Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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The Great Thaw

I think the last time I posted here was in November. It’s not been for lack of things to say, ongoing projects or a deep interest in what all of my blogger handcrafting comrades are doing, that’s for sure.

In the time that has passed, I’ve completed a few knitting projects, learned how to knit cables…

 

bought a used floor loom from a friend and completed the Weaving A Life certification…

I’ve moved my office & studio space to downtown Burlington and am learning how to tapestry weave…

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I think, truly, I just had to collect myself and take stock in what I am doing and get clear on a few things.

You know what is a deep relief? Yarn and all things fibery and textural remain a passion, a preoccupation and an inspiration for deeper living, more grounded contact with the people in my life and with myself. The more our world is automated, made visible and social, the more I find it to be an absolute requirement to turn off, sit down and touch materials that are, by their very nature, organic, raw and useful. Also a deep relief? The ever-encouraging community of handcrafters, who seem forever gifted at making learning a deeply ingrained part of life, in tangible terms.

Over this last year, handcrafting and learning new skills in knitting, weaving and spinning has happened in tandem with learning how to grieve, face-life in the aftermath of loss, and carry on. I’m not sure how it would’ve been for me without having all of those projects to keep me grounded. Making cloth~ it’s like making life. You know?

So, after a long winter that I guess technically we are still in up here in Vermont, I can see the green peeking through under the brown grass. The smell of mud is gathering it’s pungent power. The frogs will start singing again soon.

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Some Images From Recent Days

I watched my sister’s dog the other day, while she was out with my littles. A trade. With my furry niece, I sat under a tree. Pitch got stuck on my fingers. I realized I need to sit under trees with my children more. 


Pumpkins…

And their seeds…

A misty river visit on an afternoon drive. Here, I felt close to many in my family who have passed away. Touching the cold, clear water, I told them all I miss them. 

We drove up a mountain. I live in Vermont but I don’t go up very high most of the time. Scared the hell out of me. Not gonna lie. 

Wisdom is everywhere. It does pay to go up high every now and then. 

A doll I made. It’s me, when I’m old. 

Off to a lecture at UVM, and in between events today I’ll work on finishing the second sleeve of my sweater. 

Car knitting is the best. 


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Soothing My Heart & Leap of Faith

It’s been a while, yet again, since I’ve written. I often feel like a hit a groove, a flow, get a taste of my ideal self for a few seconds, and then the proverbial other shoe drops. In this case, I’d started writing and crafting again following the heartbreak of my mom dying, But the end of the school year busy-ness, my own schedule and living with the weight of grief and stress caught up with me and I got wicked, wicked sick. I tend to be a “put my head down and get through it” kind of gal, with a finish line envisioned, fantasized about, planned with flourish. But in recent years, by the time I hit that finish line, I’m completely exhausted and often times very sick. So, this time, I realized that jam isn’t working for me anymore. It’s time to change.

As I started to feel better, I imagined self-care for what it really is. Deeply taking care of oneself and loving oneself as though one’s body and mind are precious and sacred. I forgot that. I think the term “self-care” has lost all meaning, has become stale and over-used. Like the word “inappropriate” in schools. Do kids even care if something is inappropriate? Is that word meant to land in some moral or self-conscious receptor site and then voila, said kid no longer wants to do x,y,z? No. It’s a catch-all word meant to say, “knock it off” or, “stop hitting Johnny with your fruit leather.” Whatever. Why can’t we just say what we mean?

That’s how I feel about the term self-care. I’ve had an attitude adjustment that I hope I can keep connected with as I start to regain strength and a can-do attitude. I want to get specific about what I mean when I think of self-care. Right now, for me, I need time for quiet reflection. I need family time, healthy food, calming teas and time to make art. I need to think before I say yes to things, and I need to be present enough in life so I can see birds I’ve never seen before (the American Redstart and the Eastern Towhee are recent new sightings for me!), and watch bugs and bees do their busy-work.

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And I want to devote my energies to practices and work that bring me peace. This leads to the Leap of Faith mentioned above. I’ve put together two summer camps for children to be held in July and August, a week a piece. One will focus on weaving, the other on making a book from scratch. The book will include paper we make ourselves and a wet-felted woolen cover. One camp is already full and the other is close! My children will be my assistants, and I truly feel so blessed to be able to do this!

I realized that in order to do the things I want to do, I have to take the first step, and then the next steps, to get there. It takes courage and hope, and for me at this time, it requires being really grounded and calm, states of being that for me are only attainable when I’m tending to myself as though I am one to cherish. Isn’t that what self-care is all about? Not ignoring the needs of the self?

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Those are my ramblings today. I look forward to sharing my crafting adventures with you this summer.

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New Sweater On The Needles

It hasn’t stopped raining in my neck of the woods. Not in any meaningful way. On this wet and gloomy Saturday morning, I don’t mind that much. Yes, my gardening tasks are so far utterly neglected that I’m feeling a wee bit embarrassed, but I’m not unhappy about getting to sit and knit for while, guilt-free. It’s been a hard week. Grief and all that goes with it really got me the last few days and I’m left feeling tired and waterlogged. You know? 

The sweater on my needles is called Amiga, the pattern written by Mags Kandis. I just made it to the part where I get to coast for a long time in stockinette stitch. I’d share the yarn I’m using but I forgot to save the yarn tags! That kind of carelessness is what makes life harder for me. What if I run out of yarn? Or if I want to use it again for another project. Pro-knitters, in my imagination, never do that. I have a goal to be more careful about things like that. I can tell you the yarn is so very soft and kind of a grayish purple. It’s a new batch of colors this season. I bought it in a wonderful little yarn shop called Yarn, in Montpelier, Vermont when I was down there for a conference. 


