In between bouts of illustration, I’ve been doing a bit of pyrography. This (for the benefit of the uninitiated) is the art of burning designs into wood or leather (and sometimes bone, gourds or tagua nut slices!). I use a Peter Child pyrography machine which is good for detailed work. The temperature is adjustable and it has a sort of pen for which you can make wire nibs in the size and shape you require.
This time I have been making woodland animal pendants using some large, unfinished wooden beads I bought readymade. They are kind of smooth and oval, but flattish. Foolishly I didn’t think to take photos of the first few stages, so here is a brief description of what I do:
Create a design on paper
Ensure that the pendant has a big enough hole all the way through (sounds pretty basic, but I seem to have spent quite a while enlarging holes with tapestry needles and the wrong end of fine crochet hooks!)
Transfer the design to the pendant with pencil. Normally I would do this with tracing paper, but that’s too difficult on a curved surface, so I just work freehand.
Using the pyrography machine and a fine point go over the design. Erase any remaining pencil marks, then go over the design again adding detail. I usually use a spoon-shaped nib for some of the shading and then return to the fine point to make sure the main features are sufficiently defined.
Add some colour. This isn’t at all a necessary part of pyrography, but it really seems to bring these pendants to life. I use gouache or acrylic paint with a translucent thinner, sometimes thinned with a little water as well. It’s important to be able to see the design through the paint. Really I’m just aiming to tint the design and maybe add some tiny details such as highlights in the eyes.
Apply two coats of varnish and string on a leather thong, with any beads which seem necessary.
And that’s it! It’s a relatively quick process – maybe a couple of hours total per pendant for the design transfer, burning, painting, varnishing and stringing, though in practice I do it over a longer period to allow for drying time. They’re really quite tiny – only three and a half by two centimetres tall.
One of the appealing things about these pendants is that they’re very easy to customize. So far I have been continuing the design onto the back of the pendants (the back of the owl is quite detailed…the back of the fawn is spotted and the the back of the hedgehog has a pattern of spikes. The fox is plain fox colour) but it might be nice to add names, a significant date or a brief message to the back to make it extra special. I can also use different kinds and colours of cord and beads. This week I have been working on a commissioned pendant of a completely different creature (but it’s a present for someone, so no details!).
I’ve created a listing for these pendants on Etsy and there should be more designs to come – I have lots of ideas, though it’s an interesting challenge getting some of them to fit on an oval! You can also contact me via Facebook or message me here to order a pendant or find out more about a custom design.
As tutorials go, this one is going to be a little sketchy! Unfortunately I didn’t take photos of the making process, not knowing I was going to attempt a tutorial. The crafting is all simple enough…please ask questions if anything isn’t clear. There was quite a large element of crochet to the garland I made, but if you can’t crochet then never fear – I’ve included crochet-free options to make a garland that will be every bit as effective. So, without more ado…
What you will need:
wire – enough to go around the head of the woodland-faerie-to-be, plus about 10cm extra
ribbons – I suggest at least 4 or 5 1m lengths of satin ribbon in colours of your choice, about 1 cm wide. It’s fine if some are thinner – and I think organza ribbon could work well too.
green yarn and an appropriate crochet hook, if you plan to crochet leaves and tendrils. Crochet-free option: 3m green yarn or 1m green cord and also some scraps of green felt.
yarn in the colours of your choice for crochet flowers, or else felt in the colours of your choice
glittered wire butterfly – around 5cm across is good (I found mine on eBay)
optional extras: artificial flowers and leaves, beads, buttons (novelty buttons can work well…toadstools, minibeasts etc!)
