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How being a Carer meant I discovered my creativity

Carer discovered creative crafting online craft supplies shop

My name is Lucy and I was introduced to Conscious Crafties by the amazing Karen Thomas (what a fantastic job she is doing, running this website and shouting out for fellow chronic creatives, I think its fab). I don’t have a chronic illness myself, and my story has developed over the last 4 years after losing my mum and then caring for my dad. Which at times I loved and other times felt the drain, the drain of being his emotional rock and making sure his wellbeing was top of my agenda. This then put pressure on my own wellbeing and family. But I loved him and wouldn’t change anything I helped him with, and like they say, and I’m a big believer of….every cloud has a silver lining! From this difficult time in my life I learnt to find my escape and my inner peace, this came in the form of sewing. I sewed at every spare minute I could find and quickly started making for friends and family and as these requests grew I launched my small business Madebylucy that I run from Facebook and Instagram.

This really took off and I was finding such joy making gorgeous cushions and bunting and a whole host of other handmade goodies for others. Hosting Madebylucy parties in people’s homes and attending craft fairs and school fetes.

Then after losing my dad I felt that I would like to share this passion with others and get more people creating and using craft as an escape, and to meet new people, helping them do something that they thought they couldn’t possibly do. So I set up an evening sewing group, a relaxed informal group that would meet weekly, and from posting on my Facebook page an item that we would be making all people had to do was turn up. This has proven really popular and so I expanded further. I now also run an online sewing and craft supplies shop to help people find affordable, fun and inspirational products to give people a chance to have a go, buy from a person they may know, and from one that has a love for the products and uses them in their own work. (AKA ME!)

My online shop is my real passion that with my sewing group and my desire to grow my sewing classes to encourage more people to have a go. I am looking to hold these in my local community, using community buildings that are easy to get to and that don’t feel too daunting to attend.

birdie buttons
Birdie Buttons

Well that’s my story so far and I am super excited about all my future plans I have, and would equally love for you to visit my Instagram page to see what I’m up to or have a browse in my online shop at Ribbon and Thread maybe you’ll come across something gorgeous you just can’t live without! ?

If you’d like to follow me even more, then I have a monthly newsletter that I ping into people’s inboxes at the end of each month. I include a simple to tutorial to have a go at, and share news from the month and sometimes have offers and special discounts for subscribers.

You can find the link on the Ribbon and Thread website.

Thanks for reading my intro and I have been enjoying reading through the other Blogs on the website, such great work going on and in such a supportive community.

Look forwarding to sharing more with you, Thank for the invite Karen.

Love Lucy xx

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Jennifer, Monty and their story

Spina Bifida, Jennifer Quinn

Throughout the world there are thousands upon thousands of people living below the radar. Struggling just to exist, let alone be ‘functioning’ members of the community. These people, people like me, live with disability. Together we form a huge portion of the global community, but with so few of us in the public eye it’s hard to get our stories out there. So that’s what I’m hoping to do. I’d love to give you a window into our lives, a hearty welcome and a good look around!

Jennifer Quinn Spina Bifida disability
Jennifer looking snazzy in her sunnies.

Jennifer is a forty two year old lady who has suffered with Spina Bifida since birth. Basically her spine did not form properly, causing her to live with a host of health problems throughout her life. These include not only crippling pain and loss of sensation, but also mobility issues. For a long time Jennifer fought hard to get around on crutches, until eventually her body could not manage anymore. She is now permanently wheelchair bound.

Spina Bifida Carer
You don’t need a cape to be a super hero.

As Jennifer doesn’t have the upper body strength to propel herself, she relies on others to get her about. Luckily she has a wonderful husband who loves her dearly. He happily devotes himself to caring for her, cooking her meals and taking her anywhere she needs. It takes a special bond to love through severe disability, and they have it. As I’m sure you can imagine, living in constant pain and exhaustion is not easy. For Jennifer, as with many of us struggling with disabilities, depression has dogged her life. Trying its best to creep it’s way into her psyche on even the brightest of days. But she does not let it win!

