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Making a raven (and the mistakes in the process)

Making a raven (and the mistakes in the process)

Around December of last year, I was asked by a friend and customer to make a life size sculpture of a raven. I’d never done one before, so it was an exciting challenge to accept.

My husband, a professional painter and sculptor, helped me create a template. I then created the core with needle felting foam rectangles, which I cut and glued to size. I then covered the foam with wool.

Feathers were another challenge for me, I researched quite a bit online to see how other people were making them and tried a technique whereby you add wool top to fusible interfacing, add a wire in the middle and steam iron everything together, but the interfacing was just too white and showed through. Sorry I don’t have any pictures of these, they would have looked very nice in a differently coloured bird. This part stumped me and took ages to resolve.

I left the feathers conundrum to simmer in the back of my head and moved to raven feet. I made mine out of wire that I covered with pipe cleaners and then wool.

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Although the feet looked nice enough, they were not too lifelike. As it turns out, the wire was also not too sturdy for something this big, since it became clear it was too soft to hold the raven’s body at the angle I wanted. The poor thing stood too much like a duck!

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It became clear I needed to replace the feet, so I did some surgery: I cut the original wire out, then added a sturdier one and repaired the cut site with more wool and felting. I had an idea to use polymer clay on the feet at first because I thought it would look more lifelike but it was an absolute fail: clay, once hardened, has obviously no yield and therefore can’t be posed, which can be a problem depending on the surface you’re placing your sculpted animal on. Back to wool it was.

Enter a magic technique I had never tried before: wax.
Adding wax to wool makes it look less like fibre and more like a proper part of animal anatomy. See below:

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You can see by one of the pictures above that I got the feathers to work eventually. After much musing I cut felt sheets to size and put the sewing machine to work to add the central stem you normally see in real feathers. Some of them still had wire in them for structure.

Because I really love how the feet looked after adding the wax, I couldn’t wait to play with this new-to-me material on another part of the corvid: the eyelids.

Here’s an image of my raven without eyelids. The poor thing looks too startled and weird to be real.

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Now behold, with eyelids!

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What a difference. I wonder how I made it without using wax on sculptures this long.

After making more longer feathers for the tail, my corvid was ready to be unveiled. Photographing black wool is notoriously difficult so I apologise for not having more professional-looking pictures to show, but I believe these show you the end result well enough.

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This chap has been named Huginn (old Norwegian for “thought”) after one of Odin’s ravens. I think it suits him.

I felt sorry to send Huginn to his forever home. After spending so much time (5 months!) working on him on and off, I really built a connection with this character. I’m glad he’s receiving much love and will even have a custom-built dome to keep him protected against the elements…

Let me know what you think of him in the comments, and if you’ve any questions about the making process I’ll do my best to answer them. Thanks for reading.

Dyeing some yarn

Dyeing some yarn

A year ago a friend who also owns a small fibre business asked me to dye her some Autumn-inspired rainbow yarn for her to knit with for her own client. I was happy to oblige, and very pleased with the end results. This is the picture of the leg warmers she made. Her name is The Crimson Rabbit on Ravelry and here is her profile.

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Now, repeating a colourway when you have no written data on how you accomplished it the first time can be a bit tricky, but not impossible. If you’re used to the same dyes you sort of develop an eye to recognise them, and this is more or less what happened in this instance.

You can see the yarn starts out a very light yellow and progresses to a slightly more orange-toned one. I mixed some dyes up, eyeballing the colours and dipping a corner of kitchen roll tissue in the liquid to determine when I was happy with the mixture. I did the same for each colour. I was lucky I recognised the yellow-brown dye at the end or I’d be in a lot of trouble to reproduce that particular one.

