Creating Accessibility in Crafting

I started crocheting in middle school, around 2012. Back then, the only concerns I had in my ability to crochet was figuring out how to position my hands to support the hook and yarn.

Now that I am older, my skill repertoire has developed far past what I ever dreamed of being able to do as a teen.

The physical and mental challenges I’ve faced have also developed in bewildering ways.

While I don’t want to fall into a pit of worries and concerns about the future, I also want to be realistic. My chronic mental and physical conditions continue to evolve, and I have to meet the challenges of them head on. I now have issues sitting for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces. I develop a headache within an hours’ time of sitting and staring at a screen. I experience aches in my hands and arms if they are not positioned ergonomically while doing repetitive motions. I am sensitive to abrasive textures, which makes working with certain textiles and yarns unbearable. And unfortunately, as of the time of this post, I have no explanation as to how any of these complications developed, nor what they may be.

But I am a creator. It’s only natural that I create my own accessibility tools and strategies.

First, sitting. As a lot of us have been working from home, I’m sure we’ve all become too aware of just how uncomfortable some of our furniture/home office setup is. Additionally, we have to work around our family members. I can’t work in a space with a lot of distractions; the first month of working from home in our living room drove me absolutely nuts for that reason. Thus, I had to adjust my bedroom space to accommodate working on a computer 9-6. At first that meant sitting on the floor and using my yarn chest as a desktop. That worked okay, except for the fact that I continuously had to move my legs around to avoid cramping up. Next, I moved to working in a chair, and using a laundry hamper as a stool for my legs to support my computer. But I then began experiencing daily pain in my rear, and the cramps in my legs persisted. The final form of office set up was moving my chair over to my dresser, using the counter as a desk. That resolved the leg aches, but now I still had the rear pain to contend with. I folded over an old bed pillow to sit atop of, but that hasn’t helped much. And the headaches I experienced every day when I was commuting to work with noise canceling headphones? Yeah, they still occurred daily, but I wasn’t even using a headset at home. Elevating books to set the screen at eye level haven’t helped either.

As I am currently between jobs, I haven’t had to sit in front of a computer for hours. However, the rear pain issue persists if sitting for more than 30 minutes at a time. Looking up coccyx pillows gave me the idea to sew one of my own.

Pain no More Tushy Pillow v1.0

Introducing Version 1.0 of my Pain no More Tushy pillow😁. I just so happened to have enough fiberfill saved over from a previous project to fill my pillow. (That process was a bit tedious by the way; I had to shred the fiberfill in my hands to make it less lumpy in the pillow.) The shape is certainly strange-my mother said it looked like a pair of mannequin legs (possible idea for a later project?). The two legs are supposed to be where my buttocks sit, without putting pressure on my tailbone, which is where I suspect the pain is coming from. And as we all know, a pillow needs a pillow case…

Waistcoat stitch pillow case

For the headaches and tush pain, I had to change my style of knitting/crocheting. I’m not sure how unconventional this is, but I’ve now taken to crafting while laying down on my back. I bend my legs at the knee to brace my laptop against if I’m watching a program. And when staring at a screen wears my eyes out, I’ll play a podcast/documentary, set the computer aside, and focus on the audio while I’m crafting. I’ve even sewn this way too!

Next, sensitivity to textures. When I first started crocheting, the most accessible yarns to me were value acrylics. I wasn’t crocheting at the frequency I am now, so my criteria when I first picked out yarns were colors and yards per ball. I wasn’t paying too much attention to texture. In the past 3 years, I’ve seriously ramped up my crafting, which resulted in me thinking more about the comfort and experience as well. The Red Heart Super Saver and Carron One Pound I used to work with? It felt like sandpaper gliding over my fingers. This especially sucks whenever I have a bout of eczema on my hands. When I first realized this, I took to wrapping my middle and pointer fingers in leftover cabbage (fabric scraps). With this most recent pillowcase project, while the yarn (Loops and Threads Cotton Crème) is lovely in my hands, the drag of my crochet hook (which to be fair, has a chip at the head of the hook) became unbearable to my left pointer finger. My accessibility tool? A Muslin thimble.

My resolutions aren’t always picture perfect, and I fully expect that I’ll need to modify them in the future as my situation changes. But as I learn more about my physical and mental health limits, I think this is an important conversation to have. Sometimes people are locked out of pursuing crafts that they love because of mobility limitations or sensory issues. But I love how resourceful we can be, especially when working towards the things we want to pursue. I’d love to spark a conversation about how we can make our spaces and crafts more ergonomic and easy to use!

P.S.: At the time of releasing this blog, one Historical Costuber I follow (SnappyDragon) released a video on crafting while laid up in bed from chronic pain. I honestly felt like that was a sign that this blog entry was necessary and would be valued in the conversation. Check out her video for peaceful aesthetic and insights on living with a disability here:

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