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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Kid Snippets: Casts and Kisses

The tree is starting to remind me of The Giving Tree. I used some of Simmy's wool for his hair. I was thinking of Salley Mavor's Wee Folk while stitching — wishing I could be as lucky as Mimi.

I took some photos of C sitting in a chair and then drew this sketch. I traced it onto felt, cut it out and started stitching. He chose the colors.

Thanksgiving day surprised us with a visit to the on-call orthopedist — green breaks on both the radius and ulna, but consolable with a lollipop.

Love is a powerful muse, even for six-year-olds.

Crazy hair day at school.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Solstice Calendar: The Influence of Books

Day 3: The Owl Mama Comes Back

A couple of books have influenced the early design direction of the calendar. The first, Owl Babies, which I mentioned in the last post, is a simple tale of three baby owls who miss their mama. It's a popular book in preschools and around our house. It's helping me with my goal of one day getting to leave preschool.

While the owl babies waited patiently for their mama, I got to work on designing her. She needed to be flat for a couple of reasons: first, she needed to be able to fit in the nest with the babies; and, second, she needed to be able to fly. I decided on making her out of one layer of felt — not stuffed — that way she'd be able to wrap her wings around the babies.

My local, crafty friend, Bethany, gave me some suggestions on using wool yarn for needle-felting the details. I just happen to have a shoe box full of darning yarn, which turned out to be a handy needle-felting palette. I've always wondered what I'd use the vintage bits of yarn for, since I don't darn. Enter needle-felting! All I needed to do was take up a new hobby. Another fine example of why one should never get rid of anything. ;)

For the mama owl I made a sketch first — I wanted to make sure she'd fit in the tree. It took a couple of tries. Next came the felt details and a little embroidery for the face, then the needle-felted yarn for the feathers on the body.

The Owl Babies book, the sketches, and the cut felt pieces for the mama owl.

The box of mending yarn, and the mama owl getting her feathers at my needle-felting station. I've since purchased a different kind of foam. Not sure if the new one works any better.

Mama owl flying home to Percy, Sarah, and Bill.

Mamas always come back.


Day 4: All That The Rain Promises

The second influential book I wanted to talk about is, All That The Rain Promises: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms.

I know, that for the most part, the US is full of people who are afraid of wild mushrooms. David Arora, who has written two of my favorite field guides to mushrooms, calls this condition "fungophobia," which we apparently caught from being a former British colony. Arora writes, "This irrational fear of fungi is by no means a universal trait. The media and medical profession have done their part to perpetuate it, but they are certainly not responsible for its origin. To a large extent, we inherited our fungophobia from the British."

All That The Rain Promises is the smaller of David Arora's books. It's the book that you take with you when you are out in the field, or forest as it were. It's the book that, with the help of my friend, taught me the basics of identifying wild mushrooms. While it might not be an obvious design correlation, Arora's books have influenced my life in many wonderful ways: by giving me inspiration to get out into the woods; by freeing me to study, touch and smell mushrooms; and, by educating me enough to feel comfortable eating them. And, if I need any ideas for the many needle-felted mushrooms I'm planning on making, I know where to look.


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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