Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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Two-Cents Tuesday: School and Yarn are a Perfect Pairing

My life is organized by school years. I’ve not really had much time in my life when that was not the case. I completed my own schooling when I was twenty-five. Then I worked in schools for six or seven years (I already can’t remember that detail), and then I worked for years with kids in my practice who were in school. Now my own children’s school schedules shape our family’s life. The calendar year means very little to me except for a quiet chance for me to reboot and rethink where I place my energies. The school year, on the other hand, shapes most aspects of our lives.

I spent a lot of time in my kids’ school this year. I volunteered in their classrooms teaching the kids all different kinds of things to do with wool, yarn and other fibery crafts. I also taught the same things in a more official capacity in two other classes. I loved it and I plan to share more here about some of the lessons that I taught. One thing I did in both my kids’ classes was leave a loom set up, the simple kind, for kids to work on as they pleased, with the idea that at the end of the year (or whenever it was finished), I’d turn it into something to decorate their teachers’ rooms with. Yesterday, I finished both of these woven pieces. My son’s 3rd grade classroom filled their loom. Almost every time I went in, someone was working on it.

Here’s their finished piece:

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My daughter’s 1st grade class didn’t do many rows on theirs, but I assured their teacher I could make wall-art with it, not to worry. That class also did epically cool stuff with wool they dyed with Kool Aid, wool they felted and wool they experimented with.

Here’s their wool decor:

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And, here’s their finished woven wall hanging:

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I used antique wooden needles and a sanded dowel to serve as the structure from which the weaving hung. I also had a needle felted little nest hanging around that I opted to attach to the piece. I made that in their class as a demonstration one day and wanted to include it to represent that part of the work they did.

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As I worked on turning the woven pieces into wall-art yesterday, I thought about all that has transpired since September, for my children, for me and my husband, for our family as a whole. It’s so much life squeezed into all of these academic months. I reflected on how much my kids learned with their fabulous teachers and with their peers this year, how much more they are doing on their own compared to September, and how much some of our growing pains have been, well, painful. I thought about how lucky I am to have been able to hang out in their classes so many times this year and be given the chance to learn how to teach better, listen better and be more flexible. And, I thought about how much I want to keep doing this. Handcrafting and fiber art are extremely effective mediums for teaching kids about art, history, creativity and themselves. I hope I do this for a long time.

Fueled by that hope, I cleaned off my work desk, and daydreamed about summer break.

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Interview With an Owl Named Nanna

Hello, Dear Readers.

We have a new guest speaker to introduce. Please meet Nanna. She has come to us after many of life’s trials and tribulations. These include heartbreak, loss, grief and change of plans. But, Nanna is more than her pain and her burdens. She is wisdom and she has carried on through prayer, practice, ritual and faith. Nanna has also enjoyed the throes of romantic love, the blessings of motherhood and the anchor of deep friendship. She is a rare bird in these parts, these days, and she wanted to be able to share what she has learned during her long time on Earth. Realta and Sherman are overjoyed to be with her.

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HH: Nanna, it’s so nice to have you join us. What is on your mind today?

Nanna: It is wonderful to be here and to have someone want to hear what I think about. It’s been a while since anyone has asked. Today, I am thinking about ritual, and work. After meeting many folks, feathered and otherwise, I am sensing great longing and hearing some confusion about what it is to have faith and practice. Not all beings need to embrace religion, of course. I am of the old world. Church does not offend me or scare me. I see it as a place to commune with God, the Great Spirit, the Holy Mother and Holy Father. I see it as a place to meditate, to pray, to find peace. But that is not what I mean by faith. Using that word is a choice and is meant to reflect rather a sense of connection with everything. To believe that there is a connection to Every Thing. I have also been thinking about ritual. Quiet prayers. Kneeling, standing. Chanting. Ritual has been a part of lived experience for millennia, and to some extent, I see it’s absence in modern culture creating vacuums where anxiety and distraction lie. 

HH: What do you mean by ritual? To many, that word conjures images of formality and discipline within a dogmatic religious sphere.

Nanna: Well, I’ve learned over time that cultures and religions all have their own rituals. They are merely repeated acts, usually done in a certain order to support some kind of ceremony.  Of course it is true that ritual plays an enormous part in what we do in the religious context. But that is not the only place where ritual lives.

What I think about is, why ritual? Why have we been doing ritualized things for so long? There is some kind of ordering principal to ritual, perhaps that establishes a mood, prepares the psyche for a set of experiences, etc. It seems important when considering how we have evolved over time.

HH: As someone who does not attend church but has enjoyed the rites and rituals of several different faiths I’ve been exposed to, I understand what you mean. What would you say to someone who does not identify with a specific religion?

