The Comfort of Washing a Rug

And of making a rug, especially with friends.

 

sw rug hanging up

 

I can’t pretend I’ve been unaffected by the news the past few weeks. It could easily start to feel like the world is crumbling around us. It may seem trivial at first to post about anything I usually talk about here. But I believe it’s not. Actually, I believe that we need our creative pursuits, the things that give us comfort and fulfillment, more than ever when times get rough. Even more than that, I believe that by making something with our hands, by sharing it with friends, by just cooking dinner and eating it with people and having a face-to-face, honest conversation, we are making a difference. Taking a small step towards the world we hope for,”being the change,” as Gandhi said.

Last week, during a dry spell in our monsoons, I decided it was time to wash the kitchen rugs. I wove the one shown here two years ago, at my friend Lauren’s house (but never posted these photos). It occurred to me while I was cleaning it that this rug is actually a pretty good metaphor for the value of craft in our lives. All the yarns I put in it are ones I saved from my grandma’s stash after she passed away—a reminder of our connection, the passing of knowledge between generations, and the “waste not, want not” I try to put into practice.

 

sw rug weighing yarn

Weighing yarn and winding into balls, making a plan for the rug.

 

Lauren did the math, wound the warp (for several rugs, not just mine), and put it on the loom, so all I had to do was show up and weave, which was wonderful. We spent time together weaving and listening to music. We lit a fire. I remember other friends were there at least one day while I worked on the rug, doing what women have been doing for millennia: talking, eating, and making things together in community.

 

sw rug on loom

My rug on the loom.

 

The act of weaving brings up all kinds of good memories for me too, of learning to weave with my family and working on my grandma’s big loom. Like most textile crafts, the rhythm of the work is meditative. It calms my mind so that sometimes creative ideas bubble up, and other times I can think less, and just be. I’m coming to believe that just being is an important part of my growth as a human, something I need to carve out distraction-free time for, and practicing in fiber arts definitely helps me do that.

 

sw rug through warp

Looking through the warp at the rug in progress.

 

This week, it rained. The rain falling onto my high-desert home is a miracle of relief. Knowing that the forest will be sustained for a little while longer makes me feel better about everything—even politics, even tragedy. As long as we have the solace of nature, and a way to nurture our creativity, I think we’ll be alright. In fact, more than alright—I believe if we can keep those two things near the top of our collective priorities, we’re still working towards a better world.

Here’s to better weeks ahead!

 

sw rug on floor

The finished rug in the kitchen.

 

PS Karen wrote on a similar theme this week, and I found the comments on her post heartening. It involves seeking peace in the beauty of landscape and sheep …

 

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A Peak into Our Creative Retreat of 2013

 

table with sewing machines

 

As most of you probably already know, every year a group of my family (and friends who are like family) get together for a week of creating and sharing.  Different people teach different skills and projects.  Pretty much anything that could fall under the category “fine craft” is fair game, and there’s usually something more “art” thrown in as well.  My grandmother started this idea, and at this point it’s a huge group effort.  My job is to make up the schedule, using the topics everyone votes on as favorites, communicate with the participants before the workshop week, and to try and keep things running smoothly throughout the week.  (Participants, if you are reading this, I’ll get that survey for next years’ classes done, um, soon . . . )

Every year, I leave wishing that I could live in that atmosphere of communal creative energy forever . . . and then I go home and sleep like I have rarely slept before!

 

miette sideThis year, there was actually quite a lot of sewing.  I kind of shoehorned in some garment/project sewing time, I was really excited about sharing sewing with some real-life students again after spending months working on Hello Sewing Machine.  One of my students went to town making drawstring bags, and three made Miette skirts!  I was SO impressed with how hard they worked and how beautifully the finished projects came out.  This is my skirt, which I made as a (definitely wearable) test, to try the pattern and see how the alterations I was thinking of would come out.

