Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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Two- Cents Tuesday~ Look at This Blog and Website Called “The Woven Road”! 

This is short because I have a sick wee-one here at home with the dreaded stomach crud. Bummin’. But I had to share this with you. A friend posted this on our Peace Pod~ Shelburne Facebook page (we make things to donate to Knitting4Peace):


I loved it. I decided to look up “the woven road” because this quote sums up the heart and soul of what I think about in relation to fiber art and craft. In doing so, I found this beautiful website and blog! It’s about a year old and it’s gorgeous. Here’s the link:

http://www.thewovenroad.com/blog/

Enjoy! I’m making progress on my sweater. Almost done with the first sleeve. 


Ok. Back to everything else. I’ve got a pot of chicken broth cooling in the snow, five more rows on this sleeve I’m hoping to finish while my littlest is in a nausea lull, and my cat snuggling behind me. 


Hope you’re well. 

~ Bradie 


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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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Slow Stitch Stitch-Along, Week 4

I like having this Stitch-Along right now. It’s keeping me connected to what I really, really want to be doing but am having the hardest time devoting time to. It’s a constant struggle for me these days, to pick up what I love (other than my children). I plan on writing more about this in the coming week, but I feel rather sure that this election cycle here in the United States is one culprit in a cauldron of stressors.

I found time today, though. Time to sit and complete my bookmark. I turned the design into a house with a chimney and gave it a thatched roof. When my daughter saw it, she decided she wanted to write a story about sewing bookmarks. I hope she does! I mounted my other experimental piece on an antique handkerchief and I thought about time and the apparent coming of a new age of politics in this country.

I thought about ways I might be more gentle in my approach to life, and more disciplined so that I might do at least some of things I long to do, but hadn’t written in to some original plan of adulthood. I thought about adjusting, letting go of some things and turning towards those things that call to me, including service to this aching world.

The coming 4th week of the Slow Stitch Stitch-Along will include learning a new one (for me): the fly stitch.

One square or two. Fly stitch. Different patterns, directions, colors, fabrics. We’ll see. My hope is to do one square on plain linen, and one piece including a few fabrics using both running stitch and fly stitch. We’ll see how it goes.

Again, for those who might want to join, we are using the book Slow Stitch: Mindful and contemplative textile art, by Claire Wellesley-Smith as our guide. I am a brand new stitcher and am finding my groove. Anyone is welcome to join us, with any skill level.

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Thoughts on Weaving, School and Staying Creative

I finished a piece yesterday that I have been working on in a sporadic kind of way for a long time. For Mother’s Day, my husband made me a loom that was detailed in Kids Weaving, by Sarah Swett. I’ve mentioned her before and love her book. And her blog is absolutely gorgeous and inspiring. I wanted to delve into weaving from the ground up, and figured before I start daydreaming about owning my own loom, I’d better start by understanding them. Why not start on one that is simple in many ways, but still uses things like heddle bars and heddles, shed sticks and shuttles?

I like how this turned out. It is purposefully chunky and wild and not at all a project from Kids Weaving, although I do plan to go back and do a project from start to finish while following directions. I got carried away by my desire to throw all kind of handspun yarn into my piece, and as it came to life, I imagined it hanging on a wall, rather than as I had originally planned; it was going to be a wild scarf with a crocheted edge and weird fringe. I love using loose roving in things, and I love unravelling yarn so one can see the many stages in a yarn’s life in one spot. Once the weaving was done and the loose ends cleaned up, I was not entirely satisfied, so I looked at it a lot, touched it a lot and went into my “Closet Of All Things” and found two bits of soft cotton still attached to their seed pods. Perfect. My piece needed a little more balance given the wonky stick placement on top. I love the two soft puffs from nature that sit and hold the piece secure.

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Finishing this yesterday was grounding for me. With my kids starting school and my professional work life picking up, I have felt a bit out of rhythm. The couple of weeks leading up to school beginning are weird ones for me. My mind goes into preparedness mode, which I have found completely derails my creativity and my will to just be. In my mind, the lists of things to do become omnipresent and the worries and fears and pressures come alive. Yesterday, while holding my woven piece and getting it right for me, I was afforded the chance to remember some big picture ideas I have, and to remember to recommit to them.

I’m reading a book right now called Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands, by Allen H. Eaton. I learned about this book during my day at The Marshfield School of Weaving in July through a wonderful conversation with teacher, Bruce Engebretson. I thought I’d share a quote that moves me, and swirls into the thoughts and images and hopes that come alive  for me when I am working with fiber. Here it is:

“He who does creative work, whether he dwell in a palace or in a hut, has in his house a window through which he may look out upon some of life’s finest scenes. If his work be a handicraft he will be especially happy, for it will help him not only to perceive much of the beauty of the world about him but, what is man’s greatest privilege, to identify himself with it. If it enables him to earn his daily bread then he should rejoice, for blessed is the man who has found his work; but if, as will be the case of many in our day, his handicraft is not a way of making a living, but through self-expression a help toward a fuller life, he too will rejoice, for he has all the privileges of his fellow-craftsmen without the need of fitting his product to the market.

