a woolly waldorfy britain
Abby and I are regular patrons of the lovely Winterwoods – Melbourne’s finest Steiner/Waldorf store. We bring home bundles of felt and fleece, piles of books and patterns, needles and foam, yarn, wire, wooden beads … It is a treasure trove for those who love the rich warmth and simplicity of the Steiner craft traditions.
But in the same way that Abby has never conformed to what all the other girls in her school classes have done (playing popstars in Year 1? No I’m Ernest Drake, looking for dragons) – no, despite the difficulties it sometimes creates, Abby has always sought her own path and pursued what she is passionate about – my girl does not settle down to creating the traditional Steiner dolls and playthings. Yes, Abby takes the materials, tools and techniques and uses them to create what is special to her – reflecting her interests. Something that delights the lovely owner of the store – she always looks on with an intrigued and bemused smile as this lanky teenage daughter of mine shows her the latest creation, describing the character and its story.
As I’ve mentioned several times, at the moment what truly grabs Abby is Japanese manga. The latest series she has immersed herself in is “Hetalia” - an historical series where countries are given human bodies and the dramatic events of the 20th century are turned into the stories of individuals. It’s quite clever, sometimes dark – as is appropriate given the turbulent time it reflects, with the customary manga dose of irony. And it has provided Abby and I with the opportunity for hours worth of discussions about history and countries and the people who have shaped them. As a history graduate, I find this so marvellous :-)
Now, Abby’s school is celebrating National Library Week with a competition where students are asked to create a visual representation of a favourite character from a book. Naturally, Abby chose to make a doll. And naturally, it’s from “Hetalia” – Britain – a fellow that looks suspiciously like Captain Jack from the superb Master and Commander series.
So off we went to Winterwoods – plucked some coloured Romney fleece for the clothes, some interlock for the head and a fresh set of stabby felty needles (it’s amazing how the tips of these wear down – inevitable I guess, but I do keep looking to see if I can spy sharp barbs in the needle felted dolls we make – I haven’t yet :-).
We used the directions in a Steiner doll making book Abby gave me for my birthday to make the head, added a thick jute covered wire skeleton and then Abby set to work with her fleeces. To get a variegated effect with some of the colours, I jumped in occasionally and used my spinning carders to blend different colours – under her keen eyed direction of course. She pulled and stabbed and shaped and layered, creating a marvellously rich and wonderful naval outfit for her doll. Out of fleece! It’s truly amazing.
My final task was to embroider the facial features and add the hair. Man oh man! Is it damn hard work sewing that hair into the tightly woven interlock. I ended up buying a selection of needles in an attempt to find the perfect one. I failed. And so have spent many hours wearing my fingers to the bone yanking that bloody yarn through. I think I may truly hate boucle yarn. Ugh!
However, the final product is … I think … thrilling! It fills me with awe that a) you can create a wonderfully three dimensional doll out of just fleece and a needle and b) that my daughter has the time, patience, passion and skill to do this. Awesome!