For today’s Woolness & Me post, Alison Mayne, maker and doctoral researcher, is here today to discuss how wool, wellbeing and an online community gave her support and structure and shaped the adventure that followed. 

Reflecting now, ‘woolness’ has both saved me and become my future: In 2013, the depression that I had struggled to manage for years overwhelmed me entirely. Trapped in the darkness, my daughter handed me a literal lifeline in the form of a ball of wool. She taught me to crochet and set up a Facebook account to promote social contact (so consumed by panic attacks, I wouldn’t leave the house).

I worked through the discipline of a daily post which stated, ‘Alison is making…’ alongside an image. It provided structure, an opportunity to be creative and an introduction to an amazingly supportive community of woolly-minded folk who reminded me that people could be kind. Making things (blankets, shawls, baby clothes for friends) provided comfort in the touch of soft textiles; the smell and texture of working with a natural product helped me to feel grounded; the repetitive motion of crochet stitches and later knitting helped to soothe my brain full of bees, slow my racing heart, still my shaking hands.

I gradually realised this experience was not uncommon: social media posts resonated with my own story, where (largely) women told of the positive, significant impact working with wool had on their wellbeing.

I started to make crochet tea cosies crafted in the varied shapes and colours of breasts. Friends thought it odd, but it was the beginning of my thinking about the ways that women listened to one another so empathetically, bonding over tea and wool. As I moved towards being able to see a future for myself, I knew I wanted to investigate this further.

Wovember 2017 should see me submitting my PhD thesis on perceptions of wellbeing in women who knit or crochet and share their making to Facebook. I have learnt so much from wonderful participants who have contributed their stories and opinions. There might be a book (!) There will hopefully be more research into people’s relationship with yarn. There will definitely be more wool for me – a lifeline anchoring me to this world.

Thank you for writing so beautifully and honestly, Alison. We are looking forward to reading that book!

Important Information: images used are © our woolness contributor, unless otherwise specified.

4 thoughts on “WOOLNESS & ME: Alison is making…

  1. I found this very interesting.
    I’m a member of a Facebook group – Winwick Mum’s Knit n Natter – and, whilst I’m not a frequent contributor, there are many women who find it a very comforting and supportive group.
    Apart from sharing their latest makings people feel able to share problems about personal life or health problems. Often they are matters that they don’t want to discuss with friends and family and they derive terrific support from other members of the group.

  2. Dear Alison,
    Subject for book number 2: needle arts as a therapy for soldiers/veterans recovering from the mental and physical injuries of war. I have come across examples in past literature and more contemporary postings.

    My husband served two tours in Viet Nam and has PTSD. He was taught how to knit by an Aunt when he was growing up. When he was diagnosed with PTSD, the US Veterans Administration was not admitting it existed, he fell back on knitting. Today he is considered a Master knitter.

    Here in the States, needlearts is viewed as women’s interest when they have time when the work inside and outside the home is done. Our VA no longer offers any of the needlework skills which used to be used in occupational therapy, in favor of music, painting, theatre, fishing, horseback riding as more acceptable therapy. What I see is that organizations see more potential for income directly from veterans themselves , donations from the public or large donations.

    To my knowledge, I have not come across a controlled double blind study done with a pilot phase followed by a large number of depressed veteran men and women of all ages and stages, ethnic and religious backgrounds to show the benefits.

    I have depression with PTSD but coupled with a brain injury. My part of this equation is winding the yarn. I do this by hand, somewhat in the manner of Japanese thread balls, but it does help quiet my stress. I also have impaired vision which limits my time focusing.

    Your crochet works are just lovely. These are works of art in themselves.

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