It’s been a long time since The Long Grief Journey was picked up by Sourcebooks and I owe a debt of gratitude to the wonderful editor who saw the value in making our work available to people and helping us to shape it and edit it well- thank you Erin! In the last year, the waiting for the book to come to print was starting to make it all feel a little bit unreal, and a little scary and then a little disorienting- wait, we’re almost at the release date?! I need to get a new outfit or something! But now, holding the book in my hands, I remember it all: the first invitation to join Pam in the project, the jumping into researching and brainstorming and writing, rewriting and collaborating, submitting and waiting and hoping and praying and now… here it is. And I am proud. Grateful and maybe even a little bewildered, too. To be able to use my own grief experience while being honored by so many people sharing their stories with us has in many ways brought an intimacy and more open heart to my day to day than ever existed before. Maybe the word is humbled? My heart feels tenderized.
If you end up reading the book, I hope you find it useful. We really are all walking this road together.
It’s been a minute. And not for lack of lots and lots of activity and making. Sometimes it’s hard to link together in a whole picture little bits of weaving here, some experiments there, and some growth elsewhere. One of the things I love about small format tapestry weaving, as well as weaving on unconventional looms, is that you can move them around, carry them with you, and finish them as you are able. That is the reality of my life these days. If not for moveable weaving, there’d be no weaving at all for me.
I wove this little tapestry on a Handywoman small tapestry loom that I love so much. I take it with me most places and love it when I pull out that little number instead of my phone. It helps, to weave. Seriously.
I’ve had this piece going for a while. It’s part of what I hope to be a series of tapestries flowing from drawings I’ve done when sitting with the idea of moments that distinctly create a before and after. More on that at some point.
I was on a drive recently with my daughter, soaking up beautiful Vermont autumn colors. I loved how not at all straight these grain rows are- I mean, isn’t that so reassuring? So beautiful and true?
We always have a moment, even if it’s brief, to decide.
It’s a pleasure to write to you on this All Soul’s Day. I’ve got rather big news to share, and it’s in large part why I’ve been so mum over here on this blog of mine that I love so much. Some major things have been happening in my world. The one I’d love to tell you about on this day in particular, is that a book about grief I’ve been co-writing for about a year and a half was picked up by the wonderful publisher Sourcebooks. My friend and co-author Pam Blair and I couldn’t be happier. This is a book about grief over the long term, and how it can express itself in a life. There’s a little back story here. Interested?
Pamela D. Blair co-authored “I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One” with Brook Noel upwards of twenty years ago. It’s gone on to become a classic in bereavement self-help and is very useful when you are in the throes of chaotic early grief. Well, Pam and I are friends and have been for several years now. We met in the Knitting for Peace Pod I started here in Vermont and it was during one of our gatherings that I learned she also wrote a favorite book of mine called “The Next Fifty Years: A Guide for Women at Midlife and Beyond”(I highly recommend this book, too!). Anyway, fast forward a little bit, and I became a member of Pam’s writing group, and I loved it. I had to drop out of it, though, because my mother very suddenly died and I was completely wrecked. For years. I just couldn’t handle a whole lot for a long time. But, in the midst of all of that, Pam and I developed a friendship and continued to talk a lot about grief. Put two therapists together and there’s no end to what we could talk about when it comes to the complexities of being human.
I guess sometimes conversations lead to more conversations which lead to more things. At the beginning of the pandemic, Pam and I had a Zoom lunch just to check in, and she asked me if I’d be interested in co-writing a book with her about the long-lasting impact of grief. It was an immediate Yes. Yes because by then, I understood what that was like. Yes because Pam is a friend and I was so happy she considered me for the project. And Yes because I’ve learned to move towards all those things called dreams. I’ve always had a dream of being a writer. I write all the time, so it felt natural. The only reason I’d say no was fear, and if I learned anything from my mother’s death, it was to not say no to dreams. Say yes and see what happens.
Well, what has happened is, we have this book coming out in 2022, and we are in the early stages of big editing. It’s exciting, scary, a lot of work and requires ongoing soul searching. It’s a constant touchstone for me… Why write this book?
I think anyone who has suffered the loss of someone they love knows why books on long-lasting grief are important. Even though there is messaging out there that grief lasts a long time, it seems that we’ve, as a culture, internalized a certain schedule by which we need to pretty well be over it enough to not be talking about the pain we are in. In my experience as a therapist, and as a griever, that’s just not how it goes. Without there being ways we can keep our loved ones alive in our hearts and lived experience, grief simply goes underground, and we often tend to our sore spots alone. Or, sometimes we don’t know that other issues we have connect directly to the original wound of loss.
It would be easy for me to go on and on and on… but I’ll save that for the book! In the meantime, I invite you to join me in the conversation either through comments here, or via personal message. Our book came to life when we added real voices, real stories, and wisdom from people who are traversing the long road of grief themselves. If you’d like to share your story with me, I’d welcome it.
In the meantime, I’ll be sitting here, sending love to all those people who have passed away in our family, some of whom I knew, love and miss terribly, others who I never met but if not for them, I’d not be here today.
Well, hello… it’s been a while. How do we catch up after so much time? My last post was in July of 2020. Since then, I’ve become a homeschooling mom, I’ve started co-writing a book about grief that lingers beyond the time our culture demands is appropriate, I’ve barely knit or woven a thing except for a sweater, hat and booties for a soon-to-arrive little baby niece (oh, I cannot wait to meet her), and I’ve been riding the wave of pandemic life that is really pretty goddamned grueling.
Today at the store, I was double-masking it because I <heart> Anthony Fauci and he says it’s a good idea in some instances. But the second mask I had on was too big and every time I looked down into the bag I was filling, it would scooch up into my eyes and I couldn’t see a freaking thing. This was after I couldn’t help my son with his math because maybe I skipped that class? And, it was after I took a good look at what’s happened to my hair since my last real haircut & color about a year and a half ago, maybe two. So… the mask thing almost, almost made me have a temper tantrum right then and there in the middle of my neighborhood grocery. Why? Not because that’s been the most stressful thing to happen of late. Not even close. Like any good old-fashioned tantrum, they are born from buildup. An accumulation of things that exceed the nervous system’s capacity to metabolize stress. Finally there is the last straw. Usually that poor straw is puny, so to the casual observer, it just looks like someone is losing it over the “dumbest thing”. But it’s never like that. It’s just a dumbest thing that tips the scale too far into Freakoutsville. Today, my last straw was having a mask on my mouth and on my forehead at the same time. Thankfully, I did have enough self-control left in my un-Buddhalike-self to realize I could not handle an embarrassing scene over the decision I myself made about my own mask attire. Maybe it was the dude giving me side-eye as I kept adjusting and readjusting the civic duty gone wrong on my face. “What? Didn’t you see this is how we’re supposed to do it now, bro?”, I imagined challenging him while he slowly and cautiously unloaded his groceries onto the conveyor belt. As much as I wanted to blame some concrete thing, or even Side-Eye Guy for my situation, I knew there was no one but me who could pull it together. After I fumbled through the credit card machine process and then remembered to be grateful for what I have, I gathered my bag of frozen corn and peas and package of chicken, and made my way home.
I miss my people. It hurts something fierce. And my heart is breaking for the millions who are grieving those they lost in this last year. Whether loved ones died from COVID-19 or from something else, no doubt about it, the rituals and rhythms that are built into the fabric of who we are, and which hold survivors in their grief, were experienced very differently because of the pandemic. No matter where we live, what we believe, and who we wish to when we ask for anything in our quiet moments, all who have lost someone are part of a new group. This group has its own stories, memories, symbols, anguish and wisdom that are making up history as we live it. I guess it’s easier to get wicked mad at a mask poking me in the eyes than reckoning with global pain sometimes.
Anyway! Sorry to be a downer, but this is why I haven’t written! Who needs more people talking about how much things have sucked? I do want to share some things though, to cross the bridge back to my love of all things yarny, wooly and textured. I have a new studio space where my looms and most of my yarn reside. This development came to be after I had to close my tiny office in Burlington in the spring. I realized pretty quickly into the pandemic that it’d be a good long time before anyone would be wanting to meet in person again, at least in the space I had, and serendipitously, an opportunity arose at the Shelburne Pond Studios that was basically completely perfect for my varied needs as a therapist, fiber artist/crafter, writer and now momentary homeschooler. It has also allowed for me to unclog parts of my home that housed all of what I’ve collected for my fibrous passions over the years. Blessings on many fronts with us home all the time. I am starting to imagine spring, summer and fall there, and all the sorts of things I might be able to do inside and out with other “masked” people who want to create and play with yarn. I can feel the energy coming back and that is exciting. There’s going to be a lot to weave out of our bodies and our nervous systems as we try to make sense of all that has happened and continues to unfold.
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.”
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.
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?
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!
cookie sheet, any size
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s the warp threads tied off.
I chose to sew the two tied threads at a time, because they are already tied together as one.
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.
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.
Once you’ve gone through a couple of inches, you can snip the remainder off.
Here you see my piece with the wild fringe and sewn in warp threads. This thing definitely needs a little fringe-cut.
And there we have it! Who knew I needed a new woven table decor piece?!
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.
[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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…