Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Toto: A Tiny Felted Yorkie

"Toto"; Yorkshire Terrier made from wool felt with needle felted fur.
I have been so blessed recently to acquire a new client who asked me to make three Barbie-sized animals; the two vintage Barbie replicas I wrote about in my last two posts and now this tiny Yorkie. I named it "Toto" because the customer wanted a Yorkie or a dog like Toto. I picked up some gray alpaca yarn at Time to Unwind to add some Toto-like dark fur to the mix.

I was a bit worried about making such a tiny dog. This little one is only a couple inches long. I am fairly new to needle felting as well. I've used it in a more utilitarian manner in the past, like to mend holes in wool felt dolls or re-root doll hair. These animals I've been making recently have given me more practice. I still didn't feel confident enough to make the dog entirely as a needle felted piece, though.

Instead, I made a wool felt body and stuffed it with bamboo rayon stuffing. Then I felted a mohair/alpaca mix of fur into the felt body. This structure gives the dog a retro feel, with the very hard, firm body underneath the fuzzy fur. It also allows me to sew in the bead eyes and nose. I feel better about that than gluing them, as I would have to do if the whole dog was felted.

I do know gluing them will work, because a long, long time ago (in college) I made a felt Puchinello Venetian Carnival mask. This was long before needle felting. I actually dyed, carded, and then felted the wool by sewing the wool I had sculpted into the basic shapes into fabric window screening and washing it in hot in the washer. The wool comes out felted into shapes, but it's not easy! But anyway, that mask has glued on embellishment and they're still on after about 16 years! I also learned to spin yarn from dog and cat hair in that class, and to weave cloth from grass and reeds and stuff, so if society ever collapses, I'm good, at least as far as clothing!

The dog displayed with Barbie.

The dog with tiny Betsy McCall.

This little dog is a great size to display with Barbie, or tiny Betsy McCall. It would work well with Ginny too. To thank my customer for all the business I threw in a free basket bed. It was in my doll accessory "stash" and it's the perfect size! I whipped up a tiny cushion for the basket in no time.

A bed for the Yorkie.
One of my favorite things about dolls has always been the accessories some dolls have. This is surely due in part to the influence of a favorite childhood book, A is for Annabelle by Tasha Tudor (see the D is for Dollikin post for more on this!). This is the best part of restoring dolls, for me. I love designing their clothes and accessories. Whenever I'm at thrift stores or flea markets I'm on the hunt for tiny things to pick up and use for a doll someday. The result of this is a lot of boxes cluttering up my office!
My office smells like sheep--wool and lanolin--right now because of all the felting I've been doing. I love it! It brings back memories of my aunt and uncle's farm in Indiana. I used to spend a lot of time there before they had children of their own and it remains a favorite place of mine. I spent the bulk of my time with my uncle. He owns an oil company as well as the farm and I would go with him to check on the cows and sheep and ride in his old blue pickup truck (with a tweedy blue bench seat) to the oil company to see about things. We would usually listen to Elvis. It seems in my memory like You Ain't Nothin' But A Hound Dog was playing perpetually. He must have had it on 8-track! I was scandalized by the oil company because the men had a pin-up calendar on the wall. Then we would go to check all the fences and gates and make sure they were closed and feed the sheep and cows and bring them in at night and stuff like that. 
Once our work was done my uncle would let me ride Ginger, our Tennessee Walker who had formerly belonged to my step-sister, around like a bicycle. I would ride her back and forth between their house and another aunt's house and roam around in the woods and pick up feathers from the peacock flock and play with the kittens in the hay loft. My uncle would also let me hold on to the giant hook in the hay loft and swing out and drop down into a wagon full of hay! When I was climbing up to play in the hay loft he would say stuff like, "Watch out for the rotten parts of the floor and don't fall through!", but he would let me go anyway! Paradise!
Their farm is from the 19th century. They restored the brick farmhouse, which is gorgeous. I used to go back in the apple orchard and look at the cemetery housing the graves of the previous family. It was sad. The mother and most of her children all died around the same time, of some illness I guess. In the fall our entire family would travel to the farm to help pick the apples. We would have a hay ride back to the orchard. My aunt acquired a hand-powered antique cider press somewhere and my uncles would take turns pushing the crank wheel to work it. We kids would all take turns holding a little juice glass under the spout to get a first taste of the cider.
One year, one of the ewes was pregnant with quadruplets and died giving birth. One of the lambs died too. So, then we had the three remaining lambs to hand-raise. We fed them with a giant baby bottle and kept them in a cardboard box in the kitchen. I was in charge of naming them and I gave them ridiculous names because I'd been watching Peter Pan. I remember I named one of them "Tinkerbell" and another was "Stardust". Within days they could jump out of the box and there were lambs jumping all over the kitchen. A kitchen never seems as small as when it's full of leaping lambs! And you never realize how much lambs like to jump until you have them in the house! Even as big old dirty grownup sheep those former lambs of mine would come running across the fields when they saw me. The smell of wool always brings it back!
I'm kind of sore today because I'm back into running again, trying to lose the 5 pounds I gained being sick. I'm not a very disciplined runner. I listen to certain favorite songs (lately, since October, it's been a few particular songs by Taylor Swift) and run as fast as I can and then I walk during the slow parts or uphill. I make deals with myself. I tell myself if I just run to a certain lamppost I will let myself walk for a while. That lamppost shines like the one in the Narnia wood! I'm sure the neighbors think I'm nuts!
Now that the Barbie animals are all done I have to clean my office. It resembles a war zone at the moment! Then I guess I'll be back to dolls. I am just about done with the Cissy I've been working on and have two Revlons in progress, so stay tuned. My mother has been all over me to come visit the last weekend in March but we were just home and I have so much to do, so I don't know.

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