Baby Banner (Eliza Jane)

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My cousin John and his wife Mariana had a baby girl on March 1st, so I had to drop everything and make a baby banner for Eliza Jane. I took photos along the way, which give an idea of my process. It’s like the wedding banners I’ve been making for a few years. You can see all of them here.

I first made a simple pattern, with her name, birth date and weight written out. Then I cut out a smaller felt square and bent wire to form the letters and numbers.

I wrapped the wire with 2 strands of variegated embroidery floss, hiding the knots behind the curled ends. In this case, wire had to overlap to make the Z. I tried making the fancier lower case script Z, but it was hard to read, so I went with the simpler zigzag style. Below you can see how I made an orange stripe with another thread on top of the embroidery floss in JANE.

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I like using variegated thread to edge the felt.

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I made a narrow panel for a sheep button and some leaf beads.

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Glass leaf beads and a chain stitched vine fill the space between the words.

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I’ve had this ceramic sheep button for about 30 years. It’s so satisfying to put it to use in just the right place.

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I braided some Greek leather that I bought at a bead show and made a strap to hang the banner. Working with the leather reminded me of making gimp projects at camp. Remember gimp? What a weird material!

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Welcome to the world Eliza Jane!

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black cat pin

I gave a talk today at the First Congregational Church in my home town of Falmouth, MA. The audience included many needle workers who were very curious about how I made some of the pieces I showed in my slide presentation. Jo Ann Coleman brought a black velveteen cat pin to show. It’s one I had made over 30 years ago for her son, who was a classmate growing up in Falmouth. In the late 70’s, early 80’s, I made custom pins for customers who send photos of their cats. I remember seeing the picture of this big black one with a white beard. It’s wonderful that these pins I made decades ago keep coming back into my life! You can read more about the pins here.

Felt Wee Folk around the kitchen table

fairies from "Felt Wee Folk"

fairies from “Felt Wee Folk”

Sometimes I look at my blog statistics to find out how people find me. Quite frequently searches like “pipe cleaner dolls”or “wee felt people” bring them here. This week’s wordy favorite was “how to wrap embroidery floss around pipe cleaners for fairies”.

Last week, I received the most wonderful e-mail message from Michele in Nebraska, who wrote, “I didn’t do anything else yesterday evening except enjoy every single thing on your blog.” She went on describe how she and her family have enjoyed the doll projects in Felt Wee Folk.

“I purchased your book when my daughter was 15 (she is now 20 and a new mother). She had a close friend spend the night once that year and I brought my new book, along with lots of felt, threads, combed wool (I spin) and all manner of goodies, into the kitchen with the two girls and announced we were going to make tiny dolls. You should have seen their teenage faces! At first hesitant and then fascinated and completely absorbed, those two girls insisted on staying up till 2:30 in the morning so their little people could be finished! We talked about everything and laughed and laughed and when we were done, we sat and looked at our little people with the greatest satisfaction and joy. Just recently, my daughter’s same good friend came to our house to visit and told me that night spent here was the most fun she has ever had and that she felt so much love in our home. She has her little Wee Folk doll still and wants to make more with her children when she has them.

I just thought you might like to hear that your art has the most profound effect on others in such a positive and loving way. Thank you for your years of sharing. Thank you for leaving your examples of doll art on your website as inspiration for those of us who cannot get enough of them. I am sure you will be blessed in all your new endeavors.

And finally thank you for being true to yourself, for in doing that, what you have created is truly magical.”

Stories like Michele’s make me feel that sharing my fantasy/play world is truly worth it. It warms my heart to think of kitchen tables around the world scattered with silk flower petals, pipe cleaners and acorn caps. I can imagine faces of all ages and colors bowed in concentration and busy hands engrossed in making wee dolls. It’s been almost 9 years since Felt Wee Folk was released by C&T Publishing. Since 2003, the book has been reprinted many times, selling over 50,000 copies, which is way more than any of my children’s books.

wedding banner: Andrew & Mary

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I made this wedding banner for my son Peter to give to his good college friend Andrew, who was married last Saturday. The wedding was in Biddeford Pool, Maine and since the couple met sailing there, I gave the banner a nautical/seaside flavor.

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I wrote out their names in doubled up 32 gauge florist wire, since I ran out of thicker stuff. Then I picked out some variegated embroidery floss to wrap the letters.

I added 2 purchased red ribbon roses and then stitched some leaves around them.

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The had a whole bunch of shells with holes that came from a necklace my grandmother got in Hawaii about 50 years ago. The blue piece of felt is edged with metallic thread, which is nasty to sew with, but the sparkle looks good.

The felt banner is hung from a piece of driftwood, which was probably part of an old wooden lobster pot.

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I found some anchor buttons and a fish in my stash to add and some more shells to hang from the scalloped edged bottom. Best wishes to Andrew and Mary!

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See posts about making other wedding banners here.

Berry Family dolls

I brought the Berry Family outside for an airing. They’re a bit moth-eaten–a downside to working with wool. For the last couple of winters, I’ve gotten into the habit of bringing all of my felt and felt clothed dolls outside when the temperature dips below freezing, hoping to kill any moths.

