Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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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.


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Let the Dirty, Smelly,Wonderful, Softening Labor of Skirting, Washing and Carding Wool Begin!

This week, I grabbed the bull (or sheep) by the horns (in my imagination), and started processing a whole lot of wonderful wool. After my son, then my daughter and then I got through strep throat this summer, I needed to really get in gear and re-find my focus. Knowing that this week would be hot and sunny, I decided to use the sun’s marvelous power to do most of the work of scouring for me. But I’ll get to that. I started with some lovely Shetland I picked up about a month ago from a wonderful couple who absolutely adore their sheep.

Here is a picture of some of the beauties with their summer do.

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When I first began working with raw wool and learning how to spin, I’ll admit to just jumping in and not doing a whole lot of homework first. I remember with my first fleece, I felt guilty about not using every last bit of wool, but for the very dirty parts. I washed and rinsed and washed some more, picked, flicked, carded and re-carded. I could not bear to waste it. I’ve since learned that there are different parts of a fleece that are much better than others, that seasoned spinners do not use every last bit for yarn, but might use the not wonderful parts for stuffing for toys, compost, insulation, etc… Before starting on these fleeces, I found a bit of literature that is so incredibly helpful on the topic of skirting fleeces. People who take the time to share this sort of expertise in such a generous way are really so kind. I am grateful to them for describing so well what they know. Check it out if you are looking for some skirting fleece information.

You can see below the pile of wool from one fleece, already skirted, and another two waiting to go.

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Then it was time to scour. I like doing this before carding and spinning, but I know many do not. I do not overly scour, I don’t think, because I love keeping the lanolin feel as much as I can, but I do want it to be clean. I wish I had taken a picture of my hands post-skirting. They were shiny and soft from the lanolin. I never grow tired from the irony of having silky, soft hands after doing the hard and dirty work of skirting a raw fleece. It is a marvelous metaphor, I think. We must get our hands dirty in life. We must fully dig in. Work. Feel. Love. Grieve. Get into the thick of it. We will be made softer, humbler, and maybe even shiny every now and then, if we allow ourselves to be hewn by the at times roughness of life.

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While I love hard work, carrying pot after pot of hot water outside to fill my bins in order to scour wool is not what I had energy for. It occurred to me that the sun could do most of the heating work. So, I filled the bins with hose water, plus two big pots of hot water to get a jump start, and then some soap. After the water rose to a lukewarm temperature, I added the wool and let it soak for a long time. Later, I passed it to the rinse bin of warm water and let it soak some more. I did this with all three fleeces and have to say, I see no reason to go back to another way, at least not while it’s so hot! With the lids on the bins, the water’s temperature rose very significantly, but slowly, making the scouring a gentle and simple process.

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I love the look and smell of drying wool. I see bits that will get shaken or carded out once fully dry. Mostly I see fingerless mitts, a hat and hopefully a big fluffy cowl to keep warmth and raw beauty alive in the midst of our stark winters.

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Oh, last but not least, I’ve started some solar powered dye baths using in one jar, marigolds and in another, coreopsis. I think I’ll dye up some of this white Shetland tomorrow.

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We Can’t Get Away from Learnin’

If you read my last post, you already know that I have started knitting a sweater for my daughter. I mentioned that I made a mistake but chose not to fix it because it wasn’t that bad, and maybe it would cause a negligible change in look, and that really, tearing out a bunch of knitted stitches causes me a lot of anxiety. Well…

This morning, I was up before everyone else and got to my project, sipping my coffee and feeling a little worn down. I’ve been ruminating, for sure. But I’ll get to that. As I started knitting, I realized about 20 stitches in that something was wrong. And it was wrong not just in the row I was working on, but also throughout the previous three rows. I kept looking at it, counting rows, looking at the pattern, and truly disbelieving the fact that I had been really rather careless in a simple instruction. Knit one row, Purl the other (other than a few stitches on either side). What had I done? I don’t quite know because unlike crochet, I can’t entirely read the story of the the knitted fabric. Experts can look at a piece and see where and what went wrong. Not this gal. Either I messed up the Knit/Purl rows, or knit too many rows. I don’t know. I considered letting it go and pretending that I meant to add a fancy different looking section, but then remembered my last post. And I thought about other times in my life I opted to skate through a problem without facing it head-on, and I considered my belief that stuff keeps coming back for us to deal with and learn from until we’ve dealt with and learned from the…stuff.

