Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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Monday Musings

Today began in such a lovely way. I had time before my schedule began and headed over to the Pond Road Studios in Shelburne to visit with my friend Stephanie, who I’ve not seen in a while. Life gets busy and weird and all kinds of things, and it’s easy for months to go by without seeing friends who live minutes away. Especially now that all of our kids are in full day school. It was so nice to share a cup of coffee before getting to the day’s business. 


And I got to meet Steph’s new pup who 100% stole my heart. 


Stephanie is a painter~ an extraordinary one. She’s been working on a series of cows that are so beautiful. Her work is very realistic, on the order of, when I look at her cows, I swear I can hear them breathing. 

I have one of her paintings, of a woman playing cat’s cradle, the thing you do with your fingers and string. Oh I love it so. I hope to own another in the future. You can look at Steph’s work here, or find some of her pieces at West Branch Gallery in Stowe, Vermont. 

It’s so inspiring seeing where artists make their work. 

The remainder of the day will involve staying cool, cool in this hot, hot weather. 

Hope your weeks are off to a good start. 

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A Weekend of Inspiration

The air was so warm and soft today. The sounds of late summer drifted through windows and around me as I meandered my way through a day filled with puttering, putting away and listening to children play, laugh and negotiate. Not much got done in the way of handwork other than knitting a few more rows onto my sweater. Slow and steady wins the race, I hope? 

I looked outside as I folded laundry and saw this meeting of mushrooms. How had I not seen them before? Or did they just appear suddenly, a faerie ring?


Later, my daughter and her friends showed me this epic spider! 


Soon, she had a bee in her web. Gruesome and awe inspiring. Deep respect to Shelob’s kin. 

At the start of the weekend a friend had sharp eyes on a mid-afternoon walk. Purple fungus and slithering corn snake offered their colors as inspiration. 

All of these moments and more make for a sweet entry into busy work and school week. 

Hope you had a good weekend. 


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Two-Cents Tuesdays~ Don’t Kill Time

I think a lot, about all kinds of things. Like many folks, I think about thinking, what I’m thinking about, how what I’m thinking about affects me and those around me and how what I’m thinking about either serves to provide energy and steam to my day or instead drains energy, creativity and perspective. It’s a loop, friends. An infinity spiral, uroboric maelstrom at times, and I’ve realized something with all of this thinking. How we handle downtime, those ten, fifteen, twenty minutes here and there, really freakin’ matters. These small oases in the midst of busy lives could support moments of reflection, meditation, throwing a few rows or rounds onto a knitting project or chances to see something interesting.

More and more, I am choosing not to reach for my phone just to check email that I cannot respond to in the moment because I don’t have time (and then forget about responding to  later because it’s not highlighted anymore), read the news that is consistently maddening and not much different from when I read it that same morning or afternoon, or from what it will be in the evening after my kids go to bed. I am choosing to try harder to tend to those things right in front of me and allow for a little space to remember to just be.

The other day, I had about twenty minutes in between engagements and I opted to step in to an antique store I’ve passed many times to take a gander and just have fun. Look what I saw!

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yarn winder

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old, old spinning wheel

 

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another sweet wheel

 

And, I did get myself a treat…

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old sewing bag

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with thread and doilies made from it!

 

I still read the news that day. I stayed up-to-speed with my responsibilities and tasks. Got all the things done… but in the midst of it all, I found a little bit of time to look at beautiful things and breathe and relax. It felt like a tiny vacation, stolen in the midst of a work day. A reprieve and a joy. Even if it is simply looking up at the sky while waiting for a meeting instead of looking at the phone, consider it a moment lived, not killed. A moment that gave, rather than one to recover from. A moment spent with yourself, ultimately your most precious person.

Little steps…


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Farm to Frame Felting Fun with First Grade Friends

I am so very lucky to have standing dates on Fridays when I teach kids how to do things with wool and with yarn. These Fridays are now known as “Fiber Fridays”, and have become a part of my life I am extremely grateful for and proud of. I think about it a lot, why I want to do this stuff with kids. First of all, I have two kids of my own and I relish any chance I get to participate in things in their classrooms. I get to meet their friends, know their teachers and just be part of their school world for a small time, which is amazing. I never leave without internally bowing to teachers, para-professionals, one-on-one specialists, reading specialists, special educators. They make the world go round, in my book. Their love and dedication to the field, and the skills they have, just blows me away.

Okay, so yes, I love being in my kids’ classes. I also love going into other classes and meeting even more kids and answering questions and getting excited about new stuff. It’s just fun and a beautiful complement to my work as a psychologist. I’m not being a psychologist in any formal sense of the word when I am in with children on Fiber Fridays. However, I am sharing something that I truly believe is deeply healing to the human spirit, and is a restorative practice. Handwork/fiber craft tie humans together in a most fundamentally ancient and organic way, and exposing kids to as many ways as I know how to work with fiber has become a prized part of my career.

In one of my first grade classes (the one my daughter is in), we’ve been exploring wool. We started with real free flowing exploration. I brought in big wool batts, smaller mounds of wool in a variety of colors, some fabric, some yarn, and a needle felting tool for just me to use, just in case some quick stick-togetherness was needed. I showed the class first different ways we can play with wool. I pulled it apart, I twisted it, I formed it into shapes and wrapped them in fabric and tied yarn around it. I encouraged them to just play and sculpt and imagine, and I let them know that there were no specific things they had to make at the end. Each table got its own basket of a big assortment of wool and then, it was off to the races! I was actually amazed, and I learned so much that day of free wool play. Children made babies, cradles, nests, birds, balls, clouds, old ladies, and animals. They played and laughed and shared. For some reason I was really worried that they’d be confused or adrift without a specific goal in mind, but I was wrong! They were happy to just go for it! I was lucky to have plenty of help from the teachers and a parent volunteer with cutting fabric, wrapping, needle felting and tying. It was peaceful and joyful. I do believe working with wool is magical.

