Cathy Stone’s pet portraits are irresistible
Cathy Stone makes adorable animals out of wool and a needle. And she can also make your animal! To make the felted creatures, she works from detailed photos.
I leafed through photos of her work: a brown horse with a black mane, her daughter-in-law’s hedgehog, a shepherd, a Westie, a Corgi…and then, “Oh, my heavens! This looks like our dog. Do you know whose dog this is?” I said.
“That is your dog. That was my daughter’s idea.”
“That’s the last thing in the world I was expecting. He is so cute!” Holding a copy of your own animal in your palm is flabbergasting. You look, turn, exclaim, and look some more. Our dog Wishbone is the largest animal Stone has made so far, to get the design of his coloring right. The intricate detail is amazing.
Stone has been a crafter for a long time. She made brooms as an undergraduate at Berea College in Kentucky. She spent 15 years sewing for other people: slipcovers and bridesmaid dresses. More recently, she has made the tops for several quilts. She also makes terrariums, including one out of a small syrup bottle from Cracker Barrel; it contains two tiny pine trees.
But Stone had empty-nest syndrome big time when her daughter left for college. She needed a new hobby, and found a book about making sculptural animals out of wool. So she bought a kit in Colorado and made a lamb: “Pretty much the easiest thing ’cause you stick all the curly fur on it,” a natural since the real ones sport wool, too. Later, she started adding detail to her creatures. These are not toys to play with, but real works of art—hint: keep them away from small children and animals.
What gave her the idea to custom-make them? “My daughter wanted her cat. She said, ‘Mom, can you make Nala?’” Then a friend asked Stone to make her bloodhound. And that’s how her career in custom felted animals began to blossom.
The wool “roving” she uses is loose, like cotton batting from a pill bottle. Stone fluffs out a small amount and folds and rolls it until it resembles, say, a leg. Then she pokes it repeatedly with a felting needle, a long needle with tiny barbs on the end. The barbs grab onto the fibers and tangle them together. The more she pokes it, the denser the piece becomes. (It can get too tight, and then the fibers start to break.) The needle lands in a dense piece of foam behind the work. The surface details are added when it’s almost the final shape. The eyeballs are tiny beads she sews on.
Stone works out of a Tupperware sandwich container that holds two pieces of foam, a few felting needles, and some wool roving in different colors. “This goes with me pretty much everywhere I go, along with a ZipLoc bag full of wool.” She buys most of her supplies online; woolpets.com is a favorite supplier. They sell their own kits and books by Laurie Sharp. In fact, that’s how she recommends Pulse readers start if they want to try needle felting.
Stone showed me pictures of two Great Pyrenees puppies made from their own fur (how meta can you get?). The owner collected the fur from brushing the pups. Stone shampooed a bag full of puppy fur in order to get it ready to use…dog fur is not as easy to work with as sheep’s wool.
For a zebra, she made a white animal, and then added the black on top, one stripe at a time. The same method is used to make the giraffe. She uses no armature to support her animals. She made one horse with wires in it, but she broke too many needles trying to felt it, or it dulled the needles. Stone also makes Nativity scenes. The faces of people are not detailed; the eyes are mere indentations, but the charm and uniqueness are all there.
Starting in spring, Stone sells her ready-made animals at the Brainerd Farmer’s Market, the first Saturday of the month (10 a.m. to noon) in the parking lot of Grace Episcopal Church on Brainerd Road at Belvoir. Also, the new local garden shop Belvoir Gardens carries her animals; they featured her Nativity sets on their Facebook page.
But she gets most of her business through word of mouth, because, frankly, once you see the animals, you can’t resist. Prices start about $30 for her simpler animals, which is a bargain for a custom sculpture of a loved family member.
Contact Cathy Stone at (423) 309-1196 or firstname.lastname@example.org