Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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handcrafting as a tie to what was, what is and what will come to be

So here’s the thing. It is so damned hard for me write and post and write and post when the world, politics, social issues and social traumas are so profound. Over and over again, it seemed so important that I just stop and be with what is happening and listen. Listen to the people who are speaking and sharing and telling the truth. Be with reality and look at what is right here, right now. That became my job as a human on the planet, as a parent and friend and family member. It continues to be my job and I am learning and trying to continually listen and show up.

Through these last few months, my hands have touched yarns, threads and fabrics, sometimes to start and finish a project. Sometimes just to experience a texture that brings me out of my head and into my body. Touching linen, wool, an embroidered patch, I either feel potential or potential brought to being by someone else’s hands.  I’ve learned new things and am gearing up to learn more. I tried to fashion a weekly fiber arts group online to support the kids I’ve grown to know and care for so deeply, but I found that with kids being online so much for the remote learning switch they all had to make in early spring, they were weary of being online! So was I. It was overwhelming, moving my clinical practice online, helping my kids navigate schooling online, connecting with many people in my family through Zoom meetings. It got to where, if I wasn’t seeing my friends, family, clients or the news, I couldn’t look at one more thing. “No. I don’t want to see anything else on this screen. I can’t take it in. I want to look at the sky. I want to look for the bugs that are eating my plants. The turkey that visits my lawn. The eyes of the people I love.”

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I felt and continue to feel like there are thousands of hugs stuck in my elbows. When I see someone I love and I restrain myself from the automatic hug, it actually kind of hurts in a tingly way, like a laugh stuck in my chest, or tears stuck in my throat. I marvel at how much I took those physical connections for granted and how often I must have hugged to have this feel so heartbreaking.

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I’ve noticed though, that when I touch yarns and fabrics and create my own things or admire the things others have made, this wonderful thing happens. It’s like a shrinking of time. I recently started to learn how to tablet weave and in the process read a bit about the history of the craft.

That prompted me to make a miniature version of a warp-weighted loom using a bit of a tablet woven band to serve as the top decorative piece and the warp. As I worked on this project, which by the way is wonderful to look at but wobbly as hell, I couldn’t help but feel connected to the old. The really old. I thought about people who wove on warp-weighted looms thousands of years ago and considered the fact that there was evolution, trauma, creativity, fear and love happening then, too. I thought about the threads that run through time that show themselves in their myriad colors and levels of softness, fuzziness, usefulness and beauty. It occurred to me that this will always be the case. People will always be making things that connect them to the past, tie them to the present and hint at the future.

I find this to be soothing on a big scale. A dedicated focus on a tangible task allows me to look down with specificity of attention, and then up and out with a calmer mind. The back and forth accordion-like thinking in, thinking out is making the metabolizing of this time a bit more like the tides.

What do you do to balance your nervous system with the need to stay connected to what is happening right here, right now in time?


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Cookie Sheet Weaving Project

Hello All~ I sure do hope you are doing okay, wherever you are. I have so much I’d like to say and share about what this COVID-19 pandemic is teaching me. I may have to do that in another post. But here and now, I will share with you a project I made up for wonderful kids I get to spend time with, even though we are all doing some wicked epic social distancing. I have spent large bits of the last seven years teaching fiber art in my kids’ classes (and in some others, too!) and I can tell you, the kids inspire in me so much longing to keep making, keep creating and keep sharing. Now that our Fiber Friday classes are happening on Saturdays via Zoom, I’m trying to figure out lots of yarn-y things to teach using materials we might have kicking around at home. The thing with weaving is, you can make a loom out of so many things! “Homework” for this week is to look around the house and yard to see if we might find weird, unexpected, unique or random “looms” that could be woven on. These could be sticks, frames, chairs, trees… whatever! I hope I see some good ideas next week!

This project is aptly called the Cookie Sheet Weaving Project. As you can see, I’ve used a cookie sheet, yarn, and tape to make this loom. I’ll give step-by-step instructions and maybe you can give it a go!

Materials:

  • cookie sheet, any size
  • yarn
  • scissors
  • tape

Optional Materials

  • fabric
  • large eyed tapestry needle
  • lots of variety of yarn- this is a great project for using up small bits of yarn stash

This is what your loom will look like once it is set up. I’ve chosen to warp my tray the long way, making my weaving piece wide. You can do it the other way, too. You can also choose to warp only a portion of the tray.

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To secure the warp, tape the end of skein of yarn to one side of the bottom of the tray, and then start wrapping the yarn around the tray, with about a 1/4 inch to a 1/3 inch between each wrapped thread. You can see, the underside of the loom isn’t gorgeous, with tape everywhere, securing the warp. Don’t worry about that. It’s most important that your warp is securely fastened onto the tray. Since my tape wasn’t turbo sticky, I used a lot of it.

