Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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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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My Very Green Sweater Is Finished and I Am Proud

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you! It is the perfect to day share with you the results of my first attempt at knitting a sweater. I’ve written about it a bit here, and here. Knitting this sweater was a journey for me. When I cast-on that first round of a 100+ stitches, I had the energy and hope that one has before going on a long run, starting a garden, beginning a new course of study… It’s powerful energy. Anything is possible. There’s pride there in those early rounds. “Look at what I’m doing. I’m knitting a sweater, dude. That’s right. Whatch’you got?” I can be very immature at times.

That early burst of energy got me into the first big chunk of knitting the body from the bottom up. Then I had to moderate my rhythm and engage for a long haul. Miles 6, 7 and 8 on a 12-something mile run (I did run a half marathon back in the day. It completely kicked my ass.). I just found my rhythm and re-committed myself to the process. Repetitive, long, measuring tape nearby… was I making any gains? Getting any farther?

Then my grandmother died and I felt like crap and really wicked sad. I was using her needles to make my sweater and had put it down just prior to her death because we’d all been sick with the winter crud. In order to knit the sleeves I had to learn how to use double-pointed needles. I found renewed focus and asked my Mema who had just died for help and guidance as I tried this new skill again after years of doing all I could to avoid those dastardly things. And it worked. My sleeves came out beautifully.

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Then, I had to attach them to the body, which I did. But I am quite sure it was during this phase of reading the pattern that I made several mistakes. Yarn-overs and short-rows and picking up yarn over stitches from previous rows confused the hell out of me. At one point, I pulled out an entire round, and then in the process of trying to get the stitches back on the circular needles, I dropped stitches, twisted stitches, made up new stitches and sweat a gallon of pure-stress sweat. When I saw the mangled mess, I cried. I thought about quitting the sweater. I questioned my whole purpose in knitting a sweater to begin with. I was using all of the green yarn I had, all different shades because I didn’t have all of one color. I questioned my judgement, my discipline and my ability, and I even thought about sweaters that I could buy for 20-bucks at Kohl’s. The deep-end met my attitude and it was not pretty.

And then I got a  grip and reached out to some wonderful ladies who are in my knitting group. Thank God for them. They responded to me with offers of help and kindness. I answered the first email that came through, and wonderful Genevieve understood that for me, it was an emergency. We were leaving in few days to go away for the weekend and she offered to help me the day before we left, because how could I leave it like that all weekend? I tried to play it cool but inside I was so relieved because I wasn’t sure I’d make it through gracefully if I couldn’t get the sweater back on track. I took my children to her house on a day of their winter break and they were amazing and wonderful as they waited for Genevieve to show me how to fix it. And really, she fixed that botched-up row like a knitting angel. Oh, my relief and amazement cannot be quantified.

By the end of the following week, I’d finished it. It was a sprint. I stayed up late, had the lovely PBS series Victoria on in the background and powered through the end, stopping a bit short because I wanted the neck to hang differently than the pattern called for. And I was so, so happy. I blocked it, and then shrunk it just a little bit, on purpose. That’s some nerve-wracking business, watching a brand new, hand-knitted sweater bop around in the dryer. I watched it like a hawk and now it fits better and hangs more solidly. I took it out just in time. That was freaking risky.

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So here it is. It’s a little weird. I know. Because it was my first sweater, I opted to not go out and buy a bunch of new yarn, or spin my own, because I have so much yarn! Originally it was going to be a slew of different colors, a sort of rebellion sweater. Rebellion against all that is such incredible crap in our government and country right now. I imagined a big colorful freak-out sweater as a sort of high-kick to the status quo. But, then I decided to stick with my greens. Green is my favorite color. Many shades fit into the favorite green category. Green is alive. It can be fresh, soggy, crisp and moist, dull and sharp and sometimes surprising. It is the color I miss the most in the dead of winter. It’s the color of the burst of life that comes with spring every year. I think it’s the color of the feminine. I decided I wanted to wrap myself in that. So I did.

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I think it’s crazy that my sweater looks almost like a bikini top! Totally unintentional. I just ran out of that shade of green! I think it’s funny that it started out with purple, when I was still going to do my rebellion sweater. It’s like one can see my thinking.

Knitting this sweater, I: learned how to use double pointed needles, actively sought out knitting to grieve the loss of my grandmother, went on an emotional safari, reached out for help when I needed it, and received so much more than that as a result.

Maybe at some point knitting a sweater will be just what I do. I’ll just knit a sweater and be like, “yeah, I’m knitting a sweater, no biggie.” But for now, I’m like, “LOOK AT THIS, BRO!” And, of course, it being done by St. Patrick’s Day was a special bonus! I’ve been researching my family’s ancestry like mad lately, and have finally made one discovery that places an ancestor in a specific spot in Ireland. Limerick, to be exact. It’s delightful to know such things.

I hope whatever you are doing today, it’s fun, at least tinged with color, and that you might be starting a journey of some sort that results in pride in your efforts, new learning and joy.

