I’m going to be doing some interviews with other chronically ill crafters on this blog every now and then, if you would like to get involved just drop me a line, the more the merrier.
Louise from Little School Of Wool, has generously volunteered to be my first interviewee, she makes some really adorable little crochet pieces and she’s taken part in lots of charity projects both in knitting and crochet, you should definitely check her blog and fb out.
On to the interview:
Who are you?
I’m Louise and I run a blog and FB page about knitting and crocheting whilst being ill. You can find me on Facebook and here at my blog. Eventually I would like to share my knitting skills and crochet with other housebound people, but am not well enough yet to pursue this. So at the moment my online areas are mainly for sharing patterns and insights as well as lovely woolly inspiration.
What’s you craft?
I started off with knitting but now do crochet and needle felting too.
What illness/es do you have?
I have three serious chronic illnesses- M.E, POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and severe Endometriosis. All three illnesses are long term and have no cure. Because of my illnesses I am almost entirely housebound, usually only venturing out for short periods once a week. There can be weeks where I don’t make it out at all. I spend long times in bed; I need to be horizontal much of the time as the POTS causes a rapid heartbeat when I sit up for too long. I cannot walk any distance without a wheelchair.
My energy levels are extremely limited.
I find it very hard to concentrate for long because of cognitive dysfunction (‘brain fog’) and it takes me a long time to learn new things. I enjoy knitting and crochet because I can do it whilst propped up in bed and as long as I take plenty of breaks it is something I can do on most days.
What are your favourite pieces of craft equipment?
I have simple needs- a range of crochet hooks and knitting needles of every size, an enviable yarn stash and the trusty internet. I love Ravelry for patterns and inspiration. I am a member of many Facebook groups and follow similar blogs and websites on Facebook. I love the inspiration I get through this and also have an extensive crochet board on pinterest!
I prefer plastic needles because they are warmer to hold and have a bit of flex and I find the noise that metal knitting needles make to be too much for my sound sensitivities.
I love knitting and crochet books and have a hefty stash of those too, and subscribe to Simply Crochet magazine and Inside Crochet.
I love safety eyes and adding faces to things as it gives me pleasure to see an instant wee personality appearing on my makes! I add faces to all sorts of things!
Why did you start crafting?
I have always been creative- but as I was a primary school teacher I used all of my creative energy on the pupils, classroom and school. I loved my job, so when I became too unwell to work I had the double whammy of untapped creative energy as well as the stress and emotional upset of losing a job that I loved. I was in a lot of pain at the time and my mum taught me to knit in order to give me something to focus on.
I sometimes say crafting saved my life. It certainly saved my sanity…. It means so much to me. It was an escape, something to take my mind off things but also something more than that. It was a reminder to me that I could still do something, that I still had skills even though there was very little else I could do at the time. It helped give me a sense of self worth. I made things as presents for others and that gave me a sense of contributing. Crafting gave me something to talk about, it gave people something they could start a conversation about.
I planned to make a small business or charity out of it but quickly realised I was still too poorly for that. But some day I hope to visit bedbound people and help them to learn to knit. I want them to get the same benefit from it as I did.
What adaptations or changes have you had to make to craft because of your illness(es)?
Luckily I don’t need to use special tools, as I can cope with knitting needles and crochet hooks. I find the biggest adaptation is with the time spent on crafting. When my cognitive energy is low, I can only knit for a short time before my symptoms flare and I end up having to rest in the dark. Physically, it helps to prop myself up on pillows, especially my left arm which gets very sore. When things get too much my mum is always there to do a little bit for me or help me to fix a mistake. For a recent blanket I made, I think she did as many crochet squares as I did!
I am finding that my left finger and hand are becoming increasingly sore and possibly arthritic, when they are playing up I do some needle felting instead. I also swap between knitting and crochet depending on which parts of me are the sorest. It helps to accept that things are going to take much longer than you’d like them to because of the pacing and rest required at every stage.
It’s pretty hard to choose a favourite project, I love crafting all of the little animals I make… but I’d probably choose the artwork I made for myself. It was the first thing I ever made for myself- everything else had been made for someone else, either by request or as a gift. I learned to crochet and then crocheted the flowers with fine thread. It took a long time but I am so proud of it now, and it hangs on my living room wall.
How expensive is your craft?
My mum gave me a knitting bag (with owls on it!) and a full set of knitting needles. She also gave me some of her yarn so that I didn’t need to spend any money to get started. Knitting needles are inexpensive and you can even buy them in the charity shops (you might have to ask as they are sometimes kept behind the till for safety reasons). You often see yarn in charity shops or can buy it cheaply from discount stores. You can of course spend lots of money on beautiful hand spun and embellished yarns too, really the choice is up to you for how much you want to spend.
The point is, that you can get the supplies you need to get you started for next to nothing. You can watch youtube videos and get patterns online for free as well, although if you are like me then you may get addicted to buying pattern books early on!
Advice for someone with a chronic illness starting off in your craft?
Start off with something small, a square or something. Don’t go in with a scarf – they take a long time to knit! YouTube can be easier to follow than written instructions as you can watch the hands moving and copy it. Written instructions can be very confusing for people with cognitive difficulties!
But the most important thing of all is to be patient. I couldn’t do it straight away, and being chronically ill can sometimes mean you are not as quick as you used to be. For me it took much longer than I expected to get to know the different stitches, so stick with it and give it time. You won’t regret it!