Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Wonder of Wool

Wool is amazing. It's that simple. I've loved it as long as I can remember, and it's put me in the way of some friendly ridicule from my dear family. Elizabeth has always kidded me that my kids will just be dying to go to her house, because she won't make them wear wool sweaters all the time and sleep under wool blankets.Even the scratchiness of wool clothes (e.g. sweaters, skirts and jackets) has never bothered me --- to the amazement of Mom and Elizabeth. I just love wool. It's liquid repellent if you happen to be playing in the snow or out in the rain, and it dries almost immediately.

It's no wonder that making wool felt dolls and learning how to needle felt dolls seemed like such a fun hobby. I'm finally convincing the family of the great value of wool, and opening this Etsy shop and working on little wool felt dolls has certainly helped. Mom and Elizabeth have pretty much gone off the "deep end" when it comes to studying, selecting and using wool felt. What blends are the best? Where is the best place to buy it? How many colors are available? What's the best cut to buy? Is it better as yardage or by the square? Those are the type of things that they've spent a lot of time on these days.

All this to say, we've discovered some great uses for wool over the years, and I thought that it would be a pretty fun post to show some of the things that this amazing fiber can be used for.

Felted Dolls, of course. My favorite wool thing has to be a doll. I love everything about them. Making them, holding them and admiring them. They are just wonderful all around.

Clothing (i.e. Coats, Hats, Sweaters, Socks, etc.). There is nothing better than wearing wool. A Winter coat, a sweater. You name it, and I love wearing it. My favorite thing has to be knitted wool socks. Not only do they keep your feet warm and toasty, but they are truly beautiful things to behold. I have three pairs of striped socks that I've gotten at some of the fiber shows, but I'd love to have a pair of knitted Scandinavian-design knee socks. In fact, this is a picture of a particular pair (available in this shop on Etsy) that I really admire. Wow! I couldn't imagine much better than that.

Felt Play Food. This is our newest discovery, and Elizabeth and I have pretty much gone nuts over it. Apparently, this has been all the rage for some years as part of the Waldorf school technique. Somehow, we had never heard of it --- until this week. I even parted with my "Christmas money" and bought a set of patterns (guess where??? --- from this shop on Etsy!) to make complete felt meals. A French Toast breakfast. Pizza and fried mozzarella. Sandwiches and hamburgers. Fruit salad. Ice cream. You name it . . . practically. Take a look at these pictures and tell me that it doesn't look almost real!

Felted Animals. Mom laughs at me for "favoriting"  felted animal sales on Etsy. She doesn't understand why someone who makes felted dolls all the time would bother staring (multiple times, that is) at pictures of felted animals that other people are selling. Well, I LOVE making dolls. People. That doesn't mean that I enjoy felting animals --- but I do admire them. Below are two pictures of felted animals that I really love. The first is a Barn Swallow, and if you've been reading my blog in any of the past Summers, then you know that is my all-time favorite bird. It is available from this shop on Etsy.  The second picture is a Scottish Fold kitten (see it on Etsy here). Do you get cuter than that? How I would love to have a felted kitten of my cat, Samwise. This pose is perfect. In fact, I've been saving some of Sammy's fur (which felts beautifully) for years and want to make a felted kitten of him. I just haven't gotten up the courage to try it.

Baby Diaper Covers & Children's Clothes. A few weeks ago, Mom found out about wool diaper covers. That's a fabulous alternative to plastic or rubber. I'm a big fan of cloth diapers, but it drives me crazy that you "have" to put the plastic or rubber cover on. Well, I guess it is only us Americans that suffer from that delusion! Europeans have been using knitted wool diaper covers forever, and it's just fabulous. After reading a lot about them and looking at all kinds, I decided that my favorite is the Disana brand. They are German-based and 100% wool. No elastic. No ties. No buttons. No snaps. Just plain knitted wool. Not only do they make the cutest diaper covers, but they also have a line of children's clothes made of wool. Take a look at the boiled wool "cover-all" suit. I mean, that looks like the old-fashioned, precious baby suit for Winter. And it can come in a variety of colors. So, I'm sold on wool baby clothes, too --- from the diaper on up!

These are just some of the wonderful things that can be done with wool. This post would go on forever if I listed everything that I love, but these are some standouts. So, it gives you an idea of what really speaks to me. If you haven't tried loving wool, then I sure recommend it. This said, I should be upstairs making a little wool doll to list on Etsy. :) More later.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Bass Player, Mark Fain, as a Needle-Felted Doll

Finally! I've finished and photographed my latest needle-felted doll. I've been working on this one since the Fall, but I wasn't very dedicated for a few months there. Too busy working on Minikins, I guess. The doll has been finished for about 2-1/2 weeks, now, but it's taken some time to make the guitar.

