The next few months will — I hope & pray! — be filled with “firsts.”  My summer plans include two trips to Ireland.  I’ve never been to Ireland before, and along with lots of time in Dublin, I’m hoping to visit the Kilkenny Sheep & Wool Festival.  I would love to meet Nicola Brown, an Irish felter who writes the fabulous “Clasheen” blog; who just published a book, “From Felt to Friendship;” and who will be offering four felting workshops at the Kilkenny Sheep & Wool Festival.  When I return from the first trip to Ireland, I’ll be getting to know my first spinning wheel — a used Ashford Traditional.  When a fellow fiber artist heard that  I was hoping to find a good, used wheel on which to spin “art yarn,” she generously gave me the wheel that has been sitting unused in her attic.   This beautiful gift still seems surreal, since I’ve been deaydreaming about having a wheel for a long time and I’ve been joking with friends about finding a wheel “on my front porch” via magical thinking.  Also, I’ve been considering other venues to sell my work, in addition to The Gallery Shop in Lemont.  In the coming months I’ll explore the idea of an online venue.   I’ll be reconfiguring my felting studio space to allow for more elbow room when I teach workshops.   But first, that volcano in Iceland needs to remain quiet.  I have few illusions about being the master of my fate.   In traveling, in exploring, in all of those “firsts,” there are inevitable challenges.  So many of the fiber artists I’ve met have a “can do” attitude.   I think this is most likely because the joy at the heart of fiber arts is about figuring out new things/finding mastery/leaving mastery behind and figuring out how to do new things.  A good attitude, courage, curiosity: these are gifts to bring along on a journey.

Published in: on May 30, 2011 at 4:51 pm  Comments (4)  

Little Troll Reading a Little Troll Book While Wearing a Little Troll Hat

I felted the upper part of the hat around a resist and opened up the shape in the fulling process; and hand-spun the yarn from the same merino wool and silk fibers used in making the hat and dots, adding a bit of hand-dyed silk fabric strips in spinning the yarn, for texture and color.  Thin strips of the felt cut from the bottom of the hat, coiled and stitched, form the three “fiddleheads” at the top.  After carefully piercing the felt all around the bottom edge, I crocheted a soft band right through these tiny holes to attach the yarn to the hat.  The crocheted portion can be modified — folded up or pulled down — so the hat can “grow” with the wearer.  This little troll in the picture really loves wearing her hat…

Published in: on May 23, 2011 at 12:35 am  Comments (1)  

The Rapture

A few weeks ago I read a story about how some people predict that the world will end, as “The Rapture” takes place, on May 21 — this Saturday.  I’m a spiritual person, and I respect others’ religious views.  While a Higher Power’s plan and timetable seem beyond my comprehension, I’ve been fortunate to have good role models and teachers whose well-lived lives help illuminate a path.  With practice, on most days I can do no harm & avoid making a mess — and on good days, actually feel like I’ve been helpful.  There’s a beautiful prayer that asks “Teach me to number my days, that I may attain a heart of wisdom.”  I say this prayer often.

And yet, the word that came to my mind when I read about The Rapture was: mojito.  I’m not much of a drinker, one glass of red wine is typically my limit.  But mojitos, on the front porch, lots of candles glowing all around, and a simple meal — with ice cream sundaes for dessert — is the way I’m aiming to spend Friday evening, May 20.  If the world does not end on May 21, then the following day, Sunday, May 22, I plan to work in the studio completing a nuno scarf on some of Suzanne Morgan’s hand-dyed “Lipstick Red” silk fabric.  It’s a commissioned piece, and I’m hoping that when the customer wraps it around herself for the first time, she’ll feel some sweet sense of “rapture,” which in my dictionary is defined as “carried away with joy.”

Most fiber artists I know work diligently at our crafts, grateful for the fibers.  I imagine that I’m not the only one whose heart is full of gratitude for the sense of abundance that comes from being surrounded by a bountiful stash; and whose spirit is renewed by the sense of satisfaction that comes from creating something.   Some part of the interior monologue as we work is a refrain of hosannahs: exclamations of praise to the Lord.  In some fiber work you can see these hosannahs shining forth.  Work that is done with so much exquisite attention to detail that it expresses faith in the belief that there will be time enough.  Work done with so much abandon that every inch of it expresses JOY.  Work in colors that wordlessly turn on some “happy” switch in the viewer.  Work that speaks of self-worth and the hope that someone will cherish it for a long time.  Work that sanctifies the space it’s in.

