Why we’re taking up embroidery
right now

Looking for some isolation occupation? It’s time to get acquainted with embroidery

Tell people you plan to spend your Sunday indulging in a little embroidery and you’ll probably get a few raised eyebrows. Sure, it might sound a little Jane Austen on the surface, but embroidery has undergone a rebrand in recent years, shaking off its fusty image in favour of one that’s more fashionable. Case in point: scroll through your Instagram feed and you’ll likely see photos of freshly stitched feminist slogans, alongside images of simple white t-shirts given a personalised twist with an embroidered name and design . The message? Embroidery is back in a big way.

Not convinced? Well, you should be – it turns out your nan was onto something with her needlepoint. Embroidery is far more than just a craft, offering manifold benefits to your mental wellbeing as well as your creativity levels.

While we’ve all been told that ‘a stitch in time saves nine’, it could also save a lot more than just a few holey jumpers. Recent research from UCL has shown that artistic activities significantly reduce your levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, no matter your skill level. In fact, as well as alleviating anxiety, crafting can also help ease symptoms of depression, loneliness and even dementia.

If you can spend a bit of time stitching every day? Even better. Undertaking a daily creative activity has been linked to positive psychological functioning. This is most likely down to the soothing nature of crafting, with the gentle, repetitive nature of activities like needlework helping to calm tensions created by modern living. Alongside that repetition, the sustained level of focus and attention needed for embroidery also acts as a healthy distraction from other elements of stress in our lives.

Then there’s the mindful aspect of embroidery, too. By keeping our minds engaged in the present moment, embroidery is a source of conscious creativity. This stimulation can really help our mental health thanks to its ability to activate the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain which regulates emotion, as well as suppressing activity in the amygdala, the area that processes negative emotions and fear.

‘There’s a definite meditative quality to embroidery,’ says Chloe Hardisty, founder and director of Cotton Clara, the company that sells the crafting kits we stock. ‘So many people messaged us to tell us how helpful having it has been for them to have a project on the go for their mental wellbeing. I think it’s because it’s repetitive enough to allow your brain to disconnect, yet creative enough to give you a sense of accomplishment when you finish a piece. It’s essentially an act of self care – by doing it you’re giving yourself say 10 minutes a day to do something which helps you to switch off.’

But aside from the benefits to your mental health, needlework also has the potential to improve your eco-credentials. Embroidery is a sustainable way to give old season clothes a new lease of life after you tire of them helping keep them in your wardrobe longer. It’s also a great way to cover up stubborn stains and threadbare patches, meaning less items end up in landfill.

Sold? You’d be joining a growing group of fans. ‘Having so much more downtime has definitely helped embroidery be rediscovered as a hobby,’ says Chloe. ‘I just wish more people realised how accessible it is. Even if a design looks above your skill level, don’t be put off. Embroidery is not as hard as you might think – all it takes is a bit of concentration and practice.’ So next time you find yourself at a loose end? Pick up a needle and stitch away that stress.