Category Archives: animals

Off to the ballet?

Not heading out to the the ballet (who is?), this little arts-enthusiast is off to Connecticut.

I can tell I underpriced her because I’m having trouble letting her go. She’s one of my favorites.

A big gardening day here today. I was supposed to help a friend with her foundation beds earlier, but neither vehicle will start.

Note to self: once charged, be sure to drive each vehicle once a week!

Walking over at the school the other day, two things made me pause. The first was ANOTHER dead bird.

The other was the height of a tree, which I sourced, fund-raised to purchase, and planted back in the day. It was four feet high back then. If you squint you can see the dead robin on the sidewalk where the path turns.

It’s too close to the building. A newbie mistake. Still, it’s lovely.

I thought it was a Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, but now I’m not sure.

Australia burning

SoulCollage card made years ago

New South Wales firefighter, Greg Mullins: “I’ve been fighting fires for 47 years and I’ve never seen anything like it. But, we’ve known it’s coming for 20 years.”

“It’s climate change, it’s worldwide, and people need to sit up and take notice.” (WBUR interview)

UPDATE: I removed the two attempts at fire maps because they’re not accurate. Mo tells me the fires are burning in “NSW, Victoria, South Australia and they were burning earlier in Queensland and Western Australia.

As Acey noted in a comment to yesterday’s post, one of the beauties of the collage process is that it brings heartbreak out of the shadows. Oh, look! To view pain in the stark terms that images allow is always powerful and sometimes healing.

Two days ago, I was wrapped up in the catastrophic missteps of our government in Iraq (still am). Not really thinking about Australia at all. And then I found this woman and her horse. She was in a stack of magazine pullouts waiting for this moment.

Of course the animal reminded me of the horse on the beach from yesterday’s post. Look at her! A warrior, for certain! I would trust her with a beloved animal. With environmental policy. With anti-corruption efforts.

The stylish woman in the upper left hand corner, on the other hand, has rendered herself frivolous by looking away.

Every once in a while, type shows up in a collage that adds import. For the word, “things” to appear next to a materialistic fashionista while the world burns around her makes perfect sense. We wonder: what will happen to HER horse?

Please consider making a donation to help orphaned and injured animals. Here’s a link for cash donations.

Even though postage to Australia is so astronomical, I know some of you will be moved to make a thing or two. For that reason, I’m offering to mail a couple of boxes to Australia if people want to make nests, mitts, or wraps and ship them to me in Massachusetts. I’m going to refer people to the FB group instead. American shipping hubs have been established.

The first picture below shows what’s needed. If you’re on Facebook, you can join Animal Rescue Craft Guild. They have a tab, “FILES,” where patterns are listed.

Here’s a link to a crochet pattern for nests.

For another post:

UPDATE: thru the FB group, I may have found someone who can offer drastically reduced postage! I’ll keep you posted — so to speak 🙂 Photo below from that FB group. No attribution listed.

Rain will turn to snow

And that’s how it’s been going.

Two weeks ago, I upgraded my phone. It had been years. It wasn’t holding a charge anymore and I got sick of walking around in the red zone all the time. Wasn’t gonna spring for another battery.

Meanwhile, the computer that has recorded our tv programs for two decades crapped out. Gonzo. It’s the only way I can see cable, whether recording it or not. Therefore, there was no Maddow or Nicolle Wallace on this historic day.

I watched a four minute clip of Nadler announcing the two articles of impeachment while sitting in the car, in the rain, before going into the office building perched on the Wellesley side of the Charles River where I get my eyes checked. New glasses are in order.

After dinner, K announced that the Christmas tree light cord overheated and needs replacing.

I’m sensing a theme here.

At least the mice are getting dressed for the holidays! Two are chatting away in the dark of a postal box right now, making their way down the coast of the Atlantic.

Mice-making tutorial

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‘Tis the season for merry mice! Here’s how to make a four to five inch high mouse that will add a festive note to any tabletop or tree.

Supplies:

  • Felt or other cloth
  • Pipe cleaners for arms
  • Waxed linen for whiskers
  • Buttons or beads for eyes
  • Stuffing and small gravel
  • Scraps of cloth for clothing
  • Glue

Notes on materials:

You could make these critters out of any fabric at all — calico, for instance, or old socks. I use acrylic felt because I have a ton on hand from my days of craft fair booth-making. If you can afford it use wool felt, but fair warning, it’s pricey.

Also, I use pipe cleaners for arms because I like them to be bendable, but you could stuff the jacket arms instead.

Tools:

  • Turning tool (chopstick or knitting needle);
  • Doll making needle (not necessary but nice);
  • Wire cutters (if using pipe cleaners)
  • Seam ripper or awl for poking holes (not shown).

I’ll often start by making batches of components.

For the ears, cut outer layer out of black felt and inner out of pink (slightly smaller than the black). Sometimes I glue the pink on black. Other times, I skip the glue and rely on stitching.

Curved ears for mice. Pointy ears for cats. Drapey ovals for dogs.

If you don’t know this trick, you will be eternally grateful to me once learning it: for tough-to-open screw tops, wind a rubber band around the top and try again. Voila!


