Needle-Felting

Hi there!

I hope you’re doing well today!

Needle-felting is a new craft I picked up a few months ago. I wear leather gloves on my thumb and my pointer finger, and I use a foam mat underneath the felting. I still manage to stab myself quite frequently, so be careful if you give this hobby a try. I have a mix of synthetic and real wool. I personally prefer synthetic wool because I don’t like having to clean the real wool before I can use it. It also seems to come in more colors? I’m not sure. I haven’t fully figured out how to buy wool and stuff yet.

I haven’t made much, but I have so many ideas. My first creation was this really ugly bear (pictured below) that my husband said was “horrid.” That bear is the first thing I ever needle-felted though, so he’s special to me.

The horrid bear

I kept practicing though, and I bought a needle-felting kit online to try something while following directions. It turned out so cute:

Mushroom Shiba

I love him. I love mushrooms. I was so happy after I made this because it really gave me the confidence to keep working at needle-felting. I made this rainbow hedgehog/mouse guy next to celebrate Pride Month last June:

I love his little ears. Most recently, I’ve been wanting to make more miniature things for my dollhouses using needle-felting. I’ve seen micro-needle-felting online, and I’m not entirely sure how to do it yet, but I really want to learn because I love making tiny things! A couple of the miniatures I’ve needle-felted are pictured below:

A needle-felted dog and teddy bear with some Calico Critters

Thank you for reading!

Listening Skills

Since starting the master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, I’ve learned so much about how to listen and connect with others in a way that makes them feel heard.

One skill that I’ve found to be useful is mirroring the person I’m interacting with. I try to match their energy, and I match the amount of eye contact they’re giving. Everyone seems to have a different level of eye contact that they’re comfortable with. I personally do not like a lot of eye contact, but if I’m speaking to someone who does, then I adapt to suit their preferences.

As for energy, I think a lot of us know how it feels to be super excited about something and to tell someone important to us about it, only for them to be not really listening or worse, to think whatever we’re excited about is stupid. So, I do my best to match the other person’s energy in a conversation. I am genuinely excited when someone comes to me with something they’re passionate about. It means I’m important enough to them that they want me to know about it. It’s kind of an honor. I also try to ask questions about whatever it is. In my experience, even if the question ends up being dumb, they’re usually just really excited to have an opportunity to talk more about it.

Another skill that has been helpful for me even in regular conversation has been reflecting. Reflecting is when you think about what the person has said and identify the feelings or meanings contained in their words and body language. This can help the other person feel validated. Reflecting can look something like this:

Person 1: My friends didn’t sit with me at lunch today. They sat outside and played hopscotch after without me.

Person 2 (reflection): It sounds like you felt left out and sad when your friends did their own thing at lunch today.

It’s usually okay to mess up the reflection too because it gives the other person a chance to correct you and tell you more about what’s going on with them.

A big area that I’ve been working on since I started school is how quiet my voice is naturally. People have told me my whole life that I’m soft-spoken, and they can’t hear me, but I never really knew how to fix it. I’ve really had to practice at speaking up, and sometimes, it really feels like I’m yelling, but when I play my audio back, I’m definitely not. It’s been interesting for me.

I’m also working on challenging and confrontation skills. These can be really important for making progress with clients, and they scare me a little because I’m not used to using them. They seem less scary to me now that I’ve learned more about them. A “challenge” can be like when a person is saying that they aren’t angry, but their hands are balled into tight fists, and their teeth are clenched, and you challenge them by pointing out their fists and teeth.

That’s all I have to say about listening skills for now. I hope you have a great day!

Igloo Dollhouse

Hi all!

Welcome back!

Last year, I bought the Polar Bear Calico Critter family. I had an idea to build them an igloo house, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. I’ve only built one other dollhouse from scratch–the Otter Shack–and I love that house, but it’s not anything like an igloo.

I ended up cutting foam board into strips to make it rounded. I also decided to have the house be two stories tall. Floor-to-ceiling height is 6 inches for each floor, so I guess about 1:24th scale.

Igloo in progress

You can kind of see in the picture above how I place the strips. I used tiny nails and glue to hold them in place. I really wanted a rounded dome roof, like an igloo would have, but I couldn’t make it work. I tried foil shaped around wire, and I considered just using a lot of air dry clay, but both were too heavy, so my igloo house has a flat top. If anyone has any tips, I will probably make a new igloo someday, and I would love to learn how to make a domed roof.

