Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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New Sweater On The Needles

It hasn’t stopped raining in my neck of the woods. Not in any meaningful way. On this wet and gloomy Saturday morning, I don’t mind that much. Yes, my gardening tasks are so far utterly neglected that I’m feeling a wee bit embarrassed, but I’m not unhappy about getting to sit and knit for while, guilt-free. It’s been a hard week. Grief and all that goes with it really got me the last few days and I’m left feeling tired and waterlogged. You know? 

The sweater on my needles is called Amiga, the pattern written by Mags Kandis. I just made it to the part where I get to coast for a long time in stockinette stitch. I’d share the yarn I’m using but I forgot to save the yarn tags! That kind of carelessness is what makes life harder for me. What if I run out of yarn? Or if I want to use it again for another project. Pro-knitters, in my imagination, never do that. I have a goal to be more careful about things like that. I can tell you the yarn is so very soft and kind of a grayish purple. It’s a new batch of colors this season. I bought it in a wonderful little yarn shop called Yarn, in Montpelier, Vermont when I was down there for a conference. 


Ten or so inches of body~ the steady marathon part of the sweater. The part of the project I can easily take with me anywhere because I won’t have to keep track of anything, count anything. Beta wave knitting. Ahhh…


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My Mom Died

During the weeks leading up to when my mom died, I was having a hard time writing here. I was having a hard time being creative in general. I felt really uncomfortable. I was having a lot of dreams that I could not figure out, and I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed with how busy I was. I prayed I wouldn’t get sick because there just wasn’t the room in my schedule to be out of commission. That’s so laughable to me now. The last email I ever got from my mom read, “OMG, you really are busy. I love you.” It makes me weep to write those words. Those words were in an email I received on the Thursday before Easter. I planned on talking to my mom on Easter because we love that day.

I found out my mom died on Easter. There’s little I can share here about the specifics because especially now, in the immediate aftermath of losing her, there are so many things that are preciously private, to my mom, my siblings and my relatives. The details, they feel so personal. But grief? Losing someone you deeply love? That is the shared experience. Sometimes, when someone asks me how I am who does not know my mom died, I just let myself say it. I don’t sugar coat it either. I don’t say, “passed away”, “went to a better place”, “is with God now”. I say, “my mom died and I’m so fucking sad I don’t know what to do.” I’ve noticed that people, in every instance, can totally handle that, and most often have their own histories of losing a beloved person to them, and then they get to say it out loud, too. And, I always welcome swearing. I’ve noticed in these last few weeks that even when the death of a loved one happened years ago, when someone talks about it with me, it feels like we are swimming in the same water, completely understanding one another, even if just for that moment. Amazingly, that helps me to not feel alone.

My mother: you should know about her. Even just a little bit. She was beautiful. Am I right? Really, she was, and I’m not certain she ever deeply knew it.

The world is hard on people. She was an artist. And she loved artists. As a young woman, before I was born, my mom worked for Vogue and Mademoiselle in their art departments. She spoke of those days very often, and told stories of wild and creative people. She often lamented that our society had not come up with job-sharing back then; it would have allowed her to keep working in an industry she loved without being away from her kids so much. She also worked as a hematology technician at New York University and in the offices of the American Medical Association. She loved looking at teeny-tiny little things through microscopes and I think it was that skill set that supported her tolerance of sewing little things, sculpting miniature faces, making intricate art pieces…

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She studied meditation with Siddha Yoga beginning in the late 1970’s and remained a lifelong devotee. She traveled to India in 1978 with my brother (age 3) and me (age 5) and we lived at the Siddha Yoga ashram in Ganeshpuri for 5 weeks. That took some serious balls. I can barely take my kids to their Oma’s house who lives less than two hours away by myself.

My mom lived differently. Hearing from so many people since she died, I’m getting to enjoy their descriptions of my mother. The following words have been used one or more times: vivid, magical, intense, creative, beautiful, status-quo defying, deeply loving, spiritual, unique, funny-as-hell.  She also loved her animal friends something fierce. She loved animals in general. In Florida in our little bayou home, we’d see alligators swim by and she’d wave to them and say hi. She let our iguanas walk freely around our house~ you know they can be potty trained? Our cats and dog had special seats at the table during holiday gatherings. The birds were our friends. Feral cats were always fed. Also, there was always incense, in the house, the car, the yard… thinking back, I see how cool that all was. I didn’t know it then. It was just home, and Lottieann was my mom.

