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Monday, November 10, 2008

Solstice Calendar: A Work-in-Progress

Bill, Sarah, and Percy are the Owl Babies waiting for their mama owl to come home.
Wet-felted, undyed roving with thread, felt, and seed bead details.

For about a year I've been thinking about making a woodland "advent" calendar. I've been wanting to jump into needle-felting and wet-felting — both techniques I have little experience with — and this seemed like a great way to start. I've been envisioning woodland creatures, mushrooms, maybe a few gnomes, tucked away in little "stone" pockets to be pulled out by tiny fingers to attach to their forest home.

Until now my ideas have been fairly abstract — I've known the essence of what I want, but not sure how it would manifest. Last Sunday, on a floor filled with felt and a pair of sharp scissors, I started the process of bringing my idea to life. I'm not sure how long it will take, what the finished piece will look like, or, how it will end up being used. But, I do know that I'd love y'all to follow along. Here we go:

Day 1 (Sunday, Nov. 9th)
As I sat on the floor cutting out felt, I started thinking a little more about what I wanted and the logistics of it all. How will things stick to the felt? Velcro or not? Will they be too heavy? Too fuzzy? Not strong enough to withstand a toddler? Where do I want things to go? How many pockets should it have? What are we celebrating? What am I counting down to? Do the pockets even need numbers? Solstice came to mind. But, unlike Christmas, it falls on a different day each year — and, there are two Solstices to think about. Hmmm? Do I represent winter with snow even though it doesn't really snow here? Should the tree have leaves? How much of it should be movable?

Since this is a work-in-progress, I don't have all the answers. I'm having fun discovering what this project will be as I'm working on it. It's been a long time since I've done a craft without a pattern or book or directions. It's a familiar process, though — it's how I've done things my whole life. My sister and I always had creative freedom — lots of supplies and nobody telling us how it should or shouldn't be (Thanks, mom!). I didn't realize this was such a large part of my creative make up until I started free-hand cutting into the wool felt with no outline or pattern to follow. The process was so familiar. I figured that if I messed up I could get more felt or make something different, maybe end up with a pink tree instead. It's second nature to me now, this knowing that creative mistakes are not to be feared. If only I could apply this to other areas of my life.


It started to shape up, becoming quite large (about 24 inches by 40 inches). At first I thought it would just be the gold background, but it quickly grew with the addition of the green to make room for the pockets. I prematurely cut the top of the tree, had to move the whole thing down and add a piece at the top. I butt-joined it with the faux wood-grain stitching later on.

Detail of stone pockets before I sewed them with the opening on the bottoms. Whoops! I still need to seam rip the tops out of three rows. To get as much color variation as possible I used 100% wool, wool/nylon and some wool/rayon blends. I'm not against using acrylic, but trying to keep it to as much wool as possible so I can needle felt on it if I want.

Machine stitching a faux woodgrain pattern on the tree with my new-to-me, vintage Brother sewing machine. I tried make stitching that is visually interesting. My goal is to have a nice balance of shapes, not realism.

As soon as I cut the hole for the owls to live in, I knew it needed to have some dimension. I added a flange piece by blanket stitching it to the front, then whip stitching it to the background, making sure to go through three layers to tack it all down: the flange, the dark interior, and the golden back piece.

The front doors need to lead somewhere, so another flange is added. That glob of stitching in the foreground is supposed to be a little critter sitting on the tree.

The doors are whip-stitched on the front side and hinged on the inside.

Each child plays differently with it. Little guy, C, likes to rearrange the leaves, big brother, H, likes to take the leaves and put them in the pockets. He also threw them on the ground since it is Fall. "Get it?" he said.

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Blogger tik-tiki said...

it is beautiful!

Tue Nov 11, 03:58:00 PM PST  
Blogger becka said...

Oh my goodness, this is amazing! The owl babies are my favourite, favourite part. I was thinking of doing an advent calendar also, I guess I better get on to it!

