Don't miss a post! Submit your e-mail address to receive new posts in your mail box!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Mom's Retro-Style Dress

Now I've finished Mom's dress.  It's cotton - a green background with a small 30's style yellow and white print.  A lot of times I like to work with vintage fabrics such as old feed sacks.  But I was in the local quilt store recently and saw this sweet little print - and the one I got for the child's outfit - and couldn't resist.

Once I started sewing I realized that the cotton is a little heavier than I would like, but it all worked out fine.

The dress buttons in the front and has a slightly gathered circle skirt - again, not much bulk around the waist.

The collar is muslin and I added tiny hand-crocheted detail.  I think she looks very nice!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Rabbit Mom's Beautiful Under Garments

Mom has some pretty fancy underwear.  The first layer is a "onesie" with a flower design embroidered on the chest and crocheted trim around the panty legs.  Over that, she has a half slip.  The top of the half slip is a circle skirt and then there's a wide flounce at the bottom.  The circle skirt design on the upper portion eliminates bulk around the waist while the wide flounce adds "stick out" to support the dress that will come next. I've used new bleached muslin for these garments.  It's nice to sew with and is a nice light weight.  I don't wash it first because I like a little bit of "body" to the fabric while I'm sewing.
I use size 40 crochet cotton and a tiny steel needle for the crocheted trim.  It's difficult to handle such a small hook - especially keeping the thread loops from slipping off.  Nonetheless, I enjoy the crochet.
I made this rabbit's neck too long and her shoulders are quite sloped.  I plan to correct this look with the cut and style of the dress.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Rabbit Mom

Here's the Mom Rabbit getting the last bits of her beautiful fur coat.  And she still needs her mouth line and whiskers.  I didn't give her a white star on her forehead like her daughter has.  Whether or not to do that will be one of my last decisions after the clothes are all made.

I'm planning a new section for my Etsy shop with my needle-felted and costumed animal dolls.  Whenever I make one I get very involved with it.  In fact, I have to keep reminding myself that these animals are not real.  But I can't resist posing them and pretending that they're talking with each other.

It will be hard to part with these little animals.  But I'll put a high price on them and if they sell I can feel good about donating the money to animal charities.  And in the meantime, I'll keep them in a display cabinet and enjoy them.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Yes, it's a Rabbit - a Young One!

It was a rabbit lurking in that last photo - a rabbit child!  In that photo she was armature, core wool, ears, and eyes.  Here she is getting the last bits of her over-coat.  And in the picture below she's getting whisker surgery!  (It only hurts a little...)

She looks a bit skinny, but that's so the clothes will fit her nicely.  Next, I'm going to make her mama.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Foxes, Fully Dressed!

Here are the Fox sisters fully dressed in their new outfits.  You can't see the fabric that well, but it's stylized cats and kittens - so cute!  I got it on  I like the vintage look of both the colors and the design.  The foxes also have bracelets, and dangling from each is one of my tiny signature tags, a small metal oval with my name engraved on it.
In the next picture, the two sisters are telling each other how much they love each other!  Such nice, calm young foxes!
But wait!  What's that on the right?  It looks kind of like the beginning of a rabbit.  We'll have to see what happens next....

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dresses for the Fox Sisters

The outfits for the fox sisters are well under way now.  Here are the girls, Lily and Rose, standing in the project box watching the action.  As you can see, they both have their underwear completed and are prim and proper.

I finished Lily's dress earlier.  It's the white one on the table, and Rose's pink dress is there too, in progress with pins sticking in it.  Because I needle felted the foxes over the same dimensions of armature and am making their dresses identical except for color, I am using the pattern I made for the white dress for the pink dress as well, checking as best I can as I go along that the pattern will also fit Rose.

I hand sew all the clothes.  For one thing, these clothes are awfully tiny to work with on the machine.  And for another, I enjoy hand sewing and find it relaxing.

We'll have to see how it turns out.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

And a Needle Felted Bluebird

My next bird is a bluebird - a bluebird of happiness, in fact.  She, too, has a shawl made from a vintage handkerchief.  For bird purists, yes, I recognize that this is actually a male rather than a female because a female's plumage would be duller.  Nonetheless, I used my artist's license to put a shawl on a male bird and pretend that everything somehow works!

