Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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My Shop~ Jabo and Belles: Handmade is Open Again!

Several years ago, after the handcrafting bug bit me wicked hard in the heart, I opened up an Etsy shop called Jabo and Belles: Handmade. I named it that because at that time, when my son, Jacob, and daughter, Else, were wee ones, they went by many nicknames. They still do, but these two stuck. Jabo was what a friend of mine’s daughter called Jacob because, well, that’s how his name came out of her little self. Belles is what I call my daughter. Belles, Belly, Belly-boo, Elsebellsa… I picked Belles because it flows for me. People ask me how to pronounce Jabo all the time. It’s with a long a… ā. Jābo and Belles. And why Handmade after their names? Well, I’ve not done anything as creative, as handsy, as fully embodied as growing, birthing and raising my children. And, if not for them, I likely would not have re-engaged with knitting, learned how to crochet or begun spinning wool and doing all of the other fun things I do now.

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Because of a series of decisions that my husband and I made together, I was afforded a mid-life chance to get to know myself again, in a different way, and I discovered a love for fiber art and handcrafting I didn’t even know was there. My immersion into the handcrafting scene, next to having my children, has influenced what is easily the most creative time in my life so far. It’s opened up new worlds to me, including in the context of my professional role as psychologist and therapist, and it’s allowed me to make friends with people I otherwise would never have met.

Getting involved in the handcrafting community has given me a chance to do things I was not terribly good at doing as a young adult~ following whims, experimenting with materials and found objects, showing up in places where I don’t know a soul and saying, “hi, can I see what you’re doing?” without embarrassment or self-consciousness. As a young adult, I felt so driven to know what I was going to do, to have a set plan, to have it all figured out so I wouldn’t mess anything up… those qualities can be good in many ways, but I do believe, as a result of an overcommitment to anxious planning, I ended up not noticing what moved me, what spoke to me and I certainly never saw myself as especially creative.

How all of this has changed. It’s remarkable. I feel so fortunate to get to make things, to get to sell things online and in craft shows, and to feel so deeply connected to people I don’t even know and might never meet who also love making things. I also love respectful stewards of land and animals~ their love of the animals they raise allows for many of us without fiber animals to enjoy the bounty, and to experience as much as we can of such natural processes as growing, tending, creating.

Anyway, I wanted to let you know that I’ve reopened my shop after taking a hiatus from making to sell. I just wasn’t keeping up and needed to get some focus back. I do tend to be all over the place.

I hope every week to be able to post pics of one new thing heading into the shop. Here’s a few pics of what’s in there now!

If you like what you see, feel free to pass it on to other folks who love fibery/handcrafty/madewithlove treats.

 

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Two-Cents Tuesday

I’m a lucky person, having friends and family who share beautiful things with me when they come across them because they think I’d like them too. That’s a lovely thing that people do. 

My buddy John just introduced me, via Vimeo, to Monica Hofstadter of Doucement. Let this lovely video swirl around you for a while. It captures so much beauty and loveliness and gentleness in the midst of super lush arm knitting set to lilting dream music. What a joy! 

That’s all I got today! I wanted to share this with you, because I thought you’d like it. 


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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. 


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Sending Love to Florida

It’s hard to write about all of my fibery things when my fretting buttons are fully engaged. I had the great good fortune of living in Florida for ten years, through high school and college. I love so much about that state; many of my lifelong relationships began in Florida and many of my anam cara counterparts still reside there.

When I lived there, we were all set to evacuate due to some big storm that came through. I don’t remember which one. We ended up, at the last minute, not needing to, and it was then I understood why people say, “forget it”, and stay put when these things happen. It’s one big pain in the ass packing up kids, food, belongings, pets and then just leaving. Living in a place on stilts, I also remember when the water from the bayou came up so high that fish swam under our house. That’s something special for a kid from New Jersey!

After hurricane Charley in 2004, the place I called home was forever changed and life altered significantly after that for my family. These storms, their power… well, you don’t need me to tell you… Look what Irma just did to the Caribbean islands, not to mention the terrible flooding in South Asia in the last month.  All over the world, people have been brought to their knees by water, by earthquake shaking, by heat, by fire. When I hear from friends about how they are managing and when I watch the news, I cannot help but think about the lengths we go to in order to stay here, on this wild planet. And the risks we take. It takes my breath away.

