Achievements, Gadgets, Musings

Crafting With A Physical Disability – Finding My Thing

I’m a fidget. I’m not very good at doing nothing. If I’m watching tv I’m crafting, if I’m crafting I’m watching tv. I can even craft and read now thanks to my audiobook discovery.

For somebody that can’t move very much, I’m never still. My hands have to be kept busy, and if they’re not busy typing here or crafting then they end up scrolling nonsense on social media, and that’s something I’ve been trying not to do.

I’ve always been a bit ‘arty’. I have red hair and tattoos, so fit the stereotype perfectly. As a child I couldn’t run around or play on the park. Jumping from cushion to cushion and making dens wasn’t my thing. I had to explore my creativity and imagination in other ways. Drawing and colouring was something I could do myself as a child. Only ever being able to do stuff that’s within my reach, I loved being set up with loads of boxes, paper, packaging, glue, pens and scissors. I loved making stuff. Being creative. Designing something pretty. Something I could control. Something totally mine.

Right from school I knew what I wanted to do, second to being a journalist, I wanted to create stuff. In a way I do both now, if only as a hobby.

I studied art and design at college, then went on to complete a BA Degree in Design Craft. I then specialised in print and pattern for my Masters Degree. Yep I’m a Master!

I loved it. I loved the people, the artistic minds, the community, the atmosphere I was surrounded by. Creativity in the air. In those days I did proper art with meaning and everything. I studied local history and used that as an influence for my art. I’d sketch and colour and work with digital processes to create prints for fabric and wallpapers.

On the left a floral drawing repeated to create a pattern. The background is an apricot yellow with the purple design. On the right is a floral pattern with a dark red background and yellow and grey pattern.

This is a more curvy floral pattern in green and pale mint green. There are also black flowers placed over to create depth to the pattern.

Although I still ‘make stuff’ it’s mostly a hobby now. Like unfortunately it seems to become for a lot of people. I’m somebody that likes to work to a brief, needs a goal for the outcome. I don’t have that now, or the magnificent equipment I was surrounded by at Art School. I also don’t have as much strength, movement, physical ability.

I envy those where art is their main thing. The thing they do. For a purpose other than self satisfaction or therapy. Although that’s great too.

Upon leaving Art School I had a little mini business making jewellery and going to craft fairs selling my wares. This was more a hobby that helped pay its way than anything but I enjoyed the making and the meeting people. It’s the first time I properly used a crochet technique, be it with wire. I’d thread beads on to coated copper wire and manipulate it in to familiar jewellery styles. As with everything it had it’s day and I fell out of love with the making. It became more of a chore, and that’s not what crafting is to me.

A group of three images. The bottom right is a close up of a tangle of threaded beads in bright colours. The top right is a pink bracelet and brooch made from pearl style bright pink beads. The left image is a close up of a brooch made with delicate black and white beads.

Now I mainly create stuff as gifts for friends and family, I’m sure many of them are already wondering what delight they may find in their stocking this Christmas. Not. It’s probably more like ‘oh another lovely crochet gift to find space for’, ‘oh what’s this? What do I do with it?’, ‘another handmade card, great!’. I need some kind of reason to craft, you lucky lucky friends you!

A cross stitch design chocolate cake with a slice removed. The cake has a cherry on top and the words Happy 30th Birthday are cross stitched. There is a stripy rainbow coloured boarder made with washi tape.

The nieces are appreciative though and give me a never ending list of things they want made. I even crocheted this monster-unicorn-alien thing that the niece designed herself. Because unicorns are everywhere now right?

The monster unicorn design from two different angles. The main body is light blue and he has pink and white stripes. The legs are pink with duck style feet. He has fluffy peach hands and a horn on his head with tufts of pink curly hair.

By the way, just because something is colourful or rainbow or glittery, that does not make it unicorn. I’m fed up with it. The whole word.

I did though, make another unicorn from stripy rainbow socks. Because what else would you use them for. They’re unicorn right?!

Photo of the sock unicorn taken from the side. He is stuffed and sitting up. He has a pink wool tail and pink ears.

Here are my nieces alter egos in crochet form. Atomic Blonde and Super Girl.

These are crochet dolls. Atomic blonde on the left has masses of long light yellow hair tied in a ponytail on top of her head. She is wearing a pale purple dress that looks lacy and long. On the right is Super Girl, she is wearing a purple eye mask and yellow cape. Her dark brown hair is plaited in pigtails. She has yellow roller skates with purple laces.

I get craft as gifts too. A lot. Because if you’ve already gifted me tea then you gift me crafts, then back to tea again, with the proverbial candle scattered in. I’m a Thirty-Something, what other gifts are there?

Jokes aside, I love craft gifts because they get me trying something new, something I maybe wouldn’t have tried otherwise.

And sometimes something I’d never try again. Like progging.

I made a proggy duck, a lonely duck who will never have any proggy friends. I haven’t given this one as a gift, I’m not that cruel. He’s not quite gifting material, I fear that if he’s touched too much he may fall apart. He can live on my shelf as a reminder of that time I learned I don’t like progging. It’s as violent as it sounds, and even involves a sharp weapon. After cutting numerous small rectangles in felt, you poke them through a woven fabric then back again. Creating a kind of tassel. You do this densely to form a textured surface, in the mean time stabbing yourself and putting fluff everywhere. It’s just like rug making really. And there’s a reason I’ve never tried that. (I do appreciate these gifts, honest!).

A bright yellow fluffy duck made of felt, it appears to have tufts. It has an Orange felt beak. It is sitting on my light blue with white spots bed cover.

I’ve also gone through the make-my-friends-pets gift stage. This pair of crochet cats look just like their owners. Don’t they?!

On the left are two crochet cats. On grey and one tabby. On the right are photos of the real life cats with their crochet lookalikes.

There was the button stage, when everyone in the know crafted with buttons. So I made a couple of cushions as Christmas gifts. Usable and decorative, what more could the recipient want.

Two cushions decorated with lots of buttons sewn to form the shape of a heart. The are layered onto a large felt heard before being sewn on to the cushion. The cushion on the left is red black and white. The one on the right is pinks purples and reds.

The first cushion I ever made however was a long project. The largest cross stitch I’d done at the time, I hugely underestimated how long it would take me. My friend, who’s birthday is in May, received this Pop Art pug cushion in August. It’s ok though, that’s when she was supposed to be born, so in a parallel universe I timed it perfectly.

Four cross stitch pugs in pop art style in various colours. One pug is natural colours, one is bright yellow and red, one is a turquoise/mint colour with pink, and one is purple and yellow.

I’m not a quick crafter you see. I’m not quick at much, other than typing on my phone and drinking tea. Those things I’ve mastered.

I craft in slow motion. Small movements for many are big movements for me. A project that may take some a day, will most probably take me a couple of weeks. I tire easily, physically, and have to take regular breaks or my fingers seize up.

I’m more a summer crafter, although some may craft more on those dull winter evenings. I struggle to move if I’m cold. Even the slightest bit chilly.

I can’t craft on the go or anywhere other than home easily. I long to be the old lady I see crocheting on the bus, but the right set up is crucial so I can reach and move and do my thing. I need a table, the perfect table in just the right position. I need all my materials within reach. No bags or boxes of stuff to rifle through.

You won’t catch me painting a 6 foot canvas. Or 2 foot for that matter. But tiny intricate crafts, that’s my thing. Something I can do. Almost alone. If it involves counting and focusing your eyes so much they start to water or you see double. That’s the craft for me. Something fiddly that only involves short distance moving. Within a fingers reach.

I’ve tried crafts that I need assistance with. Scrapbooking, soap making, I even went through a stage of making cake stands, because why not when I love cake. It’s not the same though, I don’t have the same control or interaction. It’s not as personal. I prefer the stuff I can do myself, take my time and chill with. Stuff that then has and becomes a part of me.

