Need Organisation Inspiration? Check Out These 5 Noticeboard Design Ideas!

Are you tired of cluttered countertops and misplaced reminders? Well, fear not, because FNBCo HQ has got just the solution: noticeboards! Our trusty pin boards, blackboards and whiteboards are both beautiful and useful, so here’s a list of 5 noticeboard design ideas to inspire.

Functional Yet Stylish: Let’s start with a noticeboard that’s as practical as it is stylish. Picture this: a sleek board with handy mail shelf. It’s the perfect marriage of form and function! I remember struggling to keep track of school forms that needed to be returned each week. Now, I never have to go on a frantic search before leaving the house.

Minimalist Excellence: Sometimes, less is more, and that’s certainly true when it comes to minimalist noticeboard designs such as this Modern framed Super Size cork pin board. Clean lines, neutral colours, and simple lines to create a sense of calm and order. I recently redecorated my home office with a minimalist noticeboard, and I can’t believe how much it’s improved my productivity – a clutter-free workspace really helps me stay focused.

Personalised Touch: Why settle for a generic noticeboard when you can have one that’s uniquely yours? Adding personal touches like photos, artwork, or inspirational quotes can turn a simple board into a meaningful piece of decor. Here are FNBCo we can even add painted letters or words to a noticeboard, such as on this Super Size magnetic whiteboard – if you are interested just tell us what you would like! 

Colourful Creativity: For those who like to make a statement with their decor, a colourful noticeboard is the way to go. Whether you opt for bright shades or zingy neons, it’s sure to inject some personality into your space. My neighbour opted for a box frame painted in this neon pink colour to complement her super-contemporary open plan home. It’s now a focal point that sparks joy every time she passes by.

Eco-Friendly Options: If you’re passionate about sustainability, why not extend it to your home decor? Look for noticeboards made from easily recycled materials – all FNBCo noticeboards are made with 100% natural materials that are easily separated and recycled (and they are also built to be repairable). Not only are you reducing your environmental footprint, but you’re also adding a touch of eco-chic to your space. If you like making your own you could repurpose an old picture frame as a noticeboard – just follow my clear guide to give new life to something that would have otherwise been discarded.

So there you have it: 5 ideas to spark your inspiration. So go ahead, unleash your creativity, and transform your space with a beautifully designed noticeboard. Who knew staying organised could be so stylish?

Displaying Kids Artwork – How to keep on top of the piles of paintings!

If you’re the parent of a creative child then you’ll know just how prolific an artist they can be, and you’ll also know that this raises the question of how best to display their art work. So here are four suggestions for dealing with kids’ art overload. They are ideas which, I think, realistically address the problem.

I’ve been there myself. Stacked sheets flapping on the fridge door, a pile of larger pieces on the kitchen table, a bulging box file in the cupboard, and another, and another… And none of it being displayed and enjoyed – which is what art is for, right? After all, not every child grows up to be an artist, and these creative years of paint and glue might be just another of those passing moments in the parenting journey.

Hopefully there’s something here that you can use: something which will brighten your home and create a proper place and purpose for all those pictures and paintings.

1. Space Saver: A Digital Art Gallery If space is an issue this is a great option. Don’t panic. I’m not suggesting you create a back catalogue – this is all about finding a way forward! Photograph the art as it arrives in the home – your child might be able to do this (any excuse to play with your phone!), then save the photos in a dedicated folder so they can easily be found and scrolled through. If you have computer, tablet or digital photo frame you could use it to set the photos to scroll through automatically. 

2. Stacking: The Magnetic Fridge Frame It’s so unbelievably easy to make a magnetic fridge frame. Just take an A4 photo frame, discard the glazing and backing, and stick adhesive magnetic tape all around the back edge. The tape comes on a roll and can be cut to length with scissors. It really is that simple. These frames can hold more than a single sheet, so you can keep a fair number of works in just one frame, and they’re held flat to the fridge so they won’t be flapping around every time you open the door. 

3. Collage: Classic Pin Board The obvious solution is the classic pinboard, but where many parents fall down is on size and quality. Choose the biggest and the best possible. The bigger size means you can easily curate an ever-changing arrangement. One picture can be layered over another to build up a dense collage, and you can include other things like special birthday cards, certificates or medals, to make a really vibrant memory centre. Getting the best quality you can afford should ensure that the pins won’t be constantly falling out (ouch!). It will also mean the noticeboard looks good in its own right, so you’ll be happy to use it for other purposes later on. Of course, you can also create a pin wall by sticking cork sheet up, but that is rather trickier to get rid of later on.

