Tuesday, 26 December 2017

On the 2nd day of Christmas...

... this blogger gave to thee...

... two felted tooties...
... and a day Binging with Babish.

Boxing Day, the day we sleep, eat left overs because no one wants to cook and snooze in front of a film on the telly because Christmas Day, a house full of family and not really stopping for the whole of December has caught up with us and you’re finally allowed to relax. Or that’s the plan… unless you’re an insane person, and you’ve heading to the sales.

But what do we have for today's post? A hobby a lot of people seem attracted too currently and one I’ve tried and only injured myself several hundred times. Blood doesn’t really make a good embellishment, so while I will try again because I like the end results, I’ve not been in a hurry to retry needle felting, for fear of stab wounds.

Needle felting is a rather impressive craft and unlike traditional wet felting, where at least in my experience you take a piece of dry wool top, add soapy water and roll, roll, roll the felt several million times with your hands until it solidifies, needle felting you’re not going to end up with oddly smooth, slightly sore and damp hands doing it*. To needle felt you take a unruly ball of fluffy wool top, roll it up a little to keep the blighter a little bit more controlled and place it on a foam cushion, then you stab it. Repeatedly, with a specially designed needle which has tiny barbs on the end. These barbs draw the wool on the outside into the centre, grabbing the scales along the fibres to tangle together and gradually matt, to create felt. Continue stabbing the wool until it’s a firm ball, then you begin to add and shape your felt into your design.

Essentially, you become a hairball murderer for the sake of art... too dark for Christmas? Maybe, but bar the initial likelihood you’ll stab your fingers – much like I did – it does make for enjoyable anger management.

These particular creations are by Russian felt artist, Kristina Shablina a.k.a. Fetreno, and are some of the most beautiful needle felting I've see with Studio Ghibli's, "My Neighbor Totoro" as it's subject.
 Gray Totoro with Chibi Totoro, Soot Sprites and an Oak Twig (Detail)
Gray Blue Chū Totoro with Chibi Totoro, Soot Sprites and an Oak Sprout (Detail)

Totoro, is big, soft and sleepy, so when I saw these, I couldn't believe how unutterably adorable they are. They're beautifully and very smoothly felted into the unmistakable totoro figure, each accompanied with another of the smaller totoro's, a scattering of soot sprites and a sapling, then sprinkled with water droplets. The two latter elements adding a different texture to the design which only makes the animal look softer and friendlier. 

I also didn't know that Totoro is a troll. Trolls to me are either big, mean and ugly or small, happy, with big colourful hair and occasionally gems in their belly, but when Mei, the little girl in the film, first meets the giant forest sprite, his gives his name, Torōru, Japanese for troll, which she mispronounces as Totoro. However, the big grey troll, affectionately known as Totoro, is actually named "Ō-Totoro", or "Miminzuku", the middle blue-grey troll is "Chū-Totoro", or "Zuku", and the smallest white troll is "Chibi-Totoro", also known as "Mini". This is something I probably should have know, having watched the film so many times, but it's nice to know what the little guys are actually called and be able to identify all three in Shablina's work.

As for my needle felting... I managed some balls which I made into a garland which hang off the antique typecase in my room. Fortunately if there's any blood on them from my repeated injuries, it's not noticeable. I am in awe of all the people who make beautiful and complicated designs out of bits of fluff and violent weaponry.

If you're interested in trying needle felting, you can buy kits online from Amazon, Etsy or craft stores such as Hobbycraft, you will probably be able to find them in art shops or haberdasheries, some giving basic equipment, others made for specific projects or designs. A particular favourite of mine for wool tops and generally anything felting related is Gillian Gladrags, run by felt artist Gillian Harris. We bought my mum her needle felting kit, with merino wool tops and they've been the nicest I've worked with to date. Very soft, and they have a really wide selection of colours, but if you look around there are plenty of places online you can source materials.

* If you're lucky, like me, a few hours of wet felting will result in a touch of contact dermatitis (eczema) and peeling palms... if you're going to try wet felting, invest in a good, heavy duty moisturiser. If you're planning on needle felting, invest in plasters. Lots of them. 

Merry Christmas! Part three tomorrow...

Link || Kristina Shablina (Fetreno) | Pinterest | Fair of Masters
Link || Gray Totoro with an Oak Twig via Kristina Shablina on Pinterest
Link || Gray Blue Totoro with Oak Sprout via Kristina Shablina on Pinterest
Link || Gray Blue Totoro with Oak Sprout (Detail) via Kristina Shablina on Pinterest
Link || Felter Skelter: Salute to Cute by Zoe Williams on MR X Stitch

Listening: White Winter Hymmal - Fleet Foxes

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