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Crochet and Health crochet mandala

Published on May 2nd, 2018 | by Merion

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Mental health and the fiber arts by Mobius Girl Design

To round off our stress awareness month, we’re delighted to introduce Sandra Eng, psychologist and designer from the Mobius Girl Design blog. Read on and find out all about how mindfulness is a key component for using crochet and knitting for mental health and make Sandra’s beautiful FREE pattern for the Asana Mandala…

crochet mandala

Scroll down for Sandra’s Asana Mandala pattern…

Let’s set the scene: you’re sitting in your comfiest chair, a cup of steaming hot tea at your side, and in your lap is an organised jumble of beautiful yarn. You crochet a few stitches, take a sip of tea, and with a pleasant sigh, notice stress falling away and a deep sense of calm taking its place.

Sound familiar?

Even if you haven’t thought about it in these terms, you’re most likely already aware that crocheting, knitting and other crafts contribute positively to your mental health. Let’s talk a little bit about why that might be the case.

Mindfulness

In recent years, the practice of mindfulness has been touted as a go-to intervention for stressed out folks. Mindfulness not only helps to reduce stress, it also improves working memory and focus, increases cognitive flexibility and takes the edge off from distressing emotions. It’s even been shown to reduce pain.

So what is mindfulness?

Jon Kabat-Zinn, a landmark mindfulness researcher, defines mindfulness as the practice of paying attention, in the present moment, without judgement.

It sounds simple enough, but let’s break that down a bit:

Mindfulness and crafting

Paying attention

Crocheting and knitting often force us to slow down. We count our stitches, read the pattern, notice whether the piece is working up correctly. All the while, we’re practising the attention portion of mindfulness.

In the present moment

Our minds wander all. the. time. It’s normal, and not a bad thing. One moment we’re focused on the task at hand, and the next we’re thinking about that interaction at work, or our kids’ schedules, or the very important matter of what TV show we’re going to watch next.

The practice of mindfulness reminds us to bring our attention back over and over to what is happening right now. If you’ve ever been merrily stitching along, and all of a sudden realise you have no idea where you are in a pattern, you know how easy it is for your mind to become occupied by other things. By continually guiding your attention back to the pattern or the stitch, you are practising mindfulness.

Without judgement

This is the part of mindfulness that a lot of people struggle with (raises hand). We’re wired for judgement, so much so that we don’t even notice when we’re doing it. We think:

“Ugh, this looks awful”

“I’ll never figure out how to make this stitch.”

“I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Negative judgements snap us out of mindfulness and into self-criticism, which is stressful! When you find yourself eyeing up your work or your skills critically, use it as an opportunity to practise self-compassion instead:

“I’m learning and I know I can improve.”

“Practice, not perfection.”

Crafting of any kind, including crocheting and knitting, is a natural route to practicing mindfulness. Even when your project isn’t cooperating, or you end up frogging what you’ve stitched, the process of making helps you find an maintain a mindful state. And that’s great for your mental health!

crochet mandala

Challenge and mastery

When I first started crocheting, I felt like I was over in my head. There were so many different stitches to learn, and my hands took a long time to master the rhythm of stitching with even tension.

With practice, the challenge of learning crochet lessened, and I started to feel ready to tackle different kinds of patterns. Trying something new often bounced me right back to that place of feeling uncertain and like a beginner. More practice led me to feeling more confident in my skills. And so on.

Our brains crave challenge. But not so much challenge that we feel overwhelmed and likely to give up on the thing we’re pursuing. You may notice that some projects frustrate you to the point of tears, while others are so simple you could stitch them in your sleep.

Finding the ‘right’ amount of challenge can be tricky! But when you find it, you will know it, because you’ll feel interested, engaged and excited. ‘Getting it’ – whether it’s a more difficult pattern or a different way to combine colors, or a new skill you’ve always wanted to try – feels fantastic!

Psychologists have demonstrated that experiencing mastery contributes to positive mood. It’s no surprise that being able to do something well can help you to feel less stressed and better overall. 

So, if you’re finding that you want to throw your project into the ‘naughty corner’, or are ready to pull your hair out right after you pull your your stitches out, consider picking up a different kind of project. One that fits with the level of challenge you’re currently comfortable with. You’ll be back to experiencing the soothing effects of crafting in no time.

