Peacock Spider – Maratus elephans

Back in July 2019 (can we even fathom how long ago that was??) I took a vote from my patrons over at my Patreon page. It was decreed I’d needle felt a bowhead whale — AND a peacock spider. I made the bowhead a while back, but this guy has been languishing in my studio far too long. I am profoundly proud to finally announce his completion!

Peacock spider males are famous for their incredibly colorful abdomens, which some can unfurl like a banner for their mating dances.

He is a Maratus elephans specimen. Yes, the name is referencing the elephant-looking design on his flashy abdomen. The blue is sort of shaped like an elephant face with a trunk down the middle with ears off to the sides.

Photo of a maratus elephans from the website peacockspider.org (so many amazing photos!)

Real peacock spiders are tiny – some species are as small as 2.5 mm! My sculpture is about 135 mm long, or 5.5 inches.

He is needle felted wool over a thin wire armature. All his joints are easily articulated and even his display flaps can be folded down. His eyes are plastic hot glued in place.

The legs took hours and hours. There are so many, many, many legs.

Move the slider to make him dance

To get a peek behind the scenes of how I made this guy, join my PATREON!

You’ll also get other cool benefits, like a chance to win your own needle felted oddling and vote to decide on what I make next!

Head over to my PATREON page to become part of the team

https://www.patreon.com/familiaroddlings

Want to take this guy home with you? He’s available in my etsy shop: Needle felted Peacock Spider – Maratus elephans

Lorises don’t make good pets

Needle felted wool on wire armature with plastic eyes.

Lorises are adorable little primates with huge soulful eyes. Their round furry faces have “sad” eyebrow markings. They have tiny hands with five fingers, just like a human baby. They even at times appear to be asking for a hug or a tickle.

But they are not.

Loris doesn’t want your hugs.
Loris in distress

YouTube videos of these sweet faced animals lifting their arms and bearing their armpits have gone viral. We want to sweep the little darlings up in a cuddle. But most people don’t know that these critters are venomous and the arm lifted pose is in fact a sign of distress. They lift their arms to lick their inner elbows, where a special gland secretes venom. Their next bite is serious business!

The venom is only one reason why keeping a loris as a pet is a bad idea. They are taken illegally from their natural habitats in destructive ways, their teeth are removed in painful and often lethal procedures, and they are kept in small crowded cages. The stress of bright lights and transportation often kills them. And even if they survive the process of becoming a pet, once in human care, they are almost certainly malnourished. A diet of insects and tree gum is hard for humans to cater. Neither are they suited to human schedules – they are nocturnal and need solid chunks of sleep during the day. They also have complex social lives and need a mysterious combination of space and companionship that science is only just now starting to unravel.

If all those reasons aren’t enough, consider the fact that the pet trade is threatening the wild population of these animals.

I know what you’re thinking.

But they are so cute!

I know, I know.

We want to cuddle one, just one!

I hear you.

What if I told you there was a way to cuddle a loris and keep it in your home without harming it while ALSO helping lorises in the wild?

Watch my video below to find out how:

 

Lorises need to be free.

Please visit The Little Fireface Project to learn more about these amazing denizens of the forest and how to help them.

Help a loris.
Thank you!

A Taste of Art for the Holidays

I had my first “in person” art show at the Half Moon Bay Library on December 7th and 8th with the Colony of Coastside Artists. It was a blast! I had never met and spoken to so many people about my artwork – and they were all so supportive and kind! My husband, Nick, acted as my spokesperson when my shyness threatened to send me inside my shell and I was honored to make connections with so many fascinating people. I even got to hear an octopus story!

The library is gorgeous. The natural light from all the windows showed off our art beautifully. And the librarians were hospitable heroes! They made the entire event seamless and fun.

The first day was rainy.

I made cranberry and pecan pinwheel cookies! And chocolate chip cookies too, though they’re not as photogenic.

A heartfelt THANK YOU to all the visitors who came, all the artists who participated, and all the library staff who helped pull off a wonderful show!

Tweed the cat

Some months ago, I received a custom order for a pet memorial of this lovely, lovely fellow:
TweedRefPhoto

It was an honor to make such a meaningful piece. I needle felted wool over a pipe cleaner armature, used small glass eyes, and made the whiskers from fishing line glued in place with superglue.