Spina Bifida Jennifer Quinn Story
The lovely Monty, smiling with Mum

Jennifer has filled her life with so much love its overflowing. How? With her beautiful pooches and pussy cats, who brighten her days with their bouncy personalities and unwavering adoration. One such companion was Monty. A cheerful West Highland Terrier, he was Jennifer’s constant companion of seventeen years. After seeing her through both good times and bad, he said his goodbyes and grew his Angel wings in August of 2015. That loss was one of the toughest to go through, and coming to terms with it has been hard.

You’d think that with so much difficulty in her life Jennifer would be bitter? But you couldn’t be further from the truth. As soon as you speak to her you feel an eternal optimism exuding from her. This strong woman will not let anything bring her down for long. So much so, that rather than wallow in grief, she has turned the harrowing loss of her beloved pet into something positive. Jennifer has chosen to craft. She crafts through pain. She crafts through depression. She crafts through the melancholy of day after day of living with disability. In fact, she’s made so much that she’s even opened her own shop, Monty’s Makes.

Spina Bifida Selling handmade crafts Montys Makes
A handful of items to be found in Jennifer’s shop

Jennifer sells a whole range of beautiful bespoke crafts. Each item can take her days, if not weeks to complete. She does all her crafts sitting down, but due to pain in her back she has to do several short sessions on and one piece. To keep things interesting Jennifer likes to hop from piece to piece. When asked about her crafting she says:

It might take a while to get things done, but I never give up. I enjoy it as it helps me to take things not so seriously.

When visiting Jennifer’s shop you are immediately hit by the sheer volume of beautiful work she has created. From the kitch hand sewn items, to the funky jewellery. There’s something for everyone, not forgetting of course a good dose of doggy themed makes. How could she not. Here’s a few of my favourite pieces:

Charity Blue chipped bangle bracelet
Blue chipped bracelet

I love the jade green and aquamarine hues of this beautiful bracelet. Being a bangle its so easy to pop on, perfect for someone who struggles with fine motor skills like me! Each loop of the bangle has had two of the shimmering beads attached by hand, creating a truly decadent and stunning piece of jewellery. My jaw literally hit the floor when I saw the minuscule price tag. It’s definitely one for my Christmas list!

Felt Birds Decorations for Charity
2 Felt Bird Decorations

A sucker for anything kitch I adore these little felt birds. I can imagine them adorning the nursery of a well loved newborn. Or dancing merrily on a cot mobile to help soothe baby to sleep. Alternatively they’d be great looped through the Zips on handbags as a quirky adornment, looking cool and making the zip easier to grab at the same time. Another feature I love is that Jennifer allows her customers to customise these and many other items, offering a variety of colour choices.

Book or Tablet cushion holder – purple floral pattern
Book or tablet cushion

Finally I have to say that I ADORE this iPad holder. With the issues I have in my wrists I really struggle to hold my iPad. This is not great as I spend the majority of many days in bed, with only my iPad for company. Sometimes the pain is too bad to even hold it. My husband did buy me a small plastic stand, but due to resting it on myself, I often end up with my iPad smacking me in the face. No fun. This is absolutely perfect!! It’s sturdy and pretty and everything I could want in an iPad stand! Even better I have no doubt it could be used for mirrors and even books. I’m really feeling all the love for this item!!

Just when I really thought my admiration for the drive and determination shown by Jennifer could go no further, she surprises me once more. Because Jennifer takes no profit whatsoever from Monty’s Makes. You see in 2002, after a harrowing four year battle with lung cancer Jennifer lost her Father. Then last New Years Eve more sorrow befell her family when her sister in law sadly passed from Breast Cancer. Even with all her own hurdles Jennifer couldn’t sit back and do nothing. So that was why she decided to create her shop and donate all profits to Cancer research. And what does Jennifer have to say about her wonderful gesture?

I just wanted to help others, like I’ve been helped all my life.

If you too want to help others please take a look through Monty’s Makes and see if anything catches your eye. Otherwise feel free to make a donation at Cancer Research UK. Jennifer would really appreciate it.

