Woven Grace

Every community of faith contains a wide variety of human beings. If we were to speak of them as clothing, we would see that some are a little frayed around the edges, some are trimmed neat and tidy. Some are colorful, perhaps even loud. Others are soft-toned and muted. Some exhibit dark broody vibes, while others seem light and airy. Indeed each person exudes all of these things in the course of a day. But for our purposes here, each one has a particular fabric…sparkly or dull, multi-hued or monotone, all are a significant part of a faith family.

I had no idea back in March, when I first asked folks in our congregation to donate clothing for an art project, what kinds of things I would receive. There was no way to predict colors or textures. I did ask for items other than clothing such as belts, ribbons, shoelaces…anything weavable. There was no way to plan for a particular image or result in the woven tapestry. Even as I embarked on making the clothing into fabric yarn, I couldn’t envision the final result. This actually is my favorite way to create—-allowing the piece to evolve in the process, listening to the materials as I go.

The Saori philosophy of weaving fits this approach beautifully. To weave with joy, without prior design or plan, letting the materials work together on their own was my original intention. And even though now the resulting triptych of woven panels has an overall design, it still retains this approach of freely woven fabrics and “treasures”.

The concept was to create a piece of artwork that exemplifies the weaving together of our lives as a community of individuals united by a common faith. It requires loads of grace to be a loving community. This grace can’t be generated on our own…we need God’s grace to continue to walk with one another, serving and worshiping in and through our daily lives. Grace is what brought us together. And it is Grace that leads us home.

Almost immediately, as I began to deconstruct the clothing into strips of fabric yarn, I was startled by the message inherent in this work. It began to take on a life of its own, a meaning far beyond what I originally envisioned (more on this in upcoming blog posts.) But this is the beauty of art and art-making. The artist is only a vehicle for what needs to be said or shared or displayed. The process of making these panels was not easy. Yet I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have been enriched by the creation of this work. It is as much a gift to me as it is hoped to be for our Grace family.

The panels now reside in the foyer of Grace Presbyterian Church. Though this photo does not show the color well, the colors of the tapestries really shine on the interior green wall. I wanted this work to be woven during Ordinary Time (reference to the church calendar), exhibiting how our ordinary lives are woven together in the ordinary days we spend as a church family. The fact that it was woven during the most UN-ordinary time of our recent history, makes this all the more poignant. Who of us can predict the outcome of this pandemic? I certainly could not have predicted at the outset how these weavings would turn out. It gives me great hope to realize that as we continue to weave our days together in the grace and mercy of Christ, something beautiful is being wrought.

*****

This is the first of three posts on the making of this woven project. I appreciate your gentle reading of its unfolding, and I pray you are enheartened by it.

Encounter

It was so brief! Hardly long enough for it to register in my brain. A blink, and he was gone. Yet for those few seconds of the buzzing, hovering dance, I held my breath and didn’t want it to end.

It was evening a few days ago and I was in my studio spinning to unwind the day. The thought to go out on the back deck to spin Wool flitted through my mind. There was much to keep me indoors…heat, mosquitoes, end-of-day weariness, just plain laziness. But something drew me outside and the moment I breathed in the fresh air and began to twirl my pink spindle, I knew I needed to be there. Plein-aire spinning is the best!

Instinctively I pulled my hands away from the large, buzzing visitor. He hovered a second and I knew it wasn’t a bumblebee. The hummingbird must have thought my spindle was a flower and wanted a closer look or a place to land for some nectar. I could hardly move a muscle as we stood face-to-face for just a few seconds before he flew away.

I gathered up the yarn and wound it onto the shaft thinking how cool it was to have encountered a hummingbird whilst spinning. Thinking that had I not stepped out onto the deck, moving out of my comfort zone, I would never had had that encounter with such a lovely creature. Thinking that a spindle truly is a flower, the colorful wool is the nectar, and I drink deeply of its nourishment every time I spin.