_TweedChair_TweedChair2

_TweedCollar
I made a removable collar like the one in the photo reference.

_TweedFace
Such unique facial markings!

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My initials on the belly, lost in the fur.

_TweedinWindow
I was told he had a funny habit of sitting on top of vases and pots. What a silly!

_TweedSide

If you would like to see some of the process that went into making this needle felted oddling, wander over to my Patreon page where I show many, many photos of the different stages and changes I made as I worked:

Familiar Oddlings on Patreon

Familiar Oddlings is going to be on Patreon!

I’m putting together a Patreon page where you can support me making oddlings — and get some cool exclusive stuff while you’re at it!

Familiar Oddlings will launch on Patreon on February 20th

But what is Patreon, you ask?

Patreon is a membership platform that provides business tools for creators to run a subscription content service, with ways for artists to build relationships and provide exclusive experiences to their subscribers, or “patrons.”

 

What will Familiar Oddlings on Patreon be like?

When you become a patron for Familiar Oddlings, you get a chance to win a custom felted snonkey!

Green Banana Snonkey, needle felted

Everyone who signs up as a patron will be entered into a snonkey giveaway. When we reach 50 patrons, I will randomly draw the name of the winner, who will get to choose what kind of snonkey they want.

Some of the prints available

And that’s just the beginning! There will be all sorts of other cool things, like exclusive photos and videos of my work in progress, prints, and even a discount in my etsy shop. You’ll also get to participate in polls to help me figure out what type of oddling to make next.

Why am I doing Patreon?

There are so many projects that I wish to pursue, so many new oddlings I want to felt, and even a book I’m working on illustrating in crayons. With your support and feedback, I could bring these projects to fruition. Having you all at my back will give me the courage to step beyond my comfort zone, learn new skills, and ultimately bring more oddlings into the world!

To be honest, I am both terrified and thrilled about this new step for Familiar Oddlings. I feel like I’m taking my first wobbly steps as newborn giraffe. All gangly and awkward and eager to get moving.

Thank you to everyone for being part of this exciting journey with me!

Remember, February 20th is Familiar Oddlings Patreon launch day!

Protect your hands

Needle felting is hard on your hands. The repetitive motion of stabbing the needle into the wool is not only a hazard for your fingertips — those needles are sharp! — but it can be a strain on your wrists and finger joints, especially if you are working on a project for any extended period of time. Sitting for hour after hour stabbing at a clump of wool can lead to aches going up into your arms and your back as well.

Here I’ll share with you a few of the things I do to try to help prevent these aches, or in the cases where it seems inevitable, at least recover from them. If you have more ideas, please share them in the comments.

Let’s do whatever we can to make needle felting a more fun and less painful experience.

THIMBLES. I recommend always using thimbles to guard against stray pokes. As noted above, these needles are sharp. I have drawn blood more times than I care to count, even while wearing thimbles. Without them, my fingers would be riddled with scars. Even if I’m just going to do a few “touch up” pokes, I put my thimbles on. It’s the best policy.

I like to use leather thimbles so that I can manipulate the wool with relative ease and feel where exactly the needle is while still being well protected. You can find these thimbles in the quilting section of most craft stores and there are many online sources for them as well.

NimbleThimble
Nimble Thimble from JOANN Fabric and Crafts

WORK SURFACE. Using a pad of some kind as a work surface. This is something that I moved away from and then returned to throughout my needle felting life. I have learned the deeper wisdom of it over the years. Not only does the pad provide protection against the sharp needle stabbing into your leg or any other appendage, it lets your supporting hand, the one not doing the stabbing, rest. I felt a lot of long and thin shapes, like snonkey eyestalks and tapir stripes, and I often hold the strip of wool in between my thumb and finger while I stab at it. So exhausting! My left hand quickly cramps up. I’ve found it is so much easier on the hand to let the wool rest on the work surface and hold it minimally in place.

There are different types of work surfaces to use with needle felting. When I first began felting, I used a piece of foam. I didn’t like it because it crumbled after being poked so many times. It also made loud noises whenever the needle went into the foam, so pretty much … Every. Single. Second. I was working on my project. Maddening. Then for a while I used a pillow, which got wrecked in short order. Now, after years of not using any work surface at all, I use a Woolbuddy, which is actually itself made of  densely felted wool. I highly recommend it.

