"I Really Needed That" - How an Embroidery Workshop Can Help you Stitch Away A Bad Day

January 20, 2023

A photo of a small group of people, proudly holding their embroidery hoops to the camera. Taken at a Mindful Embroidery Workshop in Manchester ran by Stephie from Hoop & Fred.

It's a cold and wet Manchester weekday evening as I head across the city centre to host back-to-back embroidery workshops in one of the city's newest residential buildings.

Now, I love running workshops, but the trams aren't running properly, I've too much stuff to hold an umbrella, and the handle on my trusty suitcase has broken. So even though I'm spending the evening doing what I love (and getting paid for it), by the time I get there, I'm flustered, clammy, and just not feeling my best - and when some of the residents come down, I can tell one or two of them are feeling very similar.

If this workshop wasn't on their doorstep, they might not have bothered to come down. The pull of the sofa and wallowing in that lousy day feeling might have been too strong, but it's only downstairs, so why not at least pop down and see what it's about? If they really don't like it, they can always come up with an excuse to leave.

When you pay attention, it's not hard to see if someone might be having a bad day. You can see it in how they hold themselves, how they say hello, and where they choose to sit in the workshop space.

This particular night, there are more 'bad days' in the room than usual, and when I spot this, I know I have to shake whatever leftover public transport nightmare clamminess off and get on with it.

And so I get to work. I teach back stitch and stem stitch, and long and short stitch. I help untangle knots in the thread and reassure people that they are doing things right. I cut ribbons, explain how to back hoops and answer questions.

And throughout the evening, I can see that the grip of the bad day is beginning to loosen on everyone, me included, and at the end of the class, one resident comes up to me and says, 'I really needed that.'

That is my favourite thing to hear after a workshop because it reminds me why I started embroidery.

It wasn't because I felt confident in making art. It wasn't because I wanted to grow an Instagram following or start a new business. It was because I needed something that would take my mind off everything.

Embroidery was that thing when my regular outlets just didn't do the trick.

Whenever you learn something new, your brain has to concentrate, and with embroidery and the delicate, sometimes tiny nature of it, that focus and concentration stays even when you've been stitching for years. There's a repetition to stitching that means you can enter that state of flow, paying attention to what you're doing without having to overthink it. You just repeat the same steps over and over until you reach the end of your thread.

And crucially for me, with embroidery, you can't also be holding your phone because your hands are full.

When I started embroidery, I would lose hours to the hoop. No more doom scrolling. No more mind wandering into anxious territories. No more endless news cycle despair.

This is why I wanted to teach workshops and to share this anxiety-busting thing that I'd found with the world (well, maybe not the world, but definitely Manchester).

I don't expect everyone that comes to a workshop to catch the embroidery bug as I did. They might not click with it quite the same, and that's ok; people have different tastes, creative strengths, and interests.  My biggest aim when running a session is that people leave feeling a little better than they did when they started and are encouraged to go and find something that can do to their brain what embroidery did to mine.

Fancy finding out if embroidery is your *thing* or just need to carve out an hour or two just for yourself? I run regular public workshops across Manchester, which you can buy tickets to here, or if you'd like to organise a private group session, please don't hesitate to get in touch! Or if you can't make it to one of my in-person sessions, my DIY embroidery kits, are a workshop in a box, delivered straight to you!