winter

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The Christmas Stockings

Posted by on 15 Dec 2010 | Tagged as: animal crafts, Christmas, family, needle-felting, sewing, winter, wool felt

Two days in a row! Woo-hoo!

And another big Christmas project, though this one was from last year. Looking back, I’m not entirely clear how I managed to needle-felt three stockings with a newborn, though I guess he was still sleeping a lot of the time in his father’s arms, so maybe that explains it. Years earlier, I had decorated felt stockings for our little family of three people and ten animals, but I’d used the cheap synthetic stuff and had never gotten around to making one for Lucas after he was born. So I was determined my children would have lovingly-crafted felt stockings, newborn baby or not!

I found a pattern for a Santa on etsy for Jonah’s stocking:

Jonah Santa Stocking

I’m really proud of the Santa — and I was impressed how much heftier he was than he would have been had I not followed a pattern — I actually needle-felted him first and then sewed him on rather than needle-felting him directly onto the wool felt. I am disappointed at the shape of all the stockings — they ended up too long and skinny, with boxy toes. But I do love that Santa:

Santa

For my ballet-in-general-and-Nutcracker-in-particular-obsessed daughter, I attempted a Sugar Plum Fairy. Mia loves her, but I’m afraid she turned out a little too manly in the face and shoulders. I tried and tried to fix it until I’d needle-felted everything so firmly there was no more tweaking. Oh well!

Mia Ballerina Stocking

And a close-up of Mr. Sugar Plum:

Ballerina

And finally, for Lucas, I used as inspiration, the wonderful, beautiful book we discovered last year thanks to our friend Lynn — Eve Bunting’s Night Tree

Lucas Night Tree Stocking

The animals ended up a little cartoonish, but I still think it’s sweet. It’s decorated with strings of popcorn, apples and oranges. The family in the book goes to the edge of town each year to decorate a tree for the animals. It’s such a wonderful story, and when they are back home, there’s a scene where the little boy is lying in bed, thinking of all the animals coming out to eat from the tree. Covering the little boy is a quilt with a tree and all the animals on it — a sweet touch this crafty mama really appreciated!

Here’s a little more detail on Lucas’ stocking:

Night Tree Bear

Night Tree Fox

And now I need to get to crafting for this year! I have lots of littler gifts, plus a large crafty gift for each child still to make! I’ll be back in this space, sharing a little of our decorating and crafting as we go!

Advent Calendar and I’m really back this time, I promise

Posted by on 14 Dec 2010 | Tagged as: calendar, family, needle-felting, winter

It’s been a very full year for us, one of wonderful things, though also some sadness. We’ve sold a house, bought a house, lived out of town for an extended period of time, started a business, soft-launched a project, sent our oldest off to kindergarten and our middlest off to preschool, traveled out of the country, suffered the loss of a dear family member, a sweet cat and bunny, and the injury and illness of another family member and cat. But we are feeling grateful, as we enter the holiday season, for our sweet little family, our home, our loved ones. And I am ready now, after all the upheaval, to return to this place and share a little bit of the crafting that has grounded me over the last year. I’d like to start today with the advent calendar.

I’ve been dreaming about this advent calendar for years, and have even started similar attempts, the first when my six-year-old was only one. But it’s never come to fruition. Until now. I started it late, over Thanksgiving, and of course failed to have it done in time for the first of December! The kids had to wait several more days, and I still have some logistics to figure out — how to hang it, for one. But here it is with all the doors:

Advent Calendar with Doors

I had intended to make little felt doors and blanket stitch the numbers onto them and the doors onto the calendar, but well, being days late already, I opted for needlefelting. I figured I would go back and add doors next year. I don’t know — I like how the doors in the snow, sky and tree are camouflaged, and when the doors are open, they are gone instead of potentially blocking what was behind or next to them. But I think felt doors would look better on the house and barn… we’ll see.

Here’s a peek at a scene from one of my favorite books when I was little, growing up in Germany: The Tomten and the Fox:

The Tomten and the Fox / Tomte und der Fuchs

A close-up of the shooting star in the sky:
Shooting Star

And the sweet animals in the barn:
Sheep, horses, cows and bell in the barn

Cat and mouse in the barn

Here are the children upstairs in the house. On the right, two children are reading, and on the left another child is being kissed by a dog (you can see the dog’s pink tongue if you look closely enough!):

Children and dog in the house

And downstairs in the house, the mother and father hold the baby by the fireplace and Christmas tree:

Mother, father and baby

Since this post isn’t long and rambling enough, I realized something that bothers me about so many Nativity sets — the baby Jesus is almost always lying in the manger and it just seems like someone should be holding such a new little baby. Granted, this is coming from a person who pretty much never puts her baby down, but I just realized this season how “off” it seems to me. I did see some cute Peruvian sets at Ten Thousand Villages where Mary is holding Jesus, and it made me wonder how much our own culture plays into something as simple as where the baby Jesus figure is in the Nativity scene. Okay, back to the calendar. Here’s the whole house:

The whole house

The tree:

Cardinal, owl and squirrel in the tree

That’s a cardinal, an owl and a squirrel — somehow my squirrels always seem to suffer most in my calendars — he’s just not quite recognizable.

