Yarn Work & Wellness: Craft for less stress!

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Yarn Work & Wellness: Craft for less stress!

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As the first days of this New Year unfold, they are ripe with possibility. We envision our best selves stepping boldly into 2018! We make new goals, which speak to who & how we want to be as we embrace another trip around the sun. While all our resolutions will be as individual as we are, there are a few we can certainly agree on: more crafting, less stress! For generations crafters have known, although we’ve only recently had the science to back it up, that crafting brings about a sense of calm that’s incomparable. If you want more calm in the New Year, join us as we craft for less stress.

Keep Calm and Cast On

New Year’s Resolutions: A Recipe for Stress

In recent years, psychologists have warned about the danger of making New Year’s Resolutions. Because they’re often based in external achievements, they can spring from what we think we should do, instead of what would really make us feel alive. And coming on the heels of frantic holidays, as we are racing back into busy schedules, we run the risk of compounding last year’s stress with this year’s stress. Goal-setting is challenging even for those who practice it often, and requires attention to the right details (here’s a resources for setting better goals!). Since many of us set only one major goal a year, and with the added pressure of sharing on social media, it’s no wonder there are so many pop culture jokes about quitting two weeks in!

pop culture jokes

Image from drkathleenperry.com

Now Stress, and Always Stress

While the New Year’s stress feels very real this week, we are juggling stressors all year long. The commitments of work, family, and an ever-growing pile of WiPs, not to mention any more-pressing responsibilities, is enough to leave anyone a ball of nerves by the end of the first week of January. Life throws us curveballs, too; illness, sudden shifts in our family dynamics, job changes, these stressors can be temporary or more long-term, and have major effects on our minds, bodies, and spirits. Stress ages our brains prematurely, and can lead to issues with memory. Long-time, unaddressed stress can even lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Reducing stress can be a major preventative step in staving off many health issues.

And the great news is, you can improve your relationship to stress today by picking up your current project!

Craft for Less Stress

There are groups who’ve spent years analyzing the experiences of real knitters, and the results of scientific experiments, to enrich our understanding of how yarncrafting positively impacts our wellbeing. One of these groups is the Craft Yarn Council, featured in the video below:

The crafters mention many of the stress-reducing qualities of crafting, and Stitchlinks mentions a few more.

Out of reaction, into the moment.

There’s only the next stitch. The mindfulness of knitting, tuning the mind into the present moment, provides the opportunity to escape wallowing in the past or worrying about the future. Our thoughts are often busy cataloguing and replaying the day, and preparing anxieties for what lies ahead. In either case, we’re in a reactionary state – reacting to some stimulus, real or imagined. Spending time in the present moment is about getting into ‘the zone’, or flow. Mindfulness practices of any kind (popular ones being meditation and yoga), enable us to spend time doing a semi-familiar activity in flow, which gives our brain a chance to practice small challenges from this relaxed point of view.

Breathe easy.

One of the most immediate results of getting into the flow of a project is that you’re more likely to be breathing! Deep, belly breathing has enormous positive effects on our ability to manage stress. Stress responses often come with shortness of breath (in the worst case scenarios, panic attacks). Breathing that happens higher in the chest increases your heart rate, and sends less oxygen to your blood. It can also activate secondary breathing muscles, which are in your neck & shoulders – places people carry chronic tension! More relaxed breathing, like the type that happens when we get into the zone, sits lower in our bodies. It occurs naturally in rhythm with our diaphragm and eases the mind. This is what is meant by ‘breathe easy’!


Image via Support Seekers

Control what you can.

When you narrow your focus to include just your current project, you’re focusing in on something you can control. Sure, there are ups and downs with any new yarn, pattern, or technique, but ultimately, we know we can always work back and solve the problem – it’s not the end of the world. In times when it feels like it might be the end of the world, this small sense of control becomes crucial. You’re getting your hands moving, which sends the message to your brain that you refuse to sit idle. Progress (of any kind) in the face of what seems impossible gives you a major confidence boost! The results are visual, which is a very effective way to send a message to our brains, and can be built upon – it’s easy to take this confidence off the hook or needles and into our lives.

For a little project to craft for your stressful moments, check out this Lemon Stress Ball by Twinkie Chan on Ravelry!

What’s your wellness goal?

We know we can’t change overnight, but the possibility of a New Year is intoxicating. We get swept up in big dreams, and forget to celebrate the small actions it takes to get there. What small actions will you take to reduce stress in 2018?

Here are some suggestions:

Bring a project to your workplace, and carve out a few minutes on a break or at lunch. *Bonus points for making time to craft before a stressful meeting or presentation!

Take your crafting where you stress out most – the waiting room at the doctor’s office, on the plane, on a visit to relatives.

Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato knitting on a plane.

Make sure you’re crafting in your most comfortable position, so you don’t add any tension to your stress-reducing activity! Here are some tips from Stichlinks.

Choose a pattern just outside your comfort zone – this type of challenge really engages our brains to get into flow, which amplifies the positive results of crafting.

Notice your breathing while crafting. *Bonus points for noticing your breathing away from crafting!

Let us know!

We would love to hear about your experiences with crafting for less stress, and any tips you’d like to share.

Are you thinking of trying any of these stress-reducing techniques in the new year?

Whatever you’re looking forward to in the New Year, we look forward to spending some quality time crafting with you.

To keeping calm and crafting on in 2018!

