With a needle and yarn in her hand since the age of seven, Elaine has been crocheting and knitting for most of her life. Now, aged 63, Elaine’s love and talent of the stitched crafts are being used to bring joy and comfort to those who need it the most.
Born from English roots, Elaine moved to Australia at the age of six and was originally situated on the Sunshine Coast with her family. Moving halfway to Brisbane when her mother fell ill, she currently resides in the Moreton Bay Region with her husband and their extended family. Connected with her community, Elaine is a part of her local Neighbourhood Watch and loves to join the MS Support Groups online or take part in the fundraising events like the MS Moonlight Walk and the MS Swimathon.
Diagnosed in 1999, Elaine has been living with MS for about 24 years officially and nearly 30 years unofficially after receiving her neurologist scan when she woke up one morning blind in one eye. After going through the diagnosis process, Elaine was connected to MS Queensland, “My new neurologist sent me a load of information and support resources. I was one of the first people to work with Tim O’Maley!”, Elaine recalls. “I got involved with lots of different support groups which was good to meet other people with MS. The information sessions were also great and MS nurses who used to teach us new things as well.”
Becoming a TAFE-qualified teacher at the age of 20, Elaine left the education sector after moving to Queensland, where she then worked in the hospitality industry as a Restaurant Manager. Following this, she returned back into the school system to provide assistance to senior students for 15 years. After moving on to a Business Development Officer role, Elaine retired after four and a half years due to workplace bullying. “I had a manager from hell that bullied me because I had MS. My neurologist said, ‘You’re pushing yourself and forcing yourself to work and it’s making you worse.’ So, he retired me on disability”, Elaine states.
Taking an unfortunate situation and finding the silver lining, Elaine began spending more time crocheting and knitting. “Everyone knows, even when I have friends over for coffee, that I usually have a crochet project in my hands. It keeps me relaxed and then you don’t stress; your mind doesn’t go into other places. If you are having a pain day, go and crochet because it takes your mind off the pain!” As Elaine began to specialise in larger blankets, she decided to direct her efforts towards charity where she donated over 100 blankets last year.
“I started doing a lot of blankets for the aged care facilities and dementia wards on the Sunny Coast. I do a lot of blankets with different textures, because we find that it’s very calming for the residents…It’s amazing the difference it makes to the attitude of the people in the ward. So, I’ve got two or three different lockdown dementia wards who have all received my blankets.”
With her dining table covered in different colours of wool and fabric, Elaine completes about two or three blankets a fortnight. Fondly recognised for their bright and bold colours, Elaine’s blankets have become incredibly meaningful and personal to the people who receive them. “One lady, who I did a blanket for a few years ago, I said to her ‘what colours do you want?’ And she said, ‘I want everything in the brightest colours that you can do.’ Even now, she still says to me “Do you know I wake up every morning and all I see is your bright colours and it cheers me up every day.” That’s why I try and do as much with the bright colours and cheer people up. It’s a thing to make people feel happy and feel good about themselves. I hope it makes someone’s day – that’s what it’s meant for.”
Turning passion into purpose, Elaine wanted to give back to the MS community that she’s been a part of for so many years. “Obviously MS is on my heart because I’ve got MS myself. I’ve seen my friends with MS who I’ve done blankets for, and I’ve seen how happy it makes them. I thought ‘why can’t I do it for others as well’?” Whether it’s people moving into MS Queensland’s accommodation or individuals who have been newly diagnosed, Elaine wants to show her support.
“I don’t do it to gain any kudos for me. I do it because I like to see people warm and happy, and just people getting enjoyment out of what I do. People are scared of going into a new place too – it can be quite daunting. So, just to see something nice, warm and welcoming there would be good. For a newly diagnosed person, they might feel scared – I know I was. If I can give back support to somebody who is sick or scared to feel a little bit more comforted, then that’s what I want to do”, says Elaine.
With more blankets being requested, people have begun to donate wool to Elaine to help out with her costs and orders. Incredibly generous and thoughtful, we are beyond thankful to Elaine and her donors for providing these blankets and wrapping the MS community in warmth and love.