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The Art of Kintsugi is Changing How I View The River of My Life

12 Mar

I recently learned about the Japanese way of repairing broken ceramics through a process called kintsugi.  When a beloved pot or plate or mug or bowl or vase breaks, we usually throw it away.  There is not good repair for these items. But the Japanese developed a way to bond them together and make them more beautiful.   After a resin used to bond the broken pieces together and the edges are smoothed, the repair is completed with gold (kintsugi) or silver (gintsugi) painted into the mended areas.  They form golden veins.  This ‘Golden repair” makes the object more beautiful than before.

When I first read about kintsugi, I had one of those moments of epiphany that occurs when two totally different areas of my life combine.   I was going to be facilitating an evening class with my friend.  We had 19 women signed up to do a project called “the River of Life,’ which is part of the Wise Aging program designed by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality.

My friend and I participated in a two-day workshop to become instructors several years ago.  We had taught a full class on the topic of Wise Aging, but this was our first class in a while.  We were only going to touch on this one area where participants look back through their life, remembering the stories that were important to them, while seeing the threads and trends that impacted how they journeyed through life.

Sometimes people have a difficult time looking back on their lives. Events occurred that bring them distress because they have been unable to overcome the emotions that those memories bring to them.  They cannot get past and cannot move forward.  They see this as a broken thread; an unresolved flaw in their river.

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Although not Kintsugi, the turquoise embedded in the bowl’s cracks and flaws makes it more beautiful

It was while I was preparing for this class that I was reading a book for my job called, “The Growth Mindset Playbook, A Teacher’s Guide to Promoting Student Success.”  In Chapter 5, subtitled as “Failure As A path to Success,” the authors ended the chapter with information about kintsugi. In the book the authors wrote, “These restorations are not seen as a flaw in the piece, but as part of its history and something that makes it uniquely beautiful, and more interesting and valuable than before.”

YES!  The journeys we take in our lives are like the rivers with bends and falls and excitement, thrilling moments followed by peaceful floats.  Events occur that we cannot control.  We can only control our reactions to these events.  We have some control of the boat and the steering, but oftentimes events shatter our world.  We feel broken.  But we, like items repaired through kintsugi, are actually more beautiful and interesting because of our experiences.  We learn through each event we see and experience.  We become wiser and we can provide so much guidance.

Through failure we learn.   But is it really failure?  I think not.  Each episode or event in our life enriches our understanding of ourselves and of others. Empathy and compassion for others is increased when we can see the world in their place.

I am feel emotional attachment to those who suffer from infertility, because I too suffered though this.  I also underwent procedures and surgeries in an effort to have a family.  I feel what they feel.  But the golden veins of repair have helped me be a compassionate friend.

I saw kintsugi as the perfect way to explain this philosophy to the class.

The important aim, for me, is to always keep positive.  I want to see my life’s journey completed by golden and silver streams of repairs. Each one making me stronger and more lovely.  My outlook on the world might be different then before I needed the repair. When I look back at my life I want no regrets.  I want to believe that all that happened made me stronger, just as the repairs increase the strength of the broken ceramics

I believe, like kintsugi, each of our journeys through the river of our lives is uniquely beautiful.  It just takes us opening our eyes and seeing the best and not focusing on the hardships that will get us through.

We Toured An Exbibit of Judith Lieber Handbags in Memory of Our Mom

27 Jul

I am a very sentimental person, I admit it. My sister is as well. So when I saw there would be an exhibit  of Judith Lieber handbags at the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC when I was there this summer, I knew we had to go.


Our Mom loved pocketbooks, as we call them back East. She had a large collection of stunning bags, which we divided among her granddaughters, daughters and daughter in law when she passed away. Each purse was a beloved friend kept safe in its cloth covering.

Mom loved to shop for pocketbooks and shoes. Every shopping adventure ended up at a shoe store. In her closet were dozens of pairs of shoes stored in neat see-through boxes, along with the carefully stored purses.