I’m headed out on the deck! Won’t you join me? We just might have a visitor. 🙂

Not Giving Up


A couple of years ago, I had this idea…

It was big. A bit unwieldy. Not altogether formed in my mind. Such are the beginnings of many ideas that traipse through my head and heart. Some of them stick around. Some of them don’t. This one did.

The idea just needed the Covid shutdown to set the wheels in motion for seeing this project through. I am not finished at the writing of this post. But I am well underway, having completed one of three woven panels, a special work for our Church foyer.

I won’t say much more about the overall concept nor will I share the completed panel…yet. That will come in due time. But what is interesting to note, is how these long term types of projects always seem to follow a pattern. Something like this:

Phase One: Idea lands in my head…it is rolled around to view it from as many sides as I can to get the scope of it…determine that said project is too big for the crazy full life I was living then…decide to put it on a way back burner until life “opens up”. Ha!

Phase Two: Years later, life does indeed “open up”, often due to difficulty of some kind (coronavirus this time)…energy is high for embarking on such an unwieldy project…break down the large idea into smaller more manageable pieces…begin with first small bite-sized work.

Phase Three: Deep into the project, where there is no going back but still a huge mountain ahead, I begin to wonder what in the world was I thinking??!…once again I must resolve to just take the next small bite-sized piece and work on that.

Phase Four: A light at the end of the tunnel is appearing and there is great joy and energy…but life has a way of interrupting the good flow of available time and energy to actually do the work…must once again resolve that even if life is whirling out of control in some areas, that I can devote small amounts of time to the project and in so doing, I will certainly arrive at the mountain top eventually.

Phase Five: Project complete…yet a flood of other considerations I hadn’t even thought of come into play…how to hang/display it…how to show/share it…Is it “good”? (That horribly unhelpful word)…will anyone like it?…etc…etc…

It is a process I am very familiar with but it surprises me every time! I really should just write the phases down on huge poster board to remind myself that these junctures along the creative path are normal and can be worked with and through by just taking those small do-able steps and not giving up.

Yes… Not. Giving. Up. 🙂

PerHaps

Tomorrow is my birthday. They seem to come ‘round more quickly nowadays. Quite the opposite of this beautiful hap I’m knitting.

A “hap” is a Scottish term for a square shawl. It can also be rectangular but it typically begins in the center and is worked round by round (even though it is a square!😃) until the desired width is achieved or until your yarn runs out.

In so many ways I wish that the journey around and back to the marker (a birthday) would take longer with each passing year. More time to watch my kids become the beautiful human beings they are. More time to be with my parents. More time to create lovely things. More time to knit.

In other ways I would not want it so. Aging brings more challenges both personally and for family and friends. I would not wish to elongate the endurance required for these difficulties. Perhaps it is a mercy that I perceive time to be speeding up as I age.

(All handspun yarns to be knitted into the Hap.💖)

Perhaps it is I who must slow down to really soak it all in.

Perhaps I do well to marvel and coo over each knitted stitch, though it is an automatic thing my hands can do without looking, without even thinking.

Perhaps this Hap is reminding me, with every lengthening round, to sink into its midlife plodding and to recount the beautiful days of spinning each of these yarns. To remember spinning the colors on the back deck in spring, enjoying the textures as dinner simmers on the stove, gazing at the fibers as they whirl into an organized line even when life feels far from organized.

Perhaps tomorrow, as I mark 55 years, I will sit and knit one round, recounting the laughter of my family, the dear friendships in my life, and the God-given mercies I experience daily.

Perhaps a Hap is a truly good thing to knit.💖

***I am knitting the Picnic on the Path Hap, a gorgeous design by Patricia Fortune.

Coffee Spin

While the coffee brews, I pick up my spindle with the delightful pink wool and I spin to the music of gurgles and drips. I don’t know why I do this. I am enthralled by the swirl of color and fluff, sparkle and texture, flowing through my hands. I grin at twirling a yo-yo-like wooden toy and at the feel of twist growing up into the fibers, strengthening as it goes, until my left hand registers the “full” feeling.