Once glue has dried, fold and stitch base tightly closed. This needs to be stiff enough to insert into the small holes that you’ll be poking in the head.

Make some heads. I don’t use a pattern but the shape is easy enough. Just be sure to create a long neck because it will need to be inserted into the body (longer than my diagram). Back stitch at tip of nose for strength. Clip seam at tip before turning.

Cut oval bases to size. They don’t have to match.

To make the body, sew up sides and then secure an oval base. It could not be easier. Only two tricks and one suggestion here:

  • Keep NECK OPENING WIDE for ease of reversing to right sides after base attached. You can always take a tuck or two later but (especially if using thick wool), too small an opening makes reversing to right sides impossible.
  • When sewing the base on, be sure to place the TAIL ON THE INSIDE and snake it up the inside. This way, when you turn it right-side-out, the tail comes out of where you want it. I usually center the tail between the base’s two side seams.
  • Lastly, make oval much larger than necessary so that precision is not required when attaching to the body.

Next, add features to the head.

Using an awl or another sharp implement, poke ear holes in the head and insert ears. Stitch, going back and forth between ears or down through the neck rather than sewing one ear first, then the other. It’s much easier. Don’t worry if your holes are too big. Felt is very forgiving.

I haven’t decided whether it’s more efficient to stuff the head first or not. Probably easier to stuff, then insert ears. Certainly by the time you’re attaching eyes, you want the head stuffed.

Attach teeny buttons or seed beads for eyes, again stitching side to side. You can also stitch the eyes.

This head exemplifies not just stitched eyes, but a short cut for when you’ve run out of ears: put a kerchief on. Or a Santa hat!

Cut small lengths of waxed linen, fold, and stitch in place for whiskers. Again, sew side to side. In a pinch, you can use embroidery floss. I usually have to trim the whiskers down after sewing them onto the nose.

Next, embroider nose and mouth, using a contrasting warm-colored floss. You can do this after the head is attached as long as you’re clever about hiding your knot.

Next, stuff the bodies. I buy pea-sized gravel and rinse it for the bottom of the body to give it ballast. If yours are meant to hang, you can use poly-stuffing only.

To make arms, take a pipe cleaner and make a loop at center, twist once around the loop for strength, then stretch arms out and stitch to the body at the loop. Cut arms to size.

This is my way of making arms and a hanging loop simultaneously, but you could use a straight piece of pipe cleaner and attach a thread as hanging loop instead. Also, you could make your arms integral to the jacket and skip the pipe cleaner altogether.

Making clothing and accessories is the fun part. This year, I’m crocheting wreaths and making teeny quilts. Doll making aisles at craft stores are a gold mine of miniature items — wreaths, garden tools, rolling pins — you name it. Good for customizing your mouse as a gift when time is short.

 

Polar fleece is great because it doesn’t fray and more, because I have a bin left over from when I taught third graders mitten and hat-making. (Note: the above mouse’s jacket is secured by straight pins. When I get a second, I’ll replace them with buttons, but I don’t have to, really. Be mindful of recipient. A child might be better with buttons).

Making felt critter clothing offers so many opportunities to reclaim cuffs, sleeves and portions of sweaters gone by! A whole post dedicated to the garbing of mice will follow.

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By the way, to say the obvious, these are SEWN FELT mice, not NEEDLE FELTED MICE.

For darling examples of felted mice, see pix from Instagram, here: MollyDollyNatural.

I plan to learn needle felting someday. It looks like so much fun, doesn’t it?

Critters only — studio tour

I went looking for the gift of wooden African beads from Sage Ann Hawk and could not find them. Arg! But here are congeries of critters just dying to say hello.


Well, not everyone. This guy wants you to skedaddle and fast. Perhaps he’s witnessed some worrisome antics — or maybe, he was just born with a suspicious nature. Increasingly, I’m inclined to the latter view.


Panda bears and tuxedo cats have an obvious affinity for one another! Dopey and sublime seem to like to keep company, too.Mr. Moose has taken on the thankless task of paperwork. I hope he’s up to it!

Can you find all four kinds of critters, above?
Speaking of butterflies, the top WIP was inspired by Hazel‘s word quilt and the indigo scrap was made during one of Jude’s classes – both from some years back.

Shifting layers around in the studio equals personal archeology.

There’s my beloved cat, Cindy, who lived to be 20 years old and died while I was in Dublin (having just turned 20 myself). She graciously came to me in a dream before the letter bearing the sad news arrived (although as I recall, she bore a trident and issued a warning with a very deep voice, not unlike the movie dragon Saphira from Eragon).

Aside: this pet and her years of affectionate company are why, for a spell, I resisted Hazel’s name change.

Another aside: Vineyard on the left, orthodontist’s office on the right.

Everything is a collage, really, not least of all, life itself. Bulletin boards evidence collage by their very nature, with variations afforded by cropping. “Live beautifully” might well have served as my mother’s motto (she stands in a dark sweater next to her sister). Had I snapped the picture a little to the right, I’d have captured my father, too, with each of the trio spouting a palm tree out of their heads.