4. Studio: An Artist’s Space If space allows, then you could go all out and create a little art studio area. You’ll need a table or desk, some wall space where art and inspirational images can be pinned or taped up, and an accessible place for storing all the art supplies. Perhaps some protective flooring that you don’t mind getting paint-y might be a good idea… Then, to fully address the art storage and display issue, you could invest in a print browser so finished work can be flicked through. Professional!

To finish, here are some other great ideas that aren’t about display, but are too lovely to overlook:

5. Choose 12 favourites each year and have them printed into a wall calendar. (Great gifting for the extended family!)

6. Create a memory book or scrap book, either get gluing with your child or use an online printing service.

7. Cut the pieces down and glue on to blank cards from the craft store, to make special gift cards for family and close friends. But, be careful, you might end up with a total melt down on your hands!

What is Slow Fashion and Why It Matters To Your Wardrobe?

What is Slow Fashion and Why It Matters To Your Wardrobe?

I am sure you have all heard of Fast Fashion. It is the wasteful cheap fashion industry, such as Primark & Shein for example that churns out cheap mass produced low quality clothing, with devastating working conditions and environmental impacts. 

Slow Fashion is the opposite. Slow fashion is a growing movement working to raise awareness of the awful fast fashion industry. It is an approach to fashion that is eco-conscious and gives consideration to the processes and resources required to make clothing. Slow fashion advocates for environmental and social justice in the fashion industry. For better working conditions, payment and reducing the waste associated with clothing manufacture. Slow fashion is an aspect of sustainable fashion and a concept describing the opposite to fast fashion, part of the “slow movement” advocating for clothing and apparel manufacturing in respect to people, environment and animals. 

Slow fashion is about buying fewer items of higher quality that will last longer and provide you with options to create a timeless capsule wardrobe of sustainable clothing. 

Sarah Lou Crafts

When I created my small handmade business I was already well into living a more eco-friendly lifestyle and reducing plastics in the family so naturally wanted to have the same ethos within my business. 

My focus is helping others to start a new eco-friendly lifestyle by offering handcrafted clothing and apparel with sustainable materials and natural fibres for a long-term slow fashion approach to thoughtful purchases and eco-conscious gift giving.  

The majority of my customers are women who are conscious about slow fashion and looking for quality but funky handmade garments and capsule wardrobe attire. However all of my items are gender neutral and fit a range of sizes from children to adults.   

All my packaging uses cardboard or paper envelopes, most of which I re-use from packages that we have as a family and I use eco-friendly, unbleached, recyclable tissue paper for wrapping and packaging. 

The next step was to introduce paper parcel tape to replace the plastic rolls that I finally finished using up that were left over from our house move. 

Sustainable Materials

Finally I am transitioning to more sustainable yarns and materials for my creations. I use natural fibres such as British Wool, sustainable Cotton and recycled polyester yarns. I also use cork fabric for my Notebook Journals. The covers are made from cork fabric and have a coordinating faux suede wrap tie to keep the notebook closed when not in use. Inside the journal, you will find five inserts of pages each with 16 sheets carefully bound together with hand-sewn binding using strong waxed cotton thread to ensure the durability and longevity of your journal. The pages are made from plain white EU Ecolabel FSC paper that is sustainably sourced, and you can also choose ruled lined paper or a mix of both depending on the purpose and preference of your Notebook. 

The handmade paper, from Anglesey Paper Company is a sustainable resource made from the Lokta bush. The inner bark of the plant is stripped away then pulped to make the paper and as the root system of the bush is not damaged the plant regrows from the same root system. Lokta paper is acid-free and has a low environmental impact. It is regarded as one of the world’s finest papers and is perfect for eco-conscious minded people. 

Making Slow Fashion Affordable

When we think of handmade, eco-friendly, sustainable materials we think “oh that will come with a premium price” but I am working to make slow fashion, fashionable and affordable. I am able to offer competitive prices by buying bulk yarns and material wholesale and by having low overheads with no production factory, workers or retail outlets. 

