Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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What Color is a Temper Tantrum?

Well, hello… it’s been a while. How do we catch up after so much time? My last post was in July of 2020. Since then, I’ve become a homeschooling mom, I’ve started co-writing a book about grief that lingers beyond the time our culture demands is appropriate, I’ve barely knit or woven a thing except for a sweater, hat and booties for a soon-to-arrive little baby niece (oh, I cannot wait to meet her), and I’ve been riding the wave of pandemic life that is really pretty goddamned grueling.

Today at the store, I was double-masking it because I <heart> Anthony Fauci and he says it’s a good idea in some instances. But the second mask I had on was too big and every time I looked down into the bag I was filling, it would scooch up into my eyes and I couldn’t see a freaking thing. This was after I couldn’t help my son with his math because maybe I skipped that class? And, it was after I took a good look at what’s happened to my hair since my last real haircut & color about a year and a half ago, maybe two. So… the mask thing almost, almost made me have a temper tantrum right then and there in the middle of my neighborhood grocery. Why? Not because that’s been the most stressful thing to happen of late. Not even close. Like any good old-fashioned tantrum, they are born from buildup. An accumulation of things that exceed the nervous system’s capacity to metabolize stress. Finally there is the last straw. Usually that poor straw is puny, so to the casual observer, it just looks like someone is losing it over the “dumbest thing”. But it’s never like that. It’s just a dumbest thing that tips the scale too far into Freakoutsville. Today, my last straw was having a mask on my mouth and on my forehead at the same time. Thankfully, I did have enough self-control left in my un-Buddhalike-self to realize I could not handle an embarrassing scene over the decision I myself made about my own mask attire. Maybe it was the dude giving me side-eye as I kept adjusting and readjusting the civic duty gone wrong on my face. “What? Didn’t you see this is how we’re supposed to do it now, bro?”, I imagined challenging him while he slowly and cautiously unloaded his groceries onto the conveyor belt. As much as I wanted to blame some concrete thing, or even Side-Eye Guy for my situation, I knew there was no one but me who could pull it together. After I fumbled through the credit card machine process and then remembered to be grateful for what I have, I gathered my bag of frozen corn and peas and package of chicken, and made my way home.

I miss my people. It hurts something fierce. And my heart is breaking for the millions who are grieving those they lost in this last year. Whether loved ones died from COVID-19 or from something else, no doubt about it, the rituals and rhythms that are built into the fabric of who we are, and which hold survivors in their grief, were experienced very differently because of the pandemic. No matter where we live, what we believe, and who we wish to when we ask for anything in our quiet moments, all who have lost someone are part of a new group. This group has its own stories, memories, symbols, anguish and wisdom that are making up history as we live it. I guess it’s easier to get wicked mad at a mask poking me in the eyes than reckoning with global pain sometimes.

Anyway! Sorry to be a downer, but this is why I haven’t written! Who needs more people talking about how much things have sucked? I do want to share some things though, to cross the bridge back to my love of all things yarny, wooly and textured. I have a new studio space where my looms and most of my yarn reside. This development came to be after I had to close my tiny office in Burlington in the spring. I realized pretty quickly into the pandemic that it’d be a good long time before anyone would be wanting to meet in person again, at least in the space I had, and serendipitously, an opportunity arose at the Shelburne Pond Studios that was basically completely perfect for my varied needs as a therapist, fiber artist/crafter, writer and now momentary homeschooler. It has also allowed for me to unclog parts of my home that housed all of what I’ve collected for my fibrous passions over the years. Blessings on many fronts with us home all the time. I am starting to imagine spring, summer and fall there, and all the sorts of things I might be able to do inside and out with other “masked” people who want to create and play with yarn. I can feel the energy coming back and that is exciting. There’s going to be a lot to weave out of our bodies and our nervous systems as we try to make sense of all that has happened and continues to unfold.

I wonder what a woven temper tantrum looks like?


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Cookie Sheet Weaving Project

Hello All~ I sure do hope you are doing okay, wherever you are. I have so much I’d like to say and share about what this COVID-19 pandemic is teaching me. I may have to do that in another post. But here and now, I will share with you a project I made up for wonderful kids I get to spend time with, even though we are all doing some wicked epic social distancing. I have spent large bits of the last seven years teaching fiber art in my kids’ classes (and in some others, too!) and I can tell you, the kids inspire in me so much longing to keep making, keep creating and keep sharing. Now that our Fiber Friday classes are happening on Saturdays via Zoom, I’m trying to figure out lots of yarn-y things to teach using materials we might have kicking around at home. The thing with weaving is, you can make a loom out of so many things! “Homework” for this week is to look around the house and yard to see if we might find weird, unexpected, unique or random “looms” that could be woven on. These could be sticks, frames, chairs, trees… whatever! I hope I see some good ideas next week!

