“Jo, can you teach me to sew please?” Connie asked casually.
“What do you want altering?”
I am a designer pattern cutter by trade, having worked in the West End for 18 years prior to starting up on my own making wedding dresses and one-off designer outfits for special occasions, so I’m used to doing a quick hem, repair or sewing on a button etc.
“Nothing. I want to make PICC sleeves”.
“Ok. I have no idea what you’re talking about. What’s a PICC line and what’s a PICC sleeve?”
She explained what they are and how difficult it had been for her to find one when she needed one. Then she announced that they need to be made from stretch fabric.
“So, you want me to teach you to use a sewing machine AND sew stretch fabric. Do you know how difficult it is to sew stretch fabric?”
She has no idea! It’s the worst fabric to use especially for a beginner, plus she can’t cut straight with scissors (she’s left handed) OMG!
However, she was so passionate about this project that it was hard to refuse, and I very quickly became as enthusiastic as her. She was also adamant that they had to be British and Handmade and that was us, and so PICC-Me Ltd was formed.
A sewing machine and roller cutter were bought and off she went, initially practising along lined paper without thread. This quickly progressed to hours of practice on bits of Lycra and anything else that I had spare. We chatted often, advice was given, aids sent as Connie’s neuropathy reared its head, but solutions were found and her determination to make PICC sleeves for fellow users was achieved.
The design. That was the challenge. I like a challenge, and this was right up my street. Many prototypes and sizes later, we had a product. Our husbands were apprehended for their arms to test the larger sizes. In fact, at a recent family gathering we had all 13 of us testing a particular fabric for comfort. It really has been a family venture.
Like a lot of people, I had little knowledge of chemotherapy, and soon realised that what I thought I knew was completely wrong. What I have learnt, through talking to patients and reading their comments, is that what PICC-Me is doing is worthwhile.
PICC a Partner: Her refusal to give up when problems arose, her commitment by spending hours practising and then making sleeves, with herself as her biggest critic, the endless times she stabbed herself with needles that she could barely hold, proved to me that by helping others feel better about themselves whilst having treatment was how I could help Connie.