March 23rd, 2011 § § permalink
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.)
Now you have a new small friend. And you and your family will love your friend more than you ever thought was possible. I mean love. More than anyone should.
February 7th, 2011 § § permalink
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.
January 20th, 2011 § § permalink
I’ve never taken a sewing class and I’m really lousy at needlepoint and knitting. I am a lover of sketching and fabrics and texture and nature and my kids. For me, it is important to attempt to incorporate all (or at least some) of these loves into my day, even if it is sloppily done. Some are easier to accommodate more than others. To teach my girls about nature and living simply, it’s important that I attempt to be conscious of my own lifestyle and choices. This trickles down into work.
Considering this, I must make a confession. I am a tag sale addict. A rummageophile to the nth degree. Pre-kids, my husband and I spent entire days wandering aisles at flea markets and old junk stores, haggling politely with dealers for something of questionable worth to anyone but us. In fact, much of our favorite furniture has been snatched from the ends of our neighbors’ driveways. Don’t get me wrong—we are by no means pack rats. We are incredibly selective in our acquisitions (an oak card catalog cabinet, an old Remington adding machine, wooden step stools, an old wooden skate box, etc.). Now, with little people in tow and with substantially less time and money, I have narrowed my scope and have become fixated almost exclusively on all things fabricky— vintage drapery panels, old table runners, Bakelite buttons, wool sweaters, big wooden spools to hold ribbon…. Often I’ll find a mysterious bag at the front door containing a mishmash of retro drapes, striped wool sweaters and tangled vintage lace trim. I am known as That Woman. And so, rarely am I compelled to head to the big chain fabric store. There is something about making something from something.