Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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Some Images From Recent Days

I watched my sister’s dog the other day, while she was out with my littles. A trade. With my furry niece, I sat under a tree. Pitch got stuck on my fingers. I realized I need to sit under trees with my children more. 


Pumpkins…

And their seeds…

A misty river visit on an afternoon drive. Here, I felt close to many in my family who have passed away. Touching the cold, clear water, I told them all I miss them. 

We drove up a mountain. I live in Vermont but I don’t go up very high most of the time. Scared the hell out of me. Not gonna lie. 

Wisdom is everywhere. It does pay to go up high every now and then. 

A doll I made. It’s me, when I’m old. 

Off to a lecture at UVM, and in between events today I’ll work on finishing the second sleeve of my sweater. 

Car knitting is the best. 

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A Very Muppet Halloween!

I feel like I should just begin each post with: It’s been a while…

Rather than detail all of the reasons why keeping up with writing has been difficult lately, I’ll show you one thing I spent a considerable amount of time on in the last couple of weeks. It’s crafty. It’s funny. It’s… Animal.

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Animal from the Muppets~ this is the real puppet, not mine!

Remember Animal, from the Muppets? I loved him when I was a kid, and I love him now, after spending a bunch of time considering all of the subtleties of his face, his expression, his noisy look. Of course, my animal does not come close to Jim Hensen’s, but oh, I love him still.

My son and I got the idea of him dressing up as Animal for Halloween one evening when he was playing the piano, very dramatically. He was cracking me up, swaying his head back and forth, his longish hair flying everywhere. He reminded me of Animal’s crazy drum playing ways and then and there, we decided it needed to happen. My boy needed to be Animal.

There’s no easy way to just get an animal costume. Can you believe that?! There’s not. Once we figured that out, my fantasy was too far in. I couldn’t reverse course. So, noodling around online, I took a gander at other people’s animal costumes. Paper maché seemed to be something folks tried but that intimidated me. I don’t know why but I think it just seems unruly and like I would just make a big heap of mess instead of a mask. I also found a post about a woman using a baseball helmet as part of the head support. It was from that idea that my mask was born.

After ruminating on the costume for a few days, I went to Michael’s craft store and walked around, hoping to find things that looked like they’d work for costume construction. I ended up with: styrofoam balls, three large and two small red feather boas, fun fur, black, red and orange felt, a styrofoam bowl, a red baseball cap, and glue.

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First, I stitched the baseball cap to the styrofoam bowl. The idea here was that the head needs to be large, and there is a bit of a lip where Animal’s upper lip and nose protrude. The rim of the baseball cap provided the structure for that. The stitching here was tricky; if I pulled too hard on the needle, the thread would at times pull right through the styrofoam. Knowing it was going to be totally covered with feathers, I didn’t care about it looking great. It just needed to be functional. The cap, by the way, was fitted on my son’s head before I sewed it into the bowl.

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Then, I glued the bowl edge onto the rim of the hat. What in the world did people do before glue guns?

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Once that was dry, I began the fun process of wrapping and gluing the feather boas around the bowl. A little messy at times, it’s good to have wet paper towel on hand to get glue off fingers. Feathers seem especially attracted to glue.

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Once I got the bowl covered, I had to start tinkering with the mouth and how it would attach to both the head and to my kid. I apologize now for the lack of pictures of the rest of the process. I tried a bunch of different things. Finally, I settled on using thick paper plates for the structure of the mouth.

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I eye-balled the plate size against the bowl/rim of the baseball hat. The idea was that the mouth would attach to the rim of the hat, and my kid’s face would be behind the mouth. Originally, I thought I’d cut out eye-holes in the black felt I used for the dark part of the mouth, but I changed that later.

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I cut a plate in half and then cut out the flat part of the plate, leaving just the rounded edge of the plate. After a couple of experiments, I opted not to trim the rim of the plate itself (this is not pictured).

Then, I eye-balled the orange felt lips Animal has against the rim of the plate, and after that, the black inside of the mouth. Those pieces were glued to the plate rims. Now, below you see the full mouth where I used the black felt. I ended up using black meshy fabric instead. I included both pics here because some might prefer the darker felt for the mouth. I opted to switch to the see-through mesh because I wanted my son’s face to be fairly free and open, and for him to be able to see easily at night. I made the same kind of paper frame for the structure of the mouth, glued the black mesh onto the paper rim, then the orange felt lips on top. I placed black felt just on the bottom half of the mouth, on which the tongue could be glued.

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Below is what I ended up with.

