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Crafting for self-care

For #SelfcareSummer, Nick from our partner organisation the Child Outcomes Research Consortium (CORC), writes about crafting as a form of self-care.

I’ve always enjoyed making things since I was very young. As a child I enjoyed junk-modelling and Lego, as well as sewing. At primary school we learned how to cross stitch and I loved it from the start. Creating pictures and patterns out of thread and canvas was a lovely way to spend the afternoon. I remember finding it engaging, and also calming, requiring enough concentration to occupy your mind, but leaving enough space to think or chat with friends. I think it’s this level of engagement that makes it part of my self-care. 

As I’ve got older, I’ve enjoyed learning many different crafts. Often self-taught, from library books, and occasional classes but, more recently from YouTube.  Sometimes the absorption required to learn something new is what I need, sometimes returning to something familiar can be comforting. Over the years I’ve tried lino-printing, candle-making, peg-weaving, felting, paper-engineering and enjoyed each in their own way. 

Lockdown seemed like the perfect time to develop some new skills, but somehow I didn’t have the motivation. During these months I’ve been returning to familiar crafts and particularly those with an element of repetition and rhythm. I find comfort in the familiar and the combination of some methodical, and relatively straightforward, crafting has really helped. Patchworking and latch-hooking have been perfect to combine with a radio programme or podcast as a way of filling all the extra hours at home and switching off, but some of my more complicated sewing projects are progressing more slowly. 

Recent successes include a patchwork throw made from worn out jeans and a cushion, which I designed as a portrait of my working-from-home companion Orwell (see picture). A corduroy shirt for my brother is still very much a work in progress, but I’ve darned socks and felted over the moth holes in a favourite jumper.

The real joy of crafting is that it’s so varied and flexible. It can be easy, using skills that can be picked up in minutes, or challenging, requiring hours of learning and practice. It can be simple activities using things around you or involve lots of specialist equipment. Projects can be finished in a couple of hours or take months to complete. I tend to be a solitary crafter, enjoying some time in my own company doing something that I like, but I know others who use crafting as a way of getting together with other likeminded individuals. 

However I choose to craft, there’s always a sense of satisfaction and pride in taking raw materials and creating something. Being able to say ‘I made that’ taps into something deeply-rooted in human nature that perhaps modern life and work doesn’t always provide. If it’s a while since you’ve been able to say ‘I made that’ then have a go at some crafting and see if it’s for you.    

Where to start?

  • Ask friends, colleagues or relatives – crafters are usually happy to share their skills
  • Get googling – there are so many tutorials covering every possible craft
  • Take a class – probably virtually at the moment but this does put you in touch with others
  • But most importantly, have a go!

Crafting is just one self-care activity on the Anna Freud Centre’s self-care page that has over 90 self-care strategies to help young people when feeling low or anxious.