I haven’t picked up the sweater I recently started since I’ve been home. I’m trying to find knitting again, they way I found it so comforting after my grandmother (my mom’s mother) died in February. It’s not clicking and I’m opting not to worry about it. It’s sitting there, waiting for me to pick it up, and I will. I have some wool soaking in soapy water. That’s about all I got right now. One of my biggest blog fans won’t be emailing me anymore after every post and goddamn that sucks so bad.

A promise I’m making to myself is to address a thing that I think made my mom really sad… how “busy” I always make myself. Too busy to make art, to meditate, to just be. Her last email was not a criticism, just a fact.

“OMG. You really are busy. I love you.”


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Recovering, Crafting & Learning Post-Election

Hello to you. It’s been a while. Given that my blog is about the healing benefits of handcrafting with a little bit of elbow room to talk about other things, I made a choice not to write every day about how I’m metabolizing the election outcome in this here United States of America. But to be frank, it’s all I’ve been thinking about. My Slow-Stitch journey has taken a pause and will resume soon (I apologize to any who might be following that and stitching along). I really found it hard for a bit to do anything that was remotely and technically enjoyable because I could not emerge from my own dismay. Things that have helped: attending a peace rally, going to a lecture addressing white privilege and US history, talking with people about their ideas and reactions, many similar, many not, and making a clear decision to be vigilant, to listen and do my best to be an active participant in my community. Joining fellow knitters and crocheters in our local group that contributes items to Knitting4Peace has also proven yet again to be a refuge and a joy~ making things with people for people all over the world is soul medicine. And, walking around outside.

I received an invitation a few days ago to participate in a local Holiday Pop-Up for area vendors and decided to do it. This is also taking some attention away from my Slow Stitch work, but it’s a good and important process for me, to get back involved with making things that I love with wool and yarn. It’s allowing me some room to let myself have fun and just enjoy being random, with a goal in mind, which I need sometimes. I’ve been spinning yarn, weaving and crocheting here and there as I can. My kitchen table is covered with my ongoing projects, my kids are excited to felt rocks and make things too, and it’s just plain feeling good.

Supermoon, bird’s nest and what I think to be coyote scat.

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Can I hide in there, too?

Some ongoing projects and yarny explorations.

Have a sweet week. I hope it includes doing what brings you calm and peace.


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Slow Stitch Stitch Along~ Weeks 7 and 8

Well folks, I’m still working through my sorbello stitch square! Taking me some time this go-around because of an absolutely jam-packed last couple of weeks that included work, my son’s birthday celebration, two major house leaks and Halloween, not to mention everything else that is involved in living a full life! Sorbello stitch also gave me some pause. I think I’ve got the hang of it, but wow, I can’t seem to keep a straight line or keep the stitches looking the same each time! Sometimes I get it and then other times what should look like a substantial, compact knot looks like a weird thick thread line. My wobbly, inconsistent rows started to remind me of old buildings with poor construction in heavy winds, so that is now what I’m making, moving ever more slowly towards more consistency and hopefully more vertical-ness! Ha. Truly, this square will capture an image of me trudging through a learning curve.

Start out wobbly.

Build on wobbly.

Start afresh and hope for stability.

Over and Over.

Here you see how far I’ve gotten so far in my sorbello stitch square. I’ll for sure post updates as I move through completion. I expect to have a little city block by the end with maybe (hopefully) at least a few straight buildings by the end!

For those who are following this Slow Stitch Stitch-Along and are moving along with us, I will share my idea for Weeks 7 and 8, and really moving right through the end of the month. I think it would be lovely to go back to stitches that called to us or inspired other ideas using different fabrics and threads. I can see combining stitches and making designs and pictures, or rhythmic patterns. I can see playing and assembling our squares in either fabric books or in some kind of display that invites touch, reflection and curiosity. I can also see further exploration into stitches we might not have tried. If I decide to do that, I’ll post the ones I’m attempting. I don’t want to rush through stitching and playing to get on to the next thing. It seems like there are so many ways we can integrate stitching into the handcrafts we already do. I can imagine playing around with that in mind as we approach the process of moving on.