**Beautifully Written by Jennie Louise Smales from This Little Life of Mine. Please note this is NOT a sponsored post. No money or goods were exchanged for the writing of this post.**

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Told pain was in my mind before diagnosis

Chloe Morante Crafts

Hi, I’m Chloë and I am 18 years old.
Here’s my story..

At the age of 16, I started with agonising pain in my ear which completely stopped me in my tracks. I visited the doctors constantly to try and find the cause of my pain but they had no answers to give. Months and months past and several more doctors appointments were made but no one seemed to understand the pain I was in and because they didn’t understand, they had no idea what was wrong. At first they wanted to treat me for basic things like ear infections etc but I knew 100% that it wasn’t anything like that. The pain was unbelievable, sharp electric shocks that shot through my face and ear leaving me in utter agony. I used to tell the doctors that it felt like “the pain was in my brain.” Luckily, I have a very supportive family so they pushed and pushed at the doctors to get me referred because I couldn’t live this way.. especially with no answers.

I was referred to ENT who did hearing tests, pressure tests and other basic tests of my inner ear, middle ear etc but nothing was found. Since they didn’t find any problem, they referred me to maxioral facial who did X-rays and scans but once again, no problem showed. After this, I was sort of pushed away by the doctors because nothing was showing and in their eyes, they had tried all they could. A year and more went by and the pain calmed down. I didn’t forget about it but I put it behind me till I had finished college and got the grades I worked hard for. A couple of months after college the pain was back with a vegencance. This time the pain was 100 times worse. Like before, the pain started with electric shock like pain, suddenly starting in my ear but this time it didn’t last for seconds, it lasted for hours, even days. On the 7th of September I handed my sick note in at work as the pain stopped me being able to go. My family couldn’t stand watching me in pain and having no answers as to what was wrong, all we did was panic. After more maxioral facical visits, they decided they wanted to send me to a Neurologist. Months and months went by were no appointment came through so my family decided to pay so we could go private and get seen as quick as possible.

My Illness is Real!

An appointment came through and it was the day to see the Neurologist. The neurologist diagnosed me with Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia, wow, there was finally an answer! Glossophraygneal Neuralgia is a rare condition where I have damaged nerves in my brain stem. There can be numerous reasons for this but one of them is that blood vessels in your brain press on the nerves and eventually cause damage. The nerve that is damaged is the one that controls your swallowing and pain can be felt in your tongue, throat, ear and other parts of your face. The pain I feel is mostly in my ear but since being diagnosed, I have felt pain in other places. I have since been put on numerous medications, Carbomazapine and Gabapentin but the side effects have been awful. I’m waiting for an appointment to see the Neurosurgeon for the second time as if the medication doesn’t help the pain.. the last resort is major brain surgery. The pain I feel has since stopped me from going to work as it comes and goes and it so unpredictable. It can be set off by daily things such as eating, brushing my teeth, talking and even cold air on my face. The pain is unbearable at times and can’t be helped by medication so I often take strong Cocodamol to knock me out to sleep when it starts. The pain in my ear is electrifying and burning to the point where I can’t move or talk cause little movement knocks me to the ground. Throat and tongue pain feels like I am swallowing razor blades and sometimes it’s impossible to even swallow my own saliva and I beg for a feeding tube. I’m nearly 19 now and learning my own ways to cope with the pain. I’m still off work as they have kept my position open for me but I am hoping and praying a miracle comes my way very soon! Until that miracle comes my way, I have unconditional support from my family and my boyfriend who keep me going day after day!