This project is aptly called the Cookie Sheet Weaving Project. As you can see, I’ve used a cookie sheet, yarn, and tape to make this loom. I’ll give step-by-step instructions and maybe you can give it a go!

Materials:

  • cookie sheet, any size
  • yarn
  • scissors
  • tape

Optional Materials

  • fabric
  • large eyed tapestry needle
  • lots of variety of yarn- this is a great project for using up small bits of yarn stash

This is what your loom will look like once it is set up. I’ve chosen to warp my tray the long way, making my weaving piece wide. You can do it the other way, too. You can also choose to warp only a portion of the tray.

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To secure the warp, tape the end of skein of yarn to one side of the bottom of the tray, and then start wrapping the yarn around the tray, with about a 1/4 inch to a 1/3 inch between each wrapped thread. You can see, the underside of the loom isn’t gorgeous, with tape everywhere, securing the warp. Don’t worry about that. It’s most important that your warp is securely fastened onto the tray. Since my tape wasn’t turbo sticky, I used a lot of it.

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I opted for making a very fringy piece. Rather than moving back and forth and back and forth with the yarn, leaving no fringe on the edge, I chose to cut lengths of yarn that were several inches longer than the width of the cookie sheet. I wove each thread individually and then made sure that the remaining yarn was about equal on each side. If you don’t want fringe, just keep weaving back and forth with a long length of yarn, being sure not to pull too hard on the warp threads as you come back the other way.

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Row 1: I started by taking one end of a cut length of yarn and going under the first warp thread, over the next, under the next, and so on.

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Row 2: With the next cut length of yarn, I went over the first warp thread, under the next, over the next, under the next and so on. In this way of weaving, I noticed that I liked weaving from right to left, over and over again. This is different than when you weave with a very long length, moving back and forth from right to left, and then left to right as you head back again.

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Because I have a LOT of small balls of yarn, I chose colors and textures that go well together and I cut a bunch of lengths at a time so I could just get into the flow of weaving. This is a very portable project, so I had it all over the house depending on what I was doing.

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And I wove, and wove… and wove… Once you get to the top, you’ll notice that there’s not much room for your fingers to move the yarn around the warp threads.

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If you have a tapestry needle, this is a good time to get it. Threading it with the yarn you are weaving with (the weft), you can really get up to the edge of the tray.

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Before I thought about taking the project off the loom, I tied off the fringe on each side. You just take one weft thread, and the next one, and tie it in a double knot. Make sure that the two edges you tie are on opposite sides of the warp thread. This will ensure that the warp is secure and your piece won’t become loose and/or unravel.

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When your fringe is all tied up, flip the tray over and remove the pieces of tape that are securing the edges of the warp. Then, cut across the middle of the warp threads, freeing the piece from the tray.

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You have a choice to make here. For both choices you should tie off the warp threads in the same way you did the fringe, tying one thread next to its neighbor. If you have an extra one at the end, just include it with the two next to it.

Then, the choice… Do you leave the warp as fringe, too? Or do you sew it into your weaving? There is no right answer except for doing what you think is best for your piece. If I had used a thicker, more interesting or robust yarn for my warp, I think I would have left it as fringe, but the yarn I chose is kind of tame compared to my fringy side, so I opted to sew it in.

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Here’s the warp threads tied off.

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I chose to sew the two tied threads at a time, because they are already tied together as one.

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Using your tapestry needle, bring the warp threads back through the weaving, drawing the needle through the column of the woven piece that is right under it. Don’t pull too tight here as you’ll pucker your cloth.

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Flip your piece over to make sure the warp threads are really hidden in the column of weaving. Sometimes they peep through too much and you have to do it again.

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Once you’ve gone through a couple of inches, you can snip the remainder off.

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Here you see my piece with the wild fringe and sewn in warp threads. This thing definitely needs a little fringe-cut.

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And there we have it! Who knew I needed a new woven table decor piece?!

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Stay tuned for some more fiber art ideas. These will always be great for kids to do, but for sure, these are also fun for folks of all ages. It’s the truth that handcrafting is good for us. It quiets the mind, especially once we get into a good flow. It helps ground us when things feel wild or unpredictable. And, it can give us the chance to see that we can make some really beautiful things.

Take good care,

Bradie


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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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Love, Longing and Learning

[when] “…the creative force now turns to the place of the soul, you will see how your soul becomes green and how its field bears wonderful fruit.” ~ from Carl Jung’s The Red Book, quoted in The Orphan: A Journey to Wholeness, by Audrey Punnett

I was thirty-eight years old when I picked up yarn again, to make a knitted ball for my children. Sitting in that peaceful place with a peaceful teacher/guide during those early years of growing into parenthood, I found anew a place in me that was creative, that wanted to make, share and give. Seven years have passed since I sat in that rocking chair next to other mothers, most of us knitting, all of us watching our children play. All that has happened in seven years, it’s so much, really.

It is a frequent lamentation of mine that I did not realize how much I love texture and wool, sculpture and cloth when I walked through the Fine Arts Department halls at the university I attended, just shy of thirty years ago. Delivering mail, returning books others borrowed, running errands for the college’s deans, I passed beautiful and audacious fiber art hanging from walls and ceilings. Twine, mesh, weaving and wire sculptures were everywhere. How did this thing that drives me now, this deepest longing to learn all I can in this fibery art and craft world not have been awakened when I traversed those halls? What was I doing!

But here now, just when I worry there won’t be time to learn all I want to learn, I check myself and remember that all there is is this present moment. And it requires full attention. Parenting, relationship, work, creativity, love. And a devotion to tending to and doing what wakes the soul up, what grabs the spirit’s attention.

It’s that devotion that had me untangling a mess of yarn in humid heat today. It’s that tending to that had me sitting next to my loom, solving what continues to be a personal riddle~ getting the warp onto the loom without too much disarray! When will I stop sweating with anxiety when I go to take the warp off the warping board?

It’s the soul that wants to make beautiful things for people I love, and that has grown to weather all of this learning and longing.

Have a wonderful weekend. I hope you get to do things you love.


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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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Monday Musings~ Writing is Like Exercise

Sheesh, it’s been a while. A raucous cold, a busy schedule, a lost cat, and maybe a few too many projects really got me off my writing groove. But, I went for a run yesterday to try to get my blood moving again, and today I’m back to writing here and on another project. Feels good. 

I’ve taken to rising early again, well before anyone else in the house is stirring. It’s so much easier to do when it stays dark longer into the morning. I love those quiet moments. And truly, coffee tastes the very best at a little past 5am. 

There are simply not enough hours in the day to do it all. So, making decisions and abiding by priorities is where it’s at. 

One beautiful priority for me at this time is working with Susan Merrill of Weaving A Life.


I’m going through the process of making eight projects Susan developed, with her support, guidance and wisdom along the way. Two and a half projects in and I’m already profoundly moved. I’ll write about the whole process when I’m done. For now, all that I am learning and gathering for myself is precious and intimate. When I’m through, I’ll be able to work with others in this way, which is a dream come true. 

I’m spinning wool almost every night after my kids go to bed in order to have a sweet selection to sell at a craft fair in November. 



I’m tending to a sad and worried heart, of my own and my children, due to our missing cat. He’s been gone for almost a week but was sighted this morning. With the weather changing, it’s hard not to feel frantic. 


I’m working on another weaving project and struggling with warp tension due to shoddy wrapping on the beam. Frustrating! 


And tending to family, home, career, body, mind, spirit in these crazy heartbreaking times…

Not enough hours…


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Ahhh, Satisfaction! 

Yesterday evening I took a piece off my rigid heddle loom I’d started weeks ago. September 1st, I think. 


I used a yummy mohair yarn and what I’m fairly certain is a kind of thick cotton thread. I love autumn-esque colors. I was going for a shawl that both looks warm and delicate, airy and solid. I also wanted to practice a weaving technique called Leno as described in the book, Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom, by Syne Mitchell. 

The cotton thread behaved so much differently than the wool yarn. It is much less forgiving and had almost no elasticity. Sometimes the selveges were a catastrophe. I thought about bailing on the project about halfway through because I was worried it was just a hot mess and I should start over. Then I got stubborn and opted to carry on ~ best case scenario, I reasoned, was that I’d love the shawl and want to show it to the world, imperfections and all. Worst case? That once off the loom I’d lament wasting hours of my life weaving cloth not fit for mouse bedding. 

I tried out some things in an effort to minimize loose ends. Oh loose ends! They are part of things, aren’t they? 

When I had to switch colors (according to my own pattern; I’d arrange the color changes much differently if I were to make this again) I tried securing the loose threads in the loop of the weft as it was going back through the warp. That worked out pretty well. Wish I’d have figured that out sooner! 




Taking the shawl off the loom was nerve wracking! Not sure why. It feels both sturdy and fragile at the same time, and all of the loose ends made me wonder how the hell I’d get them all sewn in without ruining the fabric. 


There it is all laid out. 


I stayed up until the wee hours last night sewing all the strands in, those that couldn’t be trimmed as they were. It was so worth it. 

The shawl isn’t blocked yet but here it is. I’m so happy I kept at it. I learned so much about how different threads behave, selveges, the utter importance of a proper tension in all warp threads (obvious I know, but I thought I’d done that and still there were problems throughout. I think I need to make smaller groups of weft threads in the beginning stages). 


Here’s an up-close view of the general pattern. 


Here’s some unfortunate selvege proof. 


And there’s me, still proud as hell of this piece! 



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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.