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I opted for making a very fringy piece. Rather than moving back and forth and back and forth with the yarn, leaving no fringe on the edge, I chose to cut lengths of yarn that were several inches longer than the width of the cookie sheet. I wove each thread individually and then made sure that the remaining yarn was about equal on each side. If you don’t want fringe, just keep weaving back and forth with a long length of yarn, being sure not to pull too hard on the warp threads as you come back the other way.

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Row 1: I started by taking one end of a cut length of yarn and going under the first warp thread, over the next, under the next, and so on.

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Row 2: With the next cut length of yarn, I went over the first warp thread, under the next, over the next, under the next and so on. In this way of weaving, I noticed that I liked weaving from right to left, over and over again. This is different than when you weave with a very long length, moving back and forth from right to left, and then left to right as you head back again.

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Because I have a LOT of small balls of yarn, I chose colors and textures that go well together and I cut a bunch of lengths at a time so I could just get into the flow of weaving. This is a very portable project, so I had it all over the house depending on what I was doing.

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And I wove, and wove… and wove… Once you get to the top, you’ll notice that there’s not much room for your fingers to move the yarn around the warp threads.

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If you have a tapestry needle, this is a good time to get it. Threading it with the yarn you are weaving with (the weft), you can really get up to the edge of the tray.

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Before I thought about taking the project off the loom, I tied off the fringe on each side. You just take one weft thread, and the next one, and tie it in a double knot. Make sure that the two edges you tie are on opposite sides of the warp thread. This will ensure that the warp is secure and your piece won’t become loose and/or unravel.

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When your fringe is all tied up, flip the tray over and remove the pieces of tape that are securing the edges of the warp. Then, cut across the middle of the warp threads, freeing the piece from the tray.

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You have a choice to make here. For both choices you should tie off the warp threads in the same way you did the fringe, tying one thread next to its neighbor. If you have an extra one at the end, just include it with the two next to it.

Then, the choice… Do you leave the warp as fringe, too? Or do you sew it into your weaving? There is no right answer except for doing what you think is best for your piece. If I had used a thicker, more interesting or robust yarn for my warp, I think I would have left it as fringe, but the yarn I chose is kind of tame compared to my fringy side, so I opted to sew it in.

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Here’s the warp threads tied off.

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I chose to sew the two tied threads at a time, because they are already tied together as one.

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Using your tapestry needle, bring the warp threads back through the weaving, drawing the needle through the column of the woven piece that is right under it. Don’t pull too tight here as you’ll pucker your cloth.

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Flip your piece over to make sure the warp threads are really hidden in the column of weaving. Sometimes they peep through too much and you have to do it again.

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Once you’ve gone through a couple of inches, you can snip the remainder off.

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Here you see my piece with the wild fringe and sewn in warp threads. This thing definitely needs a little fringe-cut.

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And there we have it! Who knew I needed a new woven table decor piece?!

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Stay tuned for some more fiber art ideas. These will always be great for kids to do, but for sure, these are also fun for folks of all ages. It’s the truth that handcrafting is good for us. It quiets the mind, especially once we get into a good flow. It helps ground us when things feel wild or unpredictable. And, it can give us the chance to see that we can make some really beautiful things.

Take good care,

Bradie


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Love, Longing and Learning

[when] “…the creative force now turns to the place of the soul, you will see how your soul becomes green and how its field bears wonderful fruit.” ~ from Carl Jung’s The Red Book, quoted in The Orphan: A Journey to Wholeness, by Audrey Punnett

I was thirty-eight years old when I picked up yarn again, to make a knitted ball for my children. Sitting in that peaceful place with a peaceful teacher/guide during those early years of growing into parenthood, I found anew a place in me that was creative, that wanted to make, share and give. Seven years have passed since I sat in that rocking chair next to other mothers, most of us knitting, all of us watching our children play. All that has happened in seven years, it’s so much, really.

It is a frequent lamentation of mine that I did not realize how much I love texture and wool, sculpture and cloth when I walked through the Fine Arts Department halls at the university I attended, just shy of thirty years ago. Delivering mail, returning books others borrowed, running errands for the college’s deans, I passed beautiful and audacious fiber art hanging from walls and ceilings. Twine, mesh, weaving and wire sculptures were everywhere. How did this thing that drives me now, this deepest longing to learn all I can in this fibery art and craft world not have been awakened when I traversed those halls? What was I doing!

But here now, just when I worry there won’t be time to learn all I want to learn, I check myself and remember that all there is is this present moment. And it requires full attention. Parenting, relationship, work, creativity, love. And a devotion to tending to and doing what wakes the soul up, what grabs the spirit’s attention.

