Yesterday we sold our wares at the local farmers market.
Yesterday we sold our wares at the local farmers market.
Sometimes small fingers (and old fingers) find small projects to be tricky— tying a shoe, handling scissors, zipping a zipper, buttoning a button—they all require precision and a steady hand. As does hand sewing. Sewing not only demands dexterity, but also requires patience. On top of this, it adds the threat of a potential finger prick. Followed by little watery eyes. Yowch!
This is incredibly unfortunate, since small people frequently like playing with small friends. Dollhouse people, finger puppets, Lego people, tiny wooden animals—they are all good company and don’t seem to eat much. My small people have been captivated by my friend Charlotte’s small friends for quite some time now. This has been a challenge for both them and me since Charlotte’s small friends, remarkably sweet and delicate, are very very small. They are hand-sewn mice—reflective, contemplative furry friends with strikingly large personalities. As well, they have microscopic eyes and noses, giving them extra bonus points.
Tortured by the opposing forces of teeny, wild fingers and the love of all things small, my design team and I made futile attempts at replicating Charlotte’s mice. In the end, we designed a simple, slightly larger pattern with exposed stitching that is just perfect for small fingers.
For this project, you will need a small collection of 100% wool sweater scraps. Solid, striped or patterned. As with the Tiny Birdhouse and Swittens projects, add your wool sweater to the laundry batch and wash and dry on normal. This project also requires a needle, thread and some stuffing like organic cotton stuffing, hemp fibers or wool. We are renowned for borrowing (well, stealing, really) synthetic filling from retired threadbare elderly friends. Those of you who are fancy may opt to insert a small rice or bean-filled fabric bag in the base of the mouse to provide some weight.
Pattern: Size is up to you. I recommend that you size your first mouse on a slightly-larger-than-life size (dare I say, rat size?). As with the Swittens project, I have found that there is a significant positive correlation between successful project outcome and project size, when measured by various indicators, such as big smiles. Don’t start out too teeny.
Cut the sweater as below. In addition, you will need a tail. It should be a long, skinny rectangular piece (that will later be folded and sewn).
Sewing Instructions: Fold the tail in half and secure with a blanket stitch. (Just a note: Futuregirl has a fantastic photo-filled tutorial on blanket stitching.) With wrong sides together, stitch down the back of the body. Stitch from the nose down, stopping about ½ inch before the end. Insert end of tail at bottom of back and secure. Finish stitching bottom of back. With wrong sides together, stitch the bottom edge of the body to the oval base, leaving approximately a 2-inch gap for stuffing.
Insert stuffing into the mouse, filling the nose first. When almost full, insert bean bag and continue stitching to close the back seam. Fold the base edge of ears in half and secure with a few central stitches. Flatten the seam and position the ears on the mouse head. Stitch. Use a felting needle and wool roving to make eyes and nose. Use strong button thread for whiskers if you are most able.
(And, “most able” sort of sounds like “vote on Babble,” which reminds me to ask for your vote, since Mossy has been nominated on Babble for an important thingy, and if you enjoy the post you’ve read or any you’ve read in the past, or if you plan to enjoy any posts you’ll read in the future, please give Mossy a “thumbs up.” It’s just a click. Here on Babble. Thank you in advance. I will mail you a hug.)
Time to come clean. And nothing does the trick better than a handmade soap bar wrapped in softly spun and felted natural wool. Upon completion of this practical project, you will have a novel and crafty washcloth/soap combo guaranteed to tempt even the most stubborn grimy kid into a tub. In fact, you and your crafty little team will be inclined to make oodles of these for deserving friends, dedicated teachers, or for yourself—yes, even you are entitled to a complete body exfoliation with relaxing aromatic organically-derived essential oils and spicy touch-of-citrus scent to draw out impurities, replace minerals, improve circulation, and ahhh! getting carried away….
Point being, you might consider keeping one for yourself.
For this project, you will need the following: cheese grater, bowl of hot water, old stocking (tights/pantyhose), wool roving (carded wool), soap scraps (if you are in a hurry, simply use a solid soap bar), and hands willing to get wet and sudsy. As mentioned in previous projects, wool roving may be purchased online from Halcyon Yarn—check out their “Babooshka Soup”—a random mix of remnant wool batts and pencil roving. If you plan to use a solid soap bar, a good quality medium-milled round/oval soap bar is ideal for the job. Too hard (like French milled soap), and it will not lather. Too soft, and it will be squashy. Too rectangular, and it will have weak points in the felting. I mostly use soaps made with lavender or lemongrass oils, but recently I felted a soap made by my friend Jen Kovach labeled “Oatmeal Cookie.” Yum. Jen makes a well-air-cured goat milk soap that is just perfect for felting. I have found that goat milk soaps are the best—easy to felt, fragrant, long-lasting, natural—but I’m not picky. I’ll felt just about anything.
Before starting, remind everyone that soap can sting eyes and that it smells yummy but tastes horrible. Yuck! If you plan to use soap scraps, or you plan to smooth the edges of a rectangular bar, shred the soap with a cheese grater. Collect the shavings in your hand and press together, forming a ball, oval, or organicy rock-like shape.
