The Women’s Room explains how to avoid Christmas stress: knit! (or sew)

True Brit Knits Christmas Hampstead Wreath, knitting one may help keep you sane before Christmas

Over the past month I have been to a number of craft fairs and at all of them I was reminded of how so many of us love to make things. We may be as busy as heck but we still love to browse a beautifully edited show such as the super-packed Selvedge Winter Fair, held last Saturday in Chelsea Town Hall and dream that on a spare afternoon we could knock up a pair of Quinton and Chadwick colourful gloves or sew a lampshade made from original 50s barkcloth like those (below) at Folly & Glee.

I spied many like-minded women stroking Ali Holloway’s beautiful handweaves and admiring the quality sewing on Thornback & Peel’s rabbit and cabbage aprons while mentally wondering if they had time to make something similar on their Bernina’s before Christmas.

It’s often not about the end result, it’s the actual process of knitting or sewing that can be so enjoyable, both calming and satisfying -even if the item we make goes in the SWHW (something went horribly wrong) box. It almost feels as if crafting is good for you. And can I just add that you can be a sewer and a knitter and still be a feminist? Just so we’re clear (and thanks for the support, How Things Are Done!)

On the way back from another equally busy craft fair earlier this month, the Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, New York, I read a great article by writer and embroiderer  Lisa Borgnes Giramonti in this month’s Martha Stewart Living. Lisa -who has a terrific blog– discovered that crafting is indeed good for your health. She discovered from psychologist Robert Rainer that crafting can ‘decrease your heartbeat and blood pressure and even improve your sleep”. Apparently simply concentrating on the repetitive process of knitting and sewing ensures the mid-brain displaces all thoughts of worry or stress, allowing the cortex, which controls conscious thought to become quiet and peaceful.

Rhinebeck, where I stroked a lot of yarn and admired the beautiful colours

Lisa also talked to knitter and former physical therapist Betson Corkhill, who is now director of Stitchlinks, a UK based research centre that promotes the therapeutic value of knitting and stitching in treating depression. Betson reckons that working with yarn soothes your brain the way that touching a soft pet does. This completely resonated with me, as altho I don’t knit, when I was at Rhinebeck I loved to smooth the multitude of coloured yarns on display while wandering around with queen of US knitting bloggers, Kay Gardiner from Mason-Dixon knitting.  I also loved the sheep, and in an aside here-knitting yarn is going the way of food in the US, everyone wants to know the provenance and heritage of their wool.

Knitting, sewing and other crafts are a bit like a double-whammy release valve for many of us, not only do they allows us to be creative -either as a hobby or a business – but they also offer a chance to escape the pressure and stress of life. You may have heard we’ve had a bit of bother recently and it really helped calm me down if I sewed. I recently made my first rug hook cushion (bought as a kit from Heaven’s To Betsy at Rhinebeck) and I loved making it, I felt so productive! it’s actually rather lopsided and I should really pull it all out and start again but that’s not the point, I reached a sort of inner peace (no easy feat) while yanking through the bits of thread.

Rug hooked sheep rug, not like my pumpkin cushion at all….

SO, if you’re aiming to get through Christmas without murdering anyone and you are a craft loving person, you might think about having some sewing to hand, or knitting.

To help you on your way, the clever team over at True Brit Knits have come up with this rather fetching knitted Christmas door wreath (top pic)  you might like to try. To buy the pattern for £3.00 click here, and the profit raised will be given to the City Meals organisation to help older people in New York still suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (TBKs sell a lot of patterns in the US, hence the charity pick).

Of course if you don’t sew or knit already, I’m not sure taking up a new hobby this close to Christmas is going to help, but you know that quiet time between Christmas and New year, when if you are very lucky you get to stay in and slump in front of the TV for nearly a whole week? Yep, that’d be a perfect time. Put down your phone, switch off your computer and chill out with a bit of craft.


  • gillian taylor says:

    Lovely post! I absolutely agree that doing a little bit of crafting soothes the soul! A couple of years ago I learnt to crochet – actually not very well as I hold the hook all wrong and following a pattern seems to be beyond my middle-aged brain! However, I have managed to forge a way to producing rather fab blankets – straight rows of double crochet in lovely wools so they don’t look too granny blanket but are lovely to snuggle up to on a chilly evening! Your mind just relaxes with the repetitionof hooking lovely soft wool – feeling sleepy just thinking of it!

  • Lilac says:

    This domesticated, craft loving feminist (who is against being pigeon holed) agrees with you!

  • steffi says:

    I think we all (well, maybe not all but certainly some of us) need to press the fast forward button as far as feminism is concerned. I agree with all and every aspect of feminism but I refuse to apply the term to myself or any other woman – only because I can’t bear being labelled and pigeonholed. I have common sense, compassion, understanding, a sense of what’s right and wrong on a humane level and I strongly believe in freedom of expression and most importantly, equality. I also have a strong interest in style, culture and other, like-minded people. That is why I love The Women’s Room. It ticks all the boxes and best of all, it does it with humour. Now give me A KNITTING NEEDLE!

  • amanda says:

    It’s hard to believe we’re questioned as feminists if we’re domestic-lifestyle-loving knitters or sewers today, but what amazes me about the craft fairs I go to is how enthusiastic women are about craft, how good they are at it and how much pleasure it clearly gives everyone. Makes my blood boil! And Steffi’s right, you don’t want to anger a knitting-needle-brandisihing feminist! A

  • Dorothy says:

    Wonderful post! I think humans evolved to be makers of things but modern society takes us away from that. Hence the surge in passionate crafters.
    A friend of mine teaches his 10 year old students in an inner-city school to knit. (He made needles with dowels and a pencil sharpener). They get to knit while he reads to them. When they run out of yarn, they tear it up, roll it back in a ball and trade for another color! He says they focus much better while knitting.
    Lastly, welcome to the ranks of rug-hookers! I get my wool from recycled old clothes; washed and sometimes over-dyed. A Harris Tweed creates the most beautiful effect. And unlike knitting, if you mess up an area, or make a mistake, you can rip it out and re-hook.

    Once again, The Womens Room, your post resonate in my world. Thanks,

  • Sarah says:

    Mmmm, rug hooking, I have been looking forward to doing that!

    I think you have proved that you aren’t a knitter by the fact that you aren’t beginning to build up a head of steam over all the projects you were intending to knit for Christmas ;-). Believe me knitters aren’t always chilled.

    I don’t get why being competent in any area is not seen as feminist, and in fact had never thought to question it in relation to knitting and sewing. In all fairness, the blog you link to is talking about fashion and not specifically making things, and she has some interesting points to make. I’m still banging my head against the table over the idiot in the Guardian who seemed to be trying to pidgeon hole baking with every wrong that had historically been done to womankind: Madness, and poorly reasoned.

  • Amanda says:

    Dorothy, Harris tweed eh? I’ve got some of that in my sewing stuff….and how brilliant that your friend has tapped into the calming power of knitting with his kids. Genius.
    I’m definitely not a knitter Sarah, altho I can knit, just prefer to sew. We are fans of How Things Are Done because we know the writer, Gwyneth and were keen to highlight her blog post as a ‘thank you’ for her support over our ‘issues’….She is definitely talking fashion although I think knitting and sewing gets a bad rap because of its domestic connections too. A

  • Julia says:

    I agree with you in general, but as a sew-er preparing for a craft fair on the 1st of December (30 hand applique-ed baby-gros, anyone?) I would say that crafting is sometimes a contributer to Christmas stress.
    *cries actual real tears*

  • Amanda says:

    Oh Julia we hear you! and we are handing you some virtual hankies to mop up your tears…’s wishing you a profitable Christmas…Axx

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