Mojito in hand, I’ll ask to be “enraptured” and carried away with joy; say a prayer of thanksgiving; and think about Lipstick Red silk fabric.

Published in: on May 19, 2011 at 5:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Slow Art & a Grandmother’s Advice

Quiet times in the studio offer a balance to romping around at The Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival last weekend…

I’ve been enjoying spinning yarn from a soft blue/grey/purple Corriedale natural plant-dyed top that has subtle copper silk fibers already  in it.  As I spin I’ve been embedding LOTS of lustrous kid mohair curly locks in bright copper and berry tones that look like tiny flames.  I’ll lightly felt this yarn when done, to retain a lot of twist and to make sure it’ll look as lovely after many hand-washings as it will look when it’s newly completed.    This yarn’s future will be as a long, thin scarf, and I want it to have random, looping — “blown around” — twists here and there.

“When you create something it should look like it was blown together by the wind.”  This quote was creative advice to fiber artist Janice Rosema from her Grandmother that Janice shared in a recent online interview written by “Spin Artiste” publisher Arlene Ciroula.  Janice’s Grandmother’s words have been a welcome companion to my recent studio days.

The little “Troll Hat” is coming along.   After adding some embroidered details to the felted part of the hat, I made three felted “fiddleheads” from yardage trimmed from the bottom of the hat, and stitched these securely to the top of the hat, first attaching them with wool embroidery floss and then sewing them on with Irish waxed linen thread.  Next I’ll pierce the bottom of the hat, and through these holes attach my  handspun yarn and crochet the soft cap portion of the hat.  Finally I’ll plait some handspun and attach these two braids to finish the hat — and post this Troll Hat when completed…

Published in: on May 14, 2011 at 5:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Post-Festival: Maryland Sheep & Wool

If I were a comic strip character, those “thought bubbles” above my head would show images of sheep and spinning wheels; and fibers of all sorts and colors and textures displayed in the shade of fairground pavilions and in the warm sun; fiddlers fiddling and little children dancing; people knitting while strolling; folks intent on learning how to spin; humans and other creatures with REALLY interesting hair…  The Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival is now just a sweet, sweet memory… I’m reminded of a favorite poem from my childhood that begins: “Jill came from the fair with her pennies all spent, she had had her full share of delight and content….” 

Published in: on May 10, 2011 at 5:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

In the Details

A few beads — copper, vintage, one smiling Buddha.

Published in: on May 5, 2011 at 6:09 pm  Leave a Comment  


We live in a college town — State College — within a ten minute walk from the campus.  As the news unfolded late Sunday night, — about Osama Bin Laden — from our front porch we could hear students lighting firecrackers and shouting and singing in the streets downtown, as if they were somehow “released.”  I thought of how these young people’s lives have been influenced by so much war and “terror.”  So many in this generation of young adults understand how nuanced world events truly are.  The college students I know give me hope — their eyes shine with eagerness to help the world.   Despite being inconvenienced sometimes by the very few students who get attention by not behaving well, I feel lucky to live among college students, most of whom work very hard and many of whom also work at jobs and volunteer commitments.  Most of the college students I know are amazing, impressive people.  So young, and so wise.  On Facebook, I read posts by some of these students as they communicated back and forth about whether it was right to celebrate. Whatever our political views may be, ultimately we all long for peace.

The following day while our granddaughter napped near me I worked quietly on embroidering some small pieces, and as I worked I experienced how centering and peaceful it is to place one stitch next to another, as if this careful watching over a small child while stitching could somehow contribute to making the world a peaceful and beautiful place.  I’ve always loved vintage embroidered things, and think about all of those busy women years ago who somehow found time to create these little works of art.  Yesterday I felt kinship with them.  To find an authentic place of peace within one’s own heart is one path to offer peace to the world, it’s a good orientation.  For me, this feels like meditation that helps me to know how I want to participate in the world.

There’s a beautiful Buddhist saying, encouraging people to “Participate joyfully in the suffering of the world.”  How do we do this?  By nurturing our own joyfulness, by not turning away from suffering, by orienting ourselves so that — hopefully — we can participate actively in ways that nurture joy and peace.

Published in: on May 3, 2011 at 2:03 pm  Leave a Comment