10 things I learned trying to stay creative and crafty during stressful times

10 things I learned trying to stay creative and crafty during stressful times

hand embroidery quote Stay Home Stay Safe

Before I dive into how I try to stay creative, let me explain why it is important to me. There is so much bad news and misinformation out there, and It’s everywhere, news sites, Facebook, Instagram, in conversations, on billboards...everywhere.

When Rona first hit I was constantly checking news sites. The first few weeks I kept going in circles. After checking a few sites I would return to the first one to see if there was something new and kept repeating that circle. But when, after a couple of weeks, things seemed to stabilize I seriously needed a (mental) break.

So I decided to set a simple rule for myself: Create and be creative every single day.

Because to me creating equals rest, and a reset. Crafting has always been a great way to reduce stress and relax my mind, and it’s a way for me to regenerate. When I’m working on something It kind of feels like a breeze for my brain…basically a brain breeze! Yes, I just made that one up, and yes I’m laughing at my own joke.

I love the repetition of simple actions in knitting, hand sewing, small batch sewing or embroidery stitches, so during stressful times, I make a conscious effort to try and make something every day and so far I’ve been mostly successful even on bad days.

These moments of making give me a much-welcomed break from the anxious and stressful thoughts that can sometimes overtake my mind.

Looking back on the last year and a half of staying home and staying creative here’s what I’ve learned.

  1. Be creative with what you call creative!
    Creativity can apply to all areas of life. It's a process that requires input (inspiration), time to let your mind wander, and time to sit down and make. They are all connected so anything to get me out of my head and into my hands counts as being creative. Inspiration, can come from reading a book (or an audiobook) and taking time to process that input. As long as it’s not consumption (binge-watching, online shopping, scrolling on social media…etc) It counts towards my goal of being creative. This mindset shift of what is creative was really helpful for me.
    Sewing on a button, mending  drinking a coffee, and enjoying my little balcony garden (without my phone!), cooking a meal from scratch or tweaking a tried n true recipe (hello vegan banana bread no. 5), planting a plant, knitting, reading, writing a card to a loved one, dancing or listening to a fun or calm playlist, going for a walk, deadheading flowers…I consider it all as being creative.

  2. Keep it simple.
    The best activities are challenging on some level, but not that hard they need all my attention, I want my mind to be able to wander a little whilst doing it. I often have a couple knitting and sewing wips, but when I need too much brain power to advance them, I will default to something simple like knitting up a ball of cotton/bamboo into washcloths. They are just squares, but they keep my hands busy and my mind occupied and it doesn’t really matter if I make a mistake and when I finish them I am awarded a lovely, usable, and handmade item. A win in my book.

  3. Keep it in sight.
    Keep your project in easy reach and if you can out in the open. If you are pressed for space or if you have some tiny hands or paws around that would be happy to explore your crafty accomplishments, maybe put it on a tray, in a storage box, or in a project bag so that it’s still easy to pick up where you left...

  4. Set the bar reeeeaaaaaally low.
    THIS IS NOT A PRODUCTIVITY COMPETITION…we are navigating new territory here, none of us have been through anything like this before and we all react differently. So be gentle to yourself and remember that this is not a productivity competition. I’ve also challenged myself to read a few pages each night when I’m in bed and when I say a few, there have been nights where I only read one page. It sounds silly when I write it down, but I still feel a sense of accomplishment when I pick up that book and read it. Setting the bar super low has been key here. So try to read two pages or knit 5 minutes or just gather the supplies in one place so you are set up for the next step. If you end up reading more or doing more that’s great, but you don’t have to. Even if the activity is 3 or 5 minutes it can help you gain a little momentum, get started, and eventually turn it into a habit.

  5. Start something new if you get stuck.
    Don’t feel guilty of those wips you have.

  6. TNT.
    Do you have any tried and true patterns or projects? Make another one! You probably already have the materials and it’s so much easier to get started if you don’t have to do any shopping to find the materials or tools. I knit two pairs of socks right after eachother, sewn several Tsuno Tie Bags and Garçonne shirts. I know what to expect from those so it's esier to keep going. I change up the colours or a small detail and that's it.

    Lopapeysa Icelandic hand knit sweater

  7. Review...
    Some days I wonder if I even did anything at all and when I do a quick review and scan my brain for something creative I almost always find it and this instantly gives me a positive boost, and puts a smile on my face.

  8. Use a timer.
    The hardest thing is to start so sometimes I would set a timer as a way to spark action. For example; in the midst of when all the lockdown measurements started off, I couldn't really focus on anything, but simple knit stitches, I can do those even when I am super tired. There have been days where at the end of the day I would set a 10 or 15 min timer to work on a simple rib stitch triangle scarf. I did it just before going to bed so I would end my day with a win and a moment to unwind. It was the perfect project because it takes ages to knit a big scarf so it kept me going for weeks.

  9. Put the phone away.
    Keep your phone out of sight or at least place it with the screen down so you can’t see each and every notification popping up.

  10. Trigger it.
    One of the moments I particularly enjoy creating is during my commute. Three days a week I get on the train, pick a seat and take out my knitting. I've done it so many times that I don't have to think about it. I just start.

    James Clear talks about this in his book "Atomic Habits". He calls them triggers or habit cues and location can be a habit cue. Now, even though I didn't consciously connect the train to knitting, I can see that it works.

    The location is now connected to the craft and the habit of making. You could apply this to a certain room, corner, or even chair.

    He also talks about using a certain time (pick a certain time of day), preceding event (after your morning coffee or after the dishes you did the dishes ) there are more, but I think these are the easiest ones to connect to making. I think this can be a great trick to help you turn creating into a daily practice.


Do you make every day and does it help you navigate stressful and chaotic times? Do you have any tips or tricks that help you to keep a daily craft practice? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

hand embrodery sampler

PS: looking for a fun and free sewing project? Sign up to the newsletter for a free copy of the smallest Tsuno Tie Bag and sew up some scraps. If you ​​​​​​​sign up you also get access to the free printable swatch library, sewing project planner and a few other handy templates. You'll receive the files in your welcome mail :)

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