Friday, 12 February 2016

going self employed while managing a mental health disability???

I have a disability that seriously affects my ability to get a job and stay in a job.  I have a severe mental mental health condition - paranoid psychosis.  I first discovered I had this condition when I was eighteen and I was sectioned and hospitalised for three months.  I then gave birth to my daughter in 2002 and i thought that the first "episode" was just that.  A one off, a blip.  So i brought up my daughter and we bought our flat and i worked various jobs in various shops over the years.  I took my medication.  But not properly as it should have been taken but just when i felt stressed, so this was actually doing no good at all as thats not how the medication works.

Fast forward to my daughter being five years old and  I had my second episode and was in hospital for three months again.  I had left her dad and moved into my own flat with my daughter.  But I was getting more and more ill and I didn't recognise the signs.  What the doctors call, a lack of insight.  I woke up one morning and there was no milk in the fridge, and the flat was a total tip.  We had no food in the house either.  I rang the doctors surgery and asked if i could have my daughter adopted as i was not doing a good job of looking after her.  Within half an hour i had a psychiatrist and social services in my flat.  They said I had to find someone to look after my daughter and I had to go to hospital.  My daughter went to her dads.

Loosing everything because of my illness has really made me reassess how i view this condition.  It is described by the doctors as severe and enduring.  Which basically means that it is severe and life long.  It was hard to accept at first but at least i take my medication religiously now.  it cant get more severe than loosing being a full time to your daughter who means everything to me.

Fast forward to now.  My daughter will be fourteen next.  She is an A star grade student so despite having a rough start she amazes us.  i went to uni and got my degree in fine art.  It had always been a life time ambition to get my degree and i wanted my daughter to be proud of me so i went for it.  graduation was a really great day but there were lots of hic ups and crisis moments along the way.

Now comes the real life stuff.  I want to work.  But stress can make me ill and now with the awareness i have over my illness and symptoms I can see that my brain is wired kind of differently to a lot of people.  Also, i can flip between suffering very depressing negative symptoms where i don't even look after myself properly (hair gets in knots and has to be combed out by boyfriend) or positive symptoms and paranoia which is disastrous for me and everyone around me.

I happened to come across this website and signed up in the hope that this could become my work that I can do from home using my creative crafting skills.  Its called conscious crafties, and everything for sale on the website is made by people who have a wide range of disabilities.  Some are living with chronic pain and others have mental health conditions, some both.  I thought this was a really good idea as it is more ethical shopping for the smart and conscious consumer and also giving disabled people the opportunity to show off their talents and make a living from it.

A lot of disabled people have conditions like mine, that fluctuate.  This is no good if you are working in a shop thats being run on minimum hours and staff but twice as much work both mental and physical.  So working from home and being self employed is a really good option for people with disabilities.  Plus doing the crafting and creating is like administering yourself a good daily dose of art therapy, or occupational therapy without costing the NHS a penny.  Keeping busy doing manageable tasks as and when we can is good for us, for self esteem, and for mental health and can be a distraction from pain.

This is what i am slowly working on.  They will be knitted cushions and will be listed on the webiste soon!!

This is the ethos of the website :

About Conscious Crafties

Conscious Crafties is a handmade craft buying and selling community for creative people living with chronic illness, disability or caring for those affected. It's built by a Spoonie for Spoonies.
How was the idea born?

Hi there, I'm Karen and after becoming sick in 2011 almost overnight, I found my way to various support networks. I noticed that many of us turn to crafts to help distract from our illnesses and to feel useful again. Seeing so much untapped talent, the idea was born to create a community for everyone to showcase their work, in one place and give people a way of creating their own business. It was also a way for me to feel useful again, by using my skills to help others. Conscious Crafties is about empowering us all to be successful through our crafts, tell our stories and meet new like minded friends who understand our struggles. I'm also hoping it plays a key part in changing the way disabled/sick people are viewed by the world. We can still contribute and are incredibly talented!! Conscious Crafties has been built in honour of Sam, my beautiful friend I met through sickness and our love of crafts. Her strong fight with Gastroparethis and POTS sadly ended in Oct 14. Heartbroken, I knew then, after years of thinking about it, the idea for us all to sell our crafts within a supportive community needed to be launched, so it could help people now and give them hope for the future. 

