How do we make our homes? Our culture impresses upon us the value of disposable trends and knicknacks sourced at Target end caps, but I remember growing up with elaborately embroidered dish towels and pillow cases and braided rag rugs constructed from work clothes. Traditional women's work meant that quilts were made for warmth but also served as creative expression for their makers. These homemade items not only make a home but can also be satisfying for the maker. Furthermore, they become enduring and beloved because of their homemade-ness.
So, with the recent rennovations at the cottage, I knew I wanted some new throw pillows. I could have easily picked something up inexpensively from Ikea or Traget, but I saw the need as an opportunity to use up t-shirt yarn (yarn made from cutting up t-shirts) and to practice my own creativity . . . to make something more special and unique for the cottage.
Because I often get asked about how my loom works and the difference between warp and weft, I've included a very basic tutorial of how I made these. This is mostly meant for non-weavers to understand the process. So, if you are a weaver looking for specifics on reeds and yarn, you won't find that here, but you probably can figure this one out on your own.
Hope you enjoy the photos and explanation. If you are coming to the cottage soon, I hope you enjoy the pillow in your restful time at the cottage!
The warp runs length-wise through the loom. It's the part that actually gets physically tied onto the loom. Every weaving project begins by determing how wide you want to make the piece, how long it is going to be, and how many ends (or strings) per inch is required for the fabric you are weaving. The more ends per inch, the finer the thread and therefore the finer the fabric that you are weaving.
For weaving rag rugs, you use a fairly thick thread for durability. I used a cotton rug warp thread for this project in a variety of colors that I think matched my weft nicely.
To measure and wind your warp, you need a warping board like this!
The warping board makes it easy to measure out your yarn, but it also helps to structure an "x" shape that will help to keep the ends from tangling before you thread them onto the loom.
This is what a bunch of ends look like on the warping board. It looks like pulling fabric taffy! While I am winding, I am counting bundles of ten to make sure I wind the exact amount of threads.
What if we approach each day as praxis - in which we make intentional choices, repeatedly with the goal of getting closer to making our life a work of art?
Both of my kids have been playing the violin from age five, and since they are learning via the Suzuki method, I read about Suzuki’s method in his book: Nurtured by Love: The Classic Approach to Talent Education
In his book, Suzuki makes the argument that every child can learn to play the violin if they practice. And while learning to play the violin is indeed wonderful in and of itself, Suzuki further claims that the practice of learning actually leads to developing beautiful human beings. My kids were taught by their teachers that practicing the violin is not something you have to do, but it is something that you get to do. Also that in learning to play the violin, you learn how you learn. Each person learns differently and at their own pace. Within the Suzuki method, you must keep going, however slowly, with the intention of improving - even at smallest intervals and most definitely after repeated trials and failures.
“To make a resolution and act accordingly is to live with hope. There may be difficulties and hardships, but not disappointment or despair if you follow the path steadily. Do not hurry. This is a fundamental rule. If you hurry and collapse or tumble down, nothing is achieved. DO not rest in your efforts; this is another fundamental rule. Without stopping, without haste, carefully taking a step at a time forward will surely get you there.”
― Shinichi Suzuki, Nurtured by Love: The Classic Approach to Talent Education
I find so much hope and solace in knowing that being careful and intentional is the best course. Nothing happens overnight - even when it seems like it does for others. We don’t lose weight or learn a new language quickly. We can’t sew a quilt or write a book overnight, but we can choose a life of praxis in which we are thoughtful in how we carve out time to do the things that we really want to do.
We make time to intentionally journal, meditate, cook a delicious meal, walk our dogs, breathe, or sketch. Doing these things everyday - or most days- becomes the rock we roll up the hill. When we concentrate on doing them and reflect on them afterwards, we begin to notice how we are changed by our actions. We become better at drawing, running, or cooking, or maybe we notice how much we have learned about our dogs after dozens of dozens of walks. These seemingly small practices are actually sacred moments brought to us by sacred choices. You don’t have to practice, you get to.
I know this method of Mr. Suzuki works because I get to listen to my kids play their violins every day. I hear how they have developed, how they know books and books of songs like the backs of their hands, and while sometimes they drag their feet to practice ( it can still feel like have to), once the violin is in position and they begin to move the bow across the strings, they sound like I get to. Maybe they also know something of the commitment and intention that they have practiced these years can be applied to anything new that they want to make part of their lives. If they don’t know that now, I am hoping they will be able to understand that when they are olds. For now, I am certain that there bodies sure know it. Their fingers, their chins, their breath, and their wrists know praxis well.
When we choose to look at our life as a practice and each day as an opportunity to try again, we continue to grow and evolve as humans. Now if this same praxis is applied to practicing our creativity - to infusing each day with practicing - pushing - evolving our creative selves - of continuing when we are stuck, what would be possible for us?