So, I tore it out. Three and a half rows, I tore out. While I tore them out, I wondered if I was going to have to start over from scratch. My yarn also got snagged and it broke. My heart pounded and I felt a whole bunch of things, mostly in the category of self-attack and frustration. How could I have been so mindless to make such an unnecessary mistake?

 

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All of that self-talk, all of that rumbling in the mind that likely is going on most of the time but sometimes becomes impossible to ignore, it really shows up at times like this for me. Mistakes. Just mistakes. Nothing life-threatening. Nothing dangerous or ultimately undoing for myself or for others. Just mistakes that seem “unnecessary” or as a result of “carelessness”, “thoughtlessness”, etc., etc.

I successfully got all of the loops back on to my needles, and I started again. I paid attention to what was happening in my mind. I didn’t do anything magical or come to any awe-inspiring conclusion. I just saw how beautifully knitting can be one of many ways to learn about oneself. Myself. I tuned in to how much ruminating I do when I’m stressed or sad or anxious. And I became very aware of what I do to myself when I make a mistake. No wonder I get so worked up when I have to tear out knitting! Good lord! Lighten up, girl!

I couldn’t get much more done before my day with my kids started, but I did manage to go outside and capture the smells of summer, the sounds of songbirds and the beautiful sun lightening more of the sky.

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A Sweet Surprise~ The Creative Blogger Award Nomination That Made My Day

I was so incredibly pleasantly surprised to see in my email a notice that my little blog here had been nominated by another wonderful blogger, Mrs Craft of Craft and Other Crazy Plans for the Creative Blogger Award! You know, it’s really quite a lovely feeling to learn that someone reads my words, looks at my pictures and thinks that they’re cool! It’s also wonderful to have the chance to share the blogs that I love to read and look at for inspiration, information and simply because they are fabulous! So, I’ll get to that below!

This is especially tender for me because I am actively working on a “healing” piece. With heartbreaking world events, a busy life, transitioning to summer break with my children, and experiencing a bit of grief of the personal and existential sort, I needed to begin a piece I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’m using my large Majacraft Circular Loom and making a sitting rug. It will be textured and smooth, soft and hard, mostly in a beige/off-white/cream color palette. Peaceful. Natural. Cloud-like. Quiet. I want something to call my own, my little space that invites touch and that reflects the complicated aspects of life, but in dulled down color. I need that space and am making it for myself.

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Part of being nominated for this sweet award includes the act of sharing five things about myself, so here it goes:

  1. I am absolutely fascinated by ancestral history, and believe that as I age, I will spend more and more time pursuing information about all of the people who came before me in my family. I wonder about them. I thank them for surviving, because without them, I wouldn’t be here.
  2. If I could go back in time, I would not quit creative writing in college. I would pursue that interest with more devotion and more discipline. That regret is fueling my urge to write, and my discipline now.
  3. I hope to join the Peace Corps one day, even if I can’t until I’m an “old” woman. This woman inspired me not to let my mind succumb to antiquated and stereotyped images of aging.
  4. I love to run, workout and be strong, and have found this love later in my life.
  5. I used to live in Florida and I really, really love and miss the Gulf of Mexico. I also love the Atlantic and spent a lot of time at the Jersey Shore when I lived in NJ as a youngin’. There is something magically wonderful about salt water and all of the life it supports, and I hope to get to hang out by the sea a lot more in the coming years.

