So many little animals — so many little stitches!
That was my reaction when I stepped into HollysMeadow this summer during the Firefly Market in Boulder. There were horses and cows, billy goats and sheep . . . peacocks and ducks and geese . . . turkeys and various chickens . . . nearly every animal a child might want for one fine farm . . . and more.
If anything is missing that would suit a child’s fancy, Holly Myers can design and make it. (HollysMeadow is her special spelling for her new business.)
That’s how Polish chickens joined the brood at HollysMeadow. A mother contacted Holly after the family’s Polish chickens had an unfortunate encounter with an animal hungry for a chicken dinner. To soothe her upset young daughter, she wanted to buy three toy chickens that the little girl could play with.
Holly offered to make the Polish variety especially for her. She researched the chickens online and incorporated their lush upright tails and tall topknots into her design. The little girl named the three toy chickens after the three animals the family had lost. The Polish chickens had so much appeal that Holly kept on making them, and adults have bought them for their own inner child.
A Quick Guide to the Animals of HollysMeadow
You only need to know a few things to be able to identify an animal from HollysMeadow anywhere you find it.
First, it’s firm to the touch and can stand on an adult’s open hand. The smaller varieties can stand on a child’s hand as well.
Second, its skin is made of wool felt in colors as true to life as possible. That goes for the unicorns and dragons too!
Third, the ultimate identifier: The seams are sewn entirely by hand with embroidery floss on the outside of the body in tiny, closely-spaced blanket stitches. You will not find a trace of glue or a machine stitch anywhere.
I’ll go into more detail on these characteristics shortly. But to complete this quick guide, let me add this: An animal from Holly’s Meadow was born to play with children, so it’s made to endure. I would not be surprised to learn 20 years from now that a child is playing with the same animal that had given the parent hours of joy in 2014.
How the Animals Evolved
Last year Holly Myers was working at a Waldorf-inspired preschool, where children learn stories in a three-step process. First they hear the story; then they see the story acted out; then they act it out themselves. A teacher was anticipating telling a story that included a horse and cow and needed small ones that she could manipulate for the second step in the process.
Holly came through for her colleague. She made a felt horse about five inches high with a mane and tail of black wool yarn; a felt cow of similar size followed. Not only were the animals very well received, but the fabric artist within Holly had found a lot of satisfaction in making them. HollysMeadow grew from there.
Her new business brings together skills she has enjoyed in the past. Holly loves to draw and successfully makes patterns that bring animals to life in 3-D. She has also designed and created fabric wall hangings with appliqued and embroidered detail, all stitched by hand. Her experience in appliqueing makes stitching the tiny curves of her animals seem familiar and easy, Holly told me.
I watched Holly stuff one of her swallows with more cotton than you would ever believe a small bird could hold. She used a wooden dowel to help her pack it tightly and she didn’t quit until the tiny area where the tail attached was as firm as the rest of the body.
Holly closed the fully stuffed swallow with her signature blanket stitches, 1/16” long and less than 1/8” apart. The blanket stitches laid a line of embroidery floss along the edges she was pulling together so no gap appeared between the two pieces of felt.
Holly had chosen wool felt for her animals because of its strength. This isn’t the felt that’s sold widely in hobby stores, however; Holly has to order her wool felt online. She knows how hard children play, and she was determined to make her animals durable. Holly recommends surface cleaning only, but she showed me a horse that had accidentally gone through the washing machine and it was none the worse for it.
Wander through all of HollysMeadow
Wandering through HollysMeadow, I find myself thinking not only of children but of adults too. The ram, just a few inches long, would make a great gift for the desk of a Colorado State University enthusiast. If I entertained family at Thanksgiving in an informal style, I would begin a new family tradition by decorating the table with a felt turkey at every place setting. Pumpkins started proliferating in HollysMeadow recently, and they would be a good choice too.
So have some fun and go wander through HollysMeadow yourself. You can wander there on your feet this weekend at the Horseshoe Fall Market in Denver. Or you can wander online at Holly’s website, where you’ll see a wonderful picture of Holly holding one of her horse’s in her open hand. The “Purchase” tab will take you to her shop on Etsy, where you can see which animals are waiting for homes. Click the “Local Markets” tab to see if Holly and her animals will be at any more art festivals leading up to the holidays. Don’t miss the great photos of past shows at HollysMeadow on Facebook.
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