An Interview with Nicole Bottles
Proud Saanich resident & the hands behind www.IVComfyCovers.com
Tell us about who you are and how you got started doing what you do. Did you gain formal training? Where? If not, how did you develop your art?
My name is Nicole Bottles and I design and knit IV Comfy Covers. I was born in the beautiful Bay Area in California and lived there til I was 9. My favourite memories of California were far outside the concrete and busy life of the city, rather, in the beautiful national parks, by the water. I was always discovering new ways of expressing myself artistically in my childhood, from music & writing, to knitting & sewing.
My parents were passionate about doing what you love. That kind of passion is infectious. My Grandmother Ede was an incredible artist & pianist, my other "Gramma", Thelma is an amazing seamstress & knitter. I learned so much about technique, color, and the value of dedication and patience from these two incredible women. I am so lucky to have such influences from a young age.
All of my education in the arts happened in art class in school, summer camps, and observing artists at work and their art (whether in museums, art shows, or studios). I am a patient person, and when I saw a kind of art that I loved, say, knitting lace, I would experiment with the tools until I achieved the look I desired. As I got older, I began to check out every book about an art form I wanted to learn/master from the library. I credit much of my skill of knitting to the Greater Victoria Public Library's knitting section, my personal favorite haunt (Dewie decimal #746.432) :P.
Why do you sell IV Comfy Covers (and what are they anyhow!)?
IV ComfyCovers are a super comfy and stylish solution to an uncomfortable medical device. I designed them originally for myself, after getting my 5th PICC line due to treatment for Chronic Lyme disease. (A PICC line is a kind of intravenous device, usually inserted into a vein in the inner side of your bicep. It is used for regular infusions of intra-venous medications or I.V. natural therapies.) I wanted something that wasn't the burn gauze because I didn't like looking like I had just walked out of a hospital. So after knitting for over a decade (I'm 19, so for me that's a whole heck of a long time!) I decided to design something pretty and comfortable for myself seeing as the burn gauze I was given by the hospital was a constant reminder to myself and others that I was sick.
I received so many compliments from strangers, friends and fellow PICC liners, that I knew I had so offer these 'comfy covers' to others! These happy colored IV Comfy Covers slip over your arm like a stretchy sock, and can be thrown in the wash. All of my products are knit in a scent-free, pet-free, smoke-free, vegan home.
I have a PICC line now for ongoing therapy, and have had many lines over the course of my 4 years treatment for the disease. I was diagnosed with this debilitating bacterial infection, spread by ticks, when I was 15, in 2008, after several years of vague flu-like and arthritic symptoms, and then much more serious problems developed, such as not being able to walk due to weakness, all-over body pain, and joint and memory issues. I currently use a wheelchair, but I'm rolling with the flow, and the power of positivity keeps me going. I write a blog about my journey with Lyme, at www.bitemeback.blogspot.com.
Who do you fundraise for?
With each armband purchase, I donate $2.00 to CanLyme (www.CanLyme.com), a Canadian foundation dedicated to promoting research, education, diagnosis and treatment of Lyme and Associated Diseases. I have always wanted to fund-rasie for CanLyme, but until now was too sick to help out. It is so amazing to be able to offer support to this incredible organization!
What inspires your art?
For as long as I can remember, I loved the water. I have always lived on islands, and the ocean & forests are the most important inspirations in my work. Spider webs, foam on the waves, and plant veins, are some of the natural beauties that inspire lace designs. I love the sophistication and comfort of lace ribbing, which is why I use three of my favourites (the "LacyRib", "Twin Rib" and "Moss stitch Ribbing") so frequently in my IV Comfy Covers. I'm experimenting with incorporating more classic stitches into ribbing, like cables, and eyelets.
Tell us about your studio.
In the past, my studio has always been was always my bedroom floor, where I can spread out and have elbow room. I am in a wheelchair now from my Lyme Disease, and my workspace has happily become a pillow on my lap.
Tell us about your processes. How do you work? Do you listen to music or need quiet? Is it sporadic or do you dedicate set hours to work?
Knitting is highly mobile; all you need are needles and a bag for yarn. I knit ALL the time. Actually, it shocks my family and friends when I take a break from "the needles". I knit in any spare moment that does not require my hands; in the car; in waiting rooms, chatting with friends, watching movies or listening to audiobooks. I have mastered knitting while reading a paperback book, which was the trickiest! It probably takes 4-6 hours to knit one of my armbands, about the size of the ribbing on a sock, so I try to use my time wisely by knitting in every free moment.
