Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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Fun Kid Craft ~ Sock Puppets! 

I’ve been meaning to write a post about sock puppets for months! But, you know… life. I was reminded of these hilarious characters when I read through the stupendous thank you notes I received from the kids in my son’s class for all the activities we did over the year. A large number of them said making sock puppets was one of their favorite activities. So, of course I should share what we did! 

#1: Gather socks you are willing to separate from. Got any loose ones kicking around, lonesome without their mate? 

#2: Collect random bits of stuff you have in the arts & crafts category. Pom-poms, beads, googly eyes, moss, old costume jewelry, felt, buttons, yarn…

#3: Get glue ready. I found my glue gun to be the most effective but standard glue works, too. Clear glue is better because you don’t see it once it dries. 

#4: Arrange sock on hand. I find that the heel of the sock fits nicely over the knuckles. When you open you hand, keeping your fingers together and away from your thumb, you can tuck the extra sock fabric that would otherwise be around your toes, into that space, creating the mouth. Close your hand, holding the mouth in place, and glue on the eyes where you want them. Then, gently remove the sock and lay it on the table. 

#5: Notice the personality that is already evident! Amazing, what eyes do. 👀 Start adding whatever you want to your puppet, being careful not to overglue. You don’t want the sock to stick to itself. On mine I knew mossy hair was necessary, and feathers. 

And more hair… and a nose…

#6: after the adornments dried for a few minutes, I started on the mouth. I propped open the space designated for the mouth and eye-balled the size. 

And cut out a felt oval…

I tucked it into the sock mouth to ensure a good fit, then took it out, put glue around the edges of the felt, and tucked it back in there. 

Then I added a felt tongue which was simply a smaller oval with one side cut off. 

#7: And Voila! You can introduce yourself to your new friend! 

Here’s another one I made with a tube sock. 

Ugh, do I need to use bleach?

Nah…

Shiny red yarn for a lovely lip expression. This took a little patience as the yarn needed ample time to dry in order to withstand this character’s rather loud voice. 

I can’t share pics of other people’s kids, but I can tell you, we had so much fun that day! These characters come out of nowhere and invite story telling, play acting, comfort enjoying and frivolity! Here’s some other perks:

👉 They are inexpensive to make. 

👉 They require only as much detail as you feel like giving them. A sock with a mouth on its own is fun. Each thing you add gives it more flavor. 

👉 Patience is needed, and flexibility in expectations ~ both good things for projects to support us in practicing. Sometimes we gotta weight for glue to dry. Sometimes we don’t know how to make top hats. 

👉 Puppet shows never get old. 
Have fun! 


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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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Showing Up With Love and Presence, and Fiber

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Dear Readers,

Have I let too much time go by in between posts? My longing to write about the moments, the textures, the projects and the beauty around me has been dulled, stolen really, by my broken heart, fear and unyielding anger at what is this new administration in the county in which I live, the United States. I am finding it hard to write about lovely things that I get to enjoy when executive orders put out by the president-I-cannot-name and his lackeys are, in my estimation, severely screwing shit up. People, beautiful, innocent, loving people are being traumatized and retraumatized by having plans and dreams wrestled from their hands, literally, in airports. People, lovely, hardworking, courageous, resilient and prayerful people are trapped now, either within US borders or outside of them, regardless of having the right paperwork in many cases. We have here a president who is saying that all is fine, all is great, things are working well in airports… have you seen the images of people grasping at one another after being detained for many hours because of the country they flew in from? Have you seen images of the protests all over the country? All over the world? Sorry. Things are not fine. Things are not great.

The Dakota Access Pipeline…

The Wall between the US border and Mexico…

Healthcare…

Here’s what is bringing me hope, making the blood move in my veins with energy, combatting my desire to go to sleep for four years (or two~ here’s to the mid-term elections people, let’s make some shit happen): the protesters all over the world showing the powers that be that actually, not everyone shares the same ideas about huge groups of people; an overwhelming amount of people are aligned with world citizenship and have compassion and love flowing from their core; lawyers are freaking BRINGING IT to serve people, pro-bono, to help them deal with the cluster that is this Executive Order on Immigration. You guys, and the ACLU, you are amazing.

I’m just a regular person trying to keep up, trying to make sure that I’m reading accurate news and taking right action. I’m seeing in my corner of the world that all signs point to a major crossroads in this country. We’ve been tumbling in this direction for a long time. The highways, roads, rivers and tributaries leading towards the Moment of Choice, where we determine how we view ourselves in relation to the world have been covered over , polluted and at times unclear. Not any more. Not for anyone. Those who have always been fighting the fight for equality, justice and freedom have not succumbed to complacency or obtuseness the way many of us have, as I have. Not any more.

I am not a political writer. This place that I have secured to write about the healing effects of fiber art, handcraft and creativity, it will remain that and I love that, but occasionally I may have to refer to what’s going on here and around the world from my little vantage point. All I do is housed in the reality we all share, and compartmentalization has never worked very well for me.

Some Recent Things:

Ice:

My Sweet Littlest Harvesting Icicles Like It’s Her Job:

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Our Resident Owl:

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Teaching Weaving to Children Is One of My Greatest Joys:

Paper Making Attempt:

I read a cool thing the other day, maybe a friend’s Facebook post? I don’t remember, but the gist of it was that in order to handle all that our world, our spirit, our heart asks of us, we must also attend to our places of love and hope, health and strength. I wish for all of us to reside in these places, and meet with what comes our way from a place of integrity, wisdom and power. The other day, I showed a group of 6- and 7-year olds images of people weaving from all over the world. All different colors of skin, all different kinds of attire, all different kind of settings. I told them them that when weaving, we are engaging in a practice that humans have been participating for at least 10, ooo, but more likely closer to 25, 000 years. We are all bound by a need for clothing, housing, containers, and beauty. These fibers, they connect us to each other and to our ancient ancestors. It felt good to talk about that on Friday, having no idea what was about to transpire.

I’ll keep talking to kids about things like that, for as long as they’ll listen.

Be well,

Bradie


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I Love These Two

Recently, my children and I hit a sweet, melodic flow. It’s not a coincidence that this occurred organically after I made some concrete decisions to simplify my life a bit, pare down the number of things I consider top priorities (how many top priorities can we possibly have?!), and just let myself live a little, without letting the constant internal judge that resides in my psyche like a doomsday specter screw up the sweet life I have. 

Afternoons after school, I worked on a gift for my cousin and her soon to be born Bebe, and my kids finished these wildly awesome dolls that they have played with every day since. I adore them. 


I’m learning, people. 

On the bus heading to my cousin and her full with baby belly, I just read a cool quote I thought I’d share, too. 

From, Will-Developed Intelligence: Handwork & Practical Arts in the Waldorf School, by David Mitchell and Patricia Livingston, it speaks to why making things from start to finish is so deeply satisfying and important for human beings. I’m working on curriculum ideas for my Farm to Frame series and find this quote a beautiful buttress to my efforts. I’m learning so much from this book. I did not go to a Waldorf school, nor do my children. It’s wonderful finding language, research and guideposts for teaching according to developmental stages. A true gem. 

I hope you have a lovely weekend, wherever you are in the world. 


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Gratitude, Grief, Love and Yarn: Holding it All

It’s been almost a month since my last post. I have missed writing here and allowing for myself the space to reflect on and share thoughts about handwork, process and life. I’ve not handled political news and world news well and needed to take some serious steps back so that I could regain some sort of balance and be the kind of mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend I want to be. As I write that, I realize that the one area I’ve neglected significantly is how I want to be in relationship with myself. It’s a well-worn complaint really, one that I’m kind of tired of, but nevertheless, tending to my relationship with myself is always, always the first priority I have to take a hit when the rumblings of pressure, grief, work and responsibility register on the Richter Scale of the nervous system. I can feel the effects now, but they are more of a tugging, a call to get back to having yarn move through my fingers as it becomes part of an image made real, practicing hand-stitching so that I might learn something new and make textured and calming designs, an urge to walk through the outside, amidst people and alone.