Here is a link to the baby and children section of the website where you can find gorgeous hand knitted and hand crocheted items from blankets to booties to hats.  baby and children products

There is also a facebook page where new products get listed every day.  So go on, have a look and like the page and buy your hand made crafts from disabled people who are crafting through their illness!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

How to set up a dark room and develop your own true black and white film....

I first did film photography when I was doing my foundation diploma in Art and Design.  I developed a film in the dark room at college and I was fascinated in the process.  Watching the photo appear in the chemical bath was just magical.  I showed some of my black and white prints to my new boyfriend and he was asking, what is it about these pictures that makes them look so good.  I just said, "It's film."  He was intrigued and started looking on ebay to buy a film camera to have a go.

Eventually we bought a Cannon Elan 7/33V and we were ready to buy film.  We bought Ilford Hp5 as we thought it was a good all rounder to get started with.  My dad had said on the phone that he had all the equipment for a home dark room in his garage.  He had bought it at an auction and never got round to using it so we drove to my dads to collect the stuff.  My boyfriend jsut looked at what he thought was a pile of junk and said, "This is never going to work!" I told him it would and we took the junk home.

The pile of junk that we needed to get started with our dark room was:

  1. A developing tank with 35mm film reel inside
  2. An Axomat enlarger
  3. chemical trays for paper developing  
  4. a red lamp for using a safe red light to develop the prints
  5. some Ilford silver gelatin paper
So all we needed now was the chemicals which are:

Film developer - we used agfa
Stop bath

We also needed paper developer for actually processing the prints.

Our flat is a basement flat which was quite handy when it came to making our dark room (aka spare bedroom) so there was no white light in it.  I had the brilliant idea of measuring the window and going to the local wood shop to get a piece of hardboard cut to the exact size of the window.  It was a ver snug fit to the window and we used black gaffer tape around the edges.  There was no white light in our dark room.  I have only ever had one light leak when getting the film into the developing tank and that was caused by a device that was on the floor that had an led light on it.

We then watched lots of you tube videos about how to get the film out of the film canister and hooked onto the reel of the developing tank.  It is quite easy but you have to get used to doing it in complete blackness.  You use a bottle opener - we used one on the handle of a tin opener to pop the top of the film reel off and then pull the film out of the canister.  This is the only part of the process that has to be done in complete darkness.  So this was done in the dark room and we then went to the kitchen upstairs to do the chemical part.

Here are some of my true black and white photographs taken with the cannon Elan 7 with a sigma wide angle lens.  These are the ones that i got a light leak on while getting the film out of the canister.  As you can see it imposed the film sprockets on top of the photos.  I was quick to get the light leak covered and the reel into the developing tank.  Light leaks can completely ruin your film.  In this case though i think of it as a happy accident!

I have included at the bottom of the blog post amazon links to everything you need chemical wise and the developing tank to get started developing you own true black and white film.

Please follow this blog for further dark room and photography posts.

Beat the winter blues - Learn to knit....

Knitting has really taken off in recent years and with all the amazing yarns and wools available to buy its easy to see why.

I have started making some video tutorials that should help you get started with casting on and the basic knit stitch or garter stitch as it is sometimes called.  That is all you will need to know to start knitting a scarf.  You can choose from some amazing wool for scarfs now - there's funky fur wool, glitter wool, mohair, the list is endless.  Take a trip to your local wool store and choose some wool that you fancy knitting with.  

Watch out though, buying wool can get addictive!  Ask any knitter and they will be housing a huge stash of wool.  I recommend that you buy a chunky wool for your first scarf as it will "grow" quickly and you will see the results of your hard work much sooner than if you buy a DK yarn or thinner.  Plus chunky knits are very much in fashion at the moment.  