Tue Nov 11, 04:26:00 PM PST  
Blogger kat said...

that is simply gorgeous! when it's done, you can start on one for me :-)

Tue Nov 11, 04:45:00 PM PST  
Blogger gwendomama said...

i am TOTALLY in love with that.

add my name to the waitlist?

Tue Nov 11, 04:48:00 PM PST  
Blogger Kate said...


Tue Nov 11, 04:50:00 PM PST  
Blogger futuregirl said...

Will you be my momma?

This is amazing. I was sold when I saw the tiny little owls ... but then the tree! The stones! This is truly wonderful.

I'm a lot like you, except I like to start with a pattern and then wing it from there. When you said, "It's second nature to me now, this knowing that creative mistakes are not to be feared. If only I could apply this to other areas of my life." I thought ... ME, TOO!

Love it love it love it!

Tue Nov 11, 05:23:00 PM PST  
Blogger Sarah and Jack said...


I was needlefelting toadstools last week, but am currently sidetracked by a wreath project. I, too, am sort of dreaming of a woodland Christmas.

Tue Nov 11, 05:46:00 PM PST  
Blogger PamKittyMorning said...

I love how clever this is.. the owls are my favorite, as well as Mr. H "get it!" .. he's going to crack me up I know.

Tue Nov 11, 05:48:00 PM PST  
Blogger Siew said...

OMG - wow. This is absolutely incredible. Love, love, love it.

Tue Nov 11, 05:50:00 PM PST  
Anonymous dorie said...

That's just so uniquely beautiful. Love it!

Tue Nov 11, 06:59:00 PM PST  
Blogger Maiasaura said...

heavens to betsy, this is outrageously beautiful!!!

Tue Nov 11, 07:25:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Joanna said...

I don't even know where to begin, it's simply too wonderful. I love absolutely everything about it. And I also love your new-to-you sewing machine. Amazingly inspiring. Thank you.

Tue Nov 11, 08:47:00 PM PST  
Blogger Lauria @ Brackenbury Lane said...

Absolutely beautiful! You're very talented.

Tue Nov 11, 09:58:00 PM PST  
Blogger Crystal said...

This is so cool! I love it, can I copy you?

Tue Nov 11, 10:36:00 PM PST  
Blogger edward and lilly said...

Oh my, that is so amazing, you're so talented!

Tue Nov 11, 10:39:00 PM PST  
Blogger upstateLisa said...

wow! that is awesome!!!

Wed Nov 12, 01:57:00 AM PST  
Blogger puggerhugger said...

this is a new favotite- fantastic work! I love the little owls the best!

Wed Nov 12, 04:35:00 AM PST  
Blogger Frizz said...

WOW! This is so awesome. I love the idea of adding to the scene each day for the count down. Great concept - beautiful work. You are so good.

Now I want to do one for my niece!

Wed Nov 12, 05:45:00 AM PST  
Blogger Sara said...

This is just gorgeous. I love the stitching on the tree. and the stones. and the baby OWLS (*girlish squeal*). I loved felt boards as a child (really the only thing I liked about church). Thanks for sharing th design process.
Sara in Salt Lake (

Wed Nov 12, 07:30:00 AM PST  
Blogger Shari said...

What a work of art! I enjoyed reading about your creative process too.

Wed Nov 12, 07:36:00 AM PST  
Blogger Donna said...

I love advent calendars and save the ones I like best--I think we are up to five or six for this holiday season. That is just beautiful! So calm and lovely, and the interactive part of it is wonderful--that it's not something you do a little each day, you can continue to play with it.

Wed Nov 12, 09:46:00 AM PST  
Blogger Cele said...

That is Just amazing. Wow !!

Wed Nov 12, 11:24:00 AM PST  
Blogger annamae said...

wow, so cute! I love woodland stuff and this is a darling idea!

Wed Nov 12, 11:46:00 AM PST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have inspired my next project...thank you :)

Wed Nov 12, 12:56:00 PM PST  
Blogger moodymama said...

oh. my. goodness. this is just amazing. how very beautiful. you are so talented.

