By Minh Ha
When most of the country began shutting down and going into quarantine in March to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many members of the ACB community came together to host calls on a variety of topics over Zoom. The goal was to alleviate some of the isolation, boredom, anxiety, helplessness that many were feeling in response to the pandemic. It has been an invaluable resource for the blind and visually impaired community to stay connected with the world at large and share skills and experiences regarding a variety of topics. In June, Melanie Pesco and Kaila Allen, two passionate crafters came together and hosted a “crafty chat.” The response was overwhelming.
At the start, crafters of all levels and abilities were excited by the crafting chats every other Sunday, but soon, more advanced members of the group enthusiastically offered to host virtual classes to teach their skill to others. Thus, ACB Crafters was born.
To say that the group has exploded is an understatement. We started out with a weekly crafting chat on Sundays covering topics such as origami, crochet, loom knitting, cardmaking, and have grown to offering classes on a specific craft. We now offer biweekly loom knitting class on Thursdays, hosted by Courtney Fulghum Smith, whom we affectionately refer to as the “Loom Diva.” Also offered are biweekly needle knitting classes on Thursdays with Jean and Jane (the combination is too perfect), in addition to biweekly crochet classes on Tuesdays with the Crafting Goddess, Kaila Allen Schmidt, our vibrant and energetic leader.
There is a craft for everyone in ACB Crafters. Judith K., from Guelph Ontario Canada has learned about making bird houses. Other members are interested in not only learning new skills, but reviving old crafting skills and techniques. Life can catch you up in a whirlwind and it’s easy to forget how beneficial creation can be. This is the case for DeAnna N., who hopes to once again embrace her crafty side. For other members, the sense of community and accessible techniques is really what draws them to our group. Sarah C. expresses excitement on discovering new techniques and crafts she can accomplish despite vision loss, when she struggled to incorporate crafting into her life after losing her sight. It can be overwhelming to know where to start if you don’t have accessible options readily available, and sharing our knowledge, learning new things and supporting one another is exactly what we want to promote. Patricia S. loves the sense of community that ACB Crafters has fostered, as we can all agree the pandemic has increased feelings of loneliness. It is heartening to be able to connect and share with others through the common thread of creating beautiful handmade items.
Crafts can be a drain on resources if you go into a store—online or physical—and can take up a lot of room. The goal of the crafting group was to make it as easy as possible for anyone to join in, learn and have fun. Peggy C. appreciates the crafting kits available, allowing her to try something new without a huge financial or space drain. Teachers, who come directly from the crafting community, volunteer to create individual kits so ACB Crafters members do not have to worry about gathering supplies on their own. Jane C. praises the way the group is inclusive to everyone regardless of skill set and has increased her confidence in her own knitting skills. Mary A. loves the way the group has inspired her to get creative and use everyday items from around the house in gift giving, recycling and reusing is a huge environmental plus and can be a great inspiration when you’re just not sure what to do.
Not only do we offer a large variety of classes, but all of our crafty chats and classes are recorded and turned into a podcast, which can then be played at a later time. Suzanne B. most appreciates the availability of recorded instructions so that she may revisit topics at her leisure. As everyone’s schedules are different, never mind time zones, recorded options is the best way we found to support a wider community of crafters. Our podcast can be found on anchor.com/acbcrafters, through Apple Podcasts or your podcatcher of choice, on Alexa enabled devices, and even on Victor Reader Streams.
So far, ACB Crafters has been more of a success than we ever imagined. The ability and opportunity to come together and share in a safe space that allows for creativity and support has been a beautiful ray of hope during this time of heartaches and struggles. Accessible crafting and new ideas, we hope, will only spark more creativity and learning while the social aspect will support our members in even more important ways. Mental health is a huge problem facing the greater world at large, but has a unique impact on the disabled community. If fun crafts and new skills and socializing can ease that burden at all, a burden that has become much heavier given the events of 2020, then we, your ACB Crafters founders are more than happy to offer it. Anyone wanting to learn, explore, practice and or share a new skill is welcome, and we hope this community will continue to flourish, create and be supportive for any and all members.
Our calendar of crafty chats is booked through 2020 and classes are already being scheduled in 2021! If you have any questions or would like to learn more about ACB Crafters, you may contact the current administrators, Kaila Allen, Courtney Smith, and Minh Ha by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We also have a Facebook group for crafters to chat and share ideas and resources which you can access by visiting this link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/283307419481266/?ref-share.
If email is more your preference, there is a general mailing list for us to share updates and announcements and a general forum for crafty chatting. Visit http://www.acblists.org/mailman/listinfo/acb-crafters to sign up for the list.