Small Steps

First of all, I do not live a 100% plastic free life. I am not a plastic free professional. I am a wife to one husband, mother to two boys and servant to three pawsome pups. What I do want to do though, is try to reduce the amount of single-use plastic my family uses and produces through waste. I have been making a conscious effort over the last few years of small manageable steps and am ready to share some of my top tips with you.  

Perhaps you are thinking about making a change to your lifestyle or are already well on the road to living plastic free. Either way I am sure this post will help you start or refresh your practices. 

Do not try to do it all at once

Even if you change just one thing each month to begin reducing the plastics in your home that will add up to 12 items in a year. That is a great start to make. 

When my youngest son was diagnosed with a rare cancer in 2016, he and I lived at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff for nine months, as he underwent 7 operations and a gruelling treatment regime. I lived in the parents’ accommodation within the hospital, provided for by the charity LATCH. 

The flat was home from home, with a laundry room and fully functioning kitchen, but I found myself grabbing take out food and coffee from the café and concourse shops at the hospital and it dawned on me, just how wasteful I was being. 

I decided, even in the hospital, I could make some quick and easy changes to my routine to reduce the plastic and waste that I was contributing to. 

I bought myself a gorgeous hessian bag from a charity shop to carry my food in, either from the hospital accommodation or from the shops in the hospital concourse. 

A reusable metal flask that the coffee shop at the hospital was happy to fill for me with my daily (hourly) caffeine boosts. I also purchased a lovely travel mug from LATCH too. 

A lunch bag and reusable cutlery for using in the canteen or with take out foods that I bought. 

Ryan has now been in remission for over 3 years and here are some more of the items I have worked on changing in our family over the last few years. 

  • Wooden and Bamboo Toothbrushes
  • One Green Bottle, reusable metal drinks bottles
  • Kaupilka Dishware and Cutlery for our hiking trips
  • Bags for life for everyday and shopping
  • Glass & Metal Cooking Trays and Dishes
  • Bar Soap 
  • Shampoo Bars
  • Cream Deodorant

Plastic Pledge

National Geographic UK are campaigning against single use plastics and they aim to prevent 1 billion items from reaching the ocean. 

Their social media campaign #IChoosePlanet invites you to make new resolutions such as: 

‘Quit drinking…from plastic.’ 

‘Kick the (plastic) habit.’

‘Lose weight plastic.’

‘Save money the ocean.’

‘Lose the (plastic) baggage.’

You can pledge to achieve one or all, in your own time. You can find out more from the Nat Geo website.

Over to you…

If you have made any attempts to reduce your plastic usage and live a more sustainable lifestyle, I would love to hear from you and any top tips you might have. Comment below and join the discussion on Instagram & Thread tagging me @SarahLouCrafts.

http://buyindie.co.uk/store/sarahloucrafts

Website screenshot from SarahLouCrafts.co.uk showing mitts, boot cuffs, ear warmers and beanie hats collection.

Hallmarking

What is Hallmarking and How Does

it Affect Your Jewellery?

Hallmarking is a process that ensures the purity of gold and precious metals in jewellery.  A hallmark is an official mark either stamped or applied by laser on a piece of jewellery that indicates its quality, fineness, and origin. By looking for visible hallmarks on a piece of jewellery before buying it, you can be sure that you’re purchasing an item of the highest quality and considered value.

What is a UK hallmark?

Silver, palladium, gold and platinum (‘precious metals’) are normally alloyed with other metals in order to improve their strength, durability and colour etc. A hallmark is a legal requirement which guarantees the purity (fineness) of the precious metal. It consists of three symbols:

  • the maker’s or sponsors mark: this is a unique mark and the maker/sponsor must be registered with an assay office.

  • metal purity mark: this indicates that the metal content of the item is not less than the fineness indicated.

  • assay office mark:  this indicates the Assay Office at which the item was tested and marked (London, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Sheffield each have their own mark)

  • (optional) a year mark: a letter indicating the year in which the item was hallmarked.

The  Sponsor’s Mark is also known as a Maker’s Mark.   This is the registered mark of the company or person that submitted the piece for hallmarking. It is formed of the initials of that person or company inside a shield shape. The shield shape varies, and a minimum of two initials must be included. Everyone is unique.

