Tag Archives | healing

Craftivism: Party of One

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of emails where people have been frustrated about not having a group to ‘do craftivism’ with. As someone who sent emails just like that until a few years ago, I can tell you, being frustrated is seriously not going to get you very far.

However, action will. And if you really want to call yourself a ‘craftivist,’ it’s not about joining a group or creating a circle or whatever. It’s about YOU wanting something to change. It’s about YOU wanting to make the world a better place. It’s about YOU wanting to make yourself a better person.

You could knit a blanket for soldiers or your sick aunt or homeless dogs or homeless people or refugees or a local family whose house burnt down. You could make a tree cozy for that tree in front of that really ugly abandoned building. You could xstitch a headline or a quote or an image of something that grabbed you and resonated with you about change/changing the world. You could then post it in your bedroom or place it on a park bench or downtown.

Because, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you foment change and/or healing. Like I stated above, to be an activist is to create change. To be a crafter is (in a fundamental way) to heal/soothe/bring joy/teach others. Whenever you combine those two, you are a craftivist.

It’s about bringing light and joy and beauty in your life, the lives of those you know, and/or the lives of those you don’t. There’s no one way to ‘do craftivism’ or be a craftivist. If someone tells you different, then they are actually practicing some other -ism, because it sure as hell isn’t the one that I’ve been writing and talking about all these years.

Sometimes craftivist pieces heal you in the making. It’s important not to overlook that, I think. Because changing you is its own kind of activism, because it’s about not accepting the status quo, it’s about taking the reins and taking charge of your own actions. Because as you change, you become an evangelist for change in others, not only by your words, but also by your actions.

If you’re improving things along the way and including craft in this change, you’re being a craftivist. You’re spreading the good word, in a non-confrontational way, and letting people decide if they want to get on the bandwagon or not. With your enthusiasm, you’re empowering them to make changes and maybe even eventually include their creativity in with those changes.

So, take heart, and don’t get discouraged if you are the only craftivist around. That doesn’t mean you can’t act, it means you have even more reason to act! You have more people to inspire with your actions and have more work to do than those of us in towns with craftivist groups or collectives. Activism brings change. Craft brings healing. Craftivism brings healing change.

So, go forth and be crafty, in whatever way you want to be. You don’t have to call yourself a craftivist even, but do know that with your creations, you’re helping foment change without even opening your mouth. And that, my friend, is a very powerful thing, indeed.

Therapeutic Craft, Creativity and Healing

So, astute observers may have noticed a change in the description of “what I do/talk about, etc.” either over on my About page or on my Twitter profile. It’s a little tweak, a change, reflecting a more recent diagnosis for me. I’m not going to lie, those 4-effin-words-put-together-in-a-row are some scary shit. They’ve been going around my head for 3 weeks now, like a horse riding a ring, wondering what this means, if things will change, if people will think I’m totally effin’ insane.

And with that change, comes the deletion to talking about “war” and the addition of talking about IT instead, because while personally (thankfully) I have never been in a war, I have known those affected by war my entire life. My issues stem from a different root, but show up and present themselves in much the same ways. Truth be told, those definitions in the last link are being changed in the next version of the DSM, changes you can read about here. What happened to me is not something I feel like I need to share, but I do want to clearly and seriously state that what happened happened almost 30 years ago and no one from my family hurt me (again, thankfully). Not thankfully, there was something else that happened by someone else that made it all worse about 20 years ago. (YES!) And I’m writing this because I think it’s important to note how important craft and creativity was for me in my life.

Over the past 6 months, while this has all been a work in progress, I’ve learned a lot about its various causes; the criticisms of it; the arguments about who has it and who doesn’t; the stereotypes… some good, some bad. Ultimately, what it runs down to is: child + incident + brain/emotional development = weird problems (hypervigilance, freezing, panic attacks, avoidance) that no one knew what the heck to do about. Because this happened SO LONG AGO and no one knew what it was, I’ve dealt with all of the symptoms above because I had no choice. And today, I’m the same person I was 3 weeks ago, and for the past 10 years.

What made the difference in reducing many of my symptoms was craft. While I thought it just alleviated my depression and anxiety, it relieved something much more than that. It helped me re-syncopate and live, really. It helped me find a rhythm in the stitches that brought solace and understanding of myself that no one could ever bring. And it’s not just knitting, not just craft, but creativity. Giving myself permission to create was what opened up the doors to let bad things rush in and wreak havoc and do their worse. In short, the stitches, the freedom to create them, the freedom to mess them up, the freedom to see how time passed as my scarf/hat/sweater grew longer, gave me a safe space. They provided a safety that I never would have guessed if I had never picked up the needles. They provided the kindest type of safety I have ever known.

I’m not saying that this is the case for everyone, because it’s not. However, I’m writing this because I wonder what would happen if we took creativity’s power more seriously. If we let those whom are sick and unsure and scared and alone create more, give them the permission to make a mess, try something new, be imperfect. If we let them dive into the imperfection that illness can bring through creativity; allowing them to unleash in a number of mediums until one makes more sense than the others. I say this, not as a therapist, or a doctor, but as someone who never takes it for granted when I find myself walking down the street without constantly looking over my shoulder for a possible threat, as someone who can be brought to tears of joy that they can feel the wind down to their bones, and as someone who is ever grateful to have found craft as an outlet in which to help keep me here, alive, well, and most of all, happy.

Who could we make happy, too, if we took the powers of creativity more seriously?

Here are a few links related to therapeutic knitting, as it was knitting that I first found as an outlet:

Lovely cartoon (!!!) called “Therapy Knitting.”

Stitchlinks: a whole dang website about therapeutic craft.

