Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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A Little Quiet Time Goes A Long Way

I had quiet time today. I wasn’t alone. A totally vacant house is rare in my world. I’ve tricked myself into thinking I couldn’t get a moment’s peace if I wasn’t totally alone. Therefore, my soul has been starving for a long time. But today, I just let the busy busy busy hangover from a full week die. Real quick-like. I just decided not to bow to it like it’s some kind of moral guru. 

On a walk with an old friend going through similar things as me, I saw an inchworm in a sun beam. 


Later, I saw sheep nestled in the tall grasses, easy to miss if I hadn’t been looking around. 


Later still, I enjoyed the company of my beautiful sister, my fabulous daughter and my dog-niece. I even closed my eyes for a while. 


And then I wove, and wove some more on my new rigid heddle loom (slowly getting the hang of it- my warp is wonky) and listened to my family and let my thoughts come and go, flurry and rest. 


I hope you are having a sweet weekend, whether it’s a long one, a working one, a family-filled one or one spent in solitude. 


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Getting Back on a Totally New Track

Yesterday I started going through a box of things of my mother’s that I had packed after she died. There are many boxes my siblings and I will tend to in the coming months, but this one I packed just for me, with clearance from them of course. These things… fabric, pictures, her sewing basket and sewing boxes; some of these are my grandmother’s, too. It’s amazing, the little tiny sounds of rustling around safety pins and spools of thread, like the lilting music of a lifetrack. All of those taken for granted quiet moments when my mom or grandmother sewed something up and passed it along, or wore it again, or hoped for something more perfect but sighed and put down the needle anyway. Nothing is perfect.


This picture is of my mom sewing my wedding veil. We found the headpiece on a ridiculously fun shopping trip and she made it even more lovely, adding the flowing fabric and little beads. 


This is a needlepoint my mom made years ago~ I remember it from when I was very young. 


These are little bits of many things that will end up somewhere, somehow. 


And some hearts I made for my mom and grandmother, and a bowl, and a picture of Swami Muktananda, with (I think) my grandmother’s sewing basket. 


I’m getting back to some making. The sounds of summertime are helping. I actually make more in the summer, when the windows are open and the air is warm, muggy, froggy and quiet. Summer vacation is around the corner and I am more than ready to fall into love with less pressure and clock watching. I can hear the tinkling of chimes outside, underneath the constant conversations between birds. In a little bit the frogs will start their nighttime melody and if I’m lucky, the coyotes will pass through in the darkest hours. 

Lifetrack: Song 44. 


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My Mom Died

During the weeks leading up to when my mom died, I was having a hard time writing here. I was having a hard time being creative in general. I felt really uncomfortable. I was having a lot of dreams that I could not figure out, and I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed with how busy I was. I prayed I wouldn’t get sick because there just wasn’t the room in my schedule to be out of commission. That’s so laughable to me now. The last email I ever got from my mom read, “OMG, you really are busy. I love you.” It makes me weep to write those words. Those words were in an email I received on the Thursday before Easter. I planned on talking to my mom on Easter because we love that day.

I found out my mom died on Easter. There’s little I can share here about the specifics because especially now, in the immediate aftermath of losing her, there are so many things that are preciously private, to my mom, my siblings and my relatives. The details, they feel so personal. But grief? Losing someone you deeply love? That is the shared experience. Sometimes, when someone asks me how I am who does not know my mom died, I just let myself say it. I don’t sugar coat it either. I don’t say, “passed away”, “went to a better place”, “is with God now”. I say, “my mom died and I’m so fucking sad I don’t know what to do.” I’ve noticed that people, in every instance, can totally handle that, and most often have their own histories of losing a beloved person to them, and then they get to say it out loud, too. And, I always welcome swearing. I’ve noticed in these last few weeks that even when the death of a loved one happened years ago, when someone talks about it with me, it feels like we are swimming in the same water, completely understanding one another, even if just for that moment. Amazingly, that helps me to not feel alone.

