Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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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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Staying Grounded, Staying Connected

Busy beyond breath. Slow beyond words. This juxtaposition has been a hallmark of the last two weeks. Running around, trying to meet all obligations with grace on one side, cancelling everything and only nurturing, tending and resting with my sick little girl on the other. Times like these leave me feeling out of sorts for sure, but I’m happy to say I’ve got myself in a sweet rhythm that includes working with wool and other fibers every day, even if just for five minutes or so.

A heart a day keeps my feet on the ground…

I’ve got this wonderful heart-shaped rock. I love it and it sits on my kitchen sink window sill. Recently, I decided to make a felted heart around it, and once done, fill it with lavender. I loved it, and after a rather bleak news cycle, decided to attempt to make one heart every day. So far, I’ve done it minus a day or two. This has led to me making some little wet-felted bowls/vessels, because I’m already there, right?

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Standing at the kitchen sink, felting, thinking, hoping, wondering… it’s helping to get me though these jumbly days. Making things that smell good, feel good, and that I can imagine tucking little notes into, or wishes for people to have on their own jerky, jumpy days, that require so much patience and so much discipline… this has helped and funnily got me back to my drum carder, and to my spinning wheel.

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Today, too, I’ve found out about a goddess associated with the spinning wheel who I now must pursue and know more about… Habetrot. She comes from northern England and Lowland Scotland, and I think will have some things to teach me.  For a few years, I’ve been wondering about this long buried/hidden passion for fiber art that I’ve thankfully discovered. Where had it been resting in my psyche all of those years prior? I can think of many times in my adult life when having things to do with my hands and mind would have been intensely useful, and I cannot help but lament the years I remained so disconnected from what now feels like an utter and true love. When I think of it, I also can’t help but wonder about my ancestors from England, Ireland, Germany, and maybe Scotland (my grandfather often referred to the Isle of Lewis as being a seat of some ancestry).

Why does it matter?

I suppose because at times in life, it feels utterly true that energies that move us come from our ancestral histories, from journeys started long before that brought us to bear in this life here.

In reading a book about Navajo Weaving, I came across this:

The beginning of the world, I am thinking about it                                                                      

The beginning of the world, I am talking about it 

This is a Navajo ceremonial chant. I love reading about about Navajo myth and the beginning of the world in their story. “According to Navajo myth, the Dine, or the People (which is how Navajos refer to themselves), were led to their home in the Southwest from another world beneath the earth by supernatural spirits called Holy People. Spider Man, one of the Navajo Holy People, taught the Navajos how to make a loom from sunshine, lightning and rain. Spider Woman taught them how to weave.” from: The Navajo Weaving Tradition: 1650 to the Present, by Alice Kaufman and Christopher Selser, p. 4. 

Reading this is what led me to that fantastical Google, and that let me to Habetrot. What did we do before Google? I remember, actually. I’d spend hours at the library after school, sometimes allowing myself the luxury of reading whatever I wanted in the corner rather than doing my homework; other times, following one bit of information to another and another still, getting hung up on a weird books about phenomenon like spontaneous combustion, only to get back to the initial investigation on whatever topic. That is what it’s like, researching one’s own ancestral history and its accompanying mythologies. To follow one lead, if you are lucky and patient, can afford you the chance to learn about others along the way. The ultimate in grounding when you are not in a rush.

 


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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!


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Interview With An Artist~ Susanne Ryan of The Felted Gnome Knows

When I got into crochet and opened my Etsy shop, I was not part of a fiber community. I was inspired, energized and over-the-moon in love with making little funny creatures that made kids smile (and grown-ups). I would look at Etsy and marvel at the creativity and artistry of people all over the world, and often times, barely knew what I was looking at~ I had no idea what needle felting, wet felting or even fulling knitted items were! I was super green.

Until: Susi.

One day, I got an email through Etsy from someone who had an Etsy shop too, called The Felted Gnome Knows. The artist behind this great shop is Susanne Ryan, aka Susi; she introduced herself and I immediately realized that I had already been admiring her work. Her pieces are whimsical, gentle, and inspire creativity. And she lived just a couple of towns away from me! I had no idea what needle felting was at that time, but would see pictures of needle felted creations and ache to understand how they were made. I cannot remember the first time Susi and I met face-to face! Isn’t that funny? In no time at all, though, we became friends. And then we took our first trek up to Mountain Fiber Folk together, which changed my life in so many ways.

I recently sat down with Susi and asked her questions about her art, her craft, her opinions on fiber, her history, and I wanted to share our conversation with you.

The Interview:

HH: I feel like the process of working with wool inherently is soothing and centering. Obviously I’ll want to get to that, but first, can you tell the story of how you came into fiber art?

SR: Several years ago, my husband was transitioning into a new phase of his work life and consequently money was tight. We have a very large family, and that, for some reason, was the year that folks decided that we were going to get a little something for everybody. At that time, I was taking wool sweaters and fulling them down and making them into things. I was knitting and I had gotten a needle felting kit with my daughter at Kaleidoscope Yarn. It was to make little Santas. We made them, and there was something about needle felting where I thought, I could do so much with that.

Interestingly, I wasn’t interested in spinning wool at all. I started with needle felting and then went into wet felting. Initially, I found that there were not a lot of stores in the area that carried felting supplies. The area store that did had classes that were at times I couldn’t go. Also, there are some who are very ready and willing to help people learn things and some who are not, so I ended up learning a lot on my own.

Around that time, I ran into Leslie Lewis (Ewe Who Farm), an old friend from my school days, and we reconnected. Over time, she made a quilt for Maggie and told me about her sheep. So, after seeing that options were limited in terms of local stores helping with my fiber questions, or simply not having the supplies, I contacted Leslie again and asked her if she sold her fiber, and she said “Yes!” I had already been going to farmer’s markets and buying wool from farmers, but getting in touch with Leslie is really what started my seeking out of local farmers to buy fiber from.

When I was at Kaleidoscope yarn, I remember them handing me a brochure for Mountain Fiber Folk, so when I met you I said, you know, I’m going to go up there. I had gotten to the point where I wanted to buy local. I’ve always been interested in and shopped at farmer’s markets, and was involved in getting a farmer’s market in my town. I’ve always felt strongly about that. If you support a local business, they support local and your money goes back into the community.

Going up to Mountain Fiber Folk and seeing what they were doing and how they were doing it was very encouraging in terms of what I wanted to do.

I’m all self taught. I’ve only recently started taking classes this year for things that interest me like the masks and the clothes.

HH: And those classes are very specialized, right? This is a commitment to taking your craft to a whole new level.

SR: Yes, they are advanced classes. It’s interesting to meet all of these women who are so big in the fiber world. I thought Gladys Paulus and Anita Larkin, being in the upper echelons of the felting world, might not be approachable, but they were very down to earth and accessible. This is a passion for them.

HH: Oh yeah, it’s totally a passion! It grabs you and doesn’t let go! It is so inspiring to see what artists do with fiber. It seems infinite, the possibilities.

SR: It’s not going to support you… part of that is that people have no idea how much work goes into making needle felted sculpture, or hats and slippers. They take hours and hours, and sometimes many days. Especially when you take into consideration that often times, I’m getting these fleeces processed by Michael (of Hampton Fiber Mill), or processing them myself. I tend to be a very particular when it comes to skirting and cleaning a fleece, so that takes a lot of time! But you know, it’s frustrating when you pay for roving or batts and you’re picking out veggie matter!

And also, people are really getting a full-on, Vermont-made piece. Needle felting has become popular, so overseas companies are mass producing felted figures and selling them cheaply which makes it difficult for the consumer to understand why local pieces like mine are higher than other felted products. 

HH: I was thinking about the social and political aspects of fiber art yesterday when I was dyeing wool with kids at school. There is so much to think about and make choices about when it comes to where we buy our supplies, how we process our fiber, and where we spend our own money. It’s a whole mind-set.

SR: I also think too, in Vermont, we are so focused on the maple producers, and the organic food movement, people forget that there are a lot of sheep and goat people out there that are struggling. They have a wonderful renewable resource that is not being tapped into or marketed appropriately. Not only can we make clothing with it, but it can be used for insulation, you can compost it…. There’s so much you can do with this product. These people are living from hand to mouth, all for the love of their sheep!

HH: What do you think it is about working with fiber that makes people so passionate? Or, what grabbed you about working with wool?

SR: There’s something very earth-bound about it. It’s very grounding. There’s something about wool that’s very… I think it’s the same as gardening… it puts you back in touch with the natural side of the world. You are woking with a natural product that is renewable. It’s warm and it evokes a sense of homeyness and tradition. There’s something magical about it. You know, you can twist it and it becomes yarn! It magically transforms! There’s a whole magic to it… like alchemy.

I also really dig the fiber community. They’re really very down to earth people. Most of them, I have to say, especially those who raise their own animals, are very warm and open and generous about their knowledge.

HH: Isn’t that what was so wonderful about Mountain Fiber Folk? I walked in there that first time knowing nothing about handspun yarn, and walked out completely moved. Next time we went, I left with a drop-spindle that Ruth so generously helped me to figure out.

SR: It sucks you in! If you talk to Michael (Hampton Fiber Mill), he’ll talk about how he learned to knit from his grandmother, and then from there, he learned to spin, and then the next thing you know, he wanted to process fiber!

For me, I can tell you all about breeds and good wools for different projects! For some reason, I can retain this information. Who knew? I make the comparison to my father; he’s really into physics and he starts talking about it and everyone glazes over, but he’s so passionate about it. My sister says I’m like our dad….”you and the sheep, man!” I get so excited about it and want to talk about it, but nobody cares! That’s why it’s so great to get together with other fiber people who get it!

HH: I have to ask this… I know for me, I get around handspun yarn, and I must smell it. I can’t help myself. It’s an automatic thing I do. Do you do that?

SR: No, I don’t smell the wool, but I love to touch it and see the luster and sheen. I want to feel the coarseness of it. I don’t mind the smell of lanolin or raw wool at all. I do have to say, I don’t like skirting at all. There’s a big thing about not using chemicals to get the veggie matter out of fleeces. Well, you don’t have to use chemicals. You just have to be really detail oriented and pick the stuff out! The fiber you and I put out, it’s clean! But you’ve seen the fiber that has a ton of vegetable matter in it!

HH: You have to front load time and effort into preparing the wool. That’s the invisible work. There’s so much dirty work. And you can’t use “chemical free” as an excuse for not being careful with your product.

SR: It was the experience of paying for roving that was filled with veggie matter that really pushed me into preparing my own wool. Now I’m selling kits and supplies and it’s kind of exploded!

HH: What’s your favorite thing to do now? If you’re looking to spend the day however you want, what would you do?

SR: Making a hat. Making whatever kind of hat I want and not worrying about it if it turns out.

HH: What’s your favorite hat you’ve made?

SR: I have two: the felted Gnome Noggin hats, and the Ratagast hats. I love those two. Those are original designs. I make my hats with wool that some would not use for that purpose, but I line them with fleece. You know, I think I’m different than a lot of felters because I think merino is overrated.

HH: What fibers do you like to work with right now?

SR: Border Leicester, Gotland, Romney and Icelandic. With Icelandic- if you take the time to separate out the outer and inner fibers, the under coat is just as soft.

HH: Did you do handwork when you were young?

SR: No. My entire family is like, who knew?! I think what it was is I was never interested in the packaged craft kits available for children when I was young. I was always into the arts, but not in a very public way. I did win a poetry slam when I lived in the Carolinas and I was always around artists and musicians. I did do a lot of theater, too. But it wasn’t until I found felting that I found my medium. I did teach myself how to sew and knit, and I had the ability to put things together, but this really was the first medium where I knew what to do with it without having any prior introduction.

HH: What’s on the horizon for you? Anything you are looking forward to tackling?

SR: I want to fool around with very freeform clothing. I took with Linda Veilleux that was incredible; she’s an amazing artist. I am not as meticulous as she is, and I am learning why it is important to take careful measurements, but I want to play around with shapes and turn them into wearable, freeform clothes. I’m not really interested in making vases. It needs to be wearable or functional. If I’m going to do a sculpture, I’m going to needle felt it. I do like the idea of marrying wet felting and needle felting. Anita Larkin is a wonderful artist~ she stitches pieces together and wet felts them. Those types of ideas are interesting, but I’m also figuring out how to support my habit.

HH: So, you’re done with the holiday fairs…

SR: Yes, but I’ll be at the Stowe Renaissance Fair in the spring. I’m going to make hats for that.

HH: I know where I’ll be seeing you in the spring! I love a good Renaissance Fair and seeing your hats, and you!

Check out Susi’s links to her Etsy shop, her Facebook page, and her website. She keeps them up to date on where she’ll be and what classes she’ll be teaching.

Thank you, Susi, for taking the time to talk with me!

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Well, Felted Rocks, Part. 2 happened before Christmas. In fact, it happened about a week before Christmas. I am just now catching my breath and thinking about what is ending with this year and what is starting with the almost new. I wanted to take a moment to document the wonderful experience of felting rocks with two 2nd grade classes (one of them being my son’s class).

Sometimes, I get bogged down by insecurity. I worry that I get ahead of myself and that really, all of my enthusiasm and energy is momentary, and maybe even a bit much for the people who I want to share it with. But let me tell you this: kids like to felt. And how ’bout this nugget of truth: kids think sheep are really cute and like to look at pictures of them and like to learn about them. For the 2nd graders, I opted to up the game a little by showing them a short slide show capturing the history of humans’ relationship with sheep. I learned so much in the creating of this! Like, humans have been working with sheep since the Middle Stone Age. That is when we humans first started developing language and learning how to manage and control fire. Our history goes way back, and sheep’s wool has been incredibly important to our survival, our society and our culture. Sharing some of this with the kids was great because they really got to see that our history with fiber and with sheep is part of who we are; it’s in our archetypal DNA, and it connects us to people around the world. I showed them pictures of where sheep originated (Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan). I showed them how some sheep made it over the land bridge from Russia to Alaska during the last Ice Age. And, I showed them pictures of children and adults all over the world spinning wool and knitting. I so hope that in that brief moment, they became aware of how unifying working with wool and other fibers can be; that we are all part of the same cloth. I cannot think of anything that is more important than that in these times of great pain and suffering around the world.

In a matter on an hour and a half, I worked with about 35 children. Not one child was uninterested in the fact that they were about to turn a bunch of fluffy wool into a felted piece of art. We got water everywhere. The wonderful teachers commented on having their tables cleaned really well, which was very generous. Next Time: Bring Towels.

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It was a little cumbersome, getting the wrapped rocks into their nylon wrap, so I helped each child with that after they got their wool design how they wanted it.

I didn’t get to sit with all of the kids as they rubbed their felting rocks, but I saw some from a distance from where I getting other kids set up and I think many tuned into how peaceful the practice can be. Some children talked about who they were going to give their rocks to; others wanted to keep their big, fluffy stuffed animal looking rocks for themselves. I thought it was all wonderful. I think my favorite moment was when I walked back into the first class I worked with to say goodbye and check out their finished projects. All of the kids gathered around and showed me their work with so much pride and excitement. I felt like it worked~ my hope of bringing this wonderful practice to kids worked and they saw that they could make something beautiful with their own hands with a totally natural substance from animals they see all of the time here in Vermont. I was so happy for them, and for me.

It being right before Christmas break, I did not have time to just rest into the pleasure of it all, but now I do, and I am. I can’t wait to do it again, and to come up with other projects to do in the coming year. Stay tuned.

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Felted Rocks In the Books! Pt. 1

Before I share how today’s rock felting project went in my daughter’s kindergarten class, I must first publicly bow to teachers. A deep, humble, grateful bow. You are amazing. My daughter’s teacher knows her students so well, created a wonderful set-up for the kids to move through as they waited for their turn to felt, and she celebrated their accomplishments and efforts. She is wonderful.

Today went beautifully. I arrived early and went through some of my books as well as found some books in the school’s library that were fitting for the class, for show-and-tell and for a bit of inspiration. While I sat there, something clicked for me. I felt like I was doing exactly what I wanted to do in that moment. There was no energy consuming worry. No shoulds bothering my psyche, and no pressures whispering in my ear. I’m trying to create a bridge for myself between my training as a psychologist, my passion for working with fiber and my strong desire to be with my kids. I’m not going into the classroom with my psychologist hat on in the traditional sense. Not at all. Where psychology and fiber marry for me is in the process of doing, the benefits of making, and the bounty that comes from transforming such an organic substance into something else.

When my time in class began, we all sat in a circle and I let the children feel wool. They could pull it apart, smush it together, twist it and ball it up. They got to see how it pulls apart so easily and is fluffy and light. Then I passed around the felt from a felted rock that I made a while ago. It was cut in half, so they could see how stuck together the fibers were. They pulled on it, twisted it and tried to rip it but couldn’t! I told them that they were going to transform the same kind of loose wool they were just playing with into the felt that they could see on the example rocks I brought. I said that they were going to do some magic. That felt pretty exciting.

Then I shut up. It was go-time because for sure, my voice going on and on about too many details was NOT where it was at!

