Needle Felting: Family of Penguins

Happy New Year everyone! (It’s the end of January, you say? Well, so what, I say!)

For Christmas, I received a crafting kit. Now, I may have only shown my cross-stitching endeavours on this blog so far, but in reality I’ve found myself enjoying way more crafts than just that over the past couple of years. Scrapbooking, cardmaking, latch hooking, longstitching, and a little bit of crochet… I love them all. I’m hopeless at most, but I’m happiest when I’m tucking into one of those crafts. And, you know what? I haven’t been doing enough of them these past few months.

The kit I was bought, however, was for none of the above crafts. It was, mysteriously, for something known as “Needle Felting”. Of course, I was more excited about the prospect of learning a new craft than I was about the craft itself. I’d heard about “felting” but had no idea, really, what it involved. It took me a few weeks before I got round to opening the kit and actually seeing what was inside. But now, after a few nights’ work, here is the, er, finished product.

penguins1Penguins! Believe it or not, Needle Felting is the process of creating little animals with a sharp needle and lots of stabbing. Here are the three penguins I created: Big Penguin, Medium Penguin, and Little Derp. (I named them myself.)

They look a bit different to what they do on the box, don’t they? Well, there’s something else you should know about me: when starting new crafts – new anythings, really – I barely ever follow the instructions to the tee. If I play a new board game, I’m always trying to reinvent the rules on my first turn. And when I start a new craft, I always think I know best and try to do things differently. So, alas, these penguins look nothing like their photographic counterparts. (I think I’m also just really bad at this.)

In my defence, though, Big Penguin was made exactly to the rules.

penguins2I started off with a polystyrene egg, some black wool, some cream wool, and the orange beak and black flipper glue-ons. The wool was unwoven and very fuzzy; you try and pull it apart, and it just locks together. It’s the kind of material you have to be nice to. You separate it by tugging gently.

What I then did was I made a circular, stomach-shaped disc, and held it in place on the egg. Then, penguins6the instructions told me to “stab the felt”. And so I did; gently at first, but then I started taking all the fury of the world into my hand, and suddenly I was destroying the polystyrene and creating what could only be described as a “beige mess”. After that, I added the black and shaped it around the rest of the egg to complete the penguin. And all the while I was thinking, “this is a craft? Stabbing with a sharp needle is suddenly a skill of some kind?” But it is. Needle felting, amazingly, is all about stabbing wool. I was addicted right from when that beige mess was created.

For those who are as unfamiliar with it as I was, the needle you use when felting has littlepenguins7 nips in the end of it which tug down on the felt as you “stab” it. (I tried to take a picture to show you, but it’s really hard to see in the photo I ended up with. Just take my word for it.) The more you stab the felt, the more the wool knots and matts together. The idea is to turn that fluffy stuff into dense, tough felt, that can then be essentially “carved” into the shape you want it to by further stabbing.

The polystyrene isn’t a trait of “regular” needle felting, by the way. Big Penguin is very light to hold due to his polystyrene core, but if he’d been made purely out of wool, the technique difference – and weight difference – would have been quite drastic for me as a newbie. Just making Big Penguin into an egg shape alone would have provided me with a week’s worth of entertainment.

Next up, the smallest penguin. Little Derp is different from his larger counterpart.

penguins4Little Derp was supposed to be made like Big Penguin – beige mess first, then add the black, and so on. I was quite excited about working on a smaller scale, so I decided to leap straight into the smallest guy before starting on the middle one. But it didn’t really click until I started just how bad this whole polystyrene design was.

As you can imagine, the egg they provided me for this guy was very small. Very small indeed. Hands up if you know what happens to polystyrene when you stab it loads of times with something sharp?

Oh, yeah. It loses all structral integrity.

After a bit of stabbing, Little Derp’s forehead caved in. It was a sorry sight. So, I reinvented the rules.

To make Little Derp I rolled up a wad of black wool and stabbed and stabbed it until it resembled a tiny egg shape around the same size as the one provided. I then pulled apart a little bit of beige and started making his stomach that way. Of course, any normal person would, at this point, realise that it would be better to do dark on light, rather than light on dark. But oh well.

I was proud when I’d finished Little Derp. He was tiny, cute, derpy, and totally solid. I spent ages working on him, and it was so worth it in the end. (Even if his eyes are a little too close together.) I much preferred making him “from scratch” than I did doing the whole polystyrene thing with Big Penguin. I was still addicted.

I started making the third penguin – Middle Penguin – the same way as Big Penguin, initially. I wanted to follow the rules again, see where it actually lead me. And I do admit, this attempt turned out real good.

penguins5The egg was fine, really. It held out like the big one did, and generally I was happy with it. But, there was something missing. I felt, after making Little Derp, that I wanted to try and do this one properly – the polystyrene-less way.

