A little criss cross, that’s all it takes. It might sound simple, but I’ve found cross stitch to be so much more than just thread, fabric and a needle. Having listened to stitchers from all over the world, of all levels of experience, together with relevant medical professionals, I’m going to explain exactly why you should try cross stitch today and how it can change your life.
Firstly, having a hobby in general, something you can identify with and do regularly is fantastic for overall well-being. Finding a hobby that you can really immerse yourself in is great mindfulness practice if you worry, over think of ever feel anxious. If you’re like me and your brain buzzes with to do lists, then this simple craft can really help.
We live in an age where technology has created a fast-paced multitasking environment. Stitch for an hour, and notice how different you feel. The mind is calm and free from over thinking, breathing slower. More and more artificial light from screens affects sleep patterns and circadian rhythms prevent a deep, restorative sleep. So doing a bit of cross stitch in an evening means you’re more likely to switch off and wind down. Also known as being a ‘slow craft’, cross stitch is truly yoga for the mind (just without the leggings or stretching!)
Imagine stitching little rows one after another, carefully and repetitively. For me, it’s akin to a relaxed trance-like zoning out from the everyday stresses of housework, children and general pressures of life. Being a cross stitcher can also open up doors! There are so many cross stitch groups on Facebook where stitchers chat, share images of their work and interact and due to the various time zones, there’s always someone around! If you’re suffering from an illness, can’t work, isolated or immobile, this contact and friendship can really change an otherwise ordinary day. If you’ve never heard of a stitch-a-long, this is another great way to make new friends from around the globe. There are also dedicated Facebook groups for these projects too. And if you’re not already on Instagram, I suggest you sign up pronto! It’s free and an amazing resource for inspiration and escape.
One stitcher told me; ‘Being disabled and stuck at home a lot, I use stitching to keep me sane. I enjoy doing it when I feel well enough and it has stopped me being so depressed. I like stitching because I love seeing the end result after many hours and months in some cases. But it gives you something to focus on daily. On days when you might feel hopeless, even stitching a few more rows is progress. Having the patience and commitment to see a piece through to the end, seeing it slowly take shape and feeling proud of every stitch you placed, is so satisfying. Even with being disabled, through cross stitch, I have a purpose and can achieve something.’
Other accounts focus on using cross stitch to help avoid certain foods or habits like smoking or drinking. When you’re bored, it’s so easy to give in. But when the mind is focused, albeit casually, it doesn’t wander onto other things! Stitching has been a welcome distraction when a loved one moves away and it can also help us remember those we’ve lost who also shared the hobby as this stitcher explains; ‘When I was a kid, my Mom cross stitched a lot. So when she passed away, I taught myself how to do it. It soothes me so much and helps me feel connected to her.’
Not only can cross stitch help us feel close to those from the past, it can also connect us to the next generation. It seems that no matter what it might be, everyone learns a particular skill from a parent or grandparent. For me, it was cross stitch, bossiness, baking and decoupage! Cross stitch is such a lovely skill to pass on and teach others. Your protégé can then in turn proudly add their masterpiece to the wall alongside yours.
Don’t be put off if you’re new, cross stitch is ridiculously easy to learn and a quick skill to master. It won’t take hundreds of pounds or years to learn. Give it a day and you’ll be off! A small kit might be around £15 with all of the materials you need. But as you progress, you may choose to add to your ‘stash’ with specialist threads, different types of fabrics and a selection of collectable needle minders!
In some cases, you could start to design your own patterns (particularly if you can’t find them elsewhere on the market and you have a specific niche interest, be it a TV show, iguanas or cacti!) Use either using grid paper and a pencil or one of the many cross stitch software programs available (I recommend WinStitch). And who knows, if other stitchers enjoy your patterns you could even start your own business!
So there you have it. My account, from personal experience, of how something as simple as cross stitch can have such tangible benefits for the mind and soul! If you’re interested in finding out more about cross stitch, feel free to check out Caterpillar Cross Stitch for beginner kits, tutorials and free patterns.