Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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Steadily Weaving and Learning Through Time

It’s been a minute. And not for lack of lots and lots of activity and making. Sometimes it’s hard to link together in a whole picture little bits of weaving here, some experiments there, and some growth elsewhere. One of the things I love about small format tapestry weaving, as well as weaving on unconventional looms, is that you can move them around, carry them with you, and finish them as you are able. That is the reality of my life these days. If not for moveable weaving, there’d be no weaving at all for me.

I wove this little tapestry on a Handywoman small tapestry loom that I love so much. I take it with me most places and love it when I pull out that little number instead of my phone. It helps, to weave. Seriously.

I’ve had this piece going for a while. It’s part of what I hope to be a series of tapestries flowing from drawings I’ve done when sitting with the idea of moments that distinctly create a before and after. More on that at some point.

I was on a drive recently with my daughter, soaking up beautiful Vermont autumn colors. I loved how not at all straight these grain rows are- I mean, isn’t that so reassuring? So beautiful and true?

inspiration

We always have a moment, even if it’s brief, to decide.

Decide on a sentence said or not said.

Decide on gesture extended or withheld.

Decide on a color, texture, or tension.

There’s always something to show for it.

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Gun Violence is a Scourge on our Humanity

I wanted to share with you a letter I’ve written to send to those in power in government. I’m assuming it will go nowhere, but aren’t we supposed to be able to share our passionate views with our leaders? I’ve been thinking about how, in my field (I’m a masters level psychologist), I had to go to school for years, pay many thousands of dollars for training, supervision, consultation, continuing education, licensing fees, etc., just so I can HELP people. Every two years, I have to prove and promise that I have no major afflictions that affect my ability to serve my community. And every two years, I must demonstrate I’ve participated in at least 60 hours of continuing education so that my knowledge base is up to date and relevant, and always ethical to its core. I must adhere to the strictest of ethical guidelines when I practice, and I value and honor these guidelines because I believe in the do-no-harm mandate that we commit to. Also, as a rule, we psychologists hold each other accountable and if we are concerned that someone is not conducting themselves ethically, we have a clear pathway to follow in relation to addressing our concerns. This is all so we can help people. Yet, in some states the laws that are in place that have to do with gun purchase and ownership make it so that someone doesn’t have to even have a gun license or prove anything other than that they are 21 years of age. In some states, there’s no oversight, no means of keeping tabs on gun owners, no requirement of continuing education, or a renewal of gun licensure requirement. Okay. This makes sense.

You might wonder how in the world these two things are connected and maybe it’s a stretch, but in my view, it strikes me as ridiculous that someone can very easily buy a very powerful weapon without any oversight or training mandate in some places. If guns were only used for hunting and in rare instances, self-protection, I’d feel differently. But already in 2022 there have been over 17,000 deaths from gun violence, and according to Everytown Research and Policy, of American women alive today, over 4.5 million of them have been threatened by a gun (I’d venture it’s a lot more than that because not every woman was interviewed), and every month an average of 70 women are shot at and killed by an intimate partner. Data indicates that in 2020, there were over 24,000 instances of suicide by gun. The statistics go on and on. More stringent gun laws wouldn’t wrestle guns from the hands of people who are using them responsibly. But they would at least chip away at the problem of guns falling into the hands of those who will use them for violence against others and harm to themselves.

Anyway, I have no fancy pictures to go along with this post. I’m so angry and so heartbroken that this is where we are as a country. I’m so angry that no shining star is emerging at the NRA convention that is taking place as I write this, who could call out the problems we face and ask their fellow gun-owners to participate in helping to solve this problem from the bottom up. I’m furious that the solutions that are offered include armed guards at points of entry of schools and training teachers to carry weapons to protect children. We’ve absolutely gone off the deep end. Our country itself is ill and I don’t know how we’re going to treat this particular illness.

Here’s my letter- it’s long but I figure if kids can wait for an hour for police officers to save them, even though there were armed officers there within minutes of the first 911 call, taking a few minutes to read this is doable:

“I’m writing to you the day after the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Nineteen children were killed as well as two adult teachers who were protecting them. I am sitting in my living room right now, thousands of miles away from where this horrific event took place. My daughter, who is about to turn twelve, is sitting next to me, focused on a game she is playing on her iPad. My fourteen-year-old son is about to come join us so we can watch a show together. This is a luxury that twenty-one families impacted by that school shooting will not enjoy with their beloved children. Perhaps you already know that in the US, only five months into this year, there have already been over seventeen thousand fatalities by gunshot and at least six hundred-fifty of those fatalities were children.