As I wind the yarn onto the shaft, I marvel at the various colors and textures of fibers I had previously blended into rolags. It’s a symphony of individual parts coming together into a lovely whole, eventually useful, yet in and of itself it is a thing of beauty.

I receive this thought as encouragement for my life which is also filled with many varied and seemingly incongruous bits. As I spin, I take to heart that it is all twisting into a beautiful whole…strong and useful.

Marisol with recently plied yarns.💖

***I sincerely hope you, dear reader, are healthy and finding solace in your creative endeavors. If you are new to my blog and website…Welcome! 💖 You can sign up to receive these posts via email or follow on WordPress. Let us press on in keeping our hands full of beautiful things to put into the world.

Marisol & Me

Oh Marisol, Marisol…

Your given name says it all-

Merry-go-rounds and parisols,

Wide-eyed adventures, stories untold.

***

Yet hearth and home, heather and loam,

They call you back, n’er to roam.

Content to spin yarns of shalom

And scatter joy here in my home.

***

Let us whirl our wool and sparkled light

Sipping tea, knitting at night.

But dream we will of sea and kite,

Of picnic fields, wildflowered delight!

***

What shall we say, Marisol and me?

Our capes are ready, hearts of glee.

If we stay or go, this we see…

Joy is here ‘neath the myrtle tree.

*****

-jpe 

April 19, 2020

Have you ever made something and felt so content, so full of delight, that you thought for a moment you might never need to make anything else ever again? That is precisely how I felt as I finished knitting this little mouse. The pattern is named Marisol the Mouse, and being smitten with that name and also with the shape of this mouse, I set about to bring one to life for my own.

The pattern is perfect, offering options for a bonnet or a beret. The only modification I made in the body of the mouse was to have two thicknesses for the ears so as to have the outer gray behind the inner pink. Making the bonnet into a cape was simple enough by picking up stitches along the neck edge and knitting down to the length I wanted, increasing on a few rounds to allow the cape to flair a bit.

Of course, by this time, Marisol was chattering away with me about her cape colors and I allowed her to choose from my handspun yarn stash. She has good taste as she chose a most delicious green multi with an ever so slight hint of sparkle. Thus will surely be fetching in the sunlight as she gathers nettles for tea and gleans wool along the hedgerows.

I thought I was finished, but she continued on about how a proper field mouse needs a gathering basket for her wool to be carried in and oh she simply must have a pair of knitting needles and wouldn’t those yellow-tipped ones be just the thing?

Her wide eyes fell upon the recently crocheted wee baskets I had made out of spun coffee-filters (a truly absorbing and enchanting way to make paper yarn!) and oh my she had a time choosing which one would be the perfect size and color for her. In the end she chose the brown one for it had flecks of green and pink and she felt the natural color was a more sensible thing for her outdoor walks. I agreed with her, of course, for who would contradict so delightful a mouse?

In my utter delight with having such an adorable and lovable creature to add to my menagerie of knitted wee beings, a poem bubbled up with the frothy giggles and sighs. I was completely taken with her and as I wrote about her, I realized I was also writing about me. I could see in her what I feel so keenly these days…a wide-eyed desire for adventure, to roam around freely, to be going hither and yon gathering pretties in a basket. I too dream of the ocean and flying kites. My infrequent trips to a grocery store with scanty shelves whilst wearing a mask is not quite the adventure I had in mind.