First of all you need to make a ring of wire, which will be the basis of your garland. I used green pipe-cleaners for this, which was a mistake! I liked the idea that any visible bits of wire would be green and fuzzy and kind of organic looking. However, the pipe-cleaners were really not sturdy enough for the job, even though I wrapped them three or four thick all around. For a less flimsy garland you should check out the wire in your local craft shop…or your local hardware store. Green wire would be my first choice, though you could always spray paint other colours of wire, or wrap it in green tape…florist’s tape, for instance. To be honest, though, greenness is far from vital. The next stage covers the wire almost completely, even if you’re not trying! Anyway, make a ring of wire to fit the head of your faerie-to-be. This can be done with just a head measurement, but ideally the wearer should be there so you can get the fit right and make sure the garland’s going to sit where you want it. Just wrap the wire round your faerie’s head, overlapping the ends of the wire. Then twist each overlapping end around the circlet, trying not to leave any sharp ends on the inside, where they might puncture your poor faerie’s scalp. This twisty bit will go at the back of the garland. (If you’re wrapping your wire in green tape then now’s the time to do it.)
Start wrapping your wire circlet with ribbon. To do this, take a 1m length of ribbon and find the centre point. Place the centre point at the front of the circlet and wrap one end round and round the wire until you reach the back of the circlet, where the wires are twisted together. (You don’t need to worry about covering the wire completely at this point.) Then wrap the other end of the ribbon around the other half of the circlet until you reach the back of the circlet. Knot the two ends of the ribbon together where they meet, leaving two long tails dangling…these will hang down your faerie’s back. Then take another length of ribbon and repeat the process. You might want to wrap it the other way so it criss-crosses over the first ribbon – it’s up to you! Once you have two ribbons wrapped and knotted you will probably find the wire underneath is more or less covered. If you want more coverage – or more colours of ribbon – add another. Then take any remaining ribbons and knot them into place about half way along their length at the back of the circlet. You should now have a wrapped circlet with a bunch of ribbon tails at the back (which will not all be the same length…I think it looks best if the lengths are a bit random!) I like to trim the very ends on the diagonal to minimize fraying…and just because it looks better. The knots might look a bit of a mess, but don’t worry – they get covered up later on.
Next you’re going to make a long, leafy green tendril. To crochet it, start chaining with your green yarn. When your chain reaches something like 12cm, you can start to form the leaf. Starting in the second chain from the hook and making one stitch per chain, crochet dc, htr, tr, tr, htr, dc (that was UK terms. In US terms: sc, hdc, dc, dc, hdc, sc). That’s your first leaf! Continue chaining for another 12cm or so and add another leaf…and so on until your tendril is about 1m long. (You can vary your leaf length and width as the whim takes you, by doing more stitches, or using taller ones.) For the non-crochet version you can either use a 1m length of green cord for your tendril, or you can plait together three 1m lengths of green yarn. For the leaves, cut out some leaf shapes from green felt. If you feel like it you can embroider veins onto the leaves before you sew them onto the tendril at intervals. When your tendril is complete, twine it around the circlet and knot it at the back.
Now you will need to make some flowers! If you don’t already have a favourite crochet flower pattern then Google will be your friend…there are loads of free flower tutorials available. For the non-crochet version, simply cut out some felt flower shapes. You could add a bead or a button for the middle of the flower.
This is probably the time to attach your glittered wire butterfly. It needs to be attached at the back of the circlet, neatly covering all the ribbony and yarny knots. (Some of these butterflies are on wire or a clip and others need to be sewn.) Of course, you don’t have to have a butterfly at the back. You could easily use a biggish flower, or perhaps a bow – or anything else which will cover the knots and provide a focus.
Final step. It’s time to get down to some serious embellishment! Gather the flowers you’ve made, along with whatever else you have in the way of buttons, beads, artificial flowers and other fripperies. All you need to do is decide how you want to arrange them on the circlet and then sew them in place (though it can take a while to get it looking suitably encrusted if you’re anything like me!). I found it easiest to sew most of mine to the tendril, but you also have the option of sewing onto the ribbon (or both). I sewed a few of my smaller bits and pieces onto the dangling ribbons at the back.
And that’s it! It’s quite straightforward but could be varied in so many ways…I’m quite tempted to try an autumnal version in shades of gold, copper and flame – and it would be interesting to see how it would look if you ditched flowers in favour of leaves in a variety of shapes and colours. Hopefully I’ve inspired someone to have a go at making their own version…if you have a go at making a Woodland Faerie Garland I’d love to see pictures!