Stress-relief crafts give you double satisfaction. The act of making the craft is just as relaxing as using the items afterward. Stress balloons and pillow dolls appear at health fairs, church bazaars and flea markets for a good reason: they work. Squeezing a stress ball can also help regain lost muscle tone after a stroke or heart attack. Cuddling a pillow doll may help you or a child work through a loss, dislocation or natural disaster.
Balloon Stress Balls
Test the funnel to make sure that your filler materials will pass through it.
Draw a face on each balloon using permanent markers or white correction fluid.
Place a balloon over the end of your funnel. Select a filler material, which can include rice, dried beans, seed beads, cornstarch, lentils, millet, barley or other seed. Pour your choice of filler materials into the balloon until it is 3/4 full.
Tie the balloon shut. Cut six to eight 3-inch pieces of 6mm or thicker macrame yarn. Lay them together with all the ends even. Tie a piece of yarn around the middle and pull tight to make a pom-pom-like ball.
Tie the pom pom to the knot on the balloon to hide it. Use the hairbrush to brush the yarn until it is soft and no longer looks twisted. Smooth the brushed yarn over the top of your stress ball to look like hair.
Stress Pillow Doll
Sketch a gingerbread person shape on a sheet of easel paper. Your person's head should have a 4-inch diameter. If the arms are spread fully at the sides, the span from fingertip to fingertip should be about 24 inches. The doll's height from top of head to bottom of feet should also be 24 inches. Arms and legs should be 2.5 inches in diameter.
Sketch a second outline 1/2 inch outside the first to make the seam allowance. Cut your doll pattern along the outer line.
Pin the pattern to your folded muslin. Make the dolls in a variety of skin tones if you are taking them to flea markets, bazaars or fairs. People feel a closer connection to their doll when it looks more like they do.
Cut around the outer line of the pattern. Use a needle and cotton thread the same color as your muslin to stitch along the inner seam line on the pattern. Begin near where the left ear would be if your doll had ears and stitch counter-clockwise around the seam line until you reach where the right ear would be. Leave the top of the head open.
Turn your doll right side out. Use a bamboo skewer, crochet hook or dowel rod to push polyester fiberfill into the arms and legs before filling the body and head. Under-stuff the body slightly for a more huggable doll. Stitch the top of the doll's head shut when you are sure the doll has enough stuffing.
Cut a 12-by-24-inch rectangle of calico or gingham fabric. Fold the fabric down 1/2-inch along the 24-inch side. Press the fold flat with a steam iron on the cotton setting. Stitch along the 24-inch side to create a casing, 1/4 inch from the fold.
Thread a small safety pin onto a length of 1/4-inch wide satin ribbon. Push the pin through the casing on the skirt fabric until the pin comes out the other side. Pull the ribbon to gather the fabric until the skirt fits your pillow doll's waist. Tie the ribbons in a bow and remove the pin.
Tie a large gold pony bead or shank button to the end of each ribbon to prevent the ribbon being removed from the skirt.
Remove the skirt from the doll and fold it inside out. Stitch along the 12-inch side, leaving a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Turn the skirt right side out and put it back on the doll.
Make hair for your doll, if desired, by winding yarn around the width of your hand 30 or 40 turns. Push a piece of matching yarn through all the loops on your hand, near the base of your forefinger. Have a helper tie the yarn in a tight knot.
Cut the loops apart near the base of your thumb. Brush the resulting tassel until it looks like long hair or divide it and make two or more braids. Embellish the braids with pony beads or pull them together with a ribbon. Stitch the hair to your doll's head along the top seam. Trim the hair to make bangs if desired.
"Stress is a combination of physiological and emotional responses to an event... (that) may include... increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, dry mouth, tight muscles or headaches," according to the Dartmouth College Academic Skills Center. "The term 'stress,' as it is currently used, was coined by Hans Selye in 1936," according to the American Institute of Stress.
Pillow dolls have also been called "dammit" dolls because the doll owner can squeeze it, twist it or beat it against the wall, floor or bed while yelling to release negative emotions.