Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Make a needle felted gnome

We've been busy needle felting crafts for a local Christmas handmade craft sale and the latest thing we made were gnomes.  I thought I'd show you how these adorable little guys are made.

This is all you need.  I used naturally black and white washed sheep's wool from my friend's Jacob sheep.  All the dyed wool has been dyed with Jacquard Acid dyes, which you can buy at Dharma Trading company.  The exception to this is the reddish brown pygora goat hair, just below the gnome.  This has been dyed with Hawaiian red dirt.  I suppose you could get a similar effect with tea or coffee.  Last time I was headed to Hawai'i, I remembered our clothes always being stained from the iron rich red dirt growing up, so I brought some goat hair along.  This is the color it turned when I simmered it with some red dirt in a cloth pouch.  

The vibrant red is a mixture of Pygora goat and Jacob sheep wool. The blue is pure sheep's wool.  The locks of white in the center are ( I think) Lincoln sheep wool, left in the locks to use as a beard.  These sheep produce long locks of wool.  You can find wool, raw, carded and dyed on from countless sellers.  

You will also need a felting needle and cushion.  The felting needles can be bought at Joann fabric or Mielke's Fiber Arts.  You can buy replacement chair cushions at your local big box store, or use your couch cushions.  I love to buy antique hand carders.  They actually tend to be less expensive than new ones.  I bought mine on Ebay.  You can also buy two dog brushes at Target or any pet supply store and use them in the same way.  

Front of Gnome

Back of Gnome

Carded Jacob Sheep Wool

Roll tightly, at a slight tilt, so that the top is smaller than the bottom, and the bottom is slightly rounded

Begin to poke with the felting needle.  Be sure to turn it constantly so it doesn't become flat or stuck to the cushion.  You are essentially sculpting the wool with the needle.  Felting needles have little indentations that catch the wool and push it deep into the wool mass when you poke.  It will be more dense the more you poke.  Keep on poking until it's not fuzzy anymore.  You will round the bottom and taper the top.

Card your red wool and goat hair together,  Goat hair alone is too fuzzy and won't felt well.  When you card, hold carders in opposing directions, barely touching the tines together.  You will end up with bats that look like this after removing it and putting it back on the carders it 3 or four times.  Go to YouTube to see how to card.

Wrap the wool around just the top of your form you made, allowing no white wool to show.  Taper at the top. Needle felt.

Card your dark brown wool.

Wrap around the bottom of the form, allowing no white to show.

Needle felt well.

Card your red dirt or tea dyed goat hair.  

Wrap around the area just below the hat.  This is the skin for your gnome's face.

Roll a portion into a ball, leaving it a little fuzzy and needle felt it to the face, just below the brim of the hat.

Roll a tiny portion of black wool into a ball, needle felt to left of nose, just below brim of hat.

Repeat on other side.  Needle felt all around the nose.

Needle felt blue wool shirt wool between pants and face.

Roll little balls of the skin colored wool and make ears.

Take the locks of lincoln wool and lay them next to one another.  

Tease the locks, then fold in half.  

Needle felt just below nose at the folded spot of the wool.  Needle felt to blue shirt too.  

Needle felt so the the beard forms a U beneath the face and goes up to the ears.

Do the same on the back.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Cost

Bete: this word comes from the language of the Folopa people of Papua New Guinea.  I have been reading the kids a book written by a Wycliff Bible translator about his time working with the Folopa people to put the words of the scriptures into their language in a relevant and meaningful way.

"It's a word they use and use and use; it never gets tired, never old, never used up.  Like words in any language, it has many moods, nuances, senses, shades of meaning.  At once it embodies the concepts of root, basis, prime beginnings, deep structure, first cause, life, meaning, underlying strength, essence, source.  It is the fundamental verb of 'being' and the most basic metaphor in the entire language"
--Anderson, In Search of the Source

The author speaks of how the Folopa people have no need to get back to the basics because they never left.  The author finds that these people's lives are very closely dependent on the most basic needs of life: food, shelter, family.  This is why "bete" or the deeper meaning: root or source of everything, is so crucial to them.

Because the Folopa people are very interested in the root cause of everything, when a wrong is perpetrated, whether on accident or on purpose, payback must be done.  People will only feel justice is done if an agreement is made, in which something is given in exchange for whatever is lost.  When the Folopa are introduced to the death and resurrection of Christ, this concept of payback is foremost in their minds.  This is, as the author says, "bete at its deepest level": the idea that God made an agreement with His Son, Jesus, that Jesus would become the payback for every wrong done by Man, allowing justice to be done for good.

