Monday, April 28, 2008

More Felted Creations

Here are more needle felted creations that I made in March and April 2008.

1. Easter Egg about 1.5 inches in length

2. Easter Egg about 3 inches in length.

3. Robot about 7 inches tall

4. Race Car about 7 inches long. I could not think of what to make with this hot pink roving! I especially like the racing flames on the sides.

Hilarious Pointed Party Hat Photo

If you are as sick of seeing pointed party hat photos as I am you must go look at this photo. It most likely is a temporary webpage.

Light Leaks magazine preview issue cover shot

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Struggling to Learn New Craft Skills

I have a few things going on that are making me realize the difference between an art and a craft. What is happening is that me and my children are struggling to learn how to use the tools of some different ‘crafts’. The bottom line is that when you do certain things that require that you use certain tools and that you use them in just a certain way in order to get your ‘finished product’ to come out ‘right’ then to me that is a craft.

Even when I have a unique idea which I consider a creative artistic skill, it cannot come to fruition with out a certain level of skill and mastery of the tools for certain types of work.

When I see a finished piece of artwork or craftwork that a person designed and conceived all on their own I consider that person an artist. The more I learn about mastering certain types of craftwork the more I realized that there is both the element of the mastery of using the tools and the artistic and creative idea in and of itself. I admire not just the finished stained glass window’s design but I admire the fine soldering work as well, from seeing my mother struggle and get angry with the soldering part of the stained glass works she used to make. The more I learn about certain types of work the more I realize which kinds of things are difficult to do. A stained glass maker can identify a design which has a successfully executed difficult shape or size of a piece (it make take many botched cuts before they finally got the glass to cut correctly as they wanted it). This is why those who know about making certain arts and crafts especially those with hands on experience at trying those crafts, can more deeply appreciate well-executed pieces of finished art. A person who is ignorant about the basic skills cannot appreciate as fully what that finished piece represents.

Part of making an artistic well-made finished product with a craft is mastering the actual tools and using them correctly. With a craft if you don’t have good tools, or if you are using the tools incorrectly or you are not yet skilled with using those tools, then the finished product will look bad, not just in an artistic way I mean, but it just won’t be right. I was so frustrated with my first (and only) stained glass making attempt because after all the work of cutting I realized two pieces didn’t fit well enough together to actually use them in the piece! With a craft you need your raw material, true but you need the tools to make those materials into something other than what they are in their raw state. You may have your vision of the artistic rendering of the finished product, such as if you designed your own pattern for knitted socks, but if you cannot master the working of the tools then this finished product will not come to fruition. Period.

The learning to use the new tools takes patience. Sometimes people get hung up in that learning process and give up. Being frustrated with using the tools is not a direct reflection on the person’s creativity or artistic talent, it is purely an issue with the tools and has to do with skill and lack of mastery of those tools.

Weaving with a Loom

Right now my son is trying to weave using a Brio (brand) loom. This was lent to us by our church as part of a children’s art show. It sounded like a great idea. However they didn’t give us the instruction book. I had no way to know what the proper way to start a new piece is. We don’t know how to properly remove it from the loom in order to not have it unravel. I don’t know how to rethread the loom to make another piece. All they showed him was how to do just the weaving part (the easy part).

When using the loom last night the tension appeared wrong. Since we have no directions we don’t know how to fix this. I then moved a piece on the loom like you are supposed to and a piece of the wood snapped. Oh no. I then realized that some of the strings were tangled. Further inspection revealed that the way the loom was strung I believe was incorrect. The strings were bungled up more near the middle instead of being evenly spread out across the length of the span of it (this is how we received the loom). Having the string going on an angle caused too much tension on that outmost ‘rung’ or whatever it is called and caused the thin wood to snap.

I should mention too that I had spent time on the Internet twice now going all over trying to find directions for this Brio loom to no avail. I have found direction for different looms which are not at all the same as this one. I feel like we are the blind leading the blind here.

This Brio loom is quite nice and I see it sells for $40. It comes with a booklet and I am sure if I had that information we’d be in a much better situation right now.