My Makers Mark is:    MKC

A hallmark is NOT a single fineness mark on an item e.g. a ring with a single 925 stamp – anyone can stamp these marks on any item and they do not indicate an officially recognised guarantee of the fineness of the metal.

Which jewellery needs to be hallmarked?

Any item sold in the UK (regardless of where it was manufactured) described as being made of gold, silver, palladium or platinum (subject to certain exemptions) needs to be hallmarked. Items below the following weights are exempt:

  • Silver: 7.78 grams

  • Palladium: 1 gram

  • Gold 1 gram

  • Platinum: 0.5 grams

Items made of gold plated base metals cannot be hallmarked (including gold filled and gold vermeil items). A gold plated silver item can only be given the silver hallmark.

Click here for the Assay Office Dealers notice, you can find my copy of the dealers notice on my Hallmarking page.   It is a legal require to display this notice on a website, in a shop or on a craft/market stall. I have a printed copy that I display when I am at craft fairs and there is also a copy on the website.

There are 4 Assay offices in the UK:   Edinburgh, Sheffield, London and Birmingham.  You can register with any of the above assay offices. It may that a business chooses Edinburgh because it is closer to them and they can drop off the items for hallmarking, this saves on the postage costs incurred both ways. Once you are registered with the assay office of your choice, this registration then lasts for 10 years.

I am registered with the London Office.    One of the reasons I registered with London was due to the symbol of a leopard’s head, either that or it was going to be Edinburgh as I have Scottish ancestry links in my family.

As you can see in the picture above, my hallmark comprises of all the compulsory elements. To know more about the different marks then head over to the London Assay Office website here.

If you have any questions then just ask, either below in comments section or drop us and email.

How Hiking Mitts Can Help You On Adventures

Hiking Mitts

I have been adventuring since I was a child, from an active and creative family. Alongside adventures with Guides, Duke of Edinburgh and Scouting, comes a love of craft making. As a parent and multiple dog owner when adventuring I wanted gloves to keep my hands warm but had to keep removing them to get items from the backpack or to hold on to the dog lead so I decided to crochet my own fingerless mitts for people who want practical yet beautiful adventure accessories.

 

Crochet fingerless gloves are perfect hiking accessories. Even during summer, mountain climbing, beach exploring, or any outdoor adventure can be chilly.

 

They are available in a variety of colours and sizes, are lightweight and easy to pack. The convenience of fingerless gloves means you are still able to access your phone, navigation device, maps, backpack, dog lead. The list is endless.

 

Warm Wrists, Warm Hands

Believe it or not but wearing hand-warming fingerless gloves will indeed keep you toasty and warm. Large arteries of the body pass close to the skin at your wrists so they can release a lot of heat. Studies have found that if we were losing heat it was because our wrists are not properly insulated.

 

Whenever someone is exposed to cold temperatures, the nerves of the skin, blood vessels, and brain sense the colder temperature and then send chemical messages along the nervous system to the arteries of the skin, hands, and feet, telling them to constrict to keep as much warm blood as possible away from the skin, fingers, and toes.

 

This helps to prevent the body from losing vital warmth through the skin and to keep the blood and inner part of the body (with vital organs like the brain, kidneys, and heart) at the correct warm body temperature. In the vast majority of people, this chain of events just causes the skin to feel cooler than normal.

 

In some people, however, it can cause severe pain and affect your daily activities or enjoyment of adventures. It is therefore important to layer up and wear warm accessories when and wherever you are out and about.

 

It’s not easy finding products for us Frosties even during the summer months the weather can be chilly especially if you are more prone than some, to feeling the cold.

Hiking mitts are available in medium and large adult sizes and I recommend you even invest in a large size which gives you room to even add a warmer pouch into the glove. A medium-size will give you a snugger fit depending on preference and they are all long to cover the wrists and forearm area for added comfort and warmth.

 

How Hiking Mitts Can Help

  • Reduce extreme sensitivity to cold. The body may react to cold-causing pain. Wear Hiking Mitts to reduce your sensitivity.

  • Lessen skin colour changes. Fingers, toes, and/or sometimes the ears, lips and nose turn white due to lack of blood flow (called pallor). The blood that’s left in the tissues loses its oxygen and the affected area turns blue (called cyanosis). As fresh oxygen-rich blood returns to the area, it often turns bright red. Hiking Mitts, Ear Warmer Headbands and Beanie Hats will keep your extremities warm.

