Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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What Happens When Fibery Handcrafting Takes Over My Life…

I finished my circular weaving project and what started out as one idea evolved into a moving symbol for me. Wild bird flying into golden fire 🔥. 

Tour de Fleece spinning mania!!!

Lots of spindle practicing… it’s slow going. 

Curly locks bring lots of smiles…

Yummy, yummy yarn…

More practice…

Fireworks magic for balance…

Lots of Shetland wool washing…

Lots of Shetland wool dyeing…

With some gorgeous alpaca…

And some Shetland carding while the dye pots do their thing…

Adding color to the fantasy basket…

And more spinning…

And dyeing…

And loom making for a weaving summer camp I’m hosting in a week… (yay!)

And, repeat…

Summer is my favorite time. ❤️


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Spirit Guide Becoming, and Spinning Wool Bliss

I cannot explain it, but this experiment on my circular loom has become rather powerful for me. I’m chipping away at it, round by round, section by section. Easy to do since the rain hasn’t stopped, and I’m obsessed. I’ll post the completed piece soon. 

And Day #1 of the Tour de Fleece is under my belt. Merino, fluffy and spongy, met my wheel for close to an hour while I listened to a wonderful podcast of On Being with Krista Tippet interviewing John O’Donohue. Not a bad way to be while spinning beautiful fiber. In fact, the podcast was on Beauty. It was lovely. 

Tomorrow I hope to finish this bobbin and then start plying with lovely colorful wool locks in various pinks and purples. 

Are you spinning as part of the TdF? How’d it go today? 


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Tour de Fleece, It’s On! 

In recent years, I’ve seen bloggers and other spinners talk about the Tour de Fleece and I’ve thought, “how’d I miss that again?!” Not this year, though! I was prepared and I’ve got heaps of merino waiting to be spun tomorrow. 

My goals are simple. I want to spin every day with attitudes of openness, hopefulness, creativity and curiosity. I know without question that spinning wool is good for the nervous system, it helps one achieve a rhythmic and almost meditative state, and it’s fun! I want to dedicate time every night to reading a little and learning more of the details around spinning and enhance my knowledge base, and I want to make some killer art yarn in order to sell and make hats with that are begging to be created. I love knowing that people all over the world are part of the Tour at the same time. A collective spinning hug. How awesome is that?


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Yarn is Medicine

Is the planet spinning faster than usual? Quick upticks here and there? Here’s a bit of life lately…

First of all, there’s more evidence that shows that my yarn obsession is good for me! Read this great article! And, jam making is most definitely in my future. 

Below is a piece I made that started out as a woven boat, but as I had to keep tinkering with a too-loose warp I began thinking about those fleeing war-torn Syria on boats too small, too packed and too weak. It became a meditation for me and I decided to donate the money from the sale of this boat to the Refugee Resettlement Program in Vermont. It will be for sale at an upcoming Holiday Pop-Up. 

Here’s my littlest love feeling the Christmas spirit. 

My mom always put dolls and fairies and magic in our Christmas trees. I hope I can do it even a fraction as well. 

Beautiful tree lights our mornings and evenings. 

My spinning wheel has been busy, busy! I have much more yarn to make but it’s been lovely! 

A basket of color from my store bought stash. I think a wildly outrageous sweater is in there somewhere, waiting to be born. 

I’m not sure what to say except that every year these things make me smile. 

Him, too…

The sun’s departure time most assuredly has a bit to do with my sense of speediness. I have to alter my idea that things need to be done by dark, or be fine with not as much getting done. The latter is hard for me…


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In the Presence of Masters

I have not written in a good long while because my work with fiber stalled out a bit. I am one of those people who struggles with some of the more rare side-effects of antibiotics and of late, this has been quite an issue. BUT, I am here to say that yesterday was a gift beyond gifts, and has helped me to find my bearings again.

The Marshfield School of Weaving is hosting a five-day spinning class this week. I was only able to attend one day of the series and was not sure what to expect, but I went ready to absorb anything and everything I could in this limited time. I went to this school last year to take a plant dye class with Joann Darling. You can read about that here. Attending class yesterday, I knew I would have the opportunity to meet Norman Kennedy, the man who started the school in 1974. He has taught spinning and weaving, he speaks Gaelic and sings old and beautiful waulking songs and other traditional songs that can be sung to help keep time during the melodic and repetitive processes of carding, spinning and weaving. He joined Bruce Engebretson who was a visiting teacher from Minnesota. I had never taken a class from individuals who were so steeped in their craft and wondered what it would be like. I was definitely nervous. Primarily self-taught, I prepared myself for having to re-learn ways I do things. I was right to get my mind in order for that type of expansion.

