Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What is one of the cutest animals on the planet?

The panda, of course! Lately I've become obsessed with black and white. I'm looking at black and white fabrics and I've become enamored with pen & ink drawings again. I've always loved black and white photos - so it shouldn't be a surprise that I've been thinking about pandas. Besides, come on, they are adorable. (The pandas in the photo are a mama and papa panda that were visiting the San Diego Zoo from China.)

I've been wanting to make a panda for awhile, but I just couldn't get the 'look' right. Last night I drew a very simple shape, and decided to go for it. So, yep, this is a panda WIP post.

Let me say up front - my panda isn't going to look exactly like a panda. What I'm going for is the Essence of Panda. Yes, you may quote me. The E of P. We all need more of that, I am sure.

But on to the WIP:

Here's the cut out fabric. I was going to sew it on the machine, but fleece is so wonderful when you hand-stitch it. I'm in love with the texture that happens around the edges. It's more time-consuming, but this is a panda we're talking about! Cuddliness is everything!

He's got his tummy stitched on now.

His eyes are sewn on and have button centers. I decided not to use an alternate color to stitch around his eyes. I'll save that for Skellie Panda (yes, of course there will be a Skellie Panda!)

Did you know that real pandas have cat-like vertical slits for pupils and not round ones? I didn't either! But would wikipedia lie to me? I think not. That's most likely why "panda" means something like "large bear cat". I tried to find a close-up photo of their faces and failed. :(

Here he is! I need a name for him. I was thinking of Mr. Bumble - which is a Dickens name and not Chinese at all! But that's how my mind works, I guess.

Here's the best thing about pandas, whether they are the real ones (which is best, I realize, but dang it, I don't have one) or softie versions: they make you feel happy. Yes, the E of P works wonders.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Surprise tractors and Bear Girl...

How many times to you get to type a title like that? Not nearly enough, I think. I promised to post my Bear Girl when I got her little face painted. So here she is. Her name is Bernice.

Bernice is not a librarian. Oh no, no...sweet little Bernice is a roller derby queen. So it's best to get out of her way.

But on to more important things, like tractors! My DH cornered me and made...I mean, asked...me to go to the Montgomery County Historical Agricultural Park to see an exhibit of gas and steam powered engines. I KNOW!!!! Heart be still!

I'm sure there are hundreds, even thousands of you out there in Blogworld whose pulses quicken when they hear pistons firing. I'm not one of them.

I like the paint.

And the hood ornaments.

And the gorgeous green-ness of Maryland in the Spring.
So while my DH was worshiping at the altar of Gearheadedness, I kept awake by taking pictures.

I was so happy when I saw this:

A pink tractor! I couldn't believe my eyes. I wanted to hug it, but I was afraid some of the folk who were keeping an eye on things might just cuff me and take me away.

So now here's the question: what do a pink tractor and a Bear Girl have in common? I had to think hard about this one, but here goes! A tractor is a symbol, associated with our agricultural past and present. We all know and love red tractors. And green and yellow tractors (John Deere!). But a pink tractor - that was a surprise. My stuffed bear is a symbol, too. And we all know those lovely china dolls that you were never allowed to touch (especially if when you were little someone had one and you wanted one like crazy, but your mom was much too practical! :)

I guess my surprise is that Bernice has the face of a china doll but she can't break. Or maybe it's that she likes roller derby! Or maybe it's just that she's a Bear Girl. Yeah, that's probably enough.

Okay - what do you expect from me on a Wednesday morning with one cup of coffee? It's the best I can come up with. :)

Friday, April 17, 2009

A WIP...

I love sewing plush from fleece and felt and cloth - but like any true crazy craft/artist type, I get a little bored now and then.

So I was playing with muslin and acrylic paint, and I did a couple of stuffed and painted pieces (from head to toe). They ended up having a really cool leather-like finish, once I'd painted, sanded and then varnished the surface a few times. But I was missing the 'plushiness' of my other pieces, and so I'm trying something new.

This time, I cut the critter's bodies from cotton cloth. I love remnants. Love love love.

This is going to be a rabbit of some kind.

This is going to be a bear-girl (don't ask).

I sewed them and pressed them.

Then I stuffed them. I love the fabric on the rabbit, because the back has a beautiful Japanese woman on it. That way you'll get a doll on the front and the back! :)

Then I took a square of muslin and primed it with several coats of white acrylic. Next I painted the rabbit's face, and put details with Prismacolor pencils, and archival waterproof ink pen.

I gave the face several coats of varnish (at least 4, I kind of lost count!). It begins to feel thick and leather-like after about 3 coats.

I trimmed the face, and stitched it to the body.