My daughter, brought up in the Midwest, learned her love of purses from my Mom. In the Midwest we call them purses, while in New Jersey the same item was a pocketbook. My daughter came up with a new word, a ‘pocket purse’, to describe the carryall held by almost all women.  As a child she would proudly walk with my Mom, each holding their own ‘pocket purse.’

One of my favorites at the exhibit.

So going to see Judith Lieber’s designs seemed apropos. As we walked through the exhibit, delighted to see the crystal evening minaudieres, the leather creations, and letters from former First Ladies, we remembered buying purses that were inspired by Lieber designs. We wished we could have owned an original. I wished my Mom could have had at least one. She would have cherished it.

Reading a time line of Lieber’s life in Hungary before and during the Second World War, we were impressed at how she found a career she loved and was able to flourish a bit even in times of terror.  I was glad that her love of an American soldier brought her safety and that he too was an artist.

Each piece in the exhibit made us pause and remember our Mom, while thinking of the creativity and imagination of Lieber.  We had a wonderful imagining owning one of these and choosing which ones were our favorites.

 

Update:  In November I was able to purchase a pair of Judith Lieber sunglasses at a charity auction.   In April, she and her husband Gerson died hours apart.  May their names be a blessing.

Panama Hats and Fibre Sacks Made in Manta, Ecuador 

27 Mar

Our visit to Manta, Ecuador, focused on the country’s rich craft tradition. Like many, I did not know that the famous Panama hat is actually from Ecuador!  The traditional weaving of the hat started here in a town like Monticristi 


Made from the inner leaves of a type of palm, the hat is woven by hand as women and men lean forward over a stone and cushion while focusing on the intricate weaving patterns. 

Weaving a hat. Dyed palm leaves are behind him.


We had the opportunity to see the process from start to finish: watching a young woman slit off the outer skin of the Palm using the thorn from a green guava plant; then the boiling of the Palm; the drying; the dyeing; the weaving; the pounding; the ironing; clipping the extra leaves; and then selling them. 

Almost completed hats


It was amazing to watch this labor intensive craft. In fact, we were told that this traditional craft is yucky losing the experienced weavers. It is usually a family tradition, and many younger people no longer wish to do it. Basically most people who do it now have other sources of income and so it as a way to earn extra cash

Why are hats that are made in Ecuador called Panama hats?  They were used in the early 1900s by people working on the Panama Canal.  We were told that when President Teddy Roosevelt came to see the Canal, he was given a hat to protect him from the sun. He then told anyone who asked that he got the hat in Panama. So it became known as a Panama hat. 

We also saw a traditional family owned company that creates and weaves the bags used for coffee beans from fibers found in green guava plants. Also fascinating!

Revealing the fibers by scraping the leaf.


The fibers are scraped out of a leaf, dried and then carded to soften them. After they are spun into large spindles, set on a loom and woven. 

Spinning the fibre into yarn.


The loom is powered by foot pedals as the shuttle quickly shoots back and forth and the fabric for the sacks is created. 

This man worked the loom with both his feet and hands.


Besides seeing the crafts of Manta, named by the Spanish for the giant manta rays that surrounded the port, we saw the beautiful beaches and lush green scenery. A fun day for those who love crafts. 

Why I Gave Away A Bit of My Mom’s Memory

27 Dec

It is five year’s since my Mom passed away on December 27, 2010. I hold on to her memory, and I have to be honest I have been holding on to items that belonged to her as bits of her, as memories I cannot share but mean so much to me.

Singer Featherweight

My Mom’s Singer Featherweight Sewing Machine, now known as Frances.

Included in these memory items was her 1947 Signer Featherweight sewing machine. I think she got it as a high school graduation gift, as she graduated in 1947. So when I had items of my parent’s shipped from New Jersey to Kansas, I included the sewing machine in its carrying case with my shipment.

My siblings thought I was a little crazy. We had not used that sewing machine for years. Why did I want it? Sentimental attachment was my answer.

