Sunday, April 18, 2010

Wet Felt, Hearts, & Baby-Friends...

Boy, this sure has been a busy week. We are all striving to return to our daily routines and habits after being away at the beach. It was good to return to the dye pots. Rainbows have been abundant, but I'll talk about that in another post. First, my daughter and I finished our rainbow felt pieces that we had started weeks ago. That's one of the things I like about wet felting--you can walk away from it, let it dry, fix trouble spots, and come back to it when you are ready. We had started with a BFL roving (blue faced leciester breed of sheep) base and had teased out plant dyed merino roving for the top layer. The BFL came from Gales Art on Etsy. Gale is a fellow Phatfiber buddy, and I was thrilled when I joined the Peachtree Handspinner's Guild and discovered she was already a long-standing member.

The plant dyed merino was stuff I had dyed here and there over the past few months. Some of it is South African merino and was a special gift from a Waldorf Mama/Etsy/Natural Dye friend. (We are in the Waldorf Mama group on Ravelry and the Natural Dyes group on Ravelry, too.) Some of it is from New Zealand and is from a special Etsy/Phatfiber friend--Maude and Me.

My daughter and I had worked on our felts the day we laid them out, but it just would have taken too long to finish them that day. So we dried them out on some towels and a few weeks later, we rewetted them. This is why I save all those old dish soap bottles. It takes almost two large bottles of hot, soapy water to rewet my felt. Thank you Vibeke Pedersen (hope I spelled that correctly), Master Handwork Teacher and Master Felter, for all you taught me about wet felting. It all just comes back so easily. Okay, maybe teaching wet felting to middle schoolers for 8 years had something to do with it too.

So there was more patting, and then eventually gentle, circular rubbing, and finally fulling. I am always amazed at the fulling process. You're so tired of patting and rubbing, and suddently you move on to fulling, and voila! You really have a sturdy piece of felt. My daughter didn't really need to full her felt. She did plenty of patting and rubbing as she saw fit. And of course, with that Sanguine-Serendipity-Do that children so often have about them, her lovely piece of felt turned out in the shape of a heart.
My daughter's felt, we are calling "an art." She does that. "Mama, is that an art on that wall?" "Yes, Peanut Butter. That's an art."

My felt, once rinsed and dried, had a different purpose. It was destined to become sweet little bunting dolls that I call Sleepy-Pie Baby-Friends. I first started making these dolls over 10 years ago from plant dyed felt. There are some of my older dolls in the pictures.

It's really a funny story--funny in a sweet, sentimental way, not necessarily a funny, ha-ha way. When my daughter was born, I was still working full-time as a Handwork teacher. I loved my job, but there wasn't really much extra time for making dolls or toys for my daughter. This made me really sad. Then my mom sent me a doll she had purchased at one of my craft shows over 10 years ago. She had kept it in a safe place all these years. Now she gave it to my daughter, so my daughter did end up getting a doll that I had made. A few months later, my Godmother sent me a package of some toys her grandaughters had outgrown--most of them made by me. In the package was another Sleepy-Pie Baby-Friend. Now we have two--one for my gal and one that is played with but also serves as a reference for mama when she wants to make more dolls--which I've done--well, only one so far.

But she sure it sweet! She's sitting in my shop now--an ideal first doll for a baby. I just love the soft wool and the plant dyed colors. When I look at the older bunting dolls that I had made years ago, I am rather pleased at how the colors have lasted. Ten to twelve years ago, I was still finding my footing with the plant dyes. My daughter still loves to cuddle these babies. And that's where I think I need to end for today. I'm hopin' to make some more--especially some with brown skin. It's so important for children to have dolls with a variety of skin tones and hair colors. The first doll should look like the child, but after that.... Off to make more baby-friends! Thanks for lettin' me share! Happy Handwork! Happy Spring!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Reforming My Life--Shaping the Year

What a wonderful year I am having! For me, the school year starts around August-September. That's just how it is with teachers. (When I taught college English years ago, everything was defined by semesters.) I find myself reshaping my life after almost a decade of teaching full-time at a Waldorf school. Don't get me wrong; I loved teaching there. It was one of the most profound and fulfilling experiences I have had in my life. Now I am having a new kind of life and a new adventure. I've spent the year so far learning some really healthy habits about my time and my family. Working from home and being with a toddler forces that to happen. Rhythm, routine, and form have been key. I have to remember to put my family first, hence the long break since my last blog posting. I've also taken time to feed my creative self. I have done more spinning on my beloved, hand-me-down Louet S-10 in the past 6 months than I have in the past 6 years.
I want to thank Tjitske Lehman (hope I spelled it right!), Master Handwork Teacher from the Kimberton Waldorf School, for giving me this wonderful wheel full of love. Oh Tjitske! I am learning so many new things--plying, core spinning and coil spinning, how to plant dye roving, milk fiber, alpaca--yearling mohair loves plant dyes! I even bought a drum carder! Since I've become more involved with spinning and Ravelry (an online knit and crochet community--also full of spinners), I'm hoping to carry plant dyed batts for spinning and maybe even some roving.

At the center of all, though, is my home life and especially my daughter. A year ago, I didn't expect to be home with her. I thought I was going back to college to work on a degree in the Textile Arts. Frankly, I think I was afraid to be home with her. Would I be good at it? Would I be able to meet her needs? How do you be at home with a toddler and teach homeschoolers and run an on-line dye business? It has been surprising how fun and fulfilling it has all been. I love being at home with my daughter! We have created our routines, and our form makes for a sense of security. We even go to Morning Garden--a Parent-Toddler group at the Waldorf School of Atlanta.
Teaching homeschoolers fits wonderfully into our lives as does plant-dying. In some ways, I feel like a pioneer woman living long ago. Daughters learned at their mother's side how to bake, cook, clean, even dye. Of course I am grateful for my dishwasher and my washing machine, I must admit.

Something that my daughter and I have been able to experience more fully are the seasonal changes that occur. They permeate our lives in a deeper way. We have also started a compost heap!
Oh, and by the way--Spring is here in full force in Atlanta as evidenced by the lovely yellow-green coating of pollen on everything! I spent the early part of last week dying up some yarns and helping a fellow dyer dye up some large pieces of fabric. I had some of the Peach Cobbler Home School students help out with the dying. They seem to have excellent "color-luck"!
They created some lovely colorways and were very inspirational for me as well. I explained how my method of plant dying is similar to the way they use watercolor paints--three basic colors: yellow, red, and blue. Everything builds off of this. They all understood right away.

Well, back to work! I've loaded some new yarns and felt packs on my site. They were photographed this past week while I was visiting coastal South Carolina, so there might be some salt marsh in the background. There ae also new yarns for my Phatfiber contributions for April--All Creatures Great and Small. I chose the Luna Moth and the Painted Bunting. Thanks for lettin' me share! I might try to write once a month or perhaps more often now that I feel more settled in our daily/weekly rhythms. Happy Handwork! Happy Spring!