 

We also sewed books!  My aunt, who has been making variations of these book binding techniques for quite a while, walked us through the whole process—from cutting board and tearing paper to sewing the whole thing together.  It was horizon-opening for me to take needle and thread to paper—actually, I’m trying to keep that on the back burner of my brain, otherwise I could easily be swamped by more ideas for new things to make than I can handle.

 

sewing wave book

 

If you are interested in trying bookmaking for yourself, our teacher’s favorite resource is the book Books Without Paste or Glue by Keith A Smith.  Quite coincidentally, I came home to find there’s also an article in the latest Threads magazine (September 2013) with a rundown of very similar process to the one we used.

 

wave book two views

 

Probably my favorite thing I made all week (ok, tied with a mosaic sea turtle that I helped to make) is this travel book.  I’m soo excited about having this!  I’ve been thinking about it ever since my aunt showed me the ones she made in a workshop with Gail Rieke (check out her site to see some crazy-cool collage and amazing variations on journals).  I totally love it when “real artists” make practical things as well.

 

travel book

 

Sewing meets books, fabric meets glue, my ideas/techniques/background/expertise meet yours—that’s what really makes the magic of this week.  If you have the chance to get together with other creative types, even for just an afternoon some time, I totally encourage you to go for it!

 

Just a Wreath

 

SW wreath 1

 

I spent this morning making wreaths with my crafting buddies at my friend Elena’s house.  She’s been making them for 20 years, so she gave us expert advice, and it was super fun.  Her whole living room floor was covered with a big blue tarp, and on top of it, buckets and boxes stuffed full of all kinds of wonderful greenery, dried pods, and beautiful berries, chiles . . . with that much natural beauty it would be tough to make anything that didn’t look good.  I made this one with lots of stuff from right around here.  I wish you could smell it!  Piñon cones and juniper are two of my favorite smells in the whole wild world.  I guess we all like smells that remind us of home.

 

SW wreath 2

 

I hope you’re enjoying the season!

 

Creative Retreat Projects

So, I thought I would share a few of the projects we made this year at my fabulous family and friends retreat.  Each year all the women in our little circle get together and create and share and cook and eat, and magic happens.  Not like spells and potions (unless you count margaritas!), but a real feeling of this time being more than the sum of its parts, allowing us creative expressions that it can be so hard to find in everyday life.

 

 

This year thanks to the generous donation of time and effort by a friend of my aunt’s, we got to try encaustic, an ancient technique of painting with wax that I have admired in the work of some of our art show friends for some time.  I was so excited to try it out, and impressed by how everyone jumped in and made art.  Really, playing with warm wax is pretty irresistible.

 

 

We also got to make lip balm (beeswax again!) and flavor it ourselves with oils.  Plus knitting, screen printing, a field trip and making envelopes!

 

Even if you don’t have your annual craft retreat put together (yet!), one thing I find keeps me sane all year round is just a little creative time every day.  I started setting aside an hour a day for sewing in college, and I was really shocked how much more I got done.  Now I work on creative projects a lot of the time, but I found that I still need a little bit of the day that’s just for me, that I can spend however I want, regardless of whether the product will ever make money or even appear on this blog.  Even 20 or 30 minutes when I’m busy, to just put my brain on a different track, leaves me refreshed and thinking outside the box again.

What do you think?  How do you structure your creative break time?

 

(PS There’s still time (until tomorrow morning) to win a Fiddleheads hat.)

Breaking Bread with Friends

 

So, on our trip this past week I was thinking a lot about how much means to have food with friends.  It’s got to be the oldest form of human social interaction.  When I see friends that I have been missing for a while (and it helps if the food is really good) it reminds me, this is still important. When I sit down with people I care about to eat something carefully prepared, a special kind of magic happens.

The beautiful bread above is from the amazing Sparrow Bakery/Bread LaVoy in Bend, OR.  Truly awesome bread and pastries, I highly recommend it!

What kind of magic are you making with your friends and loved ones?