Working Armature

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fuzzy sticks and jewelry wire cutters

I’m trying my first attempt at building the base to my first dog sculpture with armature in it. I got 18 gauge wire from Living Felt, when I made my order, knowing that I would need this for what I wanted to do. I did have to make a run to Wal-mart to pick up, what I call pipe cleaners, and everyone else is now referring to them as fuzzy sticks. So now that the label says “fuzzy Sticks,” that’s how I will refer to them. I just thought I should clarify in case you didn’t know if their name change or if you didn’t know what they were called before of their name change.

A youtube video (she talks about the build of an armature at about 6:20) had told me to twist my wire, so that’s what I did. It turns out, it really hurt my fingers and I had a really hard time twisting. When we made our next late night trip to Wal-mart, I went back into the jewelry section and picked up the last of the fuzzy sticks (you can never have too many right?) and a wire cutter. This has helped me twist my wire so much better. It gives me a better grip and I can twist evenly all the way down. It also allows me to cut wire, which is more important than I thought.

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Once I got the armature to where I wanted it, and that includes making sure it stood on all four legs properly, I covered the armature with fuzzy sticks (pipe cleaners).  And once that was all covered, I rechecked to make sure it was still on all four legs, and then started to twist the wool around the wire.  I should remind you, work your needles at 45 degree angles, as to not jab into the wire.  I have yet to break a needle using this method.

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With this being my first one, I added slowly.  I will be adding coat all around, except for the poodles clean feet, but I still want to make sure I capture the true shape of the legs.  I’m also curious as to how I’m going to go about the face, feet, and tail.  The face and feet have no fur, as poodles have clean faces and feet, but the tail has just a tiny bit of hair, if I do the German Trim.  I think I would like to try and trim that I don’t typically get to practice on.  On the other hand, I was thinking I might need to stick with a trim that I know, as I work through the unfamiliar media.  I can’t image trimming wool would be too different from trimming a poodle, but it would be easier to work with a trim I know rather then learn how to work these felted dogs, and a new hair cut.  But we’ll see how brave I get, once I get to adding the coat in.

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I’m really not sure what type of wool I should use to get to my goal.  I  asked Living Felt what they recommended the kind of wool I should use for the coat, when I get there. They happily responded back to help, and I am so grateful for their kind recommendations.  I will share what Marie had sent back to me.

Wow, this is awesome. For the body,. of course I think you are safe with core wool and batting, it will compact nicely and smoothly. For the long fibers, experiment with: NZ Corriedale, Merino Top (though this is very fine and sometimes wants to lay on itself), and other fibers with a staple length of 3″ or longer. We also have organic POLWARTH, and other fibers like SHETLAND, JACOB and Lincoln (not all come in white tho). It is best to get small amounts to start and experiment. Plus save back a small sample from each purchase noting where you bought it, what it was called, what it cost and the name of the color. I hope that helps!

So I will be making an order, as soon as I get a little closer.  I really would like to do my research before I invest a good amount of money, and I’m definitely going to make a small order of probably a few ounces of each and play with them on a test subject.  That way I get it right on my sculpture.  I’ve also been looking into some books.  But most of them I can not get at my local bookstores, so it looks like I might be making an order on amazon.  The more research I have behind me, the better.

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A photo from my first place win, you can get an idea of what a German trim looks like.  You can slightly see his shaved spot from surgery.

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A New Hobby: Needle Felting

The work I spotted on Facebook, and what I would like to eventually achieve.

The work I spotted on Facebook, and what I would like to eventually achieve.

It was just an average morning, scrolling through my Facebook feed, reading what the groomers had to say about all the things that happened before.  Saturdays usually have a lot going on, even in the early hours, since that's typically one of the industry's busiest days.  So, I was ready for complaints of client's tardiness, not even showing up and unrealistic expectations when I scrolled across a beautiful little piece of art.  I should mention that the grooming world has these little time consuming fake dogs, commonly refereed to as yarn dogs, that groomers buy to be able to practice breeds we do not commonly see, but would like to try and perfect the hair cut too.  That's what most thought and so I started reading all 109 comments that were already attached to the shared photo.  To my surprised, I learn that this was a felted dog.  I'm sure, if you are unfamiliar with the technique, your mind jumped to those adorable little cartoon like creatures you've seen on pinterest, that are usually sold on etsy.  This was unlike any of those that I've seen, and I scope etsy out on a weekly basis.  I accepted the challenge and needed to know more, immediately.