Knitting as Healing Therapy

More on therapeutic knitting by Betsan Corkhill, the founder of Stitchlinks

Craftivism and the Self, pt. 1

So sometimes, you come back from an awesome international trip and move and then get settled and then your blog gets hacked. The past month has been one of those times.

Therefore, in the hiatus, there’s quite a bit of stuff I want to share with you. Yay! One of the things I’ve been working on is activism of the self, our internal activism or self-activism, I haven’t really figured out how to phrase it (have any ideas?). However, it’s using activism/craftivism as a way/tool for self change instead of changing others. At times on here I’ve felt incredibly selfish when people contact me about the work I’ve done with craftivism, as honestly, it all started by accident. When I started to knit in 2000, I was in an incredibly dark place where, seriously, I don’t know know where I’d be if I didn’t find knitting. When I say that “knitting saved my life,” I’m actually not kidding around.

Crafts connection to activism came out of the healing of my own self. As I got stronger and better, I was able to see how crafts has changed me; therefore, it wasn’t a far leap to see how it could change others, albeit in different ways. Over time I realized that craftivism allowed people the time/space to really think/internalize their own views on craftivist pieces, starting a change in themselves. And it is my belief that this internal change in others is what can make the world a better place, because we change ourselves. But first, we need to help our own selves heal/get strong/thrive before we can truly help others. Thoughts?

I’m calling this part 1, because I’m running out of time and won’t be able to upload the snapshots from the conversation on twitter yesterday with some lovely thoughts from the always helpful and inspiring @MrXStitch, @hstryk, @janislena and @thejaymo.


Also, know any Swedish crafters? The new Swedish craft website Zickermans was kind enough to run a lovely little interview with me over here.

Awesomely Tough Knitter, Part 2.

Last week I wrote a post about Jim Simpson, the former WWII POW who knitted a rug with unraveled sweaters and pot handles while being held by the Germans.

Here’s the story of another tough knitter. A knitting badass, if you will.


Photo from article of Nicholas holding up a photo of his x-ray showing his broken neck

His name is Nicholas Iwamoto. He knits. And sells the things he knits. He includes homemade beef jerky with the purchase of his knitted items. But that’s not why he’s awesome, although it’s definitely reason enough. (Homemade beef jerky! How cool! And I’m vegetarian!)

Earlier this year, Nicholas, just after he passed the physical and academic tests necessary for the Hawaii Army National Guard, decided to go climb Koko Crater in his native Hawaii. All that was left to join the Guard was to sign up and this afternoon, he went hiking “figuring if he could survive the trek to the top without his heart giving out, he was fit to serve his country.” While on said crater, someone attacked him, stabbing him 18 times, leaving him for dead… and in trying to escape he fell off said crater, falling 30 feet then rolling a further 70. And he survived. (Seriously, read that again, holy crap.)*

As a result of his attack, he will never drive again, he will never get to defend his country overseas, he still wears a neckbrace after wearing a halo for six weeks and spinal surgery. And in an article in the local paper, he’s thankful, “as Thanksgiving nears, 23-year-old Iwamoto wanted to say thanks to a list of people that is virtually endless — beginning with “the two Good Samaritans” who discovered him in the ravine and “who are the reason I’m still alive.” The article goes on to add, “finally, he said he wanted to express his deep appreciation to the men and women in uniform who risk their lives daily to protect American freedoms, and who, in many cases, have suffered far more than he has.”

But, wait, what about the knitting? Well, here’s more from The Honolulu Advertiser article:

Because he can no longer wait tables or detail cars as he did before the assault, Iwamoto has — thanks to a woman at Yarn & Friends who took the time to teach him — taken up knitting as a pastime and an avocation.

“I knit. I knit beanies, and scarves,” he said. “I knit all day and give them to people. But I’m starting to sell them. I also make beef jerky.”

For now he gives his homemade jerky to anyone who purchases a knitted beanie, scarf or hot pad. But he is considering selling jerky as well.”

You can read the full article here.


Also posted in the same article was a way to contact Nicholas directly and contribute to his ongoing medical expenses:

Those who would like to help defray Nicholas Iwamoto’s medical expenses can send a check to Friends of Nicholas Iwamoto, P.O. Box 241076, Honolulu, HI 96824 or make a contribution to the fund at any Bank of Hawaii.

Iwamoto can also be reached at iwamoton@hawaii.edu


*Y’know, I’m reading this, thinking about how important the tactile is in working through trauma (all kinds), and how I’ve never fully admitted it anywhere except the book, but it was the tactile aspect of knitting that led me to start feeling again after being sexually assaulted by a friend at 19. After some other previous events, that night was the straw that broke the camel’s back in regards to trust and safely feeling anything, good, at least. Then I feared that writing about it would give him power (again) if he discovered that it really did hurt me. That thought echoes in my head as I type.

It’s funny how easily it is to remove yourself from feeling and just plod through daily life, fooling yourself and others into thinking everything is just fine. I shoved having to feel away and ran away from feeling anything for years, then found knitting and through it, slowly began to allow myself to feel again. Really feel. I’m still crap at relationships due to all that mess, and still working on that part of my life, but wish I had had Nicholas’ courage to deal with his assault head on instead of letting it sit, fester, then rot.

Somehow, tonight, reading Nicholas’ story, about him surviving this horrific event, then discovering knitting reminded me that the tactile aspect, it’s what can really heal. Not words, not alcohol, not drugs, not relationships, not running away, but sitting down and staying with your knitting. Sitting still, facing negative events/feelings, giving yourself a safe space to feel again, allowing yourself to let go and let it help you break through to the other side. It’s a quiet process, but an undeniably powerful one nonetheless.

Nicholas, thank you, for being so strong and creative and, well, an awesomely tough knitter.

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