Archive for October, 2012

Settlers of Catan

Some of you may have heard of the game Settlers of Catan . I’m a big fan and love playing it, although I’m not very good. For those who haven’t heard of it, it is basically an empire building game played on a customizable board made up of different biomes. The different biomes are important because they each give different resources which you need to build your empire. At the Fiber Arts Festival a couple years ago one of the people I taught to needle felt mentioned that it would be a very useful technique for making board games, which was apparently a hobby of his. Then just recently a friend and I started talking about doing a “geeky fiber” booth at Fiber Arts Fest next year so I was thinking about new geeky fiber things I could make and the two ideas connected in my head and boom! Fiber Settlers of Catan game.

I’m just starting on the first biome for the board, the mountains. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to make all of the pieces out of fiber or just the board, or maybe some of both but not everything. I figure I’ll decide that as I go. So here are pictures of what I have so far.

This isn’t quite done yet. I plan to make the mountains into a closed ring, so the finished piece will look a bit more like the top picture. It’s hard to get a real pointy top to the mountains with needle felting, they all try to round out. The two connected peeks are supposed to look kinda like a ridge, I think it needs more work. Mountains are not really something I have a great idea of in terms of the shape, we’re a bit lacking in them around here.

In order to play the game each of the biome tiles has a number on it, and pieces representing cities and roads get put along the edges of the tiles, so both of those things affect the shape of the decoration on the tiles. I plan to have a raised central space in the mountains for the number tile to sit, theoretically where it is in this picture, just with a sort of platform underneath. And I have to pay close attention to the placement of the mountains so I leave enough space for the pieces around the edges too.

So that is the mountain biome, which is all the farther I’ve gotten in planning. There are also wheat fields, grazing land, forest and clay pits that I need to make. I have no idea how to decorate those pieces so I’m going to put pictures of the original game board pieces here and ask for your suggestions. I was thinking I may do something that is more related to the resources you get from the biome which are wheat, sheep/wool, wood and bricks, respectively.

You can see the mountains in the bottom right of the picture with four different biomes in it, my piece is kinda similar, but not exact. For the wheat field I was thinking maybe do some stand up tufty bits of wheat colored wool, although that seems kind of boring. The grazing land I could do as a sheep or a herd of sheep in a green pasture. The clay pit/bricks I have absolutely no idea. The background felt I’ve chosen for the clay pit is kind of brick red, but I can easily change that too. For the forest I mostly need to decide if I want a perspective looking down on the forest like on the original gameboard piece or is I want to do more of a standing in front of a forest looking at it perspective with the trunks and bushes and branches and such.

If you have suggestions I would love to hear them!

Chocolate Tutorial

I’m slower to post this week but I haven’t disappeared! And to make up for it, I have a tutorial for you. I posted a picture or two of my needle felted chocolates early on, I’ll give you a couple more here too, and they tend to be quite popular. Lots of people ask me how I make them and always want me to teach them to make the chocolates themselves so I figured a tutorial would be popular.

A box of felted chocolates

This is one of my favorites that I’ve made, it sold a while ago

I made this one for my BF’s mom for Christmas, her initial is K.

So those are lots of fancy chocolates that I’ve made. Now to making them. They all start out just the same: with the stuffing. I use dryer lint (yes dryer lint like from your clothes, although I prefer wool dryer lint) in mine. I have used poly-fill stuffing but it didn’t work as well and got very compacted, resulting in a much smaller and harder chocolate than I intended.

I like to get a ball of stuffing about the same size that I want the chocolate to end up as, maybe a little larger if there’s a lot of air-space in the stuffing. I’m holding it in the picture to give you an idea of the size.

Then I wrap the base color of the chocolate around the stuffing. I wrap the stuffing in two layers that overlap and are perpendicular to one another. You can see that just the first layer leaves big gaps on either side, that is what the second layer covers. I like to poke a couple times where the two ends of each layer overlap to sort of tack it in and make sure they’ll stay.

You’ll notice that the wool still doesn’t perfectly cover the stuffing. That is easily fixed while you are doing the initial felting, which is what comes next. Basically you want to spread the wool out a bit to cover the holes and then gently felt all around the ball of wool and stuffing. I say gently because you don’t want to felt all the way through the chocolate, you only want to go through the top layer of wool and into the stuffing a little bit. If you felt all the way through you quite quickly get a flat chocolate.

You only need to poke until all the barbs are in the wool, thats maybe an inch deep at most. You should have a lot of needle still sticking out between the chocolate and the hand holding the needle. If you’re poking all the way through, you’re poking too far.

