Playing and Teaching with Needle Felted Masks

Let's play

You know, I like my pieces of art to be useful; save for the specific holiday pieces that will be stored away till next year. I made these animal masks for Halloween, but they’ll be very useful all year round for imaginative play. I’m going to hang them in the playroom and let the girls and their friends play dress up with them and at the same time I think they’ll make interesting decorations. The masks are very strong and they’ll hold up well in the hands of a bunch of kids. 

Needle felted pig mask

I’ve recently started to teach English to a little four and a half year old French girl and my toys and masks have become very useful in teaching her new words. The toys and masks engage her, she wants to play with them and they give me the perfect opportunity to teach her new words and ideas. I think that an activity helps her to remember new words as we use the words over and over again. I also draw with her (she doesn’t read or write yet), so I draw pictures of the words we’re learning (usually one of the toys I’ve made) and then she draws what I’ve drawn and then we play with the toy in the picture. Her reward for studying 20-30 minutes is playtime at the end of the lesson. 

Needle felted sheep mask

We made a game out of the masks. After Matilde found my masks sitting on a table, she put them on and started trotting around the room with a cow mask on her face. I asked her what the animal said (moo) and then I told her the name of the animal (cow). We did this for all six masks. I laid all six masks in a row on the table and told her to choose the correct mask according to the sound or word that I said. Moo, cow,  baaa or sheep, she needed to choose the correct mask for the word or sound that I made. This has been a very successful game, as now she know the words and sounds for cow, horse, sheep, dog, cat and rooster! Next we’ll learn what theses animals do, like run, stand, eat, sleep, walk, etc.

Needle felted cat mask

Needle Felted Halloween Masks

Needle felted cow mask

 Animals are often the subject matter of the art that I make. I have a definite affinity for barnyard animals because they were like playmates of mine growing up in Greenfield, Indiana. I played with the horses and cows specifically, we didn’t really have any “next door” neighbors, but we did have cows and horses next door. Our house sat on a hill in the middle of a cow pasture, my parents actually bought the land from a cattle farmer and built the house right in the middle of one of his fields.  My brother and sister and I learned many life lessons living in the middle of a Pasteur. When we saw the cows “doing it” out the kitchen window, my mom would tell us they were fighting or dancing and then shoo us away from the window. My sister leaned to lick her nose with her tongue like the cows next door and I saw my first “hoo-ha” proudly displayed on the little pony in the field next to our house and I was extremely surprised how small a real boy’s “hoo-ha” was compared to that horse!  

moo

 I saw “my” cows every morning and evening as the school bus drove us noisy farm kids through the countryside, back and forth to school. My grandpa Perkinson raised Charlette cattle on our farm outside Madison, Indiana. My brother, sister and I often accompanied my grandpa to cattle auctions and were privy to many conversations about “cow matters” between my grandpa and the other cattle farmers.

old photo of my grandfather's cows

My favorite bovine memory was one, snowy, winter morning as we were watching for the school bus out of our frosty living room window and a cow (from the field next door) walked up to the window and pushed his big pink nose against the glass to look in at us. ” The cow  is looking in the window at us!” I yelled at my mother. She didn’t really believe what I was saying till she came into the living room and saw our big white neighbor staring in. The snow had drifted so high the night before that the cows were able to walk “over” the fence and into our yard. The whole herd was in our front yard using our fir trees and shrubs to scratch their bellies. The farmer had to replace all of our trees and shrubs.   

Needle felted Horse mask

 I used to groom and ride the horse next door, which is no small feat since the horse was wild. I rode her bareback around the field until she decided that I should get off! As I was riding her through the field, I knew I had overstayed my welcome when she came to a screeching halt and refused to move any more, I dismounted and she trotted away.   