“Each handicraft has its own special reward, but there are a few compensations which all handicrafts bring to him who works at this open window. First, and perhaps greatest, as has been said, is the opportunity for self-expression which much of life’s work with its modern advantages does not give…”

from: Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands: A Book on Rural Arts, by Allen H. Eaton, pgs 25-26.

I think maybe these words reflect back to me some of the struggle I experience as my children and I approach a school year. Busy-ness, competing forces for attention, energy and discipline, these things can easily pull me and us from ourselves and from a center seat of simplicity and creativity. This early morning before school, maybe more peaceful because I spent time weaving yesterday, I sat with my daughter and we listened to geese fly overhead, their distinct calls marking the hint of autumn and their eventual pilgrimage to warmer climes. At the same time, the endless and calming drone of cicadas soothed the part of us that wants summer to hang on a little bit longer. The window we are welcomed to look through by engagement in the process of making is one I long to keep open and clean, and I hope by maintaining a daily practice I won’t forget. Much easier to see and hear the birds that way.


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A Sweet Surprise~ The Creative Blogger Award Nomination That Made My Day

I was so incredibly pleasantly surprised to see in my email a notice that my little blog here had been nominated by another wonderful blogger, Mrs Craft of Craft and Other Crazy Plans for the Creative Blogger Award! You know, it’s really quite a lovely feeling to learn that someone reads my words, looks at my pictures and thinks that they’re cool! It’s also wonderful to have the chance to share the blogs that I love to read and look at for inspiration, information and simply because they are fabulous! So, I’ll get to that below!

This is especially tender for me because I am actively working on a “healing” piece. With heartbreaking world events, a busy life, transitioning to summer break with my children, and experiencing a bit of grief of the personal and existential sort, I needed to begin a piece I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’m using my large Majacraft Circular Loom and making a sitting rug. It will be textured and smooth, soft and hard, mostly in a beige/off-white/cream color palette. Peaceful. Natural. Cloud-like. Quiet. I want something to call my own, my little space that invites touch and that reflects the complicated aspects of life, but in dulled down color. I need that space and am making it for myself.

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Part of being nominated for this sweet award includes the act of sharing five things about myself, so here it goes:

  1. I am absolutely fascinated by ancestral history, and believe that as I age, I will spend more and more time pursuing information about all of the people who came before me in my family. I wonder about them. I thank them for surviving, because without them, I wouldn’t be here.
  2. If I could go back in time, I would not quit creative writing in college. I would pursue that interest with more devotion and more discipline. That regret is fueling my urge to write, and my discipline now.
  3. I hope to join the Peace Corps one day, even if I can’t until I’m an “old” woman. This woman inspired me not to let my mind succumb to antiquated and stereotyped images of aging.
  4. I love to run, workout and be strong, and have found this love later in my life.
  5. I used to live in Florida and I really, really love and miss the Gulf of Mexico. I also love the Atlantic and spent a lot of time at the Jersey Shore when I lived in NJ as a youngin’. There is something magically wonderful about salt water and all of the life it supports, and I hope to get to hang out by the sea a lot more in the coming years.

And here are my nominations:

  1. I Accidentally Ate the Whole Thing
  2. Begin to Believe
  3. Healing Tree Farm
  4. Mulch and More Crafts
  5. Fibery Goodness
  6. Two Hands Healing and Creative Arts
  7. Violet’s Vegan e-Comics
  8. art does matter
  9. The Archivist Cooks
  10. Ingrid Art Studio Blog
  11. alexand knits
  12. Love Those “Hands at Home”
  13. Story Skeins
  14. Crochet Thread
  15. Spin a Yarn

The above blogs are ones I love to follow and check in on. They all have inspired me, not just in the crafting way, but in the living life artistically kind of way. I hope you check them out.

Here are the rules for the bloggers I’ve nominated. I hope you all enjoy participating in whatever capacity you choose.

  1. Nominate 15-20 bloggers and add their links.
  2. Thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
  3. Share five facts about yourself.
  4. Notify the bloggers you included.
  5. Keep the rules in your post.

Thank you again, Karen (Mrs. Craft) for nominating me. This was really fun!

~ Bradie


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Some Recent Fibery Work

Last weekend, I was able to be a part of a wonderful Open Studio day at Shelburne Pond Studios. I don’t have my own place there, but as part of their weekend, they invited local artists to show their wares. It was a good chance for me to finish up projects that had been drifting about, waiting for some attention amidst all of the things that can make a life so full. I was delighted to see how much I actually did make over the winter months. More than I realized! I think my obsession with circular weaving helped. It never felt like work, to pick up a little loom and let my gut tell me what color needed to come next, what texture, what material…

Below are some pictures of some things I had on hand.

