The best cheese straws in the world!

This family recipe was first published on my blog 6 years ago. Based on the numbers of visits since then, the post has been a constant favorite ever since. If you want to bring something special that’s not hard to make to a holiday party this season, try it out!

Cheese straws are my favorite offering to bring to holiday gatherings. The recipe comes from my maternal grandmother’s family from Orangeburg, South Carolina.  The tradition has been passed down from mother to child for generations. There are cheese straws and then there are these cheese straws, which always get a lot of attention. I’m working on teaching my sons how to make them – they sure like to eat them! The trick is to use the sharpest cheddar cheese you can get and to roll them as thinly as possible.

My grandmother (2nd from left) with the Salley family, in about 1900.

Ingredients: 3 Cups flour, 2 tsp. seasoned salt (I use Lawry’s), 1 tsp. dried mustard, 1 cup butter, 8 oz. very sharp cheddar cheese. Start by mixing the flour, salt and dried mustard in a bowl.

Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, like you are making pie crust.

Grate the cheddar cheese and stir it in with the flour mixture.

Dribble ice water into the mixture and combine until it sticks together in a doughy consistency. Don’t let it get too soggy!

Divide into balls, handling the dough as little as possible. Then wrap the balls and refrigerate for a few hours.

Roll out the dough balls as thinly as possible and cut in strips with a pastry wheel.

Spread the straws out on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. They may take longer to cook, so check them often and switch pans to different racks during baking time.

They don’t take long to cool, so immediately sample a few. Now, put them out and watch them disappear! They can be saved in a tin and make a great gift, too.

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Self Portrait revisited

Usually, my 2007 embroidered piece, Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion is on display in its semi-permanent home at the Woods Hole Library.  But this fall, it’s been on view at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA, as part of my exhibit, Liberty and Justice: The Satrical Art of Salley Mavor, which runs through Dec. 30, 2018.

Self Portrait: a personal history of fashion, 2007

It’s been a while since Self Portrait was featured in my very first blog post in 2009, so I thought I’d revisit it today. In the exhibit at the New England Quilt Museum, the piece hangs on a wall between two galleries, which hold different portions of the exhibit. It was the museum’s idea to show earlier work from “the innocent years” in one space, as a point of reference, while across the hall is a separate room featuring my recent foray into political satire. There are enlarged photographs of the Wee Folk Players, the animated 14 minute film, Liberty and Justice: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free and a display case full of the real dolls, props and scenery from the film.

Self Portrait detail

An old acquaintance wrote to tell me that she brought three generations of her family to see the show in Lowell during Thanksgiving weekend. She found out about the exhibit through an article in the Boston Globe about its abrupt cancellation at another venue, due to its political content. She said they enjoyed seeing the new political stuff as well as the earlier work, but she especially wanted me to know that her 4 year old granddaughter was so taken with my self portrait that they couldn’t tear her away. For little Emma, seeing the progression of dolls opened up the concept of growing up, which led to her asking lots of questions. I love hearing accounts like this, because it reaffirms my intention to make art for all ages, whether it’s book illustration, stand alone embroidered pieces or political satire. 

This piece seems to resonate with a lot of people whose lives parallel the same time period. I can’t tell you how many women tell me they had an alpaca poncho, too! As well as clothing memories, we all have a personal soundtrack that goes with different times in our lives. This video is a nostalgic tour through fashion and music that my husband Rob and I put together. At the end, there’s a list of the music.

Self-Portrait detail, 2007

I made the piece for a self-portrait invitational show in 2007. It shows a spiral of dolls, one for each year, starting with my birth date in the center. Each figure is dressed in an outfit I would have worn that year, taken from memories, family photos or imagination. The figures range from 1 in. to 3 1/2 in. and are variations of the wee folk a fairy dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

Self-Portrait detail

Since I made many of my own clothes, I remember the fabrics and clothing styles. They are recreated here with smaller scale fabric and embroidered wool felt. My husband, Rob, appears the year we were married and my sons, Peter and Ian, are included through the years when they were little and physically connected to me. The tatting around the outside of the circle was made over 100 years ago by my late grandmother, Louise Salley Hartwell. The wool felt spiral in color gradation is mounted on upholstery fabric, which I embellished with multicolored french knots.

I hope that you enjoyed this trip down memory lane! You can see the Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion in the Liberty and Justice exhibit at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA until Dec. 30, 2018. Then, the entire exhibit will travel to the Cotuit Center of the Arts in Cotuit, MA, March 2 – April 22, 2018. I will give a talk about finding a voice through art, “Sweet to Satirical” on Sat., April 13 at 3:00 pm.

