Over the summer you can find me wondering over what to make for my nieces for their birthdays. Fortunately, I have been rather lucky in finding some relevant patterns recently.
Crafting with a chronic illness can be a bit of a roller coaster for some. One day, your hobby is a lifeline, providing you with a focus and keeping your mind in the present, the next it is exacerbating your symptoms.
Three years ago, I was diagnosed with Non-Radiographic Ankylosing Spondylitis (which I will refer to as AS from now on). At the time, it was almost a triumph because it had been a long year of visit various health professionals and being able to put a name to the symptoms provides a grounding in a way. That is, of course, until you have to acknowledge that it is something that is not going to go away and will affect you for the rest of you life.
I thought it might be useful to share what I have found helpful for my circumstance in case it is also useful for someone else. Everyone is different though, so you must keep problem solving until you find your own strategies.
For the last two years, I have been going to evening classes to learn more about the challenging skill of ceramics.
Ceramics does not come easily to me, but perhaps this is why I’m drawn to it. I struggle to roll out coils for hand building with any consistency, my slabs seem to come out lopsided even when I use guides, I glaze unevenly which causes crazing, and I grapple with the wheel on most occasions. But there is something so absorbing in the processes involved in ceramics, and when one item comes out better than expected among the multitude of items which are deemed as “lessons for next time,” it can be fulfilling.
I have veered away from “traditional” ceramics. By this, I mean the classic goal to make either wares for your kitchen or dining, or even sculptures. I have made the odd item such as an oven dish and a mug, but they both crazed. I’ve managed to make some small bowls on the wheel – some of which have even sides – but they have ended up storing bobbins, pattern weights and sewing machine feet invariably as a lot of them are made from porous earthenware (which is easier to use on the wheel – for me anyway).
It seems I am naturally drawn to making ceramic wares which I can use with my other hobbies. In my first year of learning ceramics, I plucked up the courage to ask my tutor whether I could make a yarn bowl. Once the tutor knew what I meant by this, I was able to set off and make a yarn bowl from coil construction. It took many weeks to complete (which is why yarn bowls for sale are made on the wheel – not hand built) but I was delighted to have a practical item which I could use.
Following the success of the yarn bowl, I set about creating matching accessories. I created a set of needle and crochet hook holders. I even made a pin dish, replicating a family heirloom version.
It wasn’t until more recently that I discovered the joy of making my own buttons. I began using stoneware, but also had the opportunity to make some white stoneware ones too (which looks a bit like porcelain and can be rolled out thinner), which I haven’t been able to part with!
If I think about it, I think part of the reason I haven’t made “traditional” ceramic items is due to that awful tendency to compare your own work to others. Everyone else in the class was making mugs and bowls, and many of them were amazing, which can subconsciously affect your own choices. No one else was making yarn bowls or buttons, so I couldn’t compare! However, everyone has their own style and skill development, and this shouldn’t be a reason to avoid certain makes or opportunities.
Moving into my third year of learning ceramics, I’ve decided I will try to make a few “traditional” pieces – namely mugs. I love the idea of sitting in a rocking chair with my knitting or crocheting, with a hot drink made in my own ceramic mug sitting next to me. This week, my first attempt crazed, but I’m going to keep trying so that I have one hand built mug (and perhaps one day I’ll be able to throw one on the wheel too)!
Saying that though, I may have to make some more buttons! Not only am I fond of them, they are useful surfaces for experimenting on with oxides, glazes and textures.
I haven’t done a lot of crocheting beyond the string bags I make for the Etsy shop. However, this bunny pattern has been a project I’ve been looking forward to making for a long time.
Published in Simply Crochet magazine, this bunny originates from a lovely looking book called Edward’s Menagerie by Kerry Lord.
I made this bunny with Sirdar Country Style yarn, which meant it had a bit of wool content but would still be easy to wash (which I felt the parents of the owner of this bunny would appreciate)! The bunny is advised to be made in alpaca wool, but I opted for a wool blend to comprimise on price/budget and yarn content. I am slightly gutted to have since discovered an alpaca wool blend wool in a shop near my mum’s which would have worked well for this knit and was a reasonable price!
This pattern was fun to make. I would have appreciated more pictures or directions on sewing it up, but the actual pattern in the book may have more guidance on this than the magazine version. Also, I guess it means that your finished toy will be unique according to how you decide to finish it off.