When I commissioned Cross Stitch for the Soul from the talented Emma Congdon of Stitchrovia, I had no idea that the book would end up being published at such a huge moment in history. With the world locked down due to Coronavirus, people unable to leave the house except for food, medicine and exercise, and fighting to maintain our mental health during this heart-wrenching time, the arrival of this book seems all the more pertinent.
It has been well-evidenced that crafts have a positive effect on mental wellbeing, and the interest in positive affirmations and motivational quotes has never been higher. This exceptional book brings these two notions together, using the meditative nature of cross stitch to create 20 positive, life-affirming messages to lift the spirits and soothe the soul. So with time on our hands and materials available for home delivery online, what better way could there be to tap into the positive power of craft at this challenging time? I guarantee you will enjoy the process and the result in the difficult days, weeks and months to come.
Cross stitch is the perfect beginner craft, as it requires no particular skill, just the making of little crosses in thread on a clearly gridded fabric known as Aida. Every square on the chart relates to a cross on the fabric – all that is required is some counting to ensure you have the same number of stitches in any particular colour as are shown on the chart – a sort of ‘paint by numbers’ in thread. The focus needed and the repetitive action of the stitching is enormously calming – and the sense of achievement in getting to the finish is truly empowering.
For inspiration, here are my favourite designs from the book that seem particularly apt right now, together with Emma’s insightful words about them.
At times, it’s easy to feel dissatisfied with our lives. We focus on what we haven’t achieved rather than what we have. However, positive affirmations are known to help break this negative thinking. Start with gratitude for the things you have, and set yourself up in a positive way for a new day and all the possibilities it brings with it.
Nature is amazing and a great source of inspiration for me. I find it magical that something so seemingly dreary as rain can produce something as beautiful as a rainbow. The same is true of the night sky. If you can escape the city, look up and appreciate the stars that aren’t visible unless the sky is sufficiently dark. Finding the best in bad situations isn’t easy – but worth it.
On some days everything just seems to go wrong… you miss the bus, you get caught in the rain, you drop your phone. However, even in these trying times there will be good things, I promise – they just might be harder to spot. If you look hard enough you’ll be able to notice and appreciate them and put a positive spin on any day.
Life would just be dull if we were only handed the sweetest things. That’s why it throws us a bitter-tasting lemony curveball every so often (or even worse, a raw onion or two). This saying is a great metaphor for how sour life situations can be made sweet with a bit of practise and creativity – not to mention a good bit of elbow grease.
Being friendly, generous and considerate towards others – it’s just kind. A good deed means you’re not only helping someone in need, you’re also giving yourself a boost knowing that you’ve done something selfless. It doesn’t matter how big or small the gesture is, it’ll give you a wonderfully rewarding feeling and put a spring in your step.
Life can throw you into unexpected situations that you could never have imagined or planned for, but that can be one of the most beautiful things about it. It’s important, however, that you always embrace life around you rather than yearning for something else. Have dreams and goals of course, but don’t let them overwhelm your ability to enjoy and flourish where you are.
Hiking is much like life. There can be peaks and troughs, and it can seem perilous at times. But once you’ve got to the top you get a huge sense of achievement. Whatever the incline, keep taking the next step to get to your destination – you’ll get there. You can proudly look back at how far you’ve come and appreciate that as much as the view itself.
Every situation in life can be interpreted differently. If you seek the bad you will inevitably find it. This quote by artist Henri Matisse reminds us that it’s important to have a positive mindset and be open to good things even when situations may not be promising. You never know what you’ll miss if you’re not looking for it.
Social pressures, advertising and social media make it difficult for us to be content with both our internal and external selves. There’s always someone skinnier, richer, or more successful to make us think less of ourselves. But wishing for a life that isn’t your own is wasting the time that you have. We’re all different – be proud of yourself for whatever you bring to the table.
Cross Stitch for the Soul is available from the following online suppliers: