Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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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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This Week Happened~ Genealogy, Blue Sky, A Wicked Cold and Etsy

It’s Friday already. And the equinox. Another quarter done, a new one to start. Time keeps on a moving, and it’s sort of reminding me of that ride that was on playgrounds when I was kid. You know the one; the big round platform with metal handles all about it. A group of three or more kids would get that thing going around and around so fast our scrawny legs could barely keep up with the running. Then, we’d gauge it just right, jump on, and hold on for our lives. I remember the feeling so well, fighting against all of that centrifugal force wanting to do other things to my body. I freaking loved that playground ride. And I never got hurt on it. I remember seeing other kids bail so hard or get their feet tripped up as they jumped on or off. I would have a heart attack if I saw my kids on one of those now. OMG.

Anyway, in a week where about 1.5 of the 30 things I’d hoped to accomplish got done, I’m trying to figure out how to keep my adult self on the ride for longer stretches of time and with more focus. My response to centrifugal force is not what it once was. I sure do get knocked down by distractions and colds more than I used to. But, the distractions! Oh man. I’m very interested in genealogy. In particular my own family’s ancestral history, and I spent hours and hours sifting through microfilm at the library earlier this week. When I asked to use their microfilm viewing machine, the guy at the desk looked at me kind of funny and said sure, after he dusted it off! I was basically wedged between a big machine and a filing cabinet where I found the death certificate of my paternal 3rd great-grandfather, who emigrated from Ireland via Liverpool likely sometime around 1844. He had a rough end of his life and to see it all written out on this death certificate from 1874, well… it was powerful. It was like breathing life back into a story that I’ll bet was rarely, if ever, told. I think that’s why I love genealogy so much. When you find someone from way back, who is so long forgotten in the living family memory, it’s like you bring them new life. They aren’t forgotten anymore.

After a couple of days of work, I was hanging around outside after a run and saw a whole bunch of butterflies flittering by high up in the sky. I tried to get a picture but they were too quick! So, I just stared at the blue and thought about all of those folks that came before me. It was pretty fun.

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Then I got a wicked bad cold.

There is a new item up on Etsy. You may remember her if you are reader of this blog on a regular basis. Realta the Owl is available. With all of the owls I make, I need to be able to let them go, character and all. I do hope she goes with Sherman, though. They do love one another.

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I’ve also signed on to be a vendor at the Champlain Valley Union High School Craft Fair in November, which I am really excited about. I’ve got a lot of making to do, so here’s to staying on that ride!

Hope you have a great weekend, wherever you are.

 

 

 

 


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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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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!


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Explorations in Weaving Summer Camp, Recap…

It’s been a while. I’ve missed writing here over the last couple of months. There’s been so much doing that I’ve had a hard time calming down enough to write about it all. But, a highlight of my summer was definitely offering two new summer camps to my repertoire of teaching opportunities: Explorations in Weaving and Making A Book From Scratch. Hanging out with kids, teaching them what I know, and having the flexibility and time to play, learn about each other and experiment with materials is an absolutely wonderful way to spend time. And, I got to have my own kids with me during both camps, which was an added bonus.

Explorations in Weaving Camp was a four-day, weaving filled (as you might imagine) practically meditative ride. All the kids that came were invested in weaving and at times, it was pinch-myself peaceful. The children’s calm and interest reinforced for me, yet again, how soothing weaving can be, and how satisfying it is as the fabric takes form and grows.

For each of the first three days, a different form of weaving was introduced. Day One was spent on Melissa and Doug Weaving Looms and Stitch Studio by Nicole Looms (can be found at A.C. Moore stores) to simply get the weaving process down.

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I had prepared a sample project that we might make, which was a bag, but all the children preferred seeing their fabric open and free. We ended up securing them to driftwood, turning them into gorgeous wall-hangings with fringe. Below is one example…

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The second day I offered each child a circular loom made from those metal rounds you can get at the craft store. I pre-warped them to save time.

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The third day, I offered each child their pick of handmade looms crafted from driftwood and twine. These were my favorites. I’m sorry, but driftwood and yarn? A match made in paradise. I can’t get enough of it and hoped to make my enthusiasm for the combo contagious.

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The fourth day was spent finishing up loose ends, decorating for our Weaver’s Art Show and just celebrating the heck out of their creativity and wonderfulness.

Lest you think all the children did was weave, weave weave… they actually mostly did, but having a sprinkler backup, ice pops and a basket of yarn to finger knit with was important. We also took walks in our field looking for wild flowers and long grasses, fairies and grasshoppers…

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