peg dolls from germany

Here in the US, it's almost impossible to buy peg dolls with conical shaped bodies, so when I arrived at Castle in the Air last Saturday and spied a basket of these lovelies, I bought a bunch of them.  It was fun to try out doll-bases of different shapes.

Not only did they have conical figures, they also had conical figures with wooden gnome-hats!!

My little one and I have been reading this gnome book, so I got busy right away making some wee gnome children for him. (Plus, we have this pop-up book, which is really sweet!)

I don't think these conical shaped dolls are listed in the online shoppe at Castle in the Air, however, if you call the store, I suspect they'd be happy to ship some to you.  Mother Goose Online also sells a fabulous selection of German-made peg doll bases via mail-order, and in Australia, you can find lovely peg doll bases at Winterwood Toys.



For the past month (or more) my little one and I have been reading the book A Fine Dessert (over and over and over).  The book depicts how one particular dessert, blackberry fool, is made by four different families over the course of 300 years. The illustrations are gorgeous, and the story of the dessert is told in few, but very evocative, words by author Emily Jenkins.  All in all, it's a well researched, fascinating book -- and not only that -- it inspired us to want to make blackberry fool. However, blackberries will not be ripe around here until mid-July, so today we headed off on an olallieberry picking expedition.  On our way home, we stopped at the beach.  The path down was lined with wild radish, mustard, hemlock, and yarrow. The wind whipped at our faces, the sky was very blue and there were wild song birds everywhere.

When we got home, we made olallieberry fool.  An olallieberry jam making session is on the schedule for tomorrow.


visiting the castle

Here are a few photos I snapped yesterday while visiting Castle in the Air for a peg doll making event.  Did you notice the above pic showing a porcelain doll with gorgeous embroidered skirt?  It's a pincushion!  And not only that... Toy Jalanugraha will be teaching a class next weekend on how to make these lovely cushions (vintage porcelain half-dolls and all other supplies are provided).

If you cannot make it to the Castle any time soon, you might enjoy taking a virtual tour by watching the above video.

Thank you, Karima, for inviting me to spend the afternoon sharing my books and my love for doll making.  I always enjoy visiting...


book review :: making needle felted animals

Are you a fan of creating needle felted projects?  Me? Not so much. I like needle felting for adding details to other projects (hello wall-hangings with needle felted clouds and spotted toadstools!); however, 3D needle felting, frankly, left me feeling bamboozled.

Then the new needle felting book from Hawthorn Press, Making Needle Felted Animals by Steffi Stern & Sophie Buckley, landed on my doorstep. Goodbye bamboozlement.

As soon as it arrived, I sat down at the kitchen table with the new book, becoming lost in the gorgeous photography, the friendly tone of the written instructions, and the personal stories which breathe spirit into each project.  Emerging an hour later, I felt confident that I really could turn a big ball of fluff into a pretty little creature. (Though, full disclosure: Steffi wrote a preface for my second book Making Peg Dolls & More, while Lucy Guenot was the designer for this new book as well as both of my own, so I had an inkling that the book would be lovely!)

from Making Needle Felted Animals
photo credit Sylvain Guenot

Of all the projects in Making Needle Felted Animals (birds, wildlife, pets, garden creatures, etc...), the one which captured my heart most was Mole from Wind in the Willows.  In the picnic tableau above, you can see Mr. Toad, Mr. Badger & Mole; and although he is not depicted in this photo, there are instructions within the book for Ratty, too (at the moment this photo was snapped, surely Ratty was over by the boat, fetching an overstuffed wicker luncheon-basket).

I had a variety of Corriedale roving in my stash, but for this project I visited A Child's Dream to purchase some Romney wool (dyed by Wilde Wool) and was pleased with how quickly it felted up (my children liked it, too, and kept absconding with bits of fluff to work up into their own projects).

My only moment of panic occurred when I needed to convert grams to ounces.  This is an important detail for readers in the United States as wool in the US is usually sold by the ounce (the authors of Making Needle Felted Animals specify in grams).  FYI: 1 ounce = approx. 28 grams. You're welcome!

After an hour of needle felting, I ended up with a perfectly podgy mole who is hilariously nearsighted (you can see him squinting myopically at photos of himself in the image above).  The advent of this funny fellow has inspired a spate of reading books containing mole characters;  there is, of course, Wind in the Willows (we love this version with illustrations by Inga Moore), a less agreeable mole in Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbellina, and a most agreeable mole in The Mushroom Man by Ethel Pochocki.