Anyway, I’m sending love to Florida. I love your animals, your beaches, your mangroves and bayous, your food and sun and strange characters and your heat. I love the love people have for all of those things, and I hope you all make it through okay. And, if this storm takes a last minute turn and goes back out to sea and you wonder what all the fuss was about, let that go.

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Two-Cents Tuesdays

Hello, Dear Readers… 

I wanted to share with you some things I’ve loved reading lately in case you didn’t know about them. 

1. Mrs. Craft of the great blog Craft and Other Crazy Plans. I read this blog post of hers and loved it! The whole breakdown of specific goals really resonates with me and you can see the imprint at the end of my own last blog post. Thanks, Mrs. Craft! 

2.  If you’re into Celtic spirituality and myth, check this blog out: tadhgtalks. I love reading his thoughts on nature, our relationship to it, and life in general. It’s lovely. 

3. And this book~ I was recently lent this book and I circled around it for a time, waiting for some internal green light to appear. It did, and it’s beautiful, honest, crushing, heartbreaking and how it should be. There’s not one right way to move through grief and Ann Hood makes that perfectly fine. Not unlike Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, this author captures the need people have to retell the story, to put things in order in a time sequence, because time and order disappear for a while when death happens. It all gets shocking when you think about everything that happens in such an agonizing few days. I’m almost finished with it and I’m grateful to the lovely woman who lent it to me. 

Two nail-biters I just finished are: The Road, by Cormac McCarthy and In The Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware. Total stress bombs but very good in their own ways. 
What are your go-to blogs/websites/books/stations? I’m a bit bookwormy lately and welcome recommendations! 


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Monday Musings~ Idle Hands Don’t Make Things

My kids started back at school after a summer filled with friends, family, swimming, creating, sunbathing… yes, I know, sun-bathing is so not good for the skin and I’m sure I’ll pay for it later in life, but this year, after the spring I had, I wanted to lay in the sun and not garden and just feel energy get put back in my body. It was lovely. 

Now I’m back, along with my littles, to routine and discipline and work. This year, work includes for me my private practice as well as writing, crafting and at some point teaching handcrafting type things to kids. I’m in the getting my ducks in a row phase now. 

In the crafting department, the waning days of August and the moody days of early-September have been productive. So far I’ve:

Spun some more yarn,

With my buddy. 

I’ve started a new weaving project in an attempt to learn more stuff…

And I got more comfortable setting up my loom. 

I crafted a hat out of a woven piece from the above loom and crocheted the top. It’s weird and unique and fits beautifully. 

And I made some fingerless gloves to match. 


I’ve captured a picture of two bucks who visit our yard from time to time. One is missing an antler. The Jungian in me can’t help but ruminate on this image. 


And I’ve internalized summer, the heat and energy that keeps things going and the mythic waves that crash and flow, regardless of one’s presence or reverence. 


Hopes for this week:

Play every day outside with my kids, finish my shawl, start a new hat, write a second chapter…


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Make A Book From Scratch Summer Camp, Recap…

This summer was a time of taking a few risks, including putting my fiber art teaching love out into the universe in a different way. I’ve shared already the camp I offered to do with weaving. You can read about that here. The second camp I offered was all about making a book from scratch. It’s important to me for kids to know and be frequently reminded that they can make stuff, really cool stuff, with found items, recycling and a little ingenuity. Art supplies are expensive, as are art classes, but if you know how to get your hands on materials that are free or inexpensive, you have at your fingertips myriad ways to make art, to be an artists, to add your own beauty to the world. So… I was messing around one day after daydreaming about making a book for collage. My first book was the one pictured below. It’s made with handmade paper, wool that I wet-felted for the cover, a piece of driftwood and cotton thread for stitching together. I’ll show you the camp process, mostly in pictures with a little text, because I think the images speak for themselves. This is the project that inspired the camp.

