Snowmen Fight: Samurai vs Ninja. Get Your Winter War Mittens Here!I A Post in 2 Parts. Part the First

recycled sweater into mittens
Recycled sweater with my own felted design. Fighting snowmen. Ninja vs. Samurai

Time: 10 hours (depending on skill and gear)

Materials

100% wool sweater to be recycled
Mitten Template (made from tracing hand)
Felting wool in 5 colors
Embroidery thread
4 tiny black beads for eyes
Needle Felting Gear
Sewing Machine (or Needle) and Thread
Needle for sewing details
design for felting
(for a more complete materials list, check out part 2)

Process

Brainstorming

I attended a local Stitch and Bitch but I hadn’t any current, portable projects to work on. I showed up because it’s a nice crowd and I decided I’d work on an idea of something to make. I had an old cashmere sweater that was just too short for me and thought I’d recycle it. I’d recently seen some needle felting and it occurred to me that I could felt a design onto recycled mittens. I had no idea really what I wanted to sketch so I just let my pencil wander.

I was a bit surprised that this is where I ended up. I love to draw snowmen (in Japanese they are called yukidaruma). I wanted the snowman to have a little bit of character and something Japanese-styled. All I can say about the ninja is that I must have seen something on TV around that time. The way I drew the mask is a little bit like the female ninja character, Nezumi Onna (mouse woman) on a jidai-geki.

The snowflake above the head was supposed to be a shuriken/snowflake. I loved the idea but I quickly gave up the shuriken idea as being too difficult to for felting and the size.

I’m not sure how authentic nunchuks are for Japan and ninja.  I don’t think they are very authentic but they were fun and easy to do, so I used them.

So I had one hand done, but didn’t want to have ninja vs. ninja. So a samurai was the next logical choice.

I had this idea of them fighting on a bridge with a castle in the background and snow falling. Then I had a reality check. This was my first needle-felting design project and I wanted it to looks good and be simple. I still like the idea so I might actually do this as a drawing someday.

I was really happy with how I got this snowman to appear to have more dynamic movement but still be round and weighty. His chomage (the samurai hairstyle) at this point looks ok. The clothes are suggestive of Japanese men’s kimono rather than representative.

That’s a Fun Sketch, but Can You Felt It?

So I had two simple designs that I really liked. Before I started to make the mittens, I wanted to make sure that I could felt the design well enough to satisfy me. This was my first time to felt a 2-D pattern, not to mention one of my own design. I didn’t want to go through the work of making mittens only to mess them up with shoddy work. I needed practice. In all honesty, the project languished at this stage for a few months.

I started with the ninja.

I did a bit of research and found this site for felting designs with a felting needle. I checked out a lot of sites but this was the easiest for me to understand.

Felting test #1. Ninja

I cut out a strip from the sweater and drew the design on the wool. It’s not easy to do a good sketch with a fabric marker on wool. I made an underbody of the snowman before felting his clothes on. I don’t know if I would do it that way again. I didn’t with the samurai and that was easier and less bulky.

When I finished I was pretty happy with it. Since I liked it quite a bit and didn’t want to waste the effort, I made it into a bookmark. The pink border in needled felted from some felting wool I had so that the sweater background wouldn’t unravel.

 

Next up was the samurai.

Having learned my lesson from the ninja (taken out of context, that sounds much more interesting than needle-felting), I didn’t put an underbody and felt clothes on top. The effect is a bit different. It gives the work a bit of a pieced effect, more pronounced lines between the colors. Sometimes it made a bit more of a gap than I would like but maybe that’s just the medium and I have to live with it.

Felting Test #2: Samurai

This time I didn’t make a bookmark. The piece I cut was just large enough to test my design. I felt confident with the felting technique after the ninja. I wanted to practice the samurai before doing the mitten. Now I regret not taking a bigger piece to make a bookmark of the samurai. I’ll maybe felt it onto a larger piece someday.

Which brings us to the end of the design and practice portion of this entry. Check out part 2 on Friday.
If you have any suggestions of feedback about making the design process easier, I’d love to hear.

Thanks for taking the time to read the article. Hope you enjoyed it.

Felt Your Way to New Characters with Needle Felting.

needle felted jam, camera, matsrushyka and a needle charm
From lumps of fluffy wool to unique characters. Kit by Hamanaka.

This is needle felting mixed together with a photography, lomo-esque feel. Crafting and photography in a happy union!

