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.

CHulseyArmDragon
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!

Past Projects: Beaded Pony

Before I made my Sorrow Angel, I made this little beaded pony.

Beaded pony by Kit Dunsmore
Beaded pony by Kit Dunsmore

I love the pony’s chunky shape and stubborn feel of her stance. I made the body with machine-quilted fabric, then hand-stitched beads on over the quilting lines to get the flower design.

Beaded pony, detail, by Kit Dunsmore
Beaded pony, detail, by Kit Dunsmore

To give the static pose more energy, I used wire for the mane and tail.

Beaded pony, detail, by Kit Dunsmore
Beaded pony, detail, by Kit Dunsmore

The pipe cleaner armature was stiff enough to make my pony stand, but in the future I’ll use stiffer wire just to be sure. Beading can add a lot of weight to a piece.

Beaded pony by Kit Dunsmore
Beaded pony by Kit Dunsmore

Handmade Holidays: Cross-stitched and Stuffed Ornaments

Even though Christmas has come and gone, I’m enjoying all my handmade decorations so much I thought I’d share a few more of them before putting the holiday behind me.

The first two are fabric dolls ornaments. Both were given to me as gifts, so I am unsure of the designer’s name, but I know they are made from patterns. (Does anyone recognize the style? After spending way too much time digging around, I came up with the name Gabrielle Cyr and I think these might be hers, but I can’t find her work anywhere online to verify this vague belief.)

Cat_web

Angel_web

The three cross-stitch ornaments are also from patterns. I made them from little kits I bought so long ago I no longer remember making them, but they are some of my favorite ornaments. (I’m a sucker for animals.)

fawn_web

puppy_web

Kitten_web

Feel free to share your favorite handmade ornament in the comments.

Past Projects: Angel of Sorrow

Here’s a soft sculpture I’ve made that is a great example of how over-the-top I am when it comes to beading. I designed and developed the pattern for Angel of Sorrow myself. It took several prototypes to get to a horse shape that I really liked, but it was worth the effort.

Angel of Sorrow by Kit Dunsmore
Angel of Sorrow by Kit Dunsmore

I originally planned for this piece to stand on its own, so I included an armature (wire in the legs). Unfortunately, the wire I chose was much too weak to support the weight of the finished product. I didn’t realize how many beads I was going to be putting on this or how heavy they would be.

Angel of Sorrow by Kit Dunsmore
Angel of Sorrow by Kit Dunsmore

Fortunately, the wings were always part of the design, so hanging it for display made perfect sense. I still wish I’d gotten the armature right, but I love how this turned out.

Angel of Sorrow (detail) by Kit Dunsmore
Angel of Sorrow (detail) by Kit Dunsmore

Crochet Inspirations: Lime Green Lady

Confession time: I’ve always preferred knitting to crochet mainly because I think knitted projects just look better. Crochet can look cheesy, even tacky, to my eyes. Recently, I’ve started finding pictures of crocheted projects online that are stunning, even elegant, and I’m intrigued. I want to learn how to make some of these beautiful things. Fortunately, there are generous people out there happy to share their projects and their patterns with the rest of us.

Lime Green Lady blogs about crochet and knitting, showing off projects she has designed herself and sharing her patterns as well. Projects include a granny square blanket, a granny square baby jacket, and toys, from a hot air balloon to a mermaid.

Since finding that granny square afghan at a yard sale, I am collecting examples of granny square projects I like. Granny squares may be old-fashioned, but the vibrant rainbow colors in Lime Green Lady’s blanket give them a fun, new look.

Photo by Lime Green Lady
Photo by Lime Green Lady

Lime Green Lady designs her own patterns and likes to make toys, particularly vehicles. I adore this rocket ship. The bullet shape and the arched fins make me want to jet off into space.

rocket_LGL

Another vehicle pattern is for a toy train, complete with a string of cars. I love her use of color.

Pattern and photo by Lime Green Lady
Pattern and photo by Lime Green Lady

For those interested in learning how to design their own crocheted toys, read her post of tips. And for those who only knit, never fear, she has some great knitted projects, too.

Pattern and photo by Lime Green Lady
Pattern and photo by Lime Green Lady

Past Projects: A Mermaid Named Treasure Chest

A decade ago, I belonged to the Ithaca Doll Club. As a beginning doll-maker, I had lots to learn, and the other members suggested I start by following someone else’s directions. I was really more interested in making soft sculpture animals than people, so it’s no surprise that my first doll was half woman, half fish. I used the pattern Pearl Diver by Julie McCullough. I thought her version of the doll was lovely, but I did my best to make this doll my own.

Treasure Chest by Kit Dunsmore; pattern by Julie McCullough
Treasure Chest by Kit Dunsmore; pattern by Julie McCullough

I didn’t know it at the time, but you can probably tell that the main reason I like to make soft sculpture is because it is such a great base for beads. Once the doll was constructed, I took the time to sew every bead on the tail, and to string the pearls on wire so that they would stream out behind her.

Close up of Treasure Chest, by Kit Dunsmore; pattern by Julie McCullough
Close up of Treasure Chest, by Kit Dunsmore; pattern by Julie McCullough

The crowning touch was the jeweled bikini top. The breast cups in the pattern were fiddly and I had a hard time getting them to look right. I was ecstatic when I found the perfect pair of earrings at the thrift store. My simple trick to cover up my ugly sewing added some humor to the doll that ultimately inspired the name: Treasure Chest.

Treasure Chest by Kit Dunsmore; pattern by Julie McCullough
Treasure Chest by Kit Dunsmore; pattern by Julie McCullough

Past Project: The Truth About Armadillos

I’m on vacation this week. Here’s the story behind one my older soft sculptures, The Truth About Armadillos.

TAAwtext_web

I spent the springs of 2001 and 2002 in Killeen, Texas doing field work for Cornell University’s Bioacoustics Research Program. While I was there to remotely record birds, I was on the watch for wildlife of any kind. What I really wanted to see, though, was an armadillo. I’d never seen one in the wild and Texas seemed like the place to do it. Unfortunately, the only armadillos I saw there were lying by roads, crushed pink and gray messes. When I left Texas after the 2002 field season, my dream unfulfilled, I decided that only dead armadillos were pink and gray shells. When alive, I imagined armadillos as being all colors of the rainbow.

A few years later, I was part of a scrap bag challenge with an art doll group in Ithaca, NY. I was given a bag of fabric scraps and told to make something with them. Seeing the rainbow of colors available, I immediately thought of a living armadillo. So I made the sculpture pictures above.

I combined quilting techniques (quilting and piecing) with my art doll skills. The design (if you can call it that) is all my own. The entire thing was an improv — I made a bunch of body parts more than once trying to get them right. I chewed through the challenge fabric, but wound up adding only one fabric (the light blue belly) to the provided scraps. I used polymer clay to make the claws and beads for the eyes. Everything else is fabric.

I was ecstatic with the results and was surprised to find that other people liked The Truth About Armadillos enough to award it the viewer’s first prize for soft sculpture at the Tompkins County Quilters Guild’s show in 2005.