So I put this perfect little egg aside, Christened him “Almost Penguin”, and then took a big ball of beige wool and started stabbing it.

And thus, Middle Penguin was born.

penguins3For my first attempt at shaping, from scratch, a ball of wool, this guy turned out really good. I spent ages trying to get it into a perfect egg shape; pinching the top, flattening the bottom. I covered the body with the remaining black felt and managed to retain the egg shape. It was a bit slimmer than intended, in the end, but it worked really well. Adding the eyes gave him deeper eye sockets than he needed, but I cared more, at this point, about the shape of the body.

And then he was done. I used Almost Penguin’s beak and arms and finished Middle Penguin off nicely. And doesn’t he look amazing? Not perfect, certainly; but amazing. I’m so, so chuffed.

Like I said, I have done loads of crafts. Cross-stitch is my favourite because of how easy it is to create such a stunning visual. But no craft has ever given me the satisfaction that this did, when I finished Middle Penguin. From scratch.

So what, my penguins don’t look like they do on the box? So what, I ended up doing all three of them completely differently? And so what, I bent the rules? There was no way I was going to be satisfied with some collapsed polystyrene and a load of white debris in the felt. This was fun. This was really, really fun.

Since starting these, I’ve spent a lot of time on YouTube watching other people doing needle felting. If you have no idea what it is I’ve just been explaining, please take a look at some of these. I promise you, you’ll want to try it yourself when you do!

Maqaroon – Kittens, Ten Things you Must Know about Needle Felting
Cloudofsheep – Sheep
bubzbeauty – Make a Cute Kitty!

I have three more kits on order… we’ll see how I do next time. Let me know what you think!:)

NaNoWriMo: End of the Month (50,101)

On the 7th November, 2015, I decided to do some writing before bed despite being tired, uninspired and already demotivatingly behind. I managed just 400 words.

If I hadn’t done that, then I probably wouldn’t have won this year.

Okay, I wasn’t that behind. I’ve seen the graphs of people who were further behind than me. And I’ve seen the graphs of people who worked harder and wrote more per day than me. But I’m still proud of myself – I got ahead, I started a routine, and I finished my project. I won NaNoWriMo for the second year running, and achieved my fourth success overall.

Did you catch that? I WON!!

Day 30 GraphAs I predicted, I barely had time to write over the weekend. It wasn’t until about 8am on Monday morning, while I was riding a train back home from Wolverhampton, that I was really able to get stuck into things. And then, one hour before work when I got home at 10am, I managed to finish my seventh story and hit 50k. And then I went to work, and when I got home, I went to bed. Slept and slept and slept.

It was amazing, that feeling. Being able to validate my novel and then see the little purple winner’s bar for a second year running – that really was one of the best feelings. It was even better than seeing the little purple winner’s bar last year, simply because I actually care about what I’ve produced this month. And I worked so, so much harder to produce it.

Here’s the rough final story tally:

  1. “Japan”, 5k
  2. “An Army of Elves”, 10k
  3. “Silence”, 2k
  4. “Fairy Tales”, 18k
  5. “Case File”, 3k
  6. “Premonition”, 7k
  7. “Lyte After Death”, 2k

People who have been keeping up with my progress may notice that I haven’t yet written an eighth story, despite saying that I would. I can’t lie, part of me ommitting the story was because I ran out of time. But another part of it – the bigger part – was me realising that it was probably the weakest story out of the bunch and that, if I was going to include it in the sequence, I wanted to make sure it actually added something to the narrative first. So, what I’m going to do is read the sequence in full, and then see where and how that eighth story would fit in. And if it doesn’t, then so be it. But, honestly, I love the sequence as it is right now, and feel that I’ve covered every angle I wanted to cover.

Is that a good enough excuse? *grins*

Normally I’d feel rubbish about stopping at 50k, but this time I just don’t care. It’s finished. It’s done. And I’m very happy with it.

That’s NaNoWriMo over for another year, and I’m already excited for the next one. Thanks everyone who’s cheered me on during the past month, and I hope that you also achieved what you wanted to this month – NaNo-related or otherwise.:)

Happy December!

NaNoWriMo: End of Day 26 (45,048)

Guys. I’m exhausted.

I didn’t hit the line, as I said I would, two days ago. I hit it unceremoniously last night (Day 25) and have now nudged my way above it. I’m now a day ahead of the graph, with just 5k to go until I’m a winner. I’m still averaging 2-3k a night.

