The idea for the Spoonie Bag started when I was in an intensive trauma therapy program in the winter of 2014. In one of our sessions on self-care the facilitators suggested carrying around a small self-care box with items that were helpful for grounding. We spent a lot of time talking about grounding in that program and I tried to think of items I might carry around but nothing seemed quite right. I liked the idea of a smooth stone but it didn’t really help that much. In the meantime, I was in my late thirties with a young kid and I hadn’t been employed nine years. I had tried to make a go in several fields including web design and life coaching but in the end I just couldn’t seem to make anything work.
In the summer of 2014 I was given a sewing machine for my birthday – initially I wanted to use it to alter and make clothes for myself. Being fat and genderqueer meant that it was next to impossible for me to find clothes in stores. Still, the sewing machine didn’t get much use at first and in the fall I fell into a deep depression. After switching my meds I started thinking about that self-care kit again, and that’s when I started thinking about how cool it would be to make and sell self-care kits specifically for spoonies.* The idea inspired me enough to start watching Youtube tutorials on sewing and looking to see if anyone else was selling something similar. One of the things I discovered was that there is significant overlap between effective grounding objects and stim toys for autistic people. Since then I’ve also discovered that my kid and I are both autistic.
Many tutorials and trial runs later I had come up with the design for the Spoonie Bag and all of its contents. I made one for myself and started showing it to friends and family and everyone loved it. That was just the validation I needed to put it up on Etsy.
Somewhere along the line, I realized that designing and sewing made me feel better than I had in a long time. Now, looking back I can say that sewing saved my life. It helped pull me out of some of the worst suicidal ideation I’d experienced in years. It was the perfect combination of creativity, problem solving and repetitive manual work to keep me engaged but not overwhelmed. And by making something for fellow spoonies I felt a sense of meaning and purpose that, for the first time in years, made the prospect of a long life almost bearable.
I firmly believe in the power of crafting as self-care, when you spend so much time feeling useless and overwhelmed, there’s nothing quite like holding something beautiful and useful in your hands and saying, “I made this.”
*The term ‘spoonie’ originates from The Spoon Theory written by Christine Miserandino.