  • Avoid coldness, pain and numbness. A lack of oxygenated blood in the fingers triggers these feelings. Numbness is the sensation that the hands and fingers have “fallen asleep.”

  • Alleviate, tingling and throbbing. The quick return of blood to the fingers triggers these feelings, but keeping a warm and even body temperature can ease any tingling or throbbing.

 

Ear Warmer Headbands

To complete the accessories look are matching sets of ear warmer headbands to keep the crazy annoying wind from giving you terrible earache and that constant battle of keeping your windblown hair from your eyes. For extra warmth look no further than my warm Aran yarn beanie hats.

Beanie Hats

Beanie Hats are lightweight so perfect for adventures all year round. Slouchy Beanies are more ‘roomy’ than a classic beanie hat so you can wear your hair up or down, whatever suits your mood or adventure.

Boot Cuffs

Boot cuffs are short ankle warmers designed to give that extra level of warmth on cold hiking adventures. I created the pattern myself and they can be worn either long or short by folding over the ribbed cuff for added versatility.  

Lap blankets

Are smaller than usual blankets designed to be over your knees while sitting around a campfire when camping or caravanning and therefore lighter and easier to pack too. These blankets can also be used in the home as a comforter / small blanket for children or as a chair or sofa throw.

 

You can shop the full range of handmade gifts and ‘Adventure Accessories’ from Sarah Lou Crafts. 

Website screenshot from SarahLouCrafts.co.uk showing mitts, boot cuffs, ear warmers and beanie hats collection.

Traveller Notebooks and Mindful Journalling

What is a travel journal?

What is a travel journal and why do you need one? Read on to find out how a pocket-sized planner will be your best travelling companion.

 

I have always kept a journal and even in our now ‘tech age’ I still enjoy the tactile process of writing. Sarah Lou Crafts signature Cork Fabric Notebook Journals are beautiful and practical for documenting memories of your travel adventures or for planning future treks.

Why you should use one.

Plan and record all your adventures. Travel journals are the perfect way for you to plan trips, jot down ideas for places to see and record the amazing experiences you have had.

 

A travel journal is a great way to store your memories, mementoes, discoveries, and delights. You do not need to rely on a phone signal or wifi, it can be as private or as public as you like.

There is a joy to be had in writing down your thoughts, plans and ideas the moment they pop into your mind. You can take it with you anyplace, anywhere

Traveller Notebook Journals

Sarah Lou Crafts  traveller notebook journals are hand-cut and sewn. They are bound in sustainable cork fabric with a choice of rainbow fleck, flower print or leaf pattern and come with a choice of handmade rose petal paper, plain white FSC paper, lined or a mix of plain and lined paper. The choice is yours to make a truly unique gift or treat for yourself

 

They are then finished with a matching wrap tie and are pocket-sized making them perfect travelling accessory gifts for outdoor enthusiasts.

 

  • Notebook Journals

  • Handmade Notebook Journals

  • 5 inserts, plain white paper each with 16 pages (80 pages total) of EU Ecolabel FSC paper

  • or Handmade Rose Petal Paper each with 8 pages (40 pages total). 

  • Can also choose white lined or a mix of both plain and lined.

  • Hand-sewn binding with strong waxed cotton thread. 

  • Pocket Size approx. 18cm x 13cm (closed). 18cm x 30cm (opened) / 7″ x 5″ (closed). 7″ x 12″ (opened).

*Coordinating faux suede cord wrap tie. 

 

The handmade paper, from Anglesey Paper Company is a sustainable resource made from the Lokta bush. The inner bark of the plant is stripped away then pulped to make the paper and as the root system of the bush is not damaged the plant regrows from the same root system. Lokta paper is acid-free and has a low environmental impact. It is regarded as one of the world’s finest papers and is perfect for eco-conscious minded people. 

  • Each journal is carefully crafted by hand, making it a special and unique handmade gift. 

  • The cover is made from cork fabric and has a coordinating faux suede wrap tie to keep the notebook closed when not in use. 

  • Inside the journal, you will find five inserts of pages each with 16 sheets carefully bound together with hand-sewn binding using strong waxed cotton thread to ensure the durability and longevity of your journal. The pages are made from plain white EU Ecolabel paper that is sustainably sourced, and you can also choose ruled lined paper or a mix of both depending on the purpose and preference of your Notebook. 