You also want to make sure that you are felting the whole surface, not just one side. I find this easiest to do by felting the chocolate while holding it in my hand. BE CAREFUL! this is a very easy way to stab your hand and fingers, I have done so many times, and nobody wants to bleed all over their chocolates. I also find it helpful to try not to poke more than 5 or 6 times without turning the chocolate a little.

Everyone always wants to know how much the chocolate needs to be felted. It’s difficult to give a definitive answer, because some people like to felt tightly and some people like to felt loosely, but I can give you a baseline for the least felted you want your chocolate to be.

You want the chocolate to be felted enough that you can’t pull out a chunk of wool without a lot of work. The tops picture there is me just grabbing a bit of the chocolate and pulling gently, see how much fiber I have between my fingers there? That’s too much. The bottom picture is me grabbing and pulling hard to get just a few fibers out. Really most of what I’m holding in that picture is the little bits of fluff that were sticking up from the piece, not any of the actual chocolate.

So that’s the minimum amount of felting I would suggest. I like to felt mine down a lot more because it gives them a smoother texture and they feel more solid to me.

Once you have the chocolate felted enough that it will hold together you start shaping. Mostly the shaping just involves making a bit of a flat bottom, so the chocolate sits nicely. But if you want to make a square chocolate this is the part where you start defining the sides and edges. It’s a pretty simple concept, you felt more where you want it to be flat (whether that be the bottom of a round chocolate or the sides of a square chocolate). As I shape my chocolates I like the felt them tighter, but not quite as tight as they can go, because we still need to add decorations.

You can see the nice flat bottom on the left side of the picture. I like the make the bottom slightly smaller than the widest part of the chocolate because I think it makes it look like it was a ball of chocolate that got set down to cool and just developed a small base to sit on. Take a closer look at round chocolates, or make some yourself, and you’ll get what I mean if you don’t already.

Now that you have the basic shape of your chocolate you’re up to the part I like the most: decorating. For the tutorial I just did a basic chocolate with a drizzle of one color over the top because it’s the simplest one to do and can be used as the basis for almost all of the designs I do. But I love to come up with new decorations for the chocolates, whether that’s making letters, using two colors of drizzle, putting dots and drizzle on it, you name it, I’ll try it.

To start the decoration you choose the color you want, I like the minty green and use this one a lot, and pull out a small bit, preferably longer than it is wide. Then you pull it out a little bit more and twist it, as if you’re spinning yarn. This makes it so that you get a nice clean line. You can use yarn for this part, preferably wool, and I have a time or two but I don’t have much yarn that is as thin as I like for the decorations.

When I’m putting a line of drizzle on a chocolate I like to start at one end and a bit to the side. And then I try to curve the decoration like it would be if it were frosting dripped onto a real chocolate, as opposed to making nice straight lines, which is quite easy with felting but a good deal more difficult with frosting!

I felt down the very beginning of the line very well so that I can put some tension on it without it pulling off. I like to leave a bit of extra fuzz at the end that I later cut off or felt down, so that I’m not worrying about getting the beginning of the line just right and it isn’t overly skinny at the start.

You can see the curve of the line here. I also try to just tack the line in at first rather than felting it down securely, so that I have a bit of wiggle room later to get it just right.

It is important to felt the turning points down well just like you did the beginning of the line, and for the same reason. In order to get the line where I want it and to hold the twist in it while I work it is necessary to put some tension on it, so it gets quite annoying if it keeps popping off the chocolate.

The chocolate tends to end up with a weird shape and possibly some strange bulges when the decoration is first put on. Therefore, at this point more felting is required. Often that is the solution to any needle felting problem, more felting!

In order to reshape the chocolate I usually felt extra between the lines of the decoration, and then make sure that the decoration is felted down tightly. Felting the decoration more means you need to felt between the lines a bit more again, but this way seems to work quite well. You may also notice that the chocolate in the last picture above is more tall and skinny than it was before. This is one place where the fix is quite simple and easy, you simply need to squish it back to the right shape. Think of it like a pillow or teddy bear with loose stuffing, you can squish it into weird shapes if you try, but then you just squish it back into its regular shape as well. I find once I am completely finished felting the chocolates, decorations and all, they hold their shapes quite well.

From start to finish one chocolate takes me 30-45 minutes, depending on the complexity of the decoration, and with square chocolates tending to take a bit more time because the shape is more difficult to make. And here is the finished chocolate from a couple different angles.

Please comment if you have any questions and let me know what you think about the tutorial. If you think I missed a step, or you want a picture of something I missed, or you think there’s too many pictures, let me know! I am aware that the picture quality is not the best, that is mostly laziness with not wanting to set up good picture, which could take me 5 to 10 minutes, for each step that takes maybe 2 minutes to do, so I just took pictures where I was working.


