Thursday, 25 June 2009

Epilepsy and knitting

I use the website which is a knitting community website where you can find free patterns, discuss your projects with other knitters, join groups and much more. A couple of days ago I noticed that there was a new group called "Knitters with Epilepsy and Seizure disorders". This was of interest to me, as I have epilepsy. As it is well under control I now live my life normally and rarely think about it. But I was shocked to read other people's experiences where they have had bad reactions from family, friends and strangers, from being told they were possessed to being thought of as mentally defective! It is shocking that in our enlightened and tolerant society there are still so many misconceptions.

For me, it all started just over 10 years ago when I had a stressful job and did lots of commuting. I was having a normal week, too busy, not much time to eat, not enough sleep and I was driving home on a fast dual-carriageway, going the maximum speed on the outside lane, overtaking a lorry. Suddenly I found myself in a ditch with people around me. I was very confused. The police arrived and then an ambulance. The first ambulance man who spoke to me asked me for his lottery numbers for the week. I didn't understand why. He said that it was my lucky week as I should have been dead. I was just so thankful that no one else was involved in the accident.

I was taken to Oxford's Radcliffe hospital for tests but no one really know what was wrong with me. I had been alone in the car and and so no one had witnessed what had happened to me. However, a few days later, at home with my husband, I had a seizure which he witnessed. It wasn't long before I saw a neurologist and was diagnosed with epilepsy.

I was told that I had had epilepsy all my life. However, up until that point my seizures only consisted of a feeling of "deja vu". I didn't lose consciousness or even have absences. Since I heard people talking about "deja vu" I thought that it was normal.

I was devastated. On a practical level I had lost all confidence to go out alone, I could no longer drive (one must be seizure-free for at least a year before getting one's licence back), was told not to contemplate having children whilst the search was on for the "right" medication.

After a difficult period of trying different medications with horrible side-effects, we finally found one that suited me and I have been seizure-free ever since. Even though I take medication everyday, it doesn't really affect my life. Now I can drive, work, I have two healthy children, I just get on with my life. But there is something in me which avoids telling people unless I have to, some fear that people will judge me, there is still a stigma attached to it. When I was first diagnosed, I remember telling someone that I had epilepsy and they said, "But you don't look like you have epilepsy", like I should have two heads!

So maybe being more open about this condition can help people understand. I will write more ...

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Zen and the Art of Knitting

I have been reading "Zen and the Art of Knitting" and I am finding it very interesting. The idea that knitting can be meditative, that it can draw you out of your situation and towards something "other" is fascinating to me. The author, Bernadette Murphy, looks at the links between spirituality and creativity. She has researched very thoroughly through interviews with some interesting people. I feel that, as I work my way through it, it may feature again on my blog!

I was inspired to begin knitting (or I suppose I should say taking it up again after around 30 years, having learnt as a very young girl) by the birth of my daughter. I saw a gorgeous book of baby clothes which I subsequently received as a gift. They looked impossibly hard but with the encouragement of my mum I made a little cardigan, a bit misshapen but a great achievement! And I haven't looked back.

I do feel, when making something for a certain person, that I knit each stitch with love. And, perhaps in a fanciful way, I hope that they can feel that when they wear the item. We have, as a society, moved away from creating our own clothes, it is more convenient to buy what we need. I remember that when I was a child, sometimes the jumper knitted by grannie was a source of embarrassment among friends. I was really pleased to hear how my son's teacher complimented him on a lovely aran sweater made by a friend of mine and told him that jumpers made by hand with real wool were the best. What a great philosophy to learn from nursery school! When you actually make something yourself you then appreciate the efforts of others, how working out a pattern or inventing a design involves time and dedication.

What I am learning too is not to be impatient, that it doesn't matter if I have to unravel a piece to get it just right, that through each mistake or imperfection I am growing in understanding. Learning about the technique of knitting, that almost mystical art where just two stitches are used to create unlimited possibilities of design. Learning about myself and my impatience, my frustrations, my restlessness ...

