Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Of paper and wool

I began writing this blogpost yesterday and I wrote that, it is a brisk and bright winter day up here. The temperature is somewhere -20°C (-4F), I might even skip the daily walk today, since it is so cold. The length of the day is 5 hours and 4 minutes already, which means that the sun rises before 10 (0952am) and sets 1457 (0257pm).  Not much has changed from yesterday, so these lines are almost appropriate for today as well.

I have been knitting but there is something else I would like to blog about. At first I thought that I would not share this, because I thought that nobody would be interested in this paper pulp (paper mache) adventure but then since this is knit-related, I decided to write about this anyway. This post is about making a head in small size, head that I could use for both blocking and taking pictures.

When I knitted the Pikku-Pete hat, the baby hat, sometime ago, I really had difficulties in taking good pictures of it. I did not have anything suitable to put it on, except for a blue bottle that has about the same circumference as a small baby's head but since it is blue, it was challenging to use. Ever since I have been thinking about this. 

Couple of weeks ago I cast on for another baby hat and I was once again dealing with the same problem, how to take pictures of that new hat. I have been pondering the idea in my head and it was a big leap in problem solving while out walking when I realized that I could make the head.  

First I made it of cloth, linen, and the outcome was not quite right. It came out too block-like, and this was not the image I was after. 
Then on another long walk I thought about making it of wool. This resulted in these knitted/felted bunnies that I showed to you last time, but somehow taking pictures so that there would be wool on wool, did not appeal to me either. So I cast aside the felted head.

One more two hour walk was required before I realized that I could make it in paper-mache, use the blue bottle that was almost the exact size I wanted as a base and build my head on this.

I use very easy approach to paper mache and I am sure this is not the best way (I know it is not the best approach) to do this, but here is how I do it. I just pour glue into a bucket, add water (the look and the feel of the water as my measuring tools) and tear newspapers into small shreds and pieces and let them sit in this gluey water for a while. Then I add these newspaper bits onto a surface I am making. Sometimes I need to add some glue directly to the object and sometimes my object becomes far too wet, but then I will leave it alone and let it dry and harden. Depending on what I am making, I will add layers upon layers always letting the object dry in between. I have done really big pieces in this way, and it has always worked beautifully.

I glued and layered paper layer after layer and the result was very clumpy, not nice at all. My paper must have had too much water in it and I probably had layered it too thick in the beginning (probably due to the fact that it is such a long time since I have done this). But I let the piece dry and become hard and decided to think about it for a while before continuing. At this point, I knew somehow that there would be a solution but I just had to be patient and go and walk away and not to spoilt the whole thing. Really, this was the most difficult part of the process, to walk away and to come back.

I tried to use sandpaper to even it, but no sandpapering by hand was going to even it out, it was so bad. Then I remembered that I had this Dremel-tool and I used that to smooth the surface. The result was good, it was tedious work but the head started to take shape. Finally!!

Then I had to cut the piece in half to get out the bottle. Again I had to wait for some time for the layers to dry on the inside as well, while the outside was completely dry, the inside felt damp. Waiting and waiting and then waiting some more before making the next move became the theme of the project. After every single step, I was most worried of not having the patience to take one step at a time slowly enough so that I would have enough time to think and plan ahead well.

After the piece was in two halves, I had to glue them back together, then more paper and glue and more Dremel to even out the surface and then onto painting. First I thought of gluing cheesecloth onto it, but when I wrapped the head, I lost the sharp lines of the object and that was not good. Paint was all I applied on the head (except of adding some gesso for the base layer).

Alchemy Silk Purse in Sugar Mountain colorway, Rowan Kid Silk Haze for the piping
And finally here it is, I am quite happy with the outcome, both with the head and the hat on it. The head does bear some signs of hand work but I am fine with them.

Hope you all have a good woolly week!


  1. I love the whole process (from the dawning to the trial and error to the walking in between). The hat is lovely, too. Thanks for the post.


  2. What a great idea.

  3. Anonymous15:40

    Good morning from my side of the world. For comparison, the temp is about 41F here in Georgia.

    I love this new hat and hope you publish the pattern for it AND the pattern for the bunny! Love them both (and all of your pattern designs!).

    Your head-mold turned out wonderfully.


  4. fun! great idea

  5. I always look forward to your posts and wasn't disappointed today. The head is a great idea. The hat is beautiful and I too would love to see the pattern. Thankfully, it isn't as cold in New Jersey as where you are. Have a very creative day.

  6. sue johnson16:36

    Hi there
    your hat block shows the hat of beautifully!

    Another way to make papier mach is to use brown paper tape. Dip the tape through a bowl of cold water lay the dampened tape onto the form( blue bottle ) and make several layers. It makes a smooth and very hard piece

  7. Anonymous18:05

    I love your description of the creative process! It is amazing what our brains come up with when we are not consciously thinking of a project. I agree that the head and the hat both turned out beautifully, Lene. Please don't ever think that your blogs are boring. We enjoy them all.

  8. Lene, you have a lot more patience than I! Huh...I use balloons...just blowing them the right size and voila! I love this little hat though!
    Keep warm!Today seems to be the perfect day to bake!

  9. I love that this idea came about while on your walks, and produced the knitted felted bunnies as a side project! Great job!
    Maybe something to consider for next time: Instead of using your blue bottle, you can blow up a balloon to the exact size you want and then paper mache over that. When it's dry, just poke a pin in the bottom to pop the balloon, and then there's no need to cut the head in half.

  10. Wonderful idea! And it's lovely to see your process as well. Thank you for sharing.

  11. That's a great idea, thanks for sharing. I might make one myself.

  12. What a fantastic idea, thank you for sharing

  13. You are so resourceful and the hat is lovely !
    Hopefully you will offer a pattern.

  14. Keksit oivan ratkaisun tähän ainaiseen ongelmaan, miten kuvat päähineitä. Hieno! Vaati paljon kärsivällisyyttä odottaa aina kuivumista.

    Ja hattu, todella suloinen!

  15. Lene, you are utterly creative!

  16. What a great idea. What kind of glue did you use?

  17. Lois B19:52

    You are just so creative. I love to read your blog. What a great way to solve a problem.

  18. Anonymous23:02

    Talk about a win-win: I get the pleasure of reading your post, and I work for the company that manufactures the Dremel tool.

    Another lovely baby bonnet, Lene. Thank you.


  19. Jeannie02:03

    Great idea! I make baby hats too, and I have no baby to model them for me, I might use your idea. Thanks

  20. The baby-hat is so cute!!!!

  21. I knit a baby hat a while ago, too and had the same problem.. how to take pictures of it? The solution was a bright yellow balloon with a smily face printed on that my boyfriend put into my advent calendar last year.
    This was way more improvised than yours, but I guess you knit baby hats on a more regular basis than me, so the balloon was ok for a one-time-thing.

  22. ohhhhh i LOVE how pretty your hat is. It shows up so very pretty against the "head" you made.Such a good idea!