Tightly wrap thin, even layers of wool roving around the soap until all surfaces are covered. Criss-cross three layers of wool (as in the Felted Wool Ball project) so that the fibers will lock together during the felting process. Different colors of wool may be used to create different patterns. I’m partial to bright, vivid colors for this one—luminous greens and blues, shameless oranges and reds—although, somber grays can make powerful stone soap. Beware of browns—nothing worse than washing with something damp, mudlike and wooly. I often add a narrow piece of thin (pencil) roving or wool yarn to create a natural sediment strip in the stone and to hold it tightly. Alternatively, a design can be needle felted with contrasting colors (see previous post on Dry Felting).
Carefully place your wooly bar into the toe of your old stocking. Tie the stocking, cutting away extra fabric. Dip your stockinged wooly soap into the bowl of hot water until it is thoroughly soaked. Gently roll it between your hands to build lather. Continue to agitate the wool fibers, re-wetting and squeezing and lathering the soap. Pay attention to the tiny sides of the soap—they need attention too.
When the fibers become entangled and the wool becomes firmer, roll and press harder. If you have a washboard or a bubble wrap sheet, rub all sides of the wooly soap on this. When is it done? When the wool is completely felted, it should form a semi-snug casing around the soap. The entire process should take about 10 to 15 minutes.
Kids love this project. It’s messy, requires little elbow grease, and is somewhat magical. To increase the soap’s lifespan, rinse it quickly under tap water and allow it to dry thoroughly between uses.
As the soap dissolves, the wool will shrink slightly. When the soap is no longer, dry the pouf. Make a small incision and use as a funky fragrant coin purse, cat toy, ornament, finger puppet, or herb-filled sachet for your prized collection of unmentionables.
I can’t remember what made me look, but I just checked behind the scenes for the first time in a while and Holy Moly! there are a lot of visitors checking in to this little blog. But, why so quiet? I didn’t even know you were here.
And so, I invite you to join me. You may secretly think you don’t have much to offer, but you do. Write to me. Say hello and help me plan my spring. (It’s coming, you know!) Tell me what projects interest you, what you want to hear about, what you already know or want to know about. I want to hear from you.
So here’s the deal. You may submit your “Hello” several ways:
1) via the Mossy Facebook page
2) via Comments to this post
3) or via Contact link with “Hello” as the subject
Submissions must be received by Friday, March 4th. Readers will be able to “like” their favorites on Facebook if they choose, but ultimately, a team of highly qualified experts (my small, insightful design team) will decide on a winner. The winner will be announced on Friday, March 11th. And, get this: The winner will walk away with two handmade Mossy hairbands (very similar to the one pictured above, but different, and carefully wrapped and tied with a bow).
Ask, tell, share. Your comments mean so much to me. Can’t wait to hear from you. And good luck!
When the snow is fresh and giant feathery snowflakes twist and twirl and can be caught or rolled into snowballs or snow forts or snow people, it’s time to bundle up and head out the door and get some pink cheeks. But if it’s coming up on March and the effects of the first season’s storm are still visible and you’re facing the third morning of what they call a “wintry mix,” and you’re wondering if Lordy, is it too early for a drink? it may be time to regroup. Inside.
We’ve had a zillion snow days since the end of December. (Really, that’s the actual number.) Because of this, we’ve been forced to be resourceful. During this special bonding time (I suppose some might call it that), my design team and I have become really good at a few things, including completely dismantling the house.
Not to brag, but we’ve also gotten to be experts at making these Felted Hairbands. It turns out that, once we got the Felted Wool Ball thingy down, we were itching for some sort of practical application of our newfound skill and Voila! Note: we don’t attempt perfection. As with all our other projects, we prefer quirky outcomes over conventional. That said, we remind ourselves that, in nature, some flowers are more delicate, some are plumper, some grow to the right, some to the left, and some even lose a few petals. Of course, this uniqueness should be celebrated.
This project requires a Felted Wool Ball, needle and thread, an elastic hair tie, remnant wool felt, and a small collection of felted sweaters.
First, prepare the “petals” for the project. With sharp sewing scissors, cut the felted sweaters into long zigzaggy strips, leaving a connection on the bottom edge—pointy or rounded tops. Cut thin sweaters into narrow strips (for inner petals) and thick sweaters into wider strips (for outer petals).
I keep a stash of these strips handy for noteworthy projects like button bracelets or monster collars. More on that later.
With needle and thread in hand, stitch the bottom edge of one narrow zigzaggy strip around the sides of the felted ball until you meet up with the starting point. Cut off the extra end of the strip.
Cut off the end. Stitch a third (the widest) zigzaggy strip over the first two. Cut off the end.
Next, and this is optional, use a felting needle, felting pad and wool roving to embellish the wool ball, adding spirals or dots (see previous post on Dry Felting).
