There aren’t many (any?) books out there on how weaving improves mental health. Likewise, you won’t find a lot of writing about the mental health benefits of crochet, knitting, embroidery, woodworking, scrapbooking, or any other crafts.
Nevertheless, people are writing about how crafting heals.
It’s subtle. You have to look for it. However, it’s there.
That’s why I often flip through craft books. I don’t just read books to follow patterns or create projects. I read craft books for crafts that I don’t do myself. Within those pages, I find so many examples of people using crafting to heal.
A Book About Rag Rug Weaving
For example, recently I read through some of the pages in “Weaving Western Sakiori” by Amanda Robinette. This is a very specific type of rag rug weaving. In fact, it’s a unique combination of modern Western weaving and ancient Japanese weaving.
The book is filled with rich information about the history of this style of weaving in Japan. Of course, it also has tutorials and projects for learning the skill yourself. But what I found most intriguing was a section called “Why Rag Weaving?”
Reading between the lines, what I find here is a summary of some of the ways weaving improves mental health.
5 Ways Rag Rug Weaving Improves Mental Health
Of course, there are benefits of crafting that extend past any specific craft. For example, weaving helps interrupt rumination in conditions including anxiety, depression, and PTSD. However, Robinette laid out five specific reasons that she chooses to weave with rags.
1. The Joy of Experimentation and Play
The first reason that Robinette gives is actually “to make beautiful things.” That, in itself, is beneficial to mental health.
In her book, “Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness”, Ingrid Fetell Lee explores an important question. She asks, “how do¬†tangible things create an intangible feeling of joy?” So, in fact, having beautiful things can give us joy.
More than that, we feel good when we create beautiful things ourselves. We feel empowered. Our self-esteem goes up. This is all good for mental health.
However, Robinette actually seems to be saying more than that in this section of her book. She talks about how working with rags means that you don’t always know how the project will turn out. You have a plan in mind, but the colors aren’t always what you envisioned.
As a result, you have to experiment. You get the chance to imagine, play, and re-work things until they satisfy you. This stretches parts of our brain that we often don’t get the chance to use.
After all, how often do you do something rotely? All too often. Creative crafting allows you to play, which is something our brains need.
2. “The Joy of Creative Destruction”
I’m leaving that subtitle exactly as Robinette wrote it. It explains what she means perfectly.
With rag rug weaving, you first have to take apart the rags. You have to destroy them before you can create something new.
Robinette says that “there is something oddly satisfying” in this. I think what’s satisfying is the way that the act of doing this works on us subtly as a metaphor. It’s the phoenix rising from the ashes.
Often, when we craft, we are working through something in our minds. When we see that we can destroy in order to create, we see possibility. It’s not just that we see it in the rags; we see it in our own mental health, in our own actions, in our own lives.
3. The Pleasure of Limited Choices
Robinette notes that working with rags creates boundaries on what you can make. If you open yourself to an array of new fibers, then your choices open up. However, working within the creative limits of one material actually has benefits.
Sometimes having too many options is paralyzing. Sometimes we need boundaries to be our most creative selves.¬†(This is another mental health metaphor.)
4. Rag Rug Weaving is Eco-Friendly
When you work with recycled materials, you are being kind to the earth. Arguably, being more in touch with the earth improves mental health. That’s because:
- You’re living in line with your personal values.
- You feel intertwined with everything. It feels like your choices matter.
- Working with our hands at a slow pace brings us back in touch with ourselves.
- If we see the value in a used item, then we treat all things with more value. This includes ourselves.
5. It Connects us With Tradition
Do you know how many generations before you were weavers? There were many.
Something magical happens when you perform a craft that others have done in the same way for centuries. It’s as if you step into a timeless place. You become part of something so much bigger than you are.
In this way, weaving connects you to makers of the past. Connection offers a sense of belonging. This heals so many of our inner wounds that cause issues with mental health.
Robinette finds these benefits in weaving with rags. Do you find them in a different craft? Share your thoughts in the comments. That’s how we can start a bigger conversation about how weaving improves mental health and more generally about how craft heals.