Category Archives: Fiber Arts

The Yarn Creations of Jan Furtado

The Yarn Creations of Jan Furtado

I met Jan Furtado (then Janette Oborne) when we were in ninth grade. She is my oldest friend, not by age, but by years we’ve remained in contact, even though we’re separated by  2000 miles. I give her all the credit for that—back in the days before email, she kept me up-to-date with handwritten letters, and phone calls whenever we were in the same state.

When my first baby was born, Jan sent me a beautiful yellow lacy blanket she knitted with yarn that was part angora.

The last time we were in the same place at the same time was 2010, when we both attended our fortieth high school reunion.

Recently, she sent me an email with pictures of some of her knitting and crocheting projects, and I was so impressed I wanted to feature her work on ARHtistic License.

Jan isn’t the designer of these patterns, but she has been known to adapt as she goes.

Check out her fashions and accessories (click on any of the smaller pictures for enlargements):

Here’s Jan, modeling her crocheted vest:


And look at these awesome toys (I want the monkey!):

These dotty pots fit over bowls. You can turn an old plastic bowl into a beautiful vase for silk flowers.


Jan’s grandmother (I remember her! Wonderful lady.) taught her to knit and crochet the summer she turned eight years old. How important it is to pass the traditional crafts down to our children and grandchildren.

After high school, Jan earned an Associate’s degree from Brookdale Community College in computer science, and a Bachelor’s degree from Monmouth University in Business Management, also working at Bell Labs as a finance analyst for the Research Department.

Currently, she holds CYC (Craft Yarn Council) certification and teaches knitting and crocheting at Sheep Thrills in Lauderhill, Florida.


Creative Juice #9

Creative Juice #9

Selected to refresh your soul:

From the Creator’s Heart #62


He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers–all of them master craftsmen and designers (Exodus 35:35 NIV).


Where the Magic Happens #ALWorkMagic

Where the Magic Happens #ALWorkMagic

Today’s post comes with a special blogging *challenge. But first, some background.

I have been wanting to write this post for a long time, but I procrastinated because my office was such a mess–I didn’t want to post a picture of it.

But then I figured out I could just spiffy up the desk where I write, paint, and draw. You don’t have to see the stacked boxes o’ stuff I’m trying to find places for. (Yeah, I know, not that spiffy, but it took me a week to get it this organized.)DSC02747

There’s my laptop, open to one of my favorite sources of inspiration, Pinterest. The pink flower behind it is actually a pen stuck in a vase. To the right, you can see some of the many receptacles for pens, scissors, paperclips, etc. The ubiquitous water bottle–a must for writers everywhere, but especially in Arizona. In the cubbies, a stack of salvaged notebooks, all kinds of sticky notes, index cards, scratch pads, and thank you cards.

Under the light is a panel from a birthday card Greg gave me years ago with a picture of a little boy singing his heart out (who looked remarkably like one of my kindergarten students, so it spent a few years on the wall of my classroom). Below that, a postcard my friend Judy sent me from Florence, Italy several months ago. To the right of that, a list of my creative goals for 2016 (you’re working on yours, right?), with sticky note addenda attached.

Can you see on the perpendicular surface to the right the post card from the Cloisters of one of the Unicorn Tapestries (to inspire me to work on my mystical fantasy-in-progress)? And to the left of the singing boy, two pages from magazines reminding me of places I need to go for photo-essays I’m planning.

On the top shelf of the desk are art supplies, a box of greeting cards, boxes of envelopes, some supplements old ladies take, a picture of Greg when he was a little boy (because he was so stinkin’ cute!), some toys that used to belong to my kids, tissues, hand sanitizer, a mini-stereo (I must have music when I write! You can see the slots where I store some f my favorite CDs), and a Scripture-a-day calendar.

I am fascinated with seeing the workspaces of writers and artists. You, too?


John Singer Sargent’s studio


Mark Twain at work


Paul Cezanne in his studio


Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio

To see more, check out these articles on creative workspaces:

Do you have the freedom to do this in your workspace?

And here are workspaces of some of the people who have been featured on ARHtistic License.