When I go to queue up the program we’ll watch, I will hurriedly adjust the settings on the television, so my young daughter doesn’t see news about the shooting. In case it sounds like we are keeping our children in the dark on world events, I want you to know that’s not the case. We talked to our children last night, knowing there would be conversation at school about it today. Teachers and administration had to talk to all the students just last week due to the shooting that took place at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York, where ten people were killed. They’ve gotten really good at having these talks with children.

We try to shield our kids from the onslaught of horrific gun violence news because it has already chipped away at their spirits and their feelings of trust and safety in the world, even in places where they should feel safe, like school. These horrors have, over time, done extensive damage to the nervous systems of so many in our country. Do you know that every time I hear screaming emergency vehicle sirens, I tilt my head to try to determine if they are heading to our local school? If I’m working close to the school when I hear the sirens, I walk outside and look, and I notice other parents doing same thing. We are always primed to run towards what most would consider the worst catastrophe to attack our community.

As I look at my children, I feel such tremendous guilt about the lack of power I have to make their world safer. I feel ashamed, and so angry. Each day they get on the bus or I drop them off at school, I feel a bit like I’m playing Russian Roulette with their lives. I quietly pray each time that it won’t be the day that someone forces their way into their school and unleashes their unbridled fury on innocent lives through showers of bullets. Have you imagined what children look like and how they sound when they are scared? I do. Do you know that children naturally feel responsible for so many things that happen in their lives, and that some wonder what they did wrong to deserve such punishment when they are faced with a terrifying event? It’s true. It’s called magical thinking. Can you envision children longing for their parents’ embrace as they listen to the gruesome demolishment of skin and life around them, or feel their own life ending? Can anyone? I can, and when I do, I weep.

And yet, I continue to send my children to school. Why? Why do we keep doing this? I suppose it’s a mixture of reasons. I trust it won’t happen in my town. We both know that’s absurd; that’s head-in-the-sand thinking, and sometimes it’s the only way I can make myself let them go. I also don’t want to pull my children out of active living because of my fear. I know that they love school and their teachers and friends, and they want to feel safe. School safety drills terrify them, but with time they’ve gotten used to imagining someone busting into their classroom and shooting them. The cognitive dissonance of this reality strikes me as emotional violence. Out of one mouth they hear, “you are safe, be safe, act safe, trust us”. Out of another, they hear, “lock the door, turn off the lights, be quiet, and hide”.

Here’s what else I know: teachers and school staff are made of the same stuff as children. Skin, bones, organs. They die when they are struck by bullets just like children and yet, we expect them to be superheroes and fight off an attacker. Why do we expect this? Why do we live in a country where we teach teachers how to recognize what could be used as a weapon in their classroom in the event of an attack? Am I the only one who thinks this is utter madness? Of course I’m not. Why are you and your colleagues not doing more, being more courageous, being the superheroes we need to stand up for us? You’re all like the officers that stand outside buildings when people are being shot inside; they have guns and are supposed to protect our country’s citizens! Why don’t they all immediately run in and save lives? You know why? Because guns are terrifying, and most people don’t want to die.

I’m a mother, and I’m also a psychologist. Every time I hear people say gun violence is not due to guns, but rather is due to mental illness and broken families, video games, movies, etc., I want to scream. Talk about kicking the can down the road. Do you know that every country has millions of people who suffer from some form of mental illness? All over the world people play video games and watch violent movies. Not one country is immune from domestic violence, sexual assault, murder, hate crimes and racist attacks. And every country must reckon with how it helps to support its aching citizens. It’s the most obvious statement in the world, that mental health is part of the problem. It’s not binary. It’s not guns vs. mental health. It’s everything, all together.  But making gun ownership so ridiculously easy and allowing most anyone to own high powered guns that destroy flesh and bone more severely than handguns do is just nonsensical. What is also true is that high powered automatic weapons kill a lot more people at a time than a pistol, a knife, or hands. Countries that have strict gun laws have fewer mass shootings and less death by self-inflicted gunshot wounds. It’s just a fact. Of gun related deaths in the United States, two-thirds are self-inflicted. Certainly, mental health weighs into this statistic as well, but again, guns allow people to succumb to rash and permanent bodily damage. Firearms accounted for more than half of suicide deaths in the United States in 2020. This bears mentioning because of how frequently guns are used for reasons other than hunting or self-protection.