Wed Nov 12, 01:53:00 PM PST  
Blogger Brooke said...

That is amazing.. those doors? The dimension in the felt? Oh man.. I want a set of Owl Babies for my house... we love that book.

Wed Nov 12, 06:52:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Krista said...

You are ridiculously talented!! This is just lovely!

Wed Nov 12, 08:28:00 PM PST  
Blogger Grey Cottage Studio said...

Fantastic. Lovely. Inspiring.

I can't wait to see more!

Wed Nov 12, 08:55:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone said everything I thought. Truly inspiring that you just whipped it out like that. And it is PERFECT!!!! Girl, you got it going on.

Mary Beth

Wed Nov 12, 09:50:00 PM PST  
Blogger Ali said...

This is the most gorgeous, beautiful thing! You are so clever, I'm so very impressed!!!

Thu Nov 13, 01:21:00 AM PST  
Blogger Farmyard Crafts said...

That's awesome and so creative! Love to see what other creatures you create!

Thu Nov 13, 03:59:00 AM PST  
Blogger Melissa! said...

Love-love-love it!
That's why you've too busy to meet at Kelly's!!! ;)

Thu Nov 13, 10:48:00 AM PST  
OpenID fiveflowers said...

Oh michelle- this is amazing! Sarah, Percy and Bill have been a BIG parts of our lives, too! I am going to have to try to make this someday!

Thu Nov 13, 11:18:00 AM PST  
Blogger stitchin' girl said...

WOW!! That is fabulous!! What a great creative idea!

Thu Nov 13, 05:27:00 PM PST  
Blogger rayna said...


Thu Nov 13, 06:05:00 PM PST  
Blogger puggerhugger said...

Michelle, Amy is taking job applications for beckoning of lovely's next phase.... thought you'd want to know!

Thu Nov 13, 08:27:00 PM PST  
Blogger ana said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

Fri Nov 14, 04:46:00 AM PST  
Blogger Project Pink Suitcase said...

LOVE it! You know how I feel about owls, trees and leaves.
LOVE! What a great project!

Fri Nov 14, 09:03:00 AM PST  
Anonymous ambika said...

This is so magnificent. I just love it. I think I'd leave it up all year round.

Fri Nov 14, 09:16:00 AM PST  
Blogger kawaii crafter said...

this is just beautiful and those wee little owls are adorable

Sat Nov 15, 08:56:00 AM PST  
Anonymous yuka said...

Such a clever treat!

Sat Nov 15, 10:47:00 AM PST  
Blogger mlr72 said...

so great! beautiful & whimsical. did I miss the part about how the leaves stick on? velcro?

Sat Nov 15, 07:49:00 PM PST  
Blogger Old School Acres said...

"I want my mommy!"

One of our favorite books and the inspiration for the first owl I ever made. It's lovely, Michelle!

Sun Nov 16, 12:51:00 PM PST  
Blogger Meninheira said...

Qué belleza!
Es realmente una obra de arte, felicidades :)

Mon Nov 17, 06:12:00 AM PST  
Blogger CC said...

If only I could sew! I would so (ha!) use this with my unit on Owl Babies!

Mon Nov 17, 07:27:00 AM PST  
Blogger Sherry said...

Wow! This is beautiful!

Mon Nov 17, 07:42:00 AM PST  
Blogger Cassandra said...

Oh my! This is so gorgeous. Anything owls and you've got me drooling!

Mon Nov 17, 08:42:00 AM PST  
Blogger Meredith said...

This is just beautiful!

Mon Nov 17, 08:55:00 AM PST  
Blogger Heather - said...

Awesome!! Saw it via crafty crow. Can't wait to see more!

Mon Nov 17, 09:02:00 AM PST  
Blogger Emma said...

So cute! I love it!

Mon Nov 17, 09:06:00 AM PST  
Blogger Pink & Green Mama said...

