The Benefits of Crafting

We all know that crafting it trendy right now.   Whether it’s turning something that would be trash into something new and usable,  making wearables instead of buying them,  creating items to express your personality,  or just finding a fun activity for a rainy day,  creative arts involving quilting, embroidering and other sorts of thread or yarn crafts have never been more popular.    The great thing for those who do those activities, whether it’s for business or fun or a combination of the two,  is that crafting has been shown to have a lot of benefits beyond resulting in a beautiful finished project.

One big benefit of crafting is reducing stress.   The repetitive motions required by some crafting projects induce a state that’s almost like meditation.    Activities like knitting have been shown to help people with anxiety disorders cope with their anxiety issues.  Just taking the time to focus on a project and relax can have huge benefits when it comes to lessening stress levels.  Reduced stress leads to lower blood pressure,  better sleep,  a reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes and a greater quality of life.

Creating things,  whether it’s through using a craft kit or making your own design from scratch has also been shown to improve mental function and head off age-related mental decline.  Studies have shown that people who do activities, crafting among them,  that keep their minds active have a much better chance of avoiding problems like dementia, loss of memory or cerebral atrophy.  Crafting provides challenges to the brain and keeps the neural pathways stimulated.  One clinical trial showed that the benefits of activities like crafting can last up to 10 years.

Working on a crafting project also has mood elevating benefits,  and can help those who are dealing with depression.   Crafting stimulates the reward center in the human brain,  causing it to release dopamine,  a natural mood elevator.  There is pleasure in the process of creating and then pleasure in seeing the finished project displayed or worn.  Obviously,  crafting is not a substitute for therapy or medication if the problem is on-going,  but it can be a part of a concentrated program of treatment.   For those who are simply having a blue mood or a bad day,  crafting can help brighten things and provide focus and a sense of accomplishment.

Crafting also has a wide variety of social benefits.  People who quilt or knit or hand embroider often meeting in circles or guilds to share their work and offer tips and help to each other.  There are Facebook groups for things like quilting,  knitting and embroidery.  Local quilt shops or yarn shops often offer classes where crafters can meet others who enjoy the same activities.   Crafting also offer a way to be social to those who might be more introverted or uncomfortable in a social setting.   Doing a craft offers a point of commonality and an easy way to interact with others.

If you’re interested in gaining some of the benefits of crafting for yourself,  we can help.   Check out our Pinterest boards for craft tutorials and ideas for crafting projects.  For those who want a project they can complete in a few hours,  our Pretty Twisted Craft Kits are a great option.  Finally,  if you’re looking for supplies for machine embroideryhand embroidery or crochet,  you can find those on our site as well.

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Supply Spotlight: Pearl Cotton

FiveGroupWhen most people who vaguely know of pearl cotton think of it,  they probably think of tatting or making doilies.  While this is a common use of pearl (or perle) cotton thread,  it is by no means the only use.   Pearl cotton has a variety of applications when it comes to crafting,  needlework and crochet.  It is a versatile thread,  which should be a part of any embroidery, crafting, quilting or crocheting tool kit.

If you aren’t familiar with pearl cotton, we’ll start with the basics.   Pearl cotton is a non-divisible thread,  which means it cannot be separated into strands the way that embroidery floss can be separated.   This thread is sized like most threads,  with the lower numbers being thicker and the higher numbers being thinner.   Size 3 and 5 are heavier threads,  size 8 is a medium weight and size 12 is a fine thread.

Pearl cotton has a variety of uses.   The size 3 is perfect for cross stitch,  crewel embroidery and crochet.  Size 5 can be used for needlepoint, crochet,  smocking and applique.   Size 8 pearl cotton is ideal for quilting,  crochet,  lace making, and tatting.   It can also be used in bobbins.   Size 12 which is the thinnest thread,  works for embroidery and cross stitch, smocking and tatting.  pearl cotton also can,  depending on size,  be used in embroidery machines,  long arm quilting machines and sewing machines.   Pearl cotton is also ideal for quilters,  as it is very useful in stitching decorative lines.

One nice thing about pearl cotton is its sheen.   This type of thread is a mercerized thread,  which means the thread has undergone a process of submersion,  first in sodium hydroxide and then in an acid bath.   Mercerizing thread increases the thread’s luster, strength, ability to be dyed and resistance to mildew.

To learn more about pearl cotton and how it can be used,  take a few moments to watch the following helpful videos:

Hand Quilting With Perle Cotton Tutorial

How to Chain Stitch Crochet with Beads

Beginning Shuttle Tatting

Time Travel Tuesday: Hand vs. Machine

Hand_vs_Machine_AssemblyIn the history of quilting and embroidery,  there has probably been no bigger debate than that between those who chose to embroider or quilt by hand, and those who use machines to embroider or quilt.   When the disciplines of embroidery and quilting began,  there really wasn’t a choice,  in order to create an embroidered garment or a quilt to warm the bed on a cold winter’s night,  the piece in question had to be created by hand.

Those who continue this tradition maintain that something made by hand is more special,  more personal,  and should therefore be more treasured.   The process of hand embroidering or piecing and quilting a quilt by hand will most likely be a longer process than doing the same things with a machine, which proponents of the slow stitching movement say is to be desired.   Quilting or embroidering by hand also brings the satisfaction of creating something with your hands,  handling fabrics and threads,  and the ability to pay close attention to every facet of the process.

As time moved on and technology developed,  new machines were invented to do some of the tasks that were formerly done by hand.   Huge, often two story high Schiffli machines created laces and embroidery.  In later decades,  the Schiffli machines were joined by multi-head and single head embroidery machines,  giving the option of machine embroidery to anyone who could afford to purchase a machine.

In the quilting world,   sewing machines offered the ability to piece quilts using a machine.   Instead of hand sewing pieces together,  they could be stitched on a machine,  allowing the creation of a quilt top in less time.  The advent of long arm quilting machines provided the ability to quilt a top by machine,  sometimes finishing in a single day or week what had previously taken weeks if not months to complete.   Machines made the process of embroidery and quilting faster and easier but,  some argued,  the machines also took away the skill and the personal nature of the disciplines.

Today,  while the debate is still ongoing,  both sides seemed to have reached a detente.   Some people hand embroider or quilt,  others use machines to accomplish the same goals,  and yet others switch between one method and the other,  doing whatever best suits the needs and time requirements of the project.   In the end,  what matters most is not how a thing was created,  but that it was created at all.  Whatever method is used quilts and embroidery that bring beauty to the world are being made and that’s the thing we all must remember.