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.

Update: Signed copies of My Bed can be ordered in my shop here. Watch this 8 minute documentary about how I created the illustrations for the book.

And now, for some sweet stuff…

This scene with a house boat set in Holland 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, North America, Ghana 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.

I am happy to announce that the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, Massachusetts will host the premiere exhibit of original illustrations for the book. The exhibit will be coordinated with the book’s publication in the fall of 2020. Like with Pocketful of Posies, I am scheduling a touring exhibit, so that more people can see the “real thing”, which is a totally different experience than seeing reproductions on the printed page. Interested museums and art centers are welcome to contact me (salley at for information about hosting an exhibit. It would be wonderful to have the original illustrations make their way across the whole country!

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15 thoughts on “Bed Book peek: Holland (part 1)

  1. This is entirely delightful! The wavy watery elements are beautiful and really give the feeling of what it feels like to live on a boat (as I have). Your mastery of telling a story with stitches just makes me smile and smile. Thank you, Sally. I can’t wait to get your new book!

  2. After such a chaotic week, it was so soothing to read about your process making this delightful scene. Thanks, Salley, for sharing all that you do!

  3. These are wonderful. I so admire your attention to detail and beautiful stitching. Just out of curiosity, what size of the soft flex wire do you use that provides the structure needed?

  4. Pleased to see work progresses, charming as ever, and you can juggle other commitments with time for diversions. I remember NE was on tv when my son was a newborn, at 10 pm. I had one delicious hour to myself for a guilty pleasure between cajoling my baby to sleep and arrival home of DH who worked second shift. I trust it has held up well after all these years. It made some interesting social commentaries as I remember. So much has changed in the intervening years. I remember the lack of phone service forced the doctor to visit the bar to use the pay phone. Strange to think how smart phones have altered our lives so much, changed the way we connect with each other. Enjoy.

    • Yes, Mia, I’m glad to hear your memories of Northern Exposure. It was the one show we watched, too, after the kids were in bed. The show holds holds up remarkably well, with its humor, quirkiness and wisdom. I wish there was something like that being made now.

  5. Hi Salley, what an amazing artist you are. I have all your wonderful books and I treasure them. Your imagination is magical to me. Thank you for sharing this journey and I can’t wait to own this book. I wish you every success.

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