Today I’m going to share with you an excerpt from Crochet Saved My Life. It’s the story of awesome crochet designer Tammy Hildebrand and her journey using crochet to heal from Chronic Lyme Disease. I’m sharing this because I believe in crochet health, because it’s been awhile since I’ve shared one of the book’s stories of the women who hook to heal, and because I’m going to be sharing Tammy’s newest book on the blog next week so I want you to meet her. But before I do that I want to sideline for a minute to tell you about an emerging new website called Humanthology that is collecting and curating first person stories and has a nice growing collection of stories about Lyme Disease.
Humanthology and Lyme Disease
Humanthology is a new website that you can join to share your own personal stories around topics that matter to you and to read the stories of others around those same topics. It’s an ongoing conversation around topics that matter to individuals, for deeply personal reasons, and the idea is that they curate different perspectives around the same topic. This serves the purpose of giving a more holistic perspective to each topic, allowing insights to emerge as civil discussions grow around topic areas and giving voice to the different experiences that each individual has had.
I mention this here in part because it relates directly to what my goals were when I wrote Crochet Saved My Life. As many of you know, I interviewed two dozen amazing women about their difficulties in mental and physical health and how they used crochet to heal. Crochet healed these people whether they struggled with depression or schizophrenia or ruined spinal disks or Chronic Lyme disease or a combination of ailments. I saw firsthand the power of individual stories coming together to let others know about our craft. And I combined this with research about the proven health benefits of crafting to create a book that I hope serves as a guide to how crochet can heal.
I also mention the Humanthology site here in this context because interestingly one of their sections that has been contributed to most so far is the section on Lyme Disease. They have stories there from well-known writers like Amy Tan and also from regular people like you or me. And this shows how everyone can be affected by something in a different way, have a different experience, and help each other and the wider world understand that topic more fully by sharing in a safe space.
I’m about to share Tammy’s story from Crochet Saved My Life with you, but first let me tell you a little bit about who she is. Tammy Hildebrand is a talented crochet designer who works for her own company called Hot Lava Designs. Her designs have been widely published in various places including the book 50 Sensational Crochet Afghans and Throws. Tammy is also the vice president of the Crochet Guild of America. Tammy has just released a new crochet book called Crochet Wraps Every Which Way. It’s on its blog book tour right now, with lots of great stops along the way, and it will be stopping here next Friday when I’ll tell you more about it.
Tammy’s Crochet Health Story
Here’s the excerpt of Tammy’s story from Crochet Saved My Life:
Tammy Hildebrand learned to crochet when she was quite young. Her second grade teacher taught her and Tammy still has that first floppy purple crochet had she made. She obviously didn’t know at the time that crochet would come to be her life’s work but that’s exactly what happened. (As a side note and a thanks to the great influence of teachers everywhere, Tammy tracked down her old teacher and shared with her the great role she played in her life. They are now Facebook friends so her teacher gets to see all of her crochet projects online.)
So for Tammy, crochet came first and illness came later. In fact, Tammy really can’t remember a time before crochet.
“Crochet has been such a large part of my life for so long that I have a hard time pulling out specific aspects of it. It is just part of who I am. I am never without a hook in hand and really don’t know if I could stop if I tried. It is like breathing to me and I really just don’t even think about it. Years ago my husband and I owned a brick laying company. I would lay brick during the day and crochet in the evenings. I was tearing down some scaffolding one day and broke my arm. Rather than put my crochet on hold while my arm healed, I devised a way to crochet with my feet. I would sit “Indian style” on the floor and hold the hook between my toes with the soles of my feet placed together. Then I would manipulate the yarn with my left hand.”
Unfortunately, illness did come and it was in the form of something more long-term than a broken arm. Tammy was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease.
Chronic illness frequently causes depression. Tammy experienced that and crochet was crucial in helping her to overcome it. She shared:
“There were times I was completely bedridden with this disease. It can become pretty depressing when you can’t walk or take care of your family or do anything you did in your “normal life. Crochet was the only thing that didn’t change. My crochet was my constant companion. It kept me company. It gave me a reason to wake up each day. It made me feel like I still had something valuable to offer even if I had to do it from my bed. In a world spinning out of control and everything as you know it is gone, it is very comforting to have crochet remain the same. It was my anchor to reality when nothing else in my life was even remotely familiar. The greatest healing I find with crochet is that it is always the same. It feels like an old friend or your favorite pair of shoes. In an unfamiliar world of illness, crochet is my security blanket.”
Tammy has played a huge role in the CGOA, a professional crochet organization, so it should come as no surprise that the crochet community has certainly played a role in helping her through her illness. She shares:
“When I was diagnosed with Lyme, it wasn’t just me, it was my entire family – husband and two teen daughters. (It is very common for entire families to be infected). My crochet family immediately set out to help us. One crochet friend set up an online auction using original designs donated by many of my designer friends. They raised almost $2000.00! Another designer friend heard about the auction and wanted to help too so she ran a 24-hour sale on her site with 80% of the proceeds going to us and sent over $3000.00! Sure the money was great but it was so much more. These people are my family. I love them! Without crochet, they wouldn’t exist in my world. Many of us are so different and would never have come together if we didn’t share the love of crochet. It crosses all boundaries. The late Jean Leinhauser used to say, “These are my people”. That totally sums it up!”
Since being diagnosed, Tammy has become a Lyme activist. She promotes crochet to the other people she meets in the Lyme community, sharing how-to videos and tips to get them started in crochet, too. You can connect with Tammy online. She is active in the online crochet community (find her on Ravelry, for example). And visit her blog.
Full disclosure: I know the folks over at Humanthology and am sharing this to support them. They didn’t ask me to share this and I’m not getting any compensation for doing so. I just think that there’s a lot of value in sharing first person stories and want to support that here. I encourage you to check them out for that reason. As for Tammy’s book, I received a review copy for the post I’m doing next week for her blog tour but no other compensation. All opinions here are my own.