Artist (and writer) Robert Holewinski:

Jewelry designer Shirli Matatia:

Artist Michael James:

Not exactly a workspace picture, but here is artist Jeremy Kirsch at work:


Woodcarver and furniture maker Scott Zuziak of Lazy River Studios:


Artist Rachelle Levingston: Rachelle Levingston's studio

*And Now, Presenting: The ARHtistic License Workspace Challenge

Fellow bloggers, let’s take this workspace sharing one step further. Your assignment, should you chose to accept it, is to show us where you create. Here’s all there is to it:

  1. Between now and September 30, 2016, take a picture of your workspace, and post it on your blog. Tell us what you create there. Do you write, design greeting cards, manufacture household gadgets? You can even tell us the special significance of the objects in your photo(s), or why you’ve set up the area as you have. How does it inspire you? Help you to be productive?
  2. Somewhere in the post, include this sentence (cut and paste so that you include the link–when your post goes live, it should automatically generate a ping-back to your post in the comments below): This is my response to the ARHtistic License Workspace Challenge.
  3. Share your article on social media with this hashtag: #ALWorkMagic.
  4. Optional: to spread the word, share this article on social media with the hashtag #ALWorkMagic. Cut and paste this shortlink: or use the sharing buttons below.

I can’t wait to see where you work!

From the Creator’s Heart #47


Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted line and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim worked into them by a skilled craftsman (Exodus 26:1 NIV).


Video of the Week # 47: Subway Spindle

Video of the Week # 47: Subway Spindle

Twelve second demo of making yarn with a drop spindle.

From the Creator’s Heart #45


They made the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth–the work of a weaver–with an opening in the center of the robe like the opening of a collar, and a band around this opening, so that it would not tear. They made pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen around the hem of the robe. And they made bells of pure gold and attached them around the hem between the pomegranates. The bells and pomegranates alternated around the hem of the robe to be worn for ministering, as the Lord commanded Moses.

For Aaron and his sons, they made tunics of fine linen–the work of a weaver–and the turban of fine linen, the linen headbands and the undergarments of finely twisted linen. The sash was of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn–the work of an embroiderer–as the Lord commanded Moses (Exodus 39: 22-29).


Heart Felt

Heart Felt


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Wildlife photography? No. Look again. This hare is a needle felt sculpture.

I didn’t know that was a thing. But apparently it is, because Etsy is full of them. Here are some more:

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Duck-bill platypus.

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Lion mama and baby.

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Before I show you more examples of these realistic needle felt animals, I ought to clarify the process used to produce them. Kenya Finley, one of the artists who creates animals like these (including the dog pictured above) explains, “These little critters start off as a bit of wool fiber or ‘fluff’. Special barbed needles are used to poke the wool fiber hundreds and hundreds of times until it begins to bind together and is then sculpted.” Some of the animals have wire framework inside. They aren’t toys–they are collectibles, artwork. Many are very small (sometimes the photo includes a human hand for scale), so when you see the prices (all are available for sale–linked to their info on–just click on the name below each photo), realize that the cost reflects intensity of labor, not size. Some of the artists also make sculptures of pets from photographs.

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Polar bear.

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Barn owl family.

Candle mouse, acorn mouse.

Now we are switching gears altogether. The rest of the animals in this article are sewn from wool felt, rather than sculpted from needle felted wool. Some of the animals below are sold already made; others are available as kits, and downloadable directions are available for the rest.

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Felix the Fox.

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Christmas reindeer.

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Frog Prince.

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Kangaroo mama and joey.

Felt 24Brontosaurus.

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Once I started looking at these creatures online, I couldn’t stop. The frog, the raccoon, and the fox in the suit are what first caught my attention. I found the others when I did a search on Etsy for felt animals. I love the cat, the crow, the mice, and the aardvark.

What about you? Do you have a favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

All Things Unicorn

All Things Unicorn

You may know about my infatuation with unicorns. (Of course, my obsession is purely artistic, being spawned by the magnificent Unicorn Tapestries at The Cloisters.) I recently searched to check out their unicorn-related stuff.

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Unicorn horn headband.

Much of what I found is hand-crafted, making it totally appropriate for a blog about the arts and the creative process.