 

I spent a good deal of time before camp began prepping some materials. Carding Shetland wool…

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Making frames… a word on that: I found wooden frames at Michael’s craft store for $1 each. These saved the day. I had a number of frames on hand that I found at garage sales but I figured that kids are sometimes interested in making sure everything is even and balanced and fair, so, I decided to ensure that each child had the same size frame.

Also, I’ve been trying to find on line the tip I came across for outlining the frames with duct tape. I want to give credit to the blogger that shared that brilliant idea! Doing this makes for much easier removal of the paper once you flip it onto the drying surface. I will always do this now, and if I come across the blogger’s site, I will for sure share it here.

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Here’s me stapling the screen onto the frame. I used my mom’s staple gun, which made me think of her. I feel close to her when I’m crafting or creating. You can read about why this is relevant here.

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While things go better with kids when things are fair, they go even better than better when kids know which thing is theirs. It’s lucky I had this flashy duct tape on hand. No guess work needed!

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Here’s the thing about paper pulp (made in a cuisinart with recycled paper and water; the paper I put through the shredder first)~ not all kids love touching gooey, smushy, splootchy wet stuff. It’s handy knowing this ahead of time so you can have at your finger tips ideas of what steps kids might enjoy doing in the process, like soaking up the water from the underside of the frame/screen with a sponge, stirring the pulpy concoction, adding flower bits, etc., in the even that full-on hand immersion in paper pulp is out of the question.

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Here’s the kids looking for flowery colorful bits to throw in to our pulp.

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If those colors aren’t inspiring, I don’t know what is.

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I spent a good amount of time experimenting before camp started…

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And dyeing wool…

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Here’s some kids using a drum carder to prepare wool for felting. This camp included chances to do as many jobs as possible in the time we had. I had the kids pick a lot of the grassy bits out of the wool, fluff it open to prepare for carding, and then card it. There were varying opinions on this. I could sit and pick at wool all day and be fine. I love looking at those tasks as a chance to just chill the heck out and be with my thoughts. Not all kids love that, of course, so some felting was a wee bit chunkier than others, and that’s okay!

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For the wet-felting part, I had the kids arrange the layers of wool they were using to make their book over on a plastic table on top of a sheet of freezer paper. Then, we covered the wool in warm, soapy water, and covered it all again with freezer paper. The paper stayed strong while the kids pressed and rubbed their hands over their wool. Once it was showing signs of felting, they could take off the top layer and use their hands to felt directly. Again, some kids love that textural messy feeling and others don’t. Leaving the freezer paper on for a while longer helped those who preferred keeping their hands free from that specific wet-wool feeling.

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Then, once dried, the kids arranged their books as they wanted them, and had a chance to needle felt a design on to their covers. The night before the last day of camp, I sewed the books together. Originally, I’d hoped the campers would do that part, but we ran out of time.

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I think these books are all so beautiful. Interspersed between their handmade paper, I included sheets of handmade paper from India that is more amenable to writing. I will keep working on my own paper making skills to see if I can get closer to that quality.

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And listen, it’s not right to ignore the behind-the-scenes stars of the show… the sheep! Something I love about being a part of the fiber handcrafting and fiber art community is that I get to meet so many wonderful people. This is the second year that I’ve gotten wool from a wonderful man named Peter Moore, who lovingly cares for his four Shetland sheep. I met Peter because he posted online that he had wool available, and I jumped at the chance. I can say that I would call Peter a friend, now, and I truly don’t know how we would have ever met if not for our mutual love of sheep! Let me introduce his lovely wooly friends:

Meet Dolly…

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And Violet,

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Phoebe,

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And Daisy!

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They are all half-sisters and are four years old. Their wool was the centerpiece of this camp (in my opinion), and the kids were champs, learning new skills every day and hopefully leaving with something they were proud of.

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I’m sitting at my desk now, listening to the wind blow around the house. The temperatures are cooling and the birds are busy at the feeder. I am looking forward to the cooling down, the bundling up, the quieting of winter. Summer can be a full-on explosion of activity, work and play. It’s the extroverted season. These camps were a beautiful expression of all of that. I wonder what new things I’ll imagine up as I sit in the dark introverted winter. I guess we’ll see next year!