Some people say, “well, there are other countries that have far more gun violence related deaths than the US does.” My answer to that is, So what? Is the tipping point for us as a country going to be when we eventually make it to the top of the list? Do we need to win that competition? Is it prudent to compare the US to countries that are ridden with gang violence, drug and human trafficking and deep political unrest for us to feel better about our statistics?

We need people to think! We need people to do research and understand brain development in people and know why selling a firearm to an eighteen-year-old man/boy is an astronomically stupid thing to do if he has not had to do anything to prove his maturity, responsibility, and intention for use, let alone a semiautomatic rifle. We need politicians and policy makers to understand that the frontal lobe of the brain isn’t fully developed until a person is approximately twenty-five years old, and that younger people are more prone to rash, impulsive and reactive acting out. We need to have policies in place that are tailored to withstand the pressures of reactive rage of any person, at any age. We need to frustrate the impulse to cause harm so that someone might have more time to think and move past a momentary bout of emotional pain. A person wild with distress might still enter a school, church, grocery store or club, but with their bare hands or even a less powerful gun, are likely to kill less people.  

At the end of the day, we must take responsibility for ourselves, for our loved ones and our country. All guns need not be taken away from all people, but we absolutely must demand that all guns don’t make into the hands of all people, and certainly, why can’t we even imagine following the lead of Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and many countries in the EU? We are not the only humans on Earth that are attached to their individualism and independence! But we do appear to be the most stubborn, selfish, self-important, fearful, and ignorant when it comes to making reasonable systemic change around an issue that kills indiscriminately.

What can we do? I’ll hope you have some ideas and the fortitude to push hard for gun reform. In the meantime, I’ll pray that my children come home from school tomorrow.”


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Weaving Air

Having several different projects going at a time is a habit I’ve gotten accustomed to over the years. I don’t have a schedule that allows me go to weave at my loom for entire days. Instead, I have bits of time here and there that I try to make good use of when I can. I used to judge this part of my nature, the part that flits from this to that. I wondered if I had a discipline problem, or some issue with commitment. Always the therapist, I’m often unpacking who I am and how I operate, and examining how my traits and tendencies impact my day-to-day life.

Well, in this case, I’ve learned that I really enjoy making things, at home, at work, on my loom, with kids, with adults, and by myself. I feel frustrated when the only thing I’m working on is not with me, leaving my hands idle and my mind clanking a bit. When I allow myself to indulge in the many-projects-at-once rhythm, I get to eventually enjoy what I refer to now as my creative crescendo; so often many things are finished around the same time and I have this wonderful experience of seeing multiple ideas and efforts come to fruition at once.

Right now, I’ve got this vibe going in full-force. There’s a curtain (hopefully) on my counterbalance loom, towels on my rigid heddle, a tapestry on my copper pipe loom, another tapestry on a small frame loom, and oh… that second mitten I’ve been wanting to finish knitting for months.

What I’m noticing about a few of my projects is that they are going after a feeling or sense experience that I can best describe as airy. I want my curtain to be as flowing and loose as I can manage weaving it, with bits of structure and form throughout. This is an experiment as I try my hand at weaving with 20/2 cotton as the warp and using inlay throughout. I’m not using a pattern or following any directions. I’ve already learned something. I have my 20/2 warp sett at 12 epi, and I originally hoped to use the same yarn for the plain weave weft; the inlay was going to be a thicker cotton slub yarn that has a yummy texture. Well, what I learned was that the fabric was just too loose. I was beating it lightly to maintain an openness and transparency. I basically wanted a curtain that blended in with air. But what I found was that if I even looked at the fabric funny, the weave drooped and flopped, making it look injured and offended. When I started considering finding a spray adhesive and shellacking the whole thing once it was done, I realized I’d maybe made a mistake, chalked it up to my steep learning curve, and switched gears. I am going to try to use the experiment to cover some beautiful handmade paper I have, so all is not lost.

