Susan the crafter

Well for me crafting is something I have done and enjoyed doing pretty much since before I reached double figures. It has also been one way that I have maintained my sanity while life was going crazy around me. When I read about the mental health benefits of crafting years later it made a lot of sense. Crafting had been my coping mechanism for years without me ever even realising that that was what it was. Here are some of the things I have done.

Made things for myself, my home and my family including gifts and clothes.

I did that for years developing skills in knitting, crochet and dressmaking. Translation – when I did not have the mental strength or energy to find and keep a job because I was struggling as a carer I used crafts to stay active and productive. For many years I was on such a tight financial situation that I could hardly breathe. Being able to make Christmas presents and therefore make something for very little money was a great blessing.

Made banners and flags to display in church and use for processions.

Most of the time I used a sewing machine to applique small pieces of fabric on top of a larger one to create a simple picture. I did this with the first banner that I ever made and designed. It was very simple a cross on a hill with the words let my people come unto me. The cross was made of corduroy or in French the cloth of the king. I chose it because it had a fault in it that made it feel as coarse as wood. The green hill was a knitted fabric but it had a soft fluffy that should have been inside a garment but I sewed it onto the banner so that only the soft side was accessible. That was the sensory side that I knew while making it.

That banner had more meaning than I anticipated. What I did not know at the time was that the older members of that congregation had been soundly taught by a former minister that having a cross clearly visible put them at risk of idolatry. I had no idea about this until someone asked the church if they wanted a large wooden cross from a church that was closing. The older generation were unanimous, no way it was too dangerous. Yet the words I was inspired to put on that banner were let my people come to me,

The moral of that story is that making things can help you touch the minds and hearts of people in ways that other approaches cannot.

Made jewellery to sell at craft fairs and local carnivals.

The first time I did this it gave me the opportunity to do a course. I had the idea for this as a business and then had a dream.  I woke up knowing that I was a prisoner because I had not done enough jobsearching. If I had done some jobsearching then I could have been a warder at the prison helping the prisoners. It was a holiday so how on earth could I start looking for a job? I could do a search online and find people to send have you got a job letters to. As I did this I found out about a course to help me start a business. A course that added to my teaching qualifications meant that I am qualified to teach business start up.

Some of this jewellery used crocheted pieces and others beads or stones. I have gathered a variety of skills doing that such as how to find places to go and sell stuff. Not as easy as you might think when you are getting established.  Then there are ideas for presenting things on a stall.

The lesson form this is that making things can be a way of improving your financial situation.  It is hard work and takes a lot of skill but making crafts can be a good way of learning practical business skills.

Run the craft sessions at a drop-in for people with mental health challenges.

I started going to that drop-in as I needed to support and over time I loved up to volunteer and then to part-time staff leading the group. That was where I learnt that the best source of ideas for craft activities for everyday people were children’s craft books. It was much easier making a simple activity designed for children more suitable for adults than it was to simplify many of the activities in adult craft books.

Many of the adult craft books are written to inspire those who want to improve their skills. They already know more than those who attended those sessions. Not all crafters are experts or want to be experts. There are many people who want to make things but are not interested in becoming experts.

Since I did this I have learnt a lot more about the benefits of crafting when it comes to mental health. I was doing it for pleasure but the boss encouraged it because she knew more about the positive aspects to it.

Been the co-leader of an offline craft group that was started for people with learning disabilities

The aim was to serve those with just learning disabilities but we ended up serving people with greater cognitive impairment than we expected. People who also had sensory and physical impairments. One of the original intentions of this project was to learn more about how to develop activities for people with learning disabilities. We certainly did that we discovered a community of people many overlook i.e. people with severe challenges who are supported by teams of professionals.

We discovered the reality of the idea that Everyone CAN Craft. Yes, it takes teamwork and organisation but it is possible to include people who quite frankly can barely do a thing for themselves in a variety of crafting activities. I now have an answer to all those who say they can’t do anything because if the folks at that group can do something then they can.

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