What challenges do you face in your work and what ways have you been able to address them (if you have)?
The hardest thing with knitting so much is that your wrists & fingers really start to hurt! I already have severe joint pain & problems due to Lyme disease, and so hours of knitting everyday doesn't help. After knitting for over a decade in the American" way (with the string in your right hand) my Gramma taught me, I decided I needed to switch to the more ergonomic "European" knitting style (with the string in your left hand). It took several weeks of focus to get it down, but now I can knit faster without discomfort!
What types of materials do you use? Why?
My art revolves around principles of reducing, reusing, and recycling. I use every last bit of yarn, and even save the tiny cuttings for spinning. For my IVComfy Covers, I have chosen to knit with cotton/elastic yarn, because it is the only yarn of natural fibers that wouldn't loose it's stretch and fall down your arm almost immediately. For a PICC line cover, it is very important that they stay up, just like a good pair of socks. The yarn is soft and machine washable, something that was both important to myself and to my customers. I am on the prowl for a way to make elasticized armbands out of organic, plant-based fiber. I am experimenting with an incredible hand-dyed sock yarn by a fellow Etsian, Heidi, from Quo Vadis Handspun (www.etsy.com/quovadishandspun), with the hope of knitting with using her wonderful yarns!
Where else do you sell your work?
I sell on Storenvy too (www.storenvy.com/IVComfyCovers).
Why would you recommend people buy handmade?
Why would you recommend people buy handmade?
(Let me count the reasons!)
In a world of mass-produced, outsourced, assembly-line produced goods, which sacrifice ethics in the pursuit of the cheap & sellable, it is such a relief to come to places like Etsy, where you can find dedicated artisans practicing their craft. I imagine a beautiful future, where the necessary objects in our life are created with love and attention from natural products. Actually, that vision sounds a lot like the past! I love the creativity and variation of handmade goods. I buy handmade because I want all people to be treated fairly in their jobs. I love supporting creativity, and want to be inspired. I buy handmade, because I want to support small business & passionate people, the backbones of the world's real economy! Buying handmade can become a lifestyle choice, the way buying local, organic foods can be! Okay, stepping down off the proverbial podium, I simply love beautiful things that were created by people for PEOPLE :).
What goals do you have?
I love hand-spinning wild & curly art-yarns from local and 'happy sheep'. The fiber whispers to my hands what they want to become and my legs do the rest. I am in a wheelchair, and I figured that it would be great therapy for my legs to use a treadle. And of course, I'd be making yarn. A fellow Islander and spinner, Arleigh, generously gave me her beautiful Cowichan Spinner & treadle, and I spent hours mastering the treading process, before even beginning to create yarn. But now, my coordination and strength is improving, and with that more spinning! I would love to be able to sell my yarn creations, and hand-spun, hand-knit goodies such as hats, neck warmers, and fingerless gloves. Eventually I see myself creating my own yarn for my armbands.
I would also love to find a way to get my IV Comfy Covers into the hospitals, particularly for the kids. Happiness is integral to health, and I think a brightly colored armband would make being sick a little less scary. Or selling the armbands at home nursing places would be pretty special too. I will probably need more hands to expand my business though, as I can barely keep up with my Etsy/Storenvy orders!
What is your favorite style/color armband? Which ones do you wear?
Basically, all the colors I sell caught my eye. Each time I discover a new one, it's my favorite...it's very hard to choose!
I love the soothing, natural tone of the Moss green. It is a very sophisticated color, especially when knit up in the Lacy Rib or Moss Stitch. It was one of the 1st armbands I made for myself when I happened across the yarn while on a 'medical vacation', after getting in yet another PICC line.
Anything purple is amazing, whether is an Iris, a firework, or a jewel. It's a very mystical color, and was only worn by Royals, once upon a time. It was tricky to produce, but now the secret is unlocked, and there is plenty of purple for all (thank goodness!). I'm crazy about this light shade of Periwinkle, and my special favorite, Plum.
PeacockGreen. Need I say more? Who can resist the magic & majesty of a iridescent peacock? It's a color that really just goes with everything, and looks sharp at any occasion. I created a 'Swirly Ribbing' to compliment this color, which curls around the arm in broad strips.
Any other place you will be that you would like us to know about?
Feel free to check out my Facebook page, where I love to post the backstory & inspiration for my latest armbands, adventure tales of knitting in public, updates about new colors,and general facts about Lyme Disease, and helpful PICC line tips. And of course, sales and specials, just for FB fans! www.facebook.com/IVComfyCovers