Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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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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My Shop~ Jabo and Belles: Handmade is Open Again!

Several years ago, after the handcrafting bug bit me wicked hard in the heart, I opened up an Etsy shop called Jabo and Belles: Handmade. I named it that because at that time, when my son, Jacob, and daughter, Else, were wee ones, they went by many nicknames. They still do, but these two stuck. Jabo was what a friend of mine’s daughter called Jacob because, well, that’s how his name came out of her little self. Belles is what I call my daughter. Belles, Belly, Belly-boo, Elsebellsa… I picked Belles because it flows for me. People ask me how to pronounce Jabo all the time. It’s with a long a… ā. Jābo and Belles. And why Handmade after their names? Well, I’ve not done anything as creative, as handsy, as fully embodied as growing, birthing and raising my children. And, if not for them, I likely would not have re-engaged with knitting, learned how to crochet or begun spinning wool and doing all of the other fun things I do now.

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Because of a series of decisions that my husband and I made together, I was afforded a mid-life chance to get to know myself again, in a different way, and I discovered a love for fiber art and handcrafting I didn’t even know was there. My immersion into the handcrafting scene, next to having my children, has influenced what is easily the most creative time in my life so far. It’s opened up new worlds to me, including in the context of my professional role as psychologist and therapist, and it’s allowed me to make friends with people I otherwise would never have met.

Getting involved in the handcrafting community has given me a chance to do things I was not terribly good at doing as a young adult~ following whims, experimenting with materials and found objects, showing up in places where I don’t know a soul and saying, “hi, can I see what you’re doing?” without embarrassment or self-consciousness. As a young adult, I felt so driven to know what I was going to do, to have a set plan, to have it all figured out so I wouldn’t mess anything up… those qualities can be good in many ways, but I do believe, as a result of an overcommitment to anxious planning, I ended up not noticing what moved me, what spoke to me and I certainly never saw myself as especially creative.

How all of this has changed. It’s remarkable. I feel so fortunate to get to make things, to get to sell things online and in craft shows, and to feel so deeply connected to people I don’t even know and might never meet who also love making things. I also love respectful stewards of land and animals~ their love of the animals they raise allows for many of us without fiber animals to enjoy the bounty, and to experience as much as we can of such natural processes as growing, tending, creating.

Anyway, I wanted to let you know that I’ve reopened my shop after taking a hiatus from making to sell. I just wasn’t keeping up and needed to get some focus back. I do tend to be all over the place.

I hope every week to be able to post pics of one new thing heading into the shop. Here’s a few pics of what’s in there now!

If you like what you see, feel free to pass it on to other folks who love fibery/handcrafty/madewithlove treats.

 


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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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The Drone and The Chant

I am dyeing wool right now, after a bit of a break. Flowers that I placed in jars with water about a month ago to collect sunlight have been waiting to be turned into dye paths. As I sit outside next to my pots, I can appreciate the fact that they waited too long. They are generously sharing their riotous scent. Maybe odor is the better word. Wow. My cats seem to love it, but I think I might be smelling this in my memory for years to come. It will be an experiment. I dyed with marigolds earlier in the summer after a 24-hour sun soak. Will this dye bath produce different colors?

This is a heavy time. While sitting and tending to my smelly pots, I tune into the drone, drone, endless drone of the crickets and grasshoppers. I’ve really appreciated them this year, but today for some reason, I’m moved by a different feeling. Sadness and maybe a touch of apprehension. How long will this song go on, or as I think about it, I realize that I’m imagining the wrong song to be the constant.

I love bagpipes. When I hear them, I start to cry almost instantaneously. One of my favorite memories is of a time I was taking a walk with my son on the beach. It was a beautiful dusk, he was a baby, in my arms, warm and cozy. I heard bagpipes and turned and there was a man, facing the ocean, playing this ancient instrument. I made my way closer and sat down, holding my boy, rocking him to the sound of the waves and the magic music. I cried because I felt grateful and like somehow, in this moment, I was holding on to a rope, connecting us to our ancestors.