I learned to sew on that sewing machine. I have many hours of memories locked up in that case. When I was a freshman and sophomore at North Bergen High School, I took sewing classes. I actually loved learning to sew.

At school I used a modern machine, but at home my Mom took out her Singer sewing machine, and I quickly took using it. It was great. It did not take up much room in the closet, and I could easily set it up on the kitchen table when I wanted to sew. I loved using the foot action to make it go slow or fast.

To be honest, I went pretty quickly. It only could sew in straight lines. But it did really good straight lines! So why not zip through them! I can still here the quiet ‘varoom’ of the motor when I hit the foot pedal and gained speed.

I eventually bought a zipper attachment so that I could put zippers in dresses and pants. I should say my parents bought me a zipper attachment.

With that sewing machine I made dresses for my sister, my mom, my grandma and me. I zipped up curtains for our home in New Jersey, and eventually made curtains for my parent’s bungalow in the Catskills. I will never forget that yellow and white and brown pussy willow fabric. I made 18 panels of various sizes to fit all the windows in the kitchen.

When I was 16 my parents bought me a new, in a cabinet, sewing machine that could make buttonholes and had embroidery patterns. Wow! I loved that. I could do so much more with this new machine: zigzags, borders, shirring.

The old Singer Featherweight was not neglected. It moved up to the Catskills for when I needed to sew up there. I mended shirts and pants, I was the queen of hemming. That sewing machine got used weekly during the summer, especially on a rainy day.

I never had to worry about either sewing machine breaking down, as my Dad started his career as the owner of an embroidery shop. He knew everything about sewing machines and keeping them going. He cleaned and oiled and fixed that old Singer Sewing Machine and my new one. Even after I married, he would come yearly and do maintenance on my newer machine.

The Singer Featherweight stayed in New Jersey. Whenever I came to visit my Mom or Dad would ask if I could hem something or fix something. And sometimes I did. Other times, I would recommend that they go to a tailor. When I came, I came with two children, and I often did not have the time to sew.

Eventually the Singer machine got put into a closet and did not come out. After my parents passed away, I found it. And I needed it. So I brought it to Kansas to sit in my closet. But I felt good knowing it was there.

But something happened. Two years ago, I wrote a blog about my newest sewing machine. My children got me one for my birthday because the machine I got when I was 16 had stopped working. I complained bitterly, but I did not go out and get a new one. So my children took action. I put a picture of my Singer in the blog.

Around the same time, I had some Hanukkah placemats and other items made by the sister of a friend of mine. The sister is a big time quilter. She goes to quilting events and has an entire room set up in her home devoted to making quilted items.

And she needed, wanted and desired a Singer Featherweight sewing machine. It seems that these machines are very popular with quilters because they make great straight lines, and they are easy to carry. Quilters take them on location to craft meetings. And my friend’s sister wanted one with all her heart. When my friend saw my blog and my Singer sewing machine, she told me how much her sister wanted one.

But I could not part with my Mom’s sewing machine. I thought about letting it go. But I just was not ready. However, last week, when I went on school vacation, I started cleaning closets. I saw the sewing machine case just sitting there, covered by other items. It was forlorn. It needed to be use.

I told my friend, “Why don’t you ask you sister if she wants my Singer Featherweight sewing machine. “

Her sister lives about 90 minutes from me, so I thought she would come sometime after the new year, when she had other reasons to come down here. I was wrong. She came that day, within four hours of the phone call. She wanted that machine.

When she came into the house she was so excited she had tears in her eyes. Wow! It made me feel so happy. I knew I was doing the right thing. To be honest it was good that she came that day, if I had time to think about it I might have changed my mind. I sold it to her for $100, much less than the going price that I saw on line. I am donating the money to charity in my Mom’s name for her yahrzeit.

I feel like I am doing two mitzvot, good deeds. My friend’s sister gets the sewing machine she so desires, and a charity gets a needed donation.

