The crafts market in the UK has grown massively, according to the latest report from the Crafts Council. Over ten million of us buy craft online (having tripled over the past ten years), nearly 5 million watched the Great British Sewing Bee, craft supply sales are surging and one in five would pay for a ticket to a craft workshop (subject to social distancing restrictions, of course). That's a lot of national creativity at play!
Since March, many people have started learning a new craft while spending more time at home during lockdown. Research by the Royal Mail found that 20% of online orders were for arts and crafts items. And at Peach Perfect, we've also seen demand increase, with sewing, knitting and crochet still being strong favourites for gift choices, and crystal art becoming an exciting new trend.
So how creative are you feeling at the moment? Are you a committed crafter with a house full of exquisite hoop art and wall hangings? Or someone who hasn't picked up a paintbrush since your last compulsory art class at school? If so, here's five good reasons why it's time to brush up on your craft skills.
Boosting brain power
Making something with your hands is a great way to exercise lots of different parts of your brain at the same time - as you're having to concentrate and problem solve as well as thinking creatively. Craft activities can help us to keep developing our brain by creating new and stronger neural pathways. This helps to "age proof" our brain, keeping us more alert and engaged as we get older.
The methodical, repetitive nature of crafts such as loom weaving helps to calm our brain, before we're rewarded with a surge of the "happy hormone" dopamine when we've finished our hand made project. Activities like crafting have been described as "behaviorceuticals" in the US, as their positive effect on the brain is similar to that achieved by drug treatment (without any medical side effects).
In 2016, students taking part in painting, sculpting, crocheting, scrapbooking and other arts and crafts activities, were asked to complete diaries for a fortnight. The research showed that they were generally happier when engaged in this way, experiencing positive mood boosts and enthusiasm about returning to these activities, as well as being more creative and productive in general.
Bearing in mind that many people work at screens all day and rarely get the opportunity to create anything tangible, it's not surprising that creative projects can make us feel happier. Even something as simple as crafting paper decorations, making models with our kids, or hand stitching an embroidered sampler can give us a sense of achievement and satisfaction.
Improving mental and physical health
Knit for Peace, a network of over 15,000 knitters in the UK, has unearthed much research into the physical and mental benefits of knitting, which is credited with helping to reduce depression and even slowing the onset of dementia. Interestingly, in the nineteenth century some doctors even prescribed knitting to women suffering from anxiety!
Crafting in general is a great way to distract ourselves from events we can't control - so perfect for a pandemic, among other things - and it helps to switch our minds off from a whole range of day to day pressures. In this way, it helps us to be mindful and more relaxed, thereby reducing our stress levels.
It's hard to foresee what the impact of coronavirus will be on children's mental health as well as their educational and employment prospects. But it's vitally important to build their confidence in their own abilities, particularly for many who've fallen a long way behind during lockdown and are now facing repeated assessments back in the classroom.
Not all children are academic and there's limited scope for the arts and crafts in an already restrictive curriculum. But giving them the opportunity to do more creative activities will help them to develop their imagination, communicate and connect with others more effectively, and boost their confidence.
Keeping our confidence as we age is equally critical. For older people, taking part in some form of craft activity also encourages storytelling and sharing memories, as well as creating and reinforcing connections in the brain itself. A recent report by Age UK confirmed that crafting was one of the most popular activities having a direct impact on older people's wellbeing.
And it's affordable!
Finally, you don't have to spend a lot of money to be creative - and there's lots of free activities all around too. Here's some imaginative nature inspired suggestions from the Natural History Museum, a range of free craft classes from Good Housekeeping and loads of great ideas to get making from the Crafts Council.
If you're looking for affordable gift ideas for a friend, family member or for yourself, you'll find over 90 craft kits and creative inspiration in Peach Perfect's Craft Gifts Collection. And to help you get started, here are three crafty suggestions for under £10 each ..
So keep creative, keep crafting and we hope you enjoy all the benefits we've described above!