Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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It’s A Good Time to Say Hello Again

It’s been so long since I have written here. There are a lot of reasons for that, but the umbrella reason that covers all of the smaller ones is that, simply put, the world became a bit too intense and it was hard to write about my fibery art passion without feeling like somehow I was lying… you know? Like how so many social media platforms give people the opportunity to only show one little image that captures one little staged moment that suggests something that isn’t fully real, entirely honest, wholly transparent. I’ve been guilty of that, too, for sure, but when grief and stress get big, it’s hard to keep that going. And eventually I had to ask myself why I ever did, and why I ever would?

I have missed it here, though. And I have missed talking to so many people who love yarn, wool, fiber art, knitting, weaving, creativity, dyeing with flowers, weaving with sticks, learning new stuff, and just sharing all the wonderful things that go along with handcrafting. I am acutely aware of how much I have missed it now that so many of us are sequestered in our homes as a result of COVID-19. I am feeling the weight of not being with community, and I’m realizing that in this incredibly intense moment that the world is sharing together, that some things are so big and so global, that just being is where it’s at. Personal grief is transformed into shared communal grief, as well as shared communal hope and strength.

We really are all in this together. And staying connected through what we love is where the energy is at. At least some of it.

I hope you are doing alright, and that you are taking good care. What are you working on during these days of COVID-19?

I’m working on a sweater that is taking a wee bit longer than expected due to pesky arthritis.

With the greater amount of time home, I’ve finally picked up an art project that I put down almost a year ago… I just fulled this wooly, 6-foot shawl that is part of my Weaving A Life final project… more to come on that.

And, I’m about to get back to weaving towels with this poor neglected warp that has been on my four-harness loom since before Christmas!

Maybe now really will be the time to finish up all those neglected projects?


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Weaving, Knitting, Spinning and Back at Blogging

I sure didn’t mean to drop off for so long but there it is. Time passed with little to show for it on this here site. Sometimes life requires full attention and quiet.

But, in that quiet time I took, I’ve done a whole lot of learning. As I mentioned in my last post, when winter was still hanging on with a mighty grip, I made my way up to Montgomery, Vermont with my friend Susi, of The Felted Gnome Knows, to visit Mountain Fiber Folk. I’ve spoken about the wonderful ladies who fill their co-op store with gorgeous wools, handspun yarns, woven, knitted and needle felted creations. It’s just all so lovely. One of my friends there sold me a loom she’d had tucked away for some time. A four harness, counterbalance, Leclerc Mira Loom from the early 80’s.

Then I spent some time feeling very intimidated and concerned I’d bitten off more than I could chew. But thankfully a fabulous woman answered my call for a teacher to help me! Lausanne Allen demonstrated downright genius when helping me to get to know my loom. Her patience was remarkable.

And now, three projects in and I’m feeling okay, like I might be able to do this weaving thing and like I might need to just stop now with the whole being-afraid-of-math thing.

I’ve been spinning some wool, too, and doing a bit of knitting because knitting wooly things in summer somehow works for me.

I have so much to write to you about and plan on keeping up with my blog again, at least once a week.

I hope you’re all doing just fine.

~ Bradie


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The Great Thaw

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…

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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.


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Some Images From Recent Days

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. 


Pumpkins…

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. 

Car knitting is the best. 


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Two-Cents Tuesday

I’m a lucky person, having friends and family who share beautiful things with me when they come across them because they think I’d like them too. That’s a lovely thing that people do. 

My buddy John just introduced me, via Vimeo, to Monica Hofstadter of Doucement. Let this lovely video swirl around you for a while. It captures so much beauty and loveliness and gentleness in the midst of super lush arm knitting set to lilting dream music. What a joy! 

That’s all I got today! I wanted to share this with you, because I thought you’d like it. 


