How mending clothes can be therapeutic

Caring for a sick loved one isn’t easy. It can be tiring, stressful, and often, we look for coping mechanisms. I wouldn’t be surprised if alcohol and drugs are number two on the list after social media in many of our cases. Doctors will tell you that exercise has the same amount of benefits as medication for coping with anxiety.

Personally, escapism is one of my favorites. Romance novels, design, or fashion magazines allow me to fly away for a few minutes (or hours) from the sometimes stressful reality around me. But one of the best and healthiest tools I have added to my stress relief trousseau is handwork through mending.

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Mending clothes as a creative and relaxing activity

I had first started using handwork to keep myself busy when my kids were young. I needed something to do while I watched them play in the playground or at mommy group. Full-time parenting has its benefits but ask any stay-at-home parent and they will tell you boredom tops the cons list. As a designer and maker, I took joy in embellishing clothes my kids had stained and turning them into covet worthy pieces that, well in my humble opinion, could be showcased in high-end boutiques. Instead of paying $200 for a kids T-shirt, I proudly made it for the cost of the thread because I had already paid for the shirt. I would reuse other tops that were deemed unwearable for the patches. I did sometimes mend while humming to Mackelmore’s “Thrift Shop” anthem.

So when I had to rush to emergency one night with my son, I thankfully had my mending bag already packed into my tote. The action of hand stitching allowed me to stay focused on what was happening around me. I could chat and comfort my son while still doing something practical so that my mind didn’t spin into anxious overdrive. I had found the perfect task for coping with what was happening around me and still staying present. 

Occupational Therapy through handwork

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise when I discovered that hand work is actually scientifically proven to be a beneficial coping activity for stress and trauma. During the First World War, they had used the art of hand stitching to help war patients and veterans cope with post-traumatic stress. This even led to the creation of the therapeutic field of occupational therapy.

This is one of the reasons I have developed a line of stencils and tutorials to teach people the lost art of hand stitching and mending clothes. The benefit, not only being the final outcome of a beautifully embellished garment, is the joyful experience of having a slow and relaxing project on hand. By allowing the mender this therapeutic space of being in the moment and still feel like they are making something practical, the gift of making belongs not only to the wearer but to the maker.

If you’re looking for inspiration on how to fix or embellish your clothes, check out my blog for free creative tutorials (www.modern-mending.com). For a more hands on project, you can also download one of my patterns from my Etsy shop. All t-shirt stencils come with detailed step-by-step tutorials for hand stitching. If you’ve never picked up a needle & thread, my tutorials will teach you how. Happy mending!

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