When I was a girl, every summer my parents packed up the car, threw me in the back with some snacks, a pillow, and a few magazines, and we hit the road east, driving 12 hours from Michigan to Massachusetts. There, just a block from the Atlantic, my grandmother, uncle, and two maiden aunts were waiting to spoil me, the only grandchild.
My Aunt Ann crocheted Barbie fashions for my dolls, attaching tiny buttons and snaps with great patience. My Aunt Betsie bought me rock candy–a confection that looked like actual rocks. And every day we would walk to the beach where I would sift sand, make mud castles, and eat fried clams.
They acquiesced to my every whim with one exception: as a child, I of course wanted to hit the beach the minute my eyes opened in the morning. But I always had to wait. . .and wait. . .until the adults all had their coffee. It seemed like torture!
Now that I live in Massachusetts and the beach is just an hour away, I try to take my daughters there as often as possible. And yes, they have to wait until I've had my coffee. They love to hear me tell the stories of my childhood vacations at the beach, and my aunts, who are still going strong in their eighties, delight in chiming in on how spoiled I was–and how much they enjoyed doing the spoiling.
I thought it might be fun to commemorate those times with a journal, and two articles in the latest issue of Fiberarts magazine gave me the perfect idea. One was an article by Amy Clark Moore on making Easy Felted Beads, using colorful wool roving. The other was a piece by Janis Thompson, a hand spinner, on how she combined handmade art yarn with found objects to make an art yarn journal necklace.
I combined aspects of the two projects, making a bracelet instead of the beads/necklace. Here's my basic process:
1. Pull tufts of wool roving from the hank and wrap them loosely around your hand, overlapping slightly as you go. Do this loosely as the wool will shrink in the felting process. Keep layering until you have a fairly sturdy and even loop all the way around your hand.
2. Dip the felted circle into hot, soapy water (bleach-free dishwashing liquid works well), slip the circle onto your hand so that part of the circle is in your palm, and rub your hands together, rotating the circle a little at a time. Keep rotating, adding more soapy water if needed, and rubbing. If the bracelet is too thin, incorporate more tufts.
3. When the circle is the size and consistency you want, rinse it in a bath of clean, cold water. Keep rubbing to make sure the fibers are tight.
4. Lay flat on a towel to dry, overnight.
After my felted bracelet was dry, I decided it needed something to make it more beachy looking, so I machine needle felted some sparkly white tulle into it. As the tulle broke up and integrated into the felt, it looked like sea foam to me.
Then I searched through my found objects for the right charms to tell my journal story. I found a rock-like bead that reminded me of rock candy; a clamshell charm with a pearl that spoke to me of the beach (and fried clams!); a small snap for the Barbie clothes and my aunt's sewing and crochet lessons; a dragonfly reminiscent of the ones that would flit here and there over the sea grass; and finally, a tiny copper coffee cup to remind me to have patience and savor the moments of our lives.
As someone who has a wide and varied array of art supplies and interests, I really enjoyed being able to combine my love of fibers, jewelry, found objects, and storytelling to create this journal bracelet.
The current issue of Fiberarts includes so many articles that appeal to the mixed-media artist, including one on weaving with old foreign money (something to do with your pre-Euro paper bills), a piece on making handspun art yarn with fabric scraps (I sure have a lot of those), and a roundup of craft schools all over the U.S. that have summer programs in everything from collage to book arts to hat making. You should check it out!
P.S. Have you ever taken your journaling beyond the book, so to speak? Do you make art journal jewelry? Share your stories with us in the comments section below.