Crafting through chronic illness

I recently visited my partner at his home, which is quite a rare occasion, due to health and hospital appointments, he is usually at mine. I sat down and noticed this lump of materials I had made a while ago, which we had nicknamed jellybean. It was then my partner asked me just how long it had been since I had made jellybean. I thought for a while and said ‘around two years’. We were both quite surprised at this and taken aback. It had not felt like that long a time, but it had also felt like forever.

Jellybean had been my first attempt at anything craft like. I had taken art courses for most my life but had always detested crafts. My high school teacher had always been hard on me, due to her hate of my older sisters. She assumed I had the same type of personality and was very hard on me from day one. This led to me dropping textiles soon after. I had never learned to sew or cut fabric, I couldn’t even iron!

Sew many teddies - craft therapy

Left to right – Jellybean 2015 , Felt bear 2016 – Archie the jointed bear 2017

I had left my PGCE course for teaching in primary schools in 2014 after struggling with my mental health and my physical health deteriorating soon after. I couldn’t handle the amount of work and the constant travelling that was asked of me, and went from a lot of stress to simply lying in my bed crying for days at a time. It took around three months for me to leave my room or my house and interact with people. I was lucky to have my amazing partner Adam with me, helping overcome these barriers, finding new ways to track my progress, one of which was a list of things I wanted to do or achieve, no matter how big or small, it would go on the list and I needed to cross off at least one item a month. This process is something I hold dear to me, and after two years, I still have this list, still marking things off that I have done, not only from habit, that has helped me manage my mental health, but also as a reminder of the small things I couldn’t once face that I can now do with ease.

One of the checks on my list was to get rid of clothes I had not worn or did not want. This was to make more space, and in hopes that a little cleaning would do me some good. I remember looking through the clothes and seeing a set of love heart pajamas I had never worn and thought ‘maybe this might come in handy for something else?’ With my health I had lost my education and my job and felt that I needed to find something to fill up my time, so that I didn’t sit around worrying for most of the day. I decided to take this clothing and make something from it. Bearing in mind that I had never made anything in my life, I didn’t know that a pattern would have made this a lot easier! I just started cutting bits out of the material and sewing them together. It took me a whole day, but I came up with new ideas, buttons eyes, arms attached to a cape not attached to the body.

When I saw my finished jellybean I thought, bloody hell what is this mess I’ve made. The fabric was inside out in some places, stitched horribly, and a bit of a mess, but I loved him. He was something I’d actually finished. Yes he was a monster, but he was my monster. Later on I had shown Adam and he wanted jellybean. He said yes it was a bit odd, but it was the first thing I had made and for that he loved it.

This first make, and how it had made me feel creating something from very little, lit a spark in me. If this had been taught to me properly in school, it would have been my calling. I wanted to do nothing but make things. This is where i should mention I have Asperger’s. I ate, breathed and slept crafts. Every part of my day was invested in making items. At first they were a little ‘rustic’ shall I call it, but I invested time in experimenting and repeating these crafts until I had made something I thought was quite appealing. This was my little felt bear.

I found this pattern on How Joyful for free and tried it out myself. It said for experienced sewers, but I was determined, and after many MANY failed attempts, I cracked the pattern. It felt that I had learned a secret language, that had been there the whole time, but I never noticed it until now. with this new found ability, I looked everywhere for new patterns I could use, free patterns that I could try over and over, until I was happy with the outcome.

After making all of these teddies, I realised that I wasn’t 100% with the type of fabric I had been using. I had mainly used recycled clothes, fleece and felt, but I wanted to look into more technical processes. To make the kinds of bears that I had seen in the craft fairs and online that appealed to me so much. I went about online looking at patterns I liked the look of, changing them and altering them to the look I wanted and that’s pretty much where I am now! I have only made around 5 of these bears, but I can already see a difference between these few, and such a huge difference from 2015 to now!

Jellybean looks terrible, but I love him for being my first step on this journey. I love following others that do similar things and looking at others who create these amazing crafts so that I can learn and become better in this field and hopefully create bigger and better things! It just goes to show that practice and time are key elements in everything that you do.

VIST MY SHOP – SewManyTeddies

Published in Anxiety / Depression, Aspergers, Autism & Aspergers, Craft, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), IBS, Illness / Disability, Mental Health
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