Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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Make A Book From Scratch Summer Camp, Recap…

This summer was a time of taking a few risks, including putting my fiber art teaching love out into the universe in a different way. I’ve shared already the camp I offered to do with weaving. You can read about that here. The second camp I offered was all about making a book from scratch. It’s important to me for kids to know and be frequently reminded that they can make stuff, really cool stuff, with found items, recycling and a little ingenuity. Art supplies are expensive, as are art classes, but if you know how to get your hands on materials that are free or inexpensive, you have at your fingertips myriad ways to make art, to be an artists, to add your own beauty to the world. So… I was messing around one day after daydreaming about making a book for collage. My first book was the one pictured below. It’s made with handmade paper, wool that I wet-felted for the cover, a piece of driftwood and cotton thread for stitching together. I’ll show you the camp process, mostly in pictures with a little text, because I think the images speak for themselves. This is the project that inspired the camp.

 

I spent a good deal of time before camp began prepping some materials. Carding Shetland wool…

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Making frames… a word on that: I found wooden frames at Michael’s craft store for $1 each. These saved the day. I had a number of frames on hand that I found at garage sales but I figured that kids are sometimes interested in making sure everything is even and balanced and fair, so, I decided to ensure that each child had the same size frame.

Also, I’ve been trying to find on line the tip I came across for outlining the frames with duct tape. I want to give credit to the blogger that shared that brilliant idea! Doing this makes for much easier removal of the paper once you flip it onto the drying surface. I will always do this now, and if I come across the blogger’s site, I will for sure share it here.

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Here’s me stapling the screen onto the frame. I used my mom’s staple gun, which made me think of her. I feel close to her when I’m crafting or creating. You can read about why this is relevant here.

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While things go better with kids when things are fair, they go even better than better when kids know which thing is theirs. It’s lucky I had this flashy duct tape on hand. No guess work needed!

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Here’s the thing about paper pulp (made in a cuisinart with recycled paper and water; the paper I put through the shredder first)~ not all kids love touching gooey, smushy, splootchy wet stuff. It’s handy knowing this ahead of time so you can have at your finger tips ideas of what steps kids might enjoy doing in the process, like soaking up the water from the underside of the frame/screen with a sponge, stirring the pulpy concoction, adding flower bits, etc., in the even that full-on hand immersion in paper pulp is out of the question.

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Here’s the kids looking for flowery colorful bits to throw in to our pulp.

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If those colors aren’t inspiring, I don’t know what is.

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I spent a good amount of time experimenting before camp started…

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And dyeing wool…

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Here’s some kids using a drum carder to prepare wool for felting. This camp included chances to do as many jobs as possible in the time we had. I had the kids pick a lot of the grassy bits out of the wool, fluff it open to prepare for carding, and then card it. There were varying opinions on this. I could sit and pick at wool all day and be fine. I love looking at those tasks as a chance to just chill the heck out and be with my thoughts. Not all kids love that, of course, so some felting was a wee bit chunkier than others, and that’s okay!

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For the wet-felting part, I had the kids arrange the layers of wool they were using to make their book over on a plastic table on top of a sheet of freezer paper. Then, we covered the wool in warm, soapy water, and covered it all again with freezer paper. The paper stayed strong while the kids pressed and rubbed their hands over their wool. Once it was showing signs of felting, they could take off the top layer and use their hands to felt directly. Again, some kids love that textural messy feeling and others don’t. Leaving the freezer paper on for a while longer helped those who preferred keeping their hands free from that specific wet-wool feeling.

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Then, once dried, the kids arranged their books as they wanted them, and had a chance to needle felt a design on to their covers. The night before the last day of camp, I sewed the books together. Originally, I’d hoped the campers would do that part, but we ran out of time.

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I think these books are all so beautiful. Interspersed between their handmade paper, I included sheets of handmade paper from India that is more amenable to writing. I will keep working on my own paper making skills to see if I can get closer to that quality.

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And listen, it’s not right to ignore the behind-the-scenes stars of the show… the sheep! Something I love about being a part of the fiber handcrafting and fiber art community is that I get to meet so many wonderful people. This is the second year that I’ve gotten wool from a wonderful man named Peter Moore, who lovingly cares for his four Shetland sheep. I met Peter because he posted online that he had wool available, and I jumped at the chance. I can say that I would call Peter a friend, now, and I truly don’t know how we would have ever met if not for our mutual love of sheep! Let me introduce his lovely wooly friends:

Meet Dolly…

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And Violet,

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Phoebe,

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And Daisy!

