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Cross Stitch Therapy – what if disaster strikes?

Hi Everyone

In February 2019, I lightly touched on cross stitch as therapy and the potential it has for having a positive impact on mental health. I’m reflecting on this post as some natural disasters that have happened in Australia over the last few months, let alone the last few years.

As 2019 came to a close and we commence the year 2020, some of the south coast towns and villages in New South Wales have been catastrophically impacted by bush fires and drought. Many people have lost their homes and businesses because of the bush fires. Thousands have fled to beaches and evacuation centres because the main roads have been cut off by the fires.

At the moment it’s too early to say how much damage has been done by the fires. I am like hundreds of Canberrans who flock to the south coast town of Batemans Bay and surrounding region for holidays and weekends away. The devastation that has happened down there is felt by all of us because we have either experienced it for ourselves or our empathy has been kicked into overdrive because the south coast is like our second home. Batemans Bay and nearby villages that have been hit by the fires – to the point where as of last night (31 December 2019), electricity and telecommunications are down and may be down and out for a week or more. At the time of writing this post, many areas are isolated because of the fires themselves or the safety risk of trees and branches falling and perished wildlife. Images that have been shared on social media and the news show walls of flames and smoke. Some people have had enough warning to grab some supplies and things they need. Others have just had moments to grab and go. Even if power and telecommunications hadn’t been cut by the fires, telecommunications at the coast isn’t always great because of the terrain and quality of services some of the providers are able to supply.

One of the devastating things about these fires is that no one knows how long it will take before these fires are put out and people can try to start re-building. I’ve heard whispers that significant rainfall may not come until autumn – sometime in March, April or May. Additionally, it’s been so dry in so many areas of Australia for so long that there’s a huge amount of fuel in the national parks that buffer / line the south east coast of Australia. Which means that these fires could continue to burn for several weeks more. With the flow on effect of continued drops in tourism – which the majority of these coastal towns and villages rely upon to survive. There are also hindrances to air quality and a significant depletion to wildlife numbers to name a few.

As of Sunday 5th January 2020, Canberra will have had it’s worst air quality day on record. This morning we woke up to a light orange glow and smoke covered skies. Canberra has fires burning to the East, South and West and some to the North East. Regardless of which direction the wind blows, we are going to be impacted by the smoke. Many areas of Canberra have become evacuation centres for people who have fled the fires at the south coast and surrounding region or are travelling back home from these fire affected areas.

How can cross stitch therapy help?

Stash Donations

On some of the social media feeds and internet pages, I’ve seen people encouraging others to donate their parts of their cross stitch stashes to areas who can accept them and pass them on when they can.

For example, the X Stitchers Helping Hands Aus & NZ is a private Facebook group, but is easy enough to join as long as you are able to answer simple questions required of the group. My understanding is that any Canberra based and surrounding region based stitchers and crafters out there who are wanting to destash, they can drop their donations off to the Crafty Frog in Kambah. I am hopeful that there are similar locations around Australia and New Zealand who are able to have similar drop-off locations!

Tourism – how far would you go for your stash?

The Internet has made life easier for many of us to make a few clicks and we’ve just spent (in my case at least), $50 to $100 on patterns and materials. When I can, I try to buy within Australia. Websites such as OzStitch, the Threaded Needle and The Fox Collection.

For a retail kick, I’ve travelled a few hours north of Canberra, to Mittagong or a couple of hours south to Mogo (a village that has just been wiped out by the bush fires). I want to travel further a field to see and experience other locations. My boyfriend and I have talked lightly about doing some more road trips – especially along the south coast of New South Wales and making our way to Melbourne and eventually along the Great Ocean Road. We’ve also talked about heading over to Tasmania and driving ourselves around there. Additionally, I’ve never been to Perth or Darwin and we’ve only just scratched the surface of visiting Queensland.

