Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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What Happens When Fibery Handcrafting Takes Over My Life…

I finished my circular weaving project and what started out as one idea evolved into a moving symbol for me. Wild bird flying into golden fire 🔥. 

Tour de Fleece spinning mania!!!

Lots of spindle practicing… it’s slow going. 

Curly locks bring lots of smiles…

Yummy, yummy yarn…

More practice…

Fireworks magic for balance…

Lots of Shetland wool washing…

Lots of Shetland wool dyeing…

With some gorgeous alpaca…

And some Shetland carding while the dye pots do their thing…

Adding color to the fantasy basket…

And more spinning…

And dyeing…

And loom making for a weaving summer camp I’m hosting in a week… (yay!)

And, repeat…

Summer is my favorite time. ❤️


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Two-Cents Tuesday: School and Yarn are a Perfect Pairing

My life is organized by school years. I’ve not really had much time in my life when that was not the case. I completed my own schooling when I was twenty-five. Then I worked in schools for six or seven years (I already can’t remember that detail), and then I worked for years with kids in my practice who were in school. Now my own children’s school schedules shape our family’s life. The calendar year means very little to me except for a quiet chance for me to reboot and rethink where I place my energies. The school year, on the other hand, shapes most aspects of our lives.

I spent a lot of time in my kids’ school this year. I volunteered in their classrooms teaching the kids all different kinds of things to do with wool, yarn and other fibery crafts. I also taught the same things in a more official capacity in two other classes. I loved it and I plan to share more here about some of the lessons that I taught. One thing I did in both my kids’ classes was leave a loom set up, the simple kind, for kids to work on as they pleased, with the idea that at the end of the year (or whenever it was finished), I’d turn it into something to decorate their teachers’ rooms with. Yesterday, I finished both of these woven pieces. My son’s 3rd grade classroom filled their loom. Almost every time I went in, someone was working on it.

Here’s their finished piece:

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My daughter’s 1st grade class didn’t do many rows on theirs, but I assured their teacher I could make wall-art with it, not to worry. That class also did epically cool stuff with wool they dyed with Kool Aid, wool they felted and wool they experimented with.

Here’s their wool decor:

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And, here’s their finished woven wall hanging:

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I used antique wooden needles and a sanded dowel to serve as the structure from which the weaving hung. I also had a needle felted little nest hanging around that I opted to attach to the piece. I made that in their class as a demonstration one day and wanted to include it to represent that part of the work they did.

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As I worked on turning the woven pieces into wall-art yesterday, I thought about all that has transpired since September, for my children, for me and my husband, for our family as a whole. It’s so much life squeezed into all of these academic months. I reflected on how much my kids learned with their fabulous teachers and with their peers this year, how much more they are doing on their own compared to September, and how much some of our growing pains have been, well, painful. I thought about how lucky I am to have been able to hang out in their classes so many times this year and be given the chance to learn how to teach better, listen better and be more flexible. And, I thought about how much I want to keep doing this. Handcrafting and fiber art are extremely effective mediums for teaching kids about art, history, creativity and themselves. I hope I do this for a long time.

Fueled by that hope, I cleaned off my work desk, and daydreamed about summer break.

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Farm to Frame Felting Fun with First Grade Friends

I am so very lucky to have standing dates on Fridays when I teach kids how to do things with wool and with yarn. These Fridays are now known as “Fiber Fridays”, and have become a part of my life I am extremely grateful for and proud of. I think about it a lot, why I want to do this stuff with kids. First of all, I have two kids of my own and I relish any chance I get to participate in things in their classrooms. I get to meet their friends, know their teachers and just be part of their school world for a small time, which is amazing. I never leave without internally bowing to teachers, para-professionals, one-on-one specialists, reading specialists, special educators. They make the world go round, in my book. Their love and dedication to the field, and the skills they have, just blows me away.

Okay, so yes, I love being in my kids’ classes. I also love going into other classes and meeting even more kids and answering questions and getting excited about new stuff. It’s just fun and a beautiful complement to my work as a psychologist. I’m not being a psychologist in any formal sense of the word when I am in with children on Fiber Fridays. However, I am sharing something that I truly believe is deeply healing to the human spirit, and is a restorative practice. Handwork/fiber craft tie humans together in a most fundamentally ancient and organic way, and exposing kids to as many ways as I know how to work with fiber has become a prized part of my career.