I traveled down with my spinning wheel, some roving, my spindle, a batt I carded from Border Leicester that I processed myself and dyed with willow bark, and a whole lot of eagerness.

Let me say this, I took a lot of pictures but don’t want to post them without permission from those who are in them, so please pardon the lack of visual detail.

Driving up to this school in Marshfield offers the chance to resettle the mind in its own right. I was so struck last year by the functional, humble beauty of the barn, the rooms, the tools and the “stuff” kicking around. It is entirely calming and completely not intimidating. When I walked in, I was warmly greeted by Bruce, Norman and the four other women in attendance. They were in their groove already because they had been together all week, but at no time did I feel like an odd man out. What shocked me was that I, according to Bruce, was not carding wool at all correctly, so I learned his way. The old way. And it took a long time. So long I worried I might have dyslexia in my hands. For real. But he was kind and patient and kept at it with me. I had introduced myself already to Norman and tried not to be too intense; I have wanted to meet him for a long time after I saw this YouTube video.

While I was fumbling through carding wool, I showed Bruce the batt I brought. I think I just wanted him to know that I know how to do at least something and he was into it, and he asked me to show Norman when he came back in the room. I’ll not go into all of the mini moments that were incredible, but showing Norman the willow-dyed batt led to him showing me how to spin off of a distaff. I had never even seen a distaff in person before, and here was this beautiful man, in his 80’s, with a long white and golden pony tail and kind face, spinning my wool onto a spindle with the merest flick of his hand, his other hand totally free. He commented on the luster of the wool, the strength of the yarn it can make, and he told stories and historical bits about the use of these ancient tools. I was in awe and in love, and then he let me learn.

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It took some doing, but soon enough I was spinning right from the distaff onto my wheel. He said I was doing pretty good for a beginner. I’ll take it.

Later, we watched Norman prepare flax and place it onto a distaff to spin. As he spun he sang a tune in time with his treadling. We watched Bruce load and use very old combs to prepare gorgeous wool for spinning. I watched in awe a woman use a walking wheel… truly incredible, and I learned about the spindle that was on the wheel that Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger on. Norman told stories of how it was long ago, when children worked alongside their parents all day, when fiber craft was not a luxury or a hobby, but when it was a necessary and integral part of life. Bruce talked about how children would prepare wool all day and how women would spin all night. I think about this all the time, about how so many fairy tales are about old women saving young women from the fate of spinning all day long, so that they could go about with their husbands and be in their world. Habetrot is one such goddess. More to come on this topic in the future, but I suspect that fairy tales and ancient myth show us the trajectory of the feminine archetype in relation to fiber art and craft. Habetrot and her magic family are underground, hidden away from view, a foreshadowing of changes to come, both positive and negative, to the ways in which people relate to one another, the relationship between people and Earth and the ways we understand and experience time, work and patience.

Some other highlights for me include being called a lass, having my spinning wool technique ridiculed in the most kind of Scottish ways, and simply enjoying the company of people who were all there to learn and be in the company of masters. It was truly a wonderful day.

And, I will be fashioning my own distaff and spindle soon. Tales to come…

 

 


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Staying Grounded, Staying Connected

Busy beyond breath. Slow beyond words. This juxtaposition has been a hallmark of the last two weeks. Running around, trying to meet all obligations with grace on one side, cancelling everything and only nurturing, tending and resting with my sick little girl on the other. Times like these leave me feeling out of sorts for sure, but I’m happy to say I’ve got myself in a sweet rhythm that includes working with wool and other fibers every day, even if just for five minutes or so.

A heart a day keeps my feet on the ground…

I’ve got this wonderful heart-shaped rock. I love it and it sits on my kitchen sink window sill. Recently, I decided to make a felted heart around it, and once done, fill it with lavender. I loved it, and after a rather bleak news cycle, decided to attempt to make one heart every day. So far, I’ve done it minus a day or two. This has led to me making some little wet-felted bowls/vessels, because I’m already there, right?