 

Journals don’t just have to be for travelling. 

Using a handmade journal is a unique keepsake, as each one has been carefully crafted with dedication and passion for you to fill with your own memories, thoughts, ideas, plans and creativity. 

It can be used as a diary to record personal thoughts, dreams, and experiences. It can serve as a sketchbook for artists to capture their ideas and inspirations. Writers can use it as a place to draft stories, poems, or notes. Additionally, it can be a practical tool for organisation, planning, or goal-setting. 

 

Mindful Journalling

Now is a great time to take up a new hobby. In the technical age we are currently in, it is paramount that we find ways to unplug and the creative arts have proven health benefits. Your new notebook journal is a blank canvas for you to fill however you choose.

You might like to journal all of your thoughts and write at length, this is absolutely fine. Go for it and let your creative thoughts flow. Or you might prefer to use your blank notebook for Mindful Journalling.

Be it for taking notes or journalling, studies keep identifying the benefits of writing by hand and in the fast-paced world how can we enjoy the benefits of writing while keeping up with the rest of technology?

Mindful Journalling is a way of capturing information as colourful bulleted lists. You can design the pages of your journal in any layout you like. See BulletJournal.com for more insights and tips.

Even if you can take a moment each day to just write down one positive thing that has happened in your day, no matter how small it is a great start to your journal journey.

 

Share Your Thoughts

I would love to know if you journal. What would you write in yours? Comment below or tag me @SarahLouCrafts on Instagram or Threads. 

How Crafting Can Help Mental Health

Mental Health and Depression

In this post I am going to talk about how crafting has helped me manage my depression but before I get into the crafting part, I want to give some background and why advocating for mental health is so important to me. 

Fizzy Pop Metaphor

Think of yourself as a fizzy bottle of pop. All day we have stresses that build up inside us. For each of these stresses shake that bottle (your body) a little bit. Thoughts we can’t filter and over analyse. Expectations on us as adults. People asking us to do things, at work, at home – SHAKE the bottle a little bit more. Our internal to do lists. Emotions, and physical feelings – SHAKE that bottle a little bit more. Generally we can all manage these shakes and settle ourselves again between each shake. Sometimes however the rests between shakes don’t happen or are not long enough to settle that bottle. Someone may ask you to do something or say something that is the equivalent of unscrewing that lid just a little way. 

What happens if you unscrew the lid of a shaken carbonated liquid? A jet of fizz explodes out the sides. We might shout or swear or act a little unlike ourselves for a moment, but again in many instances we can recognise matters are becoming unmanageable and we are able to get that lid quickly tightened to stop the fizz. What happens though if we do not recognise the situation escalating? What happens if we are overwhelmed by the stress in our lives which effectively unscrews and removes the lid of the shaken bottle? You know what happens, an uncontrollable onslaught of fizz, froth and mess; that is a meltdown.

The Day I Walked Away…

I am going to now open up about my own meltdown that occurred in 2017, as I feel it is important to recognise when things don’t work out and by clearing up the resulting mess we can learn to manage ourselves differently in the future. I recommend wherever possible, you get help with clearing up the mess. Either from trained professionals, or family and friends. This is going to get really personal. I hope that you stay with me.

It was a Tuesday, I would like to say an ordinary Tuesday, but then we can have a whole discussion on what is ordinary. Was it ordinary that I was living at University Hospital of Wales while my autistic youngest teen underwent his 5th cycle of chemotherapy. For the last two years (the time that Ryan has been seriously ill) I have had many shakes to my bottle. For the last 15 years I had received many more shakes of that bottle as I also advocated for his autism. That Tuesday was ordinary so far as our lives currently were. Chemotherapy cycles had become a routine. Fighting for Ryan’s life was routine after Sepsis and Peritonitis alongside the Cancer. Being a split family and living away from home were now part of our family dynamics as we managed as best we can with the current situation.

That Tuesday morning, several shakes of that bottle occurred in quick succession. I recognised this and in order to let that bottle settle, I, at first, just needed a timeout. I went for a walk. I have always walked and hiked. All my life it has been a pastime and relaxation hobby. 