I made the mother, father (4″ tall) and baby members of the Berry Family in 2005, as a Ltd. edition of 25. They are based on the patterns from my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.  All of my Ltd. edition dolls are currently sold out and I won’t be making any more.

The Berry Family, Ltd. edition 2005

uncommon scent dolls

Almost 30 years ago, I made and sold a slew of these sachets, of which I have only one left. The Uncommon Scent Dolls were about 4 inches tall and filled with pleasant smelling spices, leaves and petals. The pattern is the same as the Nativity dolls I showed in an earlier post here.

Uncommon Scent doll, 1982

I remember picking out different woven fabrics and using the selvage edge as much as possible. This was back in the days when I used the zigzag feature on my sewing machine for the appliqued parts.

I also made these Matruska doll sachets, modeled after the Russian wooden nesting dolls.

doll sachets, 1985

Chin up bibs

30 years ago, a few years before I had babies of my own, I designed, sewed and sold CHIN UP BIBS. I found a box filled with left over seersucker bias strips, a stack of tags and one tuxedo bib–all that remains of my enterprise.

For a few years, I sewed hundreds of bibs of different styles, including tuxedos, shirt and tie, dress with pearls, clown, overalls, etc. They were backed with terry cloth and had liners cut out of shower curtains. A unifying feature was the bias edging, which I’ve since used for pot holders (see tutorial here).

In 1982, I asked the mothers of two Woods Hole babies to model the bibs for an advertisement. My art school friend, Carmine Fantasia took these wonderful B&W photographs of  Ben and Hannah wearing the bibs.

I later stopped adding bead necklaces to the girl’s style bib, because of the potential choking hazard. 

Ben and Hannah, who both turn 30 this year and are still friends, are delightful adults. Here’s a recent picture of Hannah at her sister’s wedding.

This is as close as Ben got to wearing a tie back in ’82.

And here he is, when he got all dressed up last month, in suit and tie, for the Woods Hole “mock” formal at the Capt. Kidd Restaurant.

The bibs were later in Better Homes and Gardens.

I also found some pattern pieces for the bibs in my file cabinet.

Thank you Ben and Hannah, for letting us dress you up and take your picture one morning in 1982!

little standing animals

Update (June 2014): Things have changed in the 3 years since this post was published. After emphatically stating I wouldn’t write another how-to book, I surprised myself this past year by working on Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures, which will be released by C&T in the spring of 2015. Read posts about it here. These animals will not be included in the new book, but there will be lots of other fun dolls to make.

I made this group of animals about 10 years ago, when I was gathering ideas for my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk. They didn’t make the book’s cast, so the little critters have been waiting behind the curtain ever since. I’ve pretty much decided not to write another instructional book (read ahead for more on that), so they can come out on stage, now.

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They are made with wooden forms that have a simple dowel on the bottom, with a turned ball on the top. You can find the wood shapes here. At about 2 inches tall and similar to finger puppets, these can stand up by themselves.  The small wooden bead “paws” are a choking hazard, so they shouldn’t be added if a young child plays with them.

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They look a bit like Halloween trick or treaters in felt costumes, with their hoods and painted faces.

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It’s so wonderful to hear from readers who have enjoyed making the dolls and other projects in Felt Wee Folk and many have urged me to write another instructional book. The publisher is willing, too. So why can’t I say yes? I am clearly ambivalent, because I had a great experience working with C&T Publishing. It’s just that I’ve moved on to other things and don’t feel the same push to get it out of my system, like I did 10 years ago. It’s not that I don’t have any ideas for new projects, they’re just more complicated and personal. I’m resisting the pull to work on another book because I want to spend time exploring new ways of working, to experiment and grow as an artist. Just the process of formulating my thoughts for this post has helped me understand why I’ve been dragging my feet.

The trouble is, I know what it takes to produce an instructional book and I also know that I’m not up to it. It’s writing out those pesky directions that has me stumped. When I approached C&T with my proposal for Felt Wee Folk. I had a strong desire to share my ideas, enough to force myself through the quagmire of analysis and explanation. I’ve always had a problem with describing how to make what I do, even back in the days when I designed projects for Better Homes and Gardens. I know that I can do it, but I can’t bring myself to jump down that rabbit hole. I want to give myself over to the mysterious process of creating something without later having to give a detailed description of how I made it.

So, I’ll be sharing projects and ideas from time to time, but without patterns and instructions. Hopefully, my readers will feel inspired enough to want to try a hand at figuring out how to make something of their own!

Iris Fairy

I’ve finished another limited edition of 25 fairies, just in time for the holidays. Iris has auburn braids and a purple petal skirt and wings.

Iris Fairy

Update: All of the Iris fairy dolls have sold.

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I’ve found that I can usually find enough matching flower petals and wings to make a group (or swarm) of 25 fairies.

a swarm of fairies?

It’s a manageable number to make at one time and then I feel free to move on to other projects.

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Instructions and patterns for making fairies like this are in my how-to book,  Felt Wee Folk: Enchanting Projects.

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Here are the petal petticoats, all stacked and ready to dress the fairies.

petal fairy petticoats

Now they’re waiting for their turn in the braiding salon.

before going to the braiding salon