 

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Skeins of yummy handspun yarn, all from locally sourced wool.

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Loads and loads of batts ready for spinning or felting!

This little circular weaving piece was made using a loom from this Etsy shop. I love the sizes of looms this shop owner offers. They are affordable and very, very fun.

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Circular weave wall hanging.

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A little tiny nest with a little tiny egg on a little tiny piece of wood from our big beautiful lake.

The wall hanging below was made in part with a Majacraft Circular Loom. I got mine here.

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Another Wall Hanging.

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This “doll” sort of appeared. I love her but she also gives me the willies.

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Wild hanging basket.

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Woven piece highlighting a lovely bit of driftwood that looks to me like a lady dancing.

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Hello from me.

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Mittens letting me know that for that moment, the fabric scrap basket was indeed HERS!


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Weaving With Children Is My New Favorite Way to Pass Time

It’s been a while since I’ve written. The thing that’s hard about a blog is, it’s not a diary (at least not for me), it’s not for writing about everything because really, I must honor the privacy of loved ones, and in this case, it’s somewhat specific in terms of topic. Let me just say this: if you like this blog and noticed I’ve not been keeping up, I’m sorry and it’s been a regrettable reality of my life these days. Things got a little heavy, a little stressful, a little complicated and a lot lifey, and I need to work on still writing through those times.

A recent event has reignited my fuel center, and reminded me of what the heck I’m trying to convey through this blog. I had the opportunity to bring a weaving project to my son’s second grade class, and wow, was it amazing. Let me just jump in and explain.

First know this: I am not an expert weaver. I took one weaving class years ago where I learned how to use a big loom, and by learn, I mean was guided every step of the way, multiple times. The apparatus that is attached to a wall that you wind yarn around to get it prepared to warp the loom (I think), almost made me lose my mind. All of it. In a burning inferno of frustration. No matter what I did, I could not keep my yarn from tangling and turning into a wild Medusa hair-like mess. Omg. I shudder to remember it. I did make this though, and I’ll always be proud of it.

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I know I’ll take another class on using a big loom now that I’m more mature and have practiced a bit of mindfulness.

Anyway, I love hand weaving on simple looms, circular looms or looms made out of random things like wire, branches, busted out doors. I love how intuitive it can be, how much freedom there is to throw any such thing into a piece because it feels good, and you don’t have to worry too much about a complicated machine. I love how accessible it is, and how it’s possible to make a downright beautiful piece of art simply by understanding some basic concepts, and appreciating how different materials respond to the process of moving around warp thread. I wanted to share this with children because again, it is accessible art, and going into summer, I wanted to encourage them to use their found treasures in art projects and just experiment. I also find this medium to be extremely satisfying, grounding and soothing. I often find when I’m talking to people about it, I place my hand on my stomach when describing how it makes me feel… it’s like it makes me feel comfortable in a part of my body that holds a lot of tension, and I think sometimes a lot of grief.

Here is a little picture montage of my process:

I used this book by Sarah Swett (check out her blog/website. you won’t be sorry) to gather some ideas. The loom I made was a bit different, but based on one described here. It’s a wonderful book and one I will refer to often in future projects with kids. And, my husband made me a standing loom from this book that I hope to write about soon!

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Figuring out the appropriate loom size and number of warp threads took some doing.

I went with the 4×6 cardboard size, but chose to use only seven warp threads. I found that the loom stayed stronger and more in tact with less threads, which I was interested in because my plan for the kids was to have all sorts of materials available to them to weave with. They also were going to only be using their fingers to weave, not needles, so I needed the loom to be able to withstand the pulling that would inevitably happen.

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I wanted kids to understand that they can weave with all kinds of things.


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My weave in progress…

 

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Cardboard looms and another example piece using less wild materials.


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Example of a weaving done on the simple cardboard loom.

Not gonna lie: I love my piece.

So, on the day of class, we did a little show and tell bit first. I showed the kids a napkin made from cloth that my mother-in-law’s mother, Else Jacob Eberitsch wove herself. We have a set of these napkins, and a matching table cloth. I am forever blown away by the beauty of them. My son was so proud to show it to his classmates.

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I also showed them circular looms of different sorts, as well as one of those rectangular kid’s looms that can be found in most craft stores, reminding them that many might have some of these things kicking around their homes.

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And then, when the wiggles got going and after answering some wonderful questions, I unveiled their materials and worked out with their teacher how to go about the rhythm of the acquisition of supplies.