Yet somehow, in writing about Marisol, I found that I too love spinning yarns of peace, whether stories or actual wool. I too am content to scatter joy at home, sip tea and knit at night. I am in many ways loving the freedom to do just that. If I am able to stay in the present moment and not worry about future possibilities, then I am truly content and grateful, along with Marisol, for this home under the myrtle tree. (Which we do, by the way, have growing tall right at our front door.:)

So you see friends, in the making of a wee little thing, seemingly inconsequential in the whole scheme of this tops-turvy world, there can be moments of realization, of gathering joy to scatter around. Truly we wait in eagerness with our capes ready to dash out the door the minute “they” say GO! In the meantime I pray you are finding joy under your myrtle trees, with Marisol and Me. : D

Tomorrow

More than ever before, we need to be making things. This is not merely to while-away the time or to keep our minds off of all the sad news and the what-will-happens. There is an inherent belief in creating something that says, if only in a small way, “Tomorrow will come. A new day will rise.”

We cast on a knitting project and in so doing is the stalwart belief that I desire to and will finish this sweater or hat or pair of socks in the future!

We draw in our sketchbooks to capture a small bit of something that caught our eye today so that we can remember it tomorrow.

We spin wool into yarn which is in itself a ball of possibilities either for you or for someone else to make into a thing of beauty another day.

We begin a tapestry weaving or some cloth knowing that it will require us to keep weaving tomorrow and the next day and perhaps even the next.

(Ok, so this isn’t a loaf of bread. I DID bake bread yesterday but I didn’t take a photo of it. I think this looks like a most delicious loaf, don’t you? :D)

We bake bread with the knowledge that it will be enjoyed for at least a day, maybe two or three.

Just as planting vegetables and flowers casts our net into an unforesee-able future…so too does penning a poem, molding clay, writing a song. As Julia Cameron notes in her book The Artist’s Way, creative people are like equestrians in an obstacle course. The rider must throw his or her heart over the fence in order to land on the other side. This is precisely what we are doing as we daily set our hands to making something.

Whether it is actually planting a garden, or baking bread, or beginning a large oil painting, I hope that you will make time to create something. For this will pull our hearts forward as we endure our current worldwide situation. If anxiety prevents you from that large commissioned piece, then make something small and manageable. Try a new way of creating like origami or simple watercolor doodles. You will discover your heart is a bit lighter as we leap over this huge fence.

Grace and peace to you all this Easter weekend and beyond!❤️

Change

There is something about our current state of affairs that feels like a suspension, hiatus, time-out, or an extended stay-cation. It’s as if the world has been put on hold and we are hovering in place, holding our breath, until we have made it over the bridge, or until we are told we can come up for air.

I’ve also thought of these days as being on a phone call in which I’ve been placed on hold, or a VCR tape which has been paused. I imagine that the tape is being stretched as it waits in suspension until it can roll again. None of these images of our present situation adequately describe what’s happening .

It may be nearer the mark to use Tolkien’s definition of adventure versus quest. We are decidedly not on an adventure, where we will return to things as they were when we left them. When this is all over, we will be changed. The earth is already changing, and we humans will live and think of our lives differently than before. We have certainly not gone anywhere as an adventure would call us to do. Rather we are on a quest, one in which we are pinned in place, endeavoring to do our part in a worldwide effort to stay home and stay well. The effort to do this is far greater and more costly than the freedom to go on grand adventures. Yet it remains true that we will not land on the other side of this the same. We are being changed. I feel it in my bones.

Shifts in life often yield changes in art making. I have found some difficulty in sticking to drawing a tree every day. The drawings I make are decidedly simple and shape oriented, as if I’m designing for a weaving or a stitched fabric piece. Despite being in love with oil pastels , I’m wanting to let go of the must-draw-a-tree-every-day and just draw as I like, or weave or stitch.

It is likely that in letting go of having to draw a tree daily, that I will continue drawing trees. This was true before I began the quest on January 23rd. Trees are ever a fascination and will always be. My hope is to maintain this focused attention to their physical details, personality and their likenesses to me…or the other way around.

We do not know yet what changes will remain with us once we have been allowed to leave home, roam freely again, breathe and press play. That too will likely bring a shift in creative focus and I’ll want to follow whatever is next. For me, merely the change in seasons always brings changes in mediums and color choices. It will be interesting to see how we are all led to create once the current crisis is in our rear-view mirror.