Igloo

I used my sculpting tools to add lines to give the appearance of bricks. I textured a little bit with a toothbrush and also using my fingers (I wore gloves to avoid fingerprints). I painted it all white, and then I went back over the lines with pale blue paint to make it look icy. I also used white glitter to make the igloo shiny like snow.

Close-up of the igloo after painting and air dry clay

I ended up with some annoying bubbles in the airdry clay, but it was my first time ever working with it, and I learned a lot. For example, when I spread it too thin, it cracks!

For the interior of the house, I actually took months to decide what to do. Initially, I had been planning on wood paneling the walls to give it kind of a rustic theme, but every time I tried, it just looked wrong. I talked to some of my friends on Instagram to get ideas, and basically we decided that it would look best if I lined the inside with white felt to make the inside look as snowy as the outside.

Igloo house interior

I took so long to finish the inside that the Polar Bears had another baby!

The bottom floor only has that pink sofa that doesn’t really fit. It’s too big. I can’t decide what else to put down there. My husband thinks it needs a kitchen of some kind, so maybe I’ll add some kitchen pieces. In the upstairs, I made the bed and the tiny dresser myself, but the crib is from Smallsminnimall on Etsy. I love their shop! Everything in it is just so pretty. The little fireplace is from Michaels. The bookcase is from a miniature library kit.

I hope you like this house! If you have any tips on domed roofs for miniatures, please share!

Embroidery

For my embroidery, I use mainly DMC 6-strand embroidery thread. They have glitter thread that I love as well! It’s so pretty and almost fluffy looking. For the past year, I have been working on an embroidery gift for my sister. It was supposed to be for her 21st birthday, but school and tutoring and volunteering had me very busy, so now she will be getting it for Christmas (hopefully). It’s supposed to be a surprise, so I won’t be sharing pictures of it until it’s been given to her. It’s very detailed, so it’s been a lot of work. I hope she likes it!

Before embroidery, I first got into cross stitch because one of the miniature accounts I follow makes the cutest cross stitch pillows for their dollhouses, and I wanted to give it a try. Cross stitch is really soothing, and I love mapping out what I’ve going to make on a grid. I mostly use Stitch Fiddle for mapping. The free version has everything I need.

I love League of Legends, so my first big cross stitch was of Lulu, and I did another of Orianna after that. I also stitch things randomly when I am bored. It helps keep me off my phone. I work really hard to minimize the time I spend doom-scrolling on my phone. I play a lot of Quinn now, so I’ll have to do a cross stitch or an embroidery of her soon to add to my collection of League of Legends-inspired creations.

From cross stitch, I found a bunch of embroidery accounts on Instagram, and I knew I needed to try it. It’s so colorful, and I love sewing.

My favorite piece of embroidery that I’ve made so far is the piece below. I made it as a birthday gift to myself last year. I used the DMC glitter thread for the dress, and I really like how it looks. The grapes/flowers are French knots, and the roses are woven wheel stitches. I also used a lot of satin stitches. I really need to buy a frame for it so that I can hang it up somewhere.

In early 2020, I made my sister a Taylor Swift embroidery because we think she’s great, and my sister was really excited about the release of Lover. We both grew up with Taylor Swift, so her music is a special part of our relationship. I’d love to see her in concert someday, but with the ongoing pandemic, I’m starting to feel like that will never happen.

Lover

The embroidery piece below was inspired by Seven by Taylor Swift. I relate to that song a lot, and I think the music and lyrics are gorgeous. Their legs kind of blend into the grass, but I think the hair looks nice, especially the curls. It’s been a year since I made this, and they’re still very curly! The water to the side looks terrible, but I’ve decided to process it as a learning experience.

Seven

I can’t wait to be done with my sister’s present so that I have more time for other embroidery projects. I made this Winter Wonderland Lulu last year, and I would really like to make some other winter fairies this year. I might also embroider some Little Legends from Teamfight Tactics. I love the penguins, and the fuwas, and the unicorns.

Winter Wonderland Lulu

Here’s a Lovestruck Fuwa that I embroidered:

Lovestruck Fuwa

As you can see, I really like League of Legends and Teamfight Tactics. I have even more clay creations to go with all my sewing. I play on the weekends with my husband, and we mostly only play normals. I sort of hate ranked. I am not competitive at all, so I am just not built for it. I would rather have fun and feel safe making mistakes.

Instagram Miniatures Community

Hi there!

Thank you for being here!

I made my Instagram account for miniatures in 2019, and it was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made. Everyone is so, so nice, and I have made so many friends. Many of us mail each other cards and little gifts regularly, and it’s such a nice way to feel connected to each other. It also forced me to start using the postal system more, which, because I am very much so an adult now, is something I needed.