~ Bradie

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Monday’s Musings~ Let’s Not Forget How Human We Are

It’s been a bit, but not for lack of anything to say. Since this is just a post for musings I thought I’d share a couple of little bits of what’s been rumbling on in my brain lately.

First this:

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We’ve been reading Lord of the Rings to our daughter at night and very often I find passages to be absolutely relevant to life now. I wonder how it’s all going to go for us. Will we as a human race wake up and see nature, Nature, for what it is? An ever present guide, evidence of creation itself? Will we look consistently beyond our borders and see how much we are all connected by the desire to live, to love and to survive? Us humans would do well to read our old legends and to try to gather up the living wisdom in our stories. Courage, the Hero’s Journey, making choices on all of these crossroads we face… we need all of the guidance and wisdom we can hold.

Managing existential anxiety is supported by weaving. I’ve got three circular weaving projects going right now and have finally started the weaving a bag on a box project I’ve been wanting to try for months now! I love all that Sarah Swett puts out and think this is super clever and fun. I’ll show you how it turns out when it’s all done.

 

I’ve been reading a lot about the Druids and early Celtic Christianity lately as part of a rather epic ancestry research binge I’ve been on for a while. I’m early in my studying, but I’ll tell you what, the Celts seemed pretty cool. They, even in their transition into Christianity, didn’t push their religious ideas on other people expecting them to drop what they already believed in. What I’ve read so far anyway, is that they deeply abided by their love and devotion to nature and saw god in their every day activities. Their connection to their own spirituality was not separate from nature and from other people but was rather wholly connected to it. I love this quote, which is offered in the book The Celtic Way, by Ian Bradley,

“As Noel O’Donoghue has eloquently observed, the Celts were deeply conscious of rhythm:

the rhythms of human life and the body’s ages and changes, the rhythms of the seasons, of work such as weaving and milking, of reaping with hook or scythe, of threshing the corn, of men rowing together, of women walking together. All these rhythms, and many others, were vocalised in song and what was called port beul or voice music

“The Celts sang as they worked, as they played and as they prayed. In Gaelic there is no word for music that is not sung while in Welsh the word for poetry and music is the same…” (pgs. 90-91).

Why does this all come to mind right now? I guess because in working with wool and with fibers, I am consistently reminded that we are at all times connected to what is ancient, what is searching, seeking and surviving, and I long ever more to stay connected to that reality. I think it gives perspective and reminds us that we are a migrating and growing species and that we have survived because of a willingness to change and adapt, as well as remain connected to what is completely human about us.

Look at this cool video of women waulking wool and singing as they work.

Here’s a little bit of my own weaving from a recent class I took at a wonderful place called Mad River Woolery in Waitsfield, Vermont. I learned some cool weaving techniques on an Ashford rigid heddle loom. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my new Schacht rigid heddle loom… oh my!

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Okay… so much more to say but I’ll spread it out! I finished my very green sweater which I’ll tell you all about on Friday (St. Patrick’s Day!), I’ve made friends with some sock puppets, and spring and summer plans are underway for gardens, wool fun and spinning yarn.

I hope you are all well,

Bradie

 

 

 

 

 


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Two- Cents Tuesday~ Look at This Blog and Website Called “The Woven Road”! 

This is short because I have a sick wee-one here at home with the dreaded stomach crud. Bummin’. But I had to share this with you. A friend posted this on our Peace Pod~ Shelburne Facebook page (we make things to donate to Knitting4Peace):


I loved it. I decided to look up “the woven road” because this quote sums up the heart and soul of what I think about in relation to fiber art and craft. In doing so, I found this beautiful website and blog! It’s about a year old and it’s gorgeous. Here’s the link:

http://www.thewovenroad.com/blog/

Enjoy! I’m making progress on my sweater. Almost done with the first sleeve. 


Ok. Back to everything else. I’ve got a pot of chicken broth cooling in the snow, five more rows on this sleeve I’m hoping to finish while my littlest is in a nausea lull, and my cat snuggling behind me. 


Hope you’re well. 

~ Bradie 


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Monday’s Musings~ A Small Piece on Death

I’ve been sitting here, writing, deleting, writing again and rewording for a while this morning. Composing a small piece, one that can be tidily managed and articulated compactly about the death of my grandmother is none-too-easy. What finally worked for me was imagining diving into the ocean, confidently and with the purpose of going under water for a bit, and not immediately scrambling to the surface as if in some sort of panic.

My maternal grandmother died last week. Her name is Lottie and she was 94. At that age, this was certainly not a surprise, and truly, she had been struggling for a long time, especially since breaking her hip almost one year ago. But… shit man… this still hurts and in a way I did not anticipate. For several days now, I’ve been aware of what feels like a ball of sorrow in the pit of my stomach. It’s tender and ever-present and for some reason, its presence is surprising me because I guess in my mind I thought that if I was expecting it, the death of someone I love wouldn’t feel as sad. Timely death is different than untimely death. But it’s still death. I guess it’s all about that. Death. I’m so pissed off about this thing all living things have to do. I’ve tried writing letters to management complaining about it, but they’ve all been returned with the stamp: Death is Part of Life. Okay. Still shitty.

