An Inspiring Whimsical Scrapmetal Menagerie

The Swetsville Zoo  in Timnath, CO is actually a sculpture garden showcasing the wild imagination of Bill Swets. Filled with creatures made from metal scraps including parts from cars, tractors, and motorcycles, this “zoo” includes dinosaurs, birds, insects, reptiles, dragons, even people and flowers. The two things all Swets’ creations have in common: they are all made from recycled materials and they all make you smile.

The first thing I saw when we arrived should have told me what was in store. I’m not sure if you have to keep your dinosaurs under 5 mph or you drive under 5 mph because of the dinosaurs. Either way, I was in.


There were LOTS of dinosaurs. This was one of my favorites (complete with a bird’s nest in its mouth):


There were quite a few dragons as well.


While I liked his ants and other smaller insects, his giant praying mantis was my favorite.


I found his birds charming, too.



Last but not least, here’s something that reminded me of the goblins from the movie Labyrinth (note the little driver in the mechanized monster’s open mouth):


All the articles I found online talk about the looming demise of this unusual garden. Big box stores have been built right next door and there are plans for more development in the near future. But the Swetsville Zoo is still open (no entry fee! Donations welcome) for your enjoyment and I am hoping it will last. Get there while you can.


A Flight of Dragons to Knit or Crochet

For a long time now, I’ve been thinking about knitting myself a dragon. While I love the body shape of the knit Nessie I made a few years ago, I have yet to figure out how to adapt it to make a dragon. So I looked online for patterns to see if someone else has already come up with a design I would like. I found more cutesy dragons than realistic ones, but perhaps that’s not so surprising when you consider they are all made from friendly, fluffy yarn.

The crochet projects are particularly cute. Darby the Dragon (Dragons Don’t Knit) has a sweet baby dragon look that would make it a great child’s companion.

Darby the Dragon by Dragons Don't Knit
Darby the Dragon, designed by Dragons Don’t Knit

A more complex crocheted dragon is Smaug the African Flower Dragon which is made using colorful pentagonal sections that look like fancy five-sided granny squares.

Smaug the African Flower Dragon by Heidi Bears
Smaug the African Flower Dragon by Heidi Bears

For How to Train Your Dragon fans, there is this adorable Toothless crocheted hat designed by Alexandra Britt.

Alexandra Britt's crocheted Toothless beanie
Alexandra Britt’s crocheted Toothless beanie

The knit dragons are a little more realistic in appearance. Crafty Mutt’s scaly dragon uses elaborate metal sequins to add hard scales to the dragon’s soft body.

Scale Mail Dragon by Crafty Mutt

But you don’t have to knit your dragon in three dimensions. A beautiful flat dragon knit is Kathleen Taylor’s Dragon Ride Shawl.

Dragon Ride Shawl by Kathleen Taylor
Dragon Ride Shawl by Kathleen Taylor

I still haven’t decided which, if any, of these to make. I may have to try my hand at designing my own after all.

Do you have a favorite pattern for knitting or crocheting a dragon? If so, please share it with me!

Handmade Dragons for the Hagrid in All of Us

“Crikey, I’d like a dragon.” — Hagrid in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Just as there are lots of different kinds of dragons in the world, there are many different sorts of dragon lovers out there. But there is one thing most of us have in common. We are all Hagrid. We all want to own a dragon. Whether we dream of riding a dragon of Pern or flying with Toothless, we agree that dragons make awesome friends. However, they’re hard to find and challenging to feed, so we have to make do with substitutes. Here are some ways to get a dragon in your house without having to knock out a wall or buy a herd of cattle.

When I was at the bead show in Tuscon in February, I got to see Cindy Hulsey’s wonderful beaded dragon in person. The dragon is part jewelry, part puppet, and lays along your forearm. I was reminded of Anne McCaffrey’s cat-sized fire lizards, tiny dragons perfect for apartment dwellers. You can get the pattern and all the beads needed to make it from Hulsey’s Etsy site CCBeadwork2.

Cindy Hulsey’s beaded Black Dragon

You’ve probably seen the popular video of an artist making a dragon-head wall trophy from paper mache. Dan “The Monster Man” has a lot more dragons out there, each cooler than the next. This article about his trophy heads contains mostly dragons, and you can find other wonderful dragons in his paper mache gallery.

One of many amazing dragon heads by Dan "The Monster Man"
One of many amazing dragon heads by Dan “The Monster Man”

If you aren’t up for making your dragon companion yourself, there are plenty of clever artists ready to make one for you. Kate Higgins of Flamingo Incognito turns the classic pink plastic yard flamingo into dragons and sells them on her Etsy site.

Smokey Embers Dragon made from a flamingo by Kate Higgins of Flamingo Incognito.
Smokey Embers Dragon made from a flamingo by Kate Higgins of Flamingo Incognito.
Welsh Red Dragon made by Kate Higgins of Flamingo Incognito
Welsh Red Dragon made by Kate Higgins of Flamingo Incognito

Another Etsy artist takes a more whimsical approach. Olga Shirobana’s soft-sculpture dragons remind me of Toothless, from the movie How To Train Your Dragon. Big-eyed and sleek, her made-to-order dragons would make great companions.

A soft sculpture dragon by Olga Shirobana (UniversesSwirls)
A soft sculpture dragon by Olga Shirobana (UniversesSwirls)

I doubt the last dragon I want to share with you is for sale, but I had to include it because Kim Rhodes’ painted sculpey sculpture is so beautiful. Maybe if you made her an offer…?

Painted dragon sculpture made from polymer clay, foil, and wire by Kim Rhodes
Painted dragon sculpture made from polymer clay, foil, and wire by Kim Rhodes

Do you want a dragon, too? Which of these is your favorite — or is there another one you have your eye on? Please share!