Cards and a photo sent to me by a special miniaturist friend

The support and positivity of the miniature community is wonderful. I love the virtual activities that some accounts have come up with during the pandemic. This past summer, I participated in a virtual princess party and a really fun August event that set a daily theme for our posts. I have a pancake party coming up, and I am still debating whether I will host a Halloween or autumn-themed party. Even if I don’t, I’m sure someone will be hosting a Halloween party that I can participate in.

Everyone’s miniatures have backstories as well. I also love the accounts that are from the point of view of their miniatures and tell stories about the happenings of their miniature cities. I love reading the different stories behind each dollhouse and its inhabitants. Everyone is so creative, and it inspires me to be more creative. I also think it’s really fun when someone takes their miniatures with them on vacation. It’s so cute to see a Calico Critter or a doll visiting the beach or a castle in Europe!

An ongoing story from my Mushroom Meadow is that the Otter family adopted a baby mermaid last year, and they named her Cordelia. She’s the only non-Calico Critter in Mushroom Meadow. You can see her being held by Mrs. Otter in front of their Christmas stockings in the photo below. She’s a sweet little mermaid doll that I purchased from an Etsy shop called Monteserena Arts. I was just scrolling through Etsy one day when I stumbled upon her, and I just had to have her. I love mermaids, and she’s so precious.

Mrs. Otter, the twins, and baby Cordelia at Christmastime

Instagram has also been great for finding inspiration and getting tips from people who have been making miniatures for longer than me. Many people share videos of their process and include lists of the materials they used so that others can try it for themselves. I, personally, love when someone feels inspired by something I made. It makes me so happy!

I didn’t even know about working with clay or needle-felting or embroidery art before I made my Instagram account, and now I have trouble imagining my life without those things. I also learned to use air-dry clay from watching a video made by one account who was making a stone wall for their dollhouse. I made the igloo pictured below using the techniques that I saw them using.

Igloo with the Polar Bear family

It’s just amazing to be a part of such a wonderful and kind community. It’s restored my faith in humanity a little.

Thank you for reading!

The First Citizen of Mushroom Meadow and Her Story

Hi there!

I mentioned in my first post that the first Calico Critter of Mushroom Meadow was Mrs. Bear. She was purchased by my husband to live in the first dollhouse I built as an adult. The house pictured below. The first floor is a bakery, and Mrs. Bear is a baker. She bakes all the sweet treats for Mushroom Meadow, and each morning, she delivers some of them, mostly cookies and muffins, to Mushroom Café to be sold before returning to open her bakery for the day. She loves baking, but she also loves babies, and she frequently babysits the babies of Mushroom Meadow to give their parents a break.

The first dollhouse I built as an adult

Back to Mrs. Bear. Michael also bought me Calico Critter blind bags from Walmart back then, so I ended up with a couple of baby bears who became Mrs. Bear’s children and moved in with her soon after. She was a single mom of two and running a bakery, and it was a lot of work for her. Around this time, I also learned to work with polymer clay and started making more baked goods to fill out her bakery more. It was pretty bare for a while, as I only owned one cake that I had purchased from a craft store.

Mrs. Bear loves holidays, so she is always hosting brunches at her bakery to celebrate each event. For her Christmas brunch last year, she made donuts, cookies, waffles, and red and green macarons.

Christmas brunch at Mrs. Bear’s bakery

Eventually, some more figures, Mrs. Collie and her son, were purchased because I wanted their bike and I thought they were a cute pair. There is a Collie dad that I think is part of a beach set, but I don’t really like that set enough to buy it. And regardless, Mrs. Collie is a lesbian.

A year ago, Mrs. Bear and Mrs. Collie married, and Mrs. Collie and her son also moved into the bakery.

The wedding of Mrs. Bear and Mrs. Collie

Mrs. Bear, of course, made the wedding cake, pictured below, for their wedding, and it was a big hit in Mushroom Meadow!

Mrs. Bear and Mrs. Collie were the first wedding in Mushroom Meadow, but they definitely will not be the last. I really love making cakes, and I hope to build a church soon, so there will be many, many more weddings in Mushroom Meadow!

The marriage of Mrs. Bear and Mrs. Collie was a bit of an adjustment for everyone because now the upstairs apartment of the bakery is not very big, but they love each other very much, and they are all a very happy family!