Nanna: I’d say that ritual is all around us and that likely if we tune in to what we are doing, we’d see the pull towards ritualized archetypal practice. Look at the weaving you just completed. My guess is that before you began your piece, you had an image in mind, an intention, a hope. Maybe you thought of a person, or a place when you sat down to begin your work. You went through the process of warping your loom, walking back and forth, wrapping yarn around the peg. Did you do that rhythmically? Was there a beat? A resonance? Likely there was, even if you weren’t conscious of it. It’s hard to do that kind of work without it.

Once warped, you set to the process of weaving, back and forth with the shuttle, up and down with the heddle. You may have been praying, thinking, spacing out or tuning in , but you were making. Here and there on your piece, you can see areas where you got stuck or maybe had too tight or too lose of a warp thread. Learning and life captured in fabric. The work of the hands with materials, in my mind, is a form of ritual. 

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HH: I never thought of it like that. It’s funny that you can see my warp errors. Definitely still learning. But even though this is new for me, to weave on a rigid heddle loom, I still found the rhythm and the flow eventually. It’s the thing I love about weaving. Once you hit that flow you can let go and create at the same time, and make something tangible and useful. Spinning, too.

Nanna: Yes. That is what I like about it, too. And you know, there are cultures around the world for whom weaving and the dyeing of wool was a very spiritual and symbolic process. Patterns, shapes, the weavers themselves were and still are all part of the act of creation. Look at the goddesses all over the world who are associated with weaving and spinning: Frigg, Arachne, Maya to name a few. These goddesses’ stories tell tales of life, death, the merging of spirit and the corporeal. 

I like this quote from John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes. I think it captures the aspect of weaving and other crafts that is of the hands. I am making an arch between the essence of using one’s hands to create and ritual, which creates a deeply personal relationship with our world and nature, our functionality and our usefulness. 

“The whole structure of the human body anticipates and expects the presence of others. Hands reach out to embrace the world. Human hands are powerful images. Hands painted the roof of the Sistine Chapel and the heavenly women on the wall of Sigeria, wrote the Paradiso, sculpted the David; in Auschwitz, hands rose to bless the tormentors. Hands reach out to touch and caress the lover. Hands build walls, sow gardens, and direct symphonies… The whole history of our presence on earth could be gleaned from the witness and actions of hands. One of the great thresholds in human civilization was the development of tools with which we changed and civilized the landscape. The use of simple tools still meant personal contact with Nature. In these times, we have crossed another threshold where the tool is replaced by the mechanical instrument. The instrument is a means of exercising a function. With the development of instrumentalization, so much of our work and engagement with the world is no longer hands-on. Rather, our hands press the key and the instrument expedites the action. Instrumentalization saves labour but at the cost of direct contact with the world.” (pgs. 60-61).

I chose that piece to share because it is relevant to what I see happening today, a call back to the traditional skills that requires that individuals touch tools, land and nature. There is a reason handcrafting is such a powerfully moving medium these days. I do not believe it is a fad. I believe it is a call to re-engage with our hands, with our connection to Earth, to Nature, to our own resourcefulness and perhaps to having a good appreciation for what something is worth. Weaving, in many ways, can be seen as ritual made physical; ritual made practical. If one allows for it, weaving, knitting, crochet, spinning fibers… they all can serve as grounding and meditative experiences. That is beautiful because that is day-to-day life. Religion or no religion, engagement with materials can be meditative, instructive of our own nature and can bring us into alignment with our surroundings. 

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HH: So, you don’t think attending a specific church is necessary to gain this wisdom?

Nanna: Of course not! People all over the world have their own ways of attending to their relationship with their own spirituality, if they so wish. Organized, not organized… this is an entirely personal choice. What I am saying is that the call to ritual is apparently very important to the core of being, as it has been with us since documentation of any kind began. And, we can access that call through handwork, through handy-work, through engagement with our land and through an abiding respect for nature. Isn’t that wonderful?

HH: You are making me want to warp my loom again!

Nanna: Good.

You can expect more from Nanna here on Healing Handcrafting in the future.

 

 


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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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Monday’s Musings~ Let’s Not Forget How Human We Are

It’s been a bit, but not for lack of anything to say. Since this is just a post for musings I thought I’d share a couple of little bits of what’s been rumbling on in my brain lately.

First this:

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We’ve been reading Lord of the Rings to our daughter at night and very often I find passages to be absolutely relevant to life now. I wonder how it’s all going to go for us. Will we as a human race wake up and see nature, Nature, for what it is? An ever present guide, evidence of creation itself? Will we look consistently beyond our borders and see how much we are all connected by the desire to live, to love and to survive? Us humans would do well to read our old legends and to try to gather up the living wisdom in our stories. Courage, the Hero’s Journey, making choices on all of these crossroads we face… we need all of the guidance and wisdom we can hold.