And the skunk under the tree:

Skunk

Eagerly anticipating opening the next door:

Anticipating what's behind the next door

The fireplace reveal:

The Fireplace

And finally (though the little ones haven’t seen it yet!), the whole calendar:

Advent Calendar

I love this time of year, the lead-up to Christmas, even more than Christmas itself. I love the traditions from my childhood I can share with my own family, the appreciation I see growing in all of them for handmade gifts. Mia, my 6-year-old, is busily crouched over paper, scissors and glue, making gifts for her classmates and her family. And I am filled with happiness, knowing she not only recognizes how much love goes into the gifts I make for her, but she is getting to experience the joy that I feel when I give handmade presents.

If I have any readers left at all, I’d love to hear what you are making or enjoying this holiday season!

An update filled with excuses followed by some real craftiness

Posted by on 07 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: about me, family, winter

Well, it’s been ridiculously long since I last posted. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. My grandmother has had to move out of her home, and all five grandchildren came from near and far to help empty her house. We found incredible treasures in that home — childhood pictures of my dad we never knew existed, decades and decades of my grandfather’s journals, the receipt to the Plymouth Coupe he purchased in 1938, and beautiful paintings and other creations my grandmother made.

I came home with a wonderful St. Francis of Assisi statue my grandmother had made, which is just perfection — my grandmother’s craftiness gene and the patron saint of animals. Can’t get any more Emily than that. Speaking of which, I also found this treasure, which I like to call “Confessions of a 4th Grade Socialist:” (click for a larger view)

Confessions of a 4th Grade Socialist

I do have to cringe at the dog breeding part. Someone told me in second grade that animal control officers picked up animals and killed them, even puppies, and it wasn’t until middle school that I really understood what happened in shelters. And now sheltering is such a core part of my identity that, well, I’m a little embarrassed by my fourth grade self.

And then, there was the huge snowstorm that dropped more snow on Richmond (I think about 10 inches) than we’ve seen since we moved here in 2002. FINALLY, the snow I’d been waiting for, with real sledding that didn’t expose grass after one run, real snowman building, real snow angels. It was amazing. We went sledding in the park and it was packed with people. Craftiness and innovation surrounded us as people sledded on beach boogie boards, wearing plastic bags over their shoes, cobbling together warm outfits out of an assortment of forgotten articles of clothing. We Richmonders may not have been ready for the snow, but we were sure going to enjoy every second of it. And while the sheer joy of it has us contemplating moving to colder climes just as those living in colder climes are considering relocation to Florida, mostly it just reminded us what a magical effect snow, especially unexpected snow, has on people. Strangers smiling at each other, giving each other a hand after a crash at the bottom of a hill, exclaiming over the beauty of it all.

That was Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday, I drove to my parents’ house, where I spent two days with them and Big Sister before coming home to a lonely and sick husband. And then today (Saturday), was 80 degrees! Sledding on Tuesday and getting sunburnt at the kite festival today! What a crazy week!  I’m going to go ahead and post some craftiness, but will be back in the next couple of days to share some pictures of these weather flukes, both of which we thoroughly enjoyed.

The Mitten

Posted by on 29 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: animal crafts, knitting, needle-felting, winter

Thank you to all who have been following along as I’ve been crafting Jan Brett’s The Mitten for my little man. And welcome, if this is your first visit! It’s finally finished and I’m pleased with the result! I think he’ll like his little Valentine’s Day gift. I think his sister will probably like it, too, and exclaim, “he will want to share it with me!” which is only fair, since she is very good about sharing with him. Most of the time.

Here is the mitten I knitted using a very, very old pattern I picked up at a craft swap fundraiser for a local art group:

The mitten

It’s knitted with wool from the little working farm our county has at a park about ten minutes from our house. We like to visit the sheep there, and feel pretty good about using their wool. Not only do my little ones know the sheep who produced it, but their mama knows they are a rare breed and they don’t get eaten or have their babies made into kid gloves. Only humanely-shorn mittens like this one!

Here are all the mitten inhabitants (some simply crafted while looking at the book or google images, but only after learning to make some of them with this wonderful book):

All the animals

Here they are, eyeing the mitten:

All the animals and the mitten

And here they are stuffed inside of it:

Animals in the mitten

Oooo, it’s going to be hard to wait until Valentine’s Day to give this to my little guy! For those of you who haven’t been following along, here are the pictures of all the individual animals. Thanks for visiting!