Today I tried to rethread the loom. I had to dissect it to see how it was set up and now I have tried to re-string it (or whatever that process is called). This is very hard to do when one does not know what they are doing. This is when it was underscored for me that a person needs to understand how to use a tool like this—that is part of the ability to make the finished product; there is skill and knowledge of the tools involved here.

Beading (Jewelry Making)

Two weeks ago I strung my first necklace with beads. I was following directions in a book about how to make jewelry including the very important step of crimping the ends so that the thing doesn’t fall apart. I struggled with that. My son (the seven year old) made me a necklace. Then it fell apart making me realize I had crimped it wrong.

I spent time later reading books and watching YouTube videos about crimping and realized the tool I own that led me to believe it was an ‘all in one’ tool was not a crimping tool and so it didn’t do the task right. I hoped the finished pieces I had already made would be alright.

The next day another necklace I made fell apart right in my lap while I was in a public place. I gathered up the beads and tossed them into my pocketbook. This underscored to me that although I used creativity and an artistic eye while designing my own necklace, the fact that I used the tools incorrectly really screwed the whole thing up. The necklace was not functional, it was in pieces.

Later I went in search of a crimping tool only to find out while staring at the wall of jewelry findings that the tool needs certain sized crimping beads and the bead size depends on the size of the thread you use. Why this very basic information was not clearly stated in the three books I read ‘for beginners’ is beyond me. I learned this by reading many labels and by putting two and two together on my own.

Those are the times when I realize that having a local friend who does a craft or taking a workshop can be very useful. I will say though that I did take two workshops on beading which ended up being only a putting together of a pre-made kit not actually learning anything about me making a beaded item from scratch but that is a longer story that I may tell another time. I guess another lesson learned is when you pay and attend a workshop you should have a clear understanding of the goal and content of said workshop. Probably the two workshops were done to meet what the majority wanted, they wanted to just string the beads onto a necklace to have the finished product in their hands. Well I wanted to learn the basic skills of the task and to be able to do the entire process on my own (all the making of it plus the designing of a unique creation).


The second project is that for a long time I have wanted to learn to solder. I would like to make some of my own charms to use in jewelry pieces. I grew up watching my mother make stained glass windows and soldering but never looked at what she was actually doing. She liked to work alone and she hates teaching others so she never taught me any of these skills. (Well a few years ago she tried to teach me stained glass and that was SO HARD.) I have read three books about making metal things that use soldering. I still felt that I didn’t get it. I then discussed this with my mother yesterday and asked her to demonstrate it for me. Instead she explained it verbally in a way that I suddenly realized I had something very wrong. I kept having to ask her to explain in again and in a different way so I could fully understand what she was saying. I then verified that from reading the books I had the most important part of the process incorrect. I realized that part was never shown in photos in a step of soldering and that if I had tried it based on how I thought it was done from the book instructions I would have failed.

My mother told me the soldering iron we bought at Home Depot is junk. She lent me hers which is much larger and looks more industrial and heavy duty. I told her of some of the recommendations in my books about buying more expensive ones with thermostats on them and so on and she said that is nonsense. I said how the book said you need a metal stand to hold it and she shooed me a hunk of pine wood that she used for years and said it sufficed quite well. So much for needing expensive stuff that can only be bought from specialty companies. If a person has been soldering stained glass windows for years with a not super fancy soldering iron and a piece of cheap scrap wood then that is proof for me that not the best equipment on the market today is always necessary either. There are times when the best of the best equipment is needed and there are other times when being skilled with the tools is sometimes acceptable for making fine finished pieces. The best tools with weak skills is worthless also.


Lastly the urge to knit persists in me. One reason I want to knit is that it will keep my hands and mind busy at times when it kills me to sit still. I would like to knit while a passenger in the car and while sitting in a boring meeting or even while listening to a conference speaker. I would like to knit while sitting on the side of the room for my son’s Boy Scout Troop meeting. I would like to knit while camping. I would like to knit while visiting relatives and having conversation with them. I’d like to knit while watching our nightly TV show with our family. I need something to do that is portable. I need something that is not very personal (journal writing or sketching in a sketch book is too personal to do in public or around family sometimes).