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Needle Felted Sparrow

I began making these needle felted birds so long ago - last year, I think.  I found a shoe box with six of them in various stages of completion.  All this one needed was her shawl and a bit of chalk rouge to be finished.

Actually, the way the shawl sits on her, it's more like a babushka - birds in babushkas!  Very cute, I think.

So I plan to finish the rest of them and put them in my Etsy shop.  The hardest part is cutting up the vintage hankies for the shawls.  It seems a waste, but then how many people actually use handkerchiefs these days?  It's a new life for them.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

and a Squirrel Ornament

 The same customer who ordered the little needle felted cat also wanted a squirrel ornament, so here it is.

The squirrel is 5 1/2" tall and is holding an acorn.  The squirrel is needle felted and so is the nut of the acorn, but the nut is glued into a real acorn cap.

It's a bit difficult felting small because there's less armature to work with and all the details are smaller.  By some miracle I had short fiber wool for the body and matching longer fiber wool for the tail.

The tail was fun but time-consuming.  I would felt a section of the long fibers across the middle then lay the bundle around the felted tail core and felt along the center of the bundle attaching it to the core.  Then I would fold the bottom half of the bundle back up, pointing to the tail tip, and felt again at the fold.  By continuing this process from the tip to the base of the tail, I ended up with a nice fluffy - and posable - tail.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Captain Nemo

I made this little needle-felted cat for a custom order from my Etsy shop.  It's a portrait (a loose one, obviously) of a dear pet who has passed on, so I was honored to make it.

This little guy is 5" long, not counting the tail, so the felting of the details was a bit tricky.  The cat's name was "Captain Nemo" and I wish I could have met him as he looks so sweet in his photos.  I hope his mom will be happy with him.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Remaining Snowflake Rabbits

Three more - the final three, at least for now - snowflake rabbits.  I used the new crystalline glazes that I recently ordered for their robes.  But I must say that I'm somewhat disappointed.  The color chips on the website showed much more interesting results.  These glazes are rated for a range of temperatures and I fired these pieces at the low end of the temperature range.  So maybe I would have gotten better results if I had fired them hotter.  There's just so much to know about firing!

But on a more positive note, I only used two (rather than three) coats of the Ivory Belleek glaze for the white on the rabbits and the large snowflake and I think it worked out better.  The glaze didn't fill so much of the incised detail, leaving shadow to show the texture.  Lesson learned!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Miss Bumbles' Reindeer

 While surfing on Etsy I came across Miss Bumble's (Ruth Rivers') shop of charming needle-felted animals.   She is in London, and I remember thinking that if only I were anywhere near there, and if she teaches, I'd love to take a class from her.  Then I noticed that she sells kits, so I bought this one as the next best thing to taking a class from here.  Here are the finished results!
I was interested in her techniques, and I'd have to say that the main way in which hers and mine differ is that she doesn't use an armature.  It's all just wool, beginning with a firmly felted basic shape and then adding on.

What I found particularly interesting is her use of embroidery over the felted wool.  On this piece, the detail on the "sweater" is embroidered.

And speaking of the sweater - it is simply blue wool felted onto the body and arms.

It was fun and interesting doing this kit.  I may very well use the embroidery techniques and felting clothing in some of my work, but will continue to use armatures as I like the animals to be posable.

Friday, December 11, 2015


My sister, Michelle, wanted to make a small figurine of her vet's horse as a present to that wonderful woman who shepherded Michelle and her beloved horse Alduran through his last illness.  She found a small photo of the horse, Calgary's, face and found out from vet staff that Calgary has four white socks.  That's pretty much all I had to go on as I sculpted this small (about 3" tall) figurine from polymer clay.  Michelle then added his lovely "winner's circle collar" which she made from seed beads and a Swarovski crystal heart.
The whole time I was working on the sculpting I was so nervous because a vet - who knows much more about horse conformation, especially about her own horse, than I will ever know - would be the recipient.
After the sculpting was finished and the clay cured, I added the white markings with acrylic paint then applied a coat of matte varnish.  By the way, the eyes are glass (from and I brushed around his eyes with black mica powder and over the mane and tail with interference gold mica powder.
Thankfully, Dianna was very happy with her gift! 