What do you practice? What would you like to begin learning or incorporate into your praxis of life?
PS I encourage anyone interested in educational philosophy to get their hands on Nurtured by Love. It will be life changing. I am definitely planning on reading it again and again!
The absolute truth is that making soft, stuffed heart ornaments makes my heart grow three times as large. I can't explain it, but it is a project I regularly undertake in various iterations each winter.
This year, I decided to use upcycled wool (from old coats and skirts) that I had previously felted in my washer and dryer. Felted wool is so cozy; it adds warmth and fuzziness that I am particularly longing for this season.
While you could applique anything, I chose the cheery polka dots that allowed me to utilize more scrap fabrics in a rainbow of colors. (Again, all things that bring me joy.)
This is a simple sewing project perfect for beginners, but an experienced sewer will enjoy it as well! The process alone is heartworming and worthwhile!
Let me know if you make stuffed heart ornaments!!!
For this project, you will need to gather the following:
Cut out a heart template from the card stock.
I free-handed this one, but you could easily trace a cookie cutter or print a heart template from google images for a more precise and symmetrical heart.
Pin the template to the front fabric and cut around the template to create the front of your heart.
Choose your fabric scraps in colors that are pleasing to you and cut little circles from them.
Again, I free-handed these, but you could use circle shaped stickers as an easy template if you are after precision.
Turning thirty-eight has got me thinking about my younger self, but not in the way you think. I don’t wish I was closer to thirty than forty. I really don’t want to revisit my twenties. No, I want to go further back -- to a time when I was a shame free and unrestrained five-year-old.
I have this memory of crouching over our dining room table with my siblings. We had tiled the table in sheets of paper, securing them with scotch tape. On top of our giant sized paper, Frankensteined together, we drew roads, houses, buildings, and parks. We took our map into the third dimension by cutting tiny paper trees and stop signs, and by folding and taping a flap, we erected them in parways and at intersections. The experience of creating with abandon, with limitless possibilities, was indeed thrilling for my little creative brain and tiny hands. Our creativity was fueled by each other’s ideas and agreement that we could built it, our own world. It seemed like we were getting away with something. I was grateful that our Mom didn’t interrupt our game. She wasn’t upset with the scraps of paper littering the floor. I felt on top of our little paper world.
This sense of creative power is something that I have worked my whole life to return to. I want to hold on to myself at age four or five - full of curiosity, possibility, play, and wonder. I do not know much about early childhood development, but this seems to me to be the age where our sense of self and personality are fully rooted. We haven’t been negatively impacted by the socializing forces of school. We haven’t been taught to doubt, to fit in, or to be normal. All of which curb creativity.
We all have this fearlessly creative five-year-old in us. We can find her again. It’s my life’s goal to get her back. I’m confident that play and creativity are part of the process of finding her. Also, I need to let go of fear of judgement and cut away any attempt of “fitting in”. These limiting ideas should litter the floor like the rain of paper scraps.
Yes, my five-year-old self still exists, and she is probably cutting paper trees, or getting lost listening to records in the corner of the dining room, or she is feebly sewing pink gingham pillows for her Barbie dolls, making enormous stitches with black thread.
Can you remember when you were five? What did you like to do most?
Picture your favorite destination - your happy place - that place where you feel more whole and more like yourself.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you lived in that place? I am fortuante to live in my place, Spring Bird.
I first stayed in Spring Bird's Cottage (Then, Siloam's Cottage) in July of 2009 for an overnight with my Mom and sisters. I immediately took to this place feeling deeply connected and transformed by it. I visited every year after until we moved in 2015! In the in between times, my soul would ache for this patch of land, and after every visit, I would be completely renewed. It felt like being transported to not only a different place in time and space but a different mindset. The woods were healing and magical. The cottage was welcoming and nurturing, and it allowed me to just be. On that first visit in 2009, I was struck by the humerous but poignant sign, made by David, that reminded each visitor: You Are Here. I love how the sign is a statement and a question. You are here, and now what? What are you going to do here? What do you think and say? What do you see?
Now that we live here, we have been so lucky to be able to continue to share the Cottage as a place for guests to leave their mundane worlds behind - to be transported to the woods - to nature - to themselves. We understand our role as hosts to curate a space for our guests to be comfortable and safe.
So, recently we initiated some updates that will hopefully make the space feel more comfortable for individuals and groups to gather in the Cottage in the woods.
See some photos of the Cottag renovations below, and the full slideshow here.
In addition to some new interior changes, we've added new on-line booking feature to our website. While you can still book the cottage via email, text, or phone, you can also book direct from our website or just check to see the cottage availability.
