Tag Archives: mice

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?

Mice and other distractions

I draw the line at teeth marks in the butter. But poison is a bad idea: the bodies rot between the basement joists or who knows where and though the smell is brief because mice have such little bodies and such delicate bones, it is a terrible stench.

Sometimes they fall into the sump well in the southwest corner of my studio. They can’t get out. They either starve or, if there are a couple of inches of water down there, they drown.

I hope this isn’t the wealth corner of my studio, but if it is, that would explain a lot.

I was down there looking for the lid to a carved African object that a friend gave me. The book I’m reading about babalawos and Ifa made me think of it. I didn’t find the carved African top. Instead, there’s Pikachu! Oh and look, a miniature plastic pram with little wheels that roll. Of course I think of Saskia, but unlike Nancy who recently mailed a menagerie from her home in California to Saskia‘s in Holland, I can’t give these away. Not yet, anyway. (No matter how much I would love to hear Saskia’s marvelous and inventive storytelling).

The African carving is embellished with two snakes, two fish, and a turtle. The figure’s face is stylized and mysterious. The bent body looks capable of holding up continents and storm clouds. But then again, the crouch gives off the impression of coiled power, as if it might at any moment spring forth to perform magic or juggle planets. Picture this: Pikachu on the window sill next to the lidless African figure. Ouch! “There’s my morning,” I think. I’m Pikachu hoping to learn enough about Yoruban divination methods to be able to write a credible and respectful chapter about same.

The lid is a monkey. I wonder where it is. It feels important, this morning, to find it.

If I am a synthetic, diminutive, cute plastic figure that speaks gibberish, I will at least give myself points for being curious.

And to be fair, that’s not my whole morning thus far.

I am waiting for Raffi who will see if he can walk Finn with two or three other dogs from the neighborhood. A big experiment.

(I know Raffi doesn’t have children, because if he did and he had spent even a FRACTION of the hours that I have spent in a vehicle listening to a singer by the same name, he would call himself “Rafe”).

Finn and I played fetch in a bitter winter wind earlier. I want him to have run off some of his enormous stores of physical energy before this novel experience.

Gusts of wind sent fans of new fallen snow off rooftops. It made me pull my hood up over my woolen hat. It was not a good day to have walked out without gloves. But I find gloves, leash, and treats a little unmanageable.

Up at the field, I thought about how the wind traveled across so many miles to arrive here in Massachusetts… gathering up cold from Canada as it swept across the Great Lakes… shoving snow and ice onto Indiana…. pushing tractor trailers off of highways in Pennsylvania and Illinois.

It’s okay to be a little cold. And to confess: it’s also okay to emulate writers I love. You should read how Mark Helprin describes wind in his novel, “In Sunlight and in Shadow.” It’s un-fucking-believable. I kid you not.

But back to the cold? My physical discomfort has a way of disappearing in the face of Finn’s unalloyed and athletic joy. His graceful sprints never fail to impress. He barrels in loops with this easeful velocity before scooping up the tennis ball and running back. Another loop, this time behind me. He barks after dropping the ball at my feet: ‘throw it again. Again! AGAIN!!’ His reserve of play-energy seems bottomless. It cheers me up, every time.

Pikachu, African power-figure, Finn, a bitter wind scouring the landscape. And somewhere, dead mice. Back to work!

* I just read that Pikachu is supposed to be a mouse. Who knew?!