Well I love felt and I'm obsessed with trees, they are in most of my art. So this is the perfect calendar. I could see my girls playing with this one for many years. Beautiful!! So Glad I found your blog. And yes, my mom always just let me create without "rules" I let my daughters do the same thing in my art studio.

Mon Nov 17, 10:00:00 AM PST  
Blogger Crescent Moon said...

That is so cool! Owl Babies are a favorite book around our house.

Mon Nov 17, 01:55:00 PM PST  
Blogger Scarlet Tanager said...

This is so beautiful! I love the detail of the wood-grain stitching and the dimension you've given the hole and doors. My favorite are the owls. I just read Owl Babies to my son's kindergarten class, so when I pulled this up he said, "Is that Percy and Bill and Sarah?"

You've outdone yourself and I can't wait to see how the rest turns out.

Mon Nov 17, 02:43:00 PM PST  
Blogger Astrid said...


Your calendar is truly a work of art! I love it! I adore it!

(I came here via Craft Crow).

Thank you so much for sharing!

Mon Nov 17, 04:01:00 PM PST  
Blogger Jen said...

(Also found you via Crafty Crow.)

Mon Nov 17, 06:39:00 PM PST  
Blogger C Maisy said...

Just came across your blog. LOVE IT!!

Tue Nov 18, 06:22:00 PM PST  
Blogger Christin said...

Oh we just love Owl Babies!! That is very creative - I don't even know how to's on my list of things to learn (plus I need a sewing machine!) Great job!!

Sat Nov 22, 07:05:00 PM PST  
Anonymous maya said...

this looks like something my boy would make! how inspiring for him & me to see what can happen if we really spent some time on them. those wood grain lines on the tree are soooo good!

Sun Nov 23, 01:44:00 PM PST  
Anonymous cryitout said...


Sun Nov 23, 08:21:00 PM PST  
Blogger Duyvken said...


Tue Nov 25, 01:59:00 AM PST  
Blogger asnipofgoodness said...

I just LOVE this, thank you for sharing it!!! My mind is going gangbusters with ideas now.....such wonderful inspiration!!!

Sat Nov 29, 11:32:00 AM PST  
Blogger rainwebs said...

Great calendar. You are very talented.

I'm creative at the computer and offer since three years free computer advent calendars with jigsaws. If you like it, please stop by:


Mon Dec 01, 04:20:00 AM PST  
OpenID freeplaycraft said...

your calender is so lovely - what a neat idea and a meaninful way to note the changing seasons. and your owl family is so unbearably cute!

Mon Dec 01, 07:15:00 AM PST  
OpenID freeplaycraft said...

clever and beautiful... your owl family is just adorable. looking forward to seeing how the project develops!

Mon Dec 01, 07:16:00 AM PST  
Blogger Jennifer said...

My 2 year old son Max was very excited to see his buddies Sarah and Percy and Bill. Cool idea!

Mon Dec 01, 09:20:00 AM PST  
Blogger jennie said...

oh, this is wonderful! :)

Tue Dec 09, 07:56:00 AM PST  
Blogger The Family McG said...

The calendar is amazing, but I REALLY LOVE your sewing machine!

Sat Dec 13, 12:05:00 PM PST  
Blogger Holly Noelle said...

Wow! This is so beautiful! I LOVE the owls! Excellent work!

Sun Jan 18, 10:37:00 AM PST  
Blogger Lisa said...

This is GORGEOUS!!! You are so talented!

Sun Feb 01, 03:54:00 PM PST  
Blogger Jenni said...

Gorgeous! I love, love, love it!!

Mon Mar 30, 07:54:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Jenni said...

Gorgeous! I love, love, love this.

Mon Mar 30, 07:56:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Hilde C. said...

Wow! It's beautiful :-)

Tue Nov 24, 02:08:00 AM PST  
Anonymous Angel Tan said...

I had been thinking about making an advent calendar but just haven't quite figured out what it'll look like. This is really inspiring and I love that it's not just for christmas. Wish I had seen this sooner.

Fri Mar 05, 08:43:00 AM PST  

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