Next, cut a large leaf-shaped piece of wool felt. Place this piece on the bottom of your flower and sew around the edges, covering the rough zigzaggy strip edges.
Attach a hair tie on the leaf bottom with needle and thread. Ta da! Project complete.
Now you are ready to fill fields with felted flowers. Or to, at least, wear one proudly.
Once you’ve perfected the Felted Wool Ball and your design team is ready to rally, see if you have the technical adroitness to make something super crafty—The Felted Finger Puppet.
For this project, you will need bowl of hot, slightly soapy water, a bowl of cold soapless water, carded wool, scraps of 100% wool felt, a needle and thread, warm water and warm hands. As posted previously, carded wool (or “wool roving”) can be purchased at local farms, craft stores or online (e.g. Local Harvest, Etsy, Halcyon Yarn, or Peace Fleece). Peace Fleece offers a “Rainbow Felting Pack” that is perfect for this project.
As with the Felted Wool Ball, pull off a small length of wool and divide it into many thin longish strips.—multiple thin layers will produce the sturdiest felted material. Wrap one strip as you would wind a ball of string—in thin layers around your index finger making sure you cover the fingertip. Wrap the remaining wool strips around the first, adding layers until you can no longer feel your knuckle. The wool should be snug, but not too tight (about 1/8 in thick when pressed).
Dip your wooly finger into the bowl of hot, slightly soapy water. Remove your wooly finger from the water and gently press the wool with the fingertips of your other hand, squeezing gently. Continue to re-wet and squeeze the wool until you feel the fibers become entangled and you feel the fabric becoming firmer (you will notice this within a few minutes). When the fabric is very firm, submerge your wooly finger into the bowl of cold (soapless) water to set the fibers and rinse. Remove excess water by gently squeezing your wooly finger. Like the Felted Wool Ball project, if your hands are perpetually cold like mine, you will find this project somewhat challenging. Carefully remove the wool from your finger.
After air-drying the wool for several hours, you and your starry-eyed design team must envision the outcome— cow, wolf, librarian, martian—the brainstorming starts now. The puppets can be embellished with needle felting (e.g. bumblebee stripes, eyes, nostrils), cut wool sweaters (e.g. lion mane, dragon wings) and embroidery thread.
These little friends, as seductive as they are, often are central to my operation. With their cheerful banter, they lure my girls into unappealing household tasks such as eating veggies, washing dishes or brushing their teeth. These little friends are known to appreciate clean plates and good attitudes. As well, they provide teeny shoulders for us all to cry on after challenging days.
Wool felt is the earliest known form of fabric—therefore the process of felting has been around much longer than any of us—including supertalented felt artists Marjolen Dalinda, Renata Kraus, and Irena Rudman. Additional tutorials and inspiration for felting projects like the ones we have made here can easily be found on many blogs and craft sites like Wee Folk Art, Rhythm of the Home, Laura Lee Burch and Martha Stuart. For those in a hurry, finished products can be found on Chickadee Swing, and in many Waldorf catalogs.
Also called needle felting, dry felting can be used to embellish your felted work. Needle felting is used to fuse another layer of fiber onto the felted fabric. It is slightly magical. Little in the way of equipment is required to needle felt by hand, though it requires a bit more concentration than wet felting. In addition to focus, you will also need one of your dry wool balls that you’ve previously felted. Also, you will need to purchase a felting needle (get a few extra just in case). I purchased mine online from Paradise Fibers, a family-owned and operated farm in Spokane, WA. A felting needle is long, barbed and extremely sharp. Be careful, particularly if you are working with a young design team such as mine. You will also need a felting pad. This will allow the needle to go through the fiber and beyond without damaging the needle or the surface below. You can purchase a fancy schmancy pad, but many experienced needle felters simply use polystyrene blocks, upholstery foam or compressed foam. I use the head of an old floor brush—this works perfectly. You will also need thin wool roving in various colors, wool yarn, or cut out pieces of wool felt. I use remnant wool pencil roving (it is similar to yarn, but not as tough) for most of my dry felting embellishments.
Once you have gathered your supplies, you’re ready to take the plunge. Start simply by adding stripes or dots to your wool ball (later, you can add an elaborate design). No matter the design you’ve chosen, you should work in smallish sections. Place your wool ball on the felting pad before you position the fiber where you’d like it. The best approach for needle felting is a straight up and down motion with the needle. This makes it less likely you’ll break the needle. Start at one end of your design and work your way around. When is it done? The longer you puncture the fibers with the needle, the more fused your original work will be with the fancy new wool layer. Really, doneness is a matter of personal preference. Keep going until you think it’s time to stop. Once you start needle felting on a project, it can be a challenge to quit. There are all sorts of directions you can go with this, in fact you’ll find your brain just whirling. You’ll be tempted to add shapes, stripes and flashy jazzy stuff just because you can.
And so, at this point you are ready to branch out on your own. Using the dry and wet felting techniques and a bit of magic potion, you and your design team are well on your way to felting just about anything—flowers, tooth pillows, tea cozies, winter car tires, a good night sleep, etc.