Even Cuffy and Mona found themselves interested in the progress of the cocoons: they were so ingenious, beautifully knitted, and in some cases lovely to look at. The monarch caterpillar, for instance, contrived a waxy chrysalis of pale green, flecked with tiny arabesques of gilt. It hung from the twig on a little black silk thread, like the jade earring of a Manchu princess.
“How lovely!” said Mona. “Oh, if there were only some way of preserving them. I’d like to have a pale-green dress all buttoned down the front with those.”
Oliver was outraged, and Rush said, “There’s a woman for you. Always thinking of the beauties in nature in terms of wearing apparel. Can’t see a shiny spider web without wanting to make a snood out of it. Can’t see the Grand Canyon without wanting to dye something to match it. Can’t—“
“Oh, Rush, if you could hear how stuffy you sound!” cried Mona. “Pompous and stuffy and about fifty years old. I suppose you’d rather have me quote a poem!”
“Well, you never lost an opportunity yet,” Rush observed. “What’s the matter, didn’t Shakespeare ever write any poetry about cocoons?”
--From Then There Were Five, by Elizabeth Enright, in Chapter 5, “Oliver’s Other World”
How I see my daily surroundings sometimes depends upon what particular project I’m working on at the time. When origami was my passion, I looked at objects and imagined how I would represent them in three-dimensional paper figures. After I learned to sew, I started to notice clothes and furniture in terms of the individual shapes of the pieces of cloth that came together as a whole. My mom had a friend who worked in interior decorating for awhile, and would think about how best to wallpaper the people she saw in the streets. (This scenario was preferable to the time that same friend was working with turkey parts.)
As I work on different figures for the circus-themed class project, I am attempting to picture how different animals would look as felt figures. I realized for the first time that tigers weren’t actually orange—their coats are orange-tinted brown. Lions’ tales sloped differently than I imagined. My first attempt to stitch a lion resulted in a bulky, four-legged figure that did not evoke anything catlike once it was three-dimensional, despite my efforts to capture the sweep of the back legs:
Bede has an artist’s eye, and encouraged me to simplify my sketches. My daughter’s assistant-kindergarten teacher said that she tried to make a sheep in one of her teacher-training classes, but she didn’t capture the “gesture” of the sheep. As I worked on the plans for the lion, I knew that I would have to figure out how to find the “gesture” of the lion. The basic lion form I drew for my pattern could just as easily have been a horse or a lion-colored sheep. I tried to evoke this:
This is what I came up with:
Elvis the lion and Buddy the circus friend (note that it is Buddy who is wearing the blue suede shoes)
I tried to get a little bit of white in the fur, as you can see here:
Despite all of the gussets (little triangles of fabric that add three-dimensional texture to the lion), finding the gesture of the lion was difficult. A second attempt will involve more attention to the shape of the face. I am glad that I had needle-felting tools to attach the mane, otherwise you might be looking at a lion-hued horse.
Materials used: wool felt, pipe-cleaners (to keep the legs from splaying), wool stuffing, wool roving (i.e. "fairy wool" for the mane), embroidery thread