A New Dragon

My new dragon, Tân Bach.

Not my original design, I discovered this pattern by Simplicity and really liked it so thought I would have a go – with a few modifications of fabric (the original was fur, and lacked any stiffening in the wings), eye size (smaller when not covered by fur) and colour distribution (pale spines are just weird!) It has some nice features, so that hand-stitching is minimised, but it has to be the hardest stuffing job I have ever attempted to get those back legs filled! I was also glad to find most of the hand stitching required is hidden, yet can still be done with a straight needle; I do have curved needles which I have used on other soft toys but don’t find them easy to handle.

This is in fact a ‘test’ for another I plan to make, as it is similar in shape to a particular dragon friend of mine that I would like to work with more – and given my drawing ability isn’t brilliant this seemed the best way to make a physical representation. However, I will want to make a few changes as this neither sits on a shoulder reliably, nor sits flat on anything else with all its feet touching! A pillow or cushion is required at all times. Also I don’t feel the spines along the back start or finish in the right place, the head is a little large and too wide at the back, and there is an unsightly bulge where the tummy section ends. Altogether it has too much dinosaur influence with horns added as an afterthought to be my dragon – this one has a different character, and I feel a female, sinuous energy from her.

As she was finished two days before going to Wales for a week camping, we called her Tân Bach, small fire (given hers is gentle and warming rather than a full blaze such as a red dragon might give out), and she came with us. I can honestly say she is the most laid back character of any cuddly toy we have, and we have quite a few (most are bears, some up to half a century old while others are fairly new – including a rag doll, a very large elephant and a unicorn that I have made) not seeming to mind what goes on around her. However on returning home she has insisted on being where there is a fire, and appears slightly haughty about ‘her’ responsibilities. Maybe it’s just pride.

I was once under the impression that soft toys were inanimate objects, and merely accepted the character projected onto them by their owner or the person playing with them. I have come to realise this is not the case. They have moods, although signs can be subtle, and can be offended or excited or relaxed just as any other spirit might be. For they of course have their own individual spirit which is influenced by the energies present when they were made, how they were made, what materials were used, where they live, and how they are loved. They act as a store for love, ready to give back when needed, to give comfort. (Poppets were of course used for this, and for healing, as well as the darker purposes they are now associated with.) I now look forward to making and meeting Tân Bach’s brother or sister dragons…

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A Quest for Good Handwriting

About every eight or nine years I seem to have a sudden need to improve my handwriting, and have been struck by the urge again this week. For Yule I was given a very beautiful fountain pen with a barrel made from an old oak whisky barrel which I use for writing in my pagan journals – and then of course I have had no computer for a few days while it was being rebuilt (see previous post). I was amused to then discover it was National Handwriting Day last weekend; who knows if it influenced me subconsciously!

Generally when I have worked on my penmanship skills as an adult, it has been to look at an aspect of calligraphy rather than my basic handwriting, concentrating on writing slowly and beautifully. But this isn’t necessarily useful for every day, which has made me question what actually makes ‘good handwriting’?

To help me in my own handwriting improvement endeavours, I tried writing out the alphabet and various short phrases in as many different ways and styles as came easily to me. The slower I wrote the more rounded the letters were able to be, and more regular the size and slant of letters. Some of it looks great, but when I tried to write something longer my writing returned to my usual style again: small, with a slightly irregular forward slant, angular not curvy (which I prefer to look at), and longer down strokes than fit standard proportions. Better than what I learned at school, but not something instantly pleasing to the eye or easily readable by other people.

Most of what I currently write by hand is in personal notebooks, such as recording journeys, or moon jottings, or ideas for stories, or other personal writings. Pretty much all pagan-related in some way, and not generally for anyone else to read. I do, however, need to write at a reasonable speed or else the time lapse between thought and pen becomes too great. I could of course spend several hours practicing letter forms so that neater writing became more natural to my fingers, but I’m still not sure that would create the fast, relaxed writing style I want.

Then I realised I had missed an interesting aspect of handwriting – that it gives something of the character and feelings of the person who wrote it. In this modern age when almost everything else I do is typed, and I can type quicker than write, there is far less need for regularity of handwriting. If I need ‘regular’ for a letter or card, then I can use a suitable type face, or do calligraphy if it is only a few words. But for fast writing that only I see, why not let my writing express something of me? If the lines rise in excitement, or fall in frustration, why does it matter? I would rather be someone who is looking forward, impulsive, imaginative, and has my feet on the ground, than be a conventional, copy-book writer with no outlet for self-expression. I have finally realised I don’t need to change it.

Although I have been inspired to improve my calligraphy further…