In one of my first grade classes (the one my daughter is in), we’ve been exploring wool. We started with real free flowing exploration. I brought in big wool batts, smaller mounds of wool in a variety of colors, some fabric, some yarn, and a needle felting tool for just me to use, just in case some quick stick-togetherness was needed. I showed the class first different ways we can play with wool. I pulled it apart, I twisted it, I formed it into shapes and wrapped them in fabric and tied yarn around it. I encouraged them to just play and sculpt and imagine, and I let them know that there were no specific things they had to make at the end. Each table got its own basket of a big assortment of wool and then, it was off to the races! I was actually amazed, and I learned so much that day of free wool play. Children made babies, cradles, nests, birds, balls, clouds, old ladies, and animals. They played and laughed and shared. For some reason I was really worried that they’d be confused or adrift without a specific goal in mind, but I was wrong! They were happy to just go for it! I was lucky to have plenty of help from the teachers and a parent volunteer with cutting fabric, wrapping, needle felting and tying. It was peaceful and joyful. I do believe working with wool is magical.

Two weeks later in the same class, I referred back to our previous experience, and said, “this time, we are going to experiment with wool mixed with soap and water!”. Our project was to make felted balls. Before we began, I first showed them balls I made at home. I also showed them my “oops” items… a disc that was supposed to be a ball… a nest that was supposed to be a ball… a weird creasy ball that was supposed to be smooth. You know, it’s kind of hard, at least for me, to get a wad of wool to felt into a perfectly smooth felted ball with just warm, soapy water and your hands. I don’t know how Martha Stewart does it!

I then quickly showed them this book:

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And we talked about having one idea in your head when you go to make something and how sometimes it doesn’t turn out like that. I told the kids that we are learning, experimenting, having fun and seeing what comes out of our efforts.

On the floor I had set up a drop cloth with towels covering it. On that were six plastic mixing bowls, two with soapy water and four with clear water that had to keep being replaced as kids dipped their creations into them to rinse the soap.

Water + Wool + Soap + Being Okay with Oops = Felting

Balls were made. Some were smooth. Some were crinkly and seamy. We got a mushroom, some discs and some wild looking blobby alien life form planets, or maybe coral? I saw a bunch of children totally okay with experimenting and just seeing what happened and I think that right there is a major piece of wisdom gleaned from mindful handwork.

Freedom to experiment and see what happens, within one’s own heart and spirit, is such a beautiful thing, and it’s something that I think we all should tend to as often as we can. I am often guilty of hanging on so tightly to what my plan is that I forget to see what’s actually happening right in front of me. I forget to loosen my belly and breathe and just let things be as they are. It’s so easy to forget that.

You know what else blows kids’ minds about wool and felting? With some simple ingredients and some agitation, soft and fluffy wool is transformed into felt and it is impossible to return it to its original form. I can’t explain why something so obvious is so mystical and amazing to kids, but it is, and I need to meditate on the symbol.

Stay tuned. I’ll be sharing more projects and ideas and insights from this cool gig I have.


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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.


A Stitch-Along In The Making…

I am very excited to share that Melinda, of the beautiful blog called Knit Potion, is collaborating with me on a stitch along. We are using the book called Slow Stitch: Mindful and contemplative textile art, by Claire Wellesley-Smith as our guide.

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If you have not already, you ought to check out this gorgeous and inspiring book. The writing, the photographs and the suggested exercises make it seem possible for even a brand new hand-stitcher like myself to dive in and explore and play.  It’s funny…I feel like I afford myself a fair amount of space to mess around with yarn and wool and all of that. I definitely don’t need things to be perfect or measured just so. I aim to address that so that I can make a sweater I’ve had my eye on. But really, precision makes me nervous. Always has. Sewing and hand-stitching have been, in my imagination, things only really precise people do. Making clothing and hemming and all of that has felt so far away from where my skills lie. The stitch along, for me, will serve as a way to bridge skill and technique with experimentation and play. I’m looking forward to that challenge.

I’m also a crafter without a project at the moment. I have loads of yarn, loads of wool, way too many ideas and scattered thoughts. I need to reign it in. The loose and unorganized energy, it’s become uncomfortable. I need a place to put it, and I need to have that place be one that invites new learning, growth and freedom, but also discipline.