I looked at some knitting books last week as I had a 50% off coupon for Joanne’s and also A.C.. Moore and a 40% off coupon for Michael’s (they are all in a 1.5 mile range from each other so I can go do a craft run and use all the coupons to stock up on various supplies). I got overwhelmed by the knitting books as some projects used three different needle sizes. Other projects used even other needle sizes. I wanted to just buy one set of needles and do something from start to finish with that one set of needles. I guess then I’ll have to make a scarf, is that my only option?

I realized I should narrow down what kind of knitting I want to do. I was reading some felting books and was thinking about making a felted handbag like a friend of mine does. But two stores didn’t have the needle sizes I needed to do the projects in the book that the stores were selling. Groan. So I bought nothing.

My mother agreed to teach me to knit. I then realized though if I bought a book of a project she’d never done (like knitting socks using circular needles) then she could not help me. I figured then that maybe I should just have my mother teach me to knit in the way she knits and that I should start off doing just what she does. Once I have my general bearings I could buy a book with a different technique and teach myself that.

I also will share the fear that I felt when I looked at the list of the directions to knit what the book called a simple sock. A terror ran through me and I had that feeling that maybe I was not smart enough to handle doing that kind of work.

Thoughts on Skills

I saw a piece of soldered jewelry that was a real mess because the person was not skilled at soldering well. My son’s weaving is coming out terribly because the tension is not right on the loom, it started out wide and it very narrow further along. Those are both signs of the fact that a person can make a craft while they are not yet skilled in the craft itself. My point is that when working with certain crafts the mastering of the technique itself, just handling the tools and materials I mean, is something very different than having a unique creative idea and making art with it. Other artistic endeavors such as drawing doesn’t need complicated materials or tools but requires the skill of being able to draw. I guess then the eye and hand are the tools?

So you see in these three different craft projects the use of the tools themselves are a skill that has to be learned in order to make the project at all. While a craft such as weaving, making metal jewelry charms and knitting is art making—especially when the person designs their own unique creations out of raw materials (yarn, glass, metal, and homemade art collaged pieces)---the art piece cannot be made at all if the person is incapable of using the materials in the right way.

Other Thoughts on Crafts vs. Art Making

One last thought about ‘crafts’ is that to me a craft is sometimes something that requires certain materials that must be used and bought and that also has a preset finished product conceived by some other person. To make that craft you then follow strict instructions to create a project entirely conceived by a stranger. There is little room in there for creativity or uniqueness of the maker. The person who just follows that direction and uses preset materials is not freely expressing their artistic vision. A perfect example is the scrapbook kits that have everything you need to make pages and they give examples of finished pages and when a person makes an exact copy of someone else’s work. Another example is if you watch a craft TV show and exactly replicate something they made on the show.

On the other hand some crafts can allow for more open ended artistic creation. When our family used the Fabric Blo Pen kit it came with factory made stencils that we could use. We instead designed our own stencils and used other tools that I owned to do that part of the work. I already knew the process to make a new stencil and I already owned the special tools needed for that part of the job. We then used the fabric paint from the kit to make our finished product. I feel that more creativity was used as we used our unique ideas.

Knitting allows for more creative expression when the knitter picks out their own yarn instead of just copying what the directions say. If a knitter makes up her own patterns then that to me is very artistic.

Creating one’s own things from one’s own imagination takes creativity, desire and guts. It can be scary to create something totally unique.

I personally enjoy working in a more organic manner with more of an intuitive flow. I like to have materials at my disposal and then to just begin working and creating. While I am in the flow I just make things, sometimes without putting thought into it, following my gut feelings. What the thing ends up being in the end is something that I had not planned out in advance. I can’t always plan things and then execute them to the end. This is why I like to draw and make collage. I just start in and get to work and stuff happens. This has been true also with my recent playing around with embroidery and needle felting with wool roving. I don’t like the craft kits with pre-planned work though of by other people as the most fun for me with creating is just diving in and me being in control of what is being created. I also do like to have some ideas ahead of time and try to make those come to fruition (with beading my own designed necklaces, with wanting to knit ).

Anyhow those are some thoughts on my mind today.