I remember as a child always being against craft kits.  I wanted to make things from scratch: from things I could find around.  Later, as a teen, I was drawn to activities that taught me to make things from scratch: candles, quilts, paper.  This of course led to an interest in conservation and helping with a school recycling program.  On the Road was one of my favorite books in my late teen years.  I was fascinated with the way Kerouac seemed to have pared his life down to the most basic things in his quest for its meaning.

It wasn't until I was an adult and gave birth to my second child that I began to understand the bete of this quest of mine to do things from the beginning.  I had experienced a hospital birth with my first and this time wanted a birth with a midwife.  I wanted things to be simple: the way God had originally designed them to be.  I wanted to get back to the Garden, back to how everything must have been when Adam and Eve walked and talked with God, without shame, pain or anguish.   I wanted a life free of all the complications we as errant humans have superimposed upon it.  I was searching for payback: justice for all the things that seemed to get in the way of what was real and true.

My second born was a son.  His name is Isaac.  He is named after the Biblical figure whose father, Abraham, was so obedient to God and his covenant with him, that he was willing to sacrifice his own son's life because this is what God has asked of him.  I am not that faithful a person.  There is not one instance in which I would be willing to allow my son to die for anything.  I am a fiercely protective mother, selfish and jealous of this life that God first caused to grow within me.  How much more then, am I mystified when I understand that God made an agreement with his own son, Jesus, to become the sacrifice in the place of Man.

While I was filling the grain bins for my animals a few days ago, I noticed that one plastic bin was upside down and a plastic sled sat upon it.  Silly kids, I thought.  They like to play in the barn and build weird things.  I flipped the container over, intending to fill it with fresh grain and was met with a tragic sight.  Our favorite hen, who had hatched out 7 chicks this year, lay dead with two eggs beside her.  It turns out that our youngest had been playing with her, had trapped her beneath, and had forgotten to get her.  She was devastated.  It was a great loss to our family, too, as this chicken was currently our only layer out of 14 chickens.  It was important to me that the kids understand the significance of this little chicken's life, and also that an accident like this wouldn't happen again.  We decided to have a small funeral for the chicken beneath the willow tree, and thanked God for her life, and all the babies she had raised.  We thanked God that she had produced many eggs, and then we buried her.

When life is lost in a way that seems meaningless, we want to get to the source of it.  We want to give it meaning, and so in a way, our chicken gave my children a valuable lesson she only could give in her accidental death: a lesson in the high value of the life of each creature God has made.  The great bete of Christ's sacrifice for us became even clearer to me.  He cares for us infinitely more than the way we cared for our little lost chicken.  What He did should not be meaningless, but instead more meaningful to us than anything we have ever known in our lives.

The next day was bird processing day at the farm of our friends.  They had raised a heritage, free range turkey for us.  It felt important to me to be a part of processing the bird if I intended to eat it.  I wanted to get to the bete of the food I ate: to understand the true cost of a life given for another life.  I had no idea how it would affect me.

I had seen a butchering of a goose, but this day was somehow different for me.  I watched red pour over the white feathers of the first duck whose life was given and was shocked at the empathy I felt and the sense of deep significance of what this bird was giving, just so that we might enjoy a good meal.  This bird had been raised for many months:  food gathered, shelter given, water freshened.  Now it was giving the greatest thing it could:  its own flesh so that we could have food.

In a society where we are so removed from the cost of essentially everything we have, it is disconcerting to be faced with the actual cost of things: the life of a person for the right to do as we wish with our bodies; the dignity of a factory worker for the affordability of a plastic toy and even a turkey's happy life outdoors in exchange for an inexpensive Thanksgiving meal.

On that day, I was faced with the real cost of my meal.  I decided that there are two things I can do in order to show my thankfulness for the life of this turkey we plan to eat for Christmas:  I can either become a vegetarian and refuse to play a part in ending the life of another, or I can show great thankfulness for the care and love that was taken in raising it by doing my best to prepare it well and allow many people to enjoy it.  I will do the latter, but also, I think that it will be my goal in the future to try to know the person who raised the animal we are to eat, how it was raised, or to have raised it myself, just so that I know that the life of the creature was valued.

This is one small way my everyday life can reflect my gratitude for the larger bete of Christ's sacrifice for me.  There are countless ways we can do this, we need only to look for them and then to carry them out.  I am thankful for the freedom, redemption and friendship He has given me and especially for the way this bete, should I choose to remember it, can guide my actions each day.