There is no need to introduce the benefits of meditation as a mindful practice. Everyone from David Lynch to NSW primary school students are using meditation as a technique to lower stress levels and improve general well-being. There is also an increasing amount of scientific studies to back up the anecdotal evidence around meditation. Studies show that meditation increases connectivity between our left and right brain hemispheres (great for creative problem solving), and improves general psychological well-being.
There is another mindful activity that is starting to get a lot more attention for improving well-being – knitting and hand-stitching. The New York Times ran an article a few days ago extolling the virtues of knitting and crochet, outlining the benefits for improving memory and alleviating pain. The textile journal Knit Wit recently did an article on my Sutra Stitching workshops that I set up in 2013 (where I teach both mantra meditation and hand-stitching) exploring the link between meditation and textile craft techniques.
I have enjoyed textile crafts such as hand-stitching and crochet for many years now, and as a professional textile designer I utilised many of these techniques in my work. A more recent interest and passion has been patch-work and quilting that I do all by hand, spending many hours doing a simple running stitch through several layers of fabric. It was during my recent doctorate studies (and the need for some stress-relieving activities!) that I began to understand how beneficial these craft techniques were for well-being and improvements in mood. I also began to understand the similarities between these simple hand-techniques and meditation, both activities that make us feel calm and relaxed. It was these insights that motivated me to set up the workshops, and share the pleasures of craft and meditation with others.
There is so much potential for these simple craft techniques to be used in all sorts of therapeutic and personal development contexts – for prisoners in detention to older people. What examples are there in Australia for how textile craft is being used? I am fascinated to see the growing interest in the well-being benefits of textile crafts and to exploring these ideas further through my workshops.
Image: Emma Byrnes