My 2012 New Year”s resolution is to do something new with my art, to push the boundaries of needle felting and sewing. I’ve been needle felting exclusively for a few years now because I love this medium, but I miss sewing and the textures and patterns of fabric. I’ll now be experimenting with combining the art of needle felting with the art of sewing because the two mediums can compliment each other to produce stunning results. The pretty mushroom is needle felted, the base mushroom shapes are covered with cotton, silk and velvet and sewn on in a variety of ways.
For me, the costumes that I used to make in my store were the gateway to learning about fancy sewing, French sewing techniques and all the different ways you can manipulate fabric. Assembling the costume pattern pieces like a puzzle never interested me as much as how you can control the fabric and the interesting and beautiful results that can be achieved. My seamstresses and I researched Renaissance costumes and sewing techniques, the fine art of sewing ballet costumes and the secrets of constructing a garment to make it stand up, drape or bounce; this is what really fascinated me.
The top of needle felted Pretty Mushroom is adorned with red velvet, quilted on with small stitches all over the mushroom cap and covered with fresh water pearls for the mushroom polka dots.
I went into my vintage fabric stash and found some hand embroidered, cotton eyelet fabric. For special pieces, I like to use vintage fabric with elaborate hand embroidery, something I don’t have the patience to do myself. I quilted this vintage fabric onto the needle felted mushroom stem.
For this pretty mushroom, I gathered silk around the stem to make the gills (underside of the mushroom). I had a little previous experience with this technique last year when I made giant mushrooms (6 and 7 feet tall) for an Alice and Wonderland themed birthday party, you can see those mushrooms here.
In the end, I have beautiful, 100% natural mushrooms from wool, cotton, silk and pearls (Waldorf style, but an adult version) to brighten up my sofa or an empty corner.
Lately I’ve been making fairy tale dolls, I first started making the dolls with pipe cleaner armatures then progresses to a bigger doll with a needle felted head and body with only pipe cleaner arms and legs. The pipe cleaner dolls (the basic pipe cleaner doll tutorial can be seen here: http://www.lauraleeburch.com/blog/2011/09/beddy-bye-dolls-tutorial-2/ are small and just the right size for small children to play with and they can be made in a reasonable amount of time (half an hour each), making them much cheaper to make and sell. The larger, more detailed dolls take a lot more time (about an hour each to needle felt, plus a half an hour to an hour more if they’re clothed). I think the larger dolls are cuter, but more expensive due to the amount of time it takes to needle felt, then sew the clothes for each one. I love these two types of pipe cleaner dolls because you can’t break them, they’re bendable, soft and made from natural materials (wool is bacterial and fire resistant!)
The larger needle felted dolls have many more details such as glass doll eyes, styled hair and more intricate, sewn clothes. I make the patterns for the doll clothes; I usually end up making a sample piece of clothing first which I make alterations to, then I revise the pattern, cut out the pieces, then sew the doll’s costume. I make the dolls first because I love the needle felting process and I save the sewing for later (when the mood hits me to sew).
As I first started to make human style animal dolls (The three bears and the three little pigs for example), I struggled with the decision of whether to dress the animals or not. A friend of mine who worked in a Hallmark shop for years once told me that clothed teddy bears that had clothing or costumes sold better than non-clothed teddy bears, so I took that as a piece of important advice from someone who observed teddy bear sales because she used this information to place the bear orders for her very successful Hallmark store. This meant that if the urge to sew doll clothes didn’t come to me as my little animals stood there naked, I’d need to “just do it” and sew some clothes for the dolls. I like to sew, but only when I feel like it, just like cooking. I’ve left the smaller, pipe cleaner dolls unclothed (except Goldilocks of course) so that their price point stays low. I have quite a few more fairy tale dolls finished, just waiting for clothes! Back to work….
At our house, long gone are the days that I had to lie down with the girls to get them to go to sleep, I would wake up in their bed hours later, in the middle of the night and drag myself to my own bed. Bedtime was an ordeal, but we found that bed time rituals helped settle our girls down and get into the mind-set of going to sleep. At our house, the preparations and rituals include the very important glass of water by the bedside, brushing the teeth, saying prayers, choosing a bed time story that I would read to the girls (several years later, the girls chose a bed time story that they would read to me), tucking in and finally they would give me many, many kisses and I would tip-toe out of their rooms. I made these little Beddy-Bye Dolls with bed time rituals in mind, knowing that children like to pretend with their dolls, acting out the things that happen in their daily lives.
These cute and poseable Beddy-Bye dolls are also great for children who are a little older (past toddler-hood). They are sweet and cute and can be used to act out fairy tales and bedtime stories and they’re perfect just for pretend play.
I’m glad that my in-laws didn’t put me through any weird “quality tests” when they first met me (as the princess’ mother did when she put the pea between the mattresses of the princess- in-question!)
She can’t sleep because there are vegetables in her bed!
The princess is one of the needle felted pipe cleaner dolls I’ve been making. I made her dress from part of a beautifully, hand crafted tea towel (I bought it at an antique store in Greenfield, Indiana). The little mattresses are actually very tiny pillows that I sewed from cotton, the pea is needle felted and I made the bed from cardboard, duct tape, felt and dowel rods. The bedposts are needle felted with dowel rods inside to keep them sturdy. The bed came out pretty well, all the dimensions came from measuring the mattresses. It’s pretty strong, although I wouldn’t want a small child to try to sit on it, the way I often see small children trying to use miniature things!
Is she or is she not a princess?
I like the mixture of sewing and needle felting in this project, the many different pieces of cotton fabrics in the matressess and bed coverings give the piece an interesting look, something visually busier than what results from the solid colors of felted pieces.
The first thing my girls did when they saw the princess in her bed was to look for the pea. With small children, I think that a simple game of hide and seek with the pea could be fun.