Hands on Living: Blind Crafting for Everyone
By Susan Roe
Editor’s note: This article was passed along to me after one of our membership found it on Newsline. Enjoy.
I have been an avid crafter both before and after I lost my sight over thirty-two years ago. There is nothing I love more than working on a project and actually seeing it through to completion. Whether I sell an item, give it to someone or donate it to a charity, I always have the satisfaction knowing that there will be someone somewhere who will appreciate owning what I do best.
There have been quite a few people who have either encouraged my crafting or have taught me different skills. My mother, Katherine, first taught me to crochet when I was eight years old. She showed me how to crochet granny squares in matching or contrasting colors. We would then sew them together to make warm Afghans for our beds. She didn’t stop with crocheting and soon taught my sister and me to quilt by hand, as well as how to use a sewing machine. When we were small children, she made handmade Hobby Holly dolls and sold them to make extra money for our Christmas. Later on, she tried her hand at the cutest little clothes for Cabbage Patch dolls and they were even more popular.
Not too long before I lost my sight, I had just discovered a talent for drawing. My sister Pattie encouraged me to start taking art classes in school like she did. She was a wonderful artist herself, starting with drawing and painting. When Pattie began having vision problems of her own, she switched to woodcarving. No surprise to us, she excelled in that craft as well. Pattie had just started showing me some basics of oil painting when I lost my sight at age fifteen.
I have never allowed my blindness to be a hindrance in my day to day living and that included my current crafts and learning new ones along the way. Pauline, a family friend, took the time to teach me how to knit and it has been my favorite ever since. She also introduced my family to liquid embroidery, making Christmas ornaments with beads and sequins and latch hooking rugs. From school I learned to work with clay, coil and reed basket weaving and tapestry weaving using colored burlap. I even managed to take a class on using the potter’s wheel while attending my local community college. Luckily, I stopped myself from adding a potter’s wheel to my small one bedroom apartment before I started rearranging the furniture.
Believe it or not, my crafting curiosity still was not satisfied. Pattie and I took ceramic classes, enjoyed working with beads, making hats and scarves on circular and rectangular lap looms, and successfully figured out how to cro-hook. When I attended our local Rehabilitation Center for the Blind one summer, they showed me how to set up my sewing machine to make it easier to use. I have heard that curiosity killed the cat; however, it only expanded my thirst for crafting to collecting the tools of the trade along with many books and magazines covering even more crafts. I could definitely open my own crafting store.
My mother-in-law, Anna Roe, was someone else who loved crafting. She loved knitting, crocheting and plastic canvas work. To her credit, she also passed on crafting to her children as well. Matt likes to draw and paint, wood working and Native American leather working. I suppose Anna also passed on to Matt some of her patience, because he does tolerate my boxes of yarn and shelves of crafting books. In fact, he doesn’t even get ancy while we are in a craft store. Matt is really good at ferreting out all kinds of hidden crafting treasures.
On a sad note, when Anna passed away, Matt and his family asked if there was anything of hers that I would like to have in remembrance. I didn’t hesitate and asked for anything dealing with her knitting and crocheting. Well, my ever-growing craft stuff was increased by four large boxes.
With all of my accumulated crafting energy and supplies, I needed an outlet for my items because I just couldn’t keep it all. I sell a few items here and there as well as making items for friends and family. My biggest joy is knitting and crocheting for the Webb of Hope, a charity group that is run through the Red Cross. A local group of women get together here at Black Creek Baptist Church and meet once a week. They share patterns, discuss items being made and who the organization will be sending them to, both in the United States and several countries overseas. The women also provide lessons for those who want to learn and participate with them as well as providing yarn so it doesn’t have to cost you anything.
Over the years, I have done searches on the Internet and have found several on-line crafting groups, and several of them have been for blind crafters. I had to narrow my participation down to only one blind crafting group or I would never tare myself away from the computer. This group works together from the Krafters Korner. The group is filled with some of the most talented crafters I have ever known. Everyone is either blind, low-vision, or works with the blind. The Krafters Korner also provides lessons to its members via conference calls and everyone works at the project together. All classes are recorded for the students that attend each class and are provided as downloadable MP3 files for easy reference at a later date. Some of the classes have been beginning and advanced knitting, beginning and advanced bead working, soap making, origami, plastic canvas work, small loom weaving and even tips for finding the best tool for the job, to only name a few. They are even working on knitted and crocheted helmet liners for our soldiers overseas as a community charity project.
I have even taught two classes myself, coil basket weaving and paper basket weaving which seemed to be a success with those who attended. I have only taken one class, which was a beading class for making your own Rosary. The teacher even gave a brief history on the different styles of Rosaries through the years. All classes are open to members once you have paid your$20.00 membership dues. Krafters Korner also has a weekly Monday Night Chat which runs from 8:00 Eastern Time to about 9:30 via the conference line. This gives everyone an opportunity to talk to someone about their crafts and exchange information as well. Members also have the opportunity to get help with problems they may be experiencing with a project in order to work through it instead of getting frustrated enough to set it aside, never to be picked up again.
I have found that many members take their projects quite seriously and even attend numerous crafting shows as venders or sell their wares at Farmers Markets. There are those who have been blind and crafting for several years, or they find themselves wanting to learn to craft. Also, there are those who have been sighted crafters for years and recently lost their sight and now want to find ways to continue crafting. It is really nice when a member seeks encouragement with continuing a craft after losing their sight and seeing the eager responses from other members sharing and explaining how they have managed to continue that very craft. All of this and more can be found at the Krafters Korner. They have even had guest speakers on blind wood working so they can explain how they manage their wood working craft with no sight.
Joyce Kane is the group moderator and President of the National Federation of the Blind Krafters Division. She has been an avid blind crafter for many years and is always available to assist members as well as eager to learn new crafts and techniques from others in the group. You can contact Joyce via e-mail at Blindhands@AOL.com. Please feel free to visit Krafters Korner at http://www.KraftersKorner.org.Krafters Korner has also recently gone International, bringing blind students from around the globe into their classrooms with the use of SKYPE. Come and join us and see what you can learn!