I have clinical depression. I have been struggling with it for years but a couple weeks ago I had what my therapist called a “crying episode”. I call it a depression attack cause I think that describes it better. Basically it is a stretch of time where all I can do is cry, I can’t think or do anything else, even talk really. This inspired a new embroidery piece, pictures and description below.

This is the pattern I drew on paper first, to give myself a guideline for the piece.

I traced the pattern onto the fabric with pencil, the picture of that didn’t really come out, then I backstitched the outline in the correct colors.

I used chain stitch to create the texture of the hair. I wasn’t sure about using chain stitch but I couldn’t come up with a stitch that would give me a better hair texture. I was trying to think of something that would be a bit fluffy, but I couldn’t find a stitch like that. The chain stitch worked pretty well though.

The black is the depression. The central swirly bit is the overwhelming ache that is the biggest part of the depression attack. The jagged lines radiating from the swirl show how the ache spreads and takes over the whole body, and the whole person. The texture of the black lines turned out a lot more jaggedy and less smooth than I originally pictured, but I like it this way. The jagged edges seem more right than smooth lines.

I considered adding lines around the outline of the person, partly just to fill up the background, but decided not to. I have a tendency to make pieces overly complex, and I plan to make a custom sized frame for the piece that won’t leave a lot of empty background showing, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

After I had recovered some a friend (whose blog I will link to once she starts one! hint hint) sent me a link to make a bracelet with a reminder that “depression lies”. I printed the bracelet on paper like it’s intended but wanted a more comfortable one that would last longer so, with help from my mother, I printed out another one on fabric. I also printed one for my friend who sent me the link, which is what is in the picture, cause she needs the reminder too.





Have you noticed yet that it’s October? I sure hope you have, cause it’s halfway done already! And you know what? Halloween is at the end of October, yay! I’ve always liked Halloween. When I was a kid it was for the candy (of course) but now it’s more for the decorations. I’m not some huge fan of horror movies (in fact I hate horror movies) and I’m not really into the monsters or zombies but I just love the chance to decorate. I think Halloween always marks the beginning of the decoration season to me. There’s not much decorating to do over the summer but after Halloween there’s Thanksgiving, and then Christmas (the best decorating holiday ever) and new year’s then Valentine’s day and St. Patrick’s day and Easter. All great holidays for decorating.

I’ve always liked carving pumpkins but they’re so messy to carve and they rot way too soon for me, not to mention teenagers (teenage boys really) like to go along and smash them and I hate taking the chance mine might get smashed. So this year I decided to make a lasting jack-o-lantern by needle felting it. And I decided I wanted to light it from the inside too! My wonderful BF suggested those battery powered tea-lights you can get, great idea, he’s a pretty smart guy. Here’s the process  in pictures!

The battery operated tea-light. Surprisingly nice for 3/$1 at the dollar store.

Making the pumpkin hollow was a new challenge for me, I have never made a hollow felted piece before. So I decided to start with a ring around the candle, since it would give me some structure to start on, and then build up the sides slowly. Basically to think of it like a three dimensional round piece rather than a hollow ball.

I knew I wanted a face at the front of the pumpkin, so I figured I would do about 2/3 of the pumpkin and get that reasonably structural and then add the face. I discovered that didn’t work. This is about halfway through the process and I was discovering that it was quite difficult to try and make a round piece with a chunk missing, it simply wouldn’t go round.

So I decided to just fill in the whole thing and get it a little felted then felt holes into it for the face. Here it is almost completely rounded out. This was the point where I discovered it was nearly impossible to try and felt a hollow piece of that size through the single hole in the bottom. The hole being where the candle goes.

After a bit of frustration, and discovering that it worked quite well to basically stuff the thing with small chunks of foam, I got the basic face shape. At this point the whole pumpkin was still only loosely felted and was quite squishy, so I spent quite a while just felting it all over to firm it up. It never did get as rigid as I thought it would, but it definitely holds its shape, and that is the important thing.

I added the stem on top and the teeth in the mouth and its done! I originally planned to make the ridges like you get in a pumpkin but that just would not work with the squishiness of the whole piece.

There is a nice little hole in the bottom where the candle can slot into. It turned out small enough that the candle doesn’t just fall out, but big enough that it’s easy to change, which is what I was hoping for.

And here’s the finished piece all lit up. Isn’t he cute? I mean scary, they’re sposed to be scary aren’t they? Whoops!

