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How "Craft As Therapy" Grew Into a Thriving Community

Blogger and author Kathryn Vercillo is an expert in the area of using crafting to heal, having researched the topic extensively for her book Crochet Saved My Life. In this post she introduces us to the Craft As Therapy community on Instagram, which is a daily visual celebration of the healing capacities of crafting. Read Kathryn’s previous blog posts on the Lion Brand Notebook here.

When Mandy of the RedAgape Style & Design blog started using the hashtag #craftastherapy on her own Instagram account, it was just a personal thing. She had always loved crafting but after her mother was diagnosed with brain cancer and the diagnosis worsened Mandy’s own illness, she realized just how important crafting was for her health. She began to intentionally turn to crafting as a way to distract herself from the anxiety of this period, and she began to tag her photos accordingly.

#CraftAsTherapy

yarnsPeople immediately took notice. Others started using the hashtag widely. Mandy says, “It became apparent to me how important craft is as a form of therapy, not just for me, but for many other crafters. Many have shared their stories about why they craft for therapy. Some are suffering with mental illness, infertility issues, chronic illness, physical illness … and some craft simply because it is cheaper than (traditional) therapy and keeps them smiling!”

Mandy was surprised by how much people loved this hashtag, although looking back she says she’s surprised that she was so surprised. She says, “I’m not sure why I thought I was the only one. I mean; there is a reason that coloring books for adults are so popular right now. Everyone is looking for some time out for their minds and crafting is perfect.”

How Craft Heals

Mandy shares a little bit more with us about why she started looking at craft as therapy, when she says:

I believe that crafting can have a significant impact on our stress levels. We all live intensely busy lives and our stress lives are at a heightened state more often than not. I have a chronic illness that flares with stress, and when my mother was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer my illness and anxiety flare out of control. I didn’t actively or consciously pursue craft as a form of therapy, but it was a natural reaction for me to immerse myself in craft projects to distract myself from the stresses of life.

 Asked what types of projects she found therapeutic, Mandy says:

 My focus was on projects that required enough skill so that I had to concentrate, which allowed me to forget about the world around me. But I balanced that with choosing projects that weren’t so difficult they would induce frustration. Repetitive projects were also relaxing. My first #craftastherapy project was a paper flower wreath.

 Mandy is doing well now, but that doesn’t mean she’s stopped crafting. She shares:

“Right now, I’m really healthy and enjoying life, so I’m just using crafting to help me stay happy and relaxed. There’s nothing better for your confidence than finishing a project that you’ve made with your own hands.”

Craft As Therapy Moderators

Recognizing that so many other people were celebrating Craft As Therapy, and that they had picked up the use of her #craftastherapy tag, Mandy created a new Instagram handle with the same name. In part, she did this because she felt like she couldn’t keep up with the #craftastherapy tag on her own. She didn’t want anyone to feel like they didn’t get attention when they used the tag, and she adds, “I felt like the #craftastherapy tag should belong to everyone!”

Mandy invited a group of moderators to come on board and take turns working together on the new @CraftAsTherapy account. Each moderator works for a week at a time; you can see who the current moderator is by checking the tagline on the CraftAsTherapy feed, which reads:

“Crafters Unite. Does craft make you happy? Relieve stress? Distract you from illness?” #craftastherapy”. Followed by the name of the current moderator.

yarnsThe moderators, which include maRRose and Little Cosy Things, cycle through their turns, and each one does the following things:

  • Shares their own inspiring craft photos, which is most often knitting and crochet but includes a variety of other crafts as well
  • Posts inspirational messages, typically related to the theme of craft as therapy but sometimes about more general topics such as happiness
  • Selects favorite photos that other people have tagged with #CraftAsTherapy including individual shares and curated collages

Recently, each moderator has also been selecting a theme of the week and incorporating that theme as a new tag. Some of the themes have been animals, humans, nature, mandalas and storytime. So, for example, for the animals theme, people used the tag #craftastherapy_animals on photos of animals alongside crafting or handcrafted animals (such as amigurumi crochet animals). The moderator selects favorites to post in the main @craftastherapy account but everyone can see all entries by checking out the hashtag.

Each moderator brings something different to the table. They’re from different walks of life, different parts of the world. Mandy shares, “Each one has a different experience and different skills to offer. There have been times that I’ve been gobsmacked by how good these ladies are. They are the BEST. I often shake my head and think that there’s no way I could maintain this standard on my own. It was hard at first to feel like I was giving away “my baby” but when I realized it was in the best interest of #craftastherapy and its users, doing it was an easy decision”.

CraftAsTherapy As Therapy

 There is something therapeutic about the community itself. The Instagram account has topped 20,000 followers, and each of these individuals believe wholeheartedly that craft heals. Each photo may be a photo of a craft item, but it’s a photo that the maker has shared with the world specifically because of the believe that craft is therapy. By coming together with this message, again and again, day after day, we remind one another as a community about the value of crafting. We give ourselves, and each other, permission to take time out of our busy days to craft because crafting heals ourselves and this heals the world. This beautiful curated collection of images can give you a pause to relax as you scroll through the pictures, it can give you support in your own creative endeavors and it can give you the full sense of a social safety net of people who also believe in the value of your handcrafted items. This community, by being what it is, is itself a therapeutic entity. Asked about this, Mandy says:

“There is no doubt in my mind that @CraftAsTherapy helps people. The initial buzz and excitement when the account first started was electric There were a lot of people tagging their friends and / or sharing their stories about how craft has helped them.

 It makes such a difference to hear someone else say, “I understand” or “I feel the same way” or “hang in there; it’ll get better”. These words and others like them are shared often, and I know that they can make all of the difference. It doesn’t matter that the words are typed, instead of spoken, or that sometimes they come from across the world. These connections are real, not just cold Internet connections, and they can be every bit as supportive and heartfelt as real life friendships and conversations.

 In fact, the thing I love most about the CraftAsTherapy community is the connections that are being made through it. People genuinely seem to care about one another. There are no judgments, just support.”

 How to Use CraftAsTherapy

The Craft As Therapy community is open to anyone who feels healed by crafting. Individuals are welcome to tag their crafty photos on Instagram using the #craftastherapy tag. All crafts are welcome in this community although crochet and knitting are definitely the most prevalent crafts. Follow @CraftAsTherapy on Instagram to see all of the photos shared by the moderators and check out the #craftastherapy tag to see everyone’s submissions. This is a great way to find new people to follow on Instagram, get inspiration for your own crafting and take a moment each day to connect to a community that truly celebrates the healing capacities of crafting.

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