Thursday, December 10, 2015


 This little rabbit is a shaman-in-training.  The little ones start simple, learning to get in touch with flower power.

The glazing on this piece turned out really good.  I stamped the clay for the robe, and the glaze I chose pooled in the hollows for a darker look and so made the stamp pattern show up so nicely.

And the glaze I used for the rabbit's head and tail did the same thing.  So this is a good glaze for fur, as opposed to the white one I used on the Snowflake Rabbits.

I poked a hole through the center of the flower before I fired it, thinking I'd add a beaded dangle.  But in the end, I decided on a simple glass drop bead.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Second Snowflake Rabbit

 Here's the second of the five snowflake rabbits.  I like this glaze better than the one on the first rabbit.  It ran a lot - like the first one - but I like the colors better.

Last week I ordered three new glazes and plan to use them on the remaining rabbits.  So, there'll be a bit of a wait on that until the shipment arrives, which I hope will be soon.

Also, I think the rabbit could be a better color than this plain white which is called "Ivory Belleek."  It's a pretty glaze, but it doesn't show the texturing in the fur.  I'll have to look for an alternative for white animals.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The First Finished Snowflake Rabbit

 I have now glazed and finished the first of my five snowflake rabbits.  I used this one for our art club's art exchange at our Christmas party and I think that Debra, the lady who received it, truly liked it.

I used a crystalline glaze but wasn't thrilled with the results.  I think I may have put it on a bit too thickly because I didn't expect the melting crystals to run as much as they did.  They didn't do that on the sample chip I made but the sample chip was fired flat whereas this surface was closer to vertical in the kiln.
Anyway, after firing, the finishing touches were the Swarovski crystals. 

I attached the large hanging one by threading a looped ribbon through the hole I had put downwards through the top of the head.  A 3/8" wooden bead threaded with the ribbon - along with glue around the bead - holds it in place inside the cone shape of the robe.  I then simply tied the crystal snowflake pendant to one end of the ribbon and cut the other end off.

I used E6000 glue to attach the tiny crystals on the robe.  All in all, a success I'd say.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Fox Shows off her New Dress

 She now has both an outfit and a name - meet Lily!  I think she has a pretty cute expression, and I am also quite proud of her dress and underwear.  (As you know, it's important for proper young foxes to wear nice underwear.) 
I just love this fabric that I bought from  I also bought the same fabric in pink with white cats, and that's what I'm planning to use for Lily's sister's dress which is my next project.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Snowflake Rabbits

Here are five little snowflake rabbits in various stages of drying for their first firing.  Most are for gifts, but one or two will go in my Etsy shop.  The basic shape of an animal head on a cone-shaped robe has done well for me.  There are so many possible variations, and they're always fun to make.
Unlike the way I finish most of my figurines, I haven't put a bottom on these.  There a hole down through the top of the heads, and my plan it to put a hanger on the up side of the hole, but continue the wire down through to hang a large (20mm) Swarovski crystal snowflake through the bottom.  I also have tiny Swarovski crystal fat-back snowflakes and will glue 6 or 7 towards the top of each robe.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Beginning on the Outfits

I've now finished the second fox, so I have twins.  I'm still contemplating their names.  One possibility is Rose and Lily, but I'm still thinking.

Of course we all know that proper woodland foxes wear demure underwear.  So far I've finished the panties and camisole for one of the twins.  I have to make up the patterns and then I hand sew the clothes.  They just seem too tiny to do on the machine.  It took me quite a bit of time, but then creating panties that accommodate a foxes' tail is something of a challenge.

I think she looks quite lovely, and her sister can't wait for her set.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Fox Ready for Clothing

She's all needle-felted now and ready for a nice outfit.  She also needs a name, but I may wait until I've finished the sister I'm making for her.

I usually like to work with vintage fabrics, but I got two pieces of irresistible modern cottons from  One piece is a light coral pink and the other is cream.  They have identical patterns of sweet little stylized cats and kittens.

