Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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Getting Back on a Totally New Track

Yesterday I started going through a box of things of my mother’s that I had packed after she died. There are many boxes my siblings and I will tend to in the coming months, but this one I packed just for me, with clearance from them of course. These things… fabric, pictures, her sewing basket and sewing boxes; some of these are my grandmother’s, too. It’s amazing, the little tiny sounds of rustling around safety pins and spools of thread, like the lilting music of a lifetrack. All of those taken for granted quiet moments when my mom or grandmother sewed something up and passed it along, or wore it again, or hoped for something more perfect but sighed and put down the needle anyway. Nothing is perfect.


This picture is of my mom sewing my wedding veil. We found the headpiece on a ridiculously fun shopping trip and she made it even more lovely, adding the flowing fabric and little beads. 


This is a needlepoint my mom made years ago~ I remember it from when I was very young. 


These are little bits of many things that will end up somewhere, somehow. 


And some hearts I made for my mom and grandmother, and a bowl, and a picture of Swami Muktananda, with (I think) my grandmother’s sewing basket. 


I’m getting back to some making. The sounds of summertime are helping. I actually make more in the summer, when the windows are open and the air is warm, muggy, froggy and quiet. Summer vacation is around the corner and I am more than ready to fall into love with less pressure and clock watching. I can hear the tinkling of chimes outside, underneath the constant conversations between birds. In a little bit the frogs will start their nighttime melody and if I’m lucky, the coyotes will pass through in the darkest hours. 

Lifetrack: Song 44. 


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Monday’s Musings~ A Small Piece on Death

I’ve been sitting here, writing, deleting, writing again and rewording for a while this morning. Composing a small piece, one that can be tidily managed and articulated compactly about the death of my grandmother is none-too-easy. What finally worked for me was imagining diving into the ocean, confidently and with the purpose of going under water for a bit, and not immediately scrambling to the surface as if in some sort of panic.

My maternal grandmother died last week. Her name is Lottie and she was 94. At that age, this was certainly not a surprise, and truly, she had been struggling for a long time, especially since breaking her hip almost one year ago. But… shit man… this still hurts and in a way I did not anticipate. For several days now, I’ve been aware of what feels like a ball of sorrow in the pit of my stomach. It’s tender and ever-present and for some reason, its presence is surprising me because I guess in my mind I thought that if I was expecting it, the death of someone I love wouldn’t feel as sad. Timely death is different than untimely death. But it’s still death. I guess it’s all about that. Death. I’m so pissed off about this thing all living things have to do. I’ve tried writing letters to management complaining about it, but they’ve all been returned with the stamp: Death is Part of Life. Okay. Still shitty.

I think the thing that hurts me, too, (and it has with all of those I have loved who have died), is that I can’t ask them how it went. Here is this big thing that we all have to do. Death is such a huge rite of passage, the final developmental stage we traverse (or maybe not?), it’s scary to many and there are so many rituals around it, but I can’t ask my Mema how it went. I can’t ask her if she was scared and what it was like and did she see anything? Were there any surprises? Is she all in one compact soul place or is she part of everything now and can she see me? Does she know I love her?

Here are some things about Mema~ she was beautiful and took great pride in her appearance; she was born in Germany and emigrated to the United States when she was three; Mema made the best creamed spinach in the world, and was well-known for baking wonderful treats for Christmas~ she loved her baked goods and I definitely inherited that from her; she loved to travel and be with friends and family and wasn’t inclined to sit around; she shot two holes-in-one playing golf a long time ago* and she and my grandfather played a bunch of golf throughout their lives; she tended orchids and loved her plants; she was a master knitter (see this post here where I talk a little about that); she wanted things to be nice, even when they weren’t; Mema played the organ and was part of the Red Hat Society for a while;  she had a wicked sense of humor and often surprised me with what she thought was funny, which was awesome; she was sentimental and she really missed her husband, my grandfather.

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To deal with the pit in my stomach, I have consciously gone to knitting. It’s actually the first time I’ve done that, gone to knitting for the purpose of soothing. Usually the benefits of knitting and other handwork have been a noticed side effect of the work for me, but to approach it with the hope of comfort has been amazing. I feel closer to Mema when I’m knitting, and I asked her for help as I re-attempted to learn how to use double-pointed needles. I tried to use these about four years ago and wanted to huck them into the lake I got so jumbled and pissed-off. Not this time. With the help of this video and a few shout-outs to Mema, I got it and I feel proud and like one day I may be able to make things as beautiful and intricate as she did.

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So, I guess this is it, my musings for the day. Musings on death and life and my Mema. I really love her and will knit memories of her into this sweater. Stitch by stitch.

* in my original post, I incorrectly wrote that Mema shot one hole-in-one! My sister reminded me of her feat of shooting two! 


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Thank you, Mema.

Last week, I received a box from my mom and grandmother. I call my grandmother Mema. Others in my family call her Meme, or is it Meemee? I don’t know. I have to call her Mema, because it’s what I have called her my whole life. Anyway, this box that they sent me contained some yarn that Mema is no longer needing, and some sweet treasures meant for my kids’ dollhouse. There was also a book, or binder, or container of some sort. I had no idea what it was when I first saw it, but when I opened it, I lost my breath.

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It was a vintage Boye Needlemaster Knitting Kit. I’d never seen anything like this before! The place holders, the circular needles that you could change out for different sizing. All kinds of cool stuff! I was truly overwhelmed when I saw it. Ironically, that very day I was struggling with knitting. I really want to up my skills and was having a hard time figuring out a pattern, or really, the stitches that were called for in the pattern. I had to put it down for a while and was lamenting my weak frustration tolerance. And then this came. Way to raise the bar, Mema!

Mema is a master knitter. She has some serious skills. It’s funny because I cannot recall a time actually seeing her knit when I was little, but I have seen the things she has made, and I remember hearing my grandfather speak with pride about how she worked on certain sweaters. Now that I’m older, I think I understand that he wanted to make sure we kids understood how much work and love went into the things she made, and that she was really talented.

When I was in high school, Mema gave me this sweater.

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I loved it then, but I definitely did not have a good appreciation for how complicated it was to make this. If you’ve read others of my posts, you may have read about my growing edge with reading patterns and understanding measurements and all of the technical stuff. This sweater is technical, and I can remember Mema telling me that she had to really concentrate when knitting it, counting and marking, and doing over… I love this sweater more now than I can even describe. To me, it means love, and commitment, and patience. It is soft and delicate, and very beautiful.  And, now I have the knitting needles that were part of her arsenal of tools used to make such beautiful things. I feel so lucky.

I love how Mema made her own tag and wrote, “Made By Mee Ma”.

Recently, I was having a conversation with someone I consider a mentor and a guide in my life. He said, “you can’t carry history with you.” We were talking about the kind of history that hurts, that isn’t yours to carry. Then I told him about the knitting needle kit Mema sent me. That is the kind of history I want to carry with me. Things that my grandmother touched and took such good care of, and used to make things with love, while sitting at night with my grandfather. Thank you so much, Mema.