art therapy through needle feltingAs anyone with a crafting habit can tell you, making art can be a very therapeutic process. Heck, even just stabbing wool against a block can work wonders for melting away frustrations of the day. But, for many, more targeted therapeutic exercises can be so helpful for those battling a mental illness, or just working to better their mental health.

A popular art therapy exercise is emotion painting. For people of all ages, it helps to express things that we just can’t put words to. Sometimes, we’re not even aware of what we’re feeling until we see it externalized. Have you ever listened to a song and thought, “That’s it! They’ve expressed exactly what I’m feeling!”? This is the same kind of thing.

With a few minor adjustments, we can use the idea behind emotion painting and adapt it for needle felting. Basically, the only adjustments required are to the materials.

Grab your felting supplies. For this, it’s helpful to have a variety of colours of wool available for your use. Which color do you most identify with in the moment? Start with that one. Start felting. Are you felting the wool loosely, or more tightly? Are there curves, or more severe edges? Is your piece large or small? Does it use dark colors, light colors, bold colors, or pastels? Is it multicolored, or monochromatic?

The answers to these questions will tell you a lot about how you’re feeling. For example, a tightly felted, angular, red piece may indicate anger or frustration. Or, for you, that combination may represent anxiety or excitement. Whatever it means to you, there are no wrong answers.

For people battling specific mental illnesses, it may be helpful to create a physical representation of the illness. Is your depression a dark blob, or is it more nuanced? Is your anxiety bright and sharp, or fuzzy and disconnected?

For people with eating disorders, creating a personification of the eating disorder can be helpful for separating the “eating disorder voice” from the person’s own. For some people, the eating disorder might look like a trusted friend. For others, a demon. There are no wrong answers: you’re simply expressing your experience. Once you have an external representation of your eating disorder, it can serve as a reminder that its rules and restrictions are something you can answer back to, and fight against.

If it feels helpful, consider sharing your creation with a trusted friend or your therapist. You can discuss what the piece means to you, and why you chose the colors, etc. that you did. Maybe you’ll have multiple pieces that represent the many sides of you. Maybe just the one. See what feels right for you.

If you’re looking to connect with other people who find crafting therapeutic, consider joining my needle felting academy! You’ll get access to video tutorials and more! The best part, though, is that you’ll be joining a community of felters, just like you! You can connect with felters from around the world, share your successes, and help each other through the tricky bits.

Is needle felting therapeutic for you? If it feels comfortable, share your experiences in the comments!