You can purchase copies of Making Needle Felted Animals and all supplies (wool fiber, foam felting pads, felting needles, wool felt sheets, etc...) from A Child's Dream.  The book is also available through Amazon and the Hawthorn Press website.  For other supply resources worldwide, you can check my resources page HERE.

Disclaimer: a copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher, however all statements and opinions are my own.


postcard project

My mom has been going through chemotherapy treatments.  Again.  This is her third round in four years, but who's counting? There's no way to candy-coat it or make it pretty by tying on a pink, lavender or whatever color ribbon.  The t-shirts, hats & buttons from these folks pretty much say it all.

What makes it even more difficult is that my parents live nearly 400 miles away -- far enough that I cannot be there on a regular basis to visit or help.  And so from my kitchen table, I try to think of what I can do. I wish I could flip over my pencil to the eraser side, walk over to my mother's MRI scans and go, "Erase, erase, erase, erase." I call every day and have sent books, pajamas, necklaces, and artwork by my children, but truly, gifts hold little meaning when the only thing any of us wants is for this to go away.

Besides wanting the cancer to go away, what she really wants is us; she would like to see me, my husband & children and my brother as often as possible.  I thought & thought about it, and after a few days, I came up with something which, in my head, I call "The Bubbe Project."  (Note: "Bubbe" -- rhymes with hubby. It is the Yiddish word for grandmother and it's what my children call my mother.)

For the project, I compiled a set of recent photos of my children and had post cards made using the photo-images. Every few days my children write messages on a card or two, and then we drop the cards in the mail.  Now, in addition to our daily phone calls, she gets photos (real photos, not digital) several times a week.  It's not the same as daily visits, but it's been fun and has brought joy.

If you would like to do a similar project, here's how:  I used the online printing service called Moo Cards because, with Moo Cards you can order a set of postcards with a different image on each card.  I am not receiving any sort of compensation for suggesting Moo Cards -- I just like them a lot (I've been ordering business cards from them for years).

Do you have any suggestions for ways to send comfort & joy to someone dear who lives too far away?


peg doll events

Hello all! A quick note to let you know about some upcoming Northern California peg doll making events:

WHEN: Saturday June 20th, 12:00-2:00 p.m. 
WHERE: Castle in the Air, Berkeley CA
WHAT: Acorn cap fairies (see photos!)
COST: Free

WHEN: Saturday August 8th, 11:00-12:00 p.m.
WHERE: San Carlos Library, San Carlos CA
WHAT: Pirates & mermaids
COST: Free

WHEN: Saturday October 17, afternoon (1:00-3:00 p.m.?)
WHERE: Circle of Hands, Sebastapol, CA
WHAT: Lenka Vodicka, author of Forest Fairy Crafts will also be there (2 book authors for the price of one -- a great opportunity to have your books signed!)  We haven't quite settled on a craft, however, it will likely be autumnal in theme and will surely involve peg dolls & fairies.

If you happen to live in Northern California, perhaps I will see you at one of these events.  If you do not live in Northern California, then keep your fingers crossed -- as my children get older, I hope to be able to travel farther afield for book signing and doll making events!



invisible tides

I spent weeks wracking my brain to come up with a birthday gift for my mother.  Nothing seemed right.  I asked her (several times) whether there was anything she wanted, and she insisted that she couldn't think of anything.  Then, in a flash, I remembered necklaces I'd seen last November at an art fair at my son's school. That evening, I rushed past the tables set out with lovely things -- then about-faced for a close-up look at these necklaces.  They are created with the tiniest, most intricate fronds of seaweed, and I only had a moment to gaze before I ran off to volunteer at the book fair. Eight months later, these seaweed pendants popped into my head as the perfect gift.

My mother loves the ocean, so I suspected that these tiny seaweed fronds, caught under glass, eternally swaying in an invisible tide, would appeal to her.  And I had to tell you about them, too, because, really, they are rather amazing.  A few weeks ago, when I visited Cassie (the woman who creates this jewelry) in her home, I spent a very long time marveling at the colors & shapes she captures;  some of the seaweed looks like miniature trees from Japanese ink paintings, while others look like veins and capillaries carrying life-blood, and still others just seem to float on imaginary, dream-like oceans...

