A Queensland mother has designed a range of beautiful scarves for older people and the disabled, and has found the venture has reverberated far more widely than she expected.
When Wilmarie Craig, who cares for her daughter and ageing mother-in-law, began sewing scarves for them to wear at meal time, she had little idea of the changes to her life she had set in motion.
An expert sewer, Ms Craig had gone online to find designs she could sew to keep her daughter and mother-in-law tidy when they ate. She came upon the ‘scarf’ design, which she modified herself.
“It worked beautifully,” Ms Craig told HelloCare.
So when carers who helped her with her daughter told Ms Craig she should put the designs online to sell them, she did, in the hope that they might help others too.
“It went crazy!”
Ms Craig put a post about the scarves on Facebook, and sat back to see the response. She didn’t have to wait for long. “It went crazy!” Ms Craig said.
The response to the scarves has been “overwhelming”, Ms Craig admitted, but it’s hardly surprising.
“More and more people are caring for their loved ones at home or are much more involved in the care facilities now, and they’re looking for ways to improve dignity,” she said.
“A lot of people who have contacted me who have parents who are just starting to show signs of regression, memory loss or some physical condition, and they’re looking for ways to care for their family at home and to keep them at home for a little bit longer,” Ms Craig said.
Orders are flowing in
Ms Craig said she’s had a lot of one-off and small orders. “They’ve been really easy to facilitate. I just post them off, and a few people have dropped in and picked them up,” Ms Craig said.
One customer bought a scarf for her husband who had recently had a stroke, but also bought one for her herself. The woman said she often eats dinner in front of the television and spills food on herself! “She’s finding it really practical for herself,” Ms Craig said.
But after someone shared the Facebook post with her LinkedIn aged care work network, enquiries from larger aged care providers started to flow in.
One “beautiful” company, a larger operator with a number of aged care facilities, is testing the scarves against their stringent quality requirements, which is “awesome”, Ms Craig said.
“The lady who called me was so thoughtful, constructive and passionate,” Ms Craig said.
The scarves are made from 100 per cent cotton, and the fabric designs are suitable for both men and women. They are reversible, and can have a waterproof membrane sewn into them. Each scarf is cross stitched for durability.
Ms Craig pre-washes all the fabric in hot water before cutting the patterns, to make sure they are colourfast and won’t shrink.
“It’s a very simple design, it’s very quick to make,” Ms Craig said.
Her 15-year-old daughter is cutting out the fabric for her, and is happy to be making a small income.
“She’s thrilled,” Ms Craig said.
Helping carers and the disabled
With such keen interest in the scarves, Ms Craig is now making plans to keep up with demand and says she wants the process to remain embedded in disability and aged care communities. She said some young people with disabilities can learn to sew, and also carers who are often unable to work.
“I’ve had a lot of people say you should go to China (to get the scarves made), but my heart is for carers and the disabled and elderly communities,” she said.
“Having a daughter with significant medical issues and needs, and also working with Ma (her mother-in-law) and my father-in-law before he passed, you realise how isolating it (being a carer) is, and lonely,” Ms Craig said.
“I’d rather teach them to sew and give them an income.
“I’ve got friends who are carers themselves. They have children with genetic or life-limiting conditions and they’re unable to work. Like me, they are basically unemployable,” Ms Craig said.
“This is something you can do from home that’s got a little bit of security, and that opens doors. It builds confidence and it builds value.”
Carers can feel they are not valued
Ms Craig told HelloCare it’s easy to feel “valueless” when you are a carer, despite being so important to those you care for.
“It’s a different world,” Ms Craig said.
By reaching out through social media, Ms Craig has connected with a broad community of people who care for someone in some capacity.
Some of the conversations she’s had with people through the Facebook page have left her in tears.
“There are so many things that could be done to help carers and people that need care in the community, to empower both those groups. Quality of life is crucial, for carers as well as their care recipients.”
Ms Craig’s innovation and her reaching out through social media has connected her to a broad community of people who care for someone in some capacity.
“For me, it’s all about supporting each other. It’s a really tough time of life but (in this community) you are surrounded by people who get it. It’s incredibly healing.”
Creating beauty at a difficult time
Ms Craig said the scarves can add a touch of beauty in what can otherwise be a bleak time.
“It’s not dignified as an older person to be losing your mind, losing your faculties,” she said. “You don’t have a lot of things that are beautiful and dignified and attractive as well as functional.”
But she said it’s “exciting” to live in a time when it’s not “taboo” to talk about these things, and to proactively find ways to improve the lives of both carers and the older people and the disabled.
The potential is extraordinary
Though selling the scarves is “new territory” for Ms Craig, she told HelloCare she’s “thrilled” by the attention they are receiving.
“I’ve already had so much excitement and it’s just an opportunity to start the dialogue, and to get people mindful. It’s such a scary time in people’s lives, watching your parents go down that road is not easy.”
“I’m thrilled and I’m a bit overwhelmed and frightened, because it’s all change. I’m used to doing it very tough, so the potential for actually doing something financially meaningful and making a difference to my life, it’s extraordinary to even be in that situation.”
The scarves sell for $25 each, with a 10 per cent discount for orders of five or more. Ms Craig offers further discounts for bulk orders.
You can order the scarves through Ms Craig’s Facebook page, Wil’s Special Needs Wear.