So I friended her, like any good researcher would have, and begin looking though photos, as soon as the accept went through.  I got the accept when I was riding in the car while my husband drove us to the city to see family, and since I get car sick, I had to look at a photo, look up to watch traffic, look at the next photo and so on.  So by the time we got to family's and each member gathered to their usual place, I went onto a research frenzy.

I saw wire, wool, all these little pen looking things and what I was sure were some type of metal poker.  I ran to YouTube, and started watching needle felting tutorials.  I googled where to buy supplies and what kind of books were out there.  I wanted to make this dog.  I wanted to sculpt my own poodle with the realistic coat and place it proudly in my salon, next to the trophies.  But how on earth could she have gotten the wool to do that?</font

So I figured, I better start easy and work my way up.  I made a list of the things I would need, according to the YouTube videos.  I watched 6-7 videos and wrote down the tools to each one that was used and made a list of the very basics, so I didn't spend a ton of money into a hobby I may not even like.  My husband, Julio, saw I was going obsessive and knew he needed to take action.

"Babe, how about for Valentine's day tomorrow, I take you to get some felting supplies?"

I knew there was a reason as to why I married this man.  It got me to stop research long enough to curl up and watch a movie.  I would like to note, we typically do not celebrate Valentine's day, since we have an anniversary and we like to do random acts of romanticism.  It's more our style.

The next morning, we got up and went to Michael's since that's the only craft store in the area that sold felting supplies in store.  I should also mention that he drove us through a slight snow storm, which just proves his deep admiration towards his wife.  We picked up a kit, it came with the necessary wool to create the design, one need, and a mold to help you make the design.  I thought it was a perfect idea, as I had no idea how any of this worked, other than what the videos had described to me.  He also bought me some extra wool, because he knows how adventurous my brain gets and a multi needle tool.  And off we were.  We did lunch together and as soon as I got home, I opened up the kit.

I found that needle felting was pretty basic.  Poke, poke, poke, poke.  The mold really helped guide my in the right direction for making a basic dog shape (don't act too surprise, I am a dog groomer after all), and by the time I was done filling in the mold, I thought I would try building the tails and ears on my own to make the shape look more like one of my own dogs.

It took me about 4 hours to accomplish, and I learned exactly what I needed to do better for the next project, such as:

  • Make sure to pack the "stand alones" (like legs, tails or the things that are suppose to support your design) tighter.
  • Don't pack areas that need parts added on later, like ears and tail, so tight, because it makes attaching a bit more difficult
  • Get more variety of needles, because it is really difficult to do detail work with a needle that is labeled as a work horse, or packing needle.
  • Look.  Always stop to look at all sides of your design, other wise you will probably come out with different sides
  • Make pieces that you are adding together.  Especially if you are trying to mix wool colors for a realistic look.  It's really hard to know if you have the same size ear, if you already attached the other ear.
  • Try not to hold your design and poke, you will probably stab your finger(s) that are behind the design when the needle goes all the way through.
  • Using what I learned is called armature (wire) will make your design sturdier.  So I bought wire for future creatures

I showed my mother, who lives with me for the time being while she takes care of my grandma and figures out where she wants to live (closer to daughters or mother), and she wanted to try too.  So we ran to Michael's the following day to get her a kit and some wool, and tried it herself.  She got a fish, because she misses Florida.  So we'll try that while I gather materials for my next inspiration.  I also think I'll make a bit more of an investment since I really enjoyed this.  When my mother finishes her fish, I'll be sure to share

aladdin meets aladdin

Aladdin meets felted Aladdin