Mrs. Collie now works in the bakery with Mrs. Bear to help her out. Mrs. Collie is not a very good baker, but she is good at taking orders and making deliveries on her bike. She also helps watch the babies when Mrs. Bear is otherwise occupied. They enjoy reading and going on bike rides together in their free time.

Thank you for reading!

The Importance of Play

Hi there!

Thanks for sticking around!

After I finish my master’s degree, I want to become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Registered Play Therapist (RPT). I am currently a counselor-in-training, and everything I post is just my opinion on what I’m learning unless I share a direct quote from a textbook or article. This semester, I am taking Intro to Play Therapy. It’s only week 3 of the semester, but I feel like I’ve already learned so much valuable information! I will mostly be discussing play in regards to children in this post, but I do want to point out that play benefits everyone of all ages. It relieves stress and stimulates creativity.

Toys are children’s words, and play is their language.

Garry L. Landreth

The above quote is so simple, and yet, I think many of us do not realize how true it is. Children are not miniature adults. They do not have the vocabulary, cognitive, verbal, or emotional abilities that adults have. They can’t communicate with us in the ways that we adults communicate with each other. Children communicate through play. They process and express themselves through play. Children also make sense of the world around them through their play. It’s amazing and wonderful to view play from this perspective.

Think about a child, or even think of yourself as a child, and think about the ways that you played. What do you think you were communicating?

To illustrate this idea better, I’m going to share a goofy babysitting story. I used to babysit a lot when I was in high school, and one time, a child I was babysitting asked me to play “house” with them using their dollhouse and dollhouse family figures. The conversation went something like this:

Kid: I will be the baby!

Me: Okay, should I be the mommy?

Kid: No, Catie, I am going to be the mommy.

Me: Oh, okay, do you me to be the daddy?

Kid: No, I want the daddy.

Me (very lost at this point): Um, do you want me the dog…?

Kid: Oh, no, I am going to be the dog too.

Me: Okay, what do you want me to do?

Kid: You can be the toilet. You make flushing noises after each person uses it.

…!?

Now that I understood my task, I made silly flushing noises after she had each member of the family, including the dog, use the toilet. This child was potty-training at the time. Like with many kids, there were ups and downs and progressions and setbacks in their potty-training journey. I think it’s possible that they were using this play activity as a way of processing and understanding their potty-training experience. The above conversation is also a good illustration of open-ended vs. closed-ended questions. Open-ended questions often start with “what,” and they have many possible answers. They’re good for learning more about someone and making conversation. Closed-ended questions are questions that can be answered with a single word, like “yes” or “no.” These kinds of questions do not facilitate conversation as well. As you can see above, I could have learned what I was supposed to do much sooner if I had started with, “what do you want me to do?”

On the topic of questions, “why” is pretty much always going to get an “I don’t know” response, even with adults. It also puts people on the defensive. Because of this, I think it’s best to avoid them.

Back to children. Children also need to feel free in their play. When thinking about myself and my interactions with my little sister or the children I babysat, I interrupted their play way too much with questions and unfortunately, even evaluations. For example, a different child I was babysitting had all her Polly Pockets hanging by their necks from the balcony of her dollhouse, and I was horrified. What I should have done was sat down quietly and observed her play to learn more about what was going on. It turns out, she had watched a scary movie with a hanging scene, and she believes she was working through the confusion she felt. Horror movies and children really don’t mix. Another child I babysat had been allowed to watch The Human Centipede, and she was lining up her dolls in a “centipede” for weeks after. Anyway, when a child’s play is interrupted with questions or judgments about how they’re playing, it limits their freedom and their ability to communicate. I view it as like taking some of their words away. Some of us may even remember experiencing this. Like, I remember coloring something in black in my coloring book and being peppered with questions about why I did that and what was wrong with me. I concluded that black must be a “bad” color, and I didn’t use black crayons or markers again for years. It was probably a small event to the adult involved, but it added an unnecessary limit to my ability to communicate.

Of course, not all limits are bad. Some are useful. Obviously, we can’t just let children play with whatever, whenever. They can’t have free access to knives or to the car keys. But, when it comes to play, only necessary limits should be set. Limits that protect them and those around them.

Another point – if a child wants your participation in their play, and you have the time, play with them! But let them guide the activities. Be open to, and accepting (within reason), of what they want you to do.

That’s all I have to share on this topic today! I hope you enjoyed reading!

Welcome to Cate’s Mushroom Meadow!

Hi there!

