Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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Hopes For A New Year

This Year:

I Wish For The Calm to Remember to Breathe and Look Around 

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I Hope to Listen to the Stirrings of My Soul and Respond Accordingly, With Courage, Not Urgency

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I Long to Expand Into and Learn More About Fiber Art, Spinning Wool and Doing Tricky Stuff with Crochet Hooks and Knitting Needles

I Look Forward to Learning From and Talking To Fiber Artists Who I Admire, Who I Love, Who I Barely Know and Who I Have Not Met Yet

I Will Remember Every Single Day to Honor the Blessings In My Life and To Really See My Children As They Grow and Change

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I Plan To Make More Handmade Gifts That Are Filled With Love and Intention, For People I Know and People I Don’t

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And, This Year, I Promise to Trust Myself More and Make More Time to Imagine, Make and Create

Happy New Year to You!

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Well, Felted Rocks, Part. 2 happened before Christmas. In fact, it happened about a week before Christmas. I am just now catching my breath and thinking about what is ending with this year and what is starting with the almost new. I wanted to take a moment to document the wonderful experience of felting rocks with two 2nd grade classes (one of them being my son’s class).

Sometimes, I get bogged down by insecurity. I worry that I get ahead of myself and that really, all of my enthusiasm and energy is momentary, and maybe even a bit much for the people who I want to share it with. But let me tell you this: kids like to felt. And how ’bout this nugget of truth: kids think sheep are really cute and like to look at pictures of them and like to learn about them. For the 2nd graders, I opted to up the game a little by showing them a short slide show capturing the history of humans’ relationship with sheep. I learned so much in the creating of this! Like, humans have been working with sheep since the Middle Stone Age. That is when we humans first started developing language and learning how to manage and control fire. Our history goes way back, and sheep’s wool has been incredibly important to our survival, our society and our culture. Sharing some of this with the kids was great because they really got to see that our history with fiber and with sheep is part of who we are; it’s in our archetypal DNA, and it connects us to people around the world. I showed them pictures of where sheep originated (Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan). I showed them how some sheep made it over the land bridge from Russia to Alaska during the last Ice Age. And, I showed them pictures of children and adults all over the world spinning wool and knitting. I so hope that in that brief moment, they became aware of how unifying working with wool and other fibers can be; that we are all part of the same cloth. I cannot think of anything that is more important than that in these times of great pain and suffering around the world.

In a matter on an hour and a half, I worked with about 35 children. Not one child was uninterested in the fact that they were about to turn a bunch of fluffy wool into a felted piece of art. We got water everywhere. The wonderful teachers commented on having their tables cleaned really well, which was very generous. Next Time: Bring Towels.

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It was a little cumbersome, getting the wrapped rocks into their nylon wrap, so I helped each child with that after they got their wool design how they wanted it.

I didn’t get to sit with all of the kids as they rubbed their felting rocks, but I saw some from a distance from where I getting other kids set up and I think many tuned into how peaceful the practice can be. Some children talked about who they were going to give their rocks to; others wanted to keep their big, fluffy stuffed animal looking rocks for themselves. I thought it was all wonderful. I think my favorite moment was when I walked back into the first class I worked with to say goodbye and check out their finished projects. All of the kids gathered around and showed me their work with so much pride and excitement. I felt like it worked~ my hope of bringing this wonderful practice to kids worked and they saw that they could make something beautiful with their own hands with a totally natural substance from animals they see all of the time here in Vermont. I was so happy for them, and for me.

It being right before Christmas break, I did not have time to just rest into the pleasure of it all, but now I do, and I am. I can’t wait to do it again, and to come up with other projects to do in the coming year. Stay tuned.

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Felted Rocks In the Books! Pt. 1

Before I share how today’s rock felting project went in my daughter’s kindergarten class, I must first publicly bow to teachers. A deep, humble, grateful bow. You are amazing. My daughter’s teacher knows her students so well, created a wonderful set-up for the kids to move through as they waited for their turn to felt, and she celebrated their accomplishments and efforts. She is wonderful.

Today went beautifully. I arrived early and went through some of my books as well as found some books in the school’s library that were fitting for the class, for show-and-tell and for a bit of inspiration. While I sat there, something clicked for me. I felt like I was doing exactly what I wanted to do in that moment. There was no energy consuming worry. No shoulds bothering my psyche, and no pressures whispering in my ear. I’m trying to create a bridge for myself between my training as a psychologist, my passion for working with fiber and my strong desire to be with my kids. I’m not going into the classroom with my psychologist hat on in the traditional sense. Not at all. Where psychology and fiber marry for me is in the process of doing, the benefits of making, and the bounty that comes from transforming such an organic substance into something else.

