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


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.


10 thoughts on “Sewing for pleasure, sewing for pain

  1. It’s far more common than most women realise, but massively under diagnosed, one of my best friends suffered for years before getting treated seriously for it. I’m certainly glad to see you managing to overcome the psychological side to your chronic illness, even if in small doses, big squishy hugs my friend xxx

    • Thanks my dear. Yes, I certainly agree with you. Since the first GP said to me it sounds like endometriosis, I have researched like a woman possessed (which I guess I kind of am!) but it has opened up a world where so many ladies have said to me that they’ve had or got endo. It surprised me how many of which are in my circle of friends. It’s crazy that it’s been going on for so long and it’s a condition with no thorough treatment nor cure.

  2. I hope you get a diagnosis and treatment soon Scavenger Annie. I know how much chronic pain can get you down and how you get USED to having pain every day and suddenly that’s the new norm and all you crave is to not have pain like (it seems) everyone else.

    Fingers crossed they sort you out without just giving you pain meds :(.

    You’re very brave posting this but spreading the word always helps and discussing it in any way will help you.

    Keep sewing! 🙂

    • Thanks Lindsay! Yes and it’s “try this pill, or this combo of meds” and nothing touches it! So frustrating. The most pain free I’ve been was that brief moment of coming round from op & I was dosed up on 6mg of morphine. Brief but blissful! Haha!

  3. Huge Hugs to you ❤ I have ME and Fybromyalgia so i totally understand the constant fatigue and debilitating pain, i also understand the absolute joy i get from managing 20 minutes in the garden or 20 minutes knitting without having to fidget about in pain. keep going lovely lady xx Sam xx

    • Thanks Sam! Yes, it definitely does you good to get outside (roll on spring/summer) or just keep yourself busy on an activity even for a short while to distract from the aches. Keeping hold of sanity one stitch at a time eh? 🙂 xx

  4. What an honest and brave post. I can very much relate – currently recovering from a laparoscopy and fighting for a diagnosis. Sewing is definitely keeping me sane through it all. You’ve made me feel a bit braver about blogging about it, thank you. Stay strong xx

    • Thanks for your lovely comment Alice. You read about women fighting for a diagnosis for multiple years when you first enter this journey & just don’t believe it. I hope you get somewhere with it soon. xx

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