For me the best part is that my Mom’s Singer sewing machine is now with someone who really wanted it: someone who will use it; someone who cares about it almost as much as I do. As an added bonus, she names all of her ‘antique’ sewing machines. She is going to call this machine after my Mom. My Singer Featherweight Sewing Machine is now Frances.

I might have given away a memory of my Mom. But I have created another memory with it. Now the sewing machine will have another life, and Mom’s name and memory are attached to that life.

 

 

 

http://www.planetpatchwork.com/fweight.htm

Making The Chuppah For My Daughter’s Wedding Brings Me Joy

17 Nov

My daughter is getting married in less than ten months now. Although they announced their engagement six months ago, and I should be used to the idea, I am still excited and a bit anxious. I want it to be a beautiful wedding. And I wanted to do something special for her. So I decided I would crochet her chuppah, the wedding canopy.

Cotton thread

The cotton thread which will become the chuppah for my daughter’s wedding.

I am a crazed crocheter. I make doilies and baby blankets out of cotton yarn. Crocheting is how I relax.   For my son’s bar mitzvah, I made over 60 head coverings for the married women who attended the service. Of course we bought kippot for the men. But I wanted the women to have something special as well. And even though his bar mitzvah was 12 year ago, I still occasionally see someone wearing one of the coverings I made at our congregation.

I did not make anything for my daughter’s bat mitzvah. She occasionally would mention to me what I did for my son’s event, and not for hers. But I explained that I was not crocheting as much then. And eventually I would do something for her. The time has come.

When I first suggested making her chuppah, she told me that I did not have to take on such an extensive project. Then she posted a photo of a wedding gown someone crocheted on my Facebook page. It was beautiful. But I knew I could not do that. However, some of my friends (one in particular) went crazy and started sending me lots of Pinterest photos of crocheted wedding gowns.   They were stunning. But with my daughter living out of the country, I thought that would be too difficult.

So this summer I started working on a sample of the chuppah I thought I would make for my daughter to see when she came in to do wedding gown shopping. It was NOT a hit. She did not like the pattern I chose at all. I had to start looking again. She gave me some ideas of what she liked and then left it at that.

But her fiancée was more enthusiastic. His comments included: You can also make all the head coverings: kippot for the men and chapel covers for the women. How about you crochet me a new tallit. That would be great you can make me my tallit. I know how to but the tzitzi on.”

It is traditional for some Jewish families for the bride to buy her husband a tallit before they get married. I bought my husband his tallit.

I was not going to crochet a tallit. OY Gevalt. That was just too much pressure. I would like to say he was teasing to a degree. But I think a bit of him really wanted me to make one. (Actually my daughter says he really wants me to make one….but I do not think so!)

I still might make coverings for the women for the ceremony. But I do not think I am going to crochet all the kippot.

However, I am now working on the chuppah. I found a pattern my daughter likes and approves.   I have started making the squares and crocheting the pattern.   I am about 1/14 of the way. With just nine months to go, I have to keep busy. When my husband and I travel, I take part of the cotton yarn with me and I crochet the inner flower that will be at the center of every square.

Flight delays are a perfect time for heavy duty crocheting.   Volunteering at a registration table also serves as a perfect time for crocheting. Except when people keept asking what I was making and then want to look at it.   It reminds be that thread crocheting is almost a lost art. Many women, young and old, told me about someone that used to know who could crochet as I do, usually their mothers or grandmothers.   And it was my grandmother who taught me over 50 years ago.

They love looking at my work and telling me what their loved one made for them years ago. One woman told be about the veil another woman made for her daughter…a crocheted veil.   My heart is going there as well. But my brain says, STOP!

I get a bit anxious when I am sitting at a meeting and not crocheting. I feel like I should bring it everywhere with me. But would that be rude?   I am under a time crunch. And I want it to be perfect.

I will be honest, the chuppah I crochet will not be the only canopy over my daughter and her future husband.   We have the final tallit my Dad wore. When he passed away we buried two tallisim with him: his bar mitzvah and wedding ones. But this one we kept as our Mom purchased it especially when he became president of his shul. My son now uses it for services. But we (my siblings and I) agreed it would be used as part of the wedding chuppah for each of the grandchildren.