Now, I’m weaving the curtain with the same warp, but with the thicker cotton slub yarn as weft, beat loosely (still finding the right beat and trying to keep it consistently). I can’t do the same inlay design I was doing because I’m using that yarn for the plain weave. I decided instead on this twine, jute-like string/rope/yarn I have and opted to just lay it in, leaving both ends exposed. This is a departure from the inlay techniques I was planning on practicing with this curtain, but that’s okay. I’ll get to them. I love the twine because you can unravel it and it becomes this wild grass-like stuff. It smells good, too. I’m hoping my curtain will still feel airy, but I suspect it will hang with a little more purpose and won’t be so vulnerable to the passing breeze or occasional handling as my original design would have been.

On my rigid heddle, I’ve got an actual pattern that I’m following. It’s another slub cotton project, this time towels. I love weaving with this yarn! It’s soft, gentle, light. Clasped weft is the main weaving technique utilized in this pattern, and it’s very satisfying to watch it build up. Getting the beat right on this project takes some doing. You can see on the bottom right that I’m beating too hard in the clasped weft section that is newly begun, but I’m working that out. I’m definitely turning into a person that uses a tape measure as a necklace! Ha! I’ll share pics of these towels when they’re done.

I’ll get to the tapestry work in another post, but for now, I hope that whatever you’re doing, there’s some room for creativity and texture, even if it’s just here and there. All those moments add up and make something, eventually.


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Weaving is Collective and Personal

I’m a member of the Vermont Weaver’s Guild and I participated in this year’s weaving challenge. It was to make a pillow using three of the four elements randomly assigned to each weaver who entered. I got overshot, cotton, stripes and black and white. I chose the first three elements because nowhere in my house is there a spot to receive a black and white anything, so that part was simple. One pillow is to be donated to the guild so it can be part of a sale that we have to raise money.

I’ve not been weaving for terribly long, and every time I learn a new thing, it feels like I have to relearn a bunch of old things, although I can say I’m noticing a growing ease with preparing a warp, getting it on the loom, setting the loom up and threading, so that is a good thing. I will share a story in another post about a fight I got into with my counterbalance loom with the absolute simplest warp/threading/tie up you can imagine just this week, but I’ll save that for later. For this pillow project, I opted to utilize the weaving class I was taking at Shelburne Craft School with Lausanne Allen to get help and support as I tackled the most complicated pattern and weaving structure I’ve done to date. The class was for weavers who have experience but are still actively learning and benefit from the guidance of a skilled and patient teacher.

I felt rather overwhelmed immediately with the overshot part of things, and how to add stripes to it, because I don’t know how to create my own patterns yet. I referenced Madelyn van der Hoogt and of course, Bertha Gray Hayes, and saw so many drafts I’d love to weave, but somehow, translating those into a pattern made me feel like I was swimming in too deep water- maybe it was resistance? Or confusion? Or just the simple fact that I need to dig in and study what size yarns go with what epi goes with what draft, etc., etc., and then color choice- oh man! It’s a lot to sort out! So… I kept getting stuck. Enter Lausanne, who showed me a wonderful pattern called Bertha’s Towels from Handwoven. I was like, boom… Cotton, check. Overshot, check-check. Stripes, bingo. I knew I could modify the pattern for the pillows I needed, and get a few towels out of the bargain as well, if I lengthened the warp. And from there I went.

What I loved about the process once I got out from under the stress of making a bunch of decisions about a weave structure I didn’t really understand yet was the toggling between community and self, community and self. During class and open studios, I shared close space with fellow students who I now consider friends. One was weaving a beautiful Krokbragd pattern on a rug warp; the other was approaching our school’s antique barn loom that was having new life breathed into it with all of the attention paid to her; that weaver has her own incredible story to tell about her experience, and she wove an absolutely gorgeous table runner using an overshot pattern. In the back weaving room, there were other wonderful weavers and friends working out their warps and weaving. The sounds of a working weaving studio are amazing- clanking, knocking, the occasional sigh, swear, muttering to self, the walking around and looking at others’ work when you’re so tweaked by threading, sleying and realizing a mistake. I’d have a moment where I’d meet myself and my own growth edge, exclaim some thing, get support and dive back in to my own mind and project.

It took a long time for me to weave three towels and two pillow covers (one side- I used a lovely muslin-esque type fabric for the back). The flow of overshot and the pattern itself requires complete attention, pretty much the whole time. I think I finally internalized the pattern by the middle of the second to last towel I wove and it started to make sense to me, how it all worked. And wow, as the fabric became reality, I couldn’t believe what I was making. It was so much fun to problem solve selvedges and beats, fixing mistakes and troubleshooting loom peculiarities with Lausanne and my weaving partners. And it was heartening to meet, yet again in this weaving passion I’ve found myself in, my own growth edges and how I deal with them- it’s not pretty all the time, that’s for sure, but I know that I can move forward now towards pattern design- not with ease, but maybe with less trepidation? I mean, I’m in no rush… we’ll see.


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Finally Finished Those Slitrya Blankets!

It’s been a weird period of time. Surprisingly busy and full in the midst of a pandemic. I’ve been working a lot in my multiple roles as a therapist, a teacher, a weaver and now, a writer. And I’ve been living a lot in my life as a partner, mom, sibling, daughter and friend, with varying degrees of presence. There are not enough hours to do all the things, and it’s a choice, always, what and what not to do. And frankly, like so many, my choosing button got busted with all of the micro and macro decisions that needed making due to pandemic day-to-day details. In the midst of that, I’ve gotten to do a bit of weaving- not much because for how time consuming it can be, projects have taken me so much longer to complete than I’d like, but I wanted to catch you up on what has come off the loom since I last wrote.

I did finish the Slitrya blankets! This was a process and it took me forever! Tying all those rya knots was no joke. I also keep meaning to go back and read the pattern again; I went wrong somewhere in my following of directions because I followed the pattern through and was supposed to be able to repeat it twice (I lengthened the warp to allow for that) but one time through and I had woven most of the warp (that was doubled!). I do know the yarn I used was thicker than it should have been, but something else went awry. So, I cut the length of fabric into parts and got two blankets that measured correctly, plus a little extra where I experimented with different yarns. I gave one of the blankets to my weaving teacher and friend, Lausanne, who was tickled! You know, lap blankets are rad! I used mine in my office that got a bit chilly over the winter with the door closed. Just enough warmth to make me comfortable.

My selvedges need work, but I love these things!

So, there is the completion of that project! I have more to update you on other makings, but I figured I’d wrap up that loose end first. I did love making this blanket, and truly, it’s so satisfying to look at and be warmed by. Here’s a good Handwoven article about slitrya and its history. There’s always an ancestral history to a weaving structure, which is probably what I love the most about it.

I hope that whatever you are doing, making, or bringing into fruition, it brings you contentment.


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Want to Talk About Grief?

It’s a pleasure to write to you on this All Soul’s Day. I’ve got rather big news to share, and it’s in large part why I’ve been so mum over here on this blog of mine that I love so much. Some major things have been happening in my world. The one I’d love to tell you about on this day in particular, is that a book about grief I’ve been co-writing for about a year and a half was picked up by the wonderful publisher Sourcebooks. My friend and co-author Pam Blair and I couldn’t be happier. This is a book about grief over the long term, and how it can express itself in a life. There’s a little back story here. Interested?

Pamela D. Blair co-authored “I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One” with Brook Noel upwards of twenty years ago. It’s gone on to become a classic in bereavement self-help and is very useful when you are in the throes of chaotic early grief. Well, Pam and I are friends and have been for several years now. We met in the Knitting for Peace Pod I started here in Vermont and it was during one of our gatherings that I learned she also wrote a favorite book of mine called “The Next Fifty Years: A Guide for Women at Midlife and Beyond”(I highly recommend this book, too!). Anyway, fast forward a little bit, and I became a member of Pam’s writing group, and I loved it. I had to drop out of it, though, because my mother very suddenly died and I was completely wrecked. For years. I just couldn’t handle a whole lot for a long time. But, in the midst of all of that, Pam and I developed a friendship and continued to talk a lot about grief. Put two therapists together and there’s no end to what we could talk about when it comes to the complexities of being human.

I guess sometimes conversations lead to more conversations which lead to more things. At the beginning of the pandemic, Pam and I had a Zoom lunch just to check in, and she asked me if I’d be interested in co-writing a book with her about the long-lasting impact of grief. It was an immediate Yes. Yes because by then, I understood what that was like. Yes because Pam is a friend and I was so happy she considered me for the project. And Yes because I’ve learned to move towards all those things called dreams. I’ve always had a dream of being a writer. I write all the time, so it felt natural. The only reason I’d say no was fear, and if I learned anything from my mother’s death, it was to not say no to dreams. Say yes and see what happens.