Are you sensing a shift or change in your creative work? Do the seasons affect you in this way? Is the current quest we are all on changing what you create or how you approach your work as an artist/maker? I would love to know!💖 Most of all, I hope you each are well and safe and able to receive whatever this time is bringing your hands to create, no matter how simple or seemingly inane it may feel. Just keep creating, keep making things, writing poems and stories, shaping clay, painting and drawing pictures, trees or not. It will steady us and see us through to the other side.🙏💖

If I Could Be A Tree

If I could be a tree

I would a willow be

To wave at all I see

And shelter those with me.

***

Or perhaps I’d be an oak

To dangle tire and rope.

In kid-laughter I’d soak

And wear an autumn cloak.

***

But oh a birch to be

In ruffled finery

Graceful limbs so free

A merry dance of three.

-jpe

*********

We personify trees all the time. At least I do…seeing them as beautiful people with personality and history. But couldn’t we tree-ify ourselves? Is that a word? If not, let’s make it one! I like imagining which type of tree I’d like to be and why.

The problem is that I’m hard pressed to land on any one type of tree for long. A month ago I wanted to be an evergreen, tall and enduring through winter’s blast. Last week I wanted to be a cherry tree with explosive fireworks of blossom and color. Yesterday an oak, today a fanciful birch.

These birch trees are fascinating to me. I’m fairly certain that we have River Birches growing in our neighborhood. It puzzled me this week to notice that all of them, with only one exception, had three trunks growing out of one. The exception had two trunks. With a bit of research, I discovered that this is how they are planted…three risomes together in order to keep the height of the tree down a bit. Apparently, left to grow individually, they grow way too tall. Clumping them together, or allowing two other suckers to grow along with the main trunk, helps keep their height under control. But I digress…

Whatever the reason, they look to me like three sisters, or three friends dressed for a party, dancing or laughing together. Their happy coexistence reminds me of the Trinity, of strength in a cord of three strands, of a perfect prime, and the number of children I have.

And how about you? What tree would YOU like to be if you could be a tree? And why is that? I’d love to hear from you and what your tree-ification might be? Well, for today at least!😉💕

P.S. I seem to draw imaginary trees a good bit…like the Yarn Trees and this Steam Tree. It happened as I gazed at my morning coffee and could see the steam rising and curling out of the mug…which got me to thinkin’ that it surely must grow from the bottom, where it is “watered”, or “coffee-ed” and…well, anyway…it’s fun to think about.😃

YARN LOVE – a song

Well, this is a bit out of my territory but a fun thing ( I hope) for everyone who loves yarn. Whether you knit or crochet, spin or weave, this song is for you!

But first…a little back story…💖

I have the privilege of teaching ongoing small groups of women who knit and crochet. Several of the ladies also spin and weave and felt and batik…its a very talented group of gals from all walks of life, all ages and levels of expertise from beginners to life-long knitters. The groups (which I like to call knitting communities) meet in a fabulous yarn shop every week. I think of myself as a cross between a cheerleader and a fix-it gal. We inspire each other, do knit-a-longs together, have yarn parties and all sorts of fun and engaging things.

Just a few of the lovely hands that make beautiful things.💖

A couple of years ago, I wrote a little song to the tune of a well known camp song called Pass It On. These ladies indulged my silliness and we learned it together and sang it at one of our evening parties. Here we are singing the YARN SONG, complete with harmony and all!

My original idea was to also make a cool video of us singing the song, share it online and maybe even sing it at that year’s Southeastern Fiber Festival in Asheville, North Carolina. But I never quite got it all together. We have sung it once or twice more at other parties just to keep the song alive.

But it was intended for everyone…for all yarn lovers! So here it is…

a PDF of the YARN LOVE SONG for you to print off the words to the song and share with a friend.

And if you can stand to listen to me singing it here, then perhaps between this and the one of all of us singing, you can learn the tune as well! I hope you have fun with this and of course…

PASS IT ON!!!🧶💚😍