Yarn Crafting as Stress Relief Through All of Life's Seasons

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"Yarn crafting as stress relief" by Tiffany Walsh (CatholicMom.com)

Via Pixabay (2017), CC0 Public Domain

When I was a teenager, my mom taught me how to crochet. We stuck solely to large afghans in a chevron pattern, but I always loved making them. I found it so soothing to choose new yarn colors, to see the blanket grow, and to determine whether to keep it or to gift it to someone. When I was in college, I branched out and learned some new stitches to incorporate into my repertoire, so that I could crochet afghans using patterns other than a chevron. Indeed, I was still only making afghans. I know they’re useful to cozy up with in the wintertime, but a person can only use so many. Luckily, it took me so long to actually finish one, there was no worries of me getting overstocked!

Once I started graduate school and my life took a turn for the stressful, I did not crochet for many years. I had not lost interest, but I had lost time and focus. I began to wonder if I even remembered how to create many of the stitches I had taken the time to learn.

In my early 30’s, I was newly married and pregnant with my first child when the nesting instinct took over. I determined that I wanted to crochet a baby afghan. I pulled out my crochet hook, made a trip to the craft store for some yarn, and lo and behold, I had not forgotten how to crochet. I had a good time picking out a pattern, and then got started like a champ. By the time the baby was born, I had not actually *finished* the blanket, but I was nearly there, and I finished it around his first birthday, so I call that a long-term crafting project success.

I realized though, that not knowing how to make anything besides blankets was limiting my creativity. I had a toddler, and I worked full-time outside the home: I wanted a soothing distraction for my limited free time! I also realized that there was a whole different yarn craft out there with tons of creative potential in terms of garments that I had no knowledge of at all — knitting.

I had joined a lunchtime crafting group at work, and I was the only crocheter. All of these other women had cool pointy sticks that they were knitting small and exotic things on, like socks and hats. Granted, you absolutely can crochet socks and hats, and I love crochet and continue to thrive in that craft to this day. But knitting opened up a whole new world for me. This was a craft with lots of practical potential in terms of creating stretchy, versatile items. I wanted to acquire those awesome little wooden sticks and have a partially completed sock hanging from them. A sock that I could actually wear on my foot! I wanted to learn to knit.

I signed up for a beginner class at my local JoAnn’s store. We learned the basic knit and purl stitches and employed them to start a scarf. I was hooked.

Once I had that down, I took another class, this time an intermediate-level one focusing on knitting in the round to create a baby hat. We used multiple colors to complete the hat, and I loved it. I finally knew how to use the small wooden needles, which meant I could now attempt socks!

I worked my way from baby hats to adult hats, then onto simple sweaters before actually tackling the socks. In the meantime, I was pregnant again, and I felt very accomplished that I could now knit a hat and sweater for my baby! Socks took a little getting used to, but I bought a great instructional book, and I got it. Making things that my family and I could wear made me feel cozy and happy.

I found that learning a new craft is like many things in life: you do not go from beginning to end in a single leap. First, you learn how to cast on stitches. Then you learn the basic knit and purl stitches. Then you knit the first part, without worrying about the second. Do not be anxious about knitting the sleeves until you actually get to that part! When you tackle the project piece by piece, it will not overwhelm you. Whenever I feel overwhelmed at work or with my responsibilities generally, I try to remember this simple lesson I learned from crafting larger items.

When I sit on my couch and knit or crochet, moving my hands and creating something practical and beautiful, it is balm to my soul. I am very grateful that I took the time to learn.

"Yarn crafting as stress relief" by Tiffany Walsh (CatholicMom.com)

Via Pixabay (2014), CC0 Public Domain

Are there any other crafters out there who find solace in a handcraft? I’d love to hear from you in the comments! St. Catherine of Bologna, patron saint of the arts, pray for us!


Copyright 2017 Tiffany Walsh

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About Author

Tiffany is a wife and mother to two precious children, a native Western New Yorker, and an academic librarian. She is a cradle Catholic who rekindled her childhood faith as a graduate student in New York City via her love of books and discovery of daily Mass. She enjoys using humor in her writing, and blogs about faith, books, and everything in-between over at lifeofacatholiclibrarian.com.

4 Comments

  1. Not only is crafting relaxing, it can help save your sanity! When I was diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder 20 years ago, one of the things my counselor recommended was “externalization”, doing anything that required focusing on something outside my body, instead of on the strange feelings I was experiencing. Bonus points if it involved counting something. Crocheting hit the spot perfectly.
    As I sit here, I can see one of the afghans that helped me get through that time. Sadly, due to arthritis in my thumbs I can no longer crochet without pain, but a kind friend taught me to knit, and I love it! Although my anxiety has been under control for a long time, I still have a craft I can turn to when symptoms crop up, as they occasionally do. I’m thankful that something so helpful can also be fun and productive.

  2. Leslie Buckley on

    This is what I do constantly. I bring my knitting or crochet with me anywhere and everywhere. As the yarn flows through my fingers, it helps to clear my head. I have chronic pain so my yarny distraction also helps with that somewhat. I love sharing my finished objects with those I know and do not know.

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