Hello, tell us who you are and what your craft is?
Hi, my name is Ri (rhymes with tree and known as ‘Mouse’ to my friends) and my craft is making jewellery and other articles using beads and different wires/threads. Unfortunately, I do not run a blog or a specific Facebook page to sell my crafts, as I am too ill to make a big batch of things at once, but I do have a small amount of pieces listed at Make ME Crafts, which is a website where people with ME and or Fibromyalgia and other related illnesses can sell their craft items, whilst earning Invest In ME (IIME) money to fund biomedical research.
My craft items on this site can be found under the name of Foggy Creations (or just click on the link and it will take you straight there). Only a few items are listed at the moment, but if you see anything you like pictured in this article, please speak to Jessica and she will pass a message onto me. 🙂
So, how did my crafting all come about?
Well, I have been ill since 2003 and have been very limited in what I could achieve, being so, so weak, but over the years, as I have learned to pace a little better, I felt I wanted to do something creative again, energy, pain levels and other symptoms permitting. Initially I decided to slowwwwwwwwly create some items for ME/Fibromyalgia/Lupus Awareness Day, 2013, taking my time throughout the days I was awake for any length of time, to craft a bracelet and a key-ring for my closest Meeps (a term I call my friends with M.E., Fibromyalgia etc). I started in November of the previous year and by the end of April had made 50 each of the following:
As I had some left over I used Make Me Crafts to sell the remainder and raise funds for IIME as previously mentioned and slowly I began to add other items.
What illness/es do you have?
I have Severe ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) and am mostly bedbound/housebound. I also have Fibromyalgia, Peripheral Neuropathy, Hyperasthesia, Pernicious Anaemia, Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction, Hypotension, Major Depressive Disorder, Non Epileptic Seizure Disorder, Cervical Ankylosing Spondylits and panniculitis. All of these illnesses are long standing (12 years or longer as I am writing this in March 2015) and have no cure. My prognosis is very poor and it often takes me all of my time to see the light behind the clouds.
Crafting helps me a lot. I have mentioned before that I am mostly housebound. I can venture out for short periods to various hospitals for various appointments, but these are usually spaced out in order to help me to pace, which is imperative with my illnesses. I can be housebound for several weeks and rely on a wheelchair when I do venture out with someone and use sticks, stairlift and walking frame, to name but a few items, whilst indoors, managing only to walk a few steps. The illnesses themselves have many symptoms, and beading means that I can tentatively manage to do something calming, whilst resting a lot in between. The fibromyalgia, however, means that my fingers seize up often, and so it does take me a while to complete an item, but the pain and energy expelled is so worth it when I see the finished product that I have created for friends or loved ones or for ‘Make Me Crafts’. I am also able to bead on my bed so can take regular naps to see me through the day 🙂
What are your favourite pieces of craft equipment?
It’s difficult to say what is my favourite piece of equipment as all are necessary. At the moment, I think my favourite piece is the Kumihimo Disk I am using to make the bracelets for M.E./Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. I have had this disk and a kit for over a year but had felt too ‘bleuurghh’ to concentrate on trying it. But now I have, I love it. It’s so relaxing to do, once the beads are on, which does take me a long time as I have to keep stopping when my hands seize up. The photographs below are the bracelets I am making with it just now. As mentioned before, they do take a while, usually about 3 days per bracelet, but I like the end result.
I have a huge supply of beads in all different colours and sizes because once you decide on a project it’s cheaper to buy in bulk. I buy all my beads and supplies from ebay or Amazon and they currently take up the space of many bead boxes and two underbed drawers! The photograph below only shows the top layer of three. Be warned, collecting beads can become addictive!!!
I occasionally buy the magazine Make and Sell Jewellery, and I use YouTube to help me when I have an idea on something I want to make or to see how to finish off a project etc. There are some really good videos on ‘how to’ in both of these and especially in the early days I found these so helpful.
I also like my ‘Wubbers’, which are a type of looping plier to assist with forming an ‘eye’ in wire. The ones I use look like this and they take a lot of work out of forming loops, for example when making earrings.
Why did you start crafting?
I was always creative … I would draw and paint, and knit until my fingers were sore from knit 1, purl 1! Then, in 2003 my world was turned upside down. One day my body just gave up. Life would never be the same again, after working in Mental Health and Private Counselling for several years, and retraining as a Holistic Therapist, I was about to start my own business merging the two – a career pathway I was relishing – it took many years of being bedbound, and not being able to do more than listen to an audio book for a few minutes before I could even contemplate attempting anything else. I began beading after browsing through a jewellery making magazine, and deciding ‘I could do that’! Raising money for IIME was an added bonus that came out of doing so! 🙂
There was also an element of having to regain at least a little bit of my former self. I was finding it, and still do, extremely difficult to read a book. I get to the end of a sentence and I have completely forgotten what I have read, and after several attempts at re-reading I give up – frustrated! Being a former prolific reader there has been a huge loss in my life. So. that was books out of the question. I tried drawing again but I’ve lost my passion for it. And then beading came along, and so far, has tentatively stayed with me 🙂
What adaptations or changes have you had to make to craft because of your illness(es)?