Check out the new on-line booking feature here.
We hope that the cottage can continue be an alternative place to the busy, noisy chaos that seems to inundate our every day. The Cottage is a place to be in quiet retreat, to reconnect with nature, and to work creatively. What's more, Spring Bird Cottage is great for visiting alone for personal developpment and retreat or in groups for community building and supportive circles.
We are so excited aobut these chages and hope they make your stay at the Cottage even better!
Know you are always welcome at Spring Bird! Can't wait to have you here!
Photos by Carol De Anda
On repeated treks to the barn to feed animals or weed the garden, the loft called to me. It almost glowed like a neon sign “you need to be working here. Something important is going to happen here. Make me your studio!!”
I both heard the call and felt it. I knew it to be true. I needed to make the barn loft into a barn studio. Unfortunately it was full of furniture, old doors and screen windows, and various forms of mouse nests. Furthermore, I was starting a very busy new job which was Keeping me even farther away from the future, dream studio. There wasn’t time for transformation let alone making art.
Eventually though, while I was away, Pat worked to clean out the loft, update the roof, and insulation sprayed in its rafters. And 2 years ago, at last, I was able to move in just in time to work on a painting commission. I had found my creative home! I made a place to make creative leaps, to dream, to be organized, to be messy, and to be “in process”.
And it’s been wonderful - I have since tweaked the space to meet my needs as my process and work goals evolve. This past summer, I created two distinct zones in my studio. I know, who knew I needed zones? But, in one area, I added more storage for quilt fabrics, liberated countertops, and organized all my sewing notions onto a rolling cart that could always be kept at hand. The space feels vast and free in a way that makes it easier to sew and make quilts. It feels like a place that I want to stretch out my wings and get to work.
In contrast, in a dark corner, I created a safe drawing nook that feels secret and tucked away. I even bedecked the slanted ceiling with twinkling lights. It’s here that I like to paint my illustrations and let my imagination open doors of curiosity. It feels like your grandma’s magic attic, like you want to curl into a pink chair with an afghan and read a good story. I never thought that being hidden - feeling safe - would allow me to take more creative leaps. I never would have known it except for listening to my intuition and allowing the place and space to tell me how it wants to be used.
I know that sounds crazy, but I let spaces tell me how they want to be used all the time. I think it helps me to feel safe and comfortable so that I can be productive. When I used to clean houses with my Mom, I would often pass the time daydreaming about the people’s houses that I was dusting. I would think about how the house was designed, how their rooms were arranged, and sort of dream about what I would do with the space if I lived there. There were houses and spaces that I still think about today -- that still inspire me. A space can become a place for something, and if you listen, it will definitely tell you how it wants to be used.
When I write, I need to feel safe and comfortable so that I can be vulnerable. I often found find myself in my bed with my notebook, laying on my stomach. What place embodies vulnerability and safety more than the bed? When I am feeling really stuck and depressed, I will go to the woods, and find a spot to sit and write. Sometimes, getting out of our creative spaces leads to out most productive work.
Now that the cold has set in, I have abandoned my lovely, unheated barn loft studio for the warmth of the house. I shuttle armloads of materials over from the studio and have to find nooks and crannies in the house to tuck them into. It’s ad hoc and messy, but my fingers are warm. I find myself drifting from from room to room, hauling my bits and bobbins with me. There is always a trail of thread or cloud of eraser dust in my wake. I’m an art nomad who will often find the sunny spots to work in, like a sleepy cat.
Working from home can be messy. The lines between work and life are even more smooshed together, which is hard because I have a hard time with this boundary as it is! When my creative life spills into the my mundane life, I’m reminded of a story I heard of a busy mother ceramicist who was often working a lump of clay on a kitchen counter next to her dinner prep. It wasn’t ideal, but it was Okay. Kids got fed, and art got made. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
I think the most important thing for nurturing your creativity, no matter how limited you are by your real estate, is to to create SOME place for your creativity. In doing so, you are legitimizing its value in your life. You are giving it a place to grow and thrive. You are allowing it to take up space! This is so significant for your creative practice, and these places could range from a tiny corner to a big barn loft.
You could convert a closet into a studio or a secretary desk. Your space might be a spare bedroom or a corner in a basement. It could even be as small as a journal, a sketchbook, a file folder on your desktop, or a list of ideas on your phone.
It could be a tackle box of supplies or a tote bag of yarn, but giving your creativity a physical presence in your physical life will make practicing it more significant and meaningful in your life. You will be immensely rewarded as will we, your fellow humans. And your creativity will only grow from there, it’s place!!!
Where do you like to be creative? Is there anything that you absolutely need in your space to be creative? Are there any places that really inspire you - that you’d like to incorporate their feel into your own creative places?