My Collage Status

Last note: I have not been working much with collage at all lately. The reason is I have been busy and have not even had time to haul the stuff out and use it at my kitchen table then no time to clean it up in time for three meals a day and homeschooling at the kitchen table. I make much more collage when we are not doing our homeschooling lessons (such as in summer) or when we are on a ‘break’ from it. I make more collage when I can leave the kitchen area messy. I’ve been on a kick to really keep my kitchen decluttered and clean and that includes having the art supplies stashed in the basement and closet (and some overflow on the unused dining room table). (No, I cannot use the fancy dining room table for making arts and crafts or homeschooling lessons or eating all three meals a day.)

This of course had led me to pine for my own workspace. I have been thinking of converting part of the fourth bedroom which is presently being used as a playroom into a studio for ME. Gasp! I also have tons of room in the unfinished basement and some desks and tables that I could use. However I find unfinished, poorly lit basements dark and gloomy places which I really don’t want to spend much time in let alone trying to create things in a space like that. I’m not really thinking much about that whole idea right now and am instead trying to learn the new crafts that I described above which are less messy and are easier to clean up and can be done in various places not just needing a big flat table space to work on.

Most of my creating since about Christmas 2007 has actually been done in my bedroom sitting in bed: the journal writing, the embroidery, the needle felting and the necklace making. I do not make collage or use adhesives in my bedroom or while sitting in my bed (yet). My drawing and sketching in my little sketch books has been done in public or while a passenger on a car or train.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Went to FilmSpeed 2008 Reception

The other night our family attended the recepation at the photography art gallery to unveil the winners of the FilmSpeed 2008 competition.

What they did was this:

1. Gave an award to photographers who overall were the most creative, first, second and third place, and showed all the photos that person or team took

2. From all the other participants, they picked one winner in each single category

Our family attended plus my mother-in-law. We were surprised to see the onocology nurse who took care of my father-in-law during his Cancer treatment up to his passing. I think the nurse was very surprised to see us. My husband and mother-in-law were shocked to think the nurse had a photography hobby (why I do not know--no one knows what creative and artisitc endeavors people do when off duty from work).

The kids were a bit bored having glanced at the photos and then 'they were done'.

I received my packet of printed photos. I think a couple are fantastic to be honest.

If and when I can find the time I will manually scan these into the computer and will upload them to this blog along with the categories. That will probably not happen for two weeks or more though.

If the gallery does this again then I'd like to do it with an adult friend instead of with my children. It was just too cold and windy for a young child to have the expreience be 'all fun and games'. I was happy to see other kids enrolled into the competition, it was not just our family that involved a young child.

Younger Son’s First Attempt at Drawing Manga

While at the library the other day I had a list of books I wanted to scout out. I sent my husband to mind the kids while they explored in the children’s department.

Younger son picked out two ‘how to draw comics’ books. He decided one was too advanced and put it back. He borrowed the other one.

Today while we were ‘doing nothing’ my younger son decided to work on the comics. He pulled out his sketchbook and a regular pencil and began drawing. The book has three steps. Step one is just like a mannekin drawing. Step two shows the clothing drawn over that basic human form. Step three is colored in and all finished.

After he struggled a bit and was angry that the finished thing didn’t look the same I pointed out the reason was he was not erasing the extra lines. I also made the executive decision to let him use the drawing pencils. I took them out of their storage place and explained the different hardness levels of the pencils. He experimented and decided he really liked the soft B pencil. I then showed him three different erasers and how they work better than a regular pink eraser. I also advised him to try to draw more lightly with the pencil in the first sketches so it is easier to erase. He is resisting this.

He drew three figures then gave up. He actually stumbled on the eyes. He asked me to draw them for him and I said no. I took the book and said, “They must have taught you do to these eyes somewhere in here” and he said “no”. Well of course there were four pages of eyes there to practice. I explained that it is typical to do nothing but practice drawing eyes over and over and over to get better at doing them. He didn’t believe me. He also said something to the effect that he chose to skip all the beginning steps and to started in the middle of the book

He declared that he is a ‘bad drawer’. This is my precocious child with giftedness traits who is also a perfectionist. I have a hard time boosting up his morale and trying to get him to lower his standards for himself, but I’m trying. In reality I think he did an excellent job at drawing these anime style people for a child who is 7.5 years old.

