windsurfing wedding pair

Back in the 80′s, when my friends were getting married, I made portrait bride and groom dolls for their cakes. One memorable pair was Ben and Julie, riding side by side on a toy windsurfer. Julie showed me what her dress would look like ahead of time, so that I could match it.

I don’t think Julie actually wore red pumps at the wedding, but these Tammy shoes were the right size. Ben wore Ken’s leather slip ons. The shoes are stuck onto the board with double sided tape.

Over the years, the dolls had started to fall off the boat, so I reattached their hands to the boom. Now they can go back home to Ben and Julie’s. We went down to Woodneck beach in early evening, just before sunset, to take photos in the low sunlight. See other posts about  more recent wedding figures here and here.

pot holder tutorial

Every year, I make pot holders to give away to my friends. It’s become a seasonal ritual that started with my grandmother’s version. She used to sew a curtain ring in a corner, to hang them up with. I’ve had one of her’s in my kitchen drawer until last week, when I finally threw it out.  And she died over 20 years ago! Over the years, I’ve adapted the design, which I’ll show you here.

Pot holders are so simple to make and it’s a good way to use up scraps of loud fabric that don’t match anything. I first pick out some fabric from my stash–this time some shop keepers, with a line of paper-doll chain style shoppers. I’ve had this fabric sample for years and can’t remember where it came from. I also included some checked batik fabric and some favorite 40-year-old blue Mari Mekko scraps.

I cut the batik fabric on the bias and sewed several lengths together  to make tape for the edging.

An old cotton mattress pad is the secret ingredient to making pot holders like my grandmother’s. I had used up my old supply and recently found a cotton pad when cleaning out a relative’s house. Yipee! Polyester filled pot holders just don’t insulate well enough!

I cut out pieces and sandwiched together 3 layers, a front, a cotton pad middle and a back. 

I then outlined the figures by stitching through the 3 layers.

Then I stitched the bias tape around the outside edge of the back side.

I then turned the bias tape over to the front side and pinned it in place.

This is the most fussy part—-stitching the tape on the top side. The tape usually puckers a bit as you turn the corner. I had previously stitched on a Wee Folk Studio label that was left over from the days of selling felt purse kits.

I saved some extra length of bias tape to flip over for a loop.

Now, they’re all in my friends’ kitchens. I like to make pot holders because they are not too precious—they will be used and enjoyed daily and can be thrown into the washing machine.

Pocket Lady & giveaway winners

The Pocket Lady came by when I was signing copies of Pocketful of Posies at the Waldorf School of Cape Cod’s Holiday Faire on Saturday. My neighbor, Joy, was playing the role and letting children pick out small presents from a pocket for the price of a ticket. I made the pocket lady costume about 20 years ago, when I was a parent in the school. It’s adapted from a nightgown pattern and made out of red velveteen, with upholstery fabric pockets and lots of bells. I’m glad to see it continue to be used every year!

Pocket Lady

And now for the giveaway winners! Three people have been picked at random from the 80 who left comments. Congratulations to Domestic Diva, Marabilys (from France) and Emma (from Australia), who will each receive a hardcover copy of In the Heart. The book is out-of-print, but my local bookstore, Eight Cousins Books sells autographed copies (508 548 5548).

In the Heart, 2001

Shona & Amy’s Wedding Cake

Shona and Amy’s wedding was as wonderfully unique, warm and loving as they are.  My friend Terry and I made their cake as a gift and they graciously left the details to us. We have worked together on many projects, including the Woods Hole Village Quilt. For the cake, we were free to create our own vision of our friends and decided to feature our local corner of southern Cape Cod. On Friday, Terry and I got together at her house to work on the decorations. The cake was going to have a raspberry filling, so Terry needed to cut the large cake sheets in half. Using a setup her husband Keith devised for the purpose, she sliced the cake with a saw rigged with a banjo wire.


I busied myself cutting parts out of fondant, while Terry spread the filling and spread the frosting.  I combed a wavy texture with a pointy toothed triangular tool. Then, I sprinkled blue shimmer dust on the waves through a fine strainer.

Woods Hole and the Elizabeth Islands were made of fondant and covered with green shimmer dust.  I spelled out Buzzard’s Bay and Vineyard Sound, using cute little cookie cutters. I also made the wedding couple’s house out of marzipan.

We positioned the boat and dolls heading southwest along the chain of Elizabeth Islands  in Buzzard’s Bay

Terry piped the cake edges with frosting and we started to add decorations. I had made a fondant banner with the wedding date 2 days ahead and it had dried enough to crack in places, so we had to do some patching.

Terry had found these worm shaped candies, which we used to make a wavy border pattern on the lower tier.

 Terry fixed the banner, while I added candy fish, lobsters and octopi. This project was becoming more fun by the minute!

We made a candy stone wall along the base of the cake.

And added some walnut-shell sailing dinghies and another candy wall. Beeswax holds the masts on place.

Here’s the sea gull’s view.

And yesterday, Shona and Amy saw their cake for the first time. What a special day!

Wedding Cake figures

My friends, Shona and Amy are tying the knot this Saturday. Their wedding is looking to be more of a do-it-yourself type than the formulaic extravaganzas I’ve been to lately.  Their’s will be much looser, with lots of friends helping out, which reminds me of 30 years ago, when my husband and I got married.  My friend Terry and I volunteered to make their wedding cake. Terry has already baked the cake and she and I will be spending friday working on the decorations. We’ve been planning this cake for months and I’ll try to remember to take pictures as we add the personal touches. I just finished making Shona and Amy dolls to fit a toy boat, which will be on the cake.

To start, I found a wooden toy boat of the right size and type at Bella Luna Toys. I then made two 3 1/2 inch tall pipe cleaner doll forms, the same way as explained in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

This is what the dolls look like undressed. I wrapped some cotton batting around their middle sections and sewed small beads for breasts, which show that these are women, not girls. Just adding stuffing doesn’t look natural and the beads appear more true to life when they are clothed. I started using beads for breasts a few years ago, when I made my self-portrait, because I wanted to show maturing over time. See my piece, Self-Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion here.

Then, I dressed them in clothing that I thought fit their style and personality.

Now that the dolls had heads, they needed a trip to the hairdresser. I put glue on the top and sides of the bead heads and then draped felt over, using pins to keep the felt in place while it dried. I started devising this wig making technique when I made all of those dolls for my Self-Portrait.

After the glue dried, I cut the felt in the back to conform to the round head and glued the felt to the back. Pins hold the felt in place while it dries. I felt like giving the dolls little fashion magazines to read like women in salons, who sit and wait with curlers or foil origami on their heads.

I sewed the seams together and blanket stitched around the felt edges, using flower thread, which is thicker than embroidery floss. DMC discontinued making flower thread, which is too bad, because it’s great stuff. I still have some of this golden wheat color that worked for both Amy and Shona’s hair.

Shona has curls, so I twisted the thread around the needle and pulled it through, like loose french knots. I really felt like a hairdresser then.

Amy’s doll had straight hair.

I made a flag with their names that would fly above the dolls on the boat. Wire along the flag’s edge helps keep its shape.

I painted the boat and sewed the finished dolls to tiny screw eyes on the cabin. Amy loves to fish, so I made her a fishing rod and attached a bead fish.

Shona, who is a bit of a show-off, is ready at the bow, holding on to the flag pole. I’ll let you know how the launching goes.

Baby Jacket for Moss

When little Moss was born last fall, I knew I had to make something green for him to wear. His jacket is made from the same Simplicity pattern (6256) as Evan’s, which you can see here.  I am not waiting for  grandchildren of my own to make clothes for. Whether or not I will ever become a grandmother is uncertain and out of my control, so I take the opportunity to sew for those children who are here now. I made some children’s clothes earlier in the summer, before I realized that I was way behind in getting ready for my show in September. Sewing from a pattern is relaxing, like following a favorite cookie recipe. For Moss’s jacket, I used mottled green fabric with orange dots and lined it with cotton batting.

Then I chain stitched a name tag with Moss.

And shaped it into a leaf, which I appliqued to the jacket front.

Then a stem and pointed leaf edging were added with variegated embroidery floss.

The jacket was lined with a solid moss-green fabric and I made bias tape to sew around the raw edges.

Buttons and button holes came next.

This little guy is ready for cool days this fall.

Evan’s baby jacket

I took some time this summer to make some children’s clothes for my friends who are having babies. This little chinese style padded jacket is for Evan, who is 8 months old. I found some batik fabric that looked like a grassy meadow, cut out the pattern and lined the pieces with cotton batting. Then I embroidered his name on a scrap of contrasting batik fabric.

Then, I cut the scrap into a leaf shape, turned it under, and appliqued it to the jacket front piece. I added a stem and vein to the leaf and stitched a pointed tooth edging around the leaf.

I then sewed the pattern pieces together and made a lining out of a different cotton fabric.

I finished the outside edges with some bias tape I made from contrasting batik fabric.

I added buttons and button holes.

And sewed in a cloth label that I had left over from the days when I made felt purse kits.

It should fit the handsome little guy through the fall and winter. See another baby jacket here.

Green bird dress

Recently, I took a break from sewing felt borders and made some children’s clothes for friends. This green bird dress is made with the same Burda pattern as Alex’s dress. The fabric is Gypsy Song by Susan Winget for Benartex. This time, I remembered to add on seams when cutting out the pattern. Last time I used this European pattern, I neglected to read about this difference and ended up with a much smaller dress than intended.

I used a green checked fabric for the collar and pockets. It was fun to play with my sewing machine, which hardly ever comes out of storage. I used a decorative leaf stitch around the collar.

