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!

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