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Standing at the kitchen sink, felting, thinking, hoping, wondering… it’s helping to get me though these jumbly days. Making things that smell good, feel good, and that I can imagine tucking little notes into, or wishes for people to have on their own jerky, jumpy days, that require so much patience and so much discipline… this has helped and funnily got me back to my drum carder, and to my spinning wheel.

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Today, too, I’ve found out about a goddess associated with the spinning wheel who I now must pursue and know more about… Habetrot. She comes from northern England and Lowland Scotland, and I think will have some things to teach me.  For a few years, I’ve been wondering about this long buried/hidden passion for fiber art that I’ve thankfully discovered. Where had it been resting in my psyche all of those years prior? I can think of many times in my adult life when having things to do with my hands and mind would have been intensely useful, and I cannot help but lament the years I remained so disconnected from what now feels like an utter and true love. When I think of it, I also can’t help but wonder about my ancestors from England, Ireland, Germany, and maybe Scotland (my grandfather often referred to the Isle of Lewis as being a seat of some ancestry).

Why does it matter?

I suppose because at times in life, it feels utterly true that energies that move us come from our ancestral histories, from journeys started long before that brought us to bear in this life here.

In reading a book about Navajo Weaving, I came across this:

The beginning of the world, I am thinking about it                                                                      

The beginning of the world, I am talking about it 

This is a Navajo ceremonial chant. I love reading about about Navajo myth and the beginning of the world in their story. “According to Navajo myth, the Dine, or the People (which is how Navajos refer to themselves), were led to their home in the Southwest from another world beneath the earth by supernatural spirits called Holy People. Spider Man, one of the Navajo Holy People, taught the Navajos how to make a loom from sunshine, lightning and rain. Spider Woman taught them how to weave.” from: The Navajo Weaving Tradition: 1650 to the Present, by Alice Kaufman and Christopher Selser, p. 4. 

Reading this is what led me to that fantastical Google, and that let me to Habetrot. What did we do before Google? I remember, actually. I’d spend hours at the library after school, sometimes allowing myself the luxury of reading whatever I wanted in the corner rather than doing my homework; other times, following one bit of information to another and another still, getting hung up on a weird books about phenomenon like spontaneous combustion, only to get back to the initial investigation on whatever topic. That is what it’s like, researching one’s own ancestral history and its accompanying mythologies. To follow one lead, if you are lucky and patient, can afford you the chance to learn about others along the way. The ultimate in grounding when you are not in a rush.

 


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Let Me Introduce Myself

Hello to you, and thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I have been hovering over the idea of writing about the healing effects of working with fibers for a long time, and often dissuaded myself from taking the leap into blog-land by telling myself things like:  there are so many blogs, why add another? or, can anything new be said about the soothing and healing nature of handwork?, and of course the ultimate killer of ideas and new projects, am I “expert” enough to write about fiber art, fiber craft handwork and psychology? Well, let me make my admissions and explanations here so I can get on with it!

I am a psychologist and have been working in the field in a variety of ways since 1999, although I took a few years off to be home with my children. I love the work, and I love thinking about being a person and all that goes with it, in the mind anyway. I have a particular interest in Jungian psychology, dreams, developmental stages and all of the archetypal power that is alive and working through us as we navigate the tumultuous waters of growth. Being a psychologist and therapist has become part of who I am. It is creative, dynamic and can lead a life and profession in myriad directions. I know that I will be studying for as long as I can.

I am also passionate about, and grateful for, my love of working with wool and other fibers. I crochet, knit, spin wool and other fibers into yarn, dye wool using natural and synthetic dyes, and dabble in macrame, weaving and needle felting. I am not an expert in these crafts and I am learning new things all of the time. When my two children were 3 years old and 6-months, I began taking them to a lovely Waldorf  style playgroup. It was there that I began knitting again, after many years of forgetting about my knitting needles in the back of my closet. I was delighted to learn that I could knit balls for my children to play with, and then stuffed animals from patterns. As I learned more, I decided to pick up crochet, which opened up a whole new world for me. For some reason, I felt more confident with crochet and found that I could easily improvise and make up my own patterns. Friends liked them and started buying them! One friend in particular encouraged me to open an Etsy shop, which I did. It is called Jabo and Belles: Handmade. Well, that was really fun! 

