By Cindy Clark, Boomerang staff
"After all, a woman didn't leave much behind in the world to show she'd been there. Even the children she bore and raised got their father's name. But her quilts, now that was something she could pass on." ~ Sandra Dallas, author
No doubt, you have tried your hand at crafting at some point in your life. Perhaps it was less than rewarding at first, but when you had favorable results, you stuck with it, improved and added new crafting skills as you went along. Whether you knit, crochet, paint, do woodworking, sew or quilt, you do it because you like it. It's easy to lose track of the time when you are crafting, and it is incompatible with anger, obsession, anxiety or worry. Crafting can be therapeutic because it helps you release creativity and focus on a moment in time and the end process.
Crafting can be especially good for those finding themselves in the position of caregiver. Experts tell us not to consider finding time for crafts as self-indulgence, but rather to consider it as a medical necessity. "View your craft as if it were a medication that you need to take every day for optimal benefit," says Robert Reiner, PhD, a New York University psychologist who did a study documenting the health benefits of crafting. "If you stop taking the drug or doing the craft, you'll lose the benefit."
George Washington University psychiatrist Gene Cohen, M.D., author of "The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain" and an expert on the health benefits of creativity for older adults, says that trying new things and being creative promotes brain flexibility and growth and even prompts our brains to rewire, which may fend off dementia and help to maintain health.
Do you have a flower garden in the summer? Cut the flowers, put them in an old pitcher and let them fall freely into place. Then, dress the arrangement up by hanging an old doily over the edge of the pitcher. Or, go for a walk around the neighborhood and take cues from nature. Pick up pine cones, sticks or interesting bits and pieces along the way to decorate a wreath. You not only get fresh air and exercise, but you have all the ingredients for a simple craft session!
Not a crafter yet? Take a class. In addition to learning new skills, you will meet others interested in crafting, and the socialization is a great way to help relieve stress. Check with your local senior center, library or hobby store, or locate a craft guild in your area by researching on the Internet for available classes in your area. Can't get out to attend a class? Visit YouTube.com and search for a craft you want to learn. You will be able to access and watch thousands of instructional videos for free.
You can start learning most new crafts with a minimal budget and work your way up the price ladder as you become more experienced:
- If you want to sew, pick up a package of needles, some thread, scissors and material (or use scraps of discarded clothing with which to practice). Once you get the basics of simple stitches, you can move on to quilting.
- Want to draw or paint? Start by sketching with pencils and scrap paper, children's crayons and chalk, and inexpensive paints and brushes. Once you become more confident, invest in some good brushes and water colors, acrylic or oil paints. You can purchase water color papers and canvases, or even make your own canvases.
- Knitting and crocheting take only needles, yarn and patience.
- Cake decorating? You probably already have the basic supplies. Plus, you get to eat your mistakes!
- Woodworking more your thing? Start with a good whittling knife and tree limbs you find around the house or neighborhood.
Once you start to feel confident with the items you are making, share them with others. You can take a picture of the item and post it on www.pinterest.com, a site that is filled with pictures of crafts, food, and interesting items. And if you want to try selling the items, check out www.Etsy.com, where artisans can post their products that are for sale.
If you are already a crafter, consider sharing your talents with a grandchild or neighbor who may want to learn a new skill. You will likely find yourself sharing more than your talent by telling the history of the craft, and passing along family history and stories. If you quilt, it is a good opportunity to tell the memories associated with each recycled scrap incorporated into the masterpiece.
"Crafts make us feel rooted, give us a sense of belonging and connect us with our history. Our ancestors used to create these crafts out of necessity, and now we do them for fun, to make money and to express ourselves." ~ Phyllis George
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