Alice & the flamingo

Alice and the flamingo dolls

This Alice in Wonderland piece is two dolls (Alice and the flamingo) put together. The Alice dolls were pretty much like a lot of other dolls that I’ve felted, except that she has hand-painted (beads) eyes and I used colored pencils to color parts of her face.

hand painted eyes

One of my goals for this set of Alice in Wonderland dolls was to felt expression into the faces of the dolls. I needed to hand paint the eyes of all my Alice in Wonderland dolls to give them the exact expression that I wanted. Alice needed to be looking at the flamingo, the direction of her eyes are looking sharply to the left. I wanted to color parts of Alice’s face (also parts of the Queen’s face) but I wanted the coloring to be subtle so I used high quality colored pencils to color parts of the lips, under the eyes (of the Queen), the cheeks and lines in the face. The eyelids were felted over the painted beads (eyes) after they were set into the eye sockets; I embroidered the edges of the eyelids to better define them. The Alice doll is made of up of 6 pieces (the head, body, 2 arms and 2 legs) The arms and legs are jointed by sewing them onto the body with embroidery thread. Alice’s hair was made separately, then felted onto the head, so it would have a 3-D, puffy look and not appear flat on the head. I made the traditional blue dress and white apron for Alice because I love the original costume. Alice’s legs are felted white (as stockings) and her black MaryJane shoes are felted onto her feet.

Needle felted Alice in Wonderland doll

The flamingo had to be made after the Alice doll was finished in able to achieve the proper proportions of the flamingo to Alice. The body of the flamingo fits into Alice’s arms, his neck loops around and the head comes face to face with Alice. The flamingo’s neck stays in this position because there is a heavy gaged wire inside the neck allowing you to bend the neck so it comes to exactly the right spot to stare at Alice.

flamingo detail

My favorite part of the flamingo are his legs. His legs are boning sticks (for sewing), wrapped in black wool yarn. The flamingo feet are pieces of black felt. How many people can say that they’ve made a pair of flamingo knees?!”  I sewed the flamingo into Alice’s arms. Stay tuned for more Alice in wonderland dolls….

Needle felted Alice and flamingo dolls

Thank you for flying Burch Airlines

Flying to Chicago

We’re off to Chicago! It’s been two years since we’ve been home and we’re all looking forward to discovering all the new “stuff” there is in America. The girls kept asking me (several weeks before the trip and also as we made our way through the airport), “Mama, are you excited yet?” I kept telling them no, not yet, not until there is a big burrito and a margarita sitting in front of me. You really can’t get Mexican food in Israel and it’s my favorite. We’re staying at the girls’ godparents house in Northbrook, IL  and taking several small trips outside of Illinois. I’ve got my camera out and I’m searching for things to inspire me. We’re always so delighted when we are reminded how friendly and helpful midwesterners are, it’s such a pleasant change from Israel. I’m going to the NIADA doll conference in downtown Chicago tomorrow. I’m pretty excited because I’ve never been to a doll show before and I know that the work of the participants, teachers and  lecturers is of the highest quality. I want to learn something new.

white needle felted airplane

Before I left Israel I finished quite a few pieces. This little airplane was one of the needle felted toys that I made with little boys in mind. Customers of my store and mothers in my felting classes always tell me that it’s much harder to find cute things for boys, so I started to think about toys that I could felt for boys that you don’t often see. One of the things that I came up with was this easy to make, needle felted airplane. For the main photo of this blog post I painted a backdrop of clouds and photographed the airplane against it. Stay tuned for more NIADA doll conference details….

The Queen of Hearts


 I‘ve been working on Alice in Wonderland dolls off and on for over 6 months.  There is so much work to be done on one of these felted pieces, I needle-felt till I’m burned out, then I stop for a few weeks, then I continue till I finish. I felt to a point that I’m overwhelmed with the piece because I think about it and work on it constantly, till I get to a point that I can’t go on. At the point that my interest wanes, I take the doll home, I put the doll on my kitchen table and I look at the doll for a week or so. In the week that I stare at the doll on my table every day, new realizations come to me. I’m able to see what’s wrong with the piece, what needs to be changed, what will make it better…Maybe if I worked on one doll at a time, it wouldn’t take me so long to finish, BUT when I start a project, I have so much energy for it that I can’t do just one design, I start two or three pieces at a time. I really need to focus my energies or I can start multiple projects and not finish any of them. 
Queen of Hearts collar detail

My goal for this project, something that I felt would bring this group of dolls to a new level in my work, was the abiltiy to convey expression on the dolls’ faces. In previous felting projects, my doll faces were pretty, but not expressive. 

The dolls are all about expressions.

 The characters in Alice in Wonderland, especially the Queen of Hearts are so expressive that I didn’t feel the dolls would be successful if they didn’t convey the feelings of  the characters in the book by Lewis Carroll, original illustrations by John Tenniel. I took Emili, my  most expressive daughter and I asked her to “act out” specific feelings.  I took photos of the “feelings”  she acted out and I used these photos as the base for the expressions of the doll faces. The secret of the crazed anger of the Queen of Hearts, the slightly inquisative, amused look of Alice, the clearly pissed off look of the Flamingo and the bulgy eyed enthusiasm of the Rabbit are all in the eyes. 