Well, what has happened is, we have this book coming out in 2022, and we are in the early stages of big editing. It’s exciting, scary, a lot of work and requires ongoing soul searching. It’s a constant touchstone for me… Why write this book?

I think anyone who has suffered the loss of someone they love knows why books on long-lasting grief are important. Even though there is messaging out there that grief lasts a long time, it seems that we’ve, as a culture, internalized a certain schedule by which we need to pretty well be over it enough to not be talking about the pain we are in. In my experience as a therapist, and as a griever, that’s just not how it goes. Without there being ways we can keep our loved ones alive in our hearts and lived experience, grief simply goes underground, and we often tend to our sore spots alone. Or, sometimes we don’t know that other issues we have connect directly to the original wound of loss.

It would be easy for me to go on and on and on… but I’ll save that for the book! In the meantime, I invite you to join me in the conversation either through comments here, or via personal message. Our book came to life when we added real voices, real stories, and wisdom from people who are traversing the long road of grief themselves. If you’d like to share your story with me, I’d welcome it.

In the meantime, I’ll be sitting here, sending love to all those people who have passed away in our family, some of whom I knew, love and miss terribly, others who I never met but if not for them, I’d not be here today.


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New Project on the Loom- Trying My Hand at Making a Slitrya Blanket

Finally… a project is on my floor loom. Well, not entirely. Threading is still in the queue, but with the help of Lausanne, I got the close to four and half yard warp wound on without too much trouble. There was one moment when it seemed the whole thing might become a bit more cumbersome when the rod attached to the back beam was found to be uneven, but with some tinkering, it was straightened out. I also think I finally came to understand the relationship between the pattern width, the width of the raddle sections, and the numbers of threads in each bout of the warp. For some reason, the relationship between these things has never fully clicked. I was making my warp bout size more about the total number of ends and the way to split it up as evenly as possible without the bouts being too big. I never even considered the raddle. I remember when I had to take statistics in college… I was in the second semester of it, which meant that presumably, I understood all the stuff I learned in the first class. This one day, I just could not at all, in any way, grasp what the professor was saying. To this day, I remember more his glorious, curly hair that the Florida humidity had fun with, rather than the stats itself. Doing some homework after class, I slammed into a wall of confusion and had to get some space from the claustrophobia of my own limits. I sat on a bench outside of the library, that building in which I spent most of my time, other than my own apartment. I just let my mind drift and then the concept I was struggling with came to me, like a fresh breeze on a stifling hot day. I got it! I remember I jumped a little and wanted to yell to someone… anyone, “Did you see what just happened in my head!” I didn’t. I just went upstairs and completed my homework with ease, enjoying my newfound insight. I feel like that’s what happened yesterday, thanks to Lausanne (again!).

The pattern is called Lillebror Slitrya and is from the Handwoven Nov/Dec 2020 issue. I’m very excited about it. I’ll keep you posted on progress as I make my way towards actual weaving. With the extra warp, I’ll play, play and see what happens!


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Weaving and Fiber Arts are Coming Back to the Shelburne Craft School!

Something very exciting is happening here in Shelburne, VT, of the fibery, weavy, yarny brand. On this rainy Memorial Day Monday, I’d love to share the news with you.

A couple of months ago, I received an email from the director of the Shelburne Craft School, a wonderful woman named Claire, letting me know that they were bringing weaving back to their programming. Oh my… she had me right there. It was an incredibly welcome email to receive for reasons big and small. In it, Claire explained some of what she was hoping to accomplish and asked if I would I like to talk. Truth be known, I would have jogged my pandemic-fatigued self to her right then and there, but I tempered that urge and like any mature grown up, set a date to meet in my studio nearby on a later date.

When we met, it was difficult for me to contain my enthusiasm. I listened to what Claire’s vision was and marveled at the fact that soon, Weaving and Fiber Art would be offerings at the Shelburne Craft School again. The school had a strong weaving program decades ago. I’m unclear as to why it was stopped. I’ve only heard whisperings about “the day the looms left”, or something like that. At any rate, as we spoke, I realized quickly that while I want to be a part of this most assuredly, I don’t have the weaving expertise to spearhead the vision coming to life. But, I thought of my weaving teacher, Lausanne Allen, who has more expertise in her pinky nail than I’ll ever hope to achieve in my lifetime. I let Claire know I’d be in touch with Lausanne we’d see what unfolds.