And not only does Cassie create pendants, she also has seaweed-art mounted in frames to hang on the wall, and preserved between panes of glass to hang in the window.  If you would like to see more of Cassie's designs, her etsy shop is HERE.


tutorial :: garden stepping stones

Years ago, when we first bought our house, I made stepping stones for the garden. The old stones are mossy & weathered, and when I told my children I had made them, they decided they wanted to make some, too.  So, a few weeks ago I gathered supplies, invited over a friend of my older son and we got to work.

An assortment of glass tiles & flattened glass marbles
Clear vinyl pot saucers (we used these)
A bag of cement
A bucket for mixing cement
Rubber gloves and some cleaning rags

STEP 1 :: Scoop several cups of cement into your bucket. Add water and stir. For best results, put on rubber gloves and mix by hand.  Keep adding small amounts of water or cement as needed until the cement is the approximate consistency of thick cake batter.

STEP 2 ::  Scoop cement into your clear vinyl pot saucers until 1 cm below the brim.

STEP 3 ::  Have children add tiles & marbles, etc... to decorate.  Be sure the items are pressed in firmly with the edges slightly submerged or the items might fall out once the cement is dry.

STEP 4 ::  Once the design is completed, use a damp rag to gently wipe any cement smudges off the tops of the tiles and marbles.

STEP 5 ::  Allow to dry several days, remove from the molds and find homes for your beautiful stepping stones in the garden.


tutorial :: a heart welcome-mat

Hello!  Today I thought I'd draw your attention to one of my favorite tutorials from several years back.  Every time I cross the threshold of my house, I am reminded of how much I enjoyed making this super-easy doormat.  However, the doormat I made 4 years ago was looking tired, so a few weeks ago I made a new one, and this time, instead of being strapped into a baby swing, my little guy was able to lend a hand. You can find the tutorial here.  If you try this project, let me know how it turns out (wouldn't it make a nice housewarming gift?)

What's currently by your front door to welcome family & friends?


bloom boys

It's been a while since I've written a proper blog post -- not just posted photos, but written actual paragraphs.  There have been some fluctuations in the land of Bloom so it feels like a good time to chatter. Here goes...

Do you ever read the acknowledgement sections at ends of books?  I always read them because I'm curious whom the author will thank and how they will thank them.  I'm not sure when my curiosity about author's acknowledgements started -- was it before or after I had written an acknowledgement section of my own?  At any rate, have you ever taken a look at the acknowledgement section in my first book?  The first person I thank is my younger son.  Why?  I never could have written that book unless he was a prodigious sleeper: 10-11 hours every night and 3 hours every afternoon. It was during those hours in the afternoon when I got most of my work done... but guess who stopped sleeping in the afternoon 3 months ago? Of course it was bound to happen, but now I'm sorely missing time for focused work and feel like I haven't had two consecutive moments in which to string together a coherent thought.  Meanwhile, my afternoons (and kitchen table) are filled with endless perler beads (glow-in-the-dark), pony beads (glow-in-the-dark), sculpy clay (glow-in-the-dark!), Spirograph (we have this set and this set), water colors, plus crayons and other drawing implements of every sort.  Even the occasional peg doll has been painted, however I still haven't finished the proposal for book number 3... sigh. 

Besides our fun afternoons, the upside is we are now able to undertake more ambitious adventures. My little one was the sort of child who really needed his daytime sleep, and needed to sleep at home, which was very limiting.  All adventures ended at 1:00 promptly, or a certain small person fell to pieces.  As soon as this was no longer the case we were off and running, and what an amazing spring break we had! After 4+ years staying close to home, I've still barely recovered from our spring break adventures here & here.

All to say, I know how much you love tutorials (as much as I love creating and posting them, I suspect).  I'm feeling a bit forlorn that I haven't been able to post any really nice ones lately, but perhaps you can bear with me until the autumn when my little one starts kindergarten (!)

As inevitable as it was that my pre-schooler would stop napping during the day, so was it inevitable that the shoe-size of my older son would suddenly surpass my own. I had inklings of this in late fall when he out-grew a new pair of shoes after just a few weeks.  And now he has grown 2 inches in height and increased 2 shoe sizes over the past two months. Yikes.  I can no longer rest my chin on the top of his mopsy head and, at the rate he's going, I wonder whether he will be taller than I am by end of summer. (He is currently 5'2". I am slightly over 5'6".)  Inevitable, of course, but still shocking when it happens...

I hope all is well with you and yours.  Please do say hello and send me your own updates if you're so inclined. I always love hearing from you.


we had fun

This is where we've been the past few days. We had fun. Okay... serious understatement. We had A LOT of fun!