Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Being ill and the importance of craft/art

Posted by Helen on the 1st of January ( but started on the 23rd)
I have been ill, unfortunately quite seriously ill. First I had week in bed after one trip to A & E and to the out of hours doctors service. with aching limbs and a high temperature while DH bought me beef tea which was all I could eat/drink and which has done wonders for my figure, I am now a new slimmed down smaller me.

However when feeling better I sat beside a roaring log fire made by loving DH and rediscovered my old love affair with crochet.

I used to do loads of free form crochet which I always think is painting with stitch, and had a tunic "Fire in the Rain Forest" accepted by the Millennium touring exhibition of the Weavers Spinner s and Dyers in 2000. Not many people saw it as for some reason the way they displayed it all sorts of little ends appeared and it came back in disgrace. After a few ends were sown in again it has been fine and much worn by DH . It is hand spun Wensleydale, silk, mohair and of course all naturally dyed! My inspiration for free form is always Silvia Cosh and James Walters Crochet Workbook published by Batsford, a very much cherished possession. It was the first craft book I ever bought ( gosh! that does take me back!) and from it I learnt a lot about design , planning a project as well as about free form crochet. I also have her sweater book and made my self the Celtic jacket from hand spun naturally dyed shetland spun long draw ( which I also took to A&E as I was feeling so cold).

My crafts have made a difference to how I coped . Much to the ambulance crew amusement I took Dominque Cardon Natural Dyes with me and sat in a wheelchair in the waiting room for my results reading all about cochineal and then about mollusk purple.

First of all I crocheted wrist warmers for my sister in law who has a poorly wrist which after two ops is now giving her problems with arthritis . The lovely multicoloured dyed yarn, and white silk and linen yarn was spun by Anne and the others were her dyed rovings. I bought all these from her at the Artisan Market. Now with the bit firmly between my teeth I investigated my stash. DH had requested a felt beany but was prepared to accept a crocheted one in lieu so off I set off working out a beany . I soon discovered that I needed to spin a little extra yarn so my Lendrum was installed in a cosy corner by the fire and I spun my lovely teeswater in cochineal over dyed in indigo all curly and then a dive into my stash gave me some hand painted Shetland tops in cochineal and logwood for the ply. At this stage I was very wheezy and unable to even walk comfortably upstairs so I was surprised at how my breathing improved after a couple of hours gentle spinning while listening to the Play on radio 4 ( a very good one). My health then nose dived down and I ended up in hospital a medical mystery on Boxing day. After investigations for blood clots on the lung I was found to have an area of collapsed lung with pneumonia and also had pleurisy. My consultant-quite wonderful- rushed into the ward yesterday morning saying before I say anything give me your email address I have a friend who is interested in what you do! Then she told me I could go home but back in the new year for further investigations. I have to take it easy for six weeks :(

While I was on the ward I read more of Dominique Cardon and made notes for a day dyeing with cochineal which I think will be great fun to do as she has lots of different recipes which sound interesting. Then every now and again I picked up my crochet. The poor lady opposite, confined to bed, was very interested and asked what I was doing and before long all the patients on the ward were all involved as we discussed colours and decided on a rib to finish it and they encouraged me to produce a flower on the side when finished. Some of them tried it on and I felt very pleased with how it came out- especially considering how it been done! It looks more like a cloche hat than a beany This was definitely a cooperative hat with inputs from five people-great fun.

Incidentally this was the NHS at it's best. I was seen by a medical consultant about 8pm on Boxing day, the nurses despite being very busy were unfailingly pleasant and friendly and informative. They worked very hard. A bed was often stripped cleaned and made up again with a new patient installed within 45 minutes of being vacated. The respiratory ward where I was was spotless. As Glan Clwyd Hospital faces East towards the Clwydian range and I was by the window on the fourth floor we watched two magnificent sunrises. The first of which the sun rose looking so like a orange you felt it could be plucked from the sky and eaten! The second it was so brilliant you could not look directly at it.

Finally I want to welcome the new followers to my blog and finally to wish you a happy healthy year full of interesting textiles and of course natural dyeing.


  1. I am so glad that you are well once again and starting the new year off on the right foot! Your illness sounded frightening but you perseverance through it all with fibers was a wonderful narrative.

    Thank you,

  2. So glad to hear that with rest you will be on the mend. Like you, when I am poorly my crafts keep me company so I know what you mean.
    Take Care and I will wish you the Very best of Health in the New Year. Tricia

  3. What a way to end the year. I'm glad you'r doing better now.
    All the best for the new year Helen.

  4. Sorry to hear you have been so poorly Helen
    lots of nasty bugs around at the moment
    Gld to hear you are on the mend
    All the very best for 2009

  5. Helen, sorry to hear you've been so ill and over Christmas as well. Here's wishing you a speedy recovery and the return of good health in 2009.

    Lovely to hear about your crochet work - I particularly like the freeform tunic - a real work of art.

  6. Happy HEALthy New Years Helen...sounds like you are crochet your way into good health...good work..

  7. Thank you all for you best wishes. I am getting better every day although like a Victorian lady I am spending a lot of time draped on the sofa!

  8. I was sorry to read about your illness, I am so glad you are getting better now! I laughed to myself when I read about a bit about Cardons book in the hospital, what a good book to take with you and it is thick enough. I have to remember it.
    Take care of yourself and rest enough now.

  9. Helen - sorry to hear you're ill but well done for being constructive (both meanings) with your time! I'm sure you will have cheered those in hospital around you by such positive action. Best wishes for your recovery.

  10. hello Helen, Happy New Year !
    Only now am I blogging !
    So sorry you have been ill and trust you are on the road to recovery. Do you think your 'witches brews' have had anything to do with it ?? I hope not.
    Now I'll try to comment on the magic inks !
    see you, David Brightmore

  11. Hi Leena you would be amused to know that the consultant recognized me when she came onto the ward as she had seen me and THE BOOK when I came to see her in October!
    Thanks for the good wishes Robin.

  12. Good grief Helen, you really have been ill! I'm so sorry. Hopefully good health is in sight.

    I'm sorry to hear about your "Fire in the Rain Forest" tunic too! I've admired it ever since you first showed it to the OLG.