Embroidery & Me: How Embroidery Has Helped My Anxiety and Why I Love Running Workshops

February 20, 2024

My Creative Lockdown...

At the start of 2020, I resolved to finally write the Children’s story I’d had in my head for 3 years. I was ITCHING to get back to my creativity. At this point, I’d been working for 6 years as a Creative Producer, encouraging communities to embrace their creativity and finding platforms and events for artists to showcase theirs. While my “9-5” definitely required me to use my creativity (as the job title suggests - although admittedly, it gives very little else away), it had begun to feel… formulaic. I had reached that point we all hope to in our jobs… I felt like I knew what I was doing. But instead of enjoying it, savouring it, relishing the lack of imposter syndrome for once in my life… I was looking for something, if not challenging, then something that felt like it was mine. 

Now, you might remember 2020; it was a year where many of us found ourselves with lots of time on our hands. Ideal for a budding children’s writer, right? Well, along with time, 2020 came with some other gifts. Worry, confusion, a big old helping of ‘not normal.’ These are all things that most of us struggled to get our heads around.

Anxiety & Me...

Anxiety is a feeling I am very familiar with. Over the years I’ve come to accept that Anxiety is the unwanted guest at a party. One that you didn’t invite, but that you can’t really ask to leave - like the on-again-off-again terrible boyfriend of a good friend. You want to tell them to sling their hook, but instead, you make polite, if slightly barbed, small talk with them.

And just like that well-rehearsed small talk, I’ve come up with several mechanisms for dealing with my anxiety.  But when lockdown came, none of those mechanisms quite did the trick, and then I realised that all the things I ‘normally’ did were too ‘normal’ for very ‘un-normal’ times. And so my brain would wander off down anxious thought paths.

I knew I had to interrupt these wanderings. I had to do something that would surprise my anxious brain and ideally, keep my hands away from my phone.

And so I found embroidery. Luckily, I had a well-stocked (but dusty) craft stash under our guest bed. And so I spent one of those early weekends stitching some wobbly flowers (and one dinosaur) to every plain T-shirt I could find. Then I moved on to an old, burnt orange tablecloth, and finally, when I realised that the lockdown and my love for this new hobby weren’t going anywhere, I invested in some plain fabric and better hoops.

Stitching Manchester...

I had no intention of ever turning this new passion into a business, so I realised that if I was going to keep making hoops at the rate I was going, they needed to be hoops I wanted to keep in my own house. To display proudly on the walls and the bookshelves. And so I began to experiment with Manchester scenes. When we travel anywhere, we always buy art of that place, and they are nearly always pieces inspired by the local architecture. Applying this to my embroidery made sense and let me appreciate the empty streets of my home city in a new way. 

And I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed seeing Manchester through a hoop. I started my Instagram late one night, very aware that Rick, while always my biggest supporter, was probably getting bored of me talking about new stitches I had learned. I wanted to share what I was making, but more than that, I wanted to connect. I’d always heard Instagram could be a place for community, but it wasn’t until started @hoopandfred that I experienced it. I chatted to people from all over the world about embroidery, but even more amazing, I spoke to people who lived around the corner and upstairs in the same building as me. People I would never have met during regular times because living a busy normal life in a big city like Manchester doesn’t always lend itself to making new friends. 

DIY Kits & Workshops...

There are so many well-being / mental health benefits to any creative hobby, but for me, embroidery is the perfect balm for my anxious mind.

It is as close to meditation as I’ve ever come. So many stitches are repetitive but, small and detailed enough that you have to concentrate. It uses both hands, so you can’t also be on your phone. It’s slow, and when I’m stitching, I find my breath falling into rhythm with my needle. And if you make a mistake, it’s nearly always easily undone.

While starting an embroidery business in many ways happened by accident, as my instagram profile rode the wave of lockdown swiping, I knew I didn’t want to keep these benefits to myself, so my creative producer background kicked in. And so my Creative Producer brain kicked in, and I asked myself how could I share this beyond a phone screen? First came the kits, a workshop delivered through your door, and then, as restrictions were lifted, in-person events. Each week I get to share the mental health benefits of stitching and being part of a mini-community group, coming together for a couple of hours and creating side-by-side. 

Now I run regular embroidery workshops across Manchester, both for private functions and businesses and for the public. My sessions range from beginner sessions to incorporating fabric printing into your hoops. Still, all of them focus on the well-being benefits of taking some time for yourself and exploring your own creativity. And while I know not everyone will catch the embroidery bug like I did, I hope they leave my workshops feeling a little calmer than when they came in, and inspired and empowered to go out there and find a creative outlet they can call their own.

Upcoming Embroidery Workshops in Manchester (and beyond...)

If you’d like to join me at one of my public workshops, you can click here for a list of upcoming dates. Interested in booking a private session?  Then drop me an email on hoopandfred@gmail.com