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Since becoming ill, I have learned to bring beautiful things into my daily life through sewing practical items. I was encouraged in this by the book "Hidden Art" by Edith Schaeffer, that a friend loaned to me shortly after I was diagnosed. I sew almost every day I'm strong enough, and find it a wonderfully low-energy outlet for my creativity. More recently I have gained confidence to try altering my clothes, transforming those 'almost-right' TradeMe purchases into well-fitting garments.

Felt Bag Sheepskin Hat
My early projects were all items we wanted for the house: wheat-filled hotpacks; cloth grocery bags; a peg apron; and 'sausages' to store plastic bags. These could be made out of stiff-ish cotton or calico, which was easy on my hands, and only required back-, running-, blanket- and over-stitches to complete: all simple stitches that would be covered in any introductory sewing guide. These basic items were beautified with simple embroidery, applique or stencilled fabric painting using stencils made from cereal boxes. I really enjoy this opportunity to make a useful contribution to my household and to make something beautiful with minimal energy expenditure.

shoulder Bag Height chart
Over time I've become more adventurous, making a sheepskin hat, soft toys and a fur stole. The same basic stitches were all I needed. I've also started to use a lot of felt, and really appreciate how easy it is to hold and how smart a pair of felt booties or a felt bag can look. One day, I'd love to make myself a felt waistcoat.

Over the years I've also discovered a few pitfalls. The biggest danger is my own enthusiasm to keep on going when I'm exhausted and really need to stop and rest! The sewing is fun, but it takes both physical and mental energy; especially if I'm sitting up, following a complicated pattern, or using heavy, slippery or stretchy fabrics. I combat this with a kitchen timer set to ring after 30 minutes, but I nevertheless struggle to remember that I really must stop when it rings! I can leave a seam unfinished or a thread only half-used and it will still be there when I return to it the next day.