Guest Post – My Crafty Brain

You all know by now that I love to share stories on the blog/podcast. I love the insight into what craft means to people from hobbyists to professionals. Today’s amazing post was written by Helen (akaprettyfunkyknitter). You might remember her from episode 10 of the podcast or from being a moderator on the forum in our Ravelry group. When I read this post first, I wanted to hug Helen for sharing something so personal with all of us. This isn’t a post I will forget in a hurry. Read on and be inspired to grab your wips and create.

My Crafty Brain

When Nadia asked if I would like to submit a blog post for the Cottage I felt two things, pride and panic. Pride because I have always been passionate about the written word to the point where I studied literature in university. As I also said panic, yes deep panic, the type that hits you in the pit of your stomach and rises up to your throat. The reason for these two feelings will become apparent as you read on. Don’t worry the reason I have named this My Crafty Brain will also become clear.

20th Anniversary Sweater

See I have been a true knitter for about six years now, I have what I would call a deep passion (what those around me would more than likely call an obsession) for yarn and all things fibre related. Why did this obsession only enter my life six years ago? The answer is illness. Not the type of illness that puts you in bed for a week or so, like the flu but the ‘Oh I’m lucky I’m not dead’ type of illness. In 2009 I got a rare form of autoimmune encephalitis, basically my immune system thought my brain was a foreign object and started to reject it. It left me with a six month stay in hospital, four of which were in a coma. Needless to say it is a miracle I’m alive and an even bigger miracle that I can actually write this today. I had lost the ability to read and write. I spoke in broken sentences, I found it hard to find even the simplest word. I worked hard at pretending, I knew what was going on around me but I may have forgotten what a conversation was about before the end of the first sentence. I can only imagine how frustrating that was for the people around me, I must have seemed extremely rude. I was also epically tired all the time. My deepest sorrow though at the time was my inability to read. I couldn’t even escape my head with the stories I loved. I did start to heal though over time. It think it was a year after leaving hospital that I was able to read my first book, thank you Harry Potter, it took a long time but the joy I felt when I read the last page was epic.

See Sea Shawl

What has this to do with knitting you may ask, well here it is. Can you imagine my world at the time? I had to move back in with my parents at the age of 30 as I couldn’t look after myself or my daughter on my own. I had always been fiercely independent. I moved out of home as soon as I finished secondary school, got a job, then had my daughter and then decided to go to university when she was three so I could be an inspiration to her. When I became sick a few months before graduation it was crushing. I was grieving my old life, my old self. My mother came to my rescue and handed me a set of knitting needles and some wool and said knit. I, to be honest thought, she was mad. How was this going to help? I have constantly been reminded over the years though that our mothers know us better than we know ourselves. To be honest, I didn’t take to it straight away, maybe it was the fact that I found it hard to concentrate, maybe it was the yarn (I try not to be a yarn snob but I have sensitive skin and acrylic yarn really hurts my hands). I decided to take another route and try crochet. In this my mother could not help so I headed to the library and borrowed Crocheting for Dummies, yes it’s one of those yellow books and it does exist. It felt very apt so off I went. I bought a size 4mm hook and armed with my book I was ready to learn. Once I learned the basics I was flying. Within a month I was making baby clothes, blankets, amigurumi, tea cosies, you name it. I found I was at my calmest when I had yarn between my fingers. As time went on crochet wasn’t scratching the itch. I picked up the knitting needles with fresh eyes, firstly I realised my yarn went a lot further with knitting, then I realised I preferred the results I was getting. I preferred the feel, the drape and the general delicacy of knitting. This does not take away from crochet, I still pick up the hook when I need a break from my needles, the beauty of a colourful crocheted throw will always make me smile.

Travel Comp.

Knitting though has become my world. I can’t get enough or learn enough about it. I knit everyday without fail. As with my reading if I don’t get a bit done each day I am unable to sleep. I have tried but I have been known to get up at night to do a few rows when I have not managed to fit knitting into my day. I know, crazy weirdo!! My family know when I get that far away look in my eye I’m either thinking about the next pattern to knit or more simply about next yarn on my list of wants. I think of my knitting as something I study, I am constantly learning. I have spent more years learning what I know about knitting than most people do studying a subject at university. It is not something I take lightly either, I find it very difficult to hear people not take knitting, or any craft for that matter, seriously. The people who do any craft dedicate a huge amount of their time to keep traditions alive and while bringing something unique into the world.  Basically knitting makes my once, and still slightly, damaged brain think. It keeps the cogs turn. It makes me very calm and relaxed all the while compelling me to consider other things such as, history, tradition, the environment, agriculture, consumerism, gender issues and even maths and construction. My love of wool and fibre has developed further to the point where I have thought myself to spin on a spindle, with a spinning wheel entering my life in the near future, yippee. I have a great respect for weavers and felters. I’m afraid they might be a future rabbit hole I will fall down.

I suppose my point is that my crafts keep my brain alive and excited. That is no small feat for me considering where I started. It helped me deal with the grief I felt at losing my old self. I have changed but that no longer feels like a bad thing. I now have more respect for myself and pride in what I can achieve. When someone compliments my work, I beam. People have started offering to pay for my work, which makes my heart skip a beat. I have made new friends and have been inspired by many awesome and talented people. I view the world in a more positive and hopeful way. Two things have changed my life in the last decade, the doctors who saved my life and the crafts that have given me a new happier, more fulfilled one. My brain will now and forever be a crafty one and for that I am joyful. I have found my place in the world.

I have found my place in the world.



Thank you so much for sharing that with all of us! You can find Helen on Twitter and Ravelry. I for one can’t wait to see your next FO! This post, in particular, has made me think deeply about craft and what I take for granted. If you want to chat to Helen, you can leave a comment below, use the media links above or I can pass on any emails to her.


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