Anyone who has harvested their own walnuts knows the power of their husks to dye. It's impossible to come away with unstained hands no matter the pairs of gloves you wear.
Last year, we dyed some cotton yarn. This year, we dyed some old cotton napkins.
We began by collecting 6 lbs. of walnuts and covered them with water.
We left the walnuts to soak for over 3 weeks!
After the 3 week soak, the walnuts look like the above picture--murky and black.
We brought the whole pot to a boil for one hour.
Then, we strained the walnuts from the dye bath.
We weighed our cotton napkins.
And then submerged them into the bath.
We let the fabric soak for 1 and 1/2 hours on low to medium heat.
Then we just let the fabric come to room temperature before washing out the excess dye and hanging it to dry overnight.
The husks can be reused again for further dye baths. Also, you can let your fiber sit longer in the dye bath to achieve a deeper shade of brown.
I love how easy it is to dye with walnuts, and the color is scrumptious!
Yesterday, the term “Mindful Consumption” seemed to be ringing in my ears as I sat with my paintings and prints all spread out in their glory and carefully marked “for sale” at a local art market. I have struggled as an artist (well in many ways), but I often wonder whether producing more “stuff” in a world that is flooded with things is a good practice. Then, as a marketer, I have to convince customers that they should spend more of their hard earned money on the things I have made. It’s a puzzle that I am still working on, for sure, and one that causes me many mixed feelings.
And now, we enter that time of year when consumption is the object of the season. We often consume more than is good for us - whether it’s food or gifts we are fed the idea that more is better and never enough is ideal.
But, coming back to “Mindful Consumption”, I wonder if there is an argument to be made that there is another way to approach the holidays and the whole year of practicing mindful consumption, being hyper aware of all that we purchase and consume so that we can make wholehearted decisions and reclaim our purchasing power in support of goods, services, and consumables that are in alignment with our larger values.
So, instead of consuming from a sense of fear and panic (i.e. must get hottest gifts, spend large amounts of money, and have tons of gifts for everyone), try to consume from a grounded and mindful place - from a place of love and personal values. If we all do that, we not only get to support amazing businesses and people, but we reclaim our power as a consumer.
If you are looking for gifts from alternatives to Amazon or big box stores, you might look here:
If you want to take Mindful Consumption even further, Consider:
Now, back to the market.
As an artist, I know how amazing it is to be supported by people like you. You have the power in supporting small timers, like me, and in doing so, really make their end of the year special. It’s like giving two gifts! (Now I am giving NPR pitches.)
So, maybe you can’t purchase 100% of your gifts from artists. (We all need electric toothbrushes), but try for at least 10% of gifts or maybe even just one gift. It all helps. You will feel better, and the artist will feel amazing.
Your support means the world and you will be appreciated!
What do you think about “Mindful Consumption”? Do you practice this already? Any more advice on how to become more mindful?
ALSO: More to come on Mindful Consumption with respect to media and culture.
AND: This Thursday, I will be posting about another adventure in natural dyeing: Walnuts!!
In renovating the cottage, we decided to paint the kitchen's linoleum floor instead of replacing it. I had some crazy vision to paint the floor like a quilt-- in tiny triangles. I chose six colors: light gray, dark gray, dark green, gold, and pink in porch paint. After securing a plan, we cleaned the floor to prepare for paint.
Have you ever wondered about your own creativity? Where it comes from? What purpose does it serve in your everyday life?
For me my creativity and freedom to express it, has been essential to my life. It's not something I'd be willing to live without. Lately I've been wanting to better understand its origins and its value. Perhaps, I'd even like to argue that I think creativity is essential for humans to practice with regulalrity.
As an art educator, I’ve taught 18 month old toddlers through adults, and the toddlers, the under 6, hold zero doubts about their creative selves. They are ready to jump into any endeavor with enthusiasm and without fear. It’s as we grow up that we learn to doubt our own creative urges. We believe that if we can’t do something in a perfect way that it is not worth doing. I am here to argue that like physical exercise, like intellectual learning, we have to practice being creative throughout our whole lives. I’m certain that if we do, we will be living more fully for ourselves and our communities.
Creativity is about nourishment, joy, and sharing. It's also about observation, wondering, and solving prolbems. I am going to continue my quest for creativity, because I want to understand more specifically how it enriches us, why it’s essential to our being human, and what it has to offer the world.
So Far, this is what I believe with regard to creativity:
A Working Creativity Humanifesto
What are your thoughts about creativity? How do you practice creativity in your everyday? Do you want to develop your creative practice further? What would you need to help you develop your creative practice?
Spring Bird is workshopping T-shirt Ideas! Let us know what you think by taking the short survey!
Anna Lentz, artist and writer, blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.