The difference that day was that once I started walking the further I got away from the hospital, from the situation, from my life, the harder it became to turn around and go back. I didn’t want to go back. I didn’t want to face it anymore. I felt that Ryan’s Autism and Cancer were somehow my fault. Something I had done wrong while pregnant. If I went away, then Ryan’s illness would also go away. 

I didn’t want to deal and manage and cope anymore. I wanted Ryan’s suffering to be over and if I wasn’t there then the curse I had placed on him would disappear. The longer I walked and was away the more I became scared of how angry and judgmental everyone was going to be. It was easier to not go back. I switched my phone off and I walked. I genuinely thought at the time that things would simply be able to get better if I was not part of the problem.

Having Support.

As the evening drew on I began to realise the practicalities of my current predicament. I had no coat, no belongings, I did have my purse and phone, but could not face talking to anyone, as I felt that everyone would be angry with me. I had caused more problems. I needed someone who was not part of the situation, someone who would not judge me. I needed someone to help me start to clear up that exploded mess.

Fortunately I had someone. A friend that did not judge me. A friend that was able to cope with shaking her own bottle a little in order to help me. A friend that got me back to that hospital the next day. Once there the professionals arrived to also help with clearing up the effects of my exploded bottle. My bottle (body) had shaken and exploded so impressively, that it was in fact empty. Completely done, nothing left. I had a breakdown. Now I am going to switch analogies to a car to help explain the after effects of a breakdown. This is how I was able to describe myself with help from the therapist the days and weeks of therapy that followed.

Humans put a lot of effort into managing our lives and there are three categories we generally find ourselves in to guide us safely through our lives.

We can be in drive mode. We are focused, know our route, what we plan to achieve, we are actively heading for that chosen destination.

We could be in parked mode. Not heading for any particular destination, just happy to sit and enjoy the view. Content with our current point on the map.

Or we could be in sports mode. We are anxious, we need to be somewhere urgently, or perceive a threat of needing to get away from somewhere quickly. We gun that accelerator without due care and attention, with no concern for fuel economy or wear and tear on the vehicle (our body).

Compassion Focused Therapy.

Think of our body now as a car engine. It needs to be serviced, kept finely tuned. It needs fuel to run and security features to keep it safe. Imagine what happens to your car if you allow the fuel to run low. If you run on fumes, the engine starts to shudder, the car doesn’t work as efficiently as it could and should. That is the same for your body. If you allow that engine to run completely empty the car will cease to run and will come to a juddering halt. If you are lucky you can refuel and be on your way, but you run the risk of seriously damaging the engine. It could seize. Simply refilling the tank will no longer make the car run. The engine is now damaged and needs some repair work. The same goes for your body. Simply stopping to recharge is no longer going to be enough. Your body now needs to be repaired as well.

Everyone kept telling me to care for myself, make time for me, that I was running on fumes. I know this but what if you are on a long country back road with no service stations or fuel stops. What if you couldn’t afford to refill the tank? I took a chance to get to the next stop, but I did not make it. The day of my breakdown, the day I walked away, resulted in me being forced to be towed (professional help) to a garage (therapy) to allow the repair (healing) process to begin. I thought I had to be strong for everyone else. I am the matriarch of the family. Strong people don’t ask for help. How wrong I was.  

Thankfully I have received valuable help from the professionals. The car is functioning once again, but perhaps not quite as smoothly as it once was. The car isn’t quite the same as the one I had before. I have re-positioned that proverbial happy face mask that had slipped a bit from my outward persona that I allowed the world to see. The car looks clean and shiny, just don’t look under the hood/bonnet.

It is okay to take time out.

The day that I walked away, I needed a full escape. Everyone and everything had become too overwhelming. I didn’t care about anyone or anything that day, not even myself. Find a way to help your own mental health, before you reach crisis / meltdown mode. Whether it is your crafts, music, hiking, painting, or something else. Take 5 and do something for you. 

Crafting for Mental Health

There has been a lot of press in recent months about the benefits of crafting for mental health. I know that my crafts hobby has been invaluable in helping me cope and manage my depression. It has given me such a boost that I am now officially self-employed and running my own handmade crafts business from home. 

Lose yourself from the world for a while. 

I am from a creative family of artists and craft makers meaning crafts have always been a part of my life. Learning to sew, knit and crochet from a young age and taking up cross-stitch in my teens and early twenties. 