We ended up setting up the process in the following way: I was at a table that could seat up to six kids. I had the rocks, the wool, little nylon footies, a bowl of very warm, soapy water and paper towels. I laid out a base layer of white roving in front of each child as well as myself. Then I showed them how I lined up the second layer of wool on top of the base layer. I had a variety of colors to choose from. Children were able to pick the colors they wanted and for the most part, did not put on too much, although sometimes it was hard to resist. I definitely found that two layers of wool was plenty for the small size rocks they had.

Then they flipped it all over, laid their rocks on their wool and began to wrap their rocks. It did take adult help to hold the wrapped rock securely while putting in into the nylon footie. I got the footies here. Then, they dipped their rocks in the warm, soapy water and I showed them how to rub them all around. After that, they moved to another table with a parent volunteer who had another bowl of warm, soapy water. They continued the process for a few rounds. She had the brilliant idea of singing songs as they rubbed their rocks. I hadn’t thought of that, but now I will! It really kept the kids going and engaged in what they were doing. After about 8 to 10 minutes, I brought over a bowl of cool water for the kids to dunk their rocks in and we helped them to peel the nylon off their rocks. The nylon had become a bit stuck to the wool, but with adult help it was okay. I think if it were a smaller group, I’d have stopped them sooner, removed the nylon and just let them rub directly onto the wool, but these were quick moving groups and I couldn’t get to it all. The second group finished their rocks at the original table with the volunteer and I moved to the other table to get the third group going. There was a bit of movement, for sure, but with the adults working together, I’d say it went very smoothly.

I have to say, seeing each rock actually come out felted was awesome. I was even a little surprised. I think a part of me was waiting for it not to work and for someone to experience massive disappointment, but that did not happen! Some rocks were completely covered while some had some bear spots. It really seemed like if there was too much wool around the rock, it was more likely that it would slip around during the felting process. Some were smooth, some were chunky, and some had little woolen “tails”. What I loved was that they did not know about the “perfect” felted rock. Each rock got to just be its own unique, funny, snuggly thing that each child could be proud of.

I think most of the kids were quite pleased with themselves and their little woolen creations! I am so happy for them.

 


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Felted Rocks, Kids and The Beginning of Something New

I’m excited. In a nervous in my belly, hopeful, anticipatory and grateful kind of way. Tomorrow, I’m going into my daughter’s kindergarten class to do a felting project with the children. Felted Rocks, to be exact. And later in the week I’ll do the same project with two 2nd grade classes (my son is in one of them). I have come to seriously appreciate the benefits of working with, touching, experimenting and playing with fiber, and I feel utterly compelled to teach things to do with fiber-craft to kids.

The felting rocks project begins what will be a five- to six- week journey that picks up after the holiday break, and I will keep track of how it all goes here. I am calling my unit From Farm to Frame. In January, we will start with a dirty, smelly, lanolin rich fleece (or part of one), wash it, dye it, card it and in the end make a felted “painting”.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been gathering materials for this project, thinking about why this is so important to me. One memory came to mind; the first time I skirted a fleece on my own. It was the big, smelly, creamy fleece of a Border-Leicester sheep that my friend Susi secured from a local farmer. I remember thinking, “dang, that smells”. But it didn’t offend me, and really, I got used to it very fast. I remember, after picking debris out of it and removing a lot of the gunky stuff, noticing how soft my hands had become. I was delighted to realize that it was lanolin! Lanolin had made my hands soft and shiny and smooth. I stood there in the warm May sun and it occurred to me that in the process of doing hard work and getting my hands dirty, that I had been softened, conditioned and made-over. I’d say that was a turning point for me, about two and half years ago. Since then, I’ve wanted to know more about why and how working with fiber can be so grounding and therapeutic in all of it’s stinky and at times tedious moments.

I want kids to have this. I want them to see a whole process through that involves fiber from a local farm. I want them to experience the rawness of the material and experiment with what they can turn it into. I want them to have an antidote to stress, pressure and worry. I want them to have a chance to touch nature and maybe appreciate the animals they pass on many a Vermont road.

I’m so grateful that teachers are letting me into their classrooms with these projects. Let’s just hope that the kids enjoy it. Tomorrow’s project will be a good introduction for all of us, I think.

pictured above: rocks gathered from Lake Champlain, felted rock experiments, many bags of wool and a whole lot of roving to be organized for the classes, more roving because I thought it was pretty, and some of the colors that the kids will have to choose from.