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Woolbuddy on Amazon.com

STRETCHES. Taking the time in the morning to do a few stretches and exercises to specifically strengthen your hands and fingers can really help. Every day before beginning my felting session I spend about a minute opening and closing my hands in fits in rapid succession. After the minute is up, I roll my wrists in circles and shake my hands out till they feel comfortable again. This has really helped stave off aches in my hands and wrists.

Here is an excellent short video for more great exercises: exercises for tendinitis (tendonitis) or carpal tunnel (cps)

Another video that I’ve found helpful: Yoga for Wrists & Fingers – Yoga for Wrist Cramps & Carpal Tunnel

When I’ve overdone it and my hands and shoulders are aching, yoga in general has been very healing for me. Try a few different things and find what works best for you.

TAKING BREAKS. This is an important one to keep in mind when you’re in the middle of a project and want to get “just one more” piece of it done. If you’ve been at it for more than an hour, take a little break and rest your hand. Get up and get a glass of water, pet the cat, or simply daydream for a moment. It will really help give your hands that little bit of recovery that enables you to get that much more done when you can come back to it fresh.

 

Those are the major things I can recommend to help you with this fantastic hobby. I’d love to learn more methods so let me know any good tips and tricks you’ve figured out in the comments.

Anthopleura WIP Video

I’ve been working really hard on the needle felted Anthopleura sola, the Starburst anemone, but making all those tentacles is taking a long time. So I thought I’d give you guys a peek into the process by…

… making my first needle felting video! View it at the link:

 

Below are some stills from the video with a bit more information.

MixRoving1_web
I found a yarn that was the perfect color to blend with my other roving (loose wool ready for felting or spinning). I only need to take it out of its loosely spun strands and make it into roving. You can do this with any yarn that is %100 wool, or any kind of felt-able fiber.

MixRoving2_web
Using specialized carding combs, I blend the two colors of roving together. You can get combs like these from Etsy or your local craft store.

TentacleCore_web
Here you can see I am wearing leather thimbles on my fingers and thumb. I use a wooden needle holder that I’ve found to be the most comfortable. Even though it has multiple slots, I typically use only a single needle. I felt on a Woolbuddy pad, which is a mat of densely felted wool that works just like a foam pad but better.

The start of the tentacle is a core of plain undyed roving, which is then covered and expanded upon with the blended roving. After rolling the wool into roughly the shape of a tentacle, I poke it repeatedly. The barbed needle does the felting by grabbing the strands and tangling them around each other with every poke. Slowly the tentacle starts to form and hold its shape.

TentacleGreen_web
I stretch the blended roving out in a line to get the tentacle long and thin.

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I add blue roving to the tip of the tentacle.

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The tentacle is complete and ready to join the others on the anemone!

Thank you for watching my process! This is a long and intense project and I’m glad to have you all along with me.

Check back for photos of the finished anemone.

Anthopleura sola WIP

Today’s post is a sneak peek of my latest needle felting project: Anthopleura sola, the Starburst anemone.

These are one of the most gorgeous sights you’ll see as you walk along the tide pools of the California coast, with their jewel-like tentacles dancing in the currents. You can spot this particular species by the stripes radiating out from the center in a luminous “burst.” Here is a photo I took on one of my excursions to the tide pools:

FitzgeraldAnemone
Anemone at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

And more photos of these magnificent life forms:

 

I want the felted Anthopleura sola to be life-sized with a diameter of about 150 cm. I’m pushing myself to work larger which allows me to get in more details.

 

 

AnemoneWIP_web
Here you can see I’m experimenting with different colors and seeing how they come together. I had to blend a few different colors together to find what I wanted. I blend the wool by carding it between two combs.

AnemoneWIP3_web
I found the colors that I liked and put in the delicate “burst” pattern.

AnemoneWIP4_web
Starting to put in the tentacles!

I loved poking these creatures when I was a kid and watching their tentacles retract, and then poking them again and seeing the water gush out. It was so exciting! I doubt they enjoyed it very much, however, and I no longer practice this harassment. But I still adore watching these beauties in their shallow pools.