Ten or so inches of body~ the steady marathon part of the sweater. The part of the project I can easily take with me anywhere because I won’t have to keep track of anything, count anything. Beta wave knitting. Ahhh…


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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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My Very Green Sweater Is Finished and I Am Proud

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you! It is the perfect to day share with you the results of my first attempt at knitting a sweater. I’ve written about it a bit here, and here. Knitting this sweater was a journey for me. When I cast-on that first round of a 100+ stitches, I had the energy and hope that one has before going on a long run, starting a garden, beginning a new course of study… It’s powerful energy. Anything is possible. There’s pride there in those early rounds. “Look at what I’m doing. I’m knitting a sweater, dude. That’s right. Whatch’you got?” I can be very immature at times.

That early burst of energy got me into the first big chunk of knitting the body from the bottom up. Then I had to moderate my rhythm and engage for a long haul. Miles 6, 7 and 8 on a 12-something mile run (I did run a half marathon back in the day. It completely kicked my ass.). I just found my rhythm and re-committed myself to the process. Repetitive, long, measuring tape nearby… was I making any gains? Getting any farther?

Then my grandmother died and I felt like crap and really wicked sad. I was using her needles to make my sweater and had put it down just prior to her death because we’d all been sick with the winter crud. In order to knit the sleeves I had to learn how to use double-pointed needles. I found renewed focus and asked my Mema who had just died for help and guidance as I tried this new skill again after years of doing all I could to avoid those dastardly things. And it worked. My sleeves came out beautifully.

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Then, I had to attach them to the body, which I did. But I am quite sure it was during this phase of reading the pattern that I made several mistakes. Yarn-overs and short-rows and picking up yarn over stitches from previous rows confused the hell out of me. At one point, I pulled out an entire round, and then in the process of trying to get the stitches back on the circular needles, I dropped stitches, twisted stitches, made up new stitches and sweat a gallon of pure-stress sweat. When I saw the mangled mess, I cried. I thought about quitting the sweater. I questioned my whole purpose in knitting a sweater to begin with. I was using all of the green yarn I had, all different shades because I didn’t have all of one color. I questioned my judgement, my discipline and my ability, and I even thought about sweaters that I could buy for 20-bucks at Kohl’s. The deep-end met my attitude and it was not pretty.

And then I got a  grip and reached out to some wonderful ladies who are in my knitting group. Thank God for them. They responded to me with offers of help and kindness. I answered the first email that came through, and wonderful Genevieve understood that for me, it was an emergency. We were leaving in few days to go away for the weekend and she offered to help me the day before we left, because how could I leave it like that all weekend? I tried to play it cool but inside I was so relieved because I wasn’t sure I’d make it through gracefully if I couldn’t get the sweater back on track. I took my children to her house on a day of their winter break and they were amazing and wonderful as they waited for Genevieve to show me how to fix it. And really, she fixed that botched-up row like a knitting angel. Oh, my relief and amazement cannot be quantified.

By the end of the following week, I’d finished it. It was a sprint. I stayed up late, had the lovely PBS series Victoria on in the background and powered through the end, stopping a bit short because I wanted the neck to hang differently than the pattern called for. And I was so, so happy. I blocked it, and then shrunk it just a little bit, on purpose. That’s some nerve-wracking business, watching a brand new, hand-knitted sweater bop around in the dryer. I watched it like a hawk and now it fits better and hangs more solidly. I took it out just in time. That was freaking risky.

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So here it is. It’s a little weird. I know. Because it was my first sweater, I opted to not go out and buy a bunch of new yarn, or spin my own, because I have so much yarn! Originally it was going to be a slew of different colors, a sort of rebellion sweater. Rebellion against all that is such incredible crap in our government and country right now. I imagined a big colorful freak-out sweater as a sort of high-kick to the status quo. But, then I decided to stick with my greens. Green is my favorite color. Many shades fit into the favorite green category. Green is alive. It can be fresh, soggy, crisp and moist, dull and sharp and sometimes surprising. It is the color I miss the most in the dead of winter. It’s the color of the burst of life that comes with spring every year. I think it’s the color of the feminine. I decided I wanted to wrap myself in that. So I did.

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I think it’s crazy that my sweater looks almost like a bikini top! Totally unintentional. I just ran out of that shade of green! I think it’s funny that it started out with purple, when I was still going to do my rebellion sweater. It’s like one can see my thinking.

Knitting this sweater, I: learned how to use double pointed needles, actively sought out knitting to grieve the loss of my grandmother, went on an emotional safari, reached out for help when I needed it, and received so much more than that as a result.

Maybe at some point knitting a sweater will be just what I do. I’ll just knit a sweater and be like, “yeah, I’m knitting a sweater, no biggie.” But for now, I’m like, “LOOK AT THIS, BRO!” And, of course, it being done by St. Patrick’s Day was a special bonus! I’ve been researching my family’s ancestry like mad lately, and have finally made one discovery that places an ancestor in a specific spot in Ireland. Limerick, to be exact. It’s delightful to know such things.

I hope whatever you are doing today, it’s fun, at least tinged with color, and that you might be starting a journey of some sort that results in pride in your efforts, new learning and joy.

~ Bradie

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Gratitude, Grief, Love and Yarn: Holding it All

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And a little bit of our outside life!

 

A sweater project I’m taking on!

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My work space (a small part of it!)…

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

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

 

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