The beauty of the chuppah I am making is that after the wedding, it can be used as a tablecloth. It will have a life after the wedding.   I hope whenever they use it they will feel my love surround them and their marriage.

For now, all my other projects are on hold! I will stop making baby blankets and doilies. Well that is my plan, except people I know keep having babies. So perhaps I will have to sneak a few in.

And it is possible, just possible, I might have to add some crochet elements for my daughter’s veil. We will see.

In the meantime, I am making the chuppah for my daughter’s wedding, which brings me joy.

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My daughter and son-in-law under the huppah I made.

 

Chuppah: wedding canopy

Kippot: head covering

Tallit: prayer shawl

Tzitzi: Fringes on the four courners of a tallit

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/knitting-and-crocheting-brings-love-and-memories/

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/12/25/i-am-proud-to-be-a-cotton-thread-yarn-addict/

Frogs Jumping At the Passover Seder

2 Apr

Over the years my desire to have an educational and entertaining Passover seder merged with my love of creating paper creatures using origami.

Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding to make figures. Many have seen the origami crane. But it can also be used to make flowers, boxes, insects, and animals. An unlimited number creatures and objects can be created by the intricate folds used in origami.

I have loved origami for over fifty years. When I was in fourth grade I went to a birthday party for a school friend who was from Japan. As part of the party fun, her mother taught us how to make several origami figures including a crane and a box. I was hooked.   I have been dabbling in origami ever since.

My collection of origami books and special papers grew when I was in graduate school. My roommate, Pekoe, was Japanese. When she found out about my love of origami, she was intrigued that I was capable of making the more advanced figures. Upon her return to Missouri, after winter break, she presented me with the most beautiful handmade origami paper and several figurines. I still have them all.

I used origami when I taught. I used origami when I was a hospital candy striper while in high school. I used origami as a mother. Many times I was able to cheer up rainy days and airplane trips by the aspect of making origami figurines. I always carried the special brightly colored, square paper with me when I traveled. It entertained not only my children, but others as well.

Making origami frogs before the seder.

Making origami frogs before the seder.

At Passover, Pesach, origami frogs became an important part of our holiday tradition. I was always looking for ways to make the seder more enjoyable, especially for the children who were with us. So I started giving my son and daughter enough sheets of paper to make a frog for each person at our Seder.

We always made frogs that could ‘jump.’   Did I tell you that the frog plague was always our favorite? My son loves reptiles, lizards and amphibians. So of course he loved frogs. And green was his favorite color. So we made many frogs of different shades of green. Whenever we made our frogs and hopped them during the seder, we sang the Passover frog song that ends with “Frogs here, frogs there. Frogs were jumping everywhere.” And then our paper frogs would start hopping.

Jumping frogs

Last year at Passover my children went bonkers. They made multiple origami frogs of many colors. They also decided to make paper locust. We used all these origami figurines to decorate our seder table.

When we read about the plagues, everyone tried to hop these frogs. Some jumped directly into the wine, the charosets and the seder plate. Frogs were really jumping everywhere. Everyone had a great time.

The frogs remained on the table throughout the meal. When we sang the end of seder songs, frog jumping took over. The aim was to get the frog onto a tissue box. Several of the young adults at the table were quite good at this. So while we sang songs like ‘Had Gad Ya’, we also had a group still making the frogs jump.

Perhaps it is not taking the plague seriously. But I know that everyone who attends my seder will always remember the plague of frogs. They will always have fond memories of the Passover seder.

 

http://www.origami-instructions.com/easy-origami-jumping-frog.html

 

http://www.nnls-masorti.org.uk/cms/upload/file/Sound%20Files/Pesach%20Seder%20Melodies%20and%20Songs%20-%20Lee%20Wax/The%20Frog%20Song%20lyrics.pdf

Crocheting Toddler Blankets Is Keeping Me Busy

26 Mar

Although I am not a grandmother yet, I recently became a Great Aunt. And I have more ‘grand’ babies on the way. I am excited. I love seeing a new generation and watch my nieces and nephews become parents.