The book he is using is this one: “Manga Mania: How to Draw Japanese Comics” by Christopher Hart. While looking it over I decided the drawings of the females are a bit too sexy for my taste for my seven year old to be drawing. So far he is sticking to the boys and men. I also see that the robots and mechanical monsters are unbelievable and that will interest my older son for sure.

(A few months ago I bought, with resistance, my first ever “Dummies” book: “Manga for Dummies” which teaches how to draw manga and give a lot more info. I hope I can find the time to do a full review on that book which for us is worthy of owning.)

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Younger Son Drawing Comics

On a day in March when we had free time my seven year old son saw a book "How to Draw Cartoons" by Syd Hoff lying around here somewhere. He picked it up and read it on his own.

He then went to get his sketchbook from the low-shelf area where I keep some of the child-safe art making supplies. He followed the directions and made these comics.

I love it when my children do self-initiated projects like this.

This is a very short book with simple instructions. I found this used at a library book sale for a very low price and I'm glad I had it on hand for my son to discover.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Grafitti-Like Art on T-Shirts Using Fabric Blo Pens

I keep thinking of my word of the year “content” and I’m trying to be happy with what I already own and to use what we have rather than pining for things being sold in stores. I remembered this never-done craft item and one day when we were interrupted from our plans and had to go pick up my older son’s new reading glasses, the day was kind of shot, and we also felt burned out of doing our regular homeschooling lessons so we did this project: we made t-shirts using fabric ink applied with Blo Pens.

It was at least a year ago if not 18 months ago that I was at Michael’s Craft Shop and on my way to the restroom discovered they have a clearance aisle. My kids love Blo Pens (for use on paper) so the logo for Blo Pens caught my eye. The product was actually different ink to be used on fabric: Fabric Blo Pen. It was a kit that originally sold for $35 but was marked down to $7. I picked it up and shelved it all this time. We have just been too busy to use it.

Rather than even show my kids that the kit came with factory made stencils, I had them make their own. I explained what a stencil was as both seemed to have forgotten the meaning of the word.

Younger Son's Project

My younger son did his project first. He wanted a hand sign that means “rock on”. He said he could not draw it well, and being seven years old I realized that was true. He asked me to draw it. I explained I was not so great at drawing hands either. I then had an idea. Using our home computer printer/copy machine we placed his hand onto the glass and made a photocopy of his hand with the symbol.

Using a self-healing mat and an xacto knife we already owned, and regular old cardstock, I cut the stencil out. I do not let my children use xacto knives as that is just too dangerous.

Once the stencil was made we got to work. We chose to blow the pens with our mouths rather than with the foot pump. I used masking tape to adhere the stencil to the fabric. We first tested it out on a rag what was formerly a t-shirt. He applied the ink to his shirts. It worked. Hooray! We then moved on to doing t-shirts, some were his white undershirts we already owned and one was a new shirt I bought in hopes of making screen-printing images on (but have not done it yet). Our local A.C. Moore sells Hanes colored t-shirts for $2.50 on sale, a bargain if you ask me. So recently I bought a bunch of those to have on hand, and had pre-laundered them so they’d be ready when the spirit to create moved us.

Later I tested the idea of using two colors of ink and staggering the stencil to be out of alignment (a la Andy Warhol) and that looked good too.

Older Son's Project

Next my older son did his project. He decided to hand draw a robot. I did the stencil cutting. He made a shirt and I made one for myself.

To Wrap It Up

Once the designs are made I heat set them following the kit’s directions with an iron. I have laundered them since and the ink is bright and perfect!

Both of my kids loved this project. They have ideas to make many more designs. They are also talking about starting a t-shirt selling business and selling these shirts to their friends.

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Altered Book Happenings at Westport Library---A Call For Submissions

Oh my gosh. I can’t believe what I just read!

Is this really happening in my back yard??