Here is video one - how to cast on-

You might need to watch it a few times.  And I recommend trying to actually do the casting on along with the video.  The view of the video is looking at what you will see while you are doing it.  Believe me it looks completely different from the the other view!!

Once you have managed to get about forty stitches cast on, or however wide you want your scarf to be, then you need to learn the basic knit stitch.  Here is the video of the basic knit stitch.

And that is everything you need to know to get started knitting a scarf!  Please excuse the naughty cat in the videos.  As you probably know if you have a cat, they LOVE wool!!! My cat was trying to attack the wool while i was knitting as soon as he saw it!  

Please follow my blog or add to google plus and my next post will be the next thing that you will need to know after you have knitted the scarf to the length you want it which is how to bind off. Don't worry it is very simple and now you can do the knit stitch you will so easily be able to bind off.  

It might be worth at the beginning of you adventure into knitting to invest in a good book thats full of easy patterns for beginners.  Once you have done a scarf dive right in and have a go at a hat!  

Check out the knitting book section on amazon.  The books are soooo gorgeous i cant resist buying them.

Bye for now and happy knitting... don't forget knitting burns a hundred calories an hour, so its good for your waist line too!

The Diana Mini Toy camera - great gift idea for teens!

I bought the Diana mini toy film camera this christmas and am really pleased with the pictures that were taken with it.

This camera takes 35mm film and the camera is a 1950's remake of what was originally a toy camera for children.  It is now the domain of hipsters and geeks every where making it a perfect gift idea for those hard to buy for teenagers.  The company Lomography has started making the Diana camera and the type of shots that it takes with its plastic lenses and light leeks onto the film is called "Lomo."

The lomography community has a large following at where users can upload their shots and receive feed back from other lomographers.

The camera comes in a very chic looking box with a free book full of the best shots taken with this camera.

Here are some top tips for getting great lomography shots with the Diana camera:-

1 - The bright colours of this fruit market stall work really well.  Often the colours that are produced by the camera are muted so picking brightly coloured and contrasting colours work really well.

2 -  The lights of amusement arcades on the sea front in the dark really well.  Here it was also a rainy day and that seems to have added to the movement in the picture.  

3 - Here is a boat in the harbour.  It was starting to get dark when this was taken and as you can see the colours are really muted and vintage looking.

So if you fancy having a go with film and getting some real film photography the diana mini is a really good place to start.  You never really know what the picture will turn out like which all adds to the fun.  My daughter also asked for a polaroid camera for christmas.  She is thirteen and has all the up to date gadgets such as ipod, and ipad.  But i think she's looking for something more tactile and retro.  (and don't forget a gadget for the hipsters).  The Diana mini is available to buy at Amazon along with the film that has been produced by Lomography.  

Here is a list of the main buying specs and features:-

  • Ultra-Compact:The Diana Mini is exactly that; take it with you on all your photo adventures.
  • Two Photo Formats: You can pick from 2 completely different photo formats. Either go for 36 square photos or shoot a whopping 72 photos on a roll with the half-frame mode.
  • Simple Exposure SettingsSunny day? Switch to the sun icon. Looking dull? Switch to the cloud setting. The Diana Mini makes setting your exposure easy for anyone.
  • Multiple and Long Exposure Capabilities:Easily take multiple and long exposures using the uncoupled shutter advance and'Bulb' setting.
  • Uses Convenient 35mm Film:The Diana Mini uses all kinds of 35mm film which is easy to buy and develop.

Why dont you set out on a diana mini adventure today.  Who knows what the photo's will turn out like? :-)

Monday, 11 January 2016

Ok... I admit, I'm not that great at tidying and organisation - heres the book i have read to get my top tips from!!!