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They are all half-sisters and are four years old. Their wool was the centerpiece of this camp (in my opinion), and the kids were champs, learning new skills every day and hopefully leaving with something they were proud of.

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I’m sitting at my desk now, listening to the wind blow around the house. The temperatures are cooling and the birds are busy at the feeder. I am looking forward to the cooling down, the bundling up, the quieting of winter. Summer can be a full-on explosion of activity, work and play. It’s the extroverted season. These camps were a beautiful expression of all of that. I wonder what new things I’ll imagine up as I sit in the dark introverted winter. I guess we’ll see next year!


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Explorations in Weaving Summer Camp, Recap…

It’s been a while. I’ve missed writing here over the last couple of months. There’s been so much doing that I’ve had a hard time calming down enough to write about it all. But, a highlight of my summer was definitely offering two new summer camps to my repertoire of teaching opportunities: Explorations in Weaving and Making A Book From Scratch. Hanging out with kids, teaching them what I know, and having the flexibility and time to play, learn about each other and experiment with materials is an absolutely wonderful way to spend time. And, I got to have my own kids with me during both camps, which was an added bonus.

Explorations in Weaving Camp was a four-day, weaving filled (as you might imagine) practically meditative ride. All the kids that came were invested in weaving and at times, it was pinch-myself peaceful. The children’s calm and interest reinforced for me, yet again, how soothing weaving can be, and how satisfying it is as the fabric takes form and grows.

For each of the first three days, a different form of weaving was introduced. Day One was spent on Melissa and Doug Weaving Looms and Stitch Studio by Nicole Looms (can be found at A.C. Moore stores) to simply get the weaving process down.

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I had prepared a sample project that we might make, which was a bag, but all the children preferred seeing their fabric open and free. We ended up securing them to driftwood, turning them into gorgeous wall-hangings with fringe. Below is one example…

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The second day I offered each child a circular loom made from those metal rounds you can get at the craft store. I pre-warped them to save time.

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The third day, I offered each child their pick of handmade looms crafted from driftwood and twine. These were my favorites. I’m sorry, but driftwood and yarn? A match made in paradise. I can’t get enough of it and hoped to make my enthusiasm for the combo contagious.

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The fourth day was spent finishing up loose ends, decorating for our Weaver’s Art Show and just celebrating the heck out of their creativity and wonderfulness.

Lest you think all the children did was weave, weave weave… they actually mostly did, but having a sprinkler backup, ice pops and a basket of yarn to finger knit with was important. We also took walks in our field looking for wild flowers and long grasses, fairies and grasshoppers…

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Weaving With Children Is My New Favorite Way to Pass Time

It’s been a while since I’ve written. The thing that’s hard about a blog is, it’s not a diary (at least not for me), it’s not for writing about everything because really, I must honor the privacy of loved ones, and in this case, it’s somewhat specific in terms of topic. Let me just say this: if you like this blog and noticed I’ve not been keeping up, I’m sorry and it’s been a regrettable reality of my life these days. Things got a little heavy, a little stressful, a little complicated and a lot lifey, and I need to work on still writing through those times.

A recent event has reignited my fuel center, and reminded me of what the heck I’m trying to convey through this blog. I had the opportunity to bring a weaving project to my son’s second grade class, and wow, was it amazing. Let me just jump in and explain.

First know this: I am not an expert weaver. I took one weaving class years ago where I learned how to use a big loom, and by learn, I mean was guided every step of the way, multiple times. The apparatus that is attached to a wall that you wind yarn around to get it prepared to warp the loom (I think), almost made me lose my mind. All of it. In a burning inferno of frustration. No matter what I did, I could not keep my yarn from tangling and turning into a wild Medusa hair-like mess. Omg. I shudder to remember it. I did make this though, and I’ll always be proud of it.

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I know I’ll take another class on using a big loom now that I’m more mature and have practiced a bit of mindfulness.