And here are my nominations:

  1. I Accidentally Ate the Whole Thing
  2. Begin to Believe
  3. Healing Tree Farm
  4. Mulch and More Crafts
  5. Fibery Goodness
  6. Two Hands Healing and Creative Arts
  7. Violet’s Vegan e-Comics
  8. art does matter
  9. The Archivist Cooks
  10. Ingrid Art Studio Blog
  11. alexand knits
  12. Love Those “Hands at Home”
  13. Story Skeins
  14. Crochet Thread
  15. Spin a Yarn

The above blogs are ones I love to follow and check in on. They all have inspired me, not just in the crafting way, but in the living life artistically kind of way. I hope you check them out.

Here are the rules for the bloggers I’ve nominated. I hope you all enjoy participating in whatever capacity you choose.

  1. Nominate 15-20 bloggers and add their links.
  2. Thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
  3. Share five facts about yourself.
  4. Notify the bloggers you included.
  5. Keep the rules in your post.

Thank you again, Karen (Mrs. Craft) for nominating me. This was really fun!

~ Bradie


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A Few Thoughts on Women, Community and Culture~ Non-Exhaustive

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I came across this picture and quote on Facebook the other night, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. First of all, I love it. I love the intention, the ideal and the archetype that supports what Sark wrote. I believe that they are all real and grounded in our shared histories. In my life, relationships with my women-folk, both in my family and in my friendship groups, have been very important and very strong. By strong, I mean powerful in how they have affected me and impacted the roads I’ve chosen to walk down. I believe my first true love was my best friend when I was very young. My heart broke when I moved away from her at the age of 10; she was a friend that I could ride bikes with, climb trees with, ring doorbells and run with (sometimes… Barbara was definitely smarter and calmer than me when it came to deviant behavior), and we could also play with our dolls together, listen to her older sister’s records and imagine ourselves as grownups while laying on the grass in one of our yards. That early childhood friend, who I still cherish, paved the way for me to have other strong friendships that I believe will be lifelong. I relish the fantasies that involve my friends and me, wicked old and weird, doing whatever the hell we want.

Sometimes I also find myself lamenting the distance between my family women-folk and me. I have not lived near any of my family for over twenty years. Mother, step-mother, mother-in-law, grandmothers, sisters, sisters-in-law, a cousin and an aunt…With none of these important women have I shared a daily flow of life other than during a brief time my mother lived here in Vermont. I share this not as a complaint, but more as an important detail of modern life that many of us experience. I haven’t done the specific research to know exactly when the shift really started, or how one would even pick the when of things such as this, but there is, in many ways, a cultural mandate towards separating from one’s family of origin in accordance with a push towards individuation and independence. We are a culture of I’s. Not every culture puts so much emphasis on the I-self, but rather on the We, on the shared, on the communal.

These are merely germinating thoughts right now, and not new. I read a lot about this whole cultural and psychological phenomenon when I became a mother. For the first time, I truly felt that what I was doing was not meant to be done in isolation, in a women-folk void, I-centric world. There is no I in Mother, and learning how to think and live in a way that did not at times service the I-development was very challenging for me. Having a community of friends I could trust and rely on in times of extreme fatigue, overwhelm, confusion and fear… I bow to the importance of having that gift in a life.

I am currently enjoying another community of women-folk. I am a member of a Peace Pod that makes things to donate to Knitting4Peace, a wonderful organization that supplies needed items to people all over the world. The Peace Pod gatherings are fabulous, as they are a motley crew of us ladies (and one man so far!). All different ages and life paths, we are getting to know one another, we laugh, we share, and we make. I feel like I have found a lived experience that the above picture describes. Isn’t that funny? It is to me. My imagination has stuck in it one particular image of women communing together, and it is old, a fantasy, a daydream. In modern life, it’s not all built-in to our daily life structure, unless we tend to this most important archetype that ties us to one another, and reminds us that we are not going this whole life-thing alone. Sharing and participating in giving to others reminds me that we can also, and ought to, tend to those loves who are far away. Our families, our friends who live all over, we can tend to these parts of our hearts that are all over the world, hopefully all of us living in accordance with our I-self, while tending the fire of love that binds us together in the We.