I have a long and silly history with rhinos dating back to middle school, something my sister references often in a way that never feels quite neutral, but forget that. Just know — this rhino hasn’t got the time of day for you. He’s a taskmaster. Honking and snorting, “wind the goddamned bobbin, already!” (Confession:  I often stop a sewing session when the bobbin runs out. Just walk away. Often).

Oh, the things I’ve learned about alligators! Did you know that they kill their victims by pulling their limbs off and not by biting them the way sharks would?Well, even though I couldn’t find the African beads, here’s a woven belt that Sage Ann Hawk also gave me. Look how it keeps the pedestrian tape measures company, and dare I say, lends a little dignity?

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P.S. Four days sugar-free and my feet were pain-free this morning. Four days!

P.P.S. Did anyone else read the New York Times magazine story about Gwyneth Paltrow? Even though I ascribe to many of the “kooky” things she peddles, I can’t stand her whole brand. The only thing that made me warm to her even a little was the mention of how awful it was to work with Harvey Weinstein — made me wonder if she might still be acting if it weren’t for him.

Sheila makes her own season

Meet Sheila. She is all pepped up about the coming of gift giving season. Ribbons! Tissue paper! Specially printed boxes! She loves them all — and those are just the wrappers! Unlike Walgreen’s or Macy’s, Sheila’s festive mood arises from joy. Not greed.

She wears a recycled blouse & sweater and a cute pink button. Part of a wool challis scarf that belonged to my mother wraps her neck. It’s one of my “good luck cloths” and I hope it lasts forever, because when I include a scrap, it feels like a blessing for the recipient. Her pipe cleaner arms make a loop in the back for hanging, but she’s very versatile (it’s one of her charms) and will stand on her own.

Sheila is rather proud of her crocheted tail and insisted that I include this shot. The harsh shadows made it a “no go” in my book, but she is very persuasive. Must be that charm!

Because she keeps singing “I’m going to Texas“, I gave her a peace amulet. But when I came downstairs this morning, peace was hanging by a thread. I didn’t like the look or sound of that, so I dug up a festive woodland branch for her instead. She is so at home everywhere she goes — whether it’s among the ferns or next to a toadstool. In that regard, I want to be more like her!
Her holiday cheer must be contagious for I finished one of the starched doily snowflakes using cotton string and a few crystal beads. Sshhh! It will be a gift!
It’s windy today, making the black walnuts fall in waves of bombing that sound like artillery. I was lucky to survive filming. Although, I didn’t look up. Maybe all the nuts have fallen now.​

​This week I’ll be going to Salem. I hope there’s time to take a few pictures before or after visiting my sister, because the place goes absolutely ga-ga for Halloween.

And just to get us back to October, here’s a page from an old Ranger Rick magazine that I found while sorting downstairs (today, I tackled the file cabinets).

Vibrations

A Short Tale of Transformation

I was taking a selfie to illustrate the kind of snarky talk siblings sometimes share. Moments earlier I put on the pants that my sister says ‘make me look like white trash’. Then I donned a shirt the same color as the one that inspired her to say recently, “We’ve gotta get you out of dirt colors.” As I dressed, there was nasty self satisfaction and full authorship of my own oppositional nature.

I continued this unpleasantness (really) by taking a picture to illustrate the outfit. And something happened. A halo of sparkles appeared in the background around a recently finished felt critter. Just look at those sparkles! They’re inexplicable, though given the mirrors, windows, and other reflective surfaces nearby, probably not miraculous. Nevertheless, the sight of them did something to me. They changed my mind. Isn’t that a little miraculous, the effortless shift from brute rehash to wonder at the nature of light?

I was reminded of a podcast about a researcher from MIT who was able to record his voice with high powered video off of a BAG of POTATO chips. No surprise (but total surprise) — it’s all about vibrations. (And by the way, all you have to do is google “MIT” and “potato chips” and you’ll find the story — which is another kind of miracle, one made no less spectacular by our taking such things for granted these days).

Using a blurry picture of Miss Mousy and the app PRIMSA, I fooled around to get a sense of her vibrations.She’s rather divine, don’t you think? She’s going to the ballet! She wears a tulle skirt in solidarity with the dancers, revealing an attitude of celebratory participation. You won’t find a hint of bitter defeat about our Miss Mousy, even though at one time she wanted to be a ballerina herself. More than anything in the world, in fact.Look at her polka dot pocketbook! Her anticipatory smile!

Look at her long legs — all the better for being unnaturalistic and sourced from New Hampshire woods.

So yeah, I’m wearing unflattering  jeans and a shirt my sister might condemn in irrational terms, but how comfortable I am! It’s a day I’ve claimed for myself! I’ve cracked one puzzle and another awaits. And do you want to hear the big decision of the day: what shall I make for lunch? Homemade mushroom soup or chicken salad with pecans, shallots, and dried cranberries?

Thank you for the cheer alert, Miss Mousy! What a sweet reminder! She’d never preach, but if she did, she might say something like: focus on polka dots and stripes, my friend — they make you smile.