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“A sense of purpose”: How crafting helped me manage my chronic illness

KellyReidKellyReid Member Posts: 1 Listener

Kelly Reid is a blogger and Instagrammer, talking all things chronic illness. She also runs a pen pal matching service for people with chronic illnesses. In this blog post she shares how crafting become a big part of her life while managing a chronic illness.

Hi, I’m Kelly, a chronically ill crafter and content creator. I was diagnosed with ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) in 2010 when I was just 13 years old. For the last ten years, I’ve balanced school, university and now blogging alongside the chronic fatigue, muscle pain and other symptoms that ME causes.

When I first got sick I went down hard and fast. I lost about 70% of my functionality, becoming housebound in just a few months, and my mental health took a hit alongside it. I was scared and lost, desperately hoping that it wouldn’t be like this forever.

Kelly writing. She is wearing a vintage dress and headscarf.

Discovering an old hobby

Every week my mum and I drove past this tiny sewing shop on the way to my flute lessons, with handmade quilts and knitted scarves in the windows. When we finally stopped for a look, I fell in love. I was always crafty as a kid, and as we wandered through seeing the beautiful quilts on display, I couldn’t help myself. I went home with a small bundle of fabric, a chunk of wadding, and the determination to hand sew a quilt.

That was just my first project. In the following years, I’ve tried my hand at quilting, embroidery and knitting. Over the years my health has slowly improved, and I started to pull away from crafting, distracted by the excitement of university. But when I relapsed a couple of years ago, it was one of the first things I turned back to. Having creative projects to work on, small and simple enough to do from bed, gives me something to focus on and a sense of purpose. It’s become almost meditative; the repetitive motion of each stitch pulls me out of the chaos of my head and situates me firmly in the real world.

It's more than just crafting, it’s a community

This is the joy of crafting. Unlike the digital creative work I do, when I’ve finished embroidering a necklace or sewing a new skirt, I get to hold the thing I've made in my hands. It's tactile and real and I can see my contribution to the world. Whenever I’m feeling lost or questioning the point of life, having something so tangible has become the best kind of therapy for me. I also get to share it with other people. Through Instagram, I have found a community of people like me who love crafting, sharing with me the ups and downs of each new project. It goes a long way to break the isolation of being housebound, making me feel like I’m still a part of the world. 

Crafting can be super accessible. All you need to start knitting or crocheting is a ball of wool and some needles. With just a few stitches you can make a scarf, hat or soft toy from the comfort of your bed (you can also get machines that help if you struggle with mobility in your hands). There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube, but I also recommend The Reluctant Spoonie for some adorable, paced beginner's patterns.

Endless possibilities

The excitement of any new project is that you never know what it might turn into. You could fall in love with making clothes like Annika (@LittlePineNeedle), knit toys for charities, or advocate for the causes you believe in using embroidery art, like @SubversiveCrossStitch. I took my love of card making and letter writing and started Spoonie PenPals; a pen pal matching organisation for people with chronic illnesses. Now I always have people to make cards for!

So, what are you going to make? Pick something fun and easy to start, and then let me know how it goes!

If you want to follow Kelly’s journey, she blog’s at Kelly Reid Creations and Spoonie PenPals is her pen pal matching organisation.

Replies

  • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Administrator Posts: 1,469 Pioneering
    I love this! I've always thought of myself as totally non-crafty, but I have been looking for a new hobby to get me through lockdown...
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  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Administrator Posts: 10,652 Scope community team
    Amazing! Do you have anything in mind @Tori_Scope
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  • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Administrator Posts: 1,469 Pioneering
    I've just been made aware of the wonderful art of felting by a mysterious crafter, so maybe that @Chloe_Scope
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  • izaiza Member Posts: 470 Pioneering
    Hi @KellyReid, thank you very much for the article and sharing possible ways of getting creative. Creativity is my second name , I am trying to get very creative as often as I can but brining child up myself along my health problems takes most of my time. The disaster of Covid 19 pandemic , 7 months with son 24h a day equal to  lack of time for myself and my creativity. But now when he is back to school I am trying new techniques.  I  also just signed up for spooniepenpal.  Lat  few weeks I was already searching on the Instagram for #happymails penpal as  I love chatting to people either vebally, online or by writing and sppoting your post here on Scope was like wake up call. I will look forward to write, and exchange letter with somebody. Great iniciative, well done. Iza 

  • deb74deb74 Member Posts: 632 Pioneering
    Hi @KellyReid I also have ME amongst other things which makes it almost impossible to hold down a job. I have worked for myself on and off for years and earlier this year I decided to have a go at making resin  jewellery which I now sell in a local craft shop. I would post a photo but I can't remember how to do it.
  • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Administrator Posts: 1,469 Pioneering
    Hi @deb74! Well done on the jewellery success, that sounds fantastic.

    You can upload a picture by clicking on the 'attach image' icon to the right of the 'attach file' icon and uploading an image you've got saved. I've attached a screenshot down below in case it helps:



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  • deb74deb74 Member Posts: 632 Pioneering
  • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Administrator Posts: 1,469 Pioneering
    I love the design @deb74! Really cool. Have you considered posting on our KaleidoScope thread for arts and crafts? 
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  • deb74deb74 Member Posts: 632 Pioneering
    I have just started to put my jewellery on Etsy and folksy.
  • Wini1960Wini1960 Member Posts: 98 Courageous
    Wini1960 The comments about crafts has given me the push to get back to my knitting and crotcheting again. Ive made lots of baby clothes for my local hospital. Thank you so much. My mental health always seems to take a battering through the Autumn/,Winter days.months and my joints becomes very painful. Thank you again🙂🌷
  • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Administrator Posts: 1,469 Pioneering
    edited October 15
    You're definitely not alone in finding the Autusm and Winter months more challenging @Wini1960. Some of our members have been sharing what they think about the darker evenings on this thread

    Have you ever posted your knitting and crocheting projects on KaleidoScope? I'd love to see them :)

    Making baby clothes for the hospital is such a lovely thing to do.
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