I was skimming the upcoming lectures being hosted by the Westport Public Library because they have some great lectures that I sometimes like to attend. After signing up to attend a free lecture on the value of libraries in our society I saw something that made my jaw drop. It is a talk and slideshow presentation on altered books to be given by Douglas Beube on June 13, 2008.

The next thing I saw was that after that talk they are going to have a ‘book grab’ in which lecture attendees can take books in order to transform them into art over the summer. The page mentioned something about “Books Unbound”.

Next up I looked to see what they were talking about ‘Books Unbound’ and it is a fundraiser event that any person, from anywhere can participate with.

Here are quotes from the site to explain:

Books Unbound is a community-wide project to recycle old books into art, which will be exhibited and auctioned in a fund-raiser to benefit the Library on October 3, 2008. This project was inspired by the relatively new, but rapidly growing art form called Altered Books.

What Is an Altered Book?

The International Society of Altered Book Artists (ISABA) explains that an altered book is any book, new or old, recycled by creative means into a work of art. The book can be painted, cut into, burned, added to, re-bound, collaged in, or otherwise adorned…and, yes, it is legal!
How Do I Participate in Books Unbound?
• Everyone, artist and non-artist alike, is invited to join in the fun and be part of Books Unbound.
• You do not need to live in Westport or even in Connecticut.
• Start with an old book (see Book Grab above); then alter it however you like— there are no rules. You’re the artist!
• If you need help getting started, register for the Westport Continuing Education Altered Book Workshop to be held Wednesday, July 16, 23, and 30, 6:30-8:30 pm, and taught by altered book artist Cecilia Marshall. To register, call Westport Continuing Education at 341-1218.

A Magical Recycling Program

It happens over time. A book’s pages rip out and are lost. Its worn binding breaks and tears away. Or its information goes out of date. And little by little a book’s useful life may come to an end—
but it doesn’t have to! The growing art form called Altered Books offers such volumes a new life. Pages can become the canvas for painting or collage. Images can be added from elsewhere. Text might get rearranged to convey a new message. A binding may get reshaped into a lively outline of, say, a tree. In short, one precious art form magically transforms into another—Books Unbound.

The site has links to view some very interesting altered books on the Internet, check it out if you are interested.

If you would like to spread the word about this event feel free to link to my blog post! I would love to see altered book artists from across the country participate in this event. I know there is a large community of altered book artists out there who may not be members of the ISABA.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Photos of My Needle Felting Projects, Batch #1

Here is the first batch of photos of my needle felting. I created all of these things in March 2008.

Batch #2 which I'll share on another day, will show things that my boys created and more of my own creations.

You can read more about how and why I started teaching myself needle felting in this blog entry.

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Changed Blog Name

Today I changed my blog's name from ChristineMM's Artist Trading Cards to ChristineMM's Creative Pursuits.

My initial foray into artmaking in August 2005 into the world of artist trading card swapping has branched out into other paths. I am teaching myself to draw. I have begun keeping journals including visual art journals and travel journals. I am trying various fiber arts. My latest endeavor is jewelry making.

I have not been doing heavy artist trading card mail art swapping for about four months. I am spending the time that I used to spend making art to give away as mail art to make art and crafts just for myself instead.

If I could only understand how to make a custom blog template and to make a blog banner this blog would look better. That is so far, a failed attempt at self-teaching...

Playing With Needle Felting

Regarding art making and crafts, in keeping with my word of the year “content” I am trying to not long for new art and craft materials but instead am tying to use up what I have on hand, and to be content with what we own rather than always longing to buy new things to do.

In 2000 I made my first Waldorf style doll by hand. I was not a person who sewed but the idea of spending over $100 on one doll for a three year old boy to play with didn’t sit right with me. I bought a kit for $25 from Weir Dolls and made it myself. I struggled through it and it came out pretty decent. It also took me about ten hours to complete. In 2001 I made one for my younger son. That was back in the days when I was inspired in our homeschool by some of the Waldorf education theories as well as using some of the Waldorfy toys and arts and crafts. At that time I also added in with my order, some wood roving, dyed and undyed, thinking I’d make some finger puppets or little figures out of it.