This doll is based on Mark Fain, a well-known Bass player for Bluegrass and Country music (played with Ricky Scaggs for years). He just happens to be the Bass player on Buddy's latest CDs --- which is what gave me the idea for the doll. It started when Elizabeth and I went down to Gat3 Studio with Buddy and Kay in June. Buddy was recording his CD, Noah Believed, and we spent two days at the studio, while the recording was going on. The first day is when all the background musicians came in to record the tracks. Mark was the first one to arrive, and Elizabeth and I were convinced -- almost from the first glance -- that he would make a fabulous needle-felted doll. Throughout the rest of the day, we watched him and took mental notes of details that would transfer well to the doll (e.g., his orange wrist watch and endless supply of chewing gum). Once home and ready to begin work on the doll, I printed out some of the pictures which Kay had taken during the session.

(See More Pictures by CLICKING HERE.)

He really turned out like I wanted, and it was really enjoyable to felt the pink shirt. I just love brown and pink wool! Photos above show the doll and the real Mark. The doll sits 8-1/2 inches tall and weighs 2-3/4 ounces without his guitar. He was felted with .40 and .42 gauge needles and took approx. 59 hours to make.

The guitar is a miniature replica of the one that Mark played while recording Buddy's CD. Dad made it from Basswood, and Elizabeth painted it (using a pearl coating to give it the shiny look). Dad used glass beads, straight pins, fly-fishing sinkers and delicate wire to make the knobs, buttons and strings. Aren't Elizabeth and Dad a great team?! The finished guitar weighs one ounce. Be sure to check out more pics of the doll by viewing the photo album.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Below-Zero Temps and Our First Etsy Sale

So, we've been having these single-digit temperatures with wind chill factors below zero. Not great fun. Running the wood stove on high all the time and running four electric heaters we still had indoor temps of 52'F in the living room and 49'F in the laundry room!! Elizabeth and I had sick headaches for two days, and we spent the time bundled up in two layers of everything.

We've managed to raise the temperature in the house a bit, but it's still pretty cold around here. We've been trying to keep busy working around here and getting the Etsy store up and running. Being so cold, it's been a bit hard, but we have managed to make our first sale!! Boy, we are so thrilled. Mom and I had been listing all of the little Minikin dolls. Elizabeth and I had finished four of the Poirots (see previous entry for pics) and had two more in the works. We decided to list the four on Wednesday night, and before they had been on for ten minutes --- we sold them all! In fact, they are all going to a U.K. buyer, and she even bought the two that weren't done yet. The two of us stayed up late last night finishing them.

I've spent days now photographing dolls for Etsy. Here is a picture of the setup for the little Minikins. Doesn't look like much, but the photos sure turn out fine (as seem in photo on left)! The bottom picture shows a Minikin "group" shot. This is all the Minikins that we've made so far (minus the final Poirots) having a reunion.

It seems that we are in the middle of a white-out snow at the moment, so it's going to be looking very pretty. Things are supposed to warm up over the weekend, so I'm looking forward to that. Well, I've spent way too much time blogging and no time working on dolls, so I better get going. More later!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hercule Poirot as a Miniature Doll for 'Etsy'

A couple of years ago I needle felted a Hercule Poirot doll as a gift for Mom (see blog entry here). Elizabeth and I had a lot of fun making him, since the Poirot TV shows with David Suchet are family favorites. Apparently, a lot of other people like Agatha Christie's little Belgian Detective, too, as I've gotten a lot of e-mails and comments on this doll over the years.

I haven't ventured to make another needle felted doll of him, but Elizabeth and I spent a while coming up with patterns to make a miniature version --- standing just 4 inches tall. Getting into the swing for Etsy, we've been working on making all different characters of these miniature dolls, but Poirot has certainly been the most fun. The dolls (which we've decided to call "Minikins") are made with a wire armature that's wrapped in cotton floss. The clothes are made of Wool/Rayon felt (all from patterns that we've designed ourselves) and the heads --- including the infamous mustache --- are needle-felted.

We've decided to make the Poirot doll in several of his outfits (as seen in the TV shows). Four are completed with another two to come. Today marks their debut on Etsy, so we're very excited! We're thinking about making Captain Hastings, Miss Lemon, Inspector Japp and Mrs. Oliver, too --- but that's for the future.

If you'd like to check out the dolls on Etsy, just CLICK HERE to see our shop.

(Edit @ 7:30PM: How exciting! All of the little Poirot dolls sold in the first two hours, so be sure to look in the "Sold" items in the Etsy shop. We'll be making some more and listing them as soon as possible, as well as accepting custom orders. Feel free to contact us through the shop if you are interested in your own mini Poirot.)