When my time in class began, we all sat in a circle and I let the children feel wool. They could pull it apart, smush it together, twist it and ball it up. They got to see how it pulls apart so easily and is fluffy and light. Then I passed around the felt from a felted rock that I made a while ago. It was cut in half, so they could see how stuck together the fibers were. They pulled on it, twisted it and tried to rip it but couldn’t! I told them that they were going to transform the same kind of loose wool they were just playing with into the felt that they could see on the example rocks I brought. I said that they were going to do some magic. That felt pretty exciting.

Then I shut up. It was go-time because for sure, my voice going on and on about too many details was NOT where it was at!

We ended up setting up the process in the following way: I was at a table that could seat up to six kids. I had the rocks, the wool, little nylon footies, a bowl of very warm, soapy water and paper towels. I laid out a base layer of white roving in front of each child as well as myself. Then I showed them how I lined up the second layer of wool on top of the base layer. I had a variety of colors to choose from. Children were able to pick the colors they wanted and for the most part, did not put on too much, although sometimes it was hard to resist. I definitely found that two layers of wool was plenty for the small size rocks they had.

Then they flipped it all over, laid their rocks on their wool and began to wrap their rocks. It did take adult help to hold the wrapped rock securely while putting in into the nylon footie. I got the footies here. Then, they dipped their rocks in the warm, soapy water and I showed them how to rub them all around. After that, they moved to another table with a parent volunteer who had another bowl of warm, soapy water. They continued the process for a few rounds. She had the brilliant idea of singing songs as they rubbed their rocks. I hadn’t thought of that, but now I will! It really kept the kids going and engaged in what they were doing. After about 8 to 10 minutes, I brought over a bowl of cool water for the kids to dunk their rocks in and we helped them to peel the nylon off their rocks. The nylon had become a bit stuck to the wool, but with adult help it was okay. I think if it were a smaller group, I’d have stopped them sooner, removed the nylon and just let them rub directly onto the wool, but these were quick moving groups and I couldn’t get to it all. The second group finished their rocks at the original table with the volunteer and I moved to the other table to get the third group going. There was a bit of movement, for sure, but with the adults working together, I’d say it went very smoothly.

I have to say, seeing each rock actually come out felted was awesome. I was even a little surprised. I think a part of me was waiting for it not to work and for someone to experience massive disappointment, but that did not happen! Some rocks were completely covered while some had some bear spots. It really seemed like if there was too much wool around the rock, it was more likely that it would slip around during the felting process. Some were smooth, some were chunky, and some had little woolen “tails”. What I loved was that they did not know about the “perfect” felted rock. Each rock got to just be its own unique, funny, snuggly thing that each child could be proud of.

I think most of the kids were quite pleased with themselves and their little woolen creations! I am so happy for them.

 


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Felted Rocks, Kids and The Beginning of Something New

I’m excited. In a nervous in my belly, hopeful, anticipatory and grateful kind of way. Tomorrow, I’m going into my daughter’s kindergarten class to do a felting project with the children. Felted Rocks, to be exact. And later in the week I’ll do the same project with two 2nd grade classes (my son is in one of them). I have come to seriously appreciate the benefits of working with, touching, experimenting and playing with fiber, and I feel utterly compelled to teach things to do with fiber-craft to kids.

The felting rocks project begins what will be a five- to six- week journey that picks up after the holiday break, and I will keep track of how it all goes here. I am calling my unit From Farm to Frame. In January, we will start with a dirty, smelly, lanolin rich fleece (or part of one), wash it, dye it, card it and in the end make a felted “painting”.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been gathering materials for this project, thinking about why this is so important to me. One memory came to mind; the first time I skirted a fleece on my own. It was the big, smelly, creamy fleece of a Border-Leicester sheep that my friend Susi secured from a local farmer. I remember thinking, “dang, that smells”. But it didn’t offend me, and really, I got used to it very fast. I remember, after picking debris out of it and removing a lot of the gunky stuff, noticing how soft my hands had become. I was delighted to realize that it was lanolin! Lanolin had made my hands soft and shiny and smooth. I stood there in the warm May sun and it occurred to me that in the process of doing hard work and getting my hands dirty, that I had been softened, conditioned and made-over. I’d say that was a turning point for me, about two and half years ago. Since then, I’ve wanted to know more about why and how working with fiber can be so grounding and therapeutic in all of it’s stinky and at times tedious moments.

