10 Country: Francis' Blind Faith - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

10 Country: Francis' Blind Faith

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April 1, 2008

         Brooks Co.--  Some people do more with less than other people. Frances Williford can take a single piece of thread, and magically turns it into a work of art.

           Sometimes a simple life includes moments of sheer complexity that some people could never imagine happening.

      "It's a challenge to me," says Frances as she sits on a plaid sofa.

       A never ending challenge of determination to steer a knitting needle in complex patterns, something that years of experience make look so easy.

       "About 35 years," says Frances who spends a lot of her time pulling a straight line of thread and weaving it into intricate patterns of knots known as crocheting.

      "That's right," says Frances.

       But, she can't see her work. She crochets on blind faith.

      "I'm hoping it will turn out pretty," says Frances.

      It sounds like an aside comment until you realize she can't identify colors or shapes. She barely sees bright lights.

        "I learned to crochet before I went blind," says Frances.

       She went blind 23 years ago. She has retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disease that slowly claims more and more light sensitive cells in the backs of her eyes, a horrible condition that she emotionally adapts to.

      Some blind people feel content to sit around and do nothing, but not Frances. "Being bored isn't living."

     "Being blind opens a new world to me," says Frances where her fingers become her eyes.

      She easily finds where she left off crocheting by quickly running her right thumb and index finger down the white thread until she feels knots.

     "Three doubles (knots) like right there," says Frances as the hook of the crocheting needle grabs the thread and she starts crocheting exactly where she left off.

     "In my mind I can see. I can figure out what the knots look like," says Frances. "There's a lot of concentration."

      She says she's made about 150 afghans while blind, another 150 when she could see.

      What does she do with them? She gives most of them away. A close friend asked her to make 35 blankets for stillborn babies and Frances gladly did so. It takes about a week to make one.

        Most of the time she makes solid colored blankets since she can't see color, but one time she got wrapped up in a huge challenge.

      "Keep an open mind," says Frances.

    A multi-colored afghan illustrates how far she pushes herself.

     "No one helped me," says Frances. "A friend gave me the colored threads and I made the design."

       The interesting afghan includes a red, purple, black, brown, white and yellow threads perfectly aligned.

      One part of crocheting takes its toll on her.

       "Getting knots out of thread," says Frances.

      She gets ideas for new designs from the Internet and from brooks she scans into her computer that literally reads to her.

     "I'd be lost without the Internet," says Frances.

      She can't see the designs on the computer screen or read the words, but a robotic-type voice explains the stitching sequence and Frances remembers it.

       Thankfully, she's not blind to idea of trying to do the seemingly impossible.