Sonia Bendfeldt learned to crochet at the age of 9 when she was stuck in bed with illness. The craft continues to heal her as we learn in this interview.
When did you first learn to crochet?
I learned when I was 9, and it is a funny story. I could not get out of bed because of hepatitis, Of course I was bored and probably my parents were desperate, so my father went to my grandmother’s house; she taught him the basics and then he came back home and taught them to me. I have a funny way of holding the crochet hook and yarn because of how I first learned.
Did you continue crocheting after that time?
I crocheted over the years. At school I made a scarf and I crocheted a baby sweater. I stopped crocheting for many years but then when my children (and later grandchildren) were born I made a little blanket for each of them. Now I crochet for wellness.
Tell us more about that …
Unable to sit, stand, lie down or do the most menial things because of the terrible fibromyalgia pain I was in, I turned to knitting and crocheting. As a teacher and principal for many years, I was accustomed to reading a lot, about 50 books a year, but then with tears in my eyes, I realized I could not understand what I was reading and had to reread many times, until I gave it up. Through crochet, because I have to keep count of each stitch or the pattern will not come out well, I am able to concentrate more, and my fibrofog episodes are not as crippling. I gave up knitting because I found it boring, and it was very hard for me do to the fact that my left hand trembles.
Can you tell us a little bit more about “fibrofog”?
Fibrofog is a terrible part of Fibromyalgia. Your brain and your mouth feel disconnected and you can’t find the words you are looking for. Many times people have to end sentences for you. Who knew that such a simple thing as counting and recounting stitches would help you concentrate. It is never monotone and never the same.
Has your crafting been well received by others?
I was always a very occupied and intellectual person, and it was hard for me to slow down because of my illness. I retired after 43 years in education, was a professor at university and gave lectures on parenting, ethics in teaching and team work. People would ask me, “and now what are you doing”, I was ashamed to tell them: “I sit around and crochet”. I suffer from a chronic invisible disease so many people never knew I was ill, they just knew I had quit my job and could not believe it. I had to make peace with the fact that I crochet all day and feel very proud with my work. My family has gotten accustomed to it, my friends praise my work, and I know it helps me concentrate, forget about the pain and feel less tired.
Do you generally crochet alone or with others?
Once in a while I get together with friends and crochet things for ourselves or someone’s babies. I exchange stitches and tips with my friend Rita. But mostly I crochet alone, in a special crafting corner of my room, listening to classical music. I learn new things in crochet from YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook and mailing lists that offer free crochet patterns.
What types of things do you like to crochet?
I like to create my own patterns and hardly crochet the same thing more than twice. I enjoy complicated patterns for shawls, wraps, scarfs, baby clothes. I like the challenge and know that counting stitches heals me, makes me forget about the pain, fatigue, cramps, tremors … Mostly I crochet for my friends´ babies, grandbabies or themselves, but I enjoy crocheting shawls for me too. I have crocheted prayer shawls for two very special friends. As I was in the process, I felt as wrapped as I hoped they would feel wearing them, because I found myself praying with every stitch.
Have you ever thought about selling your crochet?
Many people have asked me to sell my work and I have been very weary of doing so, because I am afraid that it will take away something very private and mine. I feel that everything I make has part of me; part of my worries, my illness, my thoughts, my prayers, my time. I give my work to people I love because I felt loved while crocheting it.
Finish the sentence: “The number one reason that I crochet is ….”
… because it gave me back my life.