A distraction from reality, when there’s nothing else to be done

I don’t know about you, but I need to keep my hands busy if I’m ‘chilling out’ in front of the television. It makes me feel like I’m still being productive, even though I’m sitting on my bum for potentially hours on end. For anyone who is a stitcher or crafter, you will know what I mean! That said, I can’t begin to imagine what people are experiencing at the evacuation centres. If I was at an evacuation centre, at some point in time, I’d be needing to distract myself from what’s happening because there’s nothing I would otherwise be able to do. Talking about the circumstances and events would help a little bit, knowing that others have experienced something similar. It may however, get to the point where it would only serve as a reminder of what has been lost and serve as a reminder to myself to be thankful that I escaped with my life.

Priorities of what to pack should evacuation be required

My boyfriend is very practical. I’m at the other end of the scale because he’s so practical. This came to light when we were talking recently about what to pack and have ready should we need to grab and go. We have an emergency tub of basic essentials that is 90% complete. I have some clothes packed and things that can’t be replaced. Then I started thinking about my craft room and how much of it I could practically pack and how much of it I could leave behind. Photos and camera gear to me is an obvious choice to take with me. What I’m trying to figure out is the practicality of how to pack my patterns, kits, books, stash, WIP’s, FO’s, FFO’s and gear in case of an emergency that may not happen now, but sometime into the future? My entire collection is spread across 6 rooms out of 10. I’m well aware that there area special tubs and suitcase style items I could use. The problem I have is where to put the tubs and stuff when I’m not using it? As much as it annoys my boyfriend at times, I’m pretty happy with the setup I have. I like knowing that I can move my projects around from room to room, depending on what’s happening. I have a filing cabinet I use for most of my kits, fabric and patterns. I also like having a craft room that I can use as a partial study. The part that could be streamlined is where I do my stitching. I watch a lot of television – specifically YouTube, Netflix and and Amazon Prime. It’s my way of burying my head in the sand for a period of time and escaping from the real world for a little while. But I digress…

Using something along the lines of a spreadsheet or My Cross Stitch Tracker (or something similar) may help to organise my stash and have a clear idea of what I have should anything be lost, let alone what I might want to take with me should the time come. My challenge with this is remembering to keep (whichever method I choose) it updated.

Please be safe everyone and hopefully we’ll have some more happy stitching next time!

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Cross-stitch Therapy

Many articles and blog posts have been written about the importance of mindfulness and taking time out for your self and your mental well-being. Colouring books for adults has become very popular in recent years as well as the resurgence of journaling. In my teenage years, I went through a bout of depression after seeing the movie “Saving Private Ryan”. For an unknown reason at the time, I found writing and colouring books to be therapeutic. I even remember asking my mum to buy some more colouring books as I had already finished off the kids colouring books that we had around the house (from when my siblings and I were younger) and I needed something a bit more challenging. 

As I’ve gotten older and I’ve gotten back into cross-stitch, I’ve found cross stitch to be just as thereputic as colouring in and journaling. When I’m stitching on my own, I’m able to focus solely on the task at hand and have some music, tv or flosstube playing in the background. On the days when I’ve let life get to me and I’m stuck in my head (i.e. I’m unable to vocalise the mood I’m in or I know I’m in a bad mood and it’s best for me to not talk too much), I use cross-stitch as a way to focus my attention on something positive and methodical. Additionally, when my family and friends ask why I do cross-stitch, my regular reply is ‘it’s one of the few things I can do where I’m allowed to get angry and annoyed at myself and I can’t get fired for it!’

Subversive cross-stitch quote – Author of quote unknown

What I hadn’t expected or anticipated was the number of people who have written about cross stitch and embroidery being thereputic! I have known for some time that other forms of creative arts such as writing, painting, sculpting etc. have enormously positive affects for people who need a way to channel the energy they have and express their thoughts and feelings. Susan Luckman (Professor of cultural studies), Kate Dwyer and Robin Shreeves (freelance writer) are just three of the many people who have written about the positive affects of cross stitch and embroidery as ways for people to reduce their anxiety and stress levels. 

Which may be why subversive cross stitch like the above image, has become so popular and given cross stitch a new lease on life. As it has given people an alternative way to express themselves and communicate their thoughts and feelings that they may not have otherwise had words for. 

So how has cross-stitch and the creative arts helped you? Have you been able to help someone through cross-stitch? Alternatively, do you have a favourite saying or quote? Have you put it into stitches? I would love to hear about your experiences!

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