Managing existential anxiety is supported by weaving. I’ve got three circular weaving projects going right now and have finally started the weaving a bag on a box project I’ve been wanting to try for months now! I love all that Sarah Swett puts out and think this is super clever and fun. I’ll show you how it turns out when it’s all done.

 

I’ve been reading a lot about the Druids and early Celtic Christianity lately as part of a rather epic ancestry research binge I’ve been on for a while. I’m early in my studying, but I’ll tell you what, the Celts seemed pretty cool. They, even in their transition into Christianity, didn’t push their religious ideas on other people expecting them to drop what they already believed in. What I’ve read so far anyway, is that they deeply abided by their love and devotion to nature and saw god in their every day activities. Their connection to their own spirituality was not separate from nature and from other people but was rather wholly connected to it. I love this quote, which is offered in the book The Celtic Way, by Ian Bradley,

“As Noel O’Donoghue has eloquently observed, the Celts were deeply conscious of rhythm:

the rhythms of human life and the body’s ages and changes, the rhythms of the seasons, of work such as weaving and milking, of reaping with hook or scythe, of threshing the corn, of men rowing together, of women walking together. All these rhythms, and many others, were vocalised in song and what was called port beul or voice music

“The Celts sang as they worked, as they played and as they prayed. In Gaelic there is no word for music that is not sung while in Welsh the word for poetry and music is the same…” (pgs. 90-91).

Why does this all come to mind right now? I guess because in working with wool and with fibers, I am consistently reminded that we are at all times connected to what is ancient, what is searching, seeking and surviving, and I long ever more to stay connected to that reality. I think it gives perspective and reminds us that we are a migrating and growing species and that we have survived because of a willingness to change and adapt, as well as remain connected to what is completely human about us.

Look at this cool video of women waulking wool and singing as they work.

Here’s a little bit of my own weaving from a recent class I took at a wonderful place called Mad River Woolery in Waitsfield, Vermont. I learned some cool weaving techniques on an Ashford rigid heddle loom. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my new Schacht rigid heddle loom… oh my!

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Okay… so much more to say but I’ll spread it out! I finished my very green sweater which I’ll tell you all about on Friday (St. Patrick’s Day!), I’ve made friends with some sock puppets, and spring and summer plans are underway for gardens, wool fun and spinning yarn.

I hope you are all well,

Bradie

 

 

 

 

 


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Showing Up With Love and Presence, and Fiber

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Dear Readers,

Have I let too much time go by in between posts? My longing to write about the moments, the textures, the projects and the beauty around me has been dulled, stolen really, by my broken heart, fear and unyielding anger at what is this new administration in the county in which I live, the United States. I am finding it hard to write about lovely things that I get to enjoy when executive orders put out by the president-I-cannot-name and his lackeys are, in my estimation, severely screwing shit up. People, beautiful, innocent, loving people are being traumatized and retraumatized by having plans and dreams wrestled from their hands, literally, in airports. People, lovely, hardworking, courageous, resilient and prayerful people are trapped now, either within US borders or outside of them, regardless of having the right paperwork in many cases. We have here a president who is saying that all is fine, all is great, things are working well in airports… have you seen the images of people grasping at one another after being detained for many hours because of the country they flew in from? Have you seen images of the protests all over the country? All over the world? Sorry. Things are not fine. Things are not great.

The Dakota Access Pipeline…

The Wall between the US border and Mexico…

Healthcare…

Here’s what is bringing me hope, making the blood move in my veins with energy, combatting my desire to go to sleep for four years (or two~ here’s to the mid-term elections people, let’s make some shit happen): the protesters all over the world showing the powers that be that actually, not everyone shares the same ideas about huge groups of people; an overwhelming amount of people are aligned with world citizenship and have compassion and love flowing from their core; lawyers are freaking BRINGING IT to serve people, pro-bono, to help them deal with the cluster that is this Executive Order on Immigration. You guys, and the ACLU, you are amazing.

I’m just a regular person trying to keep up, trying to make sure that I’m reading accurate news and taking right action. I’m seeing in my corner of the world that all signs point to a major crossroads in this country. We’ve been tumbling in this direction for a long time. The highways, roads, rivers and tributaries leading towards the Moment of Choice, where we determine how we view ourselves in relation to the world have been covered over , polluted and at times unclear. Not any more. Not for anyone. Those who have always been fighting the fight for equality, justice and freedom have not succumbed to complacency or obtuseness the way many of us have, as I have. Not any more.

I am not a political writer. This place that I have secured to write about the healing effects of fiber art, handcraft and creativity, it will remain that and I love that, but occasionally I may have to refer to what’s going on here and around the world from my little vantage point. All I do is housed in the reality we all share, and compartmentalization has never worked very well for me.