But, my god am I exhausted. Two years ago – hell, last year, even – November seemed to go by really quickly. I don’t know if it was just the fact that I had a different working pattern, and therefore more spare time, or if time has done some weird timey thing and made this year go slower. But, honestly, this month is dragging. In the years I’ve given up on NaNo halway through, the month has then sped by and before you know it, “Hey Santa!”. This year, however… being behind target for almost the whole month has made everything go by so, so slowly. And right now, I just can’t wait for it to be over.

It’s not that I’m not enjoying NaNo this year – I totally am. I’ve now finished 5 of my 8 planned stories, and the writing routine has really improved my inspiration, motivation, and hopefully, general writing ability. But, at the same time… it’s been such a pain trying to catch up. So much pressure. It’s my own fault, of course, because I was the one who put myself behind in the first place. But still. This challenge is brutal, but I never really felt that way back when I was participating as a teenager. Having other life-related responsibilities at the same time has really sucked it out of me. I don’t envy the participants with more responsibility than me.

I’m looking forward to the day I hit 50k and the relief I’ll undoubtedly feel. I can’t lie and say that I’ve been the happiest in myself this month. But I think that if I hadn’t had NaNo, I might have felt worse, in a way. Because at the back of my mind, there’s a little voice thanking me for having something to strive for and – touch wood – succeed in.

I’m hoping – hoping – that I’ll hit 50k tomorrow. It’s only five thousand words. That’s all. Ignore the fact that I haven’t actually done 5k in a day for the whole month. But it’d be great, wouldn’t it? I’m actually going away Saturday night and coming back Monday morning, and then starting my new job at midday. So after Saturday, I won’t have much more time at all. But I’ll definitely – touch wood – win.

*has nightmares of midnight striking at 49,999k*

So, here’s proof of my achievements these past few days:

Day 26 GraphI’m very proud of myself. I never thought, on Day 9, that I’d recover from that horrendous 5-day laziness. I don’t even remember why I didn’t write. I know that I was being a bit more slack with myself over actually achieving the 50k, but since then I’m just wondering: what’s the point in not going for it? You can not go for the 50k every month. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to go for the 50k. Otherwise, it’s just a normal month.

Like I said, I finished my fifth story today. It didn’t turn out exactly as I’d originally planned, but that’s okay… I guess. It definitely needs more work, and I think I’ll look forward to expanding on the idea a bit more. It has potential, I feel.

Progress:

  • 1. “Japan”, 5k
  • 2. “An Army of Elves”, 10k
  • 4. “Fairy Tales”, 18k
  • 6. “Premonition”, 7k
  • 8. “Lyte After Death”, 3k

I’m writing the twin of story #6 next, #3, which I’ve christened “Silence” and decided that it won’t hold any dialogue. At all. I’m enjoying using these stories as proofs of concept as well as simply stories, and I’ve also tried to make each one different or unique in some way.

Anyway. I’m heading off to sleep now. It’s the last day at my old job tomorrow, and I’m actually feeling really nervous. (I’m weird.) Wish me luck at really making progress – if not winning – tomorrow. Hope your month is going well too!

I’ll leave you with the last 100 words of story #6.

Premonition

He looked round at them again.

“Watch this! I bet I can get over the road faster than you.”

Those were his sister’s words. He wondered if they had been following her as well, leading her to her demise. Or had she wanted to die at the hands of a metal machine?

He lost his balance on the curb. He fell. The cars didn’t stop.

He watched from the ground as the creatures began to run towards him. They had been waiting for him to die. He realised that now. He closed his eyes against the pain and then it was over. The song on the radio kept on playing, and the creatures retrieved their prize.

NaNoWriMo: End of Day 23 (37,477)

I’m really sorry I haven’t done any progress updates until now. But you’ve gotta understand, right? I mean, I’ve done 8k in three days. If that doesn’t give me an excuse not to blog then I don’t know what does.

Let’s stop being negative, shall we? NaNoWriMo is amazing. I am amazing. I have managed to pick myself up from a disastrous start (okay, it could have been worse, but still) and I am now powering (I hope) my way to 50k. If I can continue to do at least 3k each night until Thursday, I should hit 50k in plenty of time.

Just look at my amazing, incredible, outstanding, perfect, shiny, promising graph. And bow down to my excellence.

Day 23 GraphThe only thing I regret is having work tomorrow. If I didn’t, I would get that extra 900 words done now and hit the line, on top of the blog post I’m now writing. (Speaking of which, why the hell can’t these words count towards my total, eh?)

Tomorrow, I’m going to hit the line. And then the next day, I’m going to sail above it. And so on, until the weekend, when… well, things will flatline again, unfortunately. I actually have a party to go to on Saturday (family stuff, that is – not a house party) and don’t anticipate I’ll get much writing done during the day. And then, on Sunday, I have a daytrip in the afternoon and a gig in the evening, and I’m not even sure if I’ll have my laptop with me. Worst. Timing. Ever.

