March Monthly Mindfulness

Thank you to everyone who got in touch with me regarding my previous blog post on Sewing For Pleasure, Sewing For Pain. I may have been nervous to talk about my chronic illness before I posted but I must say it has been worth it just to connect with others in similar situations and hear their amazing stories. So pleased to see more sewing bloggers taking a brave step and talking about why they really sew.

Today I thought I would share with you one of my tips for coping with the depression of being stuck indoors due to limited mobility, having no one to talk to face to face during the day and getting lost in the oh so easy activity of binge watching Netflix and Amazon. Yup, I blitzed through the series of Travellers, 3%, Kimmy Schmidt, The Originals and Stranger Things, to name but a few, in those first months of being off work and juggling various cocktails of meds. Brilliant shows, but it’s just not healthy to sit and stare at the TV all day.

I mentioned last time about sewing in short bursts. Granted my twenty minutes of stitching is confined by the aches and pains of sitting down for too long, but it turns out that it is just the right amount.

In terms of sewing in twenty minutes, with brew in hand, you can do one of the following:

Get organised

Read through the pattern instructions, make notes of any techniques you’re not sure of or special supplies you may need. Gather your fabric, notions and tools for your project.

Pattern prep

Carefully unfold your pattern, making a note of the pieces you’ll need for your chosen style or in PDF situations stick all the pages together (whilst batting away the dog who insists on getting your attention by parking her backside right on top of where the next page matches up).

Trace

I never cut into an actual pattern. I always copy it using (top tip!) greaseproof baking paper (cheap as chips from Wilko or Asda at £1 a roll) or Swedish tracing paper (one of the best sewing investments I’ve ever made) which is much sturdier and also gives your seamstress ego a boost as all those dots and crosses printed on it make you feel very professional hehe!

Pre-wash and pin

Cut out and pin your pattern pieces to your pre-washed fabric. Yes, pre-washed. I know, it’s an extra faff and you just want to dive in to stitching but oh the torment and pain that follows if you don’t. For instance, you may wash your stitchery for the first time and it shrinks, so you look like you’re trying on your nine year old niece’s outfit that she left behind after a sleepover. Ahem, where was I was I? Yeah, buy fabric, wash fabric, that’s my mantra!


Chop chop!

With your pattern pieces in place, pattern matching on fleek, take those sharp (and never used for anything but fabric) dressmaking scissors or fancy rotary cutter and make the cut!

Fit and stitch

Baste your fabric pieces together and if you’re happy with the fit get stitching! Depending on your project this may take a few sessions. Just remember to set up your space beforehand with a brew, biscuits and no distractions. Stop checking that Instagram post, I can see you…we’ll chat later and get all Insta luvvy swooning over your fabric/new machine/cute pet that keeps you company whilst you sew, ok?

Get snap happy! 

And then we’re done! Now all that’s left is to share your awesome make so set aside twenty minutes to find the best spot in your house that has natural light, set up your phone camera and tripod, snap some rockin’ photos with your timer or selfie snap app.

So seven sessions, fits quite nicely into a week doesn’t it? Even if the actual sewing part takes longer don’t feel bad about doing both a morning and an afternoon session a few times a week. Just make sure you relax in between, taking in some fresh air by getting up and going for a walk, even if it’s just to pop outside into your garden to check on your plants or throw the ball for your attention deprived dog (yeah that’s how she sees it – if we spent any more time together she’d be sat on my shoulder, like a parrot…a furry, growly Yorkshire Terrier parrot).

I hope that helps to give you an insight into my current coping mechanism. As always please comment below with your thoughts and to chat. Oh and if you want to check out my vintage machine collection, or my latest fabric and haberdashery purchases, and my ongoing obsession with all thing rose gold coloured head over to my Instagram and say hi!

Until next time, happy creating! 

Annie

 

 

 

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 post shared 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.