peg dolls from germany

Here in the US, it's almost impossible to buy peg dolls with conical shaped bodies, so when I arrived at Castle in the Air last Saturday and spied a basket of these lovelies, I bought a bunch of them.  It was fun to try out doll-bases of different shapes.

Not only did they have conical figures, they also had conical figures with wooden gnome-hats!!

My little one and I have been reading this gnome book, so I got busy right away making some wee gnome children for him. (Plus, we have this pop-up book, which is really sweet!)

I don't think these conical shaped dolls are listed in the online shoppe at Castle in the Air, however, if you call the store, I suspect they'd be happy to ship some to you.  Mother Goose Online also sells a fabulous selection of German-made peg doll bases via mail-order, and in Australia, you can find lovely peg doll bases at Winterwood Toys.



For the past month (or more) my little one and I have been reading the book A Fine Dessert (over and over and over).  The book depicts how one particular dessert, blackberry fool, is made by four different families over the course of 300 years. The illustrations are gorgeous, and the story of the dessert is told in few, but very evocative, words by author Emily Jenkins.  All in all, it's a well researched, fascinating book -- and not only that -- it inspired us to want to make blackberry fool. However, blackberries will not be ripe around here until mid-July, so today we headed off on an olallieberry picking expedition.  On our way home, we stopped at the beach.  The path down was lined with wild radish, mustard, hemlock, and yarrow. The wind whipped at our faces, the sky was very blue and there were wild song birds everywhere.

When we got home, we made olallieberry fool.  An olallieberry jam making session is on the schedule for tomorrow.


visiting the castle

Here are a few photos I snapped yesterday while visiting Castle in the Air for a peg doll making event.  Did you notice the above pic showing a porcelain doll with gorgeous embroidered skirt?  It's a pincushion!  And not only that... Toy Jalanugraha will be teaching a class next weekend on how to make these lovely cushions (vintage porcelain half-dolls and all other supplies are provided).

If you cannot make it to the Castle any time soon, you might enjoy taking a virtual tour by watching the above video.

Thank you, Karima, for inviting me to spend the afternoon sharing my books and my love for doll making.  I always enjoy visiting...


book review :: making needle felted animals

Are you a fan of creating needle felted projects?  Me? Not so much. I like needle felting for adding details to other projects (hello wall-hangings with needle felted clouds and spotted toadstools!); however, 3D needle felting, frankly, left me feeling bamboozled.

Then the new needle felting book from Hawthorn Press, Making Needle Felted Animals by Steffi Stern & Sophie Buckley, landed on my doorstep. Goodbye bamboozlement.

As soon as it arrived, I sat down at the kitchen table with the new book, becoming lost in the gorgeous photography, the friendly tone of the written instructions, and the personal stories which breathe spirit into each project.  Emerging an hour later, I felt confident that I really could turn a big ball of fluff into a pretty little creature. (Though, full disclosure: Steffi wrote a preface for my second book Making Peg Dolls & More, while Lucy Guenot was the designer for this new book as well as both of my own, so I had an inkling that the book would be lovely!)

from Making Needle Felted Animals
photo credit Sylvain Guenot

Of all the projects in Making Needle Felted Animals (birds, wildlife, pets, garden creatures, etc...), the one which captured my heart most was Mole from Wind in the Willows.  In the picnic tableau above, you can see Mr. Toad, Mr. Badger & Mole; and although he is not depicted in this photo, there are instructions within the book for Ratty, too (at the moment this photo was snapped, surely Ratty was over by the boat, fetching an overstuffed wicker luncheon-basket).

I had a variety of Corriedale roving in my stash, but for this project I visited A Child's Dream to purchase some Romney wool (dyed by Wilde Wool) and was pleased with how quickly it felted up (my children liked it, too, and kept absconding with bits of fluff to work up into their own projects).

My only moment of panic occurred when I needed to convert grams to ounces.  This is an important detail for readers in the United States as wool in the US is usually sold by the ounce (the authors of Making Needle Felted Animals specify in grams).  FYI: 1 ounce = approx. 28 grams. You're welcome!

After an hour of needle felting, I ended up with a perfectly podgy mole who is hilariously nearsighted (you can see him squinting myopically at photos of himself in the image above).  The advent of this funny fellow has inspired a spate of reading books containing mole characters;  there is, of course, Wind in the Willows (we love this version with illustrations by Inga Moore), a less agreeable mole in Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbellina, and a most agreeable mole in The Mushroom Man by Ethel Pochocki.

You can purchase copies of Making Needle Felted Animals and all supplies (wool fiber, foam felting pads, felting needles, wool felt sheets, etc...) from A Child's Dream.  The book is also available through Amazon and the Hawthorn Press website.  For other supply resources worldwide, you can check my resources page HERE.

Disclaimer: a copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher, however all statements and opinions are my own.


postcard project

My mom has been going through chemotherapy treatments.  Again.  This is her third round in four years, but who's counting? There's no way to candy-coat it or make it pretty by tying on a pink, lavender or whatever color ribbon.  The t-shirts, hats & buttons from these folks pretty much say it all.

What makes it even more difficult is that my parents live nearly 400 miles away -- far enough that I cannot be there on a regular basis to visit or help.  And so from my kitchen table, I try to think of what I can do. I wish I could flip over my pencil to the eraser side, walk over to my mother's MRI scans and go, "Erase, erase, erase, erase." I call every day and have sent books, pajamas, necklaces, and artwork by my children, but truly, gifts hold little meaning when the only thing any of us wants is for this to go away.

Besides wanting the cancer to go away, what she really wants is us; she would like to see me, my husband & children and my brother as often as possible.  I thought & thought about it, and after a few days, I came up with something which, in my head, I call "The Bubbe Project."  (Note: "Bubbe" -- rhymes with hubby. It is the Yiddish word for grandmother and it's what my children call my mother.)

For the project, I compiled a set of recent photos of my children and had post cards made using the photo-images. Every few days my children write messages on a card or two, and then we drop the cards in the mail.  Now, in addition to our daily phone calls, she gets photos (real photos, not digital) several times a week.  It's not the same as daily visits, but it's been fun and has brought joy.

If you would like to do a similar project, here's how:  I used the online printing service called Moo Cards because, with Moo Cards you can order a set of postcards with a different image on each card.  I am not receiving any sort of compensation for suggesting Moo Cards -- I just like them a lot (I've been ordering business cards from them for years).

Do you have any suggestions for ways to send comfort & joy to someone dear who lives too far away?


peg doll events

Hello all! A quick note to let you know about some upcoming Northern California peg doll making events:

WHEN: Saturday June 20th, 12:00-2:00 p.m. 
WHERE: Castle in the Air, Berkeley CA
WHAT: Acorn cap fairies (see photos!)
COST: Free

WHEN: Saturday August 8th, 11:00-12:00 p.m.
WHERE: San Carlos Library, San Carlos CA
WHAT: Pirates & mermaids
COST: Free

WHEN: Saturday October 17, afternoon (12:00-3:00 p.m.)
WHERE: Circle of Hands, Sebastapol, CA
WHAT: Lenka Vodicka, author of Forest Fairy Crafts will also be there (2 book authors for the price of one -- a great opportunity to have your books signed!) 
COST: a small fee for supplies

If you happen to live in Northern California, perhaps I will see you at one of these events.  If you do not live in Northern California, then keep your fingers crossed -- as my children get older, I hope to be able to travel farther afield for book signing and doll making events!