I plan to create the clothes in a 1950' style and might use some baby ricrac on them.  It will be fun to do some hand-sewing.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Finished Cliff Swallow Painting

 I'm now finished with this first swallow painting (I'm planning two more).  I did more detail work on the bird - especially delineating the feathers in the wing, added more color and value contrast to the background, and finished - and added to - the weeds.

So here are the suggestions from Victoria Brooks that I found so helpful:

First of all, she mixes all of her colors first.  It's a bit of a pait, but when you finally start to paint it's a lot easier, plus you know that you have good colors that coordinate.

Second, she first loads her brush lightly with Liquin each time she loads her brush with paint.  This gives a lovely smooth texture to the paint, makes the paint go further, and helps it dry faster.  I was amazed that the Liquin, in these small amounts, didn't dilute the paints making them transparent.  They were still quite opaque and covered each other well - better, in fact, than with the paints straight from the tube.  I think that may be because you only have to use the lightest touch for the paint to flow from the brush.

Third, she likes to add pink for a warm glow.  I added just a bit to the background and a slight touch of Permanent Rose to the Burnt Sienna on the cheek.

Oh, and I should have added that she tones her canvases with thinned Burnt Sienna.  I did that also, and very much liked working on that warm, light to mid-tone background rather than white.

So, thank you Victoria!

Monday, October 26, 2015

My third Oil Painting

My three oil paintings are getting smaller and smaller - this one is 8" x 8".

Lately I've been going through my old "Birder's World" magazines, cutting and saving the photos that I really like and throwing the rest away.  It's a way of reducing the volume of old magazines that I've been holding on to.

As I go through those old magazines I realize that I have whole lifetimes' worth of source materials there at my fingertips.  I found so many of the photos inspirational, but I especially liked a series of three different kinds of swallows.  I have a sentimental attachment to them.

There was a pair of barn swallows that used to nest on the stucco wall outside of our family room every year and they were a joy to watch.

None of the three swallow photos I can across were barn swallows, but this little cliff swallow has very similar coloration.

At our last Placerville Arts Association meeting, Victoria Brooks, who is a wonderful oil painter whose subjects are most often children, demonstrated for us.  It was so timely for me as I am just beginning this medium.  I took note of and liked many of the things she said, and I'm following her method in several ways - but more about that next time.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Back to Needle Felting

It's been quite a while since I've done any needle felting and I miss it.  So I've decided to make a little fox and dress her in a nice costume of some sort.  Fortunately, I've saved the diagrams for the armatures from my past needle felting ventures, so it will be an easy start.

At this point, I've completed the armature and the core wool.  Her legs don't have any core wool because they're so skinny - just the blackish-brown that will be the final color.

All the while I've been working on her I've been contemplating how to dress her.  My first thought was a Victorian scullery maid.  But I think their dresses were floor-length and I hate to completely cover her shapely legs!  So, that's one idea and I don't know whether I'll end up going with it or not.  Just have to wait and see what she has to say!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

More on Boson

I've worked more on Boson's portrait.  My sister critiqued the painting-in-progress and suggested that the eyes didn't match.  I have tried to correct that but see now that I haven't quite succeeded.  I worked on his right eye but see now that I need to do more on his left eye also.  The slants don't match.

I can also see that I need to work on the lower chest.  And the fringe of white hair over they gray looks too rough.

My sisteer also suggested that a background reminiscent of the old Wuthering Heights movie would be appropriate for this "Heathclissesque" portrait.  So, I've tried to achieve that.

I'm contemplating a lightning bolt.  It's a bit corny and perhaps over-dramatic.  But that's the kind of thing I like.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Boson in his Prime

Boson is one of my beloved cats who is now in old age and suffering from a variety of maladies.  I don't know which he considers most burdensome, but the one that I feel worst about on his account is the blindness that has come over him recently.  When I ran across a photo I had taken of him in his prime, painting a portrait from it seemed like the obvious thing to do.

By the way, "boson" is the name of two of the many kinds of sub-atomic particles.  The boson comes in two varieties, "strong" and "weak."  Bosie is named after the strong boson, and I often call him "Boson the Brave."  He has always been a good friend to me and the other cats as well as a care-giver when circumstances warranted it.

I forgot to take a photo of the painting after the first stage, but there wasn't much to it - just blocking in the basic colors.  By the way, this is oil (part of the October Challenge) on an 8" x 10" primed stretched canvas.

Before I began with the oils, I under-coated with acrylic - mauve for the background and yellow ochre for the cat - then transferred my drawing.  I chose mauve for the background because I thought I saw purple in Bosie's gray fur.  I tried to mix a gray of purple and yellow for the first oil layer, but it didn't work very well.

This photo is after the second painting session.  Here my grays are mixtures of Van Dyke Brown, French Ultramarine, and Titanium White.  You may notice yellowish lines between some of the main blocks of color.  During the first painting session, I kept my graphite lines by painting up to, but not over them, leaving about a 1/16" channel of the acrylic background color showing.  I didn't want to overlap the oil colors because I didn't want to blend the colors.  Later, I'll (hopefully) paint tiny hairs across the color edges.   

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Ultimate Zeke

Yes, my portrait of the ultimate great cat, Zeke, is now finished.  I did what I had planned - added shadows and whiskers - and I declare it done!  I'm satisfied with my first oil painting.

But a few words about Zeke.  He is the sweetest, most innocent cat.  He and the late, beloved Starbuck were brothers.  Starbuck was all black, but the two of them shared the little goatees - so darn cute.  Perhaps it's time for a portrait of Starbuck...

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Penultimate Zeke

Yes, as I reckon it, today's painting session was the next to last for Zeke's oil portrait.
The things I did were minor but, I hope, important.  The most noticeable is that I added shadows underneath the edges of the blanket as well as the cat's legs and tail.  I also added more color to the bit of blanket showing between the belly and tail and just generally did more fiddling around with the fur.
Now I have to let it dry because the next - and probably last - thing I want to do is add some glazes then paint in the whiskers.  Hopefully tomorrow - if it's dry enough.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Continuing on Zeke's Portrait

I've continued to work on the portrait, feeling my way along with the oil paints.

At least to me, they are vey different from either acrylics or watercolor in that it seems impossible not to blend them as you paint. With acrylics and watercolor I work in layers and rarely mix colors.  Instead, I tend to stick to the transparent colors and get the variations by laying them over each other.  The main exception is a shadow color which I mix from Ultramarine Blue and either Burnt Umber or Burnt Sienna.

I've watched many oil painting demonstrations and the thing that always seemed like such a pain was mixing all the colors.  But I found myself doing that without even much thinking about it.  I'm enjoying it.

I can see quite a bit more for me to do in this painting, but my sister said she thinks it's very close to being finished.  So I guess in my next painting session I'll limit myself to the changes and additions that I think are absolutely necessary and then reassess.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

First Oil Brushstroke

 Our art club is having a challenge for the month of October.  Each of us will challenge ourselves to do what we've been wanting to do for a long time but haven't gotten around to.  My challenge is to finally paint in oils.

Beginning was a bit intimidating until I remembered this start on an acrylic that I had done in a 1/2-day workshop in the summer of 2014.  It's from a photo of my very photogenic cat Zeke.  I only just got a very beginning on it at the time, so I thought I'd start with that base and finish it in oils.

Below is my progress after a few hours.  I've worked on the background and then just a bit on the face.  My plan is to pretty much finish the background, block in the cat, make any adjustments to the background, then focus on the cat.  Wish me luck!

Before I started I thought the oils would be very similar to acrylics, but they're not!  It will take more working with them to figure out what the differences actually are and how to handle them.  But it's fun!

