Stitching in Time by Lissa Widoff

The studio has been quiet this summer and fall as I was called more often to enjoy time outdoors, garden, play in and on the water and entertain visitors like my Maine brethren! I also found myself in NY a few times as I supported my mom in her passing to the next realm. It was a blessing to be with family to celebrate her 93 years of a full life.

It was my mother who first taught me creative skills, especially in fiber arts.  In her day, knitting, crochet, embroidery, sewing were portable crafts and often tied to some practical need. This summer I indulged myself in the week-long Medomak Fiberarts Retreat at Medomak Camp, literally just down the road from me, about 20 miles down the road anyway. Although I had every intention of delving deeper in to my spinning craft and took several classes in dyeing, botanical printing and one in weaving, I found myself re-discovering the power of simple mindful hand stitches for mending, design, highlighting felt and fabric and sewing together braids of fabric for an upcycled rug.

I found especially fascinating the methods of Sashiko stitching applied to Japanese Boro mending.  Centuries ago, poor and extremely frugal farmers in Japan mended layer upon layer of denim patching with quilt-like stitches on their jackets and the mending technique became known as Boro.  As we consider our own lifestyles we see that mending can be mindful, and artful as well.  So, I have been “on a tear” of mending!  I have repaired and mended two pairs of jeans, remaking them into fun experiments as I tested new stitches, skills, textures and threads.   I hope to offer some related classes in the studio in coming months.

It is also exciting to recognize and acknowledge that while we think of our part of Waldo County as an organic food and farming hub, it is also becoming quite the fiber arts hub too – with Fiddlehead Artisan Supply, Heavenly Yarns and now Belfast Fiber Arts all in Belfast, there is an opportunity for Freedom Makers Studio to collaborate and contribute to fiber arts as home craft, wild craft with natural materials (think pine needle baskets, home spun yarns) and meditation (hand stitching). Just this week friends and I visited Moorit Hill Farm and purchased some fabulous Icelandic Sheep fleeces, for future indulgences.

As this next year unfolds, I am hoping to blend the use of Freedom Makers Studio as a gallery and community venue, with more fiber arts activities added to the monthly spinning days we’ve held the last few winters. I am inspired by the convergence of this direction with Lesia Sochor’s artwork currently on display- her series of spools of thread in small and large panel paintings and a series of small mixed media pieces that blend sewing pattern paper (remember Simplicity and Vogue!) and women’s form and fashion – from zippers to flare to playful costume design. I have always loved Lesia’s work and grateful she has adorned the space with her work – I share her understanding of the way in which hand stitching - simple needle and thread skills, have been passed down over centuries, through women, for practical and playful purposes.

I hope to stitch together some new ideas to have us gather in the studio. Stop in when you can!

Wales in the Willows by Lissa Widoff

It was such a treat to have my friend Cassandra Lishman at Freedom Makers Studio this weekend. The onslaught of the snowy winter and busy December schedules kept the crowd small, but intimate enough to share stories, willow weaving, stories about intentional communities and living lightly on the land.  She talked about Lammas, the ecovillage where she lives in Wales and where I stayed for several weeks the summer of 2014. 

Special thanks to Jack Kertesz who sourced a fine bundle of basket willow for Cassie from a special location in Thorndike and I complemented that with the first blue leaf arctic willow and red-osier dogwood harvested in my micro-homestead.  Cassie and her family were a true inspiration to me then and even more so now. How do we weave together our positive intensions about community, using local resources and living as sustainably as possible. Such beauty and inspiration still!