Mindfulness is the art of focusing on the present moment. You enhance the quality of your life by bringing awareness to the entirety of the moment (thoughts, feelings, sensations, and more) without judging or attempting to change that experience. Practicing mindfulness brings many benefits to your daily life and improves life quality as a whole. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, and as a crafter, you already have one tool at your disposal. That’s right, knitting and crochet can help you with mindfulness practice.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Why practice mindfulness? Extensive research shows that there are many proven benefits of this practice including, but not limited to,
- Stress reduction which itself has a whole host of physical and mental health benefits
- Improved focus, concentration, and memory
- Decreased emotional reactivity, which means that you can respond thoughtfully and intentionally to what life throws at you
- Better relationships thanks to reduced stress and increased insight
- Overall improvements to immune system and daily wellness
In other words, mindfulness helps you feel better in mind, body, and spirit.
Safe Haven Shawl by Sandi Rosner is a meditative knitting project
Why Use Yarn to Practice Mindfulness
There are many different ways to practice mindfulness including established methods of guided meditation. You shouldn’t discount any option that will help you. However, as a crafter, you might find that it helps to being – or expand – a mindfulness practice using your craft. First of all, you already know crochet or knitting, so it’s a familiar safe space from which to begin. Let’s face it; not everyone is comfortable going to a drop-in meditation class. Mindfulness through yarn can be an easier way to begin.
Additionally, knitting and crochet have their own mental health benefits, which in turn can enhance the benefits you get from mindfulness. For example, these crafts have been shown to release dopamine and serotonin, which improve feelings of wellbeing in the body. Mindfulness brings you to the present moment and allows you to more fully experience the good feelings that yarncrafting produces. Plus, knitting and crochet offer a surprising number of tools for engaging with mindfulness practice.
7 Tips for Practicing Mindfulness Through Yarn
Mindfulness really just means that you bring your full attention to what you are doing in the present moment. You attend to the little details. Further, you notice what’s happening with an open mind. You observe and you accept. With that in mind, here are ten small tips for making big changes in your life by practicing mindfulness with knitting or crochet.
Image from the Hygge Look Book of knit and crochet projects
1. Begin Each Craft Session with an Intention
When you go to a yoga class, you’re asked to set an intention. For example, you might set an intention to embrace gratitude. You don’t think about that intention during the class. You simply set it and let it be and just doing so brings it into the room so that it can become part of your practice for the day. Mindfulness crafting embraces this concept. As you sit down to begin any knitting or crochet session, set your intention.
You might set an intention for the craft session. For example, “I will be forgiving of my mistakes.” Or you might set a more general intention such as, “I will take what comes today.” Some days, you might think even bigger, sending loving kindness out to all beings in the world. The act of setting the intention sets the stage for remembering to be mindful as you craft.
2. Seduce Your Senses
Your senses are very powerful tools for bringing awareness to the present moment. Make use of that by finding ways to bring them into your craft space.
- Delight your ears with soothing music, nature sounds, or even attention to the silence in your craft space.
- Inspire yourself with scents from candles, essential oils, or even food cooking in the kitchen.
- Add the element of taste by taking breaks to sip on a favorite tea, coffee, wine, or flavored water.
- Incorporate sights that you enjoy in your craft space such as a favorite photo or a beautiful throw.
- Embrace the tactile nature of knitting and crochet by working with luxurious fibers that are soft to the touch.
Learn more about setting the mood of a craft space through attention to your senses here.
3. Select a Mindfulness Cue from Crafting
A mindfulness cue is just a reminder to pause, breathe, and gain full awareness of the situation. Each time you notice the cue, you take that mindfulness break. There are many repetitive actions in crochet and knitting that provide the perfect opportunity to act as mindfulness cues. For example, each time that you place or remove your stitch marker could be your mindfulness cue.
Choose a cue that happens regularly but not so often that it would be impossible to pause each time. For example, in crochet, puff stitches happen regularly but not all of the time. Double crochet on the other hand, occurs to often to be a good mindfulness cue. Other cues might be when ending a row, starting a new round, or changing colors in a project.
Set of Suns Scrubby, free crochet pattern
4. Embrace Intentional Relaxation
Knitting and crochet naturally offer us relaxation. However, we can use mindfulness to enhance that relaxation. Throughout your craft session, remember to check in with your body. Is your breathing shallow or deep? Are your muscles loose or tense? Breathe deeply, drop your shoulders, and flex your finger muscles before you resume crafting. Pay attention to how you feel in your body, take cues to recognize how that relates to what’s happening in your mind, and use breathing and relaxation exercises to bring spaciousness to your craft experience.
Note: In mindfulness, we don’t try to change things, but instead accept what they are. However, if you experience craft pain, then you should definitely switch up your position or supplies to decrease that pain.
5. Say a Prayer or Mantra While Crafting
When you knit or crochet a traditional prayer shawl, you infuse it with a prayer for the person receiving the gift. You may say the prayer at the beginning of the project, then repeat it throughout the project, and finally include it in written or recorded form when you gift the shawl to someone. You can do this with any project, whether you typically pray or not. Hold someone specific in mind for each project, whether or not you intend to gift it to them, and focus on your love and caring for them as you craft. Similarly, you can repeat a mantra to help you focus on a goal in your own life. While this is not exactly the same as mindfulness practice, it’s a similar practice that encourages wellbeing and connectedness while you knit or crochet.
6. Stitch Slowly, Deliberately, and With Attention
Many of us get into the routine of knitting or crochet and stitch very quickly. This can be a wonderfully meditative experience in its own right. However, when practicing mindfulness, you might try to slow down. In fact, practice doing your stitches as slowly as possible. This isn’t a race to get to the end of the project; it’s a journey and creative process towards consistently being fully present in the moment. Try to notice the detail of each part of a stitch – really look at what it means to yarn over, pull through, and yarn over again. What happens to your hook, your hands, the plies in the yarn as you do this?
Comforting Shawl free crochet pattern
7. Give Gratitude Through Yarn
The practice of gratitude is a great adjunct to the practice of mindfulness. In mindfulness, we notice what is happening, and we accept it. For example, if I feel grumpy, I don’t try to change my grumpy mood but instead observe it without attachment, thinking to myself, “hm, I’m grumpy, that’s interesting.” I might go further and explore what it feels like in my body to be grumpy. I feel itchy, restless, or sore. I realize that this feeling will pass. I mindfully watch to see what happens.
In gratitude practice, we don’t just notice what happens in our lives, but we actively give thanks for every situation. We notice those things that we appreciate and we are grateful for them. We also recognize that the struggles may offer benefits we can’t yet see and we try to be grateful for those as well. Practice gratitude through yarn by giving thanks for something at the start of each row or round of your work.
Learn More About Yarn-Based Mindfulness
I have written more extensively about mindfulness crochet in two of my books: Crochet Saved My Life and Hook to Heal, both of which include mindfulness exercises for crocheters. You can also find mindfulness crochet projects in the book Crochet Therapy by Bestan Corkhill. Knitters may find additional insight from the book Mindfulness and Knitting by Rachael Matthews and Mindful Knitting by Tara Jon Matthews.