A group of cake stands with three tiers of mis-match plates in contrasting colours and patterns. The plates are of an old style and mostly floral.

That’s when I have the energy to craft without getting frustrated.

Not long after graduating Art School and during my time at Norwich Castle Museum I also collaborated on a book about ‘Picnic’.

I worked alongside the author to create images that went alongside his words.

Two images from the picnic book I worked on. The left image is of a tartan blanket style background with rows of ants placed over. I stitch onto the paper images creating lines of thread as connections. The second image is a repeat pattern of a bicycle flipped in a mirror image all over the page. The background is white and I have stitch brightly coloured lines over the spokes in the bike wheels.

I enjoy the opportunity to do something different and be in the company of those with similar interests. Norwich has been getting pretty cool lately. A bit cultural. Lots more going on it seems. One of those things recently was Makers’ Month. So over the past couple of years I’ve attended some crafting workshops here.

I was a little nervous to start, it’s been a long time since I was in a ‘classroom’ type setting and learned something new. I wasn’t sure how I’d get on physically and if I’d struggle to keep up with the tasks.

It was great though, and I’ve learned three new crafts. Two of which you’ll find here in last years aims.

The third being needle felting. Now this is a great one if you’re feeling a little stressed or want to get some anger out. Stabbing a ball of felt millions of times was quite tiring for me, I could literally only manage a few minutes at a time and needed to take a few minutes break before I started again. It’s small work though, as in size, which is great for me as once I have all the bits prepared I can go at my own pace repetitively stabbing away. During the workshop I managed to crest this little flower, and plan on needle felting more soon.

A close up of the needle felting. The flower is made from fluffy yellow red and green wool with a black centre. The sharp needle tool is going through the felt binding it together.

When I want a little bit of chilled creativity, no counting, measuring or risk of being stabbed with a needle, I turn to colouring. Even that I can take a bit too seriously. The perfectionist in me gets frustrated if I go over the lines or the colour isn’t smoothly blended. The artist in me has to get the right combination of colours, contrasting or complimentary. Like it’s a piece of art that’s not going to sit unnoticed in a colouring book for eternity. Until it ends life as recycling.

Two images of colouring cat pictures. They are intricate and detailed. The left image is a finished colouring of a cats face constructed from floral and swirly shapes. The right image is of a cat constructed from floral patterns. It is partly coloured.

And Christmas colouring only ever happens at Christmas.

A photo of a partly coloured Christmas bell with holly. A pencil is laying on the page.

My current go to crafts are sewing and crochet. Both things I can pick up and put down easily. Physically as well as metaphorically. Makes that I can swap between, do a bit if I fancy for an hour but don’t have to set aside a large chunk of time or energy.

Three images of embroidery. On the left is an embroidery hoop with fabric in, on it is stitched a cactus in a pot. The stitched text reads ‘home is where your... and your heart is’. The bottom right image is a close up of a needle in a colourful cross stitch. The top right image is of a teapot and cup, it says ‘tea time’. The cross stitched design is made into a tiny hanging cushion. On the left is a close up of a paper cross stitch chart. I have highlighted the completed areas. On the right is a small cross stitch hedgehog. Three images of stuffed crochet animals. I stripy grey white and black zebra, a brown and cream aardvark, and a row of three brightly coloured mini owls.

Most recently I made this pair of squishy friends for two of my friends that are having/had babies. And no it’s not a unicorn bunny, it’s a bunny.

On the left is a stuffed crochet dog in blue brown and white graduated wool. On the right is a crochet bunny using multicoloured rainbow stripy wool. It has big long ears.

I’m still finding my thing and exploring craft ideas. Not everything is doable or enjoyable, but that’s ok. I have a new venture that I’ve just started. Crafting for a reason, a worthwhile one. You’ll hear more about that soon!

An image to pin. Title text ‘Crafting With A Physical Disability - Finding My Thing’ is placed over a photo of crochet pattern, wool and a cup of tea.
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An image to pin. Title text ‘Crafting With A Physical Disability - Finding My Thing’ is placed over a photo of shelves filled with colourful wool in a craft shop.