The Queen's eyes, expression

Normally, I needle-felt the eyes or use doll eyes or beads. None of these methods could convey the feelings that I was looking for, so I had to make the eyes of each doll. I took beads shaped like eyes (fresh water pearls were the right color, shape and size for the Queen and Alice.) I put them in the heads of the dolls, marked where the pupils and irises should be for the expressions, then I painted each eye with acrylic paint and sealed it with semi gloss varnish. The eyes of the flamigo are small, round pearls with pupils painted on them. I couldn’t find beads or pearls suitable for the rabbit’s eyes, so I made balls of paper clay to fit into the head, painted them with acrylic paint and sealed them with semi-gloss varnish. I made Alice’s clothing just like that of the book, but the Queen’s dress is an original design. I made the patterns of the dress to reflect card designs, but in an origianal way. 

The dress is tailored to the doll form.

I thought about sketching out designs for the dress, then making my favorite design, but I ended up designing the dress as I made it. I am now attached to each of these dolls and even though I want to sell them, it will be hard for me to do so. Someone recently bought my Marie Antoinette puppet and they had to talk me into selling her. She offered to pay the price that I asked, she did not try to bargain with me, it wasn’t the money, it’s just that I had a relationship with the doll. I told myself, o.k., fine, sell her, I’ll just make another one, a better one next time. After the woman walked out the door with my Marie Antoinette puppet, I felt like crying, I was really upset. I’m past that now, but how will I ever part with Alice and the Flamingo, my favorite of the Wonderland dolls? Now that the dolls are finished, I’m thinking of costume designs. I made Emili a Renaissance collar and crown similar to the Queen’s for our photo shoot. The small details of this project took just as long as the felting process. These classic characters abound with beautiful, creative and fun designs for many projects; I’ve fallen to sleep many nights contemplating Alice in Wonderland designs. Stay tuned for more Alice and Wonderland dolls……

The Queen of Hearts

A job well done!

and the winner is.....Emili

My philosophy of parenting can be summed up in a few simple phrases: 

  • if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all
  • think about how you’d would feel if someone said/did that to you
  • be polite
  • don’t lie, cheat or steal
  • do your best
  • think before you act
  • the grass in not always greener on the other side
  • take responsibility for your actions
  • do the right thing
  • what comes around, goes around
  • stop and smell the roses

 When my children act like upstanding citizens, I  praise them for a job well done. I don’t think it’s necessary or helpful for the girls if we tell them that most everything they do is wonderful and amazing and the best we’ve ever seen. I think constant compliments will be taken for granted, but kind words of praise or a big handmade trophy can go a long way. 

who is the winner?

Sundays are cleaning days at our house (it’s the first day of the week here, in Israel, not part of the weekend like most other places). The girls and I divide up the jobs to be done and clean the house. Sometimes Emili (8 years old) needs to be coaxed into helping without complaining. While doing her chores recently, she whined that she felt like an Egyption slave, this was a reference to historical Jews in Egypt, not a racial slur! I’m not above bribery if it will get the work done in fast and quiet manner. I awarded Emili the “cleaning award of the day” (a small medallion pinned to her shirt) and she continued her chores grumbling quietly to herself.

medals, medallions and awards

 Rewards can be as varied as a nod of approval, a kid sized trophy, an ice cream cone, a great big hug and best of all “I love you”.

the big prize

Happy Birthday to Me!

On the way to the flea market

 Today is my birthday! I started celebrating my birthday the night before by taking Elli and a friend to see the new Stephanie Myer film: Eclipse. I am a “Twi-mom”, I like the vampire and werewolf saga as much as the next teenager! My friend Rachel sent a pizza over to my house  that evening (food:one of my favorite gifts!) and my birthday was off to a great start!

old chairs at the flea market

 I spent the day of my birthday doing one of my favorite things, going to the flea market. The girls and I walked to Jaffa to hunt for hidden treasure among the piles of “stuff” at shuk ha pish pishim. I look for things that I can turn into something else or use pieces of it for one of my projects. Sometimes I find great antique linens from which I can use the lace and embroidery in my sewing projects. We had lunch in a restaurant called Pua, it’s decorated with everything the owner finds in the flea market, including the plates, cups etc.; it’s sort of the TGI Friday’s of Israel!  Pua’s has a real “homey” feel to it.

drinking from 1970's bright orange cups

My favorite shop is stuffed with old things, tools, maps, boat steering wheels, WWII helmets…..I bought some more of the blinking doll eyes that I use for making dolls.  

my favorite junk shop
this shop is like a cave
old art shops are good places to find frames
a little living room like sitting area outside a shop
on the way to the train station

 After we left the flea market we wondered over to the renovated train station (it used to be an old army base), my favorite shop is the big bookstore full of art books and magazines….in English!!!!! Doron took me to dinner at my favorite neighborhood restaurant, Nana. When we got home, Lili made me an apple pie (because I told her that my grandma Burch used to make me pies for my birthday). The girls decorated the dining room and wrote Mama in balloons on the wall! An excellent birthday!