I do have to say, another deep and abiding feeling I have as this year wraps up and a new one is about to begin, is gratitude. Immense gratitude. I am learning how to have this feeling while allowing for grief at the same time for the immeasurable suffering that is experienced by people all over the world. It’s requiring a lot of stretching and expanding and allowing for reality. All of it. Not just the little slivers that I experience in my life with my loves.

And, there’s the word… Love. It is all I come back to and all I strive towards.

“Love is absolutely vital for a human life. For love alone can awaken what is divine within you. In love, you grow and come home to your self. When you learn to love and to let your self be loved, you come home to the hearth of your own spirit. You are warm and sheltered. You are completely at one in the house of your own longing and and belonging.” Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue

There are so many ways to share love and cultivate it in a life. This will be a primary focus of mine in the coming year, years, life…

~And, here’s a bit of a view of the last month~

Some things I made for gifts and for a little vendor pop-up in our town…

And a little bit of our outside life!

 

A sweater project I’m taking on!

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My work space (a small part of it!)…

I’ve dug into working on genealogy and wow is it FUN!

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Some projects that I’ve been doing with kids at our local school. Such fun! The circular weaving bird’s nest project came from this wonderful crafter. Check her out!

 

I hope the last few days of 2016, quite an ass-kicker of a year, prove to be gentle, filled with love and all that is precious to you.

 


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I Am Sickened

Last night, I watched in shocked horror along with my countrywomen and countrymen, as Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America. Truly, I did not think this would come to pass. I believed polls indicating a landslide victory for Hillary Clinton. Last night, I watched the country decide to vote in a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women, who has said violent and racist things about Muslims, African Americans, Mexicans, refugees… I watched a man be voted into our highest office, who laughed as people were bullied and intimidated, and in some cases humiliated and assaulted at his rallies. I held my husband’s hand and knew as the numbers came in that I would have to tell my children in the morning that Trump won. Not Hillary. I will not describe right now how that early morning conversation went. It was so personal, so tender. My daughter counted how old she’ll be next time a woman might have a shot at the presidency. I prayed quietly that some of my biggest fears would not come to pass in the coming four years.

Ultimately, I had to put on my grown-up self, and I had to explain to my children that half the country saw things differently than me and that we must be clear and specific when we criticize or otherwise remark on Trump’s inevitable presidency. No blanket statements. No simple rhetoric. I told my children, “we are not Trump.” And I mean it. We are not Trump. We will not reduce our complaints and criticisms to generalities, to lazy incomplete thoughts, sentences or stereotypes. We will do our best to understand the mindset that led to this terrible outcome. In my mind, it is terrible. It is a betrayal of epic proportions and I see no way through the tunnel of pain I exist in now other than to look with eyes wide open at the truth of what is.

We will name, in specific language, what we see in our culture, in our government and in ourselves. We will name and shed light on the dark spots in our psyches, the spots where fear lives, where judgment and racism live, where jealousy and indifference live. We will name and shed light on those parts of ourselves that move towards violence, repression, suppression and purposeful ignorance so that we don’t have to evolve, preventing change and growth. These are my prayers now. That I can live up to these ideals and model them for my children. My prayers are now pleas with my higher self and the higher self of our country, that we will not, ever, tolerate, exonerate, minimize or condone the cruel, degrading rhetoric that has spewed from our future president’s mouth. My prayers now implore my higher self to not succumb to despair, hopelessness and untethered anger.

Mr. Trump, you have a big job ahead of you, and I pray that you, too, take vows that reflect a deep respect for this world and for all the people in it, most of whom are not like you.