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Now, the major tricky part was how to make the head full and round looking. Remember, the head up until this point was just the bowl, which only came halfway down the back of my son’s head. The top of the mouth was glued to the rim of the hat (so sorry there are not more detailed pictures). That allowed for the mouth to stay strong and in place. The bottom of the mouth naturally hangs down. After a lot of McGuyver style attempts to complete the mask, I almost gave up. I was really having a hard time figuring out how it would all go, until I talked it through with my step-mom. She suggested attaching it to a hooded sweatshirt and then wrapping the feathers around that way to complete the rounded head. Voila! That’s what I did, and it worked great. I sewed the hood to the baseball cap, and then the edges of the hood to the edge of the mask. Around the hood, back and forth, I was able to add more feathers and bring them around the bottom the the mouth.

Once that structure was complete, it was time for the fun stuff~ the eyes, the nose, the teeth. For the eyes and nose, I wrapped the styrofoam balls in wool, needle felted them to give them a nice fuzzy look and glued them onto the head. I used black felt for the pupils, fun fur for the eyebrows, and marshmallows for the teeth.

Once Animal’s face was on, I felt so relieved! If I were to do it again, I’d needle felt the orange lips using orange wool, instead of the cut-out felt.

Here it is, all finished!

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And here I am, having a loving moment with my Animal.

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I hope you had a great Halloween!

 

 

 


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Monday Musings~ Writing is Like Exercise

Sheesh, it’s been a while. A raucous cold, a busy schedule, a lost cat, and maybe a few too many projects really got me off my writing groove. But, I went for a run yesterday to try to get my blood moving again, and today I’m back to writing here and on another project. Feels good. 

I’ve taken to rising early again, well before anyone else in the house is stirring. It’s so much easier to do when it stays dark longer into the morning. I love those quiet moments. And truly, coffee tastes the very best at a little past 5am. 

There are simply not enough hours in the day to do it all. So, making decisions and abiding by priorities is where it’s at. 

One beautiful priority for me at this time is working with Susan Merrill of Weaving A Life.


I’m going through the process of making eight projects Susan developed, with her support, guidance and wisdom along the way. Two and a half projects in and I’m already profoundly moved. I’ll write about the whole process when I’m done. For now, all that I am learning and gathering for myself is precious and intimate. When I’m through, I’ll be able to work with others in this way, which is a dream come true. 

I’m spinning wool almost every night after my kids go to bed in order to have a sweet selection to sell at a craft fair in November. 



I’m tending to a sad and worried heart, of my own and my children, due to our missing cat. He’s been gone for almost a week but was sighted this morning. With the weather changing, it’s hard not to feel frantic. 


I’m working on another weaving project and struggling with warp tension due to shoddy wrapping on the beam. Frustrating! 


And tending to family, home, career, body, mind, spirit in these crazy heartbreaking times…

Not enough hours…


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Ahhh, Satisfaction! 

Yesterday evening I took a piece off my rigid heddle loom I’d started weeks ago. September 1st, I think. 


I used a yummy mohair yarn and what I’m fairly certain is a kind of thick cotton thread. I love autumn-esque colors. I was going for a shawl that both looks warm and delicate, airy and solid. I also wanted to practice a weaving technique called Leno as described in the book, Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom, by Syne Mitchell. 

The cotton thread behaved so much differently than the wool yarn. It is much less forgiving and had almost no elasticity. Sometimes the selveges were a catastrophe. I thought about bailing on the project about halfway through because I was worried it was just a hot mess and I should start over. Then I got stubborn and opted to carry on ~ best case scenario, I reasoned, was that I’d love the shawl and want to show it to the world, imperfections and all. Worst case? That once off the loom I’d lament wasting hours of my life weaving cloth not fit for mouse bedding. 

I tried out some things in an effort to minimize loose ends. Oh loose ends! They are part of things, aren’t they? 

When I had to switch colors (according to my own pattern; I’d arrange the color changes much differently if I were to make this again) I tried securing the loose threads in the loop of the weft as it was going back through the warp. That worked out pretty well. Wish I’d have figured that out sooner! 




Taking the shawl off the loom was nerve wracking! Not sure why. It feels both sturdy and fragile at the same time, and all of the loose ends made me wonder how the hell I’d get them all sewn in without ruining the fabric. 


There it is all laid out. 


I stayed up until the wee hours last night sewing all the strands in, those that couldn’t be trimmed as they were. It was so worth it. 

The shawl isn’t blocked yet but here it is. I’m so happy I kept at it. I learned so much about how different threads behave, selveges, the utter importance of a proper tension in all warp threads (obvious I know, but I thought I’d done that and still there were problems throughout. I think I need to make smaller groups of weft threads in the beginning stages). 