If I make another one, which I’m thinking about doing, I think I would make the face first and build around that. It was rally quite difficult to do the detailed work for the face when I couldn’t really get much leverage to felt with on the round piece, and I couldn’t get to the back of the face very well because it was on the inside and the hole on the bottom was so small. So now I know, if the piece is going to be hollow, make sure there are big holes or any really precise work is done before it’s put together!

I did learn something quite good on this piece as well. Usually I work exclusively with a single needle rather than the multi-needle felting tools you can get. I like the precision you can get with the single needle and the multi-needle tools just feel bulky and rather like using a sledgehammer to pound a nail in. But for this piece I needed to do a lot of just basic felting that didn’t need to be precise but couldn’t be done with the big 6 or 8 needle felting tools, cause those only work on flat surfaces. Luckily my mother, crafting genius that she is, had gotten me one of these little tools. I had tried it a little bit on a felted chocolate and other little pieces like that and didn’t like the clumsiness and figure I wouldn’t ever use it. I felt kinda bad that my mom had bought it for me and was so excited to have found it and I was so disinterested in it so I tried it on this piece when I did the overall felting and it worked perfectly! It was just what I needed and I’m not giving it up now. I can already see how it could be useful on other projects I’m thinking about, including needle felted pictures, which I will be posting about later. So I guess I learned that tools aren’t very impressive when you don’t use them for what they were made for!

Links and update schedule

You may have noticed my updating has been slowing down a bit lately. That’s cause I’m running low on things to post about! I was planning on daily posts at first but I just don’t have enough old projects to post about for that to be feasible and I can’t get new projects ready fast enough to post a new one each day. So I have decided that I’m going to try for at least two posts a week, one a week at the fewest, if work and life are really busy. Just thought you all might like to know that.

Now that the housekeeping stuff is taken care of I have a couple links for you tonight, and possibly a project post tomorrow.

Tomorrow (Oct 12) is the Craft Yarn Council’s national yarn day! Woo! Who knew such a day existed? Then again, I think every day is yarn day, but I suppose making it official is a good thing. Check out their website here.

And this lovely blog here, has a great little tutorial about covering up moth holes with moth shaped patches!  What a great idea. I have a couple shirts I like to wear to work that have developed small holes and now I think I may use this technique to cover those holes. Here I thought I’d have to retire those shirts, yay for creative mending!

That’s it for tonight, I’ll probably have more for you tomorrow, including pictures of things!

Celtic knotwork collar

I am a member of a Medieval recreation group called the SCA. One of the things we do is to dress up in Medieval clothing, which we often make ourselves. Being a fiber person I definitely make my clothing myself, and I’m working on decorating all of my clothing with embroidery. Mostly I’m doing simple stitches around the neck and wrists to add some detail, but I’ve also been working on a fancy collar for one of my gowns. I found the basic knotwork design in a book and spent quite a while making it rounded, rather than straight, so that it is the right shape. And now, pictures!


This is the pattern I ended up with after quite a bit of cutting and taping, and then tracing onto a separate sheet of paper. I colored it in after I transferred it to the fabric so I could use it as a guide for filling in the actual piece.


There are two of these medallions, one to center in the front and one to center in the back. The collar itself is a separate piece so that I can put it on any gown that I would like, and that way I can still use it even if the gown it’s on wears out or doesn’t fit anymore. I got kind of bored just doing the black outlines so I started filling the color in before I finished the outline.


I’ve started working on the outline of the piece again because the original transfer of the pattern left a few very light spots. You can see one of those spots in the top right corner where I’ve filled in the pattern with pencil, but that’s quite difficult to do. So I want to finish the outline before all of the pattern wears off or I manage to lose the original pattern piece or anything like that. Of course it’s a lot harder to work on the part where the pattern didn’t transfer so I do a lot less work on it than I did before, but it’s slowly getting done.

WordPress seems to have changed the format of the tool for making new posts and I’m not really liking it. My next few posts may look a bit funny while I get used to the new interface and figure out how best to work with it, so please bear with me. Hopefully you won’t notice any difference, but I make no promises. EDIT: It looks like I may have just been creating the new post in a different place, obviously I’m still learning to use wordpress in general, some day I will figure it out.

