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The power of punch needle

Why punch needle is good for your wellbeing

It is the year 2020 and we live in an everchanging, fast paced world. We have the world wide web at our fingertips and it presents a myriad of experiences and opportunities. We are told that we can do, or be, whatever we want. We must achieve, produce, attain and progress, to become the ‘best possible version’ of ourselves. We are more socially connected than ever before. Whilst this social connection is welcome (especially in times of a pandemic lockdown!) and allows us to forge meaningful relationships, it can be intimidating to only be presented with the highlight reel of peoples’ lives, accessible day and night. In a world which is so busy, it can be difficult to stop striving and comparing and just be present in the moment.

We all know what we are supposed to do to take care of ourselves and lead a balanced life; eat healthily, do exercise, get plenty of sleep, connect with others and give back where we can. A number of these activities target both our physical and mental wellbeing. Whilst all of them could be seen to contributing towards positive mental health, it is important not to forget the inclusion of learning new skills and mindfulness.

Crafting for wellbeing and positive mental health

Being present in the moment, (mindfulness) is an important step that contributes to positive mental wellbeing. To stop and notice the world around you and reconnect with yourself can help us to enjoy life better. It can be uncomfortable at times to sit with your thoughts and feelings, but you can connect with yourself and the world around you in another way, through the sensations in your body.

By starting to notice the different sensations and engage with them, you allow yourself to be present in the moment. However, it can still be difficult to remember to do this on your daily walk, or whilst sat at a desk. So why not ease yourself in to being mindful, with minimal effort, and learn a new skill in the process.

There is much evidence which highlights the positive links between crafting and positive mental wellbeing and it isn’t difficult to see why. Learning a new craft can provide many tangible benefits:

• feeling a sense of belonging; being affiliated with others who craft, part of a social community and building friendships,
• self-esteem; mastering a new skill, a sense of achievement and independence,
• enhanced cognition; new knowledge, skills, a chance to explore and be curious,
• relaxation; helping to relieve anxiety, depression, irritability and restlessness.

For me, learning punch needle was core to improving my mental wellbeing.

Crack out that yarn stash and punch

I was brought up creatively and musically, as children we spent a lot of time drawing, making, baking and doing imaginative play. I had lost this in my adult years and thought it might help to reengage this part of myself. I’d dipped in and out of knitting and crochet over the years but never felt true enjoyment from them. My yarn collection was a little out of hand for someone who was not engaged in a fibre craft so I knew I needed to try and do something with that!

The endless scrolling on Instagram provided the answer; I stumbled upon punch needle rug hooking. I was confused at first as to what exactly it was and a little research online did not fully enlighten me. There seemed to be limited materials in the UK and I was dubious as to whether this would be a craft that I could sustain. But I threw caution to the wind and bought an Oxford punch needle.

Punch, punch, punch (needle)

My first attempt at punch needle was basic and naïve, as someone who is somewhat of a perfectionist this troubled me. However, I had just sat and engaged in an activity for over an hour and not gotten lost in my unhealthy thoughts. I could feel my shoulders begin to soften and my breathing slow. It was like a balm, soothing my frantic mind. I continued to punch. I didn’t understand at that point, but there was something about the rhythmic motion of the punch needle that was calming me.

The effort required to concentrate on following a pattern for knitting or crochet can be a little demanding if you don’t have much mental energy to spare. But following the visual lines of a punch needle pattern is the perfect amount. It doesn’t require so much concentration to feel mentally tired, but is enough to hold your focus and stop your mind drifting off. The slow, rhythmic punching is engaging your senses of sight, sound and touch (and smell if you have some particularly strong scented real wool!) and therefore grounds you in the present moment.

Allow yourself to make mistakes

The freedom to make mistakes is refreshing when learning a new skill. The ability to pull out your stitches in punch needle, allows you to be fully creative, not worrying about making a wrong move. Never has it been so enjoyable to pull out your work, knowing that you can re-punch! There is no limit to what you can make, from a small coaster or wall hanging all the way through to a rug. This flexibility means that even those with limited time or means can still feel a sense of achievement from making.

Whole Punching

After discovering how punch needle could help to improve mental wellbeing, I was keen to share this craft with others. When I started out, there were limited punch needle supplies in the UK, let alone my city of Bristol. I have worked hard over the last couple of years to bring punch needle tools, yarn, fabric, beginner kits and workshops to the UK.

For me, the sense of achievement from mastering a new skill, exploring new creative ideas, being mindful and becoming part of a crafting community; means punch needle is a craft that has numerous therapeutic properties and is the perfect mindful activity.

Punch needle and sewing tools