Balancing the physical demands vs relaxation
Cross stitching, physically demanding? No really, it is a real thing that a lot of people may not realize can be a problem. Issues such as eye strain, neck / back pain, hand and wrist repetitive strain or just the problems that can arise from sitting for long periods of time. Here we will discuss these issues and offer suggestions to help reduce them. But it is not all doom and gloom there are many positive benefits to stitching so we will also look at those too !
As tempting as it is to continue stitching when you are on a roll you have to consider the strain that is placed on your eyes. Symptoms of eyestrain are sore and tired eyes which can be accompanied by headaches and blurred vision - do not ignore the symptoms and take a break. Also, if you are consistently having any issues consider getting your eyes checked by an optician. Pushing through may seem tempting but it is not worth the long-term risk to your eyes which would adversely affect your ability to enjoy your hobby permanently. Plus you are much more likely to make mistakes anyway.
There are lots of scary medical issues that have been linked to sitting for long periods of time so make sure you take frequent breaks, move around and stretch. This is especially important if you sit all day for your work as well as your hobby.
Posture is very important - if you spend a lot of your time hunched over your cross stitching, this can lead to pain and stiffness in your neck and shoulders. Personally I have had many of these problems which I think is a combination of sitting all day at a desk at work and then stitching for extended periods and my husband has often told me that I always end up hunched over while I’m stitching (the bugger started calling me ‘Quasimodo’ !). Be sensible and stop when you have to - as much as we all love our stitching time it is not worth risking health problems for and you’ll ultimately lose more stitching time. The times when my back and neck issues have flared up have stopped me stitching for weeks at a time
Video that shows some exercises to relive neck and shoulder pain
Repetitive Strain injury can be caused when the same movement is done repeatedly for a long time - which happens to be the definition of cross stitching! Alot of people get this in their wrists, hand or elbow joints, it is caused by inflammation in the tendons, muscles and soft tissue.
Here is an interesting article written by Dr Christine Hamilton about RSI and cross stitching
Although there are lots of issues that can arise from stitching can also be physically beneficial as it will keep your hands flexible if you are prone to arthritis
Here is a useful video showing exercises for your wrists - it mentions knitting and crocheting but would also apply to cross stitching
So overall with all these issues the general rule is not to over do things and listen to your body. If something is hurting do not push through as it will only get worse and ruin your enjoyment of stitching.
So now we have all the gloomy, ‘hurty’ stuff out of the way lets look at the benefits of cross stitching.
This is obviously a personal subject and everyone has their own reasons but here are some of the benefits of cross stitching that I have found.
For me cross stitching is the best way for me to de-stress and relax, especially after a hectic day at work. I find the repetitive motion relaxing and a good way to switch off and calm down from the day or forget about anything that is worrying me for a while
Channeling your energy into something creative gives you a sense of well-being and satisfaction, especially when you have completed pieces to adorn your walls. Cross stitching to me is not just about the finishes though but more about the journey to get there, the reasons for doing each piece and working one stitch at a time.
We all have the usual stress of life in the modern world to deal with - bills to pay, issues to sort out and so on. Having something else to focus on can help you keep your balance, recharge your batteries and come back to the hum-drum re-invigorated. If nothing else, stabbing a piece of cloth with a tiny “stabber” thousands of time can let you work out frustrations.
A big part for me is the sense of community and is one of the reasons I started writing these blog articles - I’ve been stitching for years but only recently joined some Facebook cross-stitching groups and it has really inspired me to keep stitching as well as teaching me a lot!
The only other person that I know who stitches is my mum but I live in Canada she is in the UK so we only get to see each other once a year, when we do get together it is so much fun to see what each other is working on and go on a shopping trip to the craft store together. I find sharing the hobby a huge benefit for our connection.