I have a confession to make. I am not very artistic. There, I said it. Even though I can barely draw a stick figure and every photo I try to take is just plain bad, I love the arts. Over the years I have dabbled in all sorts of crafty-type hobbies. I have tried counted cross-stitch, crocheting, soap and candle making, quilting, no-sew blankets and pillow quilts. All of those things have in common that they all have specific directions and patterns or molds and if you follow the directions, you can create something beautiful and lasting. I enjoy that. I enjoy creating something with my hands and sharing it with my loved ones. It makes me feel like I have shared a piece of myself because I make each thing with love.
It was a consistent, every single day, stiffness and aching in my hands and my wrists that led to my diagnosis with Rheumatoid Arthritis. In the year prior I had what I now know were flares in my thumbs, wrists, ankles and shoulders that we assumed were tendonitis or bursitis and treated as such. From the time that I received my diagnosis and we started to pursue treatment most of those things I mentioned above fell to the wayside for several reasons. At first it was because it was so overwhelming to deal with the diagnosis and all of the treatment options. Then of course there was the whole self pity phase where I felt like I was losing everything to this disease and the anger that my body had turned traitor and taken away things that I really enjoyed. As many of my fellow “spoonies” know- the pain can make you feel like that. Even after we got the pain under control and my mindset turned around there was still something holding me back. That was fear. Fear of causing myself more pain, fear of setting off a flare, and even more- fear of not being able to complete whatever project I started.
In the past six months I have made some strides in reclaiming my crafts. For those of us who enjoy yarn work (knitting, crocheting, and tatting) there is a neat device out there called the Knifty Knitter. These look like looms and take the place of having to hold and manipulate the yarn with your hands. You wind the yarn and use a hook to actually move the yarn off the loom and make your stitches. The first time I started making progress on a scarf on this thing I wanted to shout from the rooftops! I was never advanced enough to make anything more than scarves, lap blankets or afghans anyway so this was just perfect for me. My yarn has come out of storage and is back in use! Also recently, I discovered jewelry-making. I bought a kit and sat down with my mom this weekend and in just a few hours had put together a lovely glass and cloisonné necklace, bracelet and earrings for a friend’s upcoming birthday. Mom had this neat little tray made for this purpose that has measurements all around it and I was able to lay the beads out on the tray in the “pattern” that I wanted to make and then “scoop “ them up with the wire rather than having to try and hold the little beads with my fingers. When I finished, oh- I was so very proud. I felt like I had really accomplished something special. My Knifty Knitter takes a while to work and to complete so to be able to see an end product in just a couple of hours was so special.
What this means for me is that there is hope! I am okay with not picking up my needles and threads again for my cross-stitch (it is just too small to manipulate with these hands) but there are still possibilities out there. I may even be able to finish off a few of those no-sew (it involves tying many knots) blankets and bigger knitting projects as long as I give myself several months to complete them. In the meantime, I am throwing myself into jewelry until I run out of people to share them with. I am reclaiming my hobbies and will be on the look out for more (I still hate this word) disability friendly ways to express my creativity. If you know of any- please send suggestions my way!