I want kids to have this. I want them to see a whole process through that involves fiber from a local farm. I want them to experience the rawness of the material and experiment with what they can turn it into. I want them to have an antidote to stress, pressure and worry. I want them to have a chance to touch nature and maybe appreciate the animals they pass on many a Vermont road.

I’m so grateful that teachers are letting me into their classrooms with these projects. Let’s just hope that the kids enjoy it. Tomorrow’s project will be a good introduction for all of us, I think.

pictured above: rocks gathered from Lake Champlain, felted rock experiments, many bags of wool and a whole lot of roving to be organized for the classes, more roving because I thought it was pretty, and some of the colors that the kids will have to choose from.


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Handcrafting in Our Hurting World

I’ve been quiet on this blog of late. This is for a few reasons, some to do with simply being very busy raising my two young children and working. Others to do with starting a new endeavor bringing fiber and handwork to kids. The big reason, though, the reason why it has been tough for me to just sit down to write about handcrafting and all of the joy it brings is simply being Overwhelmed by all that is happening in our world. I do not want to talk politics on this blog, so I’ll refrain from discussing who I want to be president and who I think should be quarantined on a very, very remote island with no internet or phone. I will say, though, that I am sickened by the vitriolic, violent, hate-mongering that is dancing around in full sunlight of late in the good ole USA. The underbelly of racism, fear and projection is turned up and rather than it shocking our country into peaceful and humble reflection and sorrow, it seems as if it’s actually opening the floodgates of racism, violence and rage.

I am feeling deep and untouchable powerlessness. As I raise my children in a comfortable home, with plenty of food and with all that I need, in a state where I feel safe and as though I fit and am accepted, I understand that I am in a privileged position. I am not fleeing a war zone with my children. I am also not profiled or targeted due to the color of my skin. When I am pulled over by the police, my heart beats faster and I am nervous because of course I am, but I’m not afraid I’m going to be treated unfairly or acted upon with violence. I don’t fear that my children are going to be treated unfairly or with suspicion because of the color of their skin. I do know that I have a responsibility to understand my place in this social story and that this work on myself has only just begun.

I do fear “active shooters” in my children’s school and in any school. I do fear “active shooters” in malls, movie theaters, doctor’s offices, mental health organizations and airports. I fear becoming too afraid, and I fear enjoying the comfy position I was by chance born into, forgetting to remember that it’s all a fluke, a luck of the draw and that we are all, all of us human beings, in this living our lives thing together.

Tonight I got angry as I was thinking about yet another mass shooting, and I got really angry when I thought about my daughter asking about whether or not a bad person will enter her school to try to hurt her and her classmates. This question came following an active shooter drill at school that day.  (Note: the school does not use that terminology when explaining the drill to children). I got angry when I realized that the assurances that I give my children about their safety are backed up in my mind by fear and doubt. As I thought about that, I thought about the brave mothers and fathers that travel by foot and over seas to bring their children out of war zones to a safer place, only to have borders closed.

I thought about how hard it is to do things I love to do when it’s not helping anyone, or contributing in any way to solving any of these problems.

And then I decided to think about love.

You know what happens when you google things like, “knitting for love”, “crochet for world peace”, or “knitting for healing”?

You find out that people all over the world are knitting and crocheting, quilting and felting, braiding and weaving to help people, and to bring people together. You find out that there is a lot of wonderful stuff going on out there that directly relates to a desire to foster peace and love between religions. You find out that you can participate in peaceful protest using yarn and fabric, and that there are women of all different colors, cultural backgrounds, religions and minds who have in common an idea that through gathering and creating for others items imbued with love and peaceful intention, that we can heal. You find out that there are numerous organizations that want and depend upon handmade gifts of love.

I think that as I organize myself around political figures and get behind movements, ideas and rallying cries for change and appropriate response to mass- and micro- violence, it will be important for me to be able to make something. It will make tangible the overwhelming, and bring feeling, longing and loving into an item meant to leave my hands and enter another’s who I likely will never know or meet.

And I must say this: to all of you who are activists and writers and artists, brave voices for those who are not heard or listened to, and creators of change that force us to look at the truth and honestly reflect on our own positions in life, thank you and keep it up. And to all of you who are teachers, who practice drills with children so that you can keep them safe in the event of violence, you are brave. Thank you for what you do. You have energy and vision and patience beyond measure.

More soon. I’m going to go crochet.