A few days ago I stumbled across a thread on Mumsnet written by a lady who had suddenly lost her three-year-old daughter very recently. She detailed her heart-wrenching grief and the weeks following since it happened. Her agony was palpable through the screen and it made me want to do something for her – anything.
I then saw that someone mentioned a Woolly Hug was being made for her, and so I dug further to find out what it was. It turned out to be that a community of crafters have got together to make blankets for people who have been bereaved – usually having lost a child or a partner. First the person is asked whether they wish to receive one, and if they agree a list of specific colours, hobbies and interests are listed and each person knits or crochets a 6 inch square.
People with all different abilities take part, from complete beginners to those that have been doing it for years. Plain squares are just as wanted as someone who has painstakingly created a beautiful image of something from the theme. For those who want to help but aren’t crafty, there is also a way to donate either money or wool to those that can. The project is amazingly well coordinated by a few people who also receive all the squares and out of them create a beautiful blanket.
I believe the blankets are a perfect expression for those who have that same feeling of wanting to do something to help. You can’t take their pain away, but you can show you care. And then in time that blanket will become a lovely keepsake for the person that has lost someone and hopefully provides some measure of comfort.
The group also take part in other worthwhile causes such as Angel Hugs for the Brompton Hospital in London where they make white blankets for babies that have passed away; Billie’s Blanket Project to create blankets for children with cancer in low income countries; The Little Hug project which again makes blankets for children and babies who end up in hospital that the family can keep; Angel Teds which are two identical teddy bears, that enable a family to bury one with their baby and keep the other; the Chernobyl Children’s Project for children living closest to the radiation; as well as doing regular fundraisers for charities such as MIND, SANDS or Winston’s Wish.
I found the whole thing so inspiring that I’ve decided to give knitting a try. I have so many things I want to learn and have a whole room full of craft stuff – but I’m hoping knitting won’t take up as much space as jewellery and card making and it can contribute to some really amazing causes.
Even better the Woolly Hugs has been picked as one of Mumsnet’s Giving Week organisations. They have a Just Giving page here and they will match any funds given up to £25,000.
The wool that works well for the blankets costs anywhere between £3.50 – £5.50, plus it costs approx £2.80 to post a ball if it’s been donated. Every penny helps them provide materials to members who can’t afford to supply their own. If you miss the Just Giving Fundraiser, they always accept direct donations.
Woolly Hugs can be found on Facebook and their website is here and here.
Has anything ever inspired you to start a new craft? If you’re a knitter – what are your favourite resources? Any tips for a beginner?
And if you’re inspired to make something for the Woolly Hugs projects, please let me know!
For anyone inspired to start knitting here are some resources I’ve found helpful so far:
How to Tie a Slip Knot
How to Cast On
How to Knit Stitch
When you’re in constant pain, it’s very easy to focus on it. It can become all-consuming, and the more you think about it – the worse it feels. Someone once suggested to me that I try crafting as a means of distraction. I have to be honest, I was a little annoyed – how would painting a pretty picture take my crippling pain away? It seemed a little dismissive. Plus there was also the fact I’d never thought of myself as a particularly creative or artistic person. At school even my doodled stick figures ran screaming in terror, and my art teacher made it clear it wasn’t my forte, but I thought I’d give card-making a try.
I enjoyed making them, but they weren’t that great. I’d look online at all the beautiful designs people were creating, and it just didn’t feel quite like me. After I’d spent a fortune on card-making supplies, I decided to try my hand at jewellery instead, and in doing so found a new passion.
The early days of making jewellery weren’t easy – my hands cramped up terribly, and I was left with blisters all over my skin. In time my dexterity improved and it helped strengthen some of my muscles in my hands. And it was true – when I’m busy concentrating on making a new item, my brain is focused elsewhere. It doesn’t make the pain go away, it just redirects my attention so I’m not thinking about it, which is really helpful.
Once I joined the world of crafting – I found more and more other people with disabilities were also there, and finding an outlet in art – by painting, woodwork, ceramics, photography or anything in-between. For example a friend of mine makes ‘pain monsters’ from felt when she’s having a bad day, which helps her create a visual representation of what she’s feeling.
It took me quite a long time to find out what was wrong with me. Many years of fighting and pleading with the medical community to stop shrugging their shoulders, and to do something. When I was told I had Fibromyalgia, it came as something of a relief. I felt like I wasn’t alone – there were other people with this stupidly long list of symptoms out there. I wanted to commemorate the end of that fight, that also informed people about the condition. I made my first Fibromyalgia awareness bracelet not long after, and then began to receive requests to create ones for other conditions – including some I’d never heard of before. People liked the more personalised feel to the more generic rubber bands that are usually sold. My biggest seller was for Marie Charcot Tooth Disease, and eventually the national charity began to order from me so they could sell them on their website.
I also auctioned lots of my bracelets off for the Fibromyalgia Association UK, and also for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome related charities when I was diagnosed, a genetic multi-systemic connective tissue disorder. It made me feel like I was helping, even in one tiny way.
An Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome bracelet featuring zebra stripe beads – the symbol of the condition
It’s very common to walk into a shop and see a row of pink coloured items for Breast Cancer awareness. Yet there are so many other conditions that people often haven’t even heard of before, let alone understand what they entail and what it’s like to live with them. People have often told me when wearing one of my awareness bracelets it has sparked conversations with friends and family who had never asked about their health before.
Fibromyalgia Awareness Bracelet
Fibromyalgia Awareness Bracelet 2
The colours of the bracelets are usually picked by the existing awareness ribbon colour, and if there isn’t one, then by the colours of the national organisation/charity for the condition. Sometimes there are obvious symbols that can be included as charms. Fibromyalgia often has an association with butterflies, Autism with jigsaw pieces, Charcot Marie Tooth Disease with hands and feet. Sometimes a spoon charm is added from the fantastic analogy “The Spoon Theory” by Christine Miserandino, to which many people with chronic illness resonated with. My most commonly used charm is simply a silver ribbon with the word hope written on it – as I believe that’s something we all need in some form or another.
Arthritis Awareness Bracelet
In April this year I had to stop working due to my health continuing to get worse. Being able to make jewellery – even if it’s for twenty minutes in the middle of the night when I’m struggling to sleep, has helped keep my spirits up and creativity flowing.
If you’re interested in seeing more of my jewellery and awareness items you can find me under Sparkly Place Jewellery on Facebook.