I have, over the years, seen many of my friend’s children and former students become parents. And I have enjoyed buying gifts and holding these new arrivals. But it did not occur to me to start crocheting gifts for these beloved babies.

I think I was so wrapped up in my doily making that I forgot that I could make something bigger. I made lots of baby and toddler blankets and sweaters when my children were little. I stopped when I broke my elbow. I only made small items after the accident. However, I have been healed for years.

My other issue is that I love cotton yarn. I do not like to crochet with polyester and other synthetics. So what to do? Baby blankets are usually soft and cuddly because they are made with manufactured yarns.

Thanks to a post on a Facebook group that I follow, Crochet Addict, I had a answer. Someone asked what else could be made with Sugar’n Cream, 100 percent cotton yarn. This yarn is usually used to make kitchen towels and washcloths. I have made some washcloths for a good friend from this yarn. I love crocheting with Sugar’n Cream yarn, but did not know quite what else to do with it.

On the comment line, someone said they made baby blankets from this yarn. I was hooked. Baby blankets? I could do that. The next day I went to one of my local mega craft stores (Michael’s) and bought some brightly colored Sugar’n Cream yarn. I also bought a pattern book for crocheting “Blankets for Toddlers.”   And I began a new journey. The other thing I like about this yarn is that it washes so well. Since it is made for kitchen work, it is also strong. Perfect for use with little children.

First two blankets with Sugar'n Cream yarn.

First two blankets with Sugar’n Cream yarn.

My first blanket is slightly off kilter. I did not plan well with the weight of the yarn and the pattern. So it is longer and narrower then I wanted it to be. But then I saw that people make blankets this size to use in strollers. So it will be used. I am presenting it to a neighbor who just had a little girl on my husband and my 35th wedding anniversary. She is the first baby born since I started making blankets.

My second blanket has come out much more in the shape I wanted.   I went back to Michael’s when the store was having a yarn sale. There is one problem with this yarn. It is sold, at Michaels, in just 2 ounce and 2 ½ ounce skeins. It is difficult to find enough skeins with the same lot number to make a full blanket! (The lot number means that the skeins were dyed on the same day at the same time. If they were not dyed together, then the colors can be slightly off and fade differently.)

I solved this problem by buying three colors and putting skeins of the same dye lots together, while separating them from other dye lots with the other colors. It forms a striped blanket, using one stitch throughout. I think it looks darn good.

Now I am ready to begin blanket number three. I have to make four in all by September. I was out and about and decided to go to a different mega craft store, Joann’s Fabric. I was in for a surprise. At Joann’s, the Sugar’n Cream yarn comes in bigger skeins! There are both three and four ounce skeins. But more than that, the store sells 14-ounce skeins on the cardboard tubes. I can definitely get the same lot numbers there. I now have enough yarn to make my third blanket. And I have a plan in mind for blanket number four!

My new Clover hooks.

My new Clover hooks.

I am having a great time. Especially since with this blanket, I will be able to use my new crochet hooks. Clover crochet hooks were another great idea from the Crochet Addict group. Someone posted a photo of these wonderful European crochet hooks that have a thicker handle. That is the most difficult part of using this yarn for me, the slipping handle. I am hoping these new hooks work better and cause less stress on my hands.

Once I finish the blankets I have promised myself I would make for grand nieces and nephews, I know I will keep making baby blankets. I posted a photo of the two I finished and now some of my younger generation friends want one for their children. I am happy to oblige!

When I am done with those, I will still make the blankets! A friend I know makes them and donates them to a hospital NICU for new babies who need lots of love. I will crochet lots of love in each blanket I make.

I am so happy that crocheting toddler blankets is keeping me busy. And am happy that all my blankets will be going to loving homes.