Thankfully, the 30th November is on the Monday. So what, it’s my first day at my new job? If I need to, I will stay up until midnight that night (like I have done tonight) just to try and get as many words done as possible. Let’s just hope I don’t come down with the flu or something.

I am currently writing the fourth story, which is story #6 in the sequence. I finished story #4, and wrote the whole of story #8 (#4’s twin) straight afterwards. Story #4 came out at a whopping 18k, while story #8 totalled about 3k. I’m so proud but also so embarrassed of both of them; they’re so badly written and quite rushed. Story #2, the second one I wrote, is still my favourite so far. But we’ll see how the remaining ones I manage to fit in turn out!

Here’s my rough progress, then:

  • 1. “Japan”, 5k
  • 2. “An Army of Elves”, 10k
  • 4. “Fairy Tales”, 18k
  • 8. “Lyte After Death”, 3k

Because I finished it so quickly, here’s a 100-word excerpt of story #8. I’ll be back soon with another update. Wish me luck at hitting 50k!

Lyte After Death

Some say that lytelings take the souls from those who want to die. It’s guessed that there are rifts visible in the places on earth where people have ended their lives, and the lytelings travel through and take the souls of those before they pass over.

Some say that lytelings take the souls from those who died from illnesses, to give them second chances. But personally, I feel that those with illnesses probably wouldn’t thrive as much as the lytelings need. I mean, who would want an unwell soul? Who would want to be someone who had been dying from a terrible disease, or whatever else?

What I think, Grampy, is that lytelings only take the souls of those who have lived full, happy lives. Because, then, the lytelings who the souls are given to also live long and happy lives.

NaNoWriMo: End of Day 20 (29,049)

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been so damned determined. Well, ish.

I’ve been making myself quite unhappy, actually, because I’ve been depriving myself of “me” time in favour of doing this. Normally, for the last hour or so in the evenings I stick on a DVD and do some cross-stitching to help me wind down and get into that happy zone before sleep. But, these past two weeks, I’ve been replacing that happy time with determined writing. I’ve been aiming for 2k a night, and have largely succeeded. But that success has come with the sacrifice of my happiness, because I really, really miss that “me” time.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the writing. I really do. This is what I want to be doing. I just miss my wind down times. I can’t relax when working on a NaNoWriMo project!

I’ve returned to my old ways, and am currently using the evening to write rather than during the day. Because both my parents are at home right now, I’m finding it increasingly hard to do anything productive while in their presence, simply because they’re always watching TV or taking up the whole dining table or talking or whatever else. And the daylight in my room is extremely distracting. I’m finding myself productive only when I’m in my room at night, with the curtains closed and a slight droopiness to my eyes. If I’m tired, I tend to work harder. That’s how it was at uni, and it seems to be how it will be forever.

Because of these late-night writing sessions, I’ve also been staying up far too late and making myself quite tired and miserable the next day. More than once I’ve just… broken down with tiredness. I’m not even working full-time at the moment, but I still have to get up early. And if I don’t get that full eight hours sleep, I’m guaranteed to have problems.

I guess it’s all been worth it, though. Because a consistent 2k a day is helping me work my way slowly to the 50k. I said before that I wasn’t really aiming for it, but now I am.

I will get that damned 50k.

I’m just aiming for it at a more leisurely pace than I should be.

Day 20 GraphI’m still on story #4, by the way. It’s going… okay. Turning out a lot longer than I intended, really, and a lot of it is such nonsensical filler. I’m making quite a lot of it up as I go along, so there are inconsistencies as big as Russia in the early pages. But that’s okay.

Isn’t all this what NaNo’s about, anyway? Writing rubbish stories, sacrificing free time in favour of writing, being tired… I’m truly feeling the strain this year. But I know it’ll be worth it in the end, even if I don’t manage to complete all 8 stories.

As usual, here’s a little snippet. And wish me luck for this weekend. I didn’t do any writing last weekend, but I’m determined to keep it going this time.

Fairy Tales

From chapter 5.

He still didn’t know when he’d be seeing her in future, nor did he know whether or not she’d continue to look forward to seeing him. As long as he had the stories to promise her, she had a reason to keep coming back. And that was precious.

“I’ll tell you one more thing,” he then said. “Are you sure you want to know it?”

She nodded enthusiastically. “Of course I do!” she said. “What is it? Tell me!”

He then said, in a quiet voice, “They have human eyes.”

“Eyes that look like ours?”

“No. They have actual human eyes. Eyes that once belonged to humans.”

She fell silent, and remained so for the rest of the journey home.