On the back of the news that we’re re-locking-down, at least a little bit, lots of us are feeling like we’ve taken a bit of a step back on the road to normality, whatever that looks like these days. However, right now it really does feel like Netflix is running out of content (it’s not), Instagram has nothing left to show, and there are only so many at-home workouts you can cram into a week (if you’re me, that number is one and no more)… 

Enter, crafting!

Yes, we’re getting out the yarn, the paint, the glue gun, the glitter and getting our WI meeting on! As a side note, the WI recently celebrated their 105th birthday and actually do a lot more than knitting and coffee mornings – their roots come from the Suffragette movement and since then they’ve run campaigns to tackle pay inequality for women, awareness around HIV/AIDS, microplastic pollution, violence against women, modern slavery and even the declining honeybee population! 

Tangent about the WI over (we have no choice but to stan), crafting is an activity that has so many benefits that add up to more than “I made a thing”. Creating something physical with your own two hands is something that a lot of us actually do very little of these days, particularly if you work in the world of digital! Plus, crafting covers a huge range of different activities, so even if you’re not a fan of knitwear, there’s definitely still a craft for you. I’m partial to hand-lettering and calligraphy, but I’ve also been looking into sewing and embroidery (after seeing a lot of very cool projects on TikTok). So, this is my persuasive essay on why we should absolutely not be leaving arts and crafts in the dust post-GCSE art!

It’s good for your mental health (and let’s be honest, we could all do with a hand there)

While this might sound a bit like the awful “just stop being depressed” “tidy house, tidy mind” and “just take deep breaths” approach to improving mental health, rest assured that’s not what I mean when I say crafting can be amazing for your mental health. Obviously, there are a huge number of factors that affect our mental health, both on a daily basis and as an overarching part of our lives, and knitting a scarf isn’t going to clear depression in a week, but what it can do is break “the cycle of rumination”, creating a space to think about one thing at a time & create something beautiful from it.

When you’re fully focused on a craft project, it’s actually very similar to meditation in the way you can clear your mind and elevate your mood. In fact, some research actually indicates that crafting can prompt your brain to produce dopamine & serotonin, and in a study of 3,500 crafty folks, researchers found that 81% of knitters with depression reported that knitting made them feel happier overall – previous studies have found similar results in those who take up pottery, needlepoint and other handicrafts.

There’s also a massive community behind the world of crafting, with hundreds of knitting & sewing clubs out there today. As COVID-19 hit, lots of these have moved online, and there are thriving online communities for basically any craft you can think of – crochet, scrapbooking, woodworking, candlemaking (hello Jan Levinson) and Bob Ross paint-a-longing, to name just a few.

Crafting improves your creativity, coordination and critical thinking

The rush of serotonin and dopamine you get when you craft enhances the creation of new neurons and pathways in the brain, which promotes increased concentration and focus, making it easier to retain new knowledge. It also increases connection s between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, making you more productive. Learning about art and engaging with it (something you do a fair bit of when crafting) has also been shown to improve empathy and increase critical thinking. What is not to love?

Studies have also shown that older people who exercise their artistic brain on a regular basis through crafts like woodworking and quilting were 45% less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than people who don’t! Your brain is a use it or lose it muscle, and crafting is, in my humble opinion, one of the most enjoyable “use its” around. With more people than ever struggling with their mental health during COVID and subsequent lockdowns, it might be time for you to pick up the pen, knitting needle, whittling knife, welding gun, glitter vial, watercolour palette or fabric dye and make something that not only makes you feel better, but that you can hold in your own two hands and go “I made that!”

I’ll leave you with a fairly comprehensive list of creative hobbies and craft #inspo, so there’s no reason not to get your hands dirty (in some cases, quite literally). Catch you opening your new Etsy shop in no time! Plus, we could always help you market it!