After a short time, I serendipitously met who has become a dear friend, Susi, who is The Felted Gnome Knows. I owe a lot to her, as she introduced me to a group of wonderful women who run Mountain Fiber Folk, a fiber and yarn cooperative in Montgomery, Vermont. I did not know about handspun yarn before walking into MFF. Not really. I didn’t know how incredibly textured yarn could be: curly locks, thick and thin, chunky and smooth, vibrant, filled with personality, scent and the essence of the very animal from whence it came! I really did not know until that day how earthy and grounding yarn could be. Some of the women who make up the cooperative have their own animals from whom they collect their fibers. Sheep, alpaca, llama, rabbit, goat… it’s all there and it thrilled me to the core. The women there also affected me deeply. They are creative and fun and extremely generous with what they know. After my third time visiting, I asked about how I might learn to spin wool and received a lesson right then and there on how to use a drop spindle. I worked with that for a while but knew a spinning wheel was in my future. My friend Susi (thank you, Susi!) told me about another friend of hers, Leslie, who has a farm, sheep, and spins their wool into beautiful yarn. She suggested I contact her to see if she would be willing to give me some lessons. Leslie was kind enough to do so, and again, I had the great blessing of meeting a woman who shared her knowledge, was patient and deeply passionate about her sheep, her yarn and her fiber art. She is a freaky-good knitter! And quilter. Whoa. 

For my 40th birthday, my mother gave me my spinning wheel, an Ashford Traveller. When it arrived in the mail, I could hardly contain my excitement.  I did not take the time to look at all of the paperwork it came with because I was so impatient to start (that is relevant for reasons you will see later). When I tried spinning the first many times, I could not believe how much I could not do it! This reality was maddening and frightening because I wanted to spin wool so much and had worked up a whole bunch of expectations around “getting it”. Finally, after many deep breaths and a lot of swearing, I got it. It wasn’t beautiful, but I got it. And I got it some more, and then some more. And soon, I was spinning wool every night and at times during the day when my children were napping or otherwise happily occupied (spinning wool with an unhappily occupied young person around is really very impossible). I soon realized that spinning wool in the evening was one of the most relaxing and meditative practices I had done in years. I felt noticeably more calm and at peace with whatever was transpiring in my life. I started learning more about various animal fibers and different spinning techniques. I also started seriously thinking about how much my life had changed since I began knitting again, and how therapeutic I was finding all of these crafts. The psychologist hat came on, and I began to wonder, “if these practices are helpful for me, is it possible that there are some inherent qualities in them that lead to healing? Is it possible to use these crafts when working with other people in therapy?”

Sometime after those thoughts began percolating, I was cleaning up some papers and periodicals on my desk. I started to thumb through one that came with my spinning wheel. I suddenly read the words, “Weave Away the Blues”, by Dr. Ann Futterman Collier. WHAT?! The first sentence of her piece reads, “About 10 years ago, I noticed something interesting in my textile-making: as I made handcrafts, I was transformed into a better “mental” place.” You can find her article in “the Wheel: Ashford’s Fibrecraft Magazine”; Issue 23, 2011. Well, I was transfixed! I laughed out loud, and I may have cried a little as I read her article. There it was, right in front of me and I knew then that I could learn so much more about this whole phenomenon. My two worlds met in the middle and did a high-five. Since then, I’ve read and re-read Dr. Collier’s wonderful book entitled, Using Textile Arts and Handcrafts in Therapy with Women: Weaving Lives Back Together. I’ve also started to move more into understanding what this is all about, why handwork and fiber art is such a powerful medium for healing and transformation, and how it can be used in working with others.

I hope this serves as a good-enough introduction to me and to the purpose of writing on this blog. Healing Handcrafting is not only for psychologists or therapists, or for fiber artists and handcrafters. I believe there is a powerful message and meaning in the fact that fiber arts and handcrafts are so popular right in the United States and around the world. I believe that in this culture of infinite busy-ness, many multiple ways of being contacted and contacting others through short sentences, “likes”, texts, emails, landlines, cell phones, etc, we are actually completely overstimulated and remarkably unconnected. I think that many people are longing for ways to calm down their lives, reconnect with themselves again, or for the first time, and engage with other people in real-time, with eye-contact and in ways that tend to the spirit and the soul. Working with fibers in all the ways one can grounds us, opens doors to our distant ancestors as well as possibly to our mothers, our grandmothers and great-grandmothers. There is something about fiberwork that is honest and eternal. It is from this vantage point that I hope to offer my thoughts. I’ll also share my own work and process and things I learn along the way.

 ~ Bradie