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This is what the skeins look after they’d been steam-set and dry. I think it looks quite similar from the original one, don’t you? Winding these two skeins back to functioning yarn took me (I kid you not) around two hours. I had divided and tied up each section previously by weight, and boy it’s a lot more work to put it all back together…

Now, since I know my post is a little late (sorry about that) and a bit on the thin side, allow me to share a couple of images of the park near me when the cold arrived. Our friends over in North America will no doubt think this type of cold is cute, but I sure felt it in my bones…

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Finally, another exciting commission: a raven! I was asked to make this and it had to specifically be a raven, not a crow. Not sure exactly how to tell the difference between the two, I did some internet research and, a few documentaries and image searches later, I think I’m a bona fide corvid geek now…

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What exciting stuff have you been up to in the fibre world? Share away, I’d love to hear it.

 

Chico the needle felted dog

Chico the needle felted dog

Hello, Leonor here. My guest post for today is going to be a simple “show and tell” as the weather here in London is too warm for complicated thoughts!

Some of you might be aware that I am a fibre artist by trade. Anything wool and I love it. I got into this business a little by accident, and making custom needle felted dogs was even more unexpected – basically, a friend asked me for a mini of his whippet, I took the challenge, and the rest is history!

I’ve now been playing with wool professionally for around 5 years, and I must confess there was one hurdle I was yet to conquer in my work – creating an open mouth. I’d tried once and it didn’t come out right, so I more or less gave up on it. That is, until I made Chico!

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At first I was going to make his tongue out of polymer clay (the idea of finishing it off with a nice layer of glossy varnish to mimic moisture was very attractive to me) but then I decided not to. I liked the idea of a 100% fibre sculpture better.

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I made the lower jaw separately, making sure the upper section was thin enough to accommodate both parts without looking weird. I added a layer of black around the edge to make it more realistic, and then a little white on the back for teeth. The tongue was made using two shades of purplish pink blended together. I made two mini tongues and chose the one that fit best.

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I received a few reference photos to make this little guy, my favourite was one where he was sitting with his leg to the side and smiling. I just had to make him this way.

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I love the detail of paw pads, the feet immediately look real. You can’t really tell from this picture, but Chico is er… anatomically correct. I like a realistic sculpture!

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Below is a picture of the original Chico. The mini version is off to a Spanish island as a surprise for the whole human family. I hope they like it!

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Have you ever created a needle felted animal? What wool did you use and how did you like your experience? Let me know in the comments section.
Questions? Happy to help, just leave a comment!

Future Felting

Future Felting

Future felting comes from lambs. Here are some of this years lambs outside enjoying the spring sunshine. Most of our lambs were born in the winter so they are not tiny anymore but they are very cute non the less.

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I love the face markings on the two above.

Here is the bottle lamb that was born Christmas day, Chrisy. she thought you would like to she her woolly head close up.

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Here is Chrisy with a last years lamb.

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This week we had a non fiber animal born. We had a little Dexter calf.

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Despite appearances she is a little girl.  I had a really hard tome getting any pictures. Her mom is very protective and seem to think having her picture taken is a dangerous thing.

Also hanging out with the sheep is Geoffrey the goose and some chickens with their very fancy rooster.

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Soon it will be shearing time I have plans along with a willing friend to make some coats. I hope to get some usable wool. Right now they get so many burs and so much hay in their wool it really isn’t usable. I would also like to get a few black fleeces that aren’t bleached out by the sun.

That’s a snapshot of what going on in the barn yard this week. I hope you enjoyed the pictures.

 

 

Colourful Sheep

Colourful Sheep

Just a quit little post to show you the sheep I have been working on for my Christmas sales. They do stand up so you can use them as a decoration but they will all have a pin on one side so you can wear them.

Colourful Sheep

They are made with a combination of wet felting and needle felting. The ears are cut from a wet felted piece of fabric and I wet felt the snakes I cut for the legs.  The body and head are needle felted. The ears, eyes and all the curls are added with needle felting.  I hand dyed the curls. They are Border Leicester or Blue Faced Leicester I can’t remember.

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