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…..

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)
  

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Witchy-Poo, Needle felting doll tutorial

The coven

This tutorial shows how to make a needle felted witch using a cone as the base shape. Use these dolls as a Halloween center piece or offer Witchy-Poo and friends to your children for creative, spooky fun.

Materials: felting needles, sponge for felting surface
wool: black (body, hat, arms) I prefer felting a course wool like shetland or New Zealand, here I used black merino because that’s what I had; Merino is a wool I like to use for hair. The witch’s hair in this tutorial is felted from a very course New Zealand wool for that wild and crazy look, but the hair of the witch in the back is grey merino.
peach (face, hands)
purple (decorative band on hat)
 grey (hair)
 red (mouth)
core wool or fiber-fill (base shape)
thread (for wrapping core wool or fiber fill to make base shape)
black felt (hat brim)
 

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Really Scary Stuff

Oh no!

Halloween is a time for costumes, parties and scary stuff, but what is scary to you? My kids think these things are scary:

  • the dark
  • monsters
  • dead people
  • getting lost
  • a bad dream
  • entering a black hole
  • quick sand
  • a head that turns all the way around
  • scary movies
  • hearing spooky noises in the house
Yikes!

but I think these things are scary:

  • my computer crashes
  • driving in India
  • having to use a public restroom in India
  • hot dogs
  • showing up at the airport and realizing my passport has expired
  • war
  • extreme anything, i.e. amusement park rides, political or religious views, sports
  • driving while the gas tank reads empty
  • trying to get out of the parking lot after a big concert
  • my daughters wants to date or learn to drive
scary!

What frightens you?

Note: I made this Frankenstein costumes for my store last year. The Frank hat is made from felt, the jacket is wool.