Anyway, I love hand weaving on simple looms, circular looms or looms made out of random things like wire, branches, busted out doors. I love how intuitive it can be, how much freedom there is to throw any such thing into a piece because it feels good, and you don’t have to worry too much about a complicated machine. I love how accessible it is, and how it’s possible to make a downright beautiful piece of art simply by understanding some basic concepts, and appreciating how different materials respond to the process of moving around warp thread. I wanted to share this with children because again, it is accessible art, and going into summer, I wanted to encourage them to use their found treasures in art projects and just experiment. I also find this medium to be extremely satisfying, grounding and soothing. I often find when I’m talking to people about it, I place my hand on my stomach when describing how it makes me feel… it’s like it makes me feel comfortable in a part of my body that holds a lot of tension, and I think sometimes a lot of grief.

Here is a little picture montage of my process:

I used this book by Sarah Swett (check out her blog/website. you won’t be sorry) to gather some ideas. The loom I made was a bit different, but based on one described here. It’s a wonderful book and one I will refer to often in future projects with kids. And, my husband made me a standing loom from this book that I hope to write about soon!

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Figuring out the appropriate loom size and number of warp threads took some doing.

I went with the 4×6 cardboard size, but chose to use only seven warp threads. I found that the loom stayed stronger and more in tact with less threads, which I was interested in because my plan for the kids was to have all sorts of materials available to them to weave with. They also were going to only be using their fingers to weave, not needles, so I needed the loom to be able to withstand the pulling that would inevitably happen.

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I wanted kids to understand that they can weave with all kinds of things.


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My weave in progress…

 

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Cardboard looms and another example piece using less wild materials.


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Example of a weaving done on the simple cardboard loom.

Not gonna lie: I love my piece.

So, on the day of class, we did a little show and tell bit first. I showed the kids a napkin made from cloth that my mother-in-law’s mother, Else Jacob Eberitsch wove herself. We have a set of these napkins, and a matching table cloth. I am forever blown away by the beauty of them. My son was so proud to show it to his classmates.

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I also showed them circular looms of different sorts, as well as one of those rectangular kid’s looms that can be found in most craft stores, reminding them that many might have some of these things kicking around their homes.

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And then, when the wiggles got going and after answering some wonderful questions, I unveiled their materials and worked out with their teacher how to go about the rhythm of the acquisition of supplies.

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feathers, roving, banana silk fibers, ribbon, popsicle sticks, leather rope


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driftwood gathered from Lake Champlain


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tons of yarn of all different colors, thicknesses, textures… hitting up garage sales and second hand shops is the way to go when gathering supplies for big projects like these.

And guess what happened? The kids were pumped. Truly. All of them, every single one, was into it. It was by far the most fluid and flowy project I’ve done with kids to date. Some got right into the weaving using worsted weight yarn and hit the flow. Others got into using minimal and the most wild materials~ I called theirs delicate porcelain-like pieces. I offered each child a strip of material that they could write a special message on, to be kept private or to show the world to commemorate the approaching end of their school year and some jumped on that. Some got real creative with making space between the individual woven stitches and needed some help understanding the concept behind the strength of the material they were making. Their teacher got into it, too! Her finished piece is gorgeous! Wish I had a picture of it.

Weaving is in us. It’s in our DNA somewhere. It must be. We’ve been doing it for as long as we’ve been covering ourselves, making baskets, mats, shelters (more to come on that topic, too).

If I had to do it over again, (which I will because I was invited back to do another round before school ends!!!), I would:

  • spend more time highlighting the importance of “beating in” or pushing the new row of woven material down against the previous row
  • for those whose pieces are very fragile, I would have encouraged them to keep their piece on their loom and decorate their loom to make the whole thing an art piece
  • I’d leave out the popsicle sticks~ those buggers are slippery
  • bring more ribbon
  • write their names on their looms BEFORE they start weaving

I actually can’t wait to go back and do it again. Seeing the children so engaged and so calm in their bodies while they worked kind of blew my mind, and I’ve spent a good deal of time in classrooms. Not to belabor the point, but I think weaving speaks to a part of our souls that is so organic, so without words and so true, that it simply must be something kids can do whenever they want. That’s why I love this. It’s inexpensive, it does not require special training, and anyone can do it. It just requires some stuff, some space, and some freedom to experiment.