It isn’t so much a change or adaptation that I’ve had to make but I do have to be aware that my beading can bring on a lot of pain if I do it for too long. Also, my fingers swell up and become ‘claw like’ from the Fibromyalgia if I bead for too long, and I have to spend a while with my TENS gloves on to ease them. Also, I tend to sit cross legged in bed whilst I bead, and because I can only manage this for 10 minutes or so before my legs start to paralyse I have to make sure I don’t have lots of beads/materials on my lap or very close by so I can change position. I do often wear my TENS arm and knee pads as they help with the pain a little. As with everything in my life now, I have to be hyper aware of pacing whilst I’m beading, as too much and I’m fit for nothing for days.
It’s quite difficult to choose a favourite project, as whatever I am working on at the time seems to be my favourite, but I’ve taken a look through my beading project photographs and have come up with the following:
A Chakra bracelet I made for my ex Physiotherapist/Acupuncturist. This was a total pleasure to make as I concentrated on each of the chakras as I worked with them, so it was very relaxing.
These boy and girl pram charms that were commissioned. I had never made one before but relished the challenge and thankfully they turned out lovely and this set of Rosary Beads, with a Sterling Silver Crucifix and Our Lady Centre, made with little beads with a rose embossed in them. Beautiful!
How expensive is your craft?
Beading can be as cheap or as expensive as you wish it to be. I started from scratch, and the initial outlay was pretty expensive as I had to buy the tools etc that I needed. If you are lucky enough to be able to go outdoors to a beading shop you will be able to pick up beads and other bits and pieces cheaper than the way I source things, but this is simply because I cannot get out to browse a shop.
Once you have the essentials – tools, findings (clasps, chain, wire, jump rings etc) beads, bead board, etc., you can make a bracelet or necklace quite cheaply, and keep going until all your beads have gone. But it also depends on the project. As I have mentioned, I am making bracelets for several friends for ME/Fibromyalgia/Lupus etc Awareness Day, alongside regular orders for these bracelets, the outlay has been quite high. Sourceing beads etc the way I do, inevitably means I end up with a lot of different colours/sizes of beads, and this is why I have 2 drawers full of them. 🙂 An example of how much it costs online (Ebay) is 99p for 50g of seed beads. Now this may sound cheap, but when you need several grams of bead, different colours, awareness ribbons, clasps, thread, etc., the project can become expensive. I try to recoup some of my outlay by selling items now and again, but this is a nominal fee as profits go towards the biomedical research I have previously spoken about. I am forever starting a new project and so begins another outlay 🙂
What I will say, however, is that you do not need every tool that is advertised, but you do need several. I made the mistake of buying the tool before I’d even decided what I was going to make, and after 2 years I still haven’t used 1 of them, and it cost me about £30+. Look up tutorials on YouTube when you’ve decided what to make, and see which tools are needed, but to give you an example, you will generally require:
Round Nose Pliers, Flat Nose Pliers, Cutters and Crimpers. These are shown in the first photograph below and are the tools I use ALL the time, especially the Flat Nose and Round Nose Pliers. In the second photograph are some other tools I have bought along the way to help me out with tricky things, such as opening jump rings (the ones in blue), cutting off eye/head pins (top in black) and my Wubbers (green) which help to wind around wire.
Don’t be charmed into buying a kit with all the same colour pliers in just because they look pretty. Some are very cheap, but that will inevitably mean purchasing again at some point.
Do you have any advice for someone with a chronic illness starting off in your craft?
Start off with an easy project, say a pair of earrings, which are fairly simple. Or watch a few tutorials on YouTube to for things like how to master finishing off the clasp of a bracelet, as this is the part that I found the most difficult to learn when I was beginning. THEN decide on your project, and go gently. Don’t become frustrated that your efforts aren’t amounting to much in the early days. It will take time to adjust to perhaps doing the first thing you’ve attempted in many years. Being chronically ill means that you MUST learn to listen to your body, especially if you are crafting. Beading can become addictive, but you still need to learn when enough is enough – for as long as it takes for your body/mind to recuperate. Listen to the pain, the fatigue, when your cognitive abilities are fading … and STOP. With this in mind, rest at a point in your project where you can go and pick it back up and restart it without any problem. You’ll find ways to help you with this as you go along!