Well… receiving Lausanne’s response to my inquiry as to whether she could imagine taking on developing a weaving program at the craft school was probably the closest I’ve come to that feeling you get when you hurriedly open a letter from a someone you’ve missed terribly, or the results of some test… I sped read it and laughed out loud and read it again more slowly… not only was she interested, but she was thrilled out it, too! I’d forgotten this, but Lausanne reminded me that she learned how to weave at the Shelburne Craft School in the 80s and right out of the gate, she had so many ideas and questions and wonderings…

A lot has happened since Lausanne and Claire met. Spaces have been cleared, looms that the school still had from the fateful time the weaving program shut down have been resurrected and Lausanne and I have brought in a couple of our own. The walls have been adorned with Lausanne’s incredible work and other weavings we’ve collected over the years. There’s been cleaning, oiling, de-rusting and untangling. Lausanne has done many hours of research and learning and acquiring of needed items for the school. And me? I get to be Lausanne’s… I don’t know what to call myself… helper? Assistant? Grateful-To-Be-There-Apprentice? I can tell you this: I feel pinch-myself lucky to be a part of this new development in my town, and am thrilled that Claire has the vision she does to bring back such an important part of not just our town’s history, but in my view, an integral part of the story of human making.

If you are reading this with a particular interest in weaving and wonder when might things be lifting off ground at the school, I will be regularly updating you here. And of course, check out the Shelburne Craft School’s website to see all of their offerings. It’s a wonderful place to be, and soon the sounds of beaters beating, shuttles flying, bobbins spinning, and voices whispering to cloth will be filling the air and saturating the old wood of the historic building.


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What Color is a Temper Tantrum?

Well, hello… it’s been a while. How do we catch up after so much time? My last post was in July of 2020. Since then, I’ve become a homeschooling mom, I’ve started co-writing a book about grief that lingers beyond the time our culture demands is appropriate, I’ve barely knit or woven a thing except for a sweater, hat and booties for a soon-to-arrive little baby niece (oh, I cannot wait to meet her), and I’ve been riding the wave of pandemic life that is really pretty goddamned grueling.

Today at the store, I was double-masking it because I <heart> Anthony Fauci and he says it’s a good idea in some instances. But the second mask I had on was too big and every time I looked down into the bag I was filling, it would scooch up into my eyes and I couldn’t see a freaking thing. This was after I couldn’t help my son with his math because maybe I skipped that class? And, it was after I took a good look at what’s happened to my hair since my last real haircut & color about a year and a half ago, maybe two. So… the mask thing almost, almost made me have a temper tantrum right then and there in the middle of my neighborhood grocery. Why? Not because that’s been the most stressful thing to happen of late. Not even close. Like any good old-fashioned tantrum, they are born from buildup. An accumulation of things that exceed the nervous system’s capacity to metabolize stress. Finally there is the last straw. Usually that poor straw is puny, so to the casual observer, it just looks like someone is losing it over the “dumbest thing”. But it’s never like that. It’s just a dumbest thing that tips the scale too far into Freakoutsville. Today, my last straw was having a mask on my mouth and on my forehead at the same time. Thankfully, I did have enough self-control left in my un-Buddhalike-self to realize I could not handle an embarrassing scene over the decision I myself made about my own mask attire. Maybe it was the dude giving me side-eye as I kept adjusting and readjusting the civic duty gone wrong on my face. “What? Didn’t you see this is how we’re supposed to do it now, bro?”, I imagined challenging him while he slowly and cautiously unloaded his groceries onto the conveyor belt. As much as I wanted to blame some concrete thing, or even Side-Eye Guy for my situation, I knew there was no one but me who could pull it together. After I fumbled through the credit card machine process and then remembered to be grateful for what I have, I gathered my bag of frozen corn and peas and package of chicken, and made my way home.

