When I was ten, my grandmother taught me how to knit and crochet. "Making magic," she would say to me, smiling at my wonky, bright blue knitted scarf and mustard coloured crochet top (this was the Seventies, after all). Although I've long since lost that scarf and top and lots more of my early efforts, I'll always remember that special time we spent together, stitching memories into my life. Magic indeed.
It's no wonder that research keeps showing how good crafting - in all its forms - can be for us. Focusing on making something with our own hands frees us from worrying about what's going on in the outside world, particularly the draining feeling of being constantly attached to our phones and social media, and having to perform both at work and in our social life.
Crafting is also a fantastic distraction for many people suffering from anxiety, depression or other types of mental illness. This is being highlighted by Mind's national Crafternoon event on 1st December. There's lots of tips, templates and topical advice on their website to help participants raise funds for the charity while having fun doing all sorts of seasonal craft activities.
As children face more and more testing in the classroom, this can also contribute towards anxiety and a fear of failure. It's important for them to have the chance to develop their creative abilities and explore non-academic opportunities too. The comedian Johnny Vegas credits pottery making with saving him from struggling at school and building his confidence. He still loves to make pots and here demonstrates how to make a teapot in under 60 seconds for BBC Get Creative!
Johnny and I would both agree that creating something yourself not only makes you happy but can also help you to inspire other people. The simple act of making can break down boundaries and bring all ages and cultures together. A great example of this is the Paint Pals Project, started in Bristol and gradually spreading further afield, which brings children and care home residents together to enjoy a wide range of painting activities.
The need to communicate and to tell stories is hardwired into the human race. Helping children to gain confidence by doing craft activities and talking about what they have made is vitally important. It helps them unleash their imagination, develop their vocabulary and build their social skills and interaction. Far better than spending long solitary hours on their tablets!
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.
For dementia sufferers, making scrapbooks and compiling photograph albums and collages are just some of the ways in which crafting can help to build a bridge between the past and present, and bring some meaning to an often confusing world. It gives family and friends a way to connect with their loved one as well as preventing loneliness and social exclusion in a broader sense.
As for me, now it's my turn to be a grandmother! Playing with my gorgeous little grandson and encouraging his natural childish creativity with paints, paper and plasticine has well and truly brought the magic of crafting back into my life. I'm also giving myself the freedom to experiment instead of aiming for perfection. My new motto is forget about getting it 'just so' - and just sew (or knit or crochet) instead! I think Granny would be very happy with that.
I hope you like my latest home made creation - my bright blue hat in the main picture. It's from our lovely Learn How to Crochet Kit which comes in its own suitcase and has everything a beginner could possibly need!
All the other images are from our Cross Stitch, Sewing and Knitting Learn How to … Kits. Perfect for friends and family - or maybe a treat for you! And you can find plenty more present inspiration in our Crafts & Hobbies Collection.
Happy crafting - and have fun making your own special magical memories!