It’s that devotion that had me untangling a mess of yarn in humid heat today. It’s that tending to that had me sitting next to my loom, solving what continues to be a personal riddle~ getting the warp onto the loom without too much disarray! When will I stop sweating with anxiety when I go to take the warp off the warping board?

It’s the soul that wants to make beautiful things for people I love, and that has grown to weather all of this learning and longing.

Have a wonderful weekend. I hope you get to do things you love.


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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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Monday Musings~ Writing is Like Exercise

Sheesh, it’s been a while. A raucous cold, a busy schedule, a lost cat, and maybe a few too many projects really got me off my writing groove. But, I went for a run yesterday to try to get my blood moving again, and today I’m back to writing here and on another project. Feels good. 

I’ve taken to rising early again, well before anyone else in the house is stirring. It’s so much easier to do when it stays dark longer into the morning. I love those quiet moments. And truly, coffee tastes the very best at a little past 5am. 

There are simply not enough hours in the day to do it all. So, making decisions and abiding by priorities is where it’s at. 

One beautiful priority for me at this time is working with Susan Merrill of Weaving A Life.


I’m going through the process of making eight projects Susan developed, with her support, guidance and wisdom along the way. Two and a half projects in and I’m already profoundly moved. I’ll write about the whole process when I’m done. For now, all that I am learning and gathering for myself is precious and intimate. When I’m through, I’ll be able to work with others in this way, which is a dream come true. 

I’m spinning wool almost every night after my kids go to bed in order to have a sweet selection to sell at a craft fair in November. 



I’m tending to a sad and worried heart, of my own and my children, due to our missing cat. He’s been gone for almost a week but was sighted this morning. With the weather changing, it’s hard not to feel frantic. 


I’m working on another weaving project and struggling with warp tension due to shoddy wrapping on the beam. Frustrating! 


And tending to family, home, career, body, mind, spirit in these crazy heartbreaking times…

Not enough hours…


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Monday Musings~ Worry Sucks

I definitely spent a lot of time worrying about people I love and places I hold in my heart these last few days as Irma coverage got scarier. I avoid the Weather Channel because damn is it dramatic, and the turbo intense music is insulting. But even reading about the hurricane in my own quiet head made for stress and ineffectual worry. My worry literally did nothing to help people. 

But, I cleaned the hell out of my house and found a painting I did years ago of the house grew up in on Sanibel. I’m not a skilled painter, but I love it. 


I picked up a sweater I’ve been working on for five months. I even knit a few stitches while watching a terribly stupid movie. I’ve never done that before. A success? 


I wove a little with my buddy, Mittens, who is achieving a starring role on this here blog. 


I had some sister time at the lake,


And got some crazy love from my puppy niece. 


I sent a lot of love into the air and realized I need to learn to build a fire from scratch. 

Last week’s goals are this week’s: seriously. Finish the shawl (or maybe table runner?). I’m screwing up enough to make me want to bail on the whole thing but I feel like the little bitty mess ups might not be reflective of the whole thing. Just like a bad day doesn’t mean the whole month is bad. But seriously, my selvages need work. <Palm slapping head>.

I played with my littles a lot after school and truly, sometimes playing just means sitting on the floor and letting them climb all over me so I can tickle them. This will remain a goal. Our days are infinitely better when we heart to heart connect after a long day apart. 

I never did start the hat I have stuck in my head as an idea. I was too worried. 


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What Happens When Fibery Handcrafting Takes Over My Life…

I finished my circular weaving project and what started out as one idea evolved into a moving symbol for me. Wild bird flying into golden fire 🔥. 

Tour de Fleece spinning mania!!!

Lots of spindle practicing… it’s slow going. 

Curly locks bring lots of smiles…

Yummy, yummy yarn…

More practice…

Fireworks magic for balance…

Lots of Shetland wool washing…

Lots of Shetland wool dyeing…

With some gorgeous alpaca…

And some Shetland carding while the dye pots do their thing…

Adding color to the fantasy basket…

And more spinning…

And dyeing…

And loom making for a weaving summer camp I’m hosting in a week… (yay!)