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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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My Very Green Sweater Is Finished and I Am Proud

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you! It is the perfect to day share with you the results of my first attempt at knitting a sweater. I’ve written about it a bit here, and here. Knitting this sweater was a journey for me. When I cast-on that first round of a 100+ stitches, I had the energy and hope that one has before going on a long run, starting a garden, beginning a new course of study… It’s powerful energy. Anything is possible. There’s pride there in those early rounds. “Look at what I’m doing. I’m knitting a sweater, dude. That’s right. Whatch’you got?” I can be very immature at times.

That early burst of energy got me into the first big chunk of knitting the body from the bottom up. Then I had to moderate my rhythm and engage for a long haul. Miles 6, 7 and 8 on a 12-something mile run (I did run a half marathon back in the day. It completely kicked my ass.). I just found my rhythm and re-committed myself to the process. Repetitive, long, measuring tape nearby… was I making any gains? Getting any farther?

Then my grandmother died and I felt like crap and really wicked sad. I was using her needles to make my sweater and had put it down just prior to her death because we’d all been sick with the winter crud. In order to knit the sleeves I had to learn how to use double-pointed needles. I found renewed focus and asked my Mema who had just died for help and guidance as I tried this new skill again after years of doing all I could to avoid those dastardly things. And it worked. My sleeves came out beautifully.

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Then, I had to attach them to the body, which I did. But I am quite sure it was during this phase of reading the pattern that I made several mistakes. Yarn-overs and short-rows and picking up yarn over stitches from previous rows confused the hell out of me. At one point, I pulled out an entire round, and then in the process of trying to get the stitches back on the circular needles, I dropped stitches, twisted stitches, made up new stitches and sweat a gallon of pure-stress sweat. When I saw the mangled mess, I cried. I thought about quitting the sweater. I questioned my whole purpose in knitting a sweater to begin with. I was using all of the green yarn I had, all different shades because I didn’t have all of one color. I questioned my judgement, my discipline and my ability, and I even thought about sweaters that I could buy for 20-bucks at Kohl’s. The deep-end met my attitude and it was not pretty.

And then I got a  grip and reached out to some wonderful ladies who are in my knitting group. Thank God for them. They responded to me with offers of help and kindness. I answered the first email that came through, and wonderful Genevieve understood that for me, it was an emergency. We were leaving in few days to go away for the weekend and she offered to help me the day before we left, because how could I leave it like that all weekend? I tried to play it cool but inside I was so relieved because I wasn’t sure I’d make it through gracefully if I couldn’t get the sweater back on track. I took my children to her house on a day of their winter break and they were amazing and wonderful as they waited for Genevieve to show me how to fix it. And really, she fixed that botched-up row like a knitting angel. Oh, my relief and amazement cannot be quantified.

By the end of the following week, I’d finished it. It was a sprint. I stayed up late, had the lovely PBS series Victoria on in the background and powered through the end, stopping a bit short because I wanted the neck to hang differently than the pattern called for. And I was so, so happy. I blocked it, and then shrunk it just a little bit, on purpose. That’s some nerve-wracking business, watching a brand new, hand-knitted sweater bop around in the dryer. I watched it like a hawk and now it fits better and hangs more solidly. I took it out just in time. That was freaking risky.

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So here it is. It’s a little weird. I know. Because it was my first sweater, I opted to not go out and buy a bunch of new yarn, or spin my own, because I have so much yarn! Originally it was going to be a slew of different colors, a sort of rebellion sweater. Rebellion against all that is such incredible crap in our government and country right now. I imagined a big colorful freak-out sweater as a sort of high-kick to the status quo. But, then I decided to stick with my greens. Green is my favorite color. Many shades fit into the favorite green category. Green is alive. It can be fresh, soggy, crisp and moist, dull and sharp and sometimes surprising. It is the color I miss the most in the dead of winter. It’s the color of the burst of life that comes with spring every year. I think it’s the color of the feminine. I decided I wanted to wrap myself in that. So I did.