I think the thing that hurts me, too, (and it has with all of those I have loved who have died), is that I can’t ask them how it went. Here is this big thing that we all have to do. Death is such a huge rite of passage, the final developmental stage we traverse (or maybe not?), it’s scary to many and there are so many rituals around it, but I can’t ask my Mema how it went. I can’t ask her if she was scared and what it was like and did she see anything? Were there any surprises? Is she all in one compact soul place or is she part of everything now and can she see me? Does she know I love her?

Here are some things about Mema~ she was beautiful and took great pride in her appearance; she was born in Germany and emigrated to the United States when she was three; Mema made the best creamed spinach in the world, and was well-known for baking wonderful treats for Christmas~ she loved her baked goods and I definitely inherited that from her; she loved to travel and be with friends and family and wasn’t inclined to sit around; she shot two holes-in-one playing golf a long time ago* and she and my grandfather played a bunch of golf throughout their lives; she tended orchids and loved her plants; she was a master knitter (see this post here where I talk a little about that); she wanted things to be nice, even when they weren’t; Mema played the organ and was part of the Red Hat Society for a while;  she had a wicked sense of humor and often surprised me with what she thought was funny, which was awesome; she was sentimental and she really missed her husband, my grandfather.

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To deal with the pit in my stomach, I have consciously gone to knitting. It’s actually the first time I’ve done that, gone to knitting for the purpose of soothing. Usually the benefits of knitting and other handwork have been a noticed side effect of the work for me, but to approach it with the hope of comfort has been amazing. I feel closer to Mema when I’m knitting, and I asked her for help as I re-attempted to learn how to use double-pointed needles. I tried to use these about four years ago and wanted to huck them into the lake I got so jumbled and pissed-off. Not this time. With the help of this video and a few shout-outs to Mema, I got it and I feel proud and like one day I may be able to make things as beautiful and intricate as she did.

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So, I guess this is it, my musings for the day. Musings on death and life and my Mema. I really love her and will knit memories of her into this sweater. Stitch by stitch.

* in my original post, I incorrectly wrote that Mema shot one hole-in-one! My sister reminded me of her feat of shooting two! 


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Meet Realta~ An Awakened Owl

Occasionally, Healing Handcrafting will host other bloggers, human and otherwise to share thoughts, queries and reactions to life. 

Realta was born two days ago during a snow storm. She’s been busy ever since. 

Greetings. I’m Realta. There’s some shit going on here that I was blissfully unaware of when I was but a mere collection of yarn, wool and feathers. Now that I’m awake, I’m like, WTF is  going on, people? 

Here’s me. I can’t seem to wipe this worried look off my face. 


I know my dear Sherman needed a companion, but that can’t be the only reason I’m here. That’d be some crazy crap. 

Sweet Sherman did show me a good time on Valentines Day. 



He’s a doll. But seriously, we have to get serious! WTF is this?


And sweet cheeks and me, we’re going to do some handshake training, am I right? With Justin Trudeau. 

Here’s my people. Sherman and I, we’re on board. Our training starts yesterday and we’re all in. 


Now I understand this crazy-assed dream I had about being at a protest. 


I’m not sure how I feel about being here, but since I am, I’ll do what I can to make things better. What the hell else is there to do? 


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Two-Cents Tuesdays~ Don’t Kill Time

I think a lot, about all kinds of things. Like many folks, I think about thinking, what I’m thinking about, how what I’m thinking about affects me and those around me and how what I’m thinking about either serves to provide energy and steam to my day or instead drains energy, creativity and perspective. It’s a loop, friends. An infinity spiral, uroboric maelstrom at times, and I’ve realized something with all of this thinking. How we handle downtime, those ten, fifteen, twenty minutes here and there, really freakin’ matters. These small oases in the midst of busy lives could support moments of reflection, meditation, throwing a few rows or rounds onto a knitting project or chances to see something interesting.

More and more, I am choosing not to reach for my phone just to check email that I cannot respond to in the moment because I don’t have time (and then forget about responding to  later because it’s not highlighted anymore), read the news that is consistently maddening and not much different from when I read it that same morning or afternoon, or from what it will be in the evening after my kids go to bed. I am choosing to try harder to tend to those things right in front of me and allow for a little space to remember to just be.

The other day, I had about twenty minutes in between engagements and I opted to step in to an antique store I’ve passed many times to take a gander and just have fun. Look what I saw!

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yarn winder

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old, old spinning wheel

 

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another sweet wheel

 

And, I did get myself a treat…

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old sewing bag

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with thread and doilies made from it!

 

I still read the news that day. I stayed up-to-speed with my responsibilities and tasks. Got all the things done… but in the midst of it all, I found a little bit of time to look at beautiful things and breathe and relax. It felt like a tiny vacation, stolen in the midst of a work day. A reprieve and a joy. Even if it is simply looking up at the sky while waiting for a meeting instead of looking at the phone, consider it a moment lived, not killed. A moment that gave, rather than one to recover from. A moment spent with yourself, ultimately your most precious person.

Little steps…