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Weekend Plans: Try This Meditative Craft That's Extra Great For Yogis

Image by Danil Nevsky / Stocksy
September 27, 2019
Making art is a shortcut to a flow state1, in which we feel less stressed and more focused, and it's even been shown to boost self-esteem and life satisfaction2. As the $44 billion craft industry grows thanks in large part to millennials, it is expanding beyond old classics like knitting and coloring books into some more earthy explorations of the colors and forms you'll find in nature. Every Friday for the next month, we’re all heading back to class and learning the basics of four of these meditative crafting techniques. Today, we're sharing how to embroider your way to a craftier home.
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Like any good millennial, I am guilty of seeking out embroidery photos on Instagram. Hand-stitched bears and succulent arrangements have long graced my Discover feed, but I'd never tried out the craft myself—assuming it'd take too much time, money, and dedication to get into. Earlier this month I learned just how wrong I was.

I finally bit the bullet and signed up for an embroidery 101 class at CraftJam, a crafting education space (the best kind of space, if you ask me) in Manhattan. Gathered around a table draped in fabric swatches with a dozen other embroidery-curious folks, I listened to our instructor Robin inform the group that most great embroiderers are self-taught—and some of them only know two or three straightforward stitches. The craft's low barrier to entry could be part of its renewed appeal: There are 103,000-plus Instagram images tagged with the #embroidery hashtag, many of which are posted by "sewists"—a now-recognized term to describe crafters who sew as their medium.

The sewists are on to something. Beyond being easy to learn, embroidery can also be incredibly soothing. It gets people off of their phones and into a relaxed head space, Robin explained, and it's great for the wrists. (She said yogis, in particular, could benefit from the practice, since it balances out all those downward dogs.)

These days, there are plenty of opportunities to teach yourself the simple craft, from YouTube tutorials to in-person lessons like these. There are also places where more advanced students can go to push the needle on their skills.

"It's being taken more seriously than ever," Robin, who was fresh off a needlework intensive at the Royal School of Needlework in Windsor Castle, told us. The program required 12-plus hours a day of embroidery, and all-nighters were not uncommon.

Why I'd recommend the craft, and how to get started with your own wall-hanging.

While I can't say I've dedicated too many long nights to embroidery since that initial lesson, I have been inspired to keep up with the hobby. I like that it's an incredibly forgiving craft, similar to pencil drawing but much easier to erase, and the end product is really fun and share-worthy. Plus, you can make so many different things with only a few stitches: My first project was a circle embroidery for my apartment, but next I want to try to adorn tote bags, old clothes, and stained fabrics (upcycling, FTW).

The process is just the right blend of artistry and monotony, and while my wrists don't feel much different afterward, I do find it to be relaxing and borderline meditative. In the age of overwhelm and information overload, there's something to be said for sitting down with a needle and thread and just creating for creating's sake.

Here's how to get started with a simple embroidered wall-hanging:


  • Scissors
  • A wooden hoop
  • DMC thread (I found the six-strand kind to be the easiest to use)
  • A needle
  • Washable fabric pen
  • Thin fabric (I liked using white because it made it easier to trace an image through)
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  1. Place your fabric in your wooden hoop and tighten it.
  2. Decide on your design and draw it out. You can do it by hand or find an image online that you like and either trace it onto your fabric using your phone (this is why I found white fabric helpful) or print it out on a piece of Sulky Paper and place that directly on your fabric (after you're finished, you can wet it with water, and it will dissolve).
  3. Thread your needle and tie a knot at the end. Your string shouldn't be more than 15 inches or so (about the length from your fingertip to elbow) or else it could get tangled or unruly.
  4. Try a running stitch, where you start at the back of the fabric and continue to move forward. With this one, there will be spaces between each stitch.
  5. Try a backstitch, where you also thread your string through the back of the fabric but then stitch backward for every stitch forward. You're moving forward to move back, and it creates an even, smooth line.
  6. Once your thread is winding down, weave it through a stitch at the back of your fabric a few times, then start again.
  7. You can mix it up with different colors and thicknesses of string, or try out some more complicated stitches if you're feeling adventurous (the chain-stitch is another popular one).
  8. Once you're done with your wall-hanging, place another color fabric at the back to cover up your stitches. Then cut the white and colored fabric down and glue them to the inside of your hoop. Be prepared for compliments.

Keep tuning in to mbg this week for more Craft Week how-to's, and check out what we've already shared here.

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Emma Loewe
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.