Some Recent Things:

Ice:

My Sweet Littlest Harvesting Icicles Like It’s Her Job:

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Our Resident Owl:

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Teaching Weaving to Children Is One of My Greatest Joys:

Paper Making Attempt:

I read a cool thing the other day, maybe a friend’s Facebook post? I don’t remember, but the gist of it was that in order to handle all that our world, our spirit, our heart asks of us, we must also attend to our places of love and hope, health and strength. I wish for all of us to reside in these places, and meet with what comes our way from a place of integrity, wisdom and power. The other day, I showed a group of 6- and 7-year olds images of people weaving from all over the world. All different colors of skin, all different kinds of attire, all different kind of settings. I told them them that when weaving, we are engaging in a practice that humans have been participating for at least 10, ooo, but more likely closer to 25, 000 years. We are all bound by a need for clothing, housing, containers, and beauty. These fibers, they connect us to each other and to our ancient ancestors. It felt good to talk about that on Friday, having no idea what was about to transpire.

I’ll keep talking to kids about things like that, for as long as they’ll listen.

Be well,

Bradie


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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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Thoughts on Weaving, School and Staying Creative

I finished a piece yesterday that I have been working on in a sporadic kind of way for a long time. For Mother’s Day, my husband made me a loom that was detailed in Kids Weaving, by Sarah Swett. I’ve mentioned her before and love her book. And her blog is absolutely gorgeous and inspiring. I wanted to delve into weaving from the ground up, and figured before I start daydreaming about owning my own loom, I’d better start by understanding them. Why not start on one that is simple in many ways, but still uses things like heddle bars and heddles, shed sticks and shuttles?

I like how this turned out. It is purposefully chunky and wild and not at all a project from Kids Weaving, although I do plan to go back and do a project from start to finish while following directions. I got carried away by my desire to throw all kind of handspun yarn into my piece, and as it came to life, I imagined it hanging on a wall, rather than as I had originally planned; it was going to be a wild scarf with a crocheted edge and weird fringe. I love using loose roving in things, and I love unravelling yarn so one can see the many stages in a yarn’s life in one spot. Once the weaving was done and the loose ends cleaned up, I was not entirely satisfied, so I looked at it a lot, touched it a lot and went into my “Closet Of All Things” and found two bits of soft cotton still attached to their seed pods. Perfect. My piece needed a little more balance given the wonky stick placement on top. I love the two soft puffs from nature that sit and hold the piece secure.

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Finishing this yesterday was grounding for me. With my kids starting school and my professional work life picking up, I have felt a bit out of rhythm. The couple of weeks leading up to school beginning are weird ones for me. My mind goes into preparedness mode, which I have found completely derails my creativity and my will to just be. In my mind, the lists of things to do become omnipresent and the worries and fears and pressures come alive. Yesterday, while holding my woven piece and getting it right for me, I was afforded the chance to remember some big picture ideas I have, and to remember to recommit to them.

I’m reading a book right now called Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands, by Allen H. Eaton. I learned about this book during my day at The Marshfield School of Weaving in July through a wonderful conversation with teacher, Bruce Engebretson. I thought I’d share a quote that moves me, and swirls into the thoughts and images and hopes that come alive  for me when I am working with fiber. Here it is:

“He who does creative work, whether he dwell in a palace or in a hut, has in his house a window through which he may look out upon some of life’s finest scenes. If his work be a handicraft he will be especially happy, for it will help him not only to perceive much of the beauty of the world about him but, what is man’s greatest privilege, to identify himself with it. If it enables him to earn his daily bread then he should rejoice, for blessed is the man who has found his work; but if, as will be the case of many in our day, his handicraft is not a way of making a living, but through self-expression a help toward a fuller life, he too will rejoice, for he has all the privileges of his fellow-craftsmen without the need of fitting his product to the market.

“Each handicraft has its own special reward, but there are a few compensations which all handicrafts bring to him who works at this open window. First, and perhaps greatest, as has been said, is the opportunity for self-expression which much of life’s work with its modern advantages does not give…”

from: Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands: A Book on Rural Arts, by Allen H. Eaton, pgs 25-26.

I think maybe these words reflect back to me some of the struggle I experience as my children and I approach a school year. Busy-ness, competing forces for attention, energy and discipline, these things can easily pull me and us from ourselves and from a center seat of simplicity and creativity. This early morning before school, maybe more peaceful because I spent time weaving yesterday, I sat with my daughter and we listened to geese fly overhead, their distinct calls marking the hint of autumn and their eventual pilgrimage to warmer climes. At the same time, the endless and calming drone of cicadas soothed the part of us that wants summer to hang on a little bit longer. The window we are welcomed to look through by engagement in the process of making is one I long to keep open and clean, and I hope by maintaining a daily practice I won’t forget. Much easier to see and hear the birds that way.