As you may have noticed from my previous post, Dreaming of Imaginary Dragon Fish, I’m really interested in character creation. Fimo is a great option for 3-d shapes, but I’m not keen on baking it in my oven. It’s a poor example of the appliance, but it’s the only one I have. Since I live in Japan, I’m constantly surrounded by cute little things and that led me to needle felting.

People who are really good at needle felting can create incredible detail. Check out this example from feltedmice’s photostream at Flickr:
Needle Felted "Gumdrop" a 2-1/2" Baby Bunny By Barby Anderson / Helen Priem made the Owl
The bunny is by Barby Anderson and the owl by Helen Priem.

Incredible, right?

I jumped in with baby steps and started with a kit. The kit maker is a Japanese company called Hamanaka. The kit cost ¥700. Here is a link for the kit on Amazon Japan. This lomo-inspired kit leapt right off the shelf and into my shopping basket. My own felt camera? Oh yeah! The jam jars were cute and I loved the colors for the matryushka. The kit even called for making a spoon! The instructions were ok. They were written in Japanese so my comprehension wasn’t perfect, but the diagrams made up for it. It took me about thirty minutes to figure out the Japanese instructions. Each character took from one to two hours. Also, if you’ve been having a bad day, poking the needle into a bunch of wool is kind of therapeutic. Just be careful. The needle is very sharp and if you poke your finger, it will hurt.

I plan to develop some skill, then, someday, design my own characters.

The snowman at the back is my creation not from the kit. It’s not spectacular but it was good practice. The snowman is also practical as a sewing needle charm. By needle charm, I mean something like a pincushion, for sticking needles in while working on stuff. I also made a bunny head needle charm, but I gave it to a friend before photographing it.

I’m not sure if I’m ready to start making my own characters yet. There are still a lot of cute kits from Hamanaka. And there is something to be said for being able to follow instructions and end up with something that looks like the example.

If you have any favorite kits or favorite materials for character creation, please share!

Until next time, happy creating!

L.

Dreaming of Imaginary Dragon Fish

illustration by Lori Ono
Dream Fish

I did this illustration a while ago, and then decided to scan it and try coloring and airbrushing with Photoshop. Mostly, I’m happy with how it turned out. I think I might want to change the color scheme. Not sure. The colors are inspired by a trip to Thailand. I love the purples, pinks and blues I see there. I’m trying to get an underwater look but vary between thinking it looks washed out or just floating in space. Maybe some more bubbles in the foreground.

What I really love is this character. I want to write stories about her. I think of her like some kind of imaginary dragon fish. I can imagine here day, but haven’t come up with a name yet. She started as a doodle for a “who me?” facial expression and went from there.

What comes first for you? Color palette? Facial expression? Character?

Happy Creating!

Me Versus My Inner Critic


Image

The beginning of August was spent purging my house of old documents and images, old clothes, old things and old ideas. I’d spent the summer away from home and coming back I felt bogged down by the presence of stuff that needed to be used or released. If I could recycle things or give them away, I did.

After my space was purged,  I felt lighter but I still felt something was missing.  Since I was heading to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for a week’s holiday it seemed that this might be a great time to do a mental purge while sitting by a pool.

I grabbed some of the documents about writer’s block and care for the creative soul  that survived my purge and away I went.

The thing that I have a hard time with when it comes to tips about writer’s block or motivation is hat they all seem to be really common sense things. I always feel like I know this stuff, so why aren’t I doing this already? Ah, if anyone could really answer this.

One set of exercises that caught my attention was a handout from seminar I went to by Robin D. Owens in 2006 (or 2007?) about dealing with the inner critic. There were a bunch of writing exercises to analyze the source of the inner critic and then exercises for affirmations to exorcise the inner critic. The exercise that resonated with me the most was not a writing exercise but to draw your inner critic. You see the result above.

The image gave me a lot more to think about compared to the writing exercises. I could probably go back and do a better job on the written things now. So all of this is food for thought, especially about how I need to work.

Ironically, this is the most creative thing I did this holiday. I had brought a set of wax-oil and water color crayons to do some sketches of scenes in Kuala Lumpur and I never got around to drawing the scenery. I spent a lot of time beside the pool working on this image. I have some good photos of Kuala Lumpur, but this drawing is a better memento of my trip. Every time I look at this drawing, I remember vignettes of the city. More importantly the drawing  represents a time I had to relax, reflect and be meta about being creative.

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