January can often be a difficult time and it’s important to rest and reflect on the year just gone. We take mental health very seriously here at Mollie and truly believe in the healing power of craft, which is why we had a chat with our faves and winners of the 2018 Mollie Makes Handmade Champion award, The Fibre Lounge.
They’re known for their community-driven store and weekend retreats which aim to do much more than just let people crochet. We interviewed Louisa from The Fibre Lounge about her 2018 struggles, the importance of speaking out and how craft has helped her anxiety.
We’re big believers in the healing power of craft here at Mollie Makes, how has crafting helped you both?
I’ve always struggled with anxiety and having crocheted from a young age I was able to use it to help me during the tougher times. I find if I don’t crochet for a few days I start to struggle more mentally. When we were renovating the shop there were 3 weeks with no crocheting, that was tough.
What’s your favourite craft to relax with?
Well, it used to be crochet before I started designing – but now it can be a source of stress at times! I’ve recently been developing my knitting skills and am finding it very relaxing. I also love to take part in workshops to try all sorts of different crafts, I find dabbling in different things very therapeutic.
Can you tell us a bit more about your retreats? They seem like the perfect way to destress.
They most certainly are! The weekends consist of a lot of crochet, some spinning and some natural dyeing. We take the whole team, so myself, Mel, Caz (Wulla) and Amy. Our guests get to relax and enjoy their weekend, taking part in whichever workshops they wish, while someone else does all the cooking and washing up for them. All of our rooms are en-suite, and the locations are just stunning.
In June we’re off to The Bringewood in Ludlow, Shropshire and we can’t wait to explore. As someone who suffers from anxiety, my retreats have been designed to make people feel as comfortable as possible in a situation that could be quite daunting to somebody coming alone. Most of our guests do come alone but within half an hour everyone is chatting like old friends. It’s very rewarding.
We love the way The Fibre Lounge has a real sense of community and feels super homely. How do you think you’ve achieved this atmosphere in your shop?
Community is the most important thing for us. We have customers who’ve been with us from the very beginning, in my living room 3 years ago and we become friends with people very quickly through our shared love of yarn and crafts.
We have customers from afar who we love to chat to at shows and online. Some customers just come in for a chat, and I know that we could be the only people they’ve spoken to that day, so it’s important that we give them our time. We have seats in the shop which our customers appreciate.
Personally, I know how lonely life can be sometimes, and even though crafting is good for mental health, the exercise of talking to others is also so important. Running things like our late night lock-in and curry nights gives us a chance to host events that our customers can attend even if they don’t wish to attend workshops.
The crafting community is definitely a special one, how has the community helped you both professionally and personally?
It’s given me a new start. It’s pushed me to learn how to deal with my anxiety rather than letting it consume me. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to talk to strangers at shows, or even have turned up in the first place!
It’s given me the gift of self-acceptance. It’s also given me a huge number of friends with similar interests to me. I’m still very intimidated by a lot of my peers within the industry, but I’m finding I have more courage now to approach other businesses and makers to collaborate etc.
It’s also shown me how strong I am, which is something I didn’t believe before.
You’ve spoken about self-belief and anxiety on your blog, if you could give our readers one piece of advice about overcoming self-doubt what would it be?
It’s such a difficult topic, and so easy to give flippant advice – I know for me personally that 5 minutes on Instagram can have me spiralling into self-doubt as I see where everyone else is and worry about where I am.
I guess my advice would be try not to look sideways at others’ journeys but look back at your own. Compare yourself to a year ago, how have you grown, what you’ve achieved. We get so obsessed with comparing ourselves to others that we forget what we’ve already done.
And, when it all gets a bit too much, how do you put things back into perspective?
If I get really panicked about the business, Mel always gets the congratulations cards out from when the shop opened and makes me read them. It was such an achievement for me and the feeling when we opened the shop was so amazing. The support we’ve received has meant the world.
You also talk about getting out of your comfort zone, what challenges did you face in 2018?
Well, we opened a high street yarn shop in March, during the snow… which was then followed by a 4 month heat wave! Suffice it to say, it was a tough year! The high street is already turbulent and opening a bricks and mortar is a huge risk.
Also, Mel was on leave for an eternity while her dog had puppies (8 weeks, felt like forever!) which I found difficult. She’s in charge of taking over if I struggle in a situation, I’m not sure if we would be where we are if I didn’t have Mel as my sidekick.
I’ve also found having increased visibility and therefore more interaction with strangers views on what we do tough. As someone with anxiety, the most flippant comment can have me not being able to sleep for days. I’ve had moments where I’ve had to leave my phone at home to get away from social media.
Do you have any advice on overcoming obstacles?
I love a spider diagram or a good brainstorming session. The most important thing is to talk – even if you think it’s trivial or people will think you’re being ridiculous. One of the triggers of anxiety and self-doubt is the fear of embarrassment and it’s this that’s held me back most of my life.
If you’re really struggling, I would highly recommend speaking to your GP. Or, go directly to the WellBeing Service website. I completed cognitive behavioural therapy and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
Finally, what are your goals or resolutions for 2019?
I don’t make resolutions. I’ve never managed to keep one and it just fuels my anxieties of being a failure. My goal for 2019 is to accept myself and embrace my flaws.
I’m running a make-along with my Ravelry group, The Fibre Loungers, called the This Is Me make-along (inspired by The Greatest Showman… what isn’t these days!). We’re inviting anyone to join in and make with us, any craft, any creative piece can be entered.
We want to encourage people to embrace who they are, what they do and inspire others. That’s what started me on this journey in the first place.
To learn more about The Fibre Lounge and their crafty creations, or to attend one of their retreats, head to www.thefibrelounge.com.