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Fox Icon

I finished the fox icon after having the fun of going through my collection of metal stampings, bead, and other "stuff" one more time.  Because the other three had the beaded flower springs I thought this one should have one - or more - also.  But I had used up all the ones I had.  So the first step was to make four more to march across the bottom.
I also used a fox, an owl, and a filigree stamping, a bejeweled key that I took off a funky piece of costume jewelry, flat back rhinestones and pearls, size 6 seed beads, and leaf-shaped Czech glass beads.
My concept was a young fox in a late spring meadow high in the foothills.  So for the background I paint-sketched a sky, distant hills, middleground pine trees, a meadow with wildflowers, and a foreground tree.
These have just been so much fun to make.  Now to photograph them and put them in my Etsy shop.  And until - if ever - they sell, I'll just enjoy them!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Rabbit Redux

(I prefer to see a painting before it is cropped and matted and framed because I so enjoy the raggedy edges and the scribbles in the margins testing color and brush load.)
Once I was done with the little fox portrait I was ready to proceed with my wildlife portrait greeting cards as I had the frame and the four animal portraits - hare, raccoon, black bear, and fox.  Or so I thought.  But when I went to the computer to begin printing my previous scans to put the cards together I couldn't find a scan of the hare!  I guess I just didn't do it.  And now that little painting is glued into the rabbit icon behind glass.  There was nothing to do but paint another, and here it is!

This one is a completely different look from the first - a cottontail rather than a hare and an expression more sweet than serious.

So now I have my four animal portraits - onward with the cards!  And meanwhile, I'm pondering what to do with this little painting.

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Christmas Card Possibility

This is a small painting- maybe 4" tall.  I did it for the focal point of a polymer clay wall piece along the lines of the one I did in Laurie Mika's class (post from last month) but not so glitzy.  Actually, I will scan the painting then make an archival print and use the print for the piece.  The portion I will use will be smaller than what you see.  I've decided to hold on to the original and maybe frame it.  It may also form the basis for Christmas cards.

I began with pencil on Strathmore Mixed Media paper.  Then I added light washes of watercolor, gradually darkening the color with additional washes.  I got the background (no spruce branches yet) the darkness I wanted it to be in the end, but left the deer a bit lighter than I envisioned the finished piece.  Then I turned to acrylic ink and a crow quill pen.  I used Black, Sepia, Burnt Umber and a bit of Burnt Sienna.  Then I returned to the watercolor washes and deepened the color and added the spruce branches.

My final steps were to add a bit of white fur with acrylic ink and dot in the few snow flakes with white acrylic gouache.  I like the colors.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Young Renard

Here's the little ( 2 3/8" in diameter) of a young fox for my animal icons and wildlife cards.  It was exciting trying to capture his sweet expression.  Can't wait to see how he turns out in both the projects.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Recognizing a Mistake, then Finishing

Here's the finished frame for the wildlife cards.

Unfortunately, I made a mistake before I put the very first brushstroke of paint to paper.  I forgot to erase the vertical and horizontal pencil lines that I used to position the circle.  I ordinarily do not erase pencil lines because I think they add to the story of the creation of the piece.  But these particular straight lines are just a distraction.

There's faint, but they're still there, and I wish they weren't.

Anyway, I darkened the sky, painted the oak leaves and branches as well as the bare branches the owl is sitting on, and added the details to the owl, bird, and rabbits.

I'm getting closer to liking watercolor!

It's very close to what I had originally envisioned, and I'm happy with it.  Now to "assemble" the final images for the cards by placing the portraits in the center.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Wildlife Cards

As I've been making my animal icons, it's seemed a shame to have only one use for those tiny paintings.  Fortunately, I scanned them before I put them under the glass, so I have the images to continue to work with.

I decided to use them in blank greeting cards. I'll sell the finished cards in my Etsy shop to benefit Sierra Wildlife Rescue.  My idea was to paint a single "frame" to surround the round animal portraits.

So I began by penciling out a 4 1/2" x 5 1/2" rectangle (the size of smaller greeting cards) on a piece of Strathmore Mixed Media paper.  I placed a circle the same size as the portraits, then began drawing my design.

Here's the way it looked after the first stage of painting.

I decided to use watercolor because the portraits are watercolor, pencil, and ink.  The watercolor will complement the portraits but will be secondary to them because of the ink on the portraits.

I began with very light washes of color over the whole piece, except painted around the owl, moon, bird, and rabbits.  Then I deepened the background color, painting around the leaves in the upper right and lower left.  Painting around little things like this is a pain, but masking would be impossible working this small.  So I just kept at it.