I have never written a blog before so this is a brand new experience for me and I would love to create a space where I can connect and engage with like minded crafters – like you!  My goal is to develop tutorials for you, explore articles of interest and maybe even get going some group projects, which would be very exciting! 

The growing list of ideas bubbling away in my head make it hard to know quite where to start so I thought, what has been the biggest impact upon us all for almost 19 months now?  The pandemic.  The pandemic has changed so much for so many of us and yet while the world is beginning to find its feet and the economy begins to grow there still remains uncertainty and worry for many people and another winter to navigate.  

Of particular interest to me is understanding how the pandemic has impacted upon us and our creativity.  For me it has been positive in a number of ways and my life experiences through the pandemic have really grounded me to what I already knew – being creative improves my well being and it gives me an outlet to absorb myself in and which I see a return for my efforts – even if at first I am not entirely sure what I make of them!!  It’s like gardening, I have found a love of gardening this year and some of my efforts have been beautiful and some I gratefully dug up today and composted.  That’s gardening – trial and error and that’s crafting too.  In fact I would go as far as to say, that’s life.  If we do not make mistakes we never learn.  If we do not allow an experience to evolve we do not grow.  

Using Art As Therapy

So, let’s begin though by touching on what we know about the benefits of participating in creative tasks – which is highlighted through research and is therefore a must have reason for that book of justifications as to why you have bought yet more fabric; more stash!  People who are able to become involved in creative tasks, such as crafting, experience greater positive feelings most of the time and tend to enjoy better health and live longer, Lyubomirsky et al., 2005, Diener and Chan 2011. Furthermore, a study by Lazarus and Folkman, 1984, argued that individuals who engage in creative activities harness and amplify positive feelings about themselves, which in turn improves their resilience and well-being.  Too true!  Creativity as a resource of enhancing well-being is well recognised and art therapy and mindful colouring has emerged and been deployed in many areas of life as a technique/coping strategy to improve mental health outcomes.  For many people they find art therapy to be especially useful to help them to express and verbalise difficult emotions Smith, 2016.  That’s why today, art therapy is being used within the NHS to help support those practitioners who have or are suffering as a result of the pandemic.  Many of the wonderful quilters I have had the pleasure to work with have often talked about how patchwork and quilting helps them cope  with challenging times and feelings of depression.

Crafting Is Good for Mind & Soul

I can completely connect with this. I have always enjoyed crafting or creating.  During my 20’s I put crafting on hold for a while in favour of nights out clubbing with my friends, but by my early 30s I was back to crafting with card making, cake decorating (well attempting to!) and dabbling with silk painting too.  This progressed onto scrapbooking, sewing and making numerous Christmas table decorations for friends and family.  By 2013, creating Lovingly Quilted seemed a natural progression and I still can’t quite believe that I get to spend my days adding the quilted finish to my customers patchwork tops.  My job isn’t a job, it is a way of life.  I have no defined hours as such and I can often be found hand sewing binding of an evening or pattern shopping or designing.

Time To Reflect

Back in March 2020 when we were first put into a nationwide lockdown I felt that my life slowed down and for the first time in years I had been allowed off the frantic hamster wheel that saw me spend as much time as I worked sat in a car running mums dance taxi service.  As the girls were not in school I was able to enjoy a more leisurely start to my day and being unable to work from home, yet having the relative isolation of the cabin in the back garden at my parents home, I continued to work.  I began a delivery and collection service and after the initial 6 weeks my workload became very hectic.  I think it would be fair to say that through the first lockdown we were blessed with wonderful weather and for those who were not directly affected by grief from losing a loved one to Covid-19, it proved an almost perfect opportunity to work on their unfinished projects or mark the moment in living history by creating lockdown (rainbow) projects.  Many communities found new ways of coming together and we all found new ways of communicating via zoom.  Even my parents mastered this one! 

Through the summer some freedoms returned for some but for others they were now approaching six months shielding and I know some of my customers still largely continue to shield today.  The impact of the pandemic upon mental health was by now becoming mainstream news and it is evident to me that even today, the pandemic continues to have a big impact upon us all, whatever our age, in different ways.

A Difficult Time…

More personally for us we found that through the first lockdown our youngest daughter, who is almost definitely on the autistic spectrum and aged 14, found the sudden change to her routine, the withdrawal of social interaction and the presence of constant negative news took her into a depression.  Not finding it easy to socially engage and without having the social interaction that school brings, she withdrew and spent much of her time watching endless episodes of Friends on Netflix.  In contrast, my eldest daughter, aged 16, suddenly found that being home removed her pre-pandemic mental health triggers, which at the time were school and dance studio mirrors.  Dance lessons became via zoom and largely on a one to one basis and there was not a mirror in sight!  By July though her world had begun to open up she returned to the dance studios and back to commuting to London weekly.  By September 2020 we began to notice Hannah eating less and less and losing weight very rapidly and by Halloween she was restricting her calorie intake to 250 calories per day.  Hannah’s dance was forced to cease following a collapse in London and her weight became compromised sufficiently that CAMHS instructed me to not even allow her to go to school to preserve her energy.  These were dark days for us all and for anyone who has experience of living or supporting someone with an eating disorder you will fully understand the nature of the illness.  It is an acute mental health illness that effects the whole family.  

So why is it that I mention this, well it is the link to creativity that helped us through.  At first I suffered from a form of PTSD and I too lost a lot of weight.  Mindful colouring saw both Hannah and I through the worst.  We coloured sometimes throughout the night when she felt suicidal, and I coloured pictures as I sat alongside Hannah through meals etc.  For Hannah, colouring created a means of support for her as she talked and it helped us all to learn what it was that Hannah was unable to verbalise with words but by control of her food.  I used it to help me cope with my anxiety and trauma.  Colouring and crafting became a mealtime favourite alongside cards and board games.  

Moving Forward, One Step At A Time

Life for Hannah and Katherine is much improved now.  Hannah’s eating is more stable and we have learnt that relapse can come in many forms from binge eating to alcohol and drug addiction.  We have experienced the extremes of eating and self harm and I hope we can avoid the others – but at least our family therapy and ongoing counselling makes us aware of the different guises of relapse and helps us all learn our coping strategies.  When exposed to traumatic events individuals often reflect upon their core beliefs about themselves and the world in which they live and as a result of these reflections we are often more willing to make changes in many aspects of our lives.  This can be to simply have a greater appreciation of life, the relationships we have around us and the recognition of our personal strength and spiritual development.  Each of these changes and reflections contribute to the manifestation of creativity.  

For some, the beginning of the pandemic and the restrictions imposed through the first lockdown provided a motivation and space in life to create and craft as a means of overcoming the constraints that were placed upon them.  I think too that the warm sunny weather helped and I know that many people felt the same as me with the slower pace of life and a realisation that we actually enjoyed the new pace and the greater family time.  

The Impact Of Isolation

As we went into the autumn and winter we faced the 2nd and 3rd lockdown.  We found we had difficult family decisions to make regarding Christmas activities; the Delta variant and its associated increase in the rate of infection, hospitalisation and sadly, death grew and the world around us again closed in.  The cumulative effect of social distancing, health and virus anxiety, limited or in some cases non-existent social contact, resulted in many people feeling as if they have lost their perceived connection to other humans – and we are fundamentally social beings.  This feeling of disconnect in turn leads to stronger feelings of isolation and ultimately a withdrawal from creative habits.  I have spoken to many people these last few months who can associate with this.  Do you? 

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had my daily contact with my parents.  Where necessary we maintained social distancing and the only time I went into the house was to use the toilet.  Even today I have my own provisions and anti-bac wipes in the downstairs loo! Here i am in my cabin, quilting away!

I Am One Of The Fortunate

My ability to maintain contact has been a benefit both to myself and to my parents.  They propped me up when I needed them the most, and as we headed into the winter and my mum’s anxiety about the virus grew as did her feelings of isolation from her extended family, it was good to be able to see her daily, talk to her, and just to generally keep an eye on them both.  In almost stark contrast, we were unable to have much contact with Robs parents, despite them living a few minutes away, due to their age and underlying health conditions.  They are both older than my parents and the social disconnection that they have experienced as a result of the pandemic has produced a marked deterioration in their health and their social interaction within the wider world around them.  I would say that the pandemic has speeded up their decline in a number of ways but we are now sensibly able to spend a lot more time with them and this is helping

Crafting & Education

To me crafting should have as much emphasis placed upon it for children as academic learning.  Sadly, the reality of this is not the case and as an example, at my daughters secondary school they have dropped Textiles as a GCSE subject and amalgamated it into a topic within media!  Given the huge benefits crafting brings to a person’s sense self, self esteem and their overall well being I feel that craft clubs of all shapes and sizes should exist across all age groups and be actively promoted within schools.  Maybe what we do need though is a curriculum revamp but creative group work improves our social connectivity in the same way sharing and talking about creative experiences and products does.  I sense this is becoming a soap box issue for me, how to engage more people and certainly people in their teens to craft.  Perhaps this is another subject for another blog post but I would love to hear your thoughts on it in the same way I would love to hear how the pandemic has impacted your relationship with your own creativity.  A recommended site to read more about the challenges of crafting in education is the crafts council

Please do have a look at some of my latest creative projects

If you have had a break from crafting, do you have a project idea floating around in your head?  

What would you need to do to get it underway and from a concept to a creation?  

Please do share with me – wouldn’t it be great if we could create our own support and sharing group!

Please feel free to get in touch using the form below with any craft projects you may be interested in discussing. I would love to hear from you.  

Lx

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