Most bagpipes have at least one drone and one chanter. The drone is what makes that one, long constant sound around which the chanter is played to make the melody.  It occurred to me today that really, what I’ve been considering the drone of grasshoppers and crickets is really the chant around the drone. That specific, hypnotic sound is part of the melody of summer and early fall. It changes in volume and pattern throughout the season, as does the chant of frogs, birds, water flow, energy and even life and death. These things I get so attached to and imagine as constant are really just the chant around the drone of something so much more constant. I suppose that’s where religion, philosophy or other things come in to play. I remember reading in college about an astronomer, Tycho Brahe I think, who believed that the planets all made their own unique sound as they rotated around their axes. That may very well be the one iota I recall from that class, but I loved it then, and it resonates now.

Anyway, who ever said that dyeing wool and working with flowers and raising children and thinking about life was straightforward?

Here’s some recent pics:

What is this funny bug nest on a willow leaf?

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Tiny willow branches in a warp/weft attempt.

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Then what happened…

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Collection of willow leaves and branches for my next dye pot.

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I’m starting to gather lichen from bits found on walks (not on live trees!) and from wood delivered for this coming winter.

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It takes a while to collect lichen. As it should.

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I had come to call this “our deer”. An orphan, we watched this deer grow up all summer, losing its white spots, enjoying the wild flowers in our field. I think I just saw it dead on the side of the road coming home from dropping my kids off at school, having been hit by a car. We always told each other when we saw it, keeping an eye out for it, wondering where it would go this winter. Just the other day, we talked about rehabbing our wearing out play fort to make a comfy spot for deer to sleep if it got really cold. I wish people would slow down when they drive, put their phones down, remember that there are animals around. I guess it was seeing our deer, dead and alone on the road that made me think of what chants are swirling around the constant drone. I know this is just part of it, but damn…

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How to Fit Fiber Work Into a Full and Multifaceted Life, One Glimpse

Yesterday began early for me. It promised to be a full day with lots of seemingly unconnected tasks and engagements. I really wanted to dye wool though. I’d already steeped marigolds and coreopsis the day before and I had some clean whitish Shetland to play with. After looking through the wonderful natural dye book, Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes, by Rebecca Burgess, I decided to quickly get an alum mordant bath going to prepare the wool I had on hand. 

I’ve taken over half our garage with a dye pot section, a carding section, storage for weird, beautiful driftwood and other gifts from the world I collect on the way. I’ve got a scale out there and some paints set up for my kids. 

So, at around 7:30am, the alum/Shetland mordant bath was going, and my marigolds were on some heat. I weighed 7 ounces of wool to be dyed, and used 0.7 ounces of alum. Not much, but my dye bath operation is small, and I love little batches of specially dyed yarn for weaving or embellishments on crocheted and knitted items. 


Once that was all set, I got on with my morning. Took care of my littles. Made a work call. Took everything off the heat and ran some errands, came back and after rinsing the wool in warm water, put half in with the strained marigold bath and set that to heat, and put a quarter in one bell jar with the coreopsis flowers and bath, and a quarter in with half coreopsis and half marigold dye mix. The jars were set in the sun. 


After an hour on a simmer, I took the marigold bath off the heat and let it cool for the remainder of the day. 

By then it was almost midday and it was time to switch gears completely with my kids and fully engage in what we three were doing. 

Tending to life while tending to the practice of working with wool can be difficult sometimes. Some tasks require a chunk of uninterrupted time. Others can be worked into and throughout a life. I imagine that was how it was done over the ages, but I don’t know for sure. There are chores and responsibilities that lend themselves to certain seasonal tasks. Tending to dye baths can be done while gardening, cleaning up outside, doing laundry, caring for children, and even making that business call. Having a dye pot operation set up outside or in the garage helps as messes are far easier to clean up and create less smelly havoc than in a kitchen. 

I was able to rinse the wool after dinner. It is still drying. A late in the day rain storm put an end to the sharp, hot, drying sun. I’ll post pics of the final outcome soon. 


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Mom Camp

We needed a quiet day to find our way together. These are the days I am the very most grateful for.

a long bike ride with my littlest to mail some love

prepping for teepee and raft making for our new stories we are writing/drawing/imagining each night

teepee in progress

the building of a raft inspired some macrame fantasies

will a gnome and his beloved live here?

it floats! 


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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.