Textile Crafts and Mindfulness

 In Textiles & Embroidery

In the USA May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it inspired me to share a little bit about the connections between textile crafts and mindfulness. At first I struggled to write this post. I approached it with the aggression of an academic, wanting clear definitions and logical connections. I skimmed through some readings from Masters and imagined a clear-cut discussion. But it wasn’t that simple. I realised that I had been trying to look at the relationship between textile crafts and mindfulness from the outside, to package it all up neatly. In actual fact this topic is so personal to me that I don’t think I could ever separate myself from it. So instead of a mini dissertation, this is more like… field notes from the inside.


Rebirth Page 4 Cellular Division, embroidery by Jessica Merle Steytler (textile crafts)

‘The act of sewing is a process of emotional repair’ -Louise Bourgeois


What are some of your favourite textile crafts? Mine are embroidery (duh), sewing, knitting and felting. Maybe you love crochet, weaving or tapestry. What all of these crafts have in common (apart from being textile-based!) is the repetitive nature of their processes. Repetition is the key that makes our textile crafts so therapeutic to our souls. The other aspect that is equally important is the focus we use during the creative process. Repetition and focus combined in our crafts can help us to deal with anxiety, depression and PTSD.

Just as we cannot focus on two people talking at the same time, working through an embroidery or other repetitive piece distracts us from the often overwhelming voices of anxiety and depression. Instead, we can focus just on our craft, on our hands and fingers moving as we lay down stitch upon stitch. Everything else just melts away. The stress, anxiety and pain almost completely disappear as we create. Each stitch is a suture to our souls and minds. They draw wounds closed and take us down a path of healing.


Rebirth Page 14 Wandering Womb, embroidery by Jessica Merle Steytler (textile crafts)

‘The needle is used to repair the damage… It is never aggressive, it’s not a pin’ -Louise Bourgeois


In July of 2014 I started creating an embroidered book, Rebirth (view the full book here). At first I was simply playing with embroidery and becoming reacquainted with it, and soon it became this magical tool that I could use to manage anxiety and upheaval that had wedged themselves into my life. It allowed me to escape from reality and that part of my brain that got stuck in anxious cycles. Over a period of two years my small experimental embroideries became intentional illustrations of the healing process. I bound them all together to create a narrative book piece that shared this story.

Perhaps it is the psychological benefits of embroidery that have made me pursue it with all my heart. All I know is that I love doing it and that it makes me feel GOOD! So many of my friends and relatives have expressed similar feelings of relief and upliftment that come from their textile crafts too. It is a special process that we can keep to ourselves or share with others if we want to. So keep making, keep going and keep taking care of yourself <3

For extra reading on this topic, Kathryn Vercillo at Simply Crochet shares beautiful insights into how crochet helps her and others to heal. All of these particular articles are collected together on the page All You Might Want To Know About How Crochet Heals People.


Rebirth Page 21 Cellular Division No. 6, embroidery by Jessica Merle Steytler (textile crafts)

{It is important to know when your mental health might be out of your control. Sometimes we can’t take care of ourselves alone and we need some extra help. If things start feeling too overwhelming for you to handle, please reach out to a mental health professional or someone you can trust for assistance. There is hope, and you are worth it <3 }

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