My mother: you should know about her. Even just a little bit. She was beautiful. Am I right? Really, she was, and I’m not certain she ever deeply knew it.

The world is hard on people. She was an artist. And she loved artists. As a young woman, before I was born, my mom worked for Vogue and Mademoiselle in their art departments. She spoke of those days very often, and told stories of wild and creative people. She often lamented that our society had not come up with job-sharing back then; it would have allowed her to keep working in an industry she loved without being away from her kids so much. She also worked as a hematology technician at New York University and in the offices of the American Medical Association. She loved looking at teeny-tiny little things through microscopes and I think it was that skill set that supported her tolerance of sewing little things, sculpting miniature faces, making intricate art pieces…

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She studied meditation with Siddha Yoga beginning in the late 1970’s and remained a lifelong devotee. She traveled to India in 1978 with my brother (age 3) and me (age 5) and we lived at the Siddha Yoga ashram in Ganeshpuri for 5 weeks. That took some serious balls. I can barely take my kids to their Oma’s house who lives less than two hours away by myself.

My mom lived differently. Hearing from so many people since she died, I’m getting to enjoy their descriptions of my mother. The following words have been used one or more times: vivid, magical, intense, creative, beautiful, status-quo defying, deeply loving, spiritual, unique, funny-as-hell.  She also loved her animal friends something fierce. She loved animals in general. In Florida in our little bayou home, we’d see alligators swim by and she’d wave to them and say hi. She let our iguanas walk freely around our house~ you know they can be potty trained? Our cats and dog had special seats at the table during holiday gatherings. The birds were our friends. Feral cats were always fed. Also, there was always incense, in the house, the car, the yard… thinking back, I see how cool that all was. I didn’t know it then. It was just home, and Lottieann was my mom.

I haven’t picked up the sweater I recently started since I’ve been home. I’m trying to find knitting again, they way I found it so comforting after my grandmother (my mom’s mother) died in February. It’s not clicking and I’m opting not to worry about it. It’s sitting there, waiting for me to pick it up, and I will. I have some wool soaking in soapy water. That’s about all I got right now. One of my biggest blog fans won’t be emailing me anymore after every post and goddamn that sucks so bad.

A promise I’m making to myself is to address a thing that I think made my mom really sad… how “busy” I always make myself. Too busy to make art, to meditate, to just be. Her last email was not a criticism, just a fact.

“OMG. You really are busy. I love you.”


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Gratitude, Grief, Love and Yarn: Holding it All

It’s been almost a month since my last post. I have missed writing here and allowing for myself the space to reflect on and share thoughts about handwork, process and life. I’ve not handled political news and world news well and needed to take some serious steps back so that I could regain some sort of balance and be the kind of mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend I want to be. As I write that, I realize that the one area I’ve neglected significantly is how I want to be in relationship with myself. It’s a well-worn complaint really, one that I’m kind of tired of, but nevertheless, tending to my relationship with myself is always, always the first priority I have to take a hit when the rumblings of pressure, grief, work and responsibility register on the Richter Scale of the nervous system. I can feel the effects now, but they are more of a tugging, a call to get back to having yarn move through my fingers as it becomes part of an image made real, practicing hand-stitching so that I might learn something new and make textured and calming designs, an urge to walk through the outside, amidst people and alone.

I do have to say, another deep and abiding feeling I have as this year wraps up and a new one is about to begin, is gratitude. Immense gratitude. I am learning how to have this feeling while allowing for grief at the same time for the immeasurable suffering that is experienced by people all over the world. It’s requiring a lot of stretching and expanding and allowing for reality. All of it. Not just the little slivers that I experience in my life with my loves.

And, there’s the word… Love. It is all I come back to and all I strive towards.