One thing I had wanted to do back in 2000-2002 was felting. In 2000 or 2001, had bought two books and a big bunch of undyed wool roving. I also bought a small sack of colored wool roving. In 2002 while at a La Leche League breastfeeding and parenting conference, there was a Waldorfy company there and I bought a kit to make felted Easter eggs. All these felting methods were using wool roving, hot water and soap and friction to felt the wool.

In 2002 I finally made one Easter Egg from the kit using their directions. My hands were made raw by the soap and the friction with the wool. I decided never to do that again. I figured “felting was out for me”. I put these materials away and shelved the books.

In 2003 our family attended a Harvest Festival at a local Waldorf School for something fun to do on a Saturday. A woman was doing needle felting and making lovely human figures and animals. She was demonstrating how to do it and insisted it was easy. Her fancy finished creations looked anything but easy. I was intimidated and thought I could not do that, but wished I could. I also didn’t own felting needles and thought the only place I could get them was by mail order.

Last month I was inspired by the idea of needle felting with a single felting needle, by hand (not using a sewing machine) because I suddenly recalled having seen it demonstrated in the last year on one of the craft television shows. In the years between 2002 and 2008 apparently felting has become a mainstream fiber arts craft, one that is no longer just being done in Waldorf circles. So while at A.C. Moore (for something else) I checked and lo and behold they had a small felting display with dyed roving and hand felting needles. Well last month I took everything out of its storage place in boxes in the basement. Then I headed back out to A.C. Moore. I did have to buy the needles. Using a coupon, I paid about $3 at A.C. Moore for a set of two needles, a piece of Styrofoam and a small bit of roving and felt and directions. The kit wanted me to make a flower on the felt. I rejected this and used the white and black dyed roving to make an abstract design. This was fun.

I figured then that maybe I could do three dimensional felting. Since I had a ton of undyed, unbleached roving what I did was use the undyed roving to make the shape then I used the colored roving as a thin top layer. Going by memory of what that Waldorf mom had told me five years ago, I just started by folding the felt and jabbing at it with the needle. Magically the felt began to transform into the shape that I had hoped it would. The needle felting compresses the shape and makes it thicker and firmer, more solid feeling rather than being soft and squishy. When I needed to change the shape I could just add more roving and attach it with the needle. It is hard to describe but trust me when I say you just work at the area with the needle and the shape changes immediately. To fix a mistake you can just add more roving and cover it up.

I was doing this needle felting in the hour that my husband and I watch a television show with our children which we do right before bed. Also sometimes after the kids went to bed I would spent up to an hour more working on my project.

The first thing I made was a little triangle with abstract designs. Somehow that got lost so I don’t have a photo of it. The second project is a little gift box with a ribbon and bow that is in a color similar to Tiffany blue. I then moved on to making Easter Eggs, since Easter was coming up soon and since I was inspired by that old kit (even though I was needle felting not felting using water and soap).

After that I made a teddy bear (it started off as a Gingerbread Man but the color brown was too dark and looked just wrong so it morphed into a teddy bear). I also made two bluebirds—at first it was just an Easter Egg that was leaning to the side (not good) so I morphed it into what was to be a cute monster creature thing but it started to look like a bird body and head so I changed it to a bird. Since I had the right colors for a bluebird it became a bluebird. I later made a man. It was time to make an ATC for my CMP Circle ATC exchange so I decided to felt one! I then made a flower onto a piece of felt, switching to work on a flat surface to use up some last bits of certain colors we had left over. The last thing I made was a race car, using up the fuchsia colored roving and the last of the black roving for tires. I even put racing flames on both sides of the car.

After seeing me do the needle felting on night number one my children begged to do it (as usual, they want to do all the art making and crafts that I do). They started off by alternating who would work on it in the evening as I didn’t have enough needles for the three of us to do it together. Then I got another set of two needles ($2 after coupon) so we could all do it at the same time.

My boys began by making colored balls. My younger son made a collection of fruit (yellow apple, lemon, banana, and an orange). My older son seems a bit stifled and afraid to make three dimensional projects that are something other than a simple ball.

I recall seeing felted balls selling at a parenting conference for $10. Some contained jingle bells inside, giving a little jingle when the ball is tossed. That would be very easy to do.