And, repeat…

Summer is my favorite time. ❤️


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Showing Up With Love and Presence, and Fiber

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Dear Readers,

Have I let too much time go by in between posts? My longing to write about the moments, the textures, the projects and the beauty around me has been dulled, stolen really, by my broken heart, fear and unyielding anger at what is this new administration in the county in which I live, the United States. I am finding it hard to write about lovely things that I get to enjoy when executive orders put out by the president-I-cannot-name and his lackeys are, in my estimation, severely screwing shit up. People, beautiful, innocent, loving people are being traumatized and retraumatized by having plans and dreams wrestled from their hands, literally, in airports. People, lovely, hardworking, courageous, resilient and prayerful people are trapped now, either within US borders or outside of them, regardless of having the right paperwork in many cases. We have here a president who is saying that all is fine, all is great, things are working well in airports… have you seen the images of people grasping at one another after being detained for many hours because of the country they flew in from? Have you seen images of the protests all over the country? All over the world? Sorry. Things are not fine. Things are not great.

The Dakota Access Pipeline…

The Wall between the US border and Mexico…

Healthcare…

Here’s what is bringing me hope, making the blood move in my veins with energy, combatting my desire to go to sleep for four years (or two~ here’s to the mid-term elections people, let’s make some shit happen): the protesters all over the world showing the powers that be that actually, not everyone shares the same ideas about huge groups of people; an overwhelming amount of people are aligned with world citizenship and have compassion and love flowing from their core; lawyers are freaking BRINGING IT to serve people, pro-bono, to help them deal with the cluster that is this Executive Order on Immigration. You guys, and the ACLU, you are amazing.

I’m just a regular person trying to keep up, trying to make sure that I’m reading accurate news and taking right action. I’m seeing in my corner of the world that all signs point to a major crossroads in this country. We’ve been tumbling in this direction for a long time. The highways, roads, rivers and tributaries leading towards the Moment of Choice, where we determine how we view ourselves in relation to the world have been covered over , polluted and at times unclear. Not any more. Not for anyone. Those who have always been fighting the fight for equality, justice and freedom have not succumbed to complacency or obtuseness the way many of us have, as I have. Not any more.

I am not a political writer. This place that I have secured to write about the healing effects of fiber art, handcraft and creativity, it will remain that and I love that, but occasionally I may have to refer to what’s going on here and around the world from my little vantage point. All I do is housed in the reality we all share, and compartmentalization has never worked very well for me.

Some Recent Things:

Ice:

My Sweet Littlest Harvesting Icicles Like It’s Her Job:

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Our Resident Owl:

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Teaching Weaving to Children Is One of My Greatest Joys:

Paper Making Attempt:

I read a cool thing the other day, maybe a friend’s Facebook post? I don’t remember, but the gist of it was that in order to handle all that our world, our spirit, our heart asks of us, we must also attend to our places of love and hope, health and strength. I wish for all of us to reside in these places, and meet with what comes our way from a place of integrity, wisdom and power. The other day, I showed a group of 6- and 7-year olds images of people weaving from all over the world. All different colors of skin, all different kinds of attire, all different kind of settings. I told them them that when weaving, we are engaging in a practice that humans have been participating for at least 10, ooo, but more likely closer to 25, 000 years. We are all bound by a need for clothing, housing, containers, and beauty. These fibers, they connect us to each other and to our ancient ancestors. It felt good to talk about that on Friday, having no idea what was about to transpire.

I’ll keep talking to kids about things like that, for as long as they’ll listen.

Be well,

Bradie


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Recovering, Crafting & Learning Post-Election

Hello to you. It’s been a while. Given that my blog is about the healing benefits of handcrafting with a little bit of elbow room to talk about other things, I made a choice not to write every day about how I’m metabolizing the election outcome in this here United States of America. But to be frank, it’s all I’ve been thinking about. My Slow-Stitch journey has taken a pause and will resume soon (I apologize to any who might be following that and stitching along). I really found it hard for a bit to do anything that was remotely and technically enjoyable because I could not emerge from my own dismay. Things that have helped: attending a peace rally, going to a lecture addressing white privilege and US history, talking with people about their ideas and reactions, many similar, many not, and making a clear decision to be vigilant, to listen and do my best to be an active participant in my community. Joining fellow knitters and crocheters in our local group that contributes items to Knitting4Peace has also proven yet again to be a refuge and a joy~ making things with people for people all over the world is soul medicine. And, walking around outside.

I received an invitation a few days ago to participate in a local Holiday Pop-Up for area vendors and decided to do it. This is also taking some attention away from my Slow Stitch work, but it’s a good and important process for me, to get back involved with making things that I love with wool and yarn. It’s allowing me some room to let myself have fun and just enjoy being random, with a goal in mind, which I need sometimes. I’ve been spinning yarn, weaving and crocheting here and there as I can. My kitchen table is covered with my ongoing projects, my kids are excited to felt rocks and make things too, and it’s just plain feeling good.

Supermoon, bird’s nest and what I think to be coyote scat.

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Can I hide in there, too?

Some ongoing projects and yarny explorations.

Have a sweet week. I hope it includes doing what brings you calm and peace.