Felting: The Perfect Craft Therapy for Menopause

The other day, a friend of mine who describes me as being on the Menopause Trail behind her, introduced me to wool felting. I think I’m behind her because I still have the issues with instantaneous rage and the frequent need to chew something to pieces, literally and metaphorically.

We watched a video together and then she hooked me up with two of the most wonderful books I’ve seen lately (both available at Amazon):

1.  Art in Felt & Stitch by Moy Mackey (published by Search Press).

61+10SpftPL._SL300_

2.  Felt Inlays: Making Textured and Patterned Felt for 23 Projects by Nancy Hoerner.

book-artinfeltandstitch

We also looked at some felting videos and when I saw how it’s done, something primal in me reared its head and I was hooked. I think what piqued my interest was the mildly violent terminology both the videos and the books used.

I quote from Art in Felt & Stitch (p. 18):

“Felting needles

These are extremely sharp, barbed needles, to take care when working with them. They are rapidly and repeatedly poked in and out of the felt painting … to add more detail to the picture and to secure any fibres that have gone astray. The barbs on the needles entangle the wool fibres as they are pulled in and out.”

In the videos that I watched about felting, the teachers used the words, “jab” and “stab,” which sound so very therapeutic to me!

The painting-with-wool in Art in Felt & Stitch overwhelmed me and I’m not ready today for wet felting (maybe tomorrow) so I decided to try something simple. I love making things with cats on them (purses and pillows and such) so I started with a simple cat shape on some pale yellow wool cloth I’ve had for years. I grew up wearing wool skirts and the occasional wool toboggan (it doesn’t get that cold around here) and of course, camping with a wool Army blanket. I remember them as my itchiest memories. No way I was going to make any kind of garment out of that wool cloth… but now I have a use for it.

colors-roving-400h

So here’s the prettiest wool roving I have (I left out the drab colors so the picture would be pretty). Anyway, I ended up using just three colors: black, yellow, and green. The curly green is my favorite. It comes from the curly hairs of the animal right after its permanent wave (Okay! just making sure you’re paying attention). You can get versions of these colors at just about any craft store. Most of these came from Hobby Lobby.

You can see from the photo below that I started with a simple cat-face shape and filled in all of the black. I added the yellow eyes after that, on top of the black felt. Then I started with the green background. feltingthegreen

I used a small metal box to trace a shape around the cat image, already felted. Then I filled in the background.

I wasn’t sure if felting into wool cloth (instead of flat felt) would work but it did. The cloth had even been washed before (I did it) but since I wasn’t wet felting, it was okay for it to be pre-washed. By the way, the difference between wool felt and wool cloth is that the cloth is woven and with felt, the fibers are criss-crossed and willy-nilly, merged together kind of like the fibers in particle board. The wet felting technique, using hot water and soap, are what make the fibers swell together and form into felt.

purseparts

I’m pretty sure my cat will need more of a face so I will add that before sewing all of the pieces together. Above, you will see two pieces of pre-cut cloth in soft gold upholstery fabric and two pieces of blue linen. I’ll just have to attach the cat patch and sew the purse together and then attach the purse to the frame. I made the pattern for the cloth based on the shape of the purse frame, which you will see shortly.

When men are frustrated, they can go out and shoot cans, use heavy machinery to pull up trees by their roots, or ax something. Truth be told, women of our menopausal persuasion don’t have the mental clarity to run heavy machinery (just ask me about the time I recently let my car roll in a WalMart parking lot) OR the muscle tone (thanks, Fleeting Testosterone) to ax anything. Speaking for my own menopausal self, I think “jabbing” and “stabbing” are the perfect antidote to the frustrations brought about by changing body chemistry.

feltedPurse-diddled

This really is the best craft for the frustrated person. Whenever I get that ol’ urge to mildly destroy something, I tell my husband to run and then I grab up my jabbing needles. With all the jabbing and rapid poking necessary to needle felt, I get to vent my frustrations and end up with a pretty project, too. Then I can wipe the sweat off my face and say with satisfaction, “Wow! THAT FELT GOOD!”

The View from Here

dirtRoadinFog  No toddler ever looks back on his life and says, “I wasted nine months cooped up in my mother’s belly”!

The road to Middle Life is much the same. There is no way to separate all the pains of life from the person they make us into. Part of the maturity that comes from settling into middle age is realizing that being trapped, claustrophobic, and uncomfortable was when our hearts were being formed. That’s when we were figuring out how to really breathe.

When I was young, I believed that I held unique qualities and that I would make positive changes in the world. I believed I would earn at least a measure of fame. When one day bleeds into another and eventually a person thinks to look up– and discovers gray hair at the temples and recognizes that she is not famous, the first thing any logical person does is admit failure. Then comes regret and remorse and that ol’ dusky purple feeling that our eighth-grade English teachers tried to snatch out of our hearts, back in the day.

I discover day by day that the measuring stick of my youth is no longer plumb. I am not the success I had hoped to be. I did not marry my childhood sweetheart and have the bohemian career (is this an oxymoron?) that I thought I would have. I did not manage to stay thin and beautiful. I have made my share of mis-turns and detours. I have made huge mistakes. I have dated the wrong people and I’ve married the wrong people. And if I were a younger, more romantic person, I would regret it!

Now, looking back to where two roads once diverged in a yellow wood, I would never go back and change the path I chose. Not for anything! Even though I took a trail that everybody else had the good sense to avoid, “all the difference” taught me to develop thick skin and the musculature of a pack-horse (metaphorically, of course; these days low testosterone has turned my muscles into mush).

There are two methods to learning wisdom in old age. One is by having humility pressed upon us as a result of the less-than-intelligent choices we’ve made. The other is having humility pressed upon us as a result of gravity (i.e., birthdays!).

Humility by either path makes us  more tolerant. If humility resulted from our own patterns of stupidity in our younger days, we are likely to imagine that  the really rude person in line in front of us is not truly rude but just hasn’t yet figured out he’s a nice person. If our humility stems from the second source (the humiliations of age), we are likely to perceive his rudeness as proof that he just suffered the onslaught of a pea-sized gall stone propelled into his bile duct by gastric Lilliputians with sling shots.

steamingCoffee

Savor ye coffee while ye may
Old Time is fast a-flying:
And this same liquid that steams to-day
To-morrow will be drying.

Either way, humility is the blessing of age. With it, we understand that even when we rise, achieve, succeed, complete, or win, accomplishment often brings a measure of emptiness. Meaning, however, comes from how we travel, whether we get so caught up in “getting there” that we don’t actually enjoy going there.

That’s when we realize that the guy who had fun on the way Up was the one who succeeded. And so did the girl who enjoyed a good bit of her time trekking Around–even if briars made maps of blood on her ankles and she stumbled, only by accident, upon the right trail.

About RalphAnn

DSC_0057 I live smack in the middle of North Carolina. I am 47 years old, female, and smack in the middle (I hope!) of peri-menopause. I have discovered that the internal chaos I experience day to day dictates that I have some sort of order in the other parts of my life. Writing helps me achieve that order. At the same time, I don’t want to be narcissistic so this blog’s intended to amuse those who know what I’m talking about and, for those who are not in that “people group,” don’t pay me no mind!

Hormone Stew

potOstewWhen one morning I rolled over on my belly– which I have done my entire life–and felt strange stabbings in my boobies, I knew that something was wrong. My first reaction was WHA’? My second reaction was panic. But there was no clear origin to the pain and no localized lump, bump, or swelling. It was such an odd sensation that I didn’t have words for it. It happened to me several times before I could even describe it. It felt like miniature archers were precariously perched in the loofah fibers of my breasts. The whirrlygig arrows they shot at each other took spiral paths, like corkscrew confetti with barbs. I could tell that some of the little archers were a bit overweight because I could feel their fat little feet dig into me, like the feet of a cat who is leaning on one foot.

When I held a pillow to my chest or picked up my cat, 1. I knew the archers were there and 2. I discovered that I have the undisputed gift of instant rage.

This happened several times before I had the courage to describe it to anyone. “It sounds like hormone stew!” said my sister. Surprise!

Ever the ponderer, I picture my hormones in a big pot with vegetables. There are too many cooks in my kitchen and no chief. Somebody comes in and turns up the heat. Then somebody else comes in and moves the pot to a smaller burner. Then somebody else turns everything off. Then it’s back on again. Then some nut job comes in and adds cabbage and the whole house stinks. Yes, I have a very clear picture of what is happening in my retirement-age ovaries, which are as wrinkled and dry as lima beans.

When my sister says, “hormone stew,” it starts an argument in my head. I think, Why stew? Why not soup? Meanwhile, I have my hormone levels tested and sure enough, my FSH and LH have evaporated while everything simmered with the lid off. Progesterone did the same and so did my testosterone! I had such stabbings of rage every time the Little Archers did their business that I was convinced that my testosterone had topped the charts. But no. It evaporated into thin air through the exhaust fan.

Meanwhile I’ve decided that my sister is right. It IS stew. Soup is simply ingredients cooked in a liquid base, served hot. But “stew” means to “simmer or to slow boil.” It also means to “fret,” “worry,” or “fuss.”  My favorite definition is “to feel uncomfortable due to a hot, humid, stuffy atmosphere; to swelter.” My next favorite is “a state of agitation, uneasiness, or worry.” The only definition I don’t agree with is “a brothel.”

I know for a fact that the meaning of “stew” in my particular case has nothing to do with any “House-of-Ill-Repute” because the testosterone leaching out of my system would make that virtually impossible. First of all, I got days that ain’t nobody touching me and if they did, I’m  a mean, Mean Madame.

On the other hand, I have to admit that it seems possible that the word, “brothel” comes from the stew-related word, “broth.” Some very early historian must have made a typo. Or there was a misunderstanding. Something like that.