My friend Suger, I'm 9 years old

 I remember trying to get on the horse, jumping off the fence, missing her back and landing on the other side of her. Some of my best childhood memories are of myself and that horse. In a needle felting frenzy, I needle felted barnyard animal masks for Halloween for the last six days straight, the whole time remembering my childhood and the (mostly) four legged friends that I shared it with. I had pet ducks growing up (two legged friends) but I found a bird mask is weird looking with the eyes in the front. I lined all the masks with cotton gingham so they’re not scratchy when you put them on. I think my family and I will go as farm animals this year for Halloween! More masks to come…..

Costume accessories rule!

A witch hat is a great costume accessory

Looking back, the whole costume charade was fun and transforming for kids, but I think that simple costume accessories can be just as creative, more affordable and easily made at home.  

The top hat and cape ARE the costume for the magician.

  The best accessories are hats and capes. 

Versatile black and red cape, vampire or magician
medieval knight's cape, costume or accessory

  This medieval knight’s cape can be an accessory for a more detailed costume or it can work as the costume alone.  

Excalibur sword, accessories for knights and warriors

Fabric weapons are another great accessory; I know, I know, you try to discourage your child playing with such things, but in the end, a stick becomes an outlaws knife or a spoon is suddenly a cowboy’s gun. This fierce sword (as well as the crown and super hero cape and mask) are  projects in my book Sew Magical for Kids. The book includes easy sewing instructions and patterns for these accessories.  

King or Queen's cape, a beautiful costume accessory.

  This king or queen cape can be made in several different colors and lengths to alter the look. Don’t forget the crown!  

Royal crown and ruff accessories

 This beautiful, adjustable crown is very easy to make, it can be made out of many different materials such as felt, lame or cotton.

Needle felted Jack-o-lantern Tutorial

What would Halloween be without jack-o-lanterns! Who doesn’t love cutting out the scary face and scooping out the mushy slime of the pumpkin! This needle felted jack-o-lantern tutorial gives you another method to make your jack-o-lantern, a little less messy than the original!  

Materials: felting needles, sponge for felting surface
Wool:I suggest using coarse wool like shetland, New Zealand or Burgschaft
orange (pumpkin)
cream or white (interior of pumpkin)
a thick stick (pumpkin stem)
scissors
poly fiber fill or core wool (base shape)
spool of thread
glue
piece of soap (for drawing the face)
  

Continue reading “Needle felted Jack-o-lantern Tutorial”

Big Hairy Spider

Big hairy spider, with big teeth! Needle felted tarantula

  My youngest daughter Emili is very expressive and a bit of a ham, so I use her to model my projects a lot. With my needle felted Big Hairy Spider, Emili and I have recreated a replica of the horror film genre of by-gone days, using black and white, grainy photography.     

When Big Hairy Spiders Attack!!!!

  There’s nothing scarier than a black and white horror film, The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock being one of my favorites. There’s a subtle build up of anticipation before those evil birds start to attack, I just don’t think it would be the same in color. Remember the old Bela Lugosi vampire movies in black and white, creeeeeepy!    

Attack!

  I watched a horror movie several years ago, Cloverfield that was freakin’ scary. The movie was shot Blair Witch Project style, with one of the main characters filming the events on a hand held video camera, the shakiness and grainy look of the film added to the suspense. The movie was about aliens taking over New York/the world; for some morbid reason I love movies where outerspace aliens try to take over the world.    

This is no Little Miss Muffet scene

  Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey, along came a spider and sat down beside her and frightened Miss. Muffet away.     

I imagine a fairy tale book illustration when I hear the Little Miss. Muffet nursery rhyme, neatly and classicly drawn, in pastel colors. But here, the black and white photography makes you use your imagination more, forcing you to fill in the blanks, making the imagination paint a picture that you didn’t even know was there. (organ music sound effect). I think the spider has just spoken to Emili, whispering something sinister to her, which adds to her bewilderment.     

Run Emili, for the love of Pete, Run!!

  Run Emili, for the love of Pete, run! But alas the victim has accepted her fate. (wheee-wheee-wheee -think Psycho sound effect).   

Needle felted tarantula