Flow

The Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi takes the ideas of challenge and mastery a step further. Csiksgentmihalyi developed the concept of flow. He described it as a state of complete concentration and absorption. When you’re in flow, it’s as if the outside world, including time, falls away, and the only thing that matters is what you’re involved in.

Finding flow requires the right combination of challenge and skill. When they’re evenly matched, you’re much more likely to become ‘lost’ in your project, in a good way.

Csiksgentmihalyi asserts that people are happiest when in a flow state. When the stitches are flying off your hook or across your needles and you’ve found your stitching groove, you can bet you’ve achieved flow!

A little flow goes a long way in helping us to feel less stressed and more attuned to ourselves and our experience.

Community

The final contribution of knitting and crocheting to positive mental health that I want to discuss is community.

We’re social creatures, and feel best when we feel like we belong to an involved, caring community. In my experience, interacting with other crocheters, whether in person or online, more often than not puts me a good mood.

When you share a beloved craft with others, the barriers to connection are immediately lowered. You have a shared language and often shared experience, that acts as shortcuts to bonding with others.

Whatever others might say about social media, I’ve found it to be a wonderful tool for building community with people I would never have the opportunity to interact with otherwise. I’m so glad to have connected with other crocheters from across the globe! I can personally attest to their positive influence on my mental health. Hopefully your experience has been the same.

Parting words

Experiencing mindfulness, engaging in challenging tasks, finding flow and building community are just some of the reasons the fiber arts are good for your mental health. But this article is long, and we all have stitching to do!

I’m confident that, before reading this article, you had an intuitive sense about how crafting, and especially crocheting and knitting (this is a fiber community, after all!) help to buoy your mood and soothe your stress. Hopefully you now also have some fun tidbits to share with others about why these crafts we love so much can have such a positive impact.

Here’s to many, many more stitches in the service of shrugging off stress and feeling good!

The Asana Mandala Pattern

crochet mandala

You will need:

Stitch Guide (UK terminology)

  • Back loop (BL): Work stitch(es) in the back loop only of the indicated stitch.
  • Back post double crochet (bpdc): Insert hook from back to front to back around the post of the indicated stitch. Yarn over and pull up loop, yarn over and draw through both loops on hook.
  • Double crochet (dc): Insert hook in stitch. Yarn over and pull up a loop. Yarn over and draw through 2 loops.
  • Double treble crochet (dtr): Yarn over twice, insert hook in stitch, yarn over and pull up a loop. [Yarn over and draw through 2 loops on hook] 3 times.
  • Double treble crochet two together (dtr2tog): {Yarn over twice, insert hook in stitch, yarn over and pull up a loop, [yarn over, draw through 2 loops on hook] 2 times} 2 times. Yarn over and pull through remaining loops on hook.
  • Front-post double crochet (fpdc): Insert hook from front to back to front around the post of the indicated stitch. Yarn over and pull up a loop. Yarn over and draw through 2 loops  on hook.
  • Half-treble crochet (htr): Yarn over, insert hook in stitch. Yarn over and pull up a loop, yarn over and draw through 3 loops on hook.
  • Picot: Ch3, sl st to first ch.
  • Treble crochet (tr): Yarn over, insert hook in stitch, yarn over and pull up a loop, (yarn over and draw through 2 loops) twice.

The pattern:

Rnd 1: With A, make an adjustable ring. Into ring, ch 2 (does not count as st), 16 tr, sl st to first tr to join. Fasten off A. (16 tr)

Rnd 2: Join B in any st, ch 4, dtr in same st (counts as dtr2tog), ch 2, *dtr2tog in next st, ch 2; repeat from * to end, sl st to first dtr to join. Fasten off B. (16 dtr2tog, 16 ch-2 sp)

Rnd 3: Join C in ch-2 sp, ch 1 (does not count as st), 3 dc in each ch-2 sp around, sl st to first dc to join. (48 dc)

Rnd 4: Sl st into next dc, ch 5 (counts as tr, ch2), tr in same st, sk 2 st, *(tr, ch2, tr) in next st, sk 2 st; repeat from * to end, sl st in 3rd ch of beg ch-5 to join. (32 tr, 16 ch-2 sp)

