A Heart Felt Time Together

A few weeks ago, my daughters and I were browsing in Knitterly, the local yarn store that is one of our favorite weekend outings, when the girls happened upon a book called Fuzzy Felted Friends. Perhaps because my kids grew up steeped in Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh, they have developed an affinity for Japanese design. So when they saw the subtitle of the book, “Kyuuto! = Cute! Japanese Crafts,” they were on it like white on sushi rice.

One flip through the book confirmed the statement on the inside flap, that “Japan is the homeland of all things cute.” I don’t have to look farther than my daughters’ collections of teeny Japanese food, erasers, and stationery and their love of Harajuku and Todidoki designs to know that this must be the truth.

The book is filled with adorable little animals, most not bigger than about two inches, that are crafted through a process called needle felting. It’s done by using raw wool which resembles fat ropes of cotton candy and very sharp, barbed felting needles. You start with a wad of the wool and use the needles to poke and prod the wool until the fibers intertwine and start to take shape.

The absolute cutest projects in the book are the little dogs. This talented designer was able to capture the expressions and stance of each breed in miniature. The Labrador looks eager and the Jack Russell looks playful. And the felted wool gives them a certain fuzziness that totally charming.

So we had to give this craft a try, but we thought we’d start out simple, making what Valerie calls fuzzy balls. Yes, she knows it sounds questionable, but that’s part of the fun of saying it”¦after all, she’s 16. The little balls turn out like woolly marbles and they can be strung together like they have done in the window at Knitterly to make a soft version of a bead curtain. Valerie thought this would be an ideal accessory for her artsy-craftsy room.

We hadn’t really planned to get into it, but one night at about 8:00 when Valerie was tired of doing her homework and I was just plain tired, we flopped down on the floor in the hall. The great thing about making felt balls is that it takes very little preparation and even less skill, you just grab a hunk of wool, roll it into a fluffy ball, put it on a piece of foam to give the needle something to poke into besides your thigh, and start stabbing it. Just watch out for your fingers or else you end up giving yourself acupuncture.

Valerie and I were having fun spearing and stabbing the colored little balls when our wild orange cat, Nigel, showed up on the scene. Apparently, the wool seemed like multi-colored mice that he was determined to poach. Our felting project quickly turned into a game of keep-away from him. We were laughing hysterically watching his pupils get huge just before he was about to pounce, steal a ball, and streak down the hall with it clenched firmly in his mouth.

This doesn’t seem like much of an event ““ sitting on the floor with my daughter doing a craft but it was one of those moments in time that stay with you. More than once in the days that followed, Valerie has said to me, “Wasn’t that so much fun that was when we made fuzzy balls and Nigel was such a bad cat and ran away with them?” Though I have no way of knowing this for sure, I think she’ll remember that evening for the rest of her life. Those times can’t be planned, they just happen. And when they do, it’s something to hold onto.

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