now that I’ve introduced myself, I thought I’d write about my sewing history.
I have been messing around with a needle and thread for about twenty years, but only in the last four or five years have I really started to take it seriously. My interest in crafts started at secondary school where I learnt to use a sewing machine and made a few basic items – most memorably a Cornish pasty pin cushion for my half-Cornish grandmother. She still has it somewhere.
School is also where I learnt to cross-stitch; there was a cross-stitch kit available to anyone who would stitch it for charity. I chose a Mr Blobby picture. My sister and our friends at the time all had a go at cross-stitch; one of them had actually been sewing for years but none of us knew about it.
From these beginnings I picked up a needle occasionally, buying kits when I felt like it. It wasn’t until I moved away from my home town that I started sewing again. I went to university in Durham, to study chemistry. It was a struggle and I needed a distraction, so I bought a couple of DMC kits one needle weaving and the other blackwork.
Blackwork became my new interest. While at university I also tried a bit of embroidery and made a skirt, all by hand as I didn’t have access to a sewing machine.
I finished university eleven years ago, just scraping a third in Natural Sciences. Since then I’ve been in and out of work, but I’ve always had a sewing project on the go.
In 2009 I met my closest friend, who got me into crochet. She’s a marvel with a crochet hook. I’m still on granny squares and straight lines. My girl can make anything, including squid, wavy blankets and baskets. I also started sewing again, finishing large embroidery projects and planning small sewing projects.
At the time I was working shifts and usually finished by 2 p.m., meaning I spent a lot if time looking after my sister’s children after school. As I’d been up since five, by the time I picked the children up from school I was exhausted, so I taught them a basic stitch one day and let them loose in the material stash.
The first large sewing project I completed was a skirt of my own design. In 2012 I had an industrial accident and was off work for two months. During that time, with the help of my closest friend and her mum (and her sewing machine) we turned my sketch into reality. I wore the skirt, and a matching beaded scarf, for my sister’s 30th birthday, a masked ball.
In the last few years I’ve completed a few embroideries and crochet projects. Since moving into my own home last September (I’m a late bloomer) I’ve made table clothes and cushions to personalise my rented house.
That almost brings us up to date.
In January this year I had a serious depressive episode and found myself out of a job. I have had depression on and off all my life. It’s a part of my reality. I was first medicated for it in 2010. This time round I got different medication – after much insistence on my part – and went for a course of therapy. Which didn’t work particularly well. During the therapy sessions the therapist asked what I liked to do. Other than reading and writing my mind was blank. So she set me homework to find out what I enjoyed and try to find a group of like-minded people.
When I got home I looked round my sitting room and suddenly remembered.
I love making things.
A few days later I saw a small poster in a cafe for a sewing club and summoned up the courage to go.
That was in April.
Since then I have been to sewing club almost every week. Unless I’m really exhausted (which happens very easily when you are anaemic, depressed and constantly anxious) I try to attend every week. Some weeks it has been the only time I’ve left the house; it is a struggle then, but I know I’ll find a welcome, a cup if tea and a listening ear there.
I have also had the chance to re-learn to use a sewing machine (though I still don’t have one if my own) and to collect patterns. We make something new every week, and now I can pick up a magazine or pattern book and make sense of what I’m seeing.
A few weeks ago, I was lamenting my inability – due to depression – to work full time like ‘normal’ 32 year olds, and the dire poverty that living on benefits causes (seriously, anyone who thinks people on the sick are living in luxury have never had to do it. In order to pay my rent I have to get my mum to buy my food. It’s that or I don’t eat two weeks in every four. Fresh fruit and veg – essential to my health – is a luxury.) when it was suggested that I could sell some of my creations at craft fairs.
I’ve been working on a line of animal keyrings lately; last week I took my prototypes to Sewing Club for feedback and nearly didn’t bring two of them home. Since they seem popular I have started work on stock for craft fairs, and I’m going to see about getting a shelf in a local cafe that has space for hand made craft items from local people.
I’ve made a slight recovery, and now I’m cognizant of my situation I need an income stream in addition to my benefits. I am starting a part-time job as a test supervisor, as permitted work under DWP rules, but it is only going to be five or six hours a week, if there is any work at all.
I find crafting therapeutic; when I can’t settle to write – my ambition for the future is to make half my monthly income from freelance writing – I sew. It’s a very single minded task and keeps my hands busy. Today I am anxious – I start my new job tomorrow afternoon and I’m already convinced I’ll mess it up – but I have my sewing beside me so I’ll focus on that for a few hours.
Thanks for reading,