We have used up almost all of the dyed wool roving and about half or more of the undyed roving I had on hand. The kids are begging to do more projects and they want me to buy more colored wool roving. It is expensive especially if you buy it at A.C. Moore were tiny bits about the size of a Tablespoon sell for $1.50. I took out my books on feltmaking and in one book they talk of using unsweetened fruit drink mix to dye it with. I have unsweetened Kook Aid mix on hand (about 40 cents a packet) as that is what I use to make homemade modeling dough. I also remembered that another thing I bought once but never used was a kit to dye fabrics with natural dyes, so I might use that. The new plan is to dye some of our undyed wool and to use it up.

The kids really love doing felting by hand with the needle. They have not injured themselves, yes they have accidentally jabbed themselves a few times but no cuts were made and no blood was drawn. They are begging to do more felting.

I will upload scans of our felting projects soon. So far I have photos of about half of the projects I’ve completed.

If I can find the time I’ll publish book reviews on the two books I own about felting since I’ve scanned through them in this last month. The two I bought in the past were Magic Wool: by Dagmar Schmidt & Freya Jaffke and The Art of Feltmaking: by Anne Vickrey. I do not own a book just about needle felting and I did not need a book on that to jump into this craft. Today I see there are more books on felting on the market than were available back in 2000-2002.

Wool roving that is colored, dyed can be found in both chemical dyed, bright colors as well as in the more subdued plant based natural dyed. Flat felt can be purchased made from real wool also available in chemical dyes and natural dyes.

One last thing I want to share is that if you are going to do felting onto a flat felt surface I would ask that you consider using real wool flat felt instead of the acrylic felt. There is just such a difference with the tactile feeling of the real wool felt. Although I used the acrylic felt that I found easily in my stash for the two projects I did on flat felt, I really wish I had been able to find my small stash of wool felt to use instead—that remains for now, hidden in my craft supply stash.

I really enjoyed this craft because I like working with the soft wool roving. It is a clean craft to work on—our family did it while sitting in bed watching (listening to) television. The finished products are so soft and unique; they invite you to touch them. The three dimensional felted things are so different than any other fiber art.

I am happy that my boys loved doing the feltmaking too. I consider the time they spent making these projects as 'homeschool art class'.


Weir Dolls has a huge selection of roving, dyed and undyed

A Child’s Dream Come True has felting materials including flat felts and plant dyed felt too

Nova Natural Toys & Crafts (Waldorf supplier), sells some wool roving, do a keyword search on roving. This is a good place to order dyed roving especially if you are placing an order for something else there such as their great toys and games for young children.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Make It From Scratch #58 Blog Carnival

Life Lessons of a Military Wife has published the Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival #58.


Self-Portraits From Film Speed 2008 (Photo of the Day)

I'm sharing a few photos taken on 3/29/08 on the way to and at Film Speed 2008 which was held in New Haven, Connecticut. As I shared in this post, I did this competition with my younger son.

Self portrait taken while sitting in the Dunkin Donuts drive through lane, while picking up bagels for snacks for my younger son. (above)

Below is a test shot for the scavenger hunt item #1 in which we had to do a self-portrait with our contestant number in it as well. I figured getting this #70 in the shot was too hard, as the number next to it was 72, and I worried both numbers would show, so we didn't do this for the competition. Looking at this now I see this shot came out great but it was so sunny that I couldn't see the preview screen on my camera to see if this came out. I also had no clue how that disposable camera would turn out so I gave up on the idea. We walked for another 20 minutues to find a different #70. I didn't take test shots of any other photos and just 'winged it'. I also forgot to take a digital photo of the actual submission we used. I just hope it turned out alright! I can't wait to see the final images.

Below is a self-portrait in a New Haven building. I was thinking of doing a shot like this for the scavenger hunt item 'reflection' but I did not choose to do that after all. The graininess I believe is due to the fact that the window is dirty!

Below is the shot I took when we finished the competition. We were freezing. I came up with a new acronym which I kept to myself FMAO.

By the way I consider doing this photography competition an 'art lesson' in our homeschooling adventure.