A Staffordshire University professor has spoken of how crafting has helped her chronicle life and times during the coronavirus pandemic
By engaging a different part of the brain, it is a way of switching off the anxiety and the darker side of this whole experience. It is a way of coping through mindfulness.
Karen Rodham, Professor of Health Psychology
Since the first lockdown in March, Professor of Health Psychology Karen Rodham has sewn a felt image each day to help deal with anxiety and to make others smile.
She explained: “I could see lockdown coming, that this situation was going to be with us for some time and that it was probably going to be anxiety-inducing. So, I began to think about coping strategies and thought it would be good to learn something different.
"I started dabbling with felt and trying to sew because I know that when I use my hands, I’m not engaging the worry part of my brain and I have to be in the moment.”
It became part of Karen’s daily routine to capture a moment from each day in felt and she has been sharing her ‘Roddestries’ on social media. While working from home, this mindful practice at the end of the day has also acted as a boundary been work and home life.
Since her first embroidered image of the ‘What If Monster’ being put back in its box, Karen has shared candid reflections on her life, ranging from the laugh out loud to the political and the personal.
Family, friends, George the cat and even strangers feature in her hand sewn stories which now number more than 250.
“I decided to share the images on Twitter in the hope they would provide a moment of light-hearted distraction for anyone who stumbled upon them. I think if you are having a bad day or if something happens that is really tough then I think it’s ok to share it as well as just the fun, silly things.
“I’ve been quite taken aback by the reaction. It has been heart-warming and surprising to learn that it is having a positive impact and resonating with people.”
Karen compiled the first 100 days and the second 100 days of her sewing diary into two booklets and plans to continue until she has completed a full year’s worth.
Commenting on the psychological benefits, Karen explained: “Focusing on where my hands are, how to thread the needle, what colour thread to choose and so on. It all forces me to be in the here and now – there is no chance to worry about what might be.”
Students have also been turning to crafts throughout the pandemic and Keavy Devonish, studying BA (Hons) Film, Radio and Television, found that knitting helps her to concentrate during online classes.
The 20-year-old from Essex said: “I started knitting with my mum when I went back home this summer. It’s kept me so calm and it has been a big stress reliever. Because I’m dyslexic I fiddle around with things a lot so knitting while listening to a lecture really helps.
“I just make scarves at the moment! I’ve made one for my dad for Christmas and for my housemates. I’d definitely recommend it to other students. Yes, old ladies may do it but it’s actually really fun!”
Fellow student Lynne Rothwell, who is completing a Professional Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, is also a keen knitter and explored the cognitive benefits of knitting such as reducing stress hormone cortisol in this article.
Lynne wrote: “This is similar to meditation, which has been suggested to lower stress levels and promote a greater sense of wellbeing in people who practice regularly.”
During lockdown, people across the nation also embraced crafting with retailer Hobbycraft seeing a 200% increase in online sales. Many people are also opting to make handmade Christmas decorations and presents this year.
Health Psychologist Karen added: “By engaging a different part of the brain, it is a way of switching off the anxiety and the darker side of this whole experience. It is a way of coping through mindfulness.
“My advice for anyone taking up crafting is to not worry about the end product. Just enjoy the process, that is the main thing, and if it doesn’t work out how you imagined (and it probably won’t at first) then you can look at it and chuckle!”
Follow Professor Karen Rodham on Twitter @ProfRodham to see more of her crafty creations.