December and January will be a smallish (or biggish, depending on time) Kantha project that is discussed in Part Three of Slow Stitch: Mindful and contemplative textile art, by Claire Wellesley-Smith. More to come on that!

Until then, happy stitching and happy autumn. Don’t forget to look for the supermoon on November 14!


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Slow Stitch Stitch-Along Weeks 5 and 6

“Any regular, repetitive action primes the well. Writers have heard many woeful tales of the Bronte sisters and poor Jane Austen, forced to hide their stories under their needle-work. A little experiment with some mending can cast a whole new light on these activities. Needlework, by definition regular and repetitive, both soothes and stimulates the artist within. Whole plots can be stitched up while we sew. As artists, we can very literally reap what we sew.” Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

For Week 4, we worked on the fly stitch. I loved this stitch. It was fun, satisfying, took a little bit to get the hang of, and then lent itself generously to experimentation and shaping. I thought I’d have time to make two squares, but alas, one was all I could complete. I’m working on not urgently finishing something that is supposed to be a practice in steady and slow. Urgency and too-busy are not qualities in life I value any longer. I think they are over-rated tendencies that make people sick. They distract focus from what is right in front of us. There are only so many hours in a day and I’m coming to accept ever more that really, there is a finite amount of time in which I will exist. All of the many things I want to do, wish I had of done, hope to do in the future have to be reconciled with the reality of what is.

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I kind of meant to do a square of fly stitch in rows, but then I decided that actually, the stitches were reminding me of wheatgrass and of weeping willow branches without their leaves. I decided to allow myself to make what I saw in my mind’s eye. It was a lovely experience.

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So, we are moving along in our Slow-Stitch. I am going to add two stitches to our queue and give myself two weeks to play around with them. Halloween and my son’s birthday make this upcoming week more exciting and full than usual, so I plan on steadily and quietly moving through stitches as I can.

It’s not too late to join if you’d like!

Here are the two new stitches: sorbello and seed. Practice using small squares of fabric, maybe one on its own and one in layers. Use thread that calls to you and let yourself enjoy the process without the sense of rushing or pressure urging your hands.

If you’re wondering what this is all about, here’s the introduction to this Stitch Along, that was entirely inspired by the book Slow Stitch: Mindful and contemplative textile art, by Claire Wellesley-Smith.


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Slow Stitch Stitch-Along, Week 4

I like having this Stitch-Along right now. It’s keeping me connected to what I really, really want to be doing but am having the hardest time devoting time to. It’s a constant struggle for me these days, to pick up what I love (other than my children). I plan on writing more about this in the coming week, but I feel rather sure that this election cycle here in the United States is one culprit in a cauldron of stressors.

I found time today, though. Time to sit and complete my bookmark. I turned the design into a house with a chimney and gave it a thatched roof. When my daughter saw it, she decided she wanted to write a story about sewing bookmarks. I hope she does! I mounted my other experimental piece on an antique handkerchief and I thought about time and the apparent coming of a new age of politics in this country.

I thought about ways I might be more gentle in my approach to life, and more disciplined so that I might do at least some of things I long to do, but hadn’t written in to some original plan of adulthood. I thought about adjusting, letting go of some things and turning towards those things that call to me, including service to this aching world.

The coming 4th week of the Slow Stitch Stitch-Along will include learning a new one (for me): the fly stitch.

One square or two. Fly stitch. Different patterns, directions, colors, fabrics. We’ll see. My hope is to do one square on plain linen, and one piece including a few fabrics using both running stitch and fly stitch. We’ll see how it goes.

Again, for those who might want to join, we are using the book Slow Stitch: Mindful and contemplative textile art, by Claire Wellesley-Smith as our guide. I am a brand new stitcher and am finding my groove. Anyone is welcome to join us, with any skill level.

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Slow Stitch Stitch-Along, Week 3

My partner in stitching and I agreed to extend the running stitch squares for another week. The last several days have included busy spots that I could only describe as Tetris-like. When the days actually worked out, I marveled at my ability to pull it all off. But sadly, I didn’t get as much stitching in as I wanted and so suggested extending it by a bit. 

I was able to experiment, practice, and imagine though. 


I was able to get into a very sweet flow and pay attention to my thoughts. I’m slowly learning what I like the looks of and how to make things line up. This is a wonderful process for me.