It didn’t show up well enough, so I ripped it out and replaced it with a yellow scalloped stitch.

I found some bird buttons in my button box.

This dress might be too big now, but it should fit my little friend for a while. I hope she calls it her green bird dress.

Wedding Banner (Leigh & Brendan)

The 2nd summer wedding is coming up soon, so I’m making another felt banner for Leigh and Brendan (see Karen & Graham’s on an earlier post here). I get the impression that the bride and groom are kind of traditional, so I’m resisting the temptation to go wild with color and add too many funky embellishments.


I started by bending 32 gauge cloth-covered wire to form the names and wedding date. I’m really having fun bringing language into my artwork this way. I started figuring out this technique a few years ago when I was working on Pocketful of Posies, and have no idea if the same kind of thing has been done before. Once you get into the rhythm, the wrapping goes quite fast. After all those years wrapping fuzzy pipe cleaners with embroidery floss for fairy limbs, this seems easy.

I had to put in some color, though and wrapped the wire names in bright pink variegated embroidery floss. The couple’s invitation had a seaside motif, so I added a metal shell charm and got out a dried star fish from my collection of found objects. The dark blue and had too much weight compared to the names, so I lightened it by winding around a single strand of pink floss. 

After bending and wrapping the characters for the date, I cut out a piece of yellow felt to mount them on. I don’t make patterns and plan everything out ahead of time, but construct as I go. I always start with the lettering and then figure out later how much room they’re going to need.

Then, I had to figure out how to place everything on the purple blue felt background. At this point, I realized that the star fish didn’t have anything to offer and would have to go. I go through this editing process often, latching onto some interesting found object and then seeing that it has served its purpose of moving the design along and is no longer needed. A writer friend describes the revision process the same way. She said, “You have to be willing to let go of favorite words and phrases.”  

I decided to incorporate a more conventional floral decoration and added some of Mimi’s Kirchner’s felt roses and some glass leaf beads. If you haven’t learned how to make them yet, go to her tutorial on her blog here. I also got out the dreaded glue because that was the only way to attach some shells around the date. The yellow felt piece called out for some embellishment, so I added a chain-stitched loopy line around it.

Then, I cut out  a banner of blue felt, with scallops on the bottom and blanket stitched all around with variegated pima cotton from the Caron Collection. I found an old shell necklace, the souvenir kind from Hawaii, and sewed some shells to the scalloped bottom edge. I was glad that they already had holes.

I sewed a casing for a drift wood stick at the top, then tied and braided a pima cotton strap.

Here’s the finished banner, ready to wrap up and bring to the wedding.

Wedding Banner (Karen & Graham)


Update: See other banners with wrapped wire lettering here. Visit my Etsy Shop.

This summer I’ve been invited to two weddings, with the first being held on June 25th on Cape Cod. Both the bride and groom are  designers and I thought they would like something artsy and personal for a wedding gift.


I started by writing out Karen & Graham in a flowing script and then enlarging it to a lower case height of about 1/2″ . Then, using long-nosed pliers, I bent some 32 gauge cloth wrapped wire, using the hand written lettering as a guide.


This is a technique that I figured out while sewing the book cover design for my up-coming children’s book, Pocketful of Posies, which you can see here. I wanted letters that were raised enough to create shadows. And because the wire was a separate flexible piece, it was easy to move the words around for proper positioning on the artwork.


After determining the size of the names and their placement, I cut out a square of orange wool felt and added my customary wavy edge and some cut out holes. I then wrapped the wire with 2-ply variegated embroidery floss, hiding the knots in the back.


This is where I do most of my work, on an old ironing board.

The light green floss wrapped wire didn’t provide enough contrast with the background, so I wrapped a single strand of dark green floss around the wire, candy cane style.


The banner was cut out of a light teal colored wool felt that matched Karen & Graham’s invitation. Then I blanket stitched around the orange felt edges with pink variegated embroidery floss. I chose some fish beads and a heart made of bone to decorate around the wedding date.


Then I made some tiny 1/4″ roses following Mimi Kirchner’s great instructions from her easy felt rose tutorial. Some silk ribbon leaves were added, too.


After I figured out how much space to leave for the date and beads, I cut out the scalloped bottom edge of the banner. The outside edge was blanket stitched with some variegated pima cotton (Caron Collection). From my collection of stuff, I picked out some more beads and some beach stone pendants with holes drilled in them to hang from the scallops.


I then stitched the floss wrapped wire words and numbers in place and sewed the beads and stone pendants to the banner. It needed some color on the bottom to balance the orange square on top, so I added another clump of felt roses and silk ribbon leaves.


I made a sleeve of felt at the top and slipped a piece of driftwood through. After drilling 2 holes in the driftwood, I threaded some pima cotton through and braided a strap for hanging the banner.


Here is the finished banner, which I hope Karen & Graham will enjoy for many years!