Rnd 5: Sl st into ch-2 sp, ch 1 (does not count as st), *(dc, htr, ch 1, htr, dc) in ch-2 sp; repeat from * to end, sl st to first dc to join. Fasten off C. (32 dc, 32 htr, 16 ch-1 sp)

Rnd 6: Join A in ch-1 sp, ch 5 (counts as tr, ch 2), tr in same st, *bpdc around each of next 4 sts, (tr, ch 2, tr) in next ch-1 sp; repeat from * to end, omitting final (tr, ch 2, tr), sl st to 3rd ch of beg ch-5 to join. Fasten off A. (64 bpdc, 32 tr, 16 ch-2 sp)

Rnd 7: Join B in ch-2 sp, ch 1 (does not count as st), *dc in ch-2 sp, ch 5; repeat from * to end, sl st to first dc to join. (16 dc, 16 ch-5 sp)

Rnd 8: Sl st into ch-5 sp, ch 1 (does not count as st), 7 htr in each ch-5 sp around, sl st to BL of first htr to join. Fasten off B. (112 htr)

Rnd 9: Work this round in the BL. Join A in same st as join, ch 2 (does not count as st), tr in same st as join, tr in each st around, sl st to first tr to join. Fasten off A. (112 tr)

Rnd 10: Join C in same st as join, *sk 2 sts, (4 tr, ch 2, 4 tr) in next st, sk 2 sts, sl st in each of next 2 sts; repeat from * to end, making final sl st in same st as join from previous rnd. Fasten off C. (128 tr, 16 ch-2 sp)

Rnd 11: Join B in same st as join, ch 4, dtr in same st (counts as dtr2tog), *ch 4, sk 4 tr, dc in ch-2 sp, ch 4, sk (4 tr, sl st), dtr2tog in next sl st; repeat from * to end, omitting final dtr2tog, sl st to first dtr to join. (32 ch-4 sp, 16 dc, 16 dtr2tog)

Rnd 12: Ch 4 (counts as dtr), (4 dtr, ch 2, 5 dtr) in same st, *sk ch-4 sp, fpdc around next dc, sk next ch-4 sp, (5 dtr, ch 2, 5 dtr) in next dtr2tog; repeat from * to end, omitting final (5 dtr, ch 2, 5 dtr), sl st to 4th ch of beg ch-4 to join. Fasten off B. (160 dtr, 16 fpdc, 16 ch-2 sp)

Rnd 13: Join C in ch-2 sp, ch 1 (does not count as st), *(dc, picot, dc) in ch-2 sp, bpdc around each of next 5 dtr, fpdc around next fpdc, bpdc around each of next 5 dtr; repeat from * to end, sl st to first dc to join. Fasten off C. (160 bpdc, 32 dc, 16 fpdc, 16 picot)

Weave in all ends. The mandala benefits from light blocking to open up the points and picots.

Does crochet help you with your mental health and stress management? Tell us all about it in the comments!

Read more about Sandra’s crochet adventures on her blog, Mobius Girl Design!

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About the Author

Merion dreams in colour and adores crochet! From glorious granny blankets to ethereal shawls and lace cardies, she's never very far from her hooks! She loves cake, knitting, heavy horses, books and Mozart. Her favourite colour is duck egg blue.




5 Responses to Mental health and the fiber arts by Mobius Girl Design

  1. Judy Boddy says:

    Thank you for free patterns . What is your favorite yarn for your projects ?

  2. Maxine says:

    Is the pattern written in us terms or British terms? It says us stitches but then it seems like the pattern is British? Or not? It’s a beautiful pattern!

  3. Lorna Martin says:

    I suffer from depression and P.T.S.D. I have been very bad for over 2 years. I also have another Lung problem and unfortunately I lost my Job they medically retired me after 32 years work. Enough of me I have taught myself how to crochet and find it relaxing the only problem I have to watch videos over and over I am trying to read patters but don’t have the thought process at the moment. I have tried but have succeeded in doing one yes one Thanks will keep going and post pics next time
    I also used Paint Box wool Aran .

  4. Kim says:

    Sandra, I just finished the mandala and am very pleased! I was introduced to some new stitches which was fun and the process was very engrossing. I think I was mindful throughout for the most part. I love the way the bpdc stitches add depth to the design. I plan to affix the mandala to a hoop to hang on the wall in my craft room. Thank you for the delightful pattern and the thought provoking article.

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