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Petunia Ltd. Edition Fairy

I’d like to introduce PETUNIA, the newest Ltd. Edition Fairy. The group of 25 dolls have been traveling around with me for about 6 months and finally they are all dressed, coiffed and winged! The fairies will be ready to fly off from my Etsy Shop to their new homes on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018 at 10 AM (Eastern US time). They will be sold on a first come, first served basis. Sorry, no reservations ahead of time. I realize that the hour of the day is in the middle of the night for those of you on the other side of the world, but I can’t figure out how to make it perfectly fair.

I started making this group while in Scotland last spring. Here I am in the Edinburgh Airport, sewing their felt tunics while waiting for my plane. As with all of the Ltd. Edition Fairies, I only work on them while traveling, when there are long stretches of time to fill going from one place to another. The photo reminds me of a drawing I made of my mother many years ago. She is knitting one of her signature hats featured in my sister Anne Mavor’s 2006 article, “My Mum’s Fair Isle Hat” which she wrote for Interweave Knits Magazine. I wrote about it in this Blog post.  I suppose we are all destined to become our mothers in some way! 

As you can see, I haven’t weened myself entirely from making fairies. It’s a nice relaxing, portable activity when traveling. I’ve had to put limits on myself at home or else I would make them all the time, instead of pushing myself to do new work. To see this and the other fairies in the archives, click here.

So, 1 or 2 times a year, I complete a group of 25 dolls and offer them in my Etsy Shop. They’re basically the same fairies from my how-to book of dolls, Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures.

The only potentially messy part is gluing on their hair and acorn caps, so I usually do that in my studio. The hair is wool fleece, which I’ve just added as a multi colored sampler to my Etsy Shop.

During a recent long car ride, I braided their hair and sewed on their wings while sitting in the passenger seat.

PETUNIA is 3 3/4″ tall, with braided chestnut hair, acorn cap hat, hand embroidered wool felt tunic and petal skirt. Each doll is one of a limited edition of 25 look-alike fairies. They each sell for $85.00 and come with a signed and numbered name tag.

To enter my shop, click here. PETUNIA will be added on Dec. 1 at 10 AM. Good Luck!

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Bed Book peek – Holland (part 3)

This is the third and final post about making a book illustration with a houseboat on a canal in Holland. To see other posts about this scene, go to Part 1 and Part 2.

Eventually, all of the sewn originals will be photographed and printed in My Bed, a book about where children sleep around the world. Each spread will depict a child in a different culture and living environment. The story is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: 
AfghanistanRussiaNorth AfricaSouth AmericaIndia
Japan and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

For the stone dock, I sewed felt rectangles in place with blanket stitch, interspersed with flat polished stone beads. There needed to be something to tie the boat line to, so I looked through my collection of miscellaneous old metal objects and picked an appropriately weathered looking one with a hole. How was that attached, you may wonder? I glued a piece of felt on the back of the metal piece and then sewed it to the dock.

Since glue is permanent and I like flexibility, I glue felt to the back of the object, instead of directly to the background. That way, you can play around and adjust things until the last minute. The glued on felt provides something to catch the thread when you do sew it in place. And it’s always possible to rip it out and try a new position.

The architecture in Amsterdam is a colorful array of tall narrow buildings with interesting roof treatments.

I embroidered blanket stitch with flower thread around the outside of the felt windows and a door. DMC flower thread is no longer available, but Dutch Treat Designs  has some of the discontinued thread  in stock. 

From the images I found, the stepped roof style looked the most distinctively Dutch. I like the way its zigzagged shape stands out against the blue sky. The research photos made me want to visit Amsterdam!

For door hardware, I sifted through old hooks and eyes, until I found a matching pair of the tiniest eyes. A generous admirer recently gave me a box full of them – what a treasure! 

Tube beads worked as architectural details above the windows.

And how can you make a scene set in Holland without a bicycle? 

The bicycle frame is wire, the wheels are betel nut beads, the handlebars are an eye (from hook and eye) and the seat and gears are metal snap parts. In the photo below, you can see what it looks like in the back, with wire and thread holding everything in place.

I found a cord that looked like a well used dock line and fed it through the hole in the metal part on the canal wall.  Then the houseboat could be tied up safely.

I hope that you enjoyed this little peek behind the scenes at making the illustration with a houseboat on a canal in Holland. To see other posts about this scene, go to Part 1 and Part 2

I am happy to announce that the Cahoon Museum will be hosting the premiere exhibit of original illustrations for MY BED: Where Children Sleep Around the World. The exhibit will be coordinated with the book’s publication by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the fall of 2020. Like the traveling show for Pocketful of Posies, I hope to schedule other exhibits, so that more people can see the “real thing”. Interested museums and art centers are welcome to contact me for information about hosting an exhibit. It would be wonderful to have the illustrations make their way across the whole country!

