Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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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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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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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.


A Stitch-Along In The Making…

I am very excited to share that Melinda, of the beautiful blog called Knit Potion, is collaborating with me on a stitch along. We are using the book called Slow Stitch: Mindful and contemplative textile art, by Claire Wellesley-Smith as our guide.

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If you have not already, you ought to check out this gorgeous and inspiring book. The writing, the photographs and the suggested exercises make it seem possible for even a brand new hand-stitcher like myself to dive in and explore and play.  It’s funny…I feel like I afford myself a fair amount of space to mess around with yarn and wool and all of that. I definitely don’t need things to be perfect or measured just so. I aim to address that so that I can make a sweater I’ve had my eye on. But really, precision makes me nervous. Always has. Sewing and hand-stitching have been, in my imagination, things only really precise people do. Making clothing and hemming and all of that has felt so far away from where my skills lie. The stitch along, for me, will serve as a way to bridge skill and technique with experimentation and play. I’m looking forward to that challenge.

I’m also a crafter without a project at the moment. I have loads of yarn, loads of wool, way too many ideas and scattered thoughts. I need to reign it in. The loose and unorganized energy, it’s become uncomfortable. I need a place to put it, and I need to have that place be one that invites new learning, growth and freedom, but also discipline.

So, this is the first week of our Slow Stitch stitch-along. The task is to start collecting materials. Fabrics, threads, needles, loose bits, maybe some dyes… It is the time to turn the gaze towards the project and set the intention, or intentions, that revolve around the practice of hand-stitching. I’ve gathered many items over time and am looking forward to using them is whatever way makes sense on a given day.

Linen fabric scraps, antique handkerchiefs, a lace collar…

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A favorite cotton shirt that may have just lived its last summer as a worn item, an antique bobbin filled with woolen thread, antique cotton thread, the beginning of a hand-stitching attempt using the running stitch, and a fluff of raw cotton…

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Doilies and burlap…

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If you would like to participate in the stitch-along, feel free to contact me! I will be posting the week’s exercise/intention/focus each Sunday (I hope!) and will update my own progress as we move along. I will also link to Knit Potion’s blog posts about her work. We will spend the first several weeks just learning new stitches and playing with them using a variety of threads and fabrics of our own choosing. The idea is to have this stitch-along maintain a peaceful and non-urgent flow. Non-pressured discipline. There are only so many hours in these short days, and we likely have other projects wanting attention (not to mention families and jobs and self-care and sleeping), so do not fret if you feel like there just won’t be enough time to keep up. Imagine the Gulf of Mexico on the Florida coast in August. The water then is very warm and very still most of the time. It is quiet and if you allow it, the small, lapping waves and the hazy sun-packed air can lull you into an awake daydream. That is the feeling I am going for with this project.

Are you a hand-stitcher? What projects are you working on? What are your favorite materials to work with?

 

 


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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.