Wilma - Thriving as a Crochet Designer With Facial Differences
Have you ever felt down about something going on in your life and not sure if you can have your dream because of health issues? These may be issues that have been around for a long time or are just starting or discovered. Know you are not alone and that this maker community series is to encourage you by showing you others that have been there and have continued to thrive in their life, living their dream despite health issues. :)
To start out the series is the amazing and talented Wilma of Wilmade who creates gorgeous crochet items that you can find on her website wilmade.com. She has lived all of her life with a facial tumor, and after many consults with a variety of doctors was diagnosed with having Facial Infiltrating Lipomatosis. There are only a handful of people around the world with this condition. Wilma is a great encouragement and inspiration to show how perseverance and determination not only helped her to obtain her diagnosis after many years of the unknown, but also start her dream of building her crochet website!
How did you start Wilmade.com?
In 2015 I started sharing my work on Instagram. I gained quite some followers that first year and my crochet skills developed from following other people’s patterns to designing my own patterns. I have always been interested in making websites (I developed my first website when I was 12) so naturally I built my website about crochet: a place to share my projects and patterns.
What gave you the idea/inspiration?
The name wilmade.com is a derivative of my name Wilma and handmade.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m 24 years old, live in the Netherlands (a very small country in Europe) and recently got married to my husband.
What is your condition and what resources would you recommend for those that also have the same condition?
I was born with a benign tumor in my face. Doctors never knew what it was. In 2017, when I was 22, I did a second opinion (or 10th opinion actually) and a new doctor was able to give me a diagnosis after weeks of searching. Unfortunately there are no resources as it’s an ultra rare condition that only affects a handful of people in the world. So far I know 30 other people who live all over the world. I have another blog/website about my life and this condition. It’s the first hit on Google when people start searching for this condition. They often contact me and I help them with questions.
How has having this condition impacted your life?
Living with a facial difference has limited me in many ways. I often have to deal with exclusion and I know for a fact that I would have been a vlogger if I didn’t have a facial difference.
What encouragement would you give to others who have struggled and feel alone with either an undiagnosed condition or a rare disease?
Some parents don’t think it’s that important to seek for answers. As long as their kid is doing fine, it’s okay for them. I personally encourage others to always keep searching for answers. Getting diagnosed has truly changed my life in a positive way and has played a big role in learning to accept my tumor (as far as I can ever accept that). I have a big ‘extended family’ (people with the same condition) living all over the world who I try to meet as much as possible. Facebook groups are a great way to start searching and connecting with others.
How long has Wilmade been around?
I launched the site on January 1st 2016, so more than 3 years now. The first year I mostly shared some blogs, but the 2nd and 3rd year I started sharing my own designs for free on my blog.
What is Wilmade all about?
Free crochet patterns made by me. I like to make hats and shawls, but lately I’m also very interested in simple garments which I will focus on coming months.
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How do you choose the yarns you work with?
I try to work with yarns that are popular. Some of these yarns aren’t available in my country, such as Mandala yarn cakes, so I have to find other ways to get it. I also love gradient yarn cakes which I often use for my shawls.
How did you start crocheting?
In 2014 my grandmother sent me some pictures of her crocheted Christmas trees. I absolutely loved them and felt the urgent need to learn how to make them myself. With my mother’s crochet hook I started that same day. Somehow I was able to whip up a Christmas tree without problems. After finishing 4 Christmas trees it was time for a bigger challenge. I found a Minion pattern which was my first big project. Luckily I had two weeks of free time since the Christmas break had just begun. My crochet addiction was born.
How did you start designing?
After one year of making many different crochet items, I knew the basics and was able to make projects without using patterns. I came up with my own ideas and learned how to write crochet patterns in English.
What would you tell a new crocheter for encouragement?
The hardest part is to learn how to hold a crochet hook. Once you find a way that feels comfortable, you’ll notice it’s not that hard! Practice a lot and you’ll become faster and faster.
What would you tell a new designer for encouragement?
Just start. Even if you don’t have that much time, if you really want to start a blog, just do it. A blog needs time to grow so the sooner you start, the better.
What inspires you when you design crochet patterns?
Depends on the projects. Sometimes I design a pattern specifically for holidays such as Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day. I also have a series of crochet patterns inspired by / dedicated to my extended family.
What is the hardest part of designing a pattern?
The math when grading garments, for sure.
What is your favorite crochet stitch and why?
Half Double Crochet Back Loop Only (HDC BLO) – because it’s such simple stitch with an amazing result. I love that both sides look completely different.
What is your least favorite crochet stitch and why?
Stitches that take a lot of time and yarn to make, such as popcorn stitches. But they look so pretty, so sometimes I still use them in my designs hehe.
What is your favorite type of design to create and why?
Shawls! The options are endless and I love to play with the different shapes.
What is your least favorite type of design to create and why?
Amigurumi – I love to make them and follow other people’s patterns, but designing them myself isn’t my thing.
What is your favorite season to create designs for and why?
Fall/winter because I get to use chunky yarn that works up fast.
What is your least favorite season to create designs for and why?
Honestly I like every season.
What is something you are passionate about and why?
YouTube – I’ve started making youtube tutorials about two years ago and even though it’s a loooot of work, I think it’s very important as video content is the future. I hope to grow on YouTube coming years.
If you had one (or several) things to share with a woman entrepreneur, what would it be? What would you encourage them about?
Being your own boss is fun! Life is so much easier if you get to decide when you wake up, when you start working, when you stop working, when you’re taking days off, etc.
What is a lesson learned for being a woman entrepreneur that you wish someone had told you when you first started?
The first year I did my own bookkeeping but life is so much less stressful since I outsourced it to an accountant. I would recommend getting one right from the start if finance allows you to.
What is your dream for Wilmade i.e. where do you see Wilmade in 5+ years?
I hope I will have a big following on YouTube – and of course many visitors on my blog. I hope my pattern collection will be filled with unique and popular content (and of course also some simple patterns for beginners.
How can people help get the word out about their favorite designers?
Good question, people who want to help their favorite designers can do several things. The first is purchasing PDF patterns on Etsy or Ravelry. Other free options are commenting on their blog posts and sharing their patterns on Facebook and/or Instagram. If you make something using a pattern, make sure to credit and tag the designer. That way more people get to see the pattern and hopefully purchase it or at least follow the designer.
Thank you for joining us for this first of the series! Is there someone you would recommend to be a part of this series? Someone that has been an encouragement to you despite a health issue? We’d love to hear from you! Please email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a comment on this article! Looking forward to hearing from you and have a great day!