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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

More Birds

I've made more birds.  The male sparrow on the far right was the first one.  The one in the scarf (from a vintage hankie) is the second one.  The second from the left is the third, and then I made the other three as a group.

For the final three - the white ones that aren't finished yet - I was very careful with measurements on the armature.  Nonetheless, they all turned out a bit different from each other.  One major difference comes in with the slightest change in the position of the eyes.  And the other biggie is from wrapping and applying the core wool shapes.  I notice that I have a tendency to do too much at the core stage - especially around the head.  I've noted this before, and I guess it's a tendency that I will continue to have to resist.

The little sparrow in the scarf is ready to go on Etsy.  She has a sweet expression, I think, especially around the eyes.  And the scarf from the vintage hankie - complete with ribbon rose over the knot - is a special touch.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Female Joins the Flock

I made a female sparrow to begin to grow the flock.  Sadly, this isn't a very good photo of her, but I'll get a better one when I make her a handkerchief dress.  I'm having trouble getting the armature right on these.  I didn't make very good notes when I made the first one.  It was a bit big, and this second one is even bigger, so I'll have to scale the armature down by about 10% or 15% and also avoid adding so much wool at the core stage.
Birds present a problem with their feet.  It's a balancing act, and the temptation is to make the feet larger, perhaps, than they should be to help with balance. 
Also I didn't really have the right colors of wool for the female.  Wool colors are a problem,  The subtle gradations one wants don't seem to be available.  But I will make do while I keep looking because I really don't want to venture into dying the wool myself!
Despite the problems I've mentioned, I'm generally happy with these.   But there is more work to do!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The First Sparrow

Now I'm making a sparrow for my Thistledown Manor animal group.  I'm planning to make more than one - perhaps three - as these birds, English Sparrows, travel in flocks.

This photo shows the bird just before putting on the plumage.  The wings and tail are each pairs of wool felt piece, cut to the shape of the wing or tail, sewn together around the side and lower edges, then slipped over the wing or tail wire and felted in place againt the body.  The wool felt makes a nice surface to add the color details to.

The problem is that I have made a male sparrow.  Perhaps I should explain - the problem is that I planned to put a dress made from a vintage hankie on this bird, and of course boys don't typically wear dresses.  Perhaps this is an example of worrying about things too much.  Or, perhaps I'll make the two others with female plumage and leave this one 'au naturel.'

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Raccoon of Thistledown Manor

Here's my latest addition to the little group of animals who live in the forest near Thistledown Manor.  Her heritage is not native, as raccoons are indigenous to North America.  But they have had so many admirers over the years that many enthusiasts have brought them to the UK where they now thrive.  So she found herself quite at home in the forest near the manor.

Her clothes are so pristine and beautiful that she may well be the forest seamstress, saving the best bits found in the Manor's trash bins (and Lord knows she's an expert at scouring the trash) for herself.

I think she is also quite good at crochet since the collar and edgings of her outfit were obviously custom worked rather than being fashioned from cast off bits.

She's quite proud of herself, and rightly so.

On a more serious note, I made her outfit from one of a pair of lovely vintage pillowcase that I purchased on Etsy from Sylvia, a woman in England.  It was embroidered by her grandmother, Gladys Johnson, who was born in the 1900s and passed away in the 1980's.  She was an avid needlewoman, and Sylvia fondly remembers her Gram as always having her needlework, if not actually in hand, nearby.  It's an honor to remember Gladys in this way.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Fox Goes to Market

Here's a little ceramic fox that I recently completed.  I had sculpted and bisque fired her a while ago, but she sat waiting to be finished while I gathered the will to do the glazing which, for some reason, is such an unwelcome task for me.  I was hoping the glaze would "skip over" the indented dots in her jacket leaving white spots, but instead the glaze pooled in the indentations and I got darker dots.  Since then, I've bought some dimensional glaze which should be good for making spots.
Her hat and basket are ceramic.  The hat hangs around her neck with a satin ribbon.  The handle of the basket is rusted wire.  And I had some tiny polymer clay fruits from a project a few years ago that fit nicely in her basket.
Miss fox has been collecting fruit from the farmer's orchard and is taking it to the forest market.  She may be able to trade it for some luscious eggs!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Beloved Calvin

I got a request from a woman through my Etsy shop to make her a custom needle-felted ornament that looks like their beloved, but sadly, departed cat, Calvin.  This is the result.  It was a bit tricky because it's small - 4 1/2" from the tip of his nose to the base of his tail.  That means that it's more difficult to do the details that would make this little guy recognizable as Calvin.
I finished Calvin yesterday, listed him my Etsy shop, and notified Angela that her Calvin was ready.  The note I received from her when she bought him touched my heart.  She said she cried tears of joy to see Calvin again.  This is what it's all about - sharing the love of animals.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Gingerbread Doll House

When I got the idea of making this wooden gingerbread dollhouse with its resident mouse family I didn't realize how much work it would be.  But I think the results were worth it.
I built the house from 3/4" pine and 1/4" pine plywood, using the plywood on the front, back, and roof to reduce the overall weight.  The back of the house comes off with four screws.  There's a fireplace, a sleeping loft, and a little ladder to get up to the loft.  The building was pretty straight-forward.
It was the painting that took a lot of time.  I left the inside raw pine, finishing it with clear polyurethane.  I sprayed the outside with a white primer then began the decorative painting.  The gingerbread is two coats of paint, painting around the candy and frosting areas, then stippled all over with Burnt Umber.  I also used Burnt Umber to shade under the shapes of all the candies and frosting forming the shadows cast on the gingerbread.  The candies were the most fun, especially the little raspberry candies over the door.  To protect it, I added three layers of brush-on acrylic satin varnish.
I needle-felted the little mice.  There are three - a mom, dad, and baby - just like in my daughter's family.  I shipped it to them yesterday.  I'm hoping they'll like it and that it will become part of their Christmas tradition for years to come.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Mouse at Thistledown Manor

This is the second in my series of dressed animals - a little mouse in the forest at Thistledown Manor.  Her name is Elaine.  She found an old discarded hankie near the manor and was struck by how beautiful the crochet work was.  She took it to the forest seamstress who made her this outfit - which she is quite proud of!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

My Special Fox Girls


These are my special little fox girls, Lucy and Mae.  They're needle-felted then dressed in clothes I made from old pillowcases, laces trims, and hankies that I bought on Etsy.  These are the first of a series of animal dolls that I plan to make.  They will all live in the forest behind "Thistledown Manor."  Lucy and Mae's mom made her girls' clothing from cast off bits she found in the manor trash.

Originally I made these for my Etsy shop, but now that I have them I like them so much that I'm not ready to part with them.  So I've decided to make my first collection as "prorotypes," and then make others for the shop.  I've also finished a mouse - which I will post soon - and am working on a raccoon.

These little pieces fit so nicely into a fantasy world that I guess I've enjoyed for a very long time.  As a child I played in the woods, and I've long wanted to make animal dolls.  Of course, I've made some.  But this combination of needle-felting and clothing from vintage fabrics just feels right.  When I first started working with needle-felting I didn't think I could achieve the level of detail that I wanted in this medium.  But now I think I can.