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feathers, roving, banana silk fibers, ribbon, popsicle sticks, leather rope


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driftwood gathered from Lake Champlain


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tons of yarn of all different colors, thicknesses, textures… hitting up garage sales and second hand shops is the way to go when gathering supplies for big projects like these.

And guess what happened? The kids were pumped. Truly. All of them, every single one, was into it. It was by far the most fluid and flowy project I’ve done with kids to date. Some got right into the weaving using worsted weight yarn and hit the flow. Others got into using minimal and the most wild materials~ I called theirs delicate porcelain-like pieces. I offered each child a strip of material that they could write a special message on, to be kept private or to show the world to commemorate the approaching end of their school year and some jumped on that. Some got real creative with making space between the individual woven stitches and needed some help understanding the concept behind the strength of the material they were making. Their teacher got into it, too! Her finished piece is gorgeous! Wish I had a picture of it.

Weaving is in us. It’s in our DNA somewhere. It must be. We’ve been doing it for as long as we’ve been covering ourselves, making baskets, mats, shelters (more to come on that topic, too).

If I had to do it over again, (which I will because I was invited back to do another round before school ends!!!), I would:

  • spend more time highlighting the importance of “beating in” or pushing the new row of woven material down against the previous row
  • for those whose pieces are very fragile, I would have encouraged them to keep their piece on their loom and decorate their loom to make the whole thing an art piece
  • I’d leave out the popsicle sticks~ those buggers are slippery
  • bring more ribbon
  • write their names on their looms BEFORE they start weaving

I actually can’t wait to go back and do it again. Seeing the children so engaged and so calm in their bodies while they worked kind of blew my mind, and I’ve spent a good deal of time in classrooms. Not to belabor the point, but I think weaving speaks to a part of our souls that is so organic, so without words and so true, that it simply must be something kids can do whenever they want. That’s why I love this. It’s inexpensive, it does not require special training, and anyone can do it. It just requires some stuff, some space, and some freedom to experiment.

 


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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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Spring Tranformations

We are in between seasons right now, here in Vermont. When I first moved here from Florida, I heard the term “mud season” and didn’t understand what people were talking about. Living in Burlington at that time, and not venturing much out of the city, I had little occasion to experience Mud Season head on. Now, after almost twenty years here, I get it.

The ground thaws (not too hard this year, after such a mild winter), the red wing blackbirds, robins, cardinals and cedar waxwings make an appearance in our yard. Large flocks of geese sail overhead, their calls to one another feeling like a call to my spirit, encouraging and light and commemorative of a winter gone by. The air smells clean and wet. Sugaring begins. The mud, it adds inches to my height, and a wobble to my walk when I muck around in the yard, this year imagining my cleaned up garden beds, a hoped for herb spiral, and a dyer’s patch. The need to vacuum much more frequently to prevent the brought-in-the-house mud, dirt, pebbles and sludge from making its way to the carpets is a fact. Why is taking one’s boots off in the garage so difficult?!

On a walk the other day down by Lake Champlain, the weather was the epitome of the “in like a lion” description of March. It was windy, rainy, snowy, icy… it was epic, really, and since I was dressed appropriately for such riotous weather, it was absolutely exhilarating. I laughed out loud in reaction to some especially strong bursts of wind, feeling not one ounce of embarrassment because I was alone. Down on the water, I could see Winter releasing her grip from the stoney shore.

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I found large pieces of driftwood that I harvested~ a project will happen with them, I am sure. Walking all the way back to my car with these water-logged, slippery gifts, against the wind, at a speedy clip (I was due to volunteer in my son’s class in just a little bit of time) proved to be the workout I needed. Sore and tired, wind-kissed and grateful, I was able to finish a project later that day that had been waiting patiently, in all of its scattered parts, for some attention.

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I love working with my Majacraft cirucular weaving loom. I’ve been making completely random things with little bits of all kinds of materials~  sari silk, banana silk threads, handspun, conventional, thick, thin, chunky, wild yarns, twine and wire. I am fully appreciative of the process of beginning a circular weaving project, releasing into the hard job of finding clarity in the first few messy rounds. I can hardly tell the order of warp threads at first. Now I can predict how much time it takes for me to begin to worry that I’ll never get it straight, and then, voila, the foundation is set for my piece and I can relax with the ups and downs of weaving. Then, adding a new element creates its own new chaos, anticipated but surprising, nonetheless. Sometimes it takes another few rounds to straighten things out again, to hit that rhythm where predictability and order are available if desired.

These projects conjure similar feelings of excitement, tension and hope as Spring does, in all of her wild glory. They promise beauty out of chaos, like spring’s pungent dirt promises baby birds, more light, new growth, froggy smells and strong storms. Order from chaos, gifts from turbulence, beauty reborn. Laughing out loud at all this natural noise is such a relief.