We're really hoping to be able to make a bunch more of these little dolls. Poirot is just such a perfect subject. I'm way behind on my blogging as all of our time these days is spent working on making dolls for the shop. It's just too much fun!
More later.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

'Extreme Make Over' for the Etsy Shop

Etsy, Etsy and more Etsy. That's the hot topic around here these days, and we've spent most of the last week working things out. We've decided on shipping supplies, packaging "looks", various item possibilities etc. We're just about there.

After a lot of conversation and discarded ideas, we decided to rename the store and design a new banner. Instead of The Fogleberry Shoppe --- it's Peppermint Toes. You can still buy some of my felted Fogleberries in the shop, but we're planning other items as well. Click on the shop name above or on the new shop banner below to visit us on Etsy. Be sure to check out the "About" page, too, since we've redesigned that as well.

Elizabeth and I spent hours yesterday working on Minikins for the shop (if you don't know what they are --- just go read the "About" page!). In fact, she's hard at work on them right now. Just as I should be. Instead, I'm blogging --- oh well! Tomorrow is going to be spent photographing and listing in the store.

Nothing else to report, as Etsy has really been occupying our time these days. More later.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Let's Start the New Year . . . Sick?

Yep. Not the fun way to "start the New Year right", as the song goes, but that's what's happened around here. Mom came down with this awful flu on the day after Christmas. A few days later, Elizabeth got it and a few days after that --- I got it. People are sure creating an awful epidemic with these flu shots, pneumonia shots and everything. We've never had a cold or flu this bad. Hence the lack of blogging this month.

All three of us are finally on the mend, but it's pretty awful. We're sticking close to home and trying to take it a bit slower than usual. We had some beautiful snow for the first week of January, but temps rose into the fifties last week. Now we have a lot of mud. We're cooling off again, but no more snow on the horizon.

I did manage to finish the little felted guitar player that I've been working on. His guitar is in the works, so pics will be coming as soon as that's ready. Elizabeth and I are working hard on some small dolls for our Etsy shop, so that's been occupying our minds lately.

Buddy and Kay came over yesterday and we got to exchange Christmas presents. We also watched the Tyrone Power move, The Mark of Zorro. Buddy LOVES Zorro!

It's quite lonely around here without Manly and Olivia. The house is quiet, even though we have eight kitties around here. Manly and his Mama were quite interactive, so they were like having little friends. We're all still pretty lonely.

Well, this catches things up a bit, so I'll have to get some pictures up soon.
More later.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Our Mama Cat: Saying Goodbye to Olivia

This has been a very sad weekend. After saying "goodbye" to Manly at the beginning of December, just one month and a day later, on Saturday, January 5, we had to say "goodbye" to Olivia. She was the super Mama Cat that came to our house almost seven years ago. She presented us with a litter of seven kittens right off the bat. They were all born in the dining room and spent their first six weeks in there. We've lost four of those babes now (Manly was one), but they were certainly one-of-a-kind kittens.

On the morning that Olivia had an appointment to "get fixed", we heard a huge crash coming from the front room downstairs. You guessed it! She had knocked a window screen out and made it onto the front steps. She wasn't out there ten minutes --- but that was long enough t meet up with the little Romeo who was waiting at the front door. Back inside she bounded, happy as a lark.

So, two months passed and Olivia presented us with five more kittens. Two were born dead, but the other three grew into the cutest little lover cats you've ever seen!! One of those is my special babe, Samwise.

Since then, Olivia has lived a happy life here. She loved to eat (no small babe, she weighed about 35lbs. at her peak!), sit on the kitty tree house and look out the window, rub on catnip toys and eat dried catnip off the rug, sleep on Elizabeth's bed, get petted on her head and cheeks and occasionally have "wild mansies". She hated thunder storms --- which would send her hiding under the wash tubs in the laundry room or a big chair upstairs. She'd wait 'til everything had passed before coming out again, too!

Three of her kittens never quite grew up. Manly was on the level of a three month old kitten all his life, so he was never parted from his mother. They ate together, slept together, played together and bathed together. Well, Manly never bathed --- but Olivia would lick him instead. It was a blessing that Manly went before his Mommy, because he wouldn't have survived without her. Frodo and Avis were also Mama's babies, so they are having a pretty rough time of it right now. They go from one of her spots to the next, waiting for their mother to come back.

Olivia was probably fifteen years old or so, which is pretty aged for a kitty cat. We were certainly blessed to have her for almost seven years, and she's left a big hole in the house. There are five of her kittens surviving her, though, so she's left us some pretty sweet reminders of herself. It's been a hard couple of weeks, since we've known this was coming before Christmas --- and it doesn't really make it easier to have advance notice.

Olivia was a perfect pet. She loved all the attention that you were willing to give her, but she never pestered you or irritated you. She was quiet and just plain sweet. What a cat!

Elizabeth wrote a lot about her on her blog, so you can READ THAT HERE.