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I think it’s crazy that my sweater looks almost like a bikini top! Totally unintentional. I just ran out of that shade of green! I think it’s funny that it started out with purple, when I was still going to do my rebellion sweater. It’s like one can see my thinking.

Knitting this sweater, I: learned how to use double pointed needles, actively sought out knitting to grieve the loss of my grandmother, went on an emotional safari, reached out for help when I needed it, and received so much more than that as a result.

Maybe at some point knitting a sweater will be just what I do. I’ll just knit a sweater and be like, “yeah, I’m knitting a sweater, no biggie.” But for now, I’m like, “LOOK AT THIS, BRO!” And, of course, it being done by St. Patrick’s Day was a special bonus! I’ve been researching my family’s ancestry like mad lately, and have finally made one discovery that places an ancestor in a specific spot in Ireland. Limerick, to be exact. It’s delightful to know such things.

I hope whatever you are doing today, it’s fun, at least tinged with color, and that you might be starting a journey of some sort that results in pride in your efforts, new learning and joy.

~ Bradie

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Two- Cents Tuesday~ Look at This Blog and Website Called “The Woven Road”! 

This is short because I have a sick wee-one here at home with the dreaded stomach crud. Bummin’. But I had to share this with you. A friend posted this on our Peace Pod~ Shelburne Facebook page (we make things to donate to Knitting4Peace):


I loved it. I decided to look up “the woven road” because this quote sums up the heart and soul of what I think about in relation to fiber art and craft. In doing so, I found this beautiful website and blog! It’s about a year old and it’s gorgeous. Here’s the link:

http://www.thewovenroad.com/blog/

Enjoy! I’m making progress on my sweater. Almost done with the first sleeve. 


Ok. Back to everything else. I’ve got a pot of chicken broth cooling in the snow, five more rows on this sleeve I’m hoping to finish while my littlest is in a nausea lull, and my cat snuggling behind me. 


Hope you’re well. 

~ Bradie 


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Monday’s Musings

On the way to the store yesterday, my children and I saw a fox running down the middle of the road. It was early in the morning, so the much travelled but domestic road was not busy. We pulled up close to it, and saw that it was in rough shape. Its eyes were squinted nearly shut, its tail bet and injured. It took every amount of self control I had not to scoop it up and put it in the car. I kind of used our car to serve as a sheepherding dog, angling it towards an open field, at least to get it out of the middle of the road. Once it obliged, I pulled off and called the police. The police! I apologized, saying I didn’t know exactly who to call but here’s the deal… and the officer listened, got clarifying information, and said he’d call the Fish and Game Department to check it out. Note to Self: get that number in my phone!

We drove on, wishing the fox luck and feeling mighty sad. I think we all felt the weight of our impact on the world in that moment, in our heavy car on our road surrounded by houses and fast moving life. For the rest of the day, I thought about all the stuff I waste so regularly, even when I make big sweeping decisions not to. I thought about the fact that I don’t know what rabies looks like, or what the technical rules are about picking up hurt animals. It started to snow later, a great big dumping beautiful snow that we’ve been waiting all winter for, and I hoped that the officer really did call the right people, and that the little hurt fox was found and treated with respect. Ironic, given that this last weekend was also the time set aside for the annual coyote killing contest. People are encouraged to kill as many as they can, no restrictions. Prizes are available for all sorts of categories and as you might imagine, there is a lot of debate about such a gluttonous hunt.

We’re a complicated lot, us humans.

About to go on my hook: a beautiful, yummy bit of yarn spun by my friend Carol from Mountain Fiber Folk. This wool and bunny blend will soon be a new friend for Sherman, who needs a bit of companionship as he navigates this world of contrasts.

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Still on my needles:

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Here is the pattern. It’s on Ravelry, as well as in the beautiful and inspiring Issue 16 of Taproot.

A properly earned snow-day is the BEST! We. Will. Play.

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(Monday’s Musings is a new addition to Healing Handcrafting. It may or may not have something to do with handwork and fiber art, but it will always have a little something to do with life.)


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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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