Sunday, March 8, 2015

Benefits of Crafting

First off, my apologies for not posting much lately.  The real world has been intruding, and the past couple of years have been very rough. 

For myself, one of the things that made it rougher is that I haven't been able to do much crafting or writing; two things that help ground me and refresh my energy levels.

My husband, who has been seeing some major struggles lately, made a post on our shared photo blog that had me thinking of the important role crafting can have in our lives.  He has been living with a lot of pain over the years, and it has become increasingly debilitating.  For those with back injuries, I'm sure you'll understand the struggle of not being able to sit, stand or lie down for any length of time, and the effects pain medication can have on one's ability to think clearly and focus. 

Now that he's been forced to go onto short term disability, with a high likelyhood of having to go onto long term disability (as defined by his insurance company, which has been amazing in their support - kudos to Sun Life!), he is able to focus more on getting himself better.  Physiotherapy and medication deals with the physical side of things, but it's just as important to work on the mental side of things, too.  You can't battle constant pain for years and not have it affect your mental health, too!

For my husband, that meant taking up the needles again.  He'd taken knitting up some time ago, then stopped long enough to be pretty much a beginner all over again. I don't knit, and he's not into crochet, so it's not something I can help him with. 

He started out doing practise swatches, reminding himself on how to do the basics of casting on, knit and purl, then moving on to simple ribbing.  Yesterday, he picked up some Caron Simply Soft and longer 5mm needles of his own.  He then made a knit version of the earwarmers I like to crochet.

In the photo, the crochet earwarmer is done with reflective yarn, which Micheals no longer carries.  So he matched the pink.

Yes, my husband wears hot pink, and it's awesome.  Talk about high viz!

He started and finished his knit version earwarmers in one evening, which is just fantastic.  Expecially considering that he was making up the pattern as he went along.  He selected the yarn weight to match the new yarn I'd bought for his baby stash; two skeins of locally produced mohair/wool blend in a medium weight - something to motivate him to improve his skills before working with some high end yarn! Yes, my husband is now building up his very own yarn stash.  I love it!

One of the things that he mentioned to me as we talked about his knitting is how, as he focused on the knitting, it served as a distraction away from his constant pain and making it more bareable. 

Knitting is going to be part of his medical treatment.

The creative side of crafting has mental benefits that most people recognise, but I think there's a tendancy to forget just how much the act of creating crafts benefits us physically, as well.  It's good therapy, for our minds and our bodies.  It can reduce pain, lower blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety and improve mood. 

When I am teaching new crocheters, I sometimes get students who are really hard on themselves for not "getting" it as fast as they expect.  They begin to get tense and angry with themselves.  When this happens, I try to remind them that crochet is supposed to be fun!

Yes, it's nice to be able to figure it out and do perfect stitches, but ultimately, it's not about being perfect - or even being good!  It's about enjoying the creative process.  Not everyone picks things up quickly.  That's okay.  The last thing I ever want to see is a student who comes out of my class hating crochet because they couldn't "get" it.  I never "got" crochet when my mother tried to teach me as a child, all those years ago.  I was 25 years old before I picked up a hook again and finally figured it out.  Even then, it was another 10 years or so before a I discovered a surge of new patterns and yarns, and I really hit my groove when it came to crochet.  Now, it's not only my favourite craft, but one that is actually bringing in a few extra bucks here and there.  I've now been crocheting for more than 20 years and still love it.  Would I have loved it as much if I hadn't just left it alone for years and did other things?  I doubt it. 

If you're learning a new craft and it's causing you grief and frustration, stop!  Take a break.  Breath.  Relax.  Mistakes will happen.  Your fingers won't always co-operate.  That's part of the learning process.  Give yourself time.  If necessary, switch crafts.  Come back to it later, if you wish.  It's not a competition or a race. 

There are many reasons for all of us to get crafting.  It's fun and gets those creative juices flowing.  It's wonderful to produce a magnificent piece, sure, but you know what?  It's also wonderful to produce that weird, twisted funky disaster, too!

It's okay to make mistakes.

It's okay to not be perfect.

That's not what crafting is about.

Crafting is about so many things besides producing an object.  Unless you're crafting as a business and making objects to sell (which has its own benefits, but face it; many of us just don't have any desire to go in that direction), the finished project is secondary to the process of making it.

It's about creativity. 

It's about growth. 

It's about healing.

Start making things.  Pick up an old craft.  Learn a new craft.  Any craft.  Many crafts.  Do "good" crafting.  Do "bad" crafting.  Get messy and make mistakes.  Learn.  Have fun.

Just go out and get crafting!

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