Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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Farm to Frame~ Final Project

It’s about time I report on how the last Farm to Frame morning went, in my daughter’s kindergarten class. Recall, this wonderful group of little ones started this project weeks before, learning how to wash wool, dye it, and then card it. They worked hard, and were so busy. With each passing class, students wanted to keep their wool, and were amazed by how it transformed in their own hands.

Finally, the day of the project arrived. I wish I could share pictures of the whole thing in the class, but privacy issues are real and I did not ask for permission to post pictures of other peoples’ children. Included here are picture from a slideshow I made to show to the class to detail what they would be doing that morning.

Each student got their own gallon ziplock bag. In it were a bunch of different colors and textures of wool. They all got colors from the batches that they dyed and carded, plus some extra that I already had on hand. Also, they had a piece of pre-felt, the “paper” for their felted painting.

Next, I showed the kids how they could layer the scene. I chose to make a sea creature scene to go along with their recent unit on sea life.

More examples… my daughter got to demo her skills.

I then explained that I’d be securing their pictures using a needle felting tool. It’s sharp! So I emphasized that I’d be the only one using that tool. I wanted to do this before the wet felting part so that it didn’t come apart in the bag.

Once the picture was completed, students could tell me or their teacher, and we’d help them slide it into their bags. Enter some warm, soapy water, and let the felting begin! I encouraged gentle, open handed pressing at first. Once felting began, they could lift their bags and really press/rub on both sides. I let them know that their picture would look different once it was felted! This was important. What goes into the bag comes out looking quite different and I encouraged them to be artistic experimenters, learning about what wool does during felting, and watching their beautiful colors take different forms. This proved to be an important reminder to some.

Above are the examples of finished products that my daughter and I made at home.

All in all the class went beautifully. What I learned was, children love working with wool. They love doing the work of preparing it and learning about about other people around the world who make things with it. They responded to the idea that people have been using wool for functional things since the Middle Stone Age. Time, of course, does not make sense to them in that way yet, but feeling connected to our ancient history is important, and it resonated.

Children allowed themselves to experiment and to create images, some abstract, and some impressionistic. Some wanted to use every last bit of wool in their bags; some only used a tiny amount and brought the rest home. All, I believe, viewed themselves as artists on that day, and allowed for imperfection and mystery.

If I were to do it again, I would work with smaller groups of not more than five children at a time. With sixteen children in class that day, I did not have the time or ability to make it to each child quickly when they had questions or needed help. For me, it felt rushed and a bit stressful. I think I would work it out with the classroom teacher for me to either work in small groups one after the other, or take a couple of mornings to do it. That way, I could calmly help and respond to questions or worries if they came up.

Other than that, I think it was a great success. I loved being with my daughter and her classmates and learning about teaching, connecting kids to natural and renewable resources in their own community, as well as to their shared history with our ancient ancestors.

Stay tuned as I prepare a new project to bring to my son’s second grade class! This time, it will be a weaving project!

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Felted Rocks In the Books! Pt. 1

Before I share how today’s rock felting project went in my daughter’s kindergarten class, I must first publicly bow to teachers. A deep, humble, grateful bow. You are amazing. My daughter’s teacher knows her students so well, created a wonderful set-up for the kids to move through as they waited for their turn to felt, and she celebrated their accomplishments and efforts. She is wonderful.

Today went beautifully. I arrived early and went through some of my books as well as found some books in the school’s library that were fitting for the class, for show-and-tell and for a bit of inspiration. While I sat there, something clicked for me. I felt like I was doing exactly what I wanted to do in that moment. There was no energy consuming worry. No shoulds bothering my psyche, and no pressures whispering in my ear. I’m trying to create a bridge for myself between my training as a psychologist, my passion for working with fiber and my strong desire to be with my kids. I’m not going into the classroom with my psychologist hat on in the traditional sense. Not at all. Where psychology and fiber marry for me is in the process of doing, the benefits of making, and the bounty that comes from transforming such an organic substance into something else.

When my time in class began, we all sat in a circle and I let the children feel wool. They could pull it apart, smush it together, twist it and ball it up. They got to see how it pulls apart so easily and is fluffy and light. Then I passed around the felt from a felted rock that I made a while ago. It was cut in half, so they could see how stuck together the fibers were. They pulled on it, twisted it and tried to rip it but couldn’t! I told them that they were going to transform the same kind of loose wool they were just playing with into the felt that they could see on the example rocks I brought. I said that they were going to do some magic. That felt pretty exciting.

Then I shut up. It was go-time because for sure, my voice going on and on about too many details was NOT where it was at!

We ended up setting up the process in the following way: I was at a table that could seat up to six kids. I had the rocks, the wool, little nylon footies, a bowl of very warm, soapy water and paper towels. I laid out a base layer of white roving in front of each child as well as myself. Then I showed them how I lined up the second layer of wool on top of the base layer. I had a variety of colors to choose from. Children were able to pick the colors they wanted and for the most part, did not put on too much, although sometimes it was hard to resist. I definitely found that two layers of wool was plenty for the small size rocks they had.

Then they flipped it all over, laid their rocks on their wool and began to wrap their rocks. It did take adult help to hold the wrapped rock securely while putting in into the nylon footie. I got the footies here. Then, they dipped their rocks in the warm, soapy water and I showed them how to rub them all around. After that, they moved to another table with a parent volunteer who had another bowl of warm, soapy water. They continued the process for a few rounds. She had the brilliant idea of singing songs as they rubbed their rocks. I hadn’t thought of that, but now I will! It really kept the kids going and engaged in what they were doing. After about 8 to 10 minutes, I brought over a bowl of cool water for the kids to dunk their rocks in and we helped them to peel the nylon off their rocks. The nylon had become a bit stuck to the wool, but with adult help it was okay. I think if it were a smaller group, I’d have stopped them sooner, removed the nylon and just let them rub directly onto the wool, but these were quick moving groups and I couldn’t get to it all. The second group finished their rocks at the original table with the volunteer and I moved to the other table to get the third group going. There was a bit of movement, for sure, but with the adults working together, I’d say it went very smoothly.

I have to say, seeing each rock actually come out felted was awesome. I was even a little surprised. I think a part of me was waiting for it not to work and for someone to experience massive disappointment, but that did not happen! Some rocks were completely covered while some had some bear spots. It really seemed like if there was too much wool around the rock, it was more likely that it would slip around during the felting process. Some were smooth, some were chunky, and some had little woolen “tails”. What I loved was that they did not know about the “perfect” felted rock. Each rock got to just be its own unique, funny, snuggly thing that each child could be proud of.

I think most of the kids were quite pleased with themselves and their little woolen creations! I am so happy for them.