Happiness Found In Crafting

When feathers appear angels are nearMy love for crafts started at a very young age whilst watching my mum make her own clothes, curtains, cushion covers and anything she could think of! Whilst being at school and college, in my spare time, rather than going out with friends, I would sit at the dining room table, fill it with my crafts and indulge myself in all the buttons and sparkly things! When I left college and got myself a part time job, my crafts were sort of put aside as the hours I did went up and I was exhausted by the time I got home! (Partly because of my illness.) As I deteriorated and the pain got worse and my sick note was handed in, crafts didn’t even enter my mind and all I did was try and sleep the pain away. I didn’t leave the house as I physically & mentally couldn’t, but at the same time I was sick of the same 4 walls. After seeing the Neurologist and Neurosurgeon and hope was given to me, I knew I needed to find something to keep me going. Chloe Morante CraftsAs I am still off work, I needed to occupy myself on the good days I had rather than staying in bed. One day, I rooted through my crafts and the happiness I found in those drawers was unbelievable! Since then, I have my own little work station set up, a Facebook page to show and advertise my things and I have even had messages about selling my things in a shop on a commission basis! How exciting! Crafting gives me a reason to get up and do something with my day rather than wasting away in bed because I’m not working. It helps to keep my mind going and plus, the money helps too! Crafting makes me happy and all I want out of my crafts is to make others happy when they buy and receive them. I craft to battle through my illness because it gives me something to aim for and a reason to believe in myself when everything in the world feels like it’s going wrong.

Visit Chloe’s Shop 🙂

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Time to heal

A lifetime ago I was a young and energetic (ish) uni student. I studied Surface Pattern Design and had a summer internship set up with Emma Bridgewater. I was going places. I knew my path. It involved graduating from my course and speeding off on my exciting roller coaster of a career. I’d continue to study. I’d travel. I’d make good money and fulfil my dreams.
But life had other plans. My health problems were already there. Though undiagnosed and less severe than today they were already dragging me down. Like lead weights tied to my heels they slowed my progress. Put me forever behind the pack in the race to qualify. But I was determined. I could do this! I would work extra through the summer and take my third year part time. Unfortunately my tutor did not agree. My tutor who also happened to be head of the faculty.
Because I only had a crohns diagnosis she didn’t see how all my other complaints fitted with that. Though I had mountains of doctors notes she felt I had just fobbed off uni. Though, with my allowed extra time, I was on track to pass the year she felt I hadn’t had enough taught time. Her recommendation was repeating the second year and doing the third year part time. I didn’t have enough funding for that. I told her so. I told her I’d have to leave. She stood by her recommendation.
It was then that my life altered. It was the that everything I’d hoped and dreamed of since being tiny crumbled to dust. This was the first major blow dealt to me by my health. The first of many. But this was possibly the one that broke me the most. Not only because it crushed my dreams. Also because my self esteem was shattered. Surely if I had any talent at all my tutor would have fought to keep me on the course? Supported me, as I’d seen her do other students. Not cast me out like last weeks rubbish.
That was almost ten years ago. At the time I believed I picked myself up and carried on, unfazed. But that’s not true. My self belief had taken a huge knock. From that day forward I stopped drawing. I didn’t paint. My sewing machine lay idle and was eventually gotten rid of. Looking back through my social media accounts there’s been many times I’ve sworn I’ll get back into my drawing. My art. But I never did. I remained broken.
Then I started this blog. The first creative thing I’d done in such a long time. Even though I wasn’t writing for anyone in particular it still terrified me. But I ploughed on. A few people seemed to enjoy it, and a friend asked me to share it on her site. (https://www.consciouscrafties.com/) Conscious Crafties is a selling platform for disabled people and their carers. It gives them an outlet for their creativity and helps them to build up their confidence and self worth. Not only did I join the site. I also joined the private group for the Crafties. Being a blogger for the site meant they kindly let me in.
I have to say that being around such a creative group of people has been incredibly therapeutic for me. Their makes are beautiful and inspiring. So inspiring that a few weeks ago I picked up a sketchbook that I’d been given two years before. For the first time in such a long time I sat and I drew. And I enjoyed it! I felt relaxed and at peace. Since then I’ve been to an art master class and enrolled in a life drawing class. Only once a month. But it’s something to look forward to. I’ve drawn more and more and even took some tentative steps into crafting.
I will never be the high flying designer is hoped to be. But thanks to the creative environment I happened upon in Conscious Crafties I’m now starting to enjoy art again. I’m starting to heal.
Here’s a few of my pieces I’ve done and a beautiful key ring which is one of the many items which can be found on Conscious Crafties.

 

Black ink squid drawn from my daughters animal book.

 

My first craft.

 

Pencil sketch of a seal found on google, drawn from my phone.

 

Matisse study done in oil pastels.

 

Hope keyring found on www.consciouscrafties.com

 

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