Sewing for pleasure, sewing for pain

There are hundreds of hashtags related to the topic of sewing on Instagram. One of them should be #lifesaver. Read on for how a sewing machine saved my mind from an overwhelming chronic illness.

Here's Annie!

I got into sewing for pleasure when my son was born, as there were no rockin’ clothes back in 2010 for the little ‘uns. “Give me skulls and pirates, not lemon yellow vests with cutesy giraffes!” I cried whenever I was in the baby clothing aisle.

My hobby of sewing and alternative machine embroidery soon turned into a business which led to meeting great like-minded people, being featured in a craft business book “From Passion to Profit” by Claire Hughes, winning small business awards with Intuit UK, Theo Phaphitis’ Small Business Sunday & Kirstie Allsopp’s Handmade 100, and eventually leading to running my own craft studio teaching sewing skills.

Then I stopped. After one thing and another, I went back into the world of full time paid employment, and I ended up ignoring my sewing and embroidery machines. I had lost my creative mojo. The machines sat gathering dust for months whilst I gave myself the summer off to relax and spend time with my family before starting a new job.

Then in Christmas 2015 I started to experience strange pains and symptoms. They occurred monthly at first, so sparse I thought back then that they were stomach bugs or colds. Then gradually from three days out of the month being severely ill, it went to a week, then two weeks and then I was lucky to experience three days out of a month in no pain.

Since October 2016 I have experienced pain every single day without a break. It hurts to walk, sit down, stand up, lift anything heavier than four pints of milk; my body feels like it is on fire and being stabbed with a hot blade in my abdomen most days. Yes there are better days and there are bad, but as time has gone on it’s got worse.

My GP’s believe it’s down to an illness called endometriosis. It’s where cells like the ones in the lining of the womb (uterus) are found elsewhere in the body and they continue to act in the same way as those in the womb, building up, breaking down and then bleeding. Unlike the cells in the womb however, this bleeding then has no where to go. This is what leads to the pain, inflammation and formation of scar tissue around whatever inner body parts the endometriosis has attached itself to.

A few facts about endometriosis:

  • 1 in 10 women of reproductive age in the UK suffer from endometriosis.
  • Around 1.5 million women in the UK are currently living with the condition.
  • On average it takes 7.5 years from onset of symptoms to get a diagnosis.
  • The cause of endometriosis is unknown and there is no definite cure.

Source: Endometriosis UK

Check out the bling lol 😂 Had morphine but asked for Jack D's 😜 now to wait to see what went on 🏥

A photo posted by Annie McGee (@scavengerannie) on

 

Just before Christmas I finally went in for a diagnostic laparoscopy under my local hospital but unfortunately the pain still continues to worsen.

It feels like I’ve experienced nothing but illness forever, not having a concrete diagnosis only makes this feeling worse. I’ve come into contact with other women who suffer from this condition and it’s incredible to hear their stories of how they have been fighting for a diagnosis. For some it’s been a battle spanning over 20 years, seeing consultant after consultant.

Now I never know how I’ll be from one hour to the next. On bearable days I potter around the house with multiple heat packs around my waist like a belt. I can sit or stand for around twenty minutes until a sharp searing pain kicks in. This is followed by stabbing pains in my abdomen and my entire pelvic bone exploding into a firey rage with sparks shooting down my legs, up my spine and into my right shoulder. This is in addition to the daily feelings of nausea, sickness, the constant fatigue and loss of appetite to name a few other symptoms. It really does knock you for six.

So a couple of months ago confined to the house, I found myself dozing on the bed in my craft room and my old friend the sewing machine caught my eye. That little creative bug said “Go on, sew! Don’t let this illness take everything away from you.”

I decided to give sewing a try once more. I set myself the project of a Coco top (pattern by Tilly and the Buttons) but I told myself to take my time and break the task up into small chunks per day. Over two weeks I set aside 20 minutes a day to work on my red Coco. I was as pleased as punch when I’d finished. When I’m feeling brighter and the days are less grey I’ll be sure to snap a photo of my awesome new top.

 

Well, something wonderful had happened. I rediscovered my sewing mojo and found that in those daily short doses the sewing distracted me from my aches and pains. From piecing up the PDF pattern pieces, to carefully cutting, stitching trimming and adjusting, Coco kept me calm. Yes it was light relief for brief moments in time, but it felt like I had something to aim for, a tiny accomplishment each day.

Sewing now provides me with the time to relax and rebuild. On some days I have to take some heavy going painkillers, but if they knock me out and my body needs a bed rest day that is what I do. I’ve told myself not to feel guilty, just let my body have what it needs and then when I have the energy I do what I can.


Catch up with me on Instagram to follow my journey to handling pain management through sewing and creativity.

If you or someone you know suffers from the symptoms of endometriosis you can find further information on the Endometriosis UK website.

 

The Pilar Bear Pattern Share

pshare-logo

This month I took part in a wonderful sewing community activity started by Pilar Bear over on Instagram.

What is a pattern share?