I think my little rabbit turned out very nicely. I still have to make his friend's face (the bear-girl). Now I've gone completely bonkers and I'm painting muslin faces like a madwoman. I'm on a serious roll! Not sure what kind of a roll, maybe Kaiser, maybe French, but either way, at least it's not boring! :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's Spooky Time!

And I am late in posting my Christmas item! Spooky Time Jingles always has lots of new goodies on the 13th of the month, but I am a day late with the Jingle part. I think I had 'Halloween Brain' (that's a technical medical term) from preparing pieces to go to the National Halloween Convention in Philadelphia last weekend. (Many thanks to our fearless leader, Dani from AmbitionsDesign, for working so tirelessly on our behalf.) But now I have both my Spooky and my Jingle posted, and I will try to overcome Halloween Brain and be on time with both in the future.

Here's a peek at one of my STJ pieces. I have been having loads of fun with 'notions'. You know, buttons, ribbon, faux jewels and pearls - all that girly stuff. I made this ornament which combined two of my favorite things: 'bling' buttons and the Day of the Dead. And buttons. Did I mention those already? :)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hard-boiled memories

I don't know exactly how it happened, but yesterday it was Christmas, and now it is a few days away from Easter. And since Easter is right around the corner, of course, I was thinking of when my kids were little, and how those egg hunts were as huge as Christmas morning. What is it about those hunts that is so dang fun for kids? Maybe it's knowing you are pitted against your siblings, and that treasures are hidden from you. It must appeal to the pirate in all of us. Whatever the reason, it's always been a big hit here.

One Easter, when my older three were still little grubs (before the 4th was born!), my DH and I had laid in all the egg hunt staples: 8,198 hard boiled eggs and 7, 250 plastic eggs stuffed with goodies. We told the kids to sit on the couch (no looking out the windows!) while we went outside to hide the eggs. Our three dogs dutifully watched as we hurried around the yard (young children aren't known for their patience), hiding the eggs.

Anyway, we did a decent job of hiding them, and were quite proud of ourselves. We went back inside to get the kids their baskets, and tell them the rules (no shoving, no whining, no hitting, no screaming if you drop an egg, that kind of thing). I think we were inside for five minutes. Maybe seven.

When we went back outside, our dogs had eaten ALL the hard boiled eggs. And since they were on their own 'canine' egg hunt, they cracked open all the plastic eggs while they were at it. Thank god they didn't eat the plastic eggs and candy! I knew who the ringleader was at once - Halley, our beloved golden retriever. Anyone who owns a golden knows they would eat anything. ANYTHING. The funny thing was they hadn't done this before, so we didn't even think of it.

Maybe they actually saw where we hid the eggs this time. Maybe it was a really yummy batch of hard-boiled eggs. Or perhaps I should have fed the dogs BEFORE the egg hunt.

Needless to say, all three kids burst into tears. I had a very hard time not laughing. There were egg parts everywhere, and three very guilty looking dogs.

Luckily, young kids are easily side-lined. We just boiled up another batch and had the egg hunt the next day. This time we left the dogs in the house.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Power of Plush

I was stitching the other day, and thinking (the two go hand in hand). I remembered how much I loved stuffed animals as a kid. I had three favorite plushies. One was a hippo with pink velvet zippered mouth. I think I was supposed to keep my PJs in there, but I didn't think the hippo would like that.

Then there was a yellow rabbit (that wore red glasses). I got her because I had to get shots. I chose her because she looked intelligent and sympathetic (I was very unhappy about the shots). The third was a little gray elephant with a pink bow tie. Those plushies were as real to me as any family member. Before I left for school each day, I remember positioning them on the bed so they could "talk" while I was gone. For some reason, I didn't think they got up and walked around the room, but they definitely had conversations without me. :)

My kids each had a favorite stuffie. Sometimes this was a blessing, like when I needed someone to take a nap, or recover from a boo-boo. Sometimes it was a curse, like the time my eldest pitched his beloved Eeyore out of his stroller, somewhere in the mall, and I had to retrace my steps to find him. Talk about a happy reunion! I almost cried when I saw him peeking out from under a clothes rack.

My youngest son had a stuffed cat. My next oldest son a stuffed lion. My daughter had a stuffed animal named "Joey" that I really had no idea what it was. Maybe a monkey. Or a bear. Or a monk-bear. It didn't matter to her what it was. She loved him unconditionally.

Maybe that's why I love sewing these guys. There is something about a softie that transcends age and reason. I love them as much now as I did as a kid. I'm betting the reason we plushie-crazy people love them so is that they are a direct conduit to our childhood. Each one is a little gateway that opens a door just a crack, giving us a peek into that other, more magical world. The one where hippos, rabbits and elephants have a grand old time chatting while you're at school. :)