My name is Cate, and I am also known as @mushroom_miniatures on Instagram. I am a graduate student in a master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. I have two precious dogs named Isaac and Miria. They are both girls! They’re named after the characters from the anime Baccano. They’re both rescues, and I hope to rescue many more animals once we own a home and have more space. My husband, Michael, and I met in 2012, and we have been married a little over two years. He’s my bestest buddy, and I love him so much! He’s very supportive of my hobbies, and he even built the shelves that Mushroom Meadow is on.

Mushroom Meadow is the name of my dollhouse village. I built my first dollhouse when I was 11, and I fell absolutely in love with the hobby. My village is populated by Calico Critters/Sylvanian Families. To clear up any confusion, here in the United States, these toys are called Calico Critters, but everywhere else, they’re called Sylvanian Families. I’m a little obsessed with these cute toys–I have amassed quite a few at this point. They’re just so cute! I especially love the Red Panda family pictured below. Red pandas are one of my favorite animals!

The Red Panda Calico Critter Family

Initially, when I began building dollhouses and making miniatures again in 2017, I didn’t plan to have figures in my houses. However, Michael found a Calico Critter Bear at Walmart, and he thought it was the cutest and most well-made toy he’d ever seen. The dollhouse I had recently completed at the time had a bakery on the first floor, and this bear Calico Critter came with a set of donuts and accessories. Michael insisted that it needed to live in this dollhouse and be a baker because it was perfect. I had never had any Calico Critters growing up, but my little sister and the kid I babysat both had multiple families and furniture sets, so I’d seen them before. At first, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted Calico Critters in my village. I didn’t want to be one of those adults that still played with toys–I didn’t know how important play was to all stages of life back then! I adore Calico Critters now. They really are such detailed little toys. I love how, in the furniture sets, the sinks will have pipes and pretty little designs on the cabinets. I can’t imagine Mushroom Meadow without my Calico Critters. They’ve given me a space to come up with fun stories to share with my Instagram friends and to express myself. Speaking of Instagram, I really love the miniatures/dollhouse/Calico Critter accounts on Instagram. Last year, an Instagram follower created an event where everyone in the dollhouse community posted a picture of their dollhouse(s) all lit up for Christmas. It was so much fun to see everyone’s posts and get to know accounts I hadn’t interacted with before. Everyone is just so kind and accepting. I love it!

Mushroom Meadow at Christmas

In general, I love arts and crafts, and in addition to miniature-making, I also embroider, work with clay, and needle-felt. On this blog, I will be sharing my miniatures and anything else I make. I will also provide tips and techniques that I’ve learned that may be helpful to others. With embroidery, especially, I am constantly having new ideas or seeing new stitches to try on YouTube or Instagram. Right now, I am feeling very inspired by the song The Willow Maid by Erutan, so I am wanting to embroider a fairy soon, like in the song. As for clay, because it’s September, I am working on Halloween-themed food and decorations for my dollhouses. Somehow, I still have not made any actual miniature Halloween candy, so that is one of my goals for this year. Also, I love looking back at some of the things I made when I first got started. I will probably share comparisons of old creations vs. new creations because I think it’s helpful for others to see the journey. I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but for me, personally, it helps to know that everyone starts somewhere, and no one is perfect the first time they try something.

Embroidery of a Ghost Lady in a Lake

I will also use this blog to share some of the happenings of Mushroom Meadow. It’s a very busy place! Recently, a new family, the Maple Cats, moved in, and to make matters more complicated, they’re royalty! The Maple Cats live in a house I’ve named “The Fairytale House.” I included a picture below, but I will show more pictures and provide more information on this house in a future post. Every one of my dollhouses has a theme and a story. They’re all reflections of my personality and the things I love. And of course, autumn is here, which means Halloween is coming up! Everyone in Mushroom Meadow is unearthing their Halloween decorations and figuring out their costumes. Holidays are a very big deal in Mushroom Meadow. Every house gets decorated, and it’s a lot of fun.

The Fairytale House

Finally, because I am in my second year of my counseling program, my life is changing pretty considerably. I start working with real clients in the Spring. I am nervous and excited and happy and just feeling lots of mostly good feelings. I want to use this blog to share my journey and some of the things that I am learning along the way. All my classes so far have felt so valuable, and I have learned so much about people and how to connect with them. I have also learned a lot about how I can improve myself and my own functioning. It’s been a lot to process, but I love talking about school, and I hope you guys will be cool with hearing about it.

I don’t sell anything I make, but I would be happy to direct you to my very talented miniaturist friends if there is something you like or are interested in!

Anyway, I hope you’ll stick around for more. I can’t wait to hear your tips and feedback about my miniatures, art, and even my experiences in school!