Self-confessed sewing addict Pilar generously posted 7 sewing patterns from her stash to a fellow stitcher with the idea that the next person would select a pattern from the bundle and replace it with one of their own from their stash. The bundle would then be posted on to the next person and the same process repeated. Being a sewing addict myself and let’s say curator (as opposed to hoarder) of sewing patterns I leapt at the chance when I spotted the post on Caroline’s Instagram.

pshareparcel

Lucky me, my name was pulled out of the hat and I soon found myself unwrapping a lovely package of stitching fun. Caroline had taken the time to include some rockin’ fabric scraps for me (hurrah for skulls!) and a handwritten note which made the parcel even more awesome having that personal touch. She had definitely taken the time to browse through my photos and see what I like which I really appreciated.

anouk

I selected the Anouk pattern from the bundle because the decorative front placket immediately caught my eye as a technique that I’d like to try. It is also labelled as an Intermediate level pattern and I’m not one to shy away from a challenge! I think this pattern will be one of those that you take your time with, reading through the instructions a few times and then tackling the steps a little each evening. The perfect winter sewing project!

pshare-bundle

The Anouk was swapped with the Lisette Traveler Dress pattern. I had two of these in my pattern stash in the same size range and I thought that this modern take on the classic shirtwaist dress was aptly named for the pattern share. I look forward to following the bundle on its adventures and seeing where my pattern ends up!

The journey so far

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The pattern sharing chain is growing with the bundle having travelled from Spain to Scotland, then down to me in Cheshire, up the road a few miles to Faye (we unexpectedly live the next town over from each other) and then onto southeast Asia where Mylene lives. It really is great to see the bundle travelling worldwide!

Getting social with sewing

The one thing I love about social media is that it allows me to connect with others who share my passion for sewing and all the paraphernalia that comes with it. Those bookcases crammed with fabric and multiple boxes of patterns hidden under the bed don’t seem so bad when you see others are doing the same!

The sewing community on Instagram is worldwide and you are instantly rewarded with a new perspective at the tap of a follow button. This pattern sharing activity wasn’t just a chance to expand my sewing pattern stash, it was a chance to meet other stitchers from around the world and follow what they are creating. By adding a pattern from my sewing stash and adding a few stitching treats the pattern share became a personal investment that I eagerly follow from one Instagram account to another. As Pilar noted in her letter to Caroline and in turn, Caroline quoted to me:

I think it makes a difference when you do things with care and love.

The Pilar Bear Pattern Share is a fine example of this.

How to join

Would you like to get involved in the Pilar Bear Pattern Share? Then head over to the pattern share’s Instagram for details of the latest keeper of the bundle and how you can pop your name down to be included as the next recipient.

Follow the progress of my Anouk stitching over on my Instagram and feel free to say hello or offer any tips if you’ve made the top or dress from this pattern before.

Until next time, happy stitching!

Time for a craft room spring clean!

It’s a job I’ve been putting off for ages. A spring clean of the craft pit, err I mean my craft room. Join me on my quest to discover the ever elusive Clean Craft Room!

 

With the long Easter weekend upon us, it’s with a determined sigh that I log off Pinterest, put down my Kindle, and tidy up my craft room before I sew another stitch. No longer will an arm sweep of my desk suffice – the sunlight from the window is being hindered by a mound of craft paraphernalia! If you decide to take up the feather duster this weekend and tackle a crafty tidy up then check out some craft room inspiration here.

Happy crafting!

Black Friday Sewing Sales

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With the work’s Christmas party in a couple of weeks I’m on the lookout for patterns, fabrics and haberdashery for a handmade outfit.

Here are some of my favourite independent pattern retailers with offers on this week thanks to the Black Friday sales:

Ahh, choices, choices! My urgency to stitch prompted me to go for my favourites in PDF. Time to put that printer to work!

Have any sewing sales caught your eye? What are your favourite go to patterns for the party season?

Cultivate Blog Tour!

Cultivate Blog Tour  Cultivate Fabrics

Hello, I’m jumping back on the blog today for my turn on

Bonnie Christine’s Cultivate Blog Tour! Woohoo!

flourish  harvest

This new range of fabrics designed by Bonnie were inspired by her love of gardening. Being a green fingered type myself I fell for the designs the moment I saw them so I jumped at the opportunity to stitch up something special.

cultivate

With a yard of fabric to play with I had in mind to stitch a nice summer top. After rifling through my vintage sewing patterns and then my modern pattern stash I eventually settled on doing a mini pattern hack with By Hand London’s Holly Jumpsuit.

Cultivate Top FrontCultivate Top

Taking just the bodice part I stitched up a cute sleeveless crop top, perfect with lightweight trousers or shorts. It was also the perfect opportunity to dive into my vintage button collection. Oooh my pretties!

I love the print as I feel like there’s a bit of a vintage vibe to it so I’m thinking of making the playsuit version as well using Flower Field Mist again for the top and navy fabric for the shorts.

Fingers crossed the summer weather doesn’t disappear on me so I can wear it!

In the meantime here are the out takes from today’s photo shoot courtesy of the Little Man after being bribed with a chocolate croissant!

With the four year old in charge

With the four year old in charge

Cultivate Crop Top

Say DUCK Mummy!

Cultivate Bodice Top

Can I have my chocolate croissant now?

You can find the Cultivate range at your local awesome fabric shop but here in the UK I spotted it at one of my favourite online retailers Plush Addict.

Be sure to check out the full Cultivate Blog Tour and visit (another) Bonnie from Fishsticks Designs for her gorgeous project from last Friday.

Next up on the tour is Jenn from Quilted Thimble Cottage. Can’t wait to see what she comes up with!

Happy stitching!

Annie