I took a break from crafting while I completed my university degree and when my youngest son was diagnosed with rare and aggressive lymphoma cancer. 

Through my counselling treatment and medication for my depression, I took up my crafts again as part of my therapy and am fortunate that I had my creative outlet when Ryan relapsed in September 2017. When you craft you have to concentrate on the process which means you can lose yourself from the world for a while. 

I can lose myself in my crochet. Shut everything else off. I also love that because it is a mobile craft, I can take it with me everywhere I go, so it is also now like having a comforter with me. Knowing I have it with me at the many hospital visits and appointments, even if I don’t actually do any it is there near to me.

The dark days of depression.

When battling depression there are days when you cannot face opening the blinds let alone venturing outside. 

Being able to recognise these black days and allow yourself the time you need to heal. Crafts can definitely help boost you on the black days. 

Does crafting alone at home make the isolation worse?

Sometimes it is perfectly okay to be content with your own company. I definitely prefer my own space, but it can also be important to not shut yourself off for long periods. 

Try to get out a few times a week. Pop to the shops, or meet a friend for a coffee. Attend a weekly group. I have been making myself go to a knit and natter group at my friend’s wool shop. I don’t go every week, but I have enjoyed getting out on the days I can cope.

Proven health benefits.

I recommend getting yourself into a good routine of tackling a couple of housework jobs first thing, so that you then I can craft, without worrying about what needs doing. 

Crafting has proven to reduce stress and anxiety as well as increasing brain function. There is some discussion that the cost of crafting can cause anxiety, or when projects go wrong, but emotional, mental, and tangible benefits far outweigh the negatives. 

Crafting has helped me and my mental health so positively that I have decided to build my own small business allowing me to work from home and still be able to provide the ongoing care needed to Ryan.

Mental Health is definitely a rollercoaster.

The first time I went to knit and natter I walked past the shop twice, plucking up the courage to go in. You do what you need to. Self-care is paramount. If you need help, advice or just to vent, please do reach out to family, friends or online forums and groups. 

Get Creative

  • My first craft… Cat Picture
  • Cross Stitch Embroidery 
  • My favourite thing to make are my handcrafted Notebook Journals. 
  • I taught myself to crochet in 2013 with the help of Bella Coco Crochet on YouTube.

Other ways you can be creative is to play and learn music. Especially now with YouTube being a fantastic media for online lessons. One of the best things I have done for my mental health was to join my local community town band with my clarinet. I was so nervous about joining and questioned my ability as a musician but it is so much fun to play with other like-minded amateur enthusiasts. 

If you don’t fancy music, what about photography? Again there is so much information available from YouTube and Pinterest to start you off and a basic small digital camera is not expensive with plenty of second-hand options available too. 

Crochet or Cross Stitch embroidery are easy and relatively inexpensive hobbies to start. With Crochet, you only need a hook and a ball of yarn to begin. 

For beginners, a hook size 4mm or 5mm and a 100g ball of Double Knit yarn will be enough for you to start learning some simple granny square designs and again there are lots of helpful YouTube tutorials to help get you started. MooglyBlog offers lots of free patterns and Bella Coco Crochet has wonderfully easy to follow video tutorials on her YouTube channel. 

You can buy easy beginner Cross Stitch kits from places like Hobby Craft and eBay. The kits come with everything you need to start and usually include instructions but again you can follow along to YouTube lessons as needed. 

Mend and Make was my family motto growing up. My mother was an avid knitter and seamstress. She made all our clothes, curtains, and bedding, from recycled and repurposed fabrics. We did not have ‘Fash Fashion’, cheap disposable wasteful garments such as the Primark craze. 

Do you know where your clothing comes from? Are you conscious of the working conditions and ethical manufacturing process of your clothes? I much prefer to buy second hand and make your own.  

My father was a keen DIYer and had a stash of materials and tools to fix pretty much anything that needed doing. Both my parents were and are excellent gardeners and we grew all our own fruit and vegetables. 

Hopefully, there is something here from these ideas that can help you with boosting your own mental health and piquing your crafting interests, possibly the start of a whole new hobby and way of life. 

Join the discussion. What do you think of my analogies of pop bottles and car engines? Do they help to explain the complexities of mental health? Do you have a better analogy? Connect and tag me on Instagram & Threads @SarahLouCrafts