Over the past few years, lockdown has signalled for many of us a period of significant transition and self-growth. We have had more time than ever to sit at home, left to our own devices. For some, this has been a time of damage and deterioration. For others, it has presented the opportunity to pick up a hobby, acquire new skills and pursue projects that were previously procrastinated.
Interview spoke recently to Anya Fedorov, second year Sociology student and President of the DU Crochet society. With her we discussed mental health, volunteering, and the overcoming of personal fears. She shared with us how her passion for crochet transformed her life, and offered her a means to help both herself and others. We learned how Anya’s talent has allowed her to overcome obstacles within her own life, while simultaneously helping to foster a love of crochet and craft in other people.
Q: When did your journey with crochet begin?
A: After a long year struggling with my mental health and feeling trapped during lockdown, I decided to learn something new. I have never been the most motivated person ever, and when I’m not the best at a new hobby right away I tend to give up. But over a couple of weeks, I adopted the art of crochet and soon realised how beneficial it was. With the help of YouTube and my brother’s girlfriend, I got the hang of it quite quickly and immediately recognised the benefits. Crochet became my form of meditation.
Q: What inspired you to start selling your creations?
A: During lockdown, my Grandma got diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It was apparent to my family that she had entered her mid-late stages. It affected my family so much. Although I was caring for my Grandma, spending time with her and helping out with little tasks she could no longer do alone, like bathing — I still felt immensely helpless. I was also a carer for other people as my full-time job and I saw the sheer number of people suffering from this disease, and it really broke my heart. As I started to get a little more adept with crochet, I had people contacting me daily requesting for me to make them custom items. This was when I realised that I had an opportunity, and could potentially use my new hobby to raise money for a charity so close to my heart, Alzheimer’s society.
Q: How much money have you raised?
A: I’ve raised over £300 so far. I also volunteer for them weekly, spending time as a companion caller for those who live alone and suffer from Alzheimer’s.
Q: Why did you decide to found a crochet society in Durham?
A: In first year, especially during Michaelmas term, I really struggled to make friends. I felt out of place and entirely alone. As I started to get into crochet, I began looking for a society with people whose interests aligned with my own — but it was non-existent. I was so afraid to start my own society, as I only knew one other person in Durham who crocheted. My flatmate had to be my treasurer despite the fact that he had never crocheted, just to help me get the project started. I was anxious that it would be too niche and that no one would want to join. However, when it came to the freshers’ fair, I was blown away by the response I received. So many people came to speak to me. There was so much excitement surrounding the society, for both those with pre-existing interest and also beginners wanting to learn. We now have almost 200 members!
Q: What advice would you give to students aspiring to start small businesses/and or societies in their free time?
A: I think the main advice I’d give is not to be afraid. If you have an idea, please don’t let your own anxieties hold you back. No matter how niche you might think the hobby or interest is, I promise you there will be numerous people who share that same love.
Q: What achievement are you most proud of?
A: With diagnosed depression it can be really hard to find the motivation to do anything. When I took that first step and decided to stick at something (crochet), it was the first step towards completely transforming my mental health. A year on I can happily say that I am in a much better position than I was before I began. I think finding that motivation is definitely my biggest achievement.
More of Anya’s work can be seen via her Instagram, @crochetbyanya https://www.instagram.com/crochetbyanya/
The DU Crochet society is a welcoming, safe environment to explore crochet and enjoy stimulating conversation with likeminded people. It can be joined through the following link, https://www.durhamsu.com/groups/crochet
Image credits: Anya Fedorov