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Cyber Week SALE



I am happy to announce
Wee Folk Studio’s first ever CYBER WEEK SALE
(Nov. 20 – 26)! 
 20% off all cards, posters and fairy making supplies.
Enter ETSY Shop here. 

Enter ETSY Shop here. 

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram

Bed Book peek: Holland (part 2)

Back for another peek behind the scenes at making an illustration with a house boat set in Holland. To see Part 1, click here. It will be included in My Bed, a book about where children sleep around the world, with each spread depicting a different culture and living environment. The story is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by HoughtonMifflin in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussia, North Africa and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

In the research photos of house boats, it seemed that practically every example showed potted plants on deck. So, I constructed little “terracotta” containers  of felt and made flowering plants with beads, felt and wire.

Wrapping wire with a single strand of embroidery floss is tedious work, but a satisfying process for those of us who are detail obsessed. The leaves also have wire around the outside edge, which makes it easier to position and arrange the plant in the end.

These glass leaf beads have spent years packed away in bags and boxes, waiting for a chance to be useful.

They were the perfect size and color for a hanging plant resting on the house boat roof.

And what house boat doesn’t have a cat? I made a felt hood to put over its wooden bead head, kind of like a Halloween costume with ears. I added wire along the outside edges of the ears to make them extra pointy and firm. Sometime felt is too soft and floppy and needs a little cartilage to hold its shape.

The body frame is made with thread wrapped pipe cleaners, just like the legs and arms in the human dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

After adding a felt body, I sewed the cat to the deck at the bow of the house boat, where it keeps a lookout.

Please stay tuned, because there’s more to come in Part 3. To see Part 1, click here.

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram

Bed Book peek: Holland (part 1)

It’s time to go back to where we were a few month a ago, when I was sharing the process of making illustrations for my children’s book project, My Bed. I’ve been working on the pages, even in the midst of the turmoil over my Liberty and Justice exhibit. The calming effect of embroidery is helping me keep my wits, while dealing with the pressures of being more in the public eye. The experience has taught me that art and the reaction to it can open up unexpected opportunities. These opportunities include speaking about my work to a wider audience. I am pleased to say that I’ll be giving a talk about finding a voice through art, titled Sweet to Satirical at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA on Sat., Nov. 17th at 1:00 pm.

And now, for some sweet stuff…

This scene with a house boat set in Holland. It will be included in My Bed, a book about where children sleep around the world, with each spread depicting a different culture and living environment. The story is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by HoughtonMifflin in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussia, North Africa and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

The book’s wonderfully supportive editorial team, which includes April Prince and Ann Ryder, met in my studio to see the illustrations I’ve completed so far. It was very helpful to go over each page and work toward finalizing the book design. Producing a little children’s book is no simple task, with important decisions to be made along the way. The good news is that they agreed to extend the deadline for the finished art by a few months to next summer, which is a much more realistic time frame. I’ll still work 7 days a week (that’s normal), but my husband and I are taking the time to re-watch episodes of the TV show Northern Exposure in the evenings, which makes us both happier.

The following photos give a peek behind the scenes at making the house boat and the boy who lives inside.

Above is the window frame in the house boat cabin. To give it structure, I reinforced the outside and inside edges with Soft Flex wire. The life ring is made from wool felt, cord and red ribbon.

I couldn’t help adding iconic Dutch windmills to the shutters.

The bow of the boat will protrude about an inch, so it’ll appear more 3-dimensional.

I made stanchions with tube beads and a jewelry ring finding. Those same rings worked well for scupper holes that drain water off the deck.

I enjoyed adding nautical details to the house boat – scupper holes, stanchions, life lines and a rub rail. Well, my naval architect father would want me to use the correct terms.

A little Dutch boy will be inside, behind the window. His head is in this pile on the left, along with the other children’s heads, which you may recognize from other scenes in the book. I made them all way back in the beginning, because I wanted to meet and fall in love with each child first, before moving ahead with the project.

The head, hair and bodies use similar techniques as the dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk, except for the hands. The boy just needed the top portion of his body, as he will be lying in bed, under the covers.

I made his pajamas out of an old blue handkerchief that already had white edging. It was one of those unused, monogrammed ones you find when cleaning out a deceased relative’s belongings.

In keeping with the on-the-water theme, his blanket decoration is a wavy chain stitch.

I made a wood box to put him in, which will hide behind the window frame, creating more depth.

There’ll be a strip of embroidered felt water along the bottom edge of the page, too.

Please stay tuned for more parts in this series about making the house boat scene.

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram