Welcome to the third in our series of Making It Better narratives.
The author, who prefers to be anonymous, presents a different perspective on the role of making: that making can become a cause of stress in itself rather than a therapeutic salve.
I have certainly experienced this myself – particularly if there is a deadline in the pipeline (knitting or otherwise), I am likely to find myself knitting or stitching frantically, ending up with a sore back and neck and anything but relaxed.
Since beginning this journey to explore the land of mindful making, I have become much more aware of when I am in this ‘mindless’ state and I try to pull my self back into a slower and more focused pace, take some deep breathes and relax my shoulders, focusing on the rhythm and motion of the stitches.
Last year, I had the shingles (starting June 2018) and was very sick for a long time. I had a couple of weeks off work then two weeks working three half days and then went back to three days a week after that. When I wasn’t at work I was exhausted. I was in a lot of pain (neuropathic pain) every day. The first few weeks I even found having a shower to be exhausting. I couldn’t sleep lying on my left side at all for a few months.
Even after the rash cleared, I had ongoing neuropathic pain and associated exhaustion – a complication of shingles called post-herpetic neuralgia. Although my pain and exhaustion levels have been gradually getting better ever since, I still struggle with pain on a daily basis and need to rest a lot more than I ever had to.
Knitting gave me something to do that wasn’t looking at a screen.
I started knitting in October 2018 when I realised that I was spending a lot of time at home too sick to go out and that most of that time I was spending watching TV or looking at my iPhone. Knitting gave me something to do that wasn’t looking at a screen.
I retaught myself how to knit (hadn’t done it since I was a teenager) using Youtube for tricky things like cast on and off. I bought a weaving kit and yarn on Etsy and it came in the mail saving me from going out to go shopping when I was tired. I found it relaxing to think about knitting projects (and weaving, embroidery) while I was falling asleep as a method of distraction.
I followed a lot of knitters and weavers and embroiderers on Instagram too and found it fun to think up ideas inspired by them. I went to workshops, including the Shared Threads workshop – to learn new skills.
It became a chore – not fun any more.
Unfortunately this came a bit unstuck (untangled?) when I started being critical of my work and comparing my finished projects to those of others. I started a scarf with a yarn that I pretty quickly realised I didn’t like. But I continued knitting it because I wanted to finish it before I got onto something else. It became a chore – not fun any more. When I finally finished it I realised I didn’t like it. In fact I hated it. I have never worn it.
….stress had come to haunt my craft!
I started another scarf but quickly stopped when I realised I didn’t like this one either. I realise that one of the reasons I got sick with the shingles in the first place – stress – had come to haunt my craft! Realising this has helped me to overcome some of the problems associated with it – I stopped looking at Instagram and judging my craft harshly in relation to others – sometimes I still get this feeling but it is easier to dismiss now I know what it is.
By thinking of it as play – and doing it for the process and less for the end result – I have managed to continue to enjoy craft.
I now look at craft as purely a hobby. Some weekends I might get out the watercolours and others I might embroider something. I might go to a workshop with a friend. By thinking of it as play – and doing it for the process and less for the end result – I have managed to continue to enjoy craft. It is not my career and I don’t need to judge myself harshly about it. If I don’t like the scarf any more I stop knitting it and try something else. Craft can be useful as a form of therapy unless you let it become another source of stress.