Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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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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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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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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Weaving, Knitting, Spinning and Back at Blogging

I sure didn’t mean to drop off for so long but there it is. Time passed with little to show for it on this here site. Sometimes life requires full attention and quiet.

But, in that quiet time I took, I’ve done a whole lot of learning. As I mentioned in my last post, when winter was still hanging on with a mighty grip, I made my way up to Montgomery, Vermont with my friend Susi, of The Felted Gnome Knows, to visit Mountain Fiber Folk. I’ve spoken about the wonderful ladies who fill their co-op store with gorgeous wools, handspun yarns, woven, knitted and needle felted creations. It’s just all so lovely. One of my friends there sold me a loom she’d had tucked away for some time. A four harness, counterbalance, Leclerc Mira Loom from the early 80’s.

Then I spent some time feeling very intimidated and concerned I’d bitten off more than I could chew. But thankfully a fabulous woman answered my call for a teacher to help me! Lausanne Allen demonstrated downright genius when helping me to get to know my loom. Her patience was remarkable.

And now, three projects in and I’m feeling okay, like I might be able to do this weaving thing and like I might need to just stop now with the whole being-afraid-of-math thing.

I’ve been spinning some wool, too, and doing a bit of knitting because knitting wooly things in summer somehow works for me.

I have so much to write to you about and plan on keeping up with my blog again, at least once a week.

I hope you’re all doing just fine.

~ Bradie


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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~ Worry Sucks

I definitely spent a lot of time worrying about people I love and places I hold in my heart these last few days as Irma coverage got scarier. I avoid the Weather Channel because damn is it dramatic, and the turbo intense music is insulting. But even reading about the hurricane in my own quiet head made for stress and ineffectual worry. My worry literally did nothing to help people. 

But, I cleaned the hell out of my house and found a painting I did years ago of the house grew up in on Sanibel. I’m not a skilled painter, but I love it. 


I picked up a sweater I’ve been working on for five months. I even knit a few stitches while watching a terribly stupid movie. I’ve never done that before. A success? 


I wove a little with my buddy, Mittens, who is achieving a starring role on this here blog. 


I had some sister time at the lake,


And got some crazy love from my puppy niece. 


I sent a lot of love into the air and realized I need to learn to build a fire from scratch. 

Last week’s goals are this week’s: seriously. Finish the shawl (or maybe table runner?). I’m screwing up enough to make me want to bail on the whole thing but I feel like the little bitty mess ups might not be reflective of the whole thing. Just like a bad day doesn’t mean the whole month is bad. But seriously, my selvages need work. <Palm slapping head>.

I played with my littles a lot after school and truly, sometimes playing just means sitting on the floor and letting them climb all over me so I can tickle them. This will remain a goal. Our days are infinitely better when we heart to heart connect after a long day apart. 

I never did start the hat I have stuck in my head as an idea. I was too worried.