So as i have said in my previous posts i have been reading a few books to get some tips to get organised for 2016. I am not an expert but this woman definitely is! She is called Ruth Soukup and i have read her books, living well spending less, 12 secrets of the good life and the thirty one day zero spend challenge. Here is the book....
This woman has got our backs, she knows from experience our troublesome areas of clutter and how we shop and don't manage the budget as well as we could. Theres loads of practical hints and tips and i am actually on day six of the zero spend month. The practical tips and step by step instructions she gave for how to even think about spending zero for a whole month were brilliant and reassuring. At first i was thinking, i will do it in a couple of months time when i feel ready. But she knew all the doubts and fears and by the end of the chapter i was taking an inventory of my food stock and planned to start the next day! So far on my spend month i haven't felt as though i am being deprived as all meals are planned and i have everything in my food stock to make them without spending money.  Please check my previous post, for details of how to control your spending by taking an inventry of your pantry and starting the no spend month! I cant recommend this book highly enough. I feel i am getting to grips with my spending habits and i may be able to live with an emergency fund in the bank rather than pay check to pay check and running out of money at the end of the month, which is massive for me!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

I have got a new allotment!

I have just found out that i have been given my own allotment after five years on the waiting list and failed attempt at having an allotment last year. I have learnt from my mistakes of the last allotment and realised that the people at the allotments take it very seriously and despite being given an over grown patch they expect results and fast!

I leisurly dug my allotment at my own pace and this was not good enough. So this time i have enlisted the help of an odd job to get my patch started and some beds dug. It seems drastic but this is what must be done to get started as the plot is such a mess. As you can see the plot has ram shackle sheds built of bits and bobs but I need to invest in a greenhouse and i would like to get a nice summer house for my allotment. I know the point is to grow vegetables but i would like to enjoy my time in the outdoors as i don't have a garden at home. And i need somewhere to shelter from the rain!! Also my teenage daughter will probably want to hang out in the summer house listening to her ipod, i doubt she will want to dig the land! Im going to need to do a lot of research and read a few books and watch some you tube videos no doubt but this is the type of learning i want to be doing. How to grow my food and be more self sufficient. I don't want to use any weed killer on my plot as i want everything that i have grown to be organic.
so wish me luck on my new venture!!! Lets hope i can impress the allotment inspectors this time!!!

Bringing the outdoors indoors – conservatory living…

I have always wanted to bring the outdoors indoor and have lots of large plants in my house.  I do not have a garden, only a yard that does not get any sun on it at all and is just a place to keep the bins really.  I found this a bit depressing so have been trying to grow plants indoors for a few years.  I have had varying degrees of success with my kitchen herb garden all not really growing very well at all and ending up with white mould on the soil.  (too much watering I think along with the humid conditions indoors.) 

My cats love hiding under the houseplants - here is fluffy hiding!

Here are a few top tips for growing plants indoors-

1 - While all plants are quite apt to prosper indoors, they do need more or less the same conditions to grow as outdoor plants do. These conditions are a good supply of fresh air, proper sunlight, water and nutrients such as plant food commonly known as fertilizer or plant food.

2 - I will include here a few tips that are sure to make your indoor plants grow healthier and add beauty to your surroundings.

3 - Ever notice how plants will face the source of sunlight? This is because the sun is the main source of their nutrition. Plant leaves change water and nutrition from the soil to food through a process called photosynthesis.  A couple of hours of sunlight is a must for your indoor plants. If you do not have a place where you can have adequate sunlight, and cannot move the plants you should consider purchasing a couple of indoor gardening lights.  Ordinary lights will not do. Indoor gardening lights provide enough of ultraviolet light to nourish the plants.

4 - Provide adequate water to your plants. Your indoor plants need room temperature water to survive. Do not over water the plants, most plants die due to a lack of water or a surplus of it than they do of any other reason.  Follow a rule of thumb; like you test a cake you should pierce a knitting needle into a plant container. If the needle goes in with ease the soil is just the right dampness, if not increase the quantity of water a bit.

5 - Fertilizers are also important, once a fortnight add a scoop of indoor plant fertilizer to your plant pot. Used tealeaves are also a very good supply of nutrition to your plant.

Follow these simple tricks and you will see your indoor garden prospering very soon and you will be able to create the perfect conservatory outdoors indoor look for your home!

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