Two weeks later in the same class, I referred back to our previous experience, and said, “this time, we are going to experiment with wool mixed with soap and water!”. Our project was to make felted balls. Before we began, I first showed them balls I made at home. I also showed them my “oops” items… a disc that was supposed to be a ball… a nest that was supposed to be a ball… a weird creasy ball that was supposed to be smooth. You know, it’s kind of hard, at least for me, to get a wad of wool to felt into a perfectly smooth felted ball with just warm, soapy water and your hands. I don’t know how Martha Stewart does it!

I then quickly showed them this book:

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And we talked about having one idea in your head when you go to make something and how sometimes it doesn’t turn out like that. I told the kids that we are learning, experimenting, having fun and seeing what comes out of our efforts.

On the floor I had set up a drop cloth with towels covering it. On that were six plastic mixing bowls, two with soapy water and four with clear water that had to keep being replaced as kids dipped their creations into them to rinse the soap.

Water + Wool + Soap + Being Okay with Oops = Felting

Balls were made. Some were smooth. Some were crinkly and seamy. We got a mushroom, some discs and some wild looking blobby alien life form planets, or maybe coral? I saw a bunch of children totally okay with experimenting and just seeing what happened and I think that right there is a major piece of wisdom gleaned from mindful handwork.

Freedom to experiment and see what happens, within one’s own heart and spirit, is such a beautiful thing, and it’s something that I think we all should tend to as often as we can. I am often guilty of hanging on so tightly to what my plan is that I forget to see what’s actually happening right in front of me. I forget to loosen my belly and breathe and just let things be as they are. It’s so easy to forget that.

You know what else blows kids’ minds about wool and felting? With some simple ingredients and some agitation, soft and fluffy wool is transformed into felt and it is impossible to return it to its original form. I can’t explain why something so obvious is so mystical and amazing to kids, but it is, and I need to meditate on the symbol.

Stay tuned. I’ll be sharing more projects and ideas and insights from this cool gig I have.


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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.


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Slow Stitch Stitch-Along Weeks 5 and 6

“Any regular, repetitive action primes the well. Writers have heard many woeful tales of the Bronte sisters and poor Jane Austen, forced to hide their stories under their needle-work. A little experiment with some mending can cast a whole new light on these activities. Needlework, by definition regular and repetitive, both soothes and stimulates the artist within. Whole plots can be stitched up while we sew. As artists, we can very literally reap what we sew.” Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

For Week 4, we worked on the fly stitch. I loved this stitch. It was fun, satisfying, took a little bit to get the hang of, and then lent itself generously to experimentation and shaping. I thought I’d have time to make two squares, but alas, one was all I could complete. I’m working on not urgently finishing something that is supposed to be a practice in steady and slow. Urgency and too-busy are not qualities in life I value any longer. I think they are over-rated tendencies that make people sick. They distract focus from what is right in front of us. There are only so many hours in a day and I’m coming to accept ever more that really, there is a finite amount of time in which I will exist. All of the many things I want to do, wish I had of done, hope to do in the future have to be reconciled with the reality of what is.

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I kind of meant to do a square of fly stitch in rows, but then I decided that actually, the stitches were reminding me of wheatgrass and of weeping willow branches without their leaves. I decided to allow myself to make what I saw in my mind’s eye. It was a lovely experience.

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So, we are moving along in our Slow-Stitch. I am going to add two stitches to our queue and give myself two weeks to play around with them. Halloween and my son’s birthday make this upcoming week more exciting and full than usual, so I plan on steadily and quietly moving through stitches as I can.

It’s not too late to join if you’d like!

Here are the two new stitches: sorbello and seed. Practice using small squares of fabric, maybe one on its own and one in layers. Use thread that calls to you and let yourself enjoy the process without the sense of rushing or pressure urging your hands.

If you’re wondering what this is all about, here’s the introduction to this Stitch Along, that was entirely inspired by the book Slow Stitch: Mindful and contemplative textile art, by Claire Wellesley-Smith.


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Is it too Hot to Crochet?

I love this post from Two Hands Healing and Creative Arts ! It inspired me to pick up a project I started last winter. It’s the Babette Blanket, designed by Kathy Merrick. Thank you for the inspiration, Andee! Perfect for today. It’s summery, warm and wonderful outside, but my daughter is not feeling well. I was able to crochet some granny squares while she snuggled on my lap, her hands gently resting on mine. Happy summer crocheting, everyone. What projects are you working on?

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Summer is truly here now. Even up on my mountain we are feeling the heat. Of course what seems “hot” to us is nothing compared to what friends and family all over the country are dealing with. This past week temperatures have been over 100F in lots of places. Making me very grateful for our easy days of 87-90F days at my house.

When I go down to town to do errands it can be significantly warmer. But at least in Colorado humidity isn’t the factor that it is for many others. I’m looking forward to seeing all my yarnie friends at the conference in a few weeks, but it will be in Charleston, South Carolina. I suspect that I may be melting in the heat and humidity that they are experiencing.

In heat like that how does one keep crocheting? My choice for travel and for hot weather crochet…

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