43 thoughts on “Crafting With A Physical Disability – Finding My Thing”

  1. Wow Gemma, these are fabulous. I love the unicorn and I have to admit I’ve never heard of progging before! I used to be a prolific cross-stitcher and made gifts for everyone, birth notices of my daughters but then I seemed to lose the thrill of it. Blogging has now taken over but I’m determined that i will get back into it while we’re in lock down, I have 2 projects to get going on. You’ve inspired me! I’ve also pinned this to my group board :). Stay well x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lockdown is definitely a good time to start those unfinished projects and ideas. I must say I wish this country was locked down a little more though.
      I’m working on a cross stitch at the moment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I knew you were an accomplished crafter, but it was lovely to see some of the stuff you have made.
    I’m deep in cleaning/organising mode at the moment, then I hope to start crafting again myself

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks.
      I’m working on a cross stitch right now. I intended to take part in #The100DayProject this year, which starts on 7th of April and has come at the perfect time to help me get through isolation and current worries.
      Look forward to seeing what you work on.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m excited to hear about your new crafting adventure, Gemma! Your work is so beautiful. If I could make prints like yours, they’d be all over my house. Just gorgeous stuff, and perfect to keep your hands and mind busy, especially long about now, when I know I keep turning to my phone and the depressing news.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love them all!!! But my favorite are the cats!!!! I like to do as you and try lots of different things. It was fun reading about this window into your life!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow your talents know no limits! Seriously, one very clever lady Gemma!

    I particularly love the unicorn alien thing! My step daughters have some similar that a friend made them and they adore them.

    I love to craft, mainly papercraft though, I love to make home made gifts for people.

    Keep crafting you clever little crafter x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I knew you had craft skills but never realised just how good you are and how varied your skill set. These are fantastic. One of my closest friends was into crossstitch and I own a piece she made she is moving into our house. I cherish it. You are giving these gifts all the time and they will be cherished too !

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I had no idea about your Master degree, wow! You’re very talented with your crafting, and I love that funky, colourful unicorn-mermaidish-monster you made for your niece (who’s also very creative in her designing!) I feel like I need a reason or purpose to do things these days, so if it’s not ‘useful’ and productive I don’t do it, hence, I think, why I’ve not done any crafting or art for a while now, over a year. It’s sad, I want to do it but can’t seem to make myself do it at the times when I actually have the energy & ability to. I think your craft gifting is a great idea, and very sweet, too. Proggy Duck is uber cute!

    I love being able to be nosy and see all the things you’ve crafted, crocheted, coloured. It’s inspiring in itself to see it all like this in a post. I hope you continue to explore and test things out and enjoy the process. Those on the receiving end of your gifts are also going to be very touched.

    I think I need to take a leaf out of your book because this could be the way back to doing something arty by doing it as a gift. So thank you, truly, I’m going to bookmark this post and come back when I’m feeling a little less exhausted and when my pain is a bit better managed, get rid of the excuses, and see if I can try something (no matter how small) again. Crafting and art can be a huge comfort and outlet for so many, and I often read of people doing it through their blogs. Your post is fantastic, Gemma. I have a feeling it’s going to help encourage and inspire a lot of people with illnesses, pain and disabilities. Thank you!!  ♥

    Caz xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Caz 🧡 you’re way too nice to me!
      I love the unicorn-monster creature too and am kind of jealous of my nieces design skills and imagination. We can loose so much creativity as we age. She was 6 at the time, now 7, and so full of weird ideas. I love it!
      I hope you feel able to craft again soon. I have my moments where the inspiration and motivation just doesn’t come, but I also find I need to craft to realise how much I love and need it. Gifting is a great way to find reason to craft, and my friends mostly appreciate it 😀
      Keep me informed on when your creativity hits, I’d love to see some of your work and share ideas.


    1. I wish I didn’t get so concerned about the end result but it does frustrate me when something goes wrong or doesn’t look how I’d hoped.
      The making process is definitely therapeutic though.


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