“Love is absolutely vital for a human life. For love alone can awaken what is divine within you. In love, you grow and come home to your self. When you learn to love and to let your self be loved, you come home to the hearth of your own spirit. You are warm and sheltered. You are completely at one in the house of your own longing and and belonging.” Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue

There are so many ways to share love and cultivate it in a life. This will be a primary focus of mine in the coming year, years, life…

~And, here’s a bit of a view of the last month~

Some things I made for gifts and for a little vendor pop-up in our town…

And a little bit of our outside life!

 

A sweater project I’m taking on!

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My work space (a small part of it!)…

I’ve dug into working on genealogy and wow is it FUN!

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Some projects that I’ve been doing with kids at our local school. Such fun! The circular weaving bird’s nest project came from this wonderful crafter. Check her out!

 

I hope the last few days of 2016, quite an ass-kicker of a year, prove to be gentle, filled with love and all that is precious to you.

 


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Today is Just One Day

Today I picked up my knitting needles to begin a sweater for my daughter for when the temperatures change. I am looking ahead. I wanted to start a project now that will keep her warm and comforted in the future. I don’t know why. Maybe for many reasons. Maybe because she has strep throat and is in pain. Maybe because I love her more than I can explain. This is the sweater. I learned how to do a cable cast on so far and feel rather impressed with myself. I also know I made a mistake, but I don’t know how to fix mistakes in knitting. So different than crochet. Pulling out already knitted stitches fills me with dread and makes me anxious. So for now I’m going to keep knitting and hope my mistake isn’t too grave. Kind of like parenting. I make mistakes daily. I hope none will be too grave, too difficult to repair. 

this mystical dog statue was in our home growing up in florida. my mom gave him to me a few years ago and he guards our house through all weather.

our humble garden

every night a robin sits atop our open shed and sings its goodnight song


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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.

 


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Thank you, Mema.

Last week, I received a box from my mom and grandmother. I call my grandmother Mema. Others in my family call her Meme, or is it Meemee? I don’t know. I have to call her Mema, because it’s what I have called her my whole life. Anyway, this box that they sent me contained some yarn that Mema is no longer needing, and some sweet treasures meant for my kids’ dollhouse. There was also a book, or binder, or container of some sort. I had no idea what it was when I first saw it, but when I opened it, I lost my breath.

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It was a vintage Boye Needlemaster Knitting Kit. I’d never seen anything like this before! The place holders, the circular needles that you could change out for different sizing. All kinds of cool stuff! I was truly overwhelmed when I saw it. Ironically, that very day I was struggling with knitting. I really want to up my skills and was having a hard time figuring out a pattern, or really, the stitches that were called for in the pattern. I had to put it down for a while and was lamenting my weak frustration tolerance. And then this came. Way to raise the bar, Mema!

Mema is a master knitter. She has some serious skills. It’s funny because I cannot recall a time actually seeing her knit when I was little, but I have seen the things she has made, and I remember hearing my grandfather speak with pride about how she worked on certain sweaters. Now that I’m older, I think I understand that he wanted to make sure we kids understood how much work and love went into the things she made, and that she was really talented.

When I was in high school, Mema gave me this sweater.

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I loved it then, but I definitely did not have a good appreciation for how complicated it was to make this. If you’ve read others of my posts, you may have read about my growing edge with reading patterns and understanding measurements and all of the technical stuff. This sweater is technical, and I can remember Mema telling me that she had to really concentrate when knitting it, counting and marking, and doing over… I love this sweater more now than I can even describe. To me, it means love, and commitment, and patience. It is soft and delicate, and very beautiful.  And, now I have the knitting needles that were part of her arsenal of tools used to make such beautiful things. I feel so lucky.

I love how Mema made her own tag and wrote, “Made By Mee Ma”.

Recently, I was having a conversation with someone I consider a mentor and a guide in my life. He said, “you can’t carry history with you.” We were talking about the kind of history that hurts, that isn’t yours to carry. Then I told him about the knitting needle kit Mema sent me. That is the kind of history I want to carry with me. Things that my grandmother touched and took such good care of, and used to make things with love, while sitting at night with my grandfather. Thank you so much, Mema.