Here’s an up-close view of the general pattern. 


Here’s some unfortunate selvege proof. 


And there’s me, still proud as hell of this piece! 



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Monday Musings

Today began in such a lovely way. I had time before my schedule began and headed over to the Pond Road Studios in Shelburne to visit with my friend Stephanie, who I’ve not seen in a while. Life gets busy and weird and all kinds of things, and it’s easy for months to go by without seeing friends who live minutes away. Especially now that all of our kids are in full day school. It was so nice to share a cup of coffee before getting to the day’s business. 


And I got to meet Steph’s new pup who 100% stole my heart. 


Stephanie is a painter~ an extraordinary one. She’s been working on a series of cows that are so beautiful. Her work is very realistic, on the order of, when I look at her cows, I swear I can hear them breathing. 

I have one of her paintings, of a woman playing cat’s cradle, the thing you do with your fingers and string. Oh I love it so. I hope to own another in the future. You can look at Steph’s work here, or find some of her pieces at West Branch Gallery in Stowe, Vermont. 

It’s so inspiring seeing where artists make their work. 

The remainder of the day will involve staying cool, cool in this hot, hot weather. 

Hope your weeks are off to a good start. 


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This Week Happened~ Genealogy, Blue Sky, A Wicked Cold and Etsy

It’s Friday already. And the equinox. Another quarter done, a new one to start. Time keeps on a moving, and it’s sort of reminding me of that ride that was on playgrounds when I was kid. You know the one; the big round platform with metal handles all about it. A group of three or more kids would get that thing going around and around so fast our scrawny legs could barely keep up with the running. Then, we’d gauge it just right, jump on, and hold on for our lives. I remember the feeling so well, fighting against all of that centrifugal force wanting to do other things to my body. I freaking loved that playground ride. And I never got hurt on it. I remember seeing other kids bail so hard or get their feet tripped up as they jumped on or off. I would have a heart attack if I saw my kids on one of those now. OMG.

Anyway, in a week where about 1.5 of the 30 things I’d hoped to accomplish got done, I’m trying to figure out how to keep my adult self on the ride for longer stretches of time and with more focus. My response to centrifugal force is not what it once was. I sure do get knocked down by distractions and colds more than I used to. But, the distractions! Oh man. I’m very interested in genealogy. In particular my own family’s ancestral history, and I spent hours and hours sifting through microfilm at the library earlier this week. When I asked to use their microfilm viewing machine, the guy at the desk looked at me kind of funny and said sure, after he dusted it off! I was basically wedged between a big machine and a filing cabinet where I found the death certificate of my paternal 3rd great-grandfather, who emigrated from Ireland via Liverpool likely sometime around 1844. He had a rough end of his life and to see it all written out on this death certificate from 1874, well… it was powerful. It was like breathing life back into a story that I’ll bet was rarely, if ever, told. I think that’s why I love genealogy so much. When you find someone from way back, who is so long forgotten in the living family memory, it’s like you bring them new life. They aren’t forgotten anymore.

After a couple of days of work, I was hanging around outside after a run and saw a whole bunch of butterflies flittering by high up in the sky. I tried to get a picture but they were too quick! So, I just stared at the blue and thought about all of those folks that came before me. It was pretty fun.

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Then I got a wicked bad cold.

There is a new item up on Etsy. You may remember her if you are reader of this blog on a regular basis. Realta the Owl is available. With all of the owls I make, I need to be able to let them go, character and all. I do hope she goes with Sherman, though. They do love one another.

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I’ve also signed on to be a vendor at the Champlain Valley Union High School Craft Fair in November, which I am really excited about. I’ve got a lot of making to do, so here’s to staying on that ride!

Hope you have a great weekend, wherever you are.

 

 

 

 


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A Weekend of Inspiration

The air was so warm and soft today. The sounds of late summer drifted through windows and around me as I meandered my way through a day filled with puttering, putting away and listening to children play, laugh and negotiate. Not much got done in the way of handwork other than knitting a few more rows onto my sweater. Slow and steady wins the race, I hope? 

I looked outside as I folded laundry and saw this meeting of mushrooms. How had I not seen them before? Or did they just appear suddenly, a faerie ring?


Later, my daughter and her friends showed me this epic spider! 


Soon, she had a bee in her web. Gruesome and awe inspiring. Deep respect to Shelob’s kin. 

At the start of the weekend a friend had sharp eyes on a mid-afternoon walk. Purple fungus and slithering corn snake offered their colors as inspiration. 

All of these moments and more make for a sweet entry into busy work and school week. 

Hope you had a good weekend.