By the way, I obtained the book through which is the most amazing website. It is a system of book exchange and I have found that people are extraordinarily generous. This book came from the USA and from someone who couldn't afford to post it to me right away - of course I didn't mind - but she could have just said that it was too expensive to send to France and turned down my request. Instead she made a personal sacrifice and through that I am blessed.

Photo: a scarf I made especially for my mum

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Cocon on Etsy

Here is my second featured Etsy artist! I am so happy to be showing off the work of Cocon-a from Céret, France. I discovered Masami (who created the Cocon label) on Etsy when I was looking for a present for my sister-in-law and I found such a gorgeous bag, hand woven in red and white yarn. I didn't realise until later that we were "neighbours"!

When I received the bag, it was wrapped in the most beautiful packaging and finished to a very high standard. My sister-in-law loves it!

Masami not only makes bags but also adorable children's clothes, hats, mobiles and super cute quirky Cocon dolls. All of these designs are conceived by Masami and, as you can see from the photos, she has great talent.

On her blog Masami has a list of things she likes, among them: the dawn, the smell of the sea, hand-made chocolate ice-cream, jumping in virgin snow, things which have a history... I think that this, along with the piece Masami wrote about her work (below) speaks volumes about the poetic, gentle world of Cocon, the inspiration behind the creations and her attention to detail.

A world of freedom
I let my ideas come and they are carried on the wind,
this is how Cocon creations come to life,

I want each Cocon creation to hold good
and not drift away on the current
"Constant existence"
this is what I seek to achieve with the creations of my hands
through which my thoughts are imparted.

(Translated from French)

Masami's etsy shop is:
She also has a blog (in French) here:
And her own online store here:
(Look out especially for the Coin de Cocon where you will find sale items (yippee!) as well as vintage articles for sale:

Please have a look, I know you will be delighted by these charming items.

Bonne journée et à bientôt

Friday, 5 June 2009

Melì Melòn on Etsy

I am really excited to be bringing you my very first featured artist. Melì-Melòn is based in Barcelona and so not far from where I live, just a couple of hours over the border.

She makes the most beautiful dresses, as you can see from the photographs. I met her on an Etsy forum where she was asking for help with her English (which she didn't need by the way) and we have been communicating through Etsy conversations. I now have a dress for my little girl and when it arrived she wanted to try it on immediately, it is soooo cute. I can testify that her pieces are extremely well-designed, well-made and she pays so much attention to detail.

I asked Melì-Melòn to write about her work and her ideas and she sent me this lovely text:

"When I was a little girl, I spent hours looking at how my mother was sewing dresses for my older sister and me, every single dress was special, unique and made with lots of love. She left us five years ago and then I became the new owner of her sewing machine and her vintage fabric collection, so I started sewing my own handmade dresses for my 2 daughters. With every finished dress, I remember my mother and how proud she would be. A lot of people and friends were surprised at my girls' clothes designs and encouraged me to sell them. Last summer, my sister discovered Etsy, a wonderful place where you can meet lovely people from everywhere and find really unique handmade items at affordable prices, so I've recently open my little shop there. I really love sewing, for me is like going back to my childhood and playing with dolls again. I want every one of my designs to be unique and different from what I could buy in a conventional shop, so I usually work with high-quality vintage fabrics or Japanese imported fabrics, I love them!"

I hope that you will take the time to look at her Etsy shop. It is certainly worth a visit (and worth making a purchase for the little princess in your life).

Bonne journée to you all and bonne continuation Melì-Melòn!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

In this little corner of the world

Since having a shop on etsy I have met so many lovely people who live just near me. And they have great shops with amazing products. So, as there seems to be a bit of a tradition of featuring people on your blog, I thought I would join in. On some Fridays I will feature people who make handmade items from Languedoc in France or over the border into Spain. The first one will be this Friday when I will show you the work of MeliMelon from Barcelona.

If you would like to be featured on my blog, please let me know. As I said, I am initially looking for people who live near to me, so please pass the word around. I would love for the world to see the talent in this little corner of the world!

Bonne journée