I was sooo very excited to participate in the Strange Doll Swap in June, and when I got partnered with petskin for the first time in my swapping career, I was all the more excited. I decided to go with "moths" for the primary theme and "mushrooms" for the secondary theme of her list. I experimented and did somethings I don't usually do, and it was all a ton of fun. I really want to do more projects like this now
Rusty's body is needle-felted mostly of a plain white core fiber and then a nicer plain white top roving with four natural grayish insect-like arms, and dark natural wool accents around his eyes, legs, and forehead. Around his collar are bits of white wool locks from yet another batch of wool I have to give him a ruffled look. He has a fairly wimpy armature, unfortunately - I didn't realize how weighty he was going to get, and he didn't hold his pose well after handling and moving a lot. He can balance on his own, but his head looks down quite a bit
His legs were wrapped in jute twine with polymer clay claws to help provide a stable and durable foot.
For the non-needle felted bits, he has feathered ear tufts - each "ear" is three or four feathers stacked neatly and I built up the felting around them to hold them in and make them stand. You maaaay have noticed that Rusty has some abnormal "growth" on his back - mainly a few slender white mushrooms dotted with green and blue "moss". I made the mushrooms from polymer clay following a tutorial I found here
. I added wires to the stems of the mushrooms, which are embedded into Rusty's humped back. The mossy bits are what I like to call "sweater droppings" or "wool pellets". They are the bits of balled up wool left in the corners of my garment bags when I machine wash/wet felt sweaters for craft projects. I have a couple bags of them because I always though I would find a purpose for them. Never through anything away, right?
They are also felted down in place. His eyes - which I am in love with - are made from big, flat beads that I had in my stash for a long while with plans to use for some steampunk-style accessories that never came to be. I layered on polymer clay with brushed on pastels to create the eyes. They are slightly insect like but not at the same time. The beads change from orange to green depending on the angle of light.
Now we are getting to the part where Rusty gets his name! The top of his moth wings were created using muslin fabric that I soaked for a few days in water filled with coffee grounds while the fabric was wrapped around rusty nails, screws, and hinges (kindly and gladly donated to me by geekgirl1000100
). This was the biggest experiment of the project. I had never really dyed things by intentionally staining with things that tend to stain. I discovered that rust stain does not soak through fabric well. I attempted to get a symmetric look to the wings by doing two layers at once, but I wound up having to do one side and then the other (I had a small supply of rusty bits for this). I was really impressed by the overall result and found some things surprising. I expected the coffee to turn the fabric brownish, but it turned out more grayish. I added vinegar to the water bath because I heard it was good for making dyes brighter/hold better - I don't know about this and I'm not sure if it caused the coffee to change color either. Even though it was unplanned, I really liked the gray tinge around the outer bits of the fabric, but when I cut down the wings, I lots a lot of that. Finally, his wings are backed with felted sweater bits. I decided to intentionally mismatch the undersides of the lower wing parts since he is such a strange character, and it seemed fitting.