking when I’m taking my toddler to nursery and have stopped to talk to her a couple of times, she says she always has a simple project on the go that’s easy to work on while she’s walking to and from work and leaves the more intricate, detailed knitting for when she’s at home. This activity could be replicated by walking on a treadmill or cycling on an exercise bike if you need to look at what you’re making rather than where you’re going.
- Learn new skills
There are so many new things to learn about knitting and crochet, whether it’s a new way of casting on or off, using a new yarn, mastering a new stitch or technique… or even learning a different craft to the one you usually practice.
YouTube is a great place to start if you’re looking to learn something new. There are also resources available on the Knitting & Crochet Guild’s ‘Sharing Knowledge’ website page or ask at your local knitting and crochet group.
- Give to others
Makers are known for being generous people; whether they’re giving their time and skill to make something for a loved one, teaching someone how to make, or making items for charity.
If you’d like to make for charity, visit the Knit for Peace website to find out what knitted and crocheted items are currently needed. Knit for Peace distribute crafted items to over 200 outlets, including hospitals, women’s refuges, refugee drop-in centres, prisons, community groups, and hospices as well as to developing countries and refugee camps.
- Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)
That feeling of getting lost in your work is what you’re looking for here, when you’re conscious only of the feeling of the yarn in your fingers, focusing on the next stitch you’re going to make, and all other thoughts have disappeared from your mind. If you find yourself being distracted by what’s for dinner tonight, a letter you forgot to post, or any other thoughts… just bring your focus back to what’s in your hands and what you need to do next.
During periods of change I find myself drawn to knitting and there’s usually a particular project that’s calling my name. Subconsciously, I already know if it’s the easy project I need right now, or to immerse myself in that difficult new pattern. Since the start of the pandemic many people have similarly found themselves drawn to craft and its wellbeing benefits. In fact, this self-portrait of Jameisha Prescod knitting through a ‘lockdown low’ won the Wellcome Photography Prize 2021.
It’s likely you’ll need a few different knitting or crochet projects, on the go, to help you achieve the various benefits outlined above – learning a new technique might not be the best project to work on while you’re moving, you might like to make something familiar in an easier technique for charity, while the best way to be ‘in the moment’ is when you’re really focusing on learning a new stitch – you’re the best judge of what to make and when, and how many projects on the go at one time suits you.
We’d love to hear how making helps you and what you’ve found works best, so do let us know!
* This post focuses on knitting and crochet but could be substituted with another textile technique or craft that appeals to you.