The Inferno

Dante’s Divine Comedy is a three part work written by the 14th century Italian Poet Dante Alighieri that describes the poet’s journey through hell, purgatory and heaven. In my highschool the senior AP English classes read the Inferno, the portion of the work that describes Dante’s journey through hell. Once we read it we all make projects (either by ourselves or in pairs) that depict hell as described by Dante. It’s the big project of the year and everybody in the school knows about. It was always fun to watch in the mornings and see seniors bringing in their projects cause everybody wanted to make their project bigger or cooler than everybody else’s. In my junior year one of the seniors made a full working model of hell, complete with flame spurts and pools of water, it was pretty darn cool and quite popular. When I was a senior my friend and I teamed up and made a quilt for the project. It’s a huge quilt, probably 4 feet in diameter, and almost totally round. Well, maybe that’s not so huge for a quilt but it’s big for a totally round quilt! And we made it in about a day and a half. We got pretty lucky and had a Friday blizzard that was bad enough school was called off so my friend Liz got a ride over to my house and we spent the whole day working on it. Lots of the pieces are actually glued on and it’s definitely not a pinnacle of sewing or quilting art, but it’s pretty damn cool.

So, there are 9 circles in Dante’s version of hell, that all get colder as they get closer to the center. In the very center is Satan who is frozen in a lake of ice and the beating of his wings is what freezes everything. Being some sort of ultimate evil you’d think the guy might be smart enough to stop flapping his wings so the ice could melt, but that’s a different issue. Now, pictures! And I promise I won’t go through the meanings in all of the circles and sub-circles (partly cause I don’t remember them) but I just have to show some close ups of my favorite bits and the more famous bits from the story.

This is the full quilt, it hangs on the wall in my apartment. Actually it’s gotten a few comments from pizza delivery guys since you can see it from the door :-). Hanging it was a little tricky because it’s round, but I ended up sewing velcro onto the back and then I just stick the opposite side of the velcro to the wall. That seems to work quite well, although can be kind of hard on the paint when you pull the velcro off.

This is a close up of the forest that the story starts in and the vestibule, which is the little black dome shape. The forest and vestibule are the reason the quilt isn’t completely round, which annoys me sometimes, but it had to be there for the project and I’m not going to remove it now.

You can see the gates here (the red almost bridge-shaped piece) which, in the story, have the famous saying written on them “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”. Also the blue squiggly bit is the river Styx with Charon the ferry-man on it. Dante’s rendition of hell is not especially popular with the Catholic church, for reasons that become more and more obvious as you read the Inferno.

I like this bit. It’s the ivory tower in the first circle of hell which is for “virtuous pagans”. Various famous pre-christian philosophers are in this circle because they have to be in hell since they weren’t baptized but since they were “essentially good” they get to be right at the edge and get things easier. The picture is actually upside-down from the way I took it but when the quilt is hanging this bit of the quilt hangs upside-down, it wasn’t really planned out with the thought of hanging it.

This is one section of the eighth circle. The sections are referred to as bolgias, although I don’t remember which bolgia this is and I don’t even remember what the sin was supposed to be. I’m pretty sure the punishment is supposed to be what we think of as the standard punishment in hell, eternally burning in flames. I just love the faces on this one and how the flames came out. The flames were quite fun to do as well, and are in at least one more bolgia, which I didn’t take a close up of.

This is a cliff that separates the ninth circle from the rest of hell and which is guarded by giants, hence the figure there. For this bit we actually cut a hole in the batting so that the ninth circle is actually lower than the rest of the quilt and there’s a lip here. I am quite pleased that we managed to do it, and many thanks go to my mother for helping us to make it work right.

This is the ninth circle, which has four rounds. In the ninth circle all of the sinners are frozen into the lake of ice that is around Satan. The difference is in how much of their heads stick out. In the first round the heads and necks are out of the ice, in the second only the heads, in the third they’re frozen up to their eyes and their tears freeze on their cheeks (we put little beads on to symbolize the frozen tears) and in the fourth round they are completely frozen, so they are only outlines. I think this is one of the more polished looking circles on the quilt, and just one of my favorites, I don’t know why exactly.

And at the very center is our cute little Satan doll. I suppose cute is a strange adjective to use, but he is quite adorable. When the quilt is laying flat, which is how it was made, Satan actually stands straight up. Which means that when the quilt is hung up he kind of flops down, so I had to hold him up for the picture. He has three faces and there is a sinner in the mouth of each face. I know they’re the really big sinners and if I knew my bible stories better I’m sure I could give you all their names, but I’m pretty sure one is Judas, and that’s all I got.

At the end of the Inferno Dante climbs down Satan’s leg and emerges on a cave that turns out to be in purgatory. For the project we needed to include that as well so on the back of the quilt are two little legs sticking out and the mountains of purgatory are drawn on, but I couldn’t get the quilt down and turned over easily to take a picture of that bit, so you’ll have to take my word for it. I have to ask that you keep in mind this was a project for school and none of it reflects my beliefs. I also ask that you don’t think I’m too strange for having favorite parts of a quilt that depicts hell, I tend to think of it as just another quilt. Although I am a little weird :-), but that’s a different story.

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