I grew up hearing a teacher say to my class all the time: “A stitch in time saves nine.” I generally understood it to mean that a shortcut saves you time while completing projects. Some people may understand a literal meaning of this, as a stitch in a hole saves it from becoming a bigger hole. But now I think of stiches as saving your mental health.
On one of her trips to a conference, our very own Deborah Richmond struck up a conversation with an Educational Consultant who mentioned how good sewing was for the brain. Well it wasn’t much longer that Eckerd Connects E-Nini-Hassee added a sewing module to the curriculum. Deb says, “We work in the program to make learning fun and therapeutic.” The girls now sew adorable and unique stuffed monster dolls to express themselves and stimulate both their right and left brains. There is even a body of research dedicated to how sewing, knitting, and crafting have positive effects on brain development and mental health.
When reading the research regarding sewing, I came across the work of Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and what he calls “flow.” This is the time you are completely engaged in an activity and the stress around you melts away. His decades of research indicate that this may be the key to happiness. His concept of flow is very complex, however here are some highlights:
"When we are involved in (creativity), we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life," Csikszentmihalyi said during a TED talk in 2004. "You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though difficult, and sense of time disappears. You forget yourself. You feel part of something larger." When the girls learn to sew they are engaging in this phenomenon of “flow” but they are also doing it within their group of 10-12 fellow campers. This adds to Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s additional concept that feeling part of something larger than yourself also creates a sense of happiness.
I have included a photo of some of the dolls the girls have created over the years at E-NIni-Hassee. I hope you enjoy it. To me, they are not just monster dolls, they are the memories of happiness left behind by our campers. Memories left to inspire our new campers that there is potential to heal here.