Close-ups (shells)

This is a series of shell images, starting with a fabric scallop pin, which I made in the late 70’s. See the story about my pins in earlier posts here.


The scale and natural delicacy of shells make them suitable props for my little dolls. Here’s a 2″ mermaid photographed on the beach.


This is an appliqued felt purse from the 90’s, which is like the ones featured in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: Enchanting Projects.


Shells make good sleeping places, too. This is a detail from an illustration in Wee Willie Winkie, from the page which reads, “Are the children in their beds?”.


Here is a detail from “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?”, which is included in my picture book, Pocketful of Posies; A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes.  


This is from “the old woman stands at the tub, tub, tub” verse, which is also in Pocketful of Posies. Her washing tub is made from a “boat” shell that is commonly found on our local beaches.


Note: See other posts in the Close-ups series archive 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.

Pocketful of Borders: In spring

detail from "In Spring" Pocketful of Posies 2010

The pressure is mounting to get these borders finished by September for the Pocketful of Posies show. I’ve completed four in the past week, including this one of a seasons rhyme, which begins “In spring I look gay decked in comely array”. 


It took several tries to get the background fabric and border colors right. I can’t explain why one shade or pattern works better, but it helps to compare and narrow it down until you’re satisfied. 


I chose a bright red floss for my initials and the date embroidery on the bottom corners. The photo doesn’t show the subtle variegation in the red thread. I have my eye out for variegated thread to purchase and find myself reaching for it first. It adds a complexity that mirrors nature better than solid colors. 


I had just finished writing the post about lettering and was inspired to add some words to this one. So, instead of doodling along the border, I wrote out the names of the seasons on the four side sections. 


Sometimes I write on the felt with a pencil and then embroider over it, but it can show through and look messy. For the seasons, I wrote out the words on a piece of paper to get the spacing and then eye balled the stitching. 


I made sure there were some doodles in the corners and sewed it all together. 


This piece is relatively shallow compared to the other illustrations from the book. To get an idea of scale, the birds are under 1 inch long. 


Note: See other posts from the Pocketful of Borders series here.

Inspiration: wild flowers on bike path

Sunday was another beautiful morning on the bike path to Woods Hole. All around me there were people setting up traffic cones and water stations for the triathlon. I managed to take a few pictures before the race started at 7:30. I’ve just been informed by a reader that the invasive knapweed below is a neuro-toxin and should not be handled!

Young Queen Anne’s Lace looks like an umbrella forced inside out by the wind.

And then later, the flower forms into a properly domed umbrella.

Pocketful of Borders: Hey, Diddle, Diddle!

board book version

The next border  to finish up for Pocketful of Posies: A Traveling Exhibit  is the illustration for the rhyme, “Hey, Diddle, Diddle!”. The new book includes all of the rhymes from my board book series, but they are represented by new illustrations. I really liked compressing the scene into one image, instead of stringing out the action over several pages. Most of  the main characters from “Hey, Diddle, Diddle!” are similar to the ones in my board book version, with the exception of the cat, which is made in a different style. The plate is made from polymer clay and the spoon is a doll house miniature.   

detail from " Pocketful of Posies" Houghton Mifflin 2010

cat from "Pocketful of Posies"

The new book, Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes includes many cats made in my new Halloween costume style. The head is a wooden bead, with face painting and a felt hood with ears attached. The cat’s paws and chest are whitened with acrylic paint. The fiddle is felt, with a thread-wrapped wire neck and bow. The illustration’s existing brown border was wide enough to cut in a wavy pattern, so I didn’t add another felt border. After several tries with different colors, I chose a blue pima cotton for the blanket stitched edging.   


I then embroidered my initials and the date with some variegated dark purple raw silk thread. It called out for embellishment, so I started doodling along the border with light blue raw silk thread.  


The light blue line lacked contrast, so I outlined it with a single strand of orange embroidery floss.   


For the corners, I added  spirals and unintentionally doodled a pattern in the Celtic style.  After outlining a few sections, I decided that the orange floss attracted too much attention, so I ripped it all out. That’s what is so great about stitching, you can change your mind mid stream. Borders, like any kind of framing, should compliment the artwork, not compete.  


I thought that a little height and firmness would perk up the border, so I added 32 gauge florist’s wire to the outside edge.  


I then covered the wire with 2-ply orange/red variegated embroidery floss.  


At this point, I was glad that I’d removed the orange outline around the doodles and saved the color for the outside edge, which defined the border against the upholstery fabric background.  


I bent the wavy wire so that it lifted up the outside edge.  


Here is the finished “Hey, Diddle, Diddle!” piece, ready to frame for the traveling exhibit of original art.  


My husband, Rob, has been making shadow box style frames in the basement. He’s doing a beautiful job and the 51 cherry wood frames are about half way done. We are both making progress toward the Sept. deadline for the first show in Falmouth.

Note: See other posts from the Pocketful of Borders series here.

Wee Folk: Pearl & Urchin

I took Pearl and Urchin out for a climb up a beech tree. They patiently waited and stayed still as I took their picture. We were all quiet as I played with my camera, adjusting the aperture and speed settings.

I suppose you could call Pearl and Urchin “retired”, a term used in the collecting business for sold out. They were the models for a Ltd. Edition and there are 25 other pairs out in the world. After a few years spent sealed in a plastic bag, I thought they could use some fresh air.