Today is World Mental Health Day so I thought it was a good time to share with you about why I think sewing is great for mental health. From personal experience I know that it has many benefits. Creating an item from scratch, taking the time to think about colours, textures and the final result, getting compliments on the finished article or interacting with other people all do wonders for us!
The act of making
When I make an item, I find myself present in the act of making it. All other distractions, worries and anxieties take a back seat for a little while. I am present in the moment and only thinking about what I’m actually doing. I forget about the bills that need paying, the house that needs cleaning (which is always!), the homework that I must battle my 11 year old to complete, the dinner that must be prepared, the accounts that must be totted up and I just sew. It might be for only 10 minutes before life gets back in the way, but for those 10 minutes I am making something and that is all I am doing. My head clears and I focus. The only other times that I find that this happens is when I’m reading a great book, watching a fantastic film or when I’m out running on the trails or fells.
When I have finished something and I get a compliment on it, my heart soars! I’m proud of my achievements and I’m learning to accept the praise. After years of a thankless teaching job where I was praised by OfSTED and some fantastic kids but berated by senior managers and the grottier teens, my self confidence took a real battering. With sewing, it’s finally heading north again and I’m learning to say thanks rather than shrug off compliments. Sure, I do what we all do and pick out the mistakes in my sewing and of course I point those out to people when I don’t need to, but I’m learning that mistakes are fine. They make a dress, shirt, tee, quilt or trousers unique and I know I’ve learnt many things from some of the most difficult sews. Some of those weren’t even technically challenging either, they were just a mare to make for one reason or another. I’ve stretched out necklines, inserted sleeves inside out, had wobbly hems and chopped holes in my binding with an overlocker. But its OK because life is all about learning from your mistakes! Sewing has given me that.
Being a social animal
And finally socialising. I’m an introvert who is working on being more of an extrovert. I’m a geek who is more likely to get excited about the new Star Trek series or Marvel film far more than anything celebrities are doing. But with sewing, I can be social without feeling like the oddball! I surprised someone the other day when I said I’m actually a really shy person with people I don’t know. They questioned how I can be when I’m a teacher. But when I teach, I’m just a sewing geek or a science geek who is happy to share ideas and techniques with someone who is equally passionate about it, or has the potential to be. I’ve said it before, but the sewing community is like no other. Where else could you go online, post a picture of something you’ve made and get a tonne of nice comments back even if they can see the errors as well as you can? And with physical classes, there’s a whole other level of camaraderie. Something goes horribly wrong and the whole group helps to fix it. Someone gets stuck on a technique and several people will be able to suggest a way to do it. Not only that, this introvert is immediately surrounded by people who actually GET me. I’m out of the house and no longer “just” Mum. I’m creating something with my own hands that will either make me proud of myself, allow me to make a mistake that I can learn from or just give me a little bit of headspace.
And for my mental health, that is an amazing thing.