bed book peek: Scandinavia – part 4

In this 4th and final post in the series about the Scandinavian scene, I will show extra details, such as the ladder, shoes and rug. Part 1 is about making the framework for the cubby style bunk beds. Part 2 gives a glimpse at what’s outside: the balcony, flowers, mountains, sun and trees. Part 3 focuses on the chair and the children.

This illustration 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 the Fall of 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussiaNorth AfricaNorth America, Holland and Iran.

Pocketful of Posies Exhibit at the Upcountry History Museum, Greenville, SC – 2015

The photos I show on this blog and the reproductions printed in my books are a way of sharing my artwork with a large audience. But seeing the actual 3 dimensional hand stitched pieces is a different experience. No matter how good the photography is, there is no substitute for the real thing. When the originals from Pocketful of Posies toured the country (see photo above), the response was terrific. So, I want to do something similar with My Bed.

A touring exhibition of the originals will premiere at the Cahoon Museum of American Art (