22 June, 2013

Felted Playscape: Part I

Dear Readers,

I hope you remember me!  It has been about a year since my last series of posts and I promise I will write some new pieces this summer about the varied and exciting events of last year.  They will likely include musings on working with a partner, the joys and difficulties of having a fairly large class, the story of our school lockdown including some perhaps-slightly-political-in-nature thoughts about education, safety and security, and gun control, summer camp, and updates about our outdoor spaces, (Yes, there is still poison ivy, but thanks to the graduating senior class of 2013, there is also now a treehouse! What a lovely gift to our students and school!)

But until I get to editing (yes, I have drafts of some posts) and writing others, I am hoping you will indulge me and take a look at this one.  Below are pictures of my latest felted creation.  I made it slowly, over the course of many months.  It was a nice way to end some very stressful days - even if I could only devote a few minutes.

So . . . what is going on here?  

My original idea was to create a little scene in which small figures could interact in a variety of ways and in a variety of places.  I also wanted to create a "location" to which children could add their own personal touches such as housewares, furniture, animals, gardening tools or different garden crops, or a fishing rod.

After joining some of my older pieces to create a base, I added my favorite element, water.  The stream runs from one side of the playscape to the other with a small tributary branching off from the middle.  This is to provide any gardeners who might be working a place to fill their watering cans.  I added darker shades of blues to represent varying depths of water and swirled lighter shades on the top to show the water movement and currents.  I also added large and small stones to the scene.  They may act as stepping stones or perhaps a place for sun bathing turtles or frogs.  You may also notice a tree has conveniently fallen directly across the stream, providing a perfect bridge, fishing spot, or just the right place to play Poohsticks.  

A small dark cave shaped rock lies near the mouth of the stream.  This may shelter anyone who has grown weary of battling the current and needs a quiet respite.  I imagine if we could look just under the surface of the water we might find a family of tadpoles, an egret, or a beaver taking a break from dam building.  

 The tributary as I mentioned lies adjacent to a small garden.  The garden is full of delicious fruits and vegetables, blueberries on bushes, carrots with just a hint of orange peeking out from the soil, and some crispy lettuces, all ready for harvest.  I placed a few tiny pine cones on the "soil" too.  They look as if they could be something special growing in the garden.

On the banks of the stream stands a tall tree trunk.  At the tree's base lie a few cheerful purple clover.  If you look closely at them, you might even see a few honeybees hard at work!  

I made the tree from a thin branch of a pecan tree which had fallen in my yard.  I sanded the branch and used a little bit of brown paint to give the illusion of bark while still allowing the branch to remain smooth to the touch.  I drilled a hole in a flat piece of wood, just the size of the branch piece.  These two pieces together can serve as a tree for this playscape (the flat piece being placed underneath to provide stability) or as a base for many other scenes.  In the second part of this post you will see how I have used it as a base for Mother Earth and her root children's underground home.  In the photo to the left you will see it has served the root children well, as a hat stand.  : )

On a side note: I couldn't decide whether to add green wool to the tree.  I decided for now I like it better without any "leaves," but I also like having the option to add some later.  It would be nice to add some orange or yellow in the Fall or pink in Spring.

Past the sandy riverbank and over a small hill lies a small hobbit-like house.  It has a round base and a "turf covered" roof with a "stone" chimney.  It walls boast cheery round windows lit with the glow from an inside fire and have climbing roses and hydrangea on either side of the front door.  Steps lead from the front door down to the water.  Homeowners and visitors alike may venture through the stream if they care to roll up their trousers or they may instead step over using the conveniently located stepping stones.  

The house opens up to provide an extra place for children to play and imagine.  The inside is quite simple, but does include a small hearth with a cheerful fire.  Here Mother Earth and her friend the hedgehog look on as two of the root children enjoy some play time and perhaps some afternoon tea.  The cozy home is just the right size for evenings too, when the two girls, weary from the day's play, may lie down on their rose petal blankets and rest by the fire. 

If instead the girls would prefer to sleep under the stars, they may gather their blankets and s'more ingredients, and head over to the campfire.  They may spread out their blankets in the clearing,tell stories and sing while roasting marshmallows, and fall asleep under the brilliant evening sky.  

You might hear a low growl coming from this corner of the playscape.  Please do not disturb any hibernating bears that may be asleep in this little cave . . . unless of course, they want to join you for a little snack!  I made the cave to house any animals, gnomes, insects, or others children might want to use to their play.  The cave has rocks, excellent for climbing, around it as well as bits of greenery tucked into crevices, excellent for small mammals who might be in need of something other than tea and cake.  A small toadstool grows adjacent to the cave, perhaps a sign that fairies live nearby!  In the photo above, one of the root children uses her hat as a makeshift table.  I wonder what goodies she and the hedgehog are going to enjoy.

In addition to many stories and scenarios I hope children could imagine on their own while using this playscape, I have also thought of some specific lessons parents and/or teachers could tie in with it.  I know, I know, I just can't turn the teacher part of my brain off!  : )

  • seasonal changes (plants, animals, people)
  • water cycle and water systems (rivers, oceans, streams, lakes, ponds)
  • astronomy, constellations 
  • floating and sinking, water currents, temperatures, depths
  • animals and their habitats (forest animals, reptiles, fish, birds, insects)
  • gardening, botany, irrigation
  • geology (kinds of rocks found in different locations)
  • fire (how to build one safely, what to cook over an open flame)
  • foraging (gathering food that is safe for humans - in our local area of course)
  • types of mushrooms, lichens, algae you might find in the forest or near a stream
  • water plants
  • wildflowers
and oh-so-many more!  

Stay tuned for Part II of this post.  In it I will show you how I created Mother Earth and her root children, carving wooden peg people and fitting them with felted flowers hats!  


  1. nice to hear from you! I look forward to seeing the cubby house and how you made the people, theyr'e great. I love the play mat, so detailed! Especially the tree bridge and hobbit house

  2. You are simply amazing! And do you know that K is calling you "magical" Karen? :) She goes like this: "Oh, this one is sooo pretty, mom, magical Karen made it, right?" :)

    Seriously, blessed are the children and grownups who are having you in their lives!


Thank you for your comments. They are always much appreciated. : )