I miss my people. It hurts something fierce. And my heart is breaking for the millions who are grieving those they lost in this last year. Whether loved ones died from COVID-19 or from something else, no doubt about it, the rituals and rhythms that are built into the fabric of who we are, and which hold survivors in their grief, were experienced very differently because of the pandemic. No matter where we live, what we believe, and who we wish to when we ask for anything in our quiet moments, all who have lost someone are part of a new group. This group has its own stories, memories, symbols, anguish and wisdom that are making up history as we live it. I guess it’s easier to get wicked mad at a mask poking me in the eyes than reckoning with global pain sometimes.

Anyway! Sorry to be a downer, but this is why I haven’t written! Who needs more people talking about how much things have sucked? I do want to share some things though, to cross the bridge back to my love of all things yarny, wooly and textured. I have a new studio space where my looms and most of my yarn reside. This development came to be after I had to close my tiny office in Burlington in the spring. I realized pretty quickly into the pandemic that it’d be a good long time before anyone would be wanting to meet in person again, at least in the space I had, and serendipitously, an opportunity arose at the Shelburne Pond Studios that was basically completely perfect for my varied needs as a therapist, fiber artist/crafter, writer and now momentary homeschooler. It has also allowed for me to unclog parts of my home that housed all of what I’ve collected for my fibrous passions over the years. Blessings on many fronts with us home all the time. I am starting to imagine spring, summer and fall there, and all the sorts of things I might be able to do inside and out with other “masked” people who want to create and play with yarn. I can feel the energy coming back and that is exciting. There’s going to be a lot to weave out of our bodies and our nervous systems as we try to make sense of all that has happened and continues to unfold.

I wonder what a woven temper tantrum looks like?


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handcrafting as a tie to what was, what is and what will come to be

So here’s the thing. It is so damned hard for me write and post and write and post when the world, politics, social issues and social traumas are so profound. Over and over again, it seemed so important that I just stop and be with what is happening and listen. Listen to the people who are speaking and sharing and telling the truth. Be with reality and look at what is right here, right now. That became my job as a human on the planet, as a parent and friend and family member. It continues to be my job and I am learning and trying to continually listen and show up.

Through these last few months, my hands have touched yarns, threads and fabrics, sometimes to start and finish a project. Sometimes just to experience a texture that brings me out of my head and into my body. Touching linen, wool, an embroidered patch, I either feel potential or potential brought to being by someone else’s hands.  I’ve learned new things and am gearing up to learn more. I tried to fashion a weekly fiber arts group online to support the kids I’ve grown to know and care for so deeply, but I found that with kids being online so much for the remote learning switch they all had to make in early spring, they were weary of being online! So was I. It was overwhelming, moving my clinical practice online, helping my kids navigate schooling online, connecting with many people in my family through Zoom meetings. It got to where, if I wasn’t seeing my friends, family, clients or the news, I couldn’t look at one more thing. “No. I don’t want to see anything else on this screen. I can’t take it in. I want to look at the sky. I want to look for the bugs that are eating my plants. The turkey that visits my lawn. The eyes of the people I love.”

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I felt and continue to feel like there are thousands of hugs stuck in my elbows. When I see someone I love and I restrain myself from the automatic hug, it actually kind of hurts in a tingly way, like a laugh stuck in my chest, or tears stuck in my throat. I marvel at how much I took those physical connections for granted and how often I must have hugged to have this feel so heartbreaking.

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I’ve noticed though, that when I touch yarns and fabrics and create my own things or admire the things others have made, this wonderful thing happens. It’s like a shrinking of time. I recently started to learn how to tablet weave and in the process read a bit about the history of the craft.

That prompted me to make a miniature version of a warp-weighted loom using a bit of a tablet woven band to serve as the top decorative piece and the warp. As I worked on this project, which by the way is wonderful to look at but wobbly as hell, I couldn’t help but feel connected to the old. The really old. I thought about people who wove on warp-weighted looms thousands of years ago and considered the fact that there was evolution, trauma, creativity, fear and love happening then, too. I thought about the threads that run through time that show themselves in their myriad colors and levels of softness, fuzziness, usefulness and beauty. It occurred to me that this will always be the case. People will always be making things that connect them to the past, tie them to the present and hint at the future.

I find this to be soothing on a big scale. A dedicated focus on a tangible task allows me to look down with specificity of attention, and then up and out with a calmer mind. The back and forth accordion-like thinking in, thinking out is making the metabolizing of this time a bit more like the tides.

What do you do to balance your nervous system with the need to stay connected to what is happening right here, right now in time?