But first of all, I have to tell you putting a horn on a horse’s head does not make it a unicorn. Unicorns have a goatish head with a bearded chin; their tails are like a lion’s, with a tuft of hair at the end; and they have split hooves. Too many contemporary artists have been influenced by cartoons. Really. Take a good look at the medieval tapestries, back in the day when artists really knew their unicorns.

That said, I have included some horsey unicorns here, only because I would otherwise have had to exclude much unicorn art created after 1980.

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Look at this beautiful charm. Very reasonable, too.

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Gold unicorn necklace.

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Contrary to its online description, the piece above is rendered in crewel embroidery, not needlepoint.

The similar picture on the left is also crewel, but the unicorn pillow, however, is done in needlepoint.

I would totally wear this unicorn t-shirt (oops, sold out) or the sweatshirt.

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I actually have one of these porcelain pomanders that I bought decades ago from my Avon lady.

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A collection of brass statuettes (oops, somebody snapped these up).

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A unicorn head you can hang on your wall like a hunting trophy. Impress your friends with your big game prowess. (One of the characters in my work-in-progress should have bought this.)

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A unicorn stamp to impress your sealing wax.

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This brass unicorn key organizer will keep track of your keys with class. (Man, somebody bought this, too. Unicorn stuff is really popular, based on how much has sold between the time I wrote this article and now.)

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Coolest. Messenger bag. Ever.

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Lovely unicorn sculpture from Russia with love.

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Or, how about this life-size unicorn sculpture? (Wow! This was sold, too, and it was pricy. I feel totally vindicated about my obsession. I’m really not as addicted as other people. I can stop any time.)



The Accidental Mentor

The Accidental Mentor

In 1962, when I was nine, my family took a vacation in Germany to visit our relatives. My parents hadn’t seen them in more than ten years, not since they emigrated to the United States.

We spent a week with Tante Thilde and Onkel Karl. They owned a tailor shop where they made custom clothing, including coats for Lord and Taylor in New York.

sewing-needle bing free commercialTo me the shop was magical. It contained four sewing machines for my aunt and uncle and two young women who were their apprentices. Shelves holding bolts of fabric and bins of notions lined the walls. Mannequins wore completed outfits and works-in-progress. Customers came in for fittings and to pick up their purchases. I remember lots of activity and smiles and jokes and laughter.

My aunt set to work on dresses for my mother and me in the traditional dirndl style. To occupy me, she gave me pattern pieces, the fabric already cut out, for me to make a doll dress. I don’t think I ever completed it, because I was so excited about the other things she gave me—lots of different needles and pins and threads and a tape measure and tailor’s chalk (I still have some!) and—glory of glories—scraps of a hundred different fabrics. I spent hours cutting up that fabric and stitching it back together with stitches so big you could drive a truck through them.

Measuring_Tape bing free commercialWhen we returned home, my mother taught me some practical hand sewing: darning, hemming, and a little embroidery. It wasn’t until ninth grade home economics, however, that my sewing really took off.

I took two years of home ec in high school. The program was divided into one semester of cooking and one semester of sewing. I lived for the sewing semester. Mrs. Stratton, the sewing teacher, was meticulous. She made sure we learned the correct way to lay out a pattern, thread a sewing machine, insert a zipper, and make bound buttonholes. Our final project was a suit with a lined jacket. I wore that puppy with pride for years. I am so sorry for today’s students that home economics has disappeared from most high schools. You can thank our society’s emphasis on standardized testing for that. Also, the reluctance to adequately fund public schools.

I made a lot of my own clothes, and a lot of clothes for my children. I also made curtains and drapes. In the 80s I met a woman who taught quilting; she facilitated my next obsession. sewing 1 bing free commercial

But I don’t know if I would ever have had the enthusiasm for creating with fabric if it hadn’t been for my aunt putting fabric in my hands. She opened a world of possibility to me with that one simple act.

Lots of creative people can point back to someone in their childhood (a parent, relative, teacher, or neighbor) who somehow encouraged them to explore and experiment. Your example and a small contribution from your stash—whether fabric, paints, clay, an old instrument, or notebooks—can inspire a child for a lifetime.

Was there someone in your life who put you on a path to creativity? Or did you help start someone out and watch him take off and fly? Please share in the comments below.