Felted Fox Felted Hedgehog

Felted Owl Felted Bear

Felted Mole Felted Mouse

Felted Badger Felted Bunny

The badger

Posted by on 28 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: animal crafts, needle-felting, winter

Even though I have the completed project ready, I am giving the badger his own post first. I feel like he deserves one, since all the other animals got their own. And I have to admit, he may be my favorite. (Though I’m pretty fond of the bear, too.) I’m really pleased with the badger, especially since I’d been dreading attempting him. I didn’t have a pattern for him, but feel like I’ve gotten a feel for needle-felting through this project, so I was able to look at google images of badgers and create my own.

It is really incredibly satisfying, over the course of an evening, to go from a bunch of loose wool roving to a solid little creature my children will be able to hold in their hands. And looking at those google images, sculpting my own little badger, I noticed what cool black stripes they have. Starting just below their eyes, they extend up their faces and seemingly through their little ears to continue behind them. Something I never would have noticed without this project. Something seemingly unimportant, but still something I’m glad to know.

And now, without further ado, I present, the badger:

Felted Badger

Little hedgehog

Posted by on 27 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: animal crafts, needle-felting, winter

Here he is:

Felted Hedgehog

He looks so prickly in the book, but the two times I’ve been lucky enough to hold a little hedgehog, they haven’t been so spiky. Both times were in Germany. The first was when I got to stroke the belly of a little baby hedgehog at a hedgehog care class I took. Although it’s illegal there to keep them as pets, if they weigh under a certain amount as winter sets in, people can take them in and care for them until spring. A friend of my mother’s even had one living in her bathtub one winter. As an animal-obsessed 13-year-old, I took the class in preparation for the little baby hedgehog I was sure I would find that fall.

I didn’t find a baby hedgehog that fall. My next hedgehog encounter was almost eight years later in a park in Berlin. We had spent almost every evening over the previous year in this park, but that night was our going away party. Our friends, their dogs, and our own beloved dog Bogie, were there, and we were reminiscing, grilling, laughing and mourning the end of our wonderful year in Berlin. It was already dark when the dogs focused in on the bushes behind us. When we investigated, we discovered a cute and snuffly little hedgehog. We carried him out of the dogs’ reach, admiring him a moment before giving him his freedom.

Tomorrow will be the last mitten critter — the badger. I promise I don’t have any nostalgic badger tales to tell, so come back and see the badger with the rest of the critters in their mitten home!

Happy crafting!

The next mitten inhabitant

Posted by on 27 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: animal crafts, needle-felting, winter

Felted Fox

He’s got a bit of a geriatric look to him, but all the more reason he needs some other animals and a mitten to warm his old arthritic bones, right? Just two more critters to go. And then I (and my bleeding finger) will be ready for a non-needle-felting project! I already have one in mind, so stay tuned. Thanks for visiting!

Another mitten critter

Posted by on 25 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: animal crafts, needle-felting, winter

I finished this guy a couple of nights ago:

Felted Owl

I’d been putting him off because there wasn’t really any creature in Little Felted Animals that looked even vaguely like an owl. I had to wing the mole, too, but he was pretty simple. I ended up just using The Mitten as a guide and came up with a passable owl.

I’ll have another critter to post pretty soon, as well as a little weekend sewing machine project that reminded me of why it’s not my favorite activity. But I’m determined to learn to love it — it’s so useful! Help me learn to love it. Please.

We have a winner!!!

Posted by on 23 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: animal crafts, contest, winter

Ellen, you guessed it!  I am making the animals from Jan Brett’s The Mitten

Our daughter has always loved books. Simply opening a book could stop a complete screaming fit from the time she was 2 months old, and the love continues. Much to our dismay, our little man has never shown much interest in books. Until now. He loves The Mitten!

His little still-not-talking self drags me to the couch by my pants leg multiple times a day, demanding a reading. And because we are so happy about his newly found book love, I think he deserves a sweet little critter-filled mitten of his very own!

I was just thinking last night that I wasn’t sure I would be able to guess it, and we’re reading the book multiple times a day!  I’m impressed, Ellen, and I’m sure your mom will be proud!  A little felted bunny will be on his way to Korea next week!  Pretty convenient, since I already need to send you a very belated package!

I’ll keep posting the critters as I finish them, so keep checking back!

Fourth Clue

Posted by on 23 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: animal crafts, needle-felting, winter

A sweet little brown bear:

Felted Bear

Felted Bear

He’s made from the beautiful alpaca roving I used for the tree in the Valentine’s Calendar.  It’s wonderfully soft, but it took a LOT of needling to get it to really felt together.  I didn’t notice it so much on the little mouse, but the bear was harder.  Still, it’s beautiful, and it’s nice to have seen the animals from whom the roving comes and know they are well-loved.  Certainly worth the extra effort!

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