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  • Can you please tell me where I can find the sweater pattern shown in the picture demonstrating the colour CLAY? Thank you so much

    • Hi, there! That isn’t actually one of our patterns – just a high-fashion image for inspiration. However, due to the popularity, I’ve let our design team know that people are interested!

  • This was a very ‘timely’ article. I had decided to try and set my goals up differently this year hoping to make them more achievable. While not just craft oriented, it was not getting projects done that I wanted to for Christmas/birthdays etc that began the process. I will admit to being a procrastinator- I don’t need to worry about that Christmas ornament for my grand-daughter – Christmas is months away. Well, you guessed it – suddenly it’s Dec 15 and there are a bazillion other things to get done, so another year passes and I’m annoyed with myself. This year in the week between Christmas and New Years I got a journal and broke it down into months. Within in each month I put an achievable goal – finish 1 Christmas ornament, etc. Suddenly I don’t have a mountain to deal with and so far – I know it’s only Jan 5 – but I have already checked off a few items for this month. It feels good and I’ve left myself breathing room for any month that spins out of control. And yes, it looks less intimidating to get one step done rather than the whole marathon…….

    • Hi, Karen – this is fabulous goal-setting advice! Working backward from the desired completion date can be so powerful – I’ve just started to do it myself! Love to hear that you’re already checking things off your list, how empowering! Here’s to a productive year!

  • I wish you had loom patterns too! I don’t knit or crochet.

    • Hi, Lee – thank you for your feedback! I’ll see if I can put together a post of patterns specifically for looms.

  • Does the work with yarn do the relaxing, lik in crochet or arm knitting? I’ve read several articles about knitting for stress relief and they never refer to crocheting in those scientific studies. They are such
    similar activities and many fiber artists do both.

    As a crocheted I have added breathing and brief hand massage to my crochet posture. It really helps!

    • Hi, Deborah – from what I’ve read, it seems like any handcrafting can reduce stress. Working with a pattern can be particularly relaxing because it focuses your mind in a different way (as opposed to free-writing, or coloring, for example). I imagine those articles & studies are remiss not to mention other yarn crafts! Those are great suggestions – in a coming wellness post, we’ll share some similar ideas about how to take care of your body while you’re crafting, but it sounds like you’re well on your way!

  • I am a 78 year old knitter. I have been knitting since I was a child, taught by my mother and paternal grandmother. I am not sure how I would have made it through nursing school and a further college education without my knitting to reduce the stress of life in general. Friends and family around me who do not Knit do not know understand the contribution knitting offers to my well being. However, I do and I SHALL COMTINUE! There is always something to knit!

    • Hi, Susan – thank you for sharing your story! What an amazing lifetime of crafting, it would be so fun to know how many projects you’ve worked on. What matters most is that you know the value. 🙂 Knit on!

  • Hello, I love the crochet stitch shown in the example of Scarfie yarn. Could you tell me what the stitch is? Looks like cream and silver yarn colorway, with a coffee cup “Good Morning Sunshine” in the photo. January 6 mailing from Lion Brand Yarn. Thanks very much!

  • I am at work stressing, just met the new boss, on a Saturday! ….so now in the break room reading my knitting emails and feeling much better. This article so timely for me, that’s why I love yarn, all things knitting and crochet, “there is only the next stitch”…thank you.

    • Hi, Susan – thank you for sharing! Good luck with the new boss! Transitions at work can always be tricky. Glad you have your destress method handy, and so happy you spent a little of your Saturday reading with us. Craft on!

  • I learned to crochet as a child sitting at my grandma’s house, but I later relearned on my own as a single mom working two part time jobs and going to school full time. Since 1995, I can’t imagine the hours I’ve spent just breathing—and counting under my breath—as life has evolved, through relationships, grandchildren, and the loss of grandparents, my dad, and just recently, my cousin/best friend. As an instructor at our local University, my office mate had me teach her to crochet when she realized how it calmed me. Even so, there are still times when she hears the stress in my voice and asks “when was the last time you crocheted?” I’ve said before that my crochet has saved my life, and sanity.
    Happy hooking!

    • Hi, Penny – wow, thank you for sharing! You are such an accomplished woman! Sharing the love of crafting is a beautiful gift, and how lucky to have a work crochet buddy. Happy hooking to you, & just keep breathing!

  • I actually crochet during conference calls. These are often long and being on the phone, it’s easy to get distracted by other tasks, e.g., email, issues, Pinterest. It keeps me focused on the call instead of multitasking and keeps me relaxed throughout the day. A co-worker in Canada and I share pictures of what we create while on the calls. I usually make scarves or dishcloths, small projects that can be completed quickly. It would drive me crazy having WiPs sitting around my desk!

    • Hi, Larisa – what a great suggestion! And LOVE that you have a buddy you share your passion with. The idea that taking care of ourselves makes us our best selves is really powerful. Maybe we’ll do a blog post on that soon!

  • What a wonderful article! I just happened upon it this morning after learning last night that I have lost my job. It has given me great confidence to move forward, pick up a current project, de-stress and move into a better zone. Thank you.

    • Hi, Francine – thank you for writing! So sorry to hear about your job, but very glad you’ll be relying on your crafting to stay positive. Wishing you best of luck with your next endeavors!

  • Great article! So many great reasons to make knitting a priority in 2018. So many knitters feel guilty for taking time to knit, but really it’s an important act of self-care! Thanks for reminding us about all the benefits of yarn crafting! xo

    • Hi, Becky – that’s a great point. It’s so hard to set aside time for ourselves!

  • Thank you for your website!

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