So, this is the first week of our Slow Stitch stitch-along. The task is to start collecting materials. Fabrics, threads, needles, loose bits, maybe some dyes… It is the time to turn the gaze towards the project and set the intention, or intentions, that revolve around the practice of hand-stitching. I’ve gathered many items over time and am looking forward to using them is whatever way makes sense on a given day.

Linen fabric scraps, antique handkerchiefs, a lace collar…

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A favorite cotton shirt that may have just lived its last summer as a worn item, an antique bobbin filled with woolen thread, antique cotton thread, the beginning of a hand-stitching attempt using the running stitch, and a fluff of raw cotton…

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Doilies and burlap…

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If you would like to participate in the stitch-along, feel free to contact me! I will be posting the week’s exercise/intention/focus each Sunday (I hope!) and will update my own progress as we move along. I will also link to Knit Potion’s blog posts about her work. We will spend the first several weeks just learning new stitches and playing with them using a variety of threads and fabrics of our own choosing. The idea is to have this stitch-along maintain a peaceful and non-urgent flow. Non-pressured discipline. There are only so many hours in these short days, and we likely have other projects wanting attention (not to mention families and jobs and self-care and sleeping), so do not fret if you feel like there just won’t be enough time to keep up. Imagine the Gulf of Mexico on the Florida coast in August. The water then is very warm and very still most of the time. It is quiet and if you allow it, the small, lapping waves and the hazy sun-packed air can lull you into an awake daydream. That is the feeling I am going for with this project.

Are you a hand-stitcher? What projects are you working on? What are your favorite materials to work with?

 

 


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Farm to Frame~ Final Project

It’s about time I report on how the last Farm to Frame morning went, in my daughter’s kindergarten class. Recall, this wonderful group of little ones started this project weeks before, learning how to wash wool, dye it, and then card it. They worked hard, and were so busy. With each passing class, students wanted to keep their wool, and were amazed by how it transformed in their own hands.

Finally, the day of the project arrived. I wish I could share pictures of the whole thing in the class, but privacy issues are real and I did not ask for permission to post pictures of other peoples’ children. Included here are picture from a slideshow I made to show to the class to detail what they would be doing that morning.

Each student got their own gallon ziplock bag. In it were a bunch of different colors and textures of wool. They all got colors from the batches that they dyed and carded, plus some extra that I already had on hand. Also, they had a piece of pre-felt, the “paper” for their felted painting.

Next, I showed the kids how they could layer the scene. I chose to make a sea creature scene to go along with their recent unit on sea life.

More examples… my daughter got to demo her skills.

I then explained that I’d be securing their pictures using a needle felting tool. It’s sharp! So I emphasized that I’d be the only one using that tool. I wanted to do this before the wet felting part so that it didn’t come apart in the bag.

Once the picture was completed, students could tell me or their teacher, and we’d help them slide it into their bags. Enter some warm, soapy water, and let the felting begin! I encouraged gentle, open handed pressing at first. Once felting began, they could lift their bags and really press/rub on both sides. I let them know that their picture would look different once it was felted! This was important. What goes into the bag comes out looking quite different and I encouraged them to be artistic experimenters, learning about what wool does during felting, and watching their beautiful colors take different forms. This proved to be an important reminder to some.

Above are the examples of finished products that my daughter and I made at home.

All in all the class went beautifully. What I learned was, children love working with wool. They love doing the work of preparing it and learning about about other people around the world who make things with it. They responded to the idea that people have been using wool for functional things since the Middle Stone Age. Time, of course, does not make sense to them in that way yet, but feeling connected to our ancient history is important, and it resonated.

Children allowed themselves to experiment and to create images, some abstract, and some impressionistic. Some wanted to use every last bit of wool in their bags; some only used a tiny amount and brought the rest home. All, I believe, viewed themselves as artists on that day, and allowed for imperfection and mystery.

If I were to do it again, I would work with smaller groups of not more than five children at a time. With sixteen children in class that day, I did not have the time or ability to make it to each child quickly when they had questions or needed help. For me, it felt rushed and a bit stressful. I think I would work it out with the classroom teacher for me to either work in small groups one after the other, or take a couple of mornings to do it. That way, I could calmly help and respond to questions or worries if they came up.

Other than that, I think it was a great success. I loved being with my daughter and her classmates and learning about teaching, connecting kids to natural and renewable resources in their own community, as well as to their shared history with our ancient ancestors.

Stay tuned as I prepare a new project to bring to my son’s second grade class! This time, it will be a weaving project!