Crafting with Chronic Illness

  • by Nikki Small
Nikki Small modelling her Pelydr Tesni wrap on the beach at Llandudno.

Many of you will know that I suffer with ME (Myalgic Encephalopathy). This is a chronic illness which I’ve had for over 20 years now and affects my day-to-day life in many ways.

I am not the only one. There are millions of people all over the world who suffer with different chronic illnesses which affect how they live their lives and for many of us, our crafting has become a huge part of how we cope with that.

My journey with crafting started in my teens. I learnt to knit, and then crochet, and then gradually over the years my other woolly hobbies have taken hold too!

For me, the joy of crafting is that it is something that I can do to my own timetable, my own abilities, and my own desire. If I don’t fancy doing it that day, it doesn’t matter. If I don’t have the energy or am too sore to be able to knit one afternoon, that’s ok too. It is there for me when I need it, rather than requiring anything of me.

Crafting is also mindful, meaning that as I am now well practiced, I can just sit and knit or crochet without really thinking about it. I get lost in the repetitive stitches and can just breathe and ‘be’ rather than needing to think of all the different things that are going on in my life. This has been really helpful over the years during particularly stressful times, or times when my health is at it’s worst.

Many who have only met me in recent years probably don’t know that I was, in fact, bed bound and housebound for a number of years in my 20s. I was far too poorly to leave the house, or my bed, for a very long time. I still occasionally require a wheelchair to this day. It has been a long road to get to the point where I am now able to work in the shop part time and to run the businesses from home.

Nikki in her electric blanket, struggling with an ME crash.

Even at my worst moments, I would still try to knit a few rows a day. It kept me sane, and it was something tangible that could show that I *had* accomplished something that day. It wasn’t much, but I had done *something*. This was a huge boost for me.

For many people with chronic illnesses, or mental health problems, this feeling of having accomplished at least a small thing, and having enjoyed it, is a huge benefit. And there are so few things that can give you that feeling when you’re too poorly to get out of bed.

I know that I would not be the person I am today, or have coped through my illness as well as I have done without my crafting, and that is why I try so hard to help enable people to pick up a craft wherever they are, whatever they are interested in trying, and especially if they are suffering physically, mentally or emotionally.

That is one of my hopes with our new Craftucation platform - that it will make taking up a craft, or advancing in one you already do, much more accessible. It’s also why I love being in the shop and able to meet people and talk to them, helping them with their projects.

Although I am no longer house or bed bound, I do still suffer with my ME. This is why I sometimes go ‘a bit quiet’ for a few days or weeks. It is also why my productivity is not quite to the level where it might be otherwise… but to me it also means that anything I do achieve, any project I finish, any design I publish or advance made in the shop, is even more of an achievement. It has given me the ability to see my accomplishments in a brighter light.

If you suffer with a chronic illness of any type, I would definitely recommend trying to pick up a crafting hobby. It doesn’t have to be wool related! Just something that you can work at in your own time, see your improvements, see the results, and know ‘I did that’!  

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1 thought on “Crafting with Chronic Illness

  1. I have had chronic anxiety and depression for about 40 years. A lot of the time I feel quite “normal” but then some, usually quite minor, thing will trigger a bad period. With low level medication and having learned coping strategies I am having less and more manageable episodes, thank goodness. Like you, I find crafting very therapeutic and would recommend it to anyone with chronic health problems.

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