Quarantine presents a time of dichotomies. In the span of one day or even a few hours, we can go from feeling overworked and overwhelmed to utterly bored of the monotony.

Meanwhile, society is plunging into the future with innovative new ways to connect — from Zoom meetings to virtual gaming and Netflix parties. And on the other hand, many are returning to simpler times, focusing on frontier-like pastimes including baking bread, sewing and knitting.

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This faction of crafters includes lifelong devotees and new recruits, inspired to do something with the extra time on their hands (literally). Sarah O’Dell is one such longtime artisan. The Redding resident primarily identifies as a knitter but also sews, embroiders, and has recently taken up new endeavors including quilting and baking bread. “Even on the best days, if I don’t find time to sit down and knit a row or two, I feel unhappy,” O’Dell says. “The stress of the pandemic, work, layoffs, distance learning, and trying to run a busy PTA has made it even more important.”

Along with the enjoyment she gets from creating, O’Dell finds a strong sense of community among her fellow crafters. She’s a part of Ravelry, a knit and crochet community, which she calls “the best social media and organizational platform you’ve never heard of.” Additionally, O’Dell knits with a diverse group at her local library. Redding’s Mark Twain Library has taken its programming online, hosting a weekly knitting circle via Zoom. “They have become a beacon in these times, making sure that all of us in our tiny, spread-out town are connected,” she says.

But you don’t have to be a skilled artisan to get in on the benefits. Greenwich-based lifestyle blogger Helen Phillips has taken up beading as her quarantine hobby. “I realized I was using all of this extra time in quarantine working on my blog and being on my computer all of the time,” she says. “I was getting a lot done but it was so much time in front of my screen. I wanted to make something that wouldn’t put strain on my eyes.” Phillips has always had crafty inclinations but doesn’t consider herself a skilled artist. “I think now more than ever, as long as I have something that keeps me busy and is a creative outlet, it’s a good way to relieve stress. I don’t care if it’s going to be a masterpiece.”

Phillips has enjoyed the ease of beading and plans to dive into watercolor painting next.

Comer Rudd-Gates, a licensed psychotherapist and registered art therapist at Privé Swiss Wellness in Westbrook and Essex, says that the creative process of art can decrease anxiety and stress. “You don’t have to be an artist to benefit from these experiences,” she says. “When you are focusing on your art you get lost in the moment. This is an opportunity to turn your mind away from anxious thoughts.”

Creating art can be a meditative experience, Rudd-Gates says, as well as a chance to build mastery and increase self-worth. Plus, many crafters benefit from sharing their finished products with others. O’Dell has made masks for family members, fellow PTA volunteers, her favorite local yoga teacher, and other friends. She’s also knitting cozy socks and hats to keep her children and husband warm. “The idea of making a thing that will go on my child’s body or hang in my husband’s office gives me such joy,” she says.

Phillips, too, has shared her bracelets with friends and family she’s seen from a distance. “I want to spread cheer, and I think I’ve inspired other people to start making bracelets and they’ve enjoyed doing it,” she says. “That’s the little thing I’d been inspired to contribute.”

O’Dell is also giving her local community a boost by shopping her favorite independent yarn stores. She says Stitch in Time in Bethel, Westport Yarns, and Stars Hollow Yarns in Washington all offer free shipping or curbside pickup.

For those who want to take up crafting, O’Dell says embroidery is an easy place to start. “While you can certainly create elaborate, complex embroidered items, you can also make something amazing by letting your kid draw in pencil on some fabric and then embroider over it with some embroidery floss,” she says. Or, there are lots of on-trend kits available on Etsy, like her favorite Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Harry Potter patterns.

“All of that said, you can easily learn to sew or knit too,” she says. “YouTube and the proliferation of online classes through Bluprint and Creativebug have really made it accessible to everyone, and even looking at an Instagram hashtag like #knittersofinstagram will send you on a great path to learning new things.”


How to make Style Inherited blogger Helen Phillips’ beaded bracelets in three easy steps

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What you’ll need: Small pony beads, pearl beads, jewelry cord, super glue

Without cutting your elastic from the roll, unravel a length of cord to begin beading.

String your small beads in your pattern of choice. Phillips recommends creating a more complex pattern than your typical ABAB for a more interesting design. Keep stringing until your beading is long enough to go around your wrist with a few inches of wiggle room.

Once your beading is long enough, cut to size leaving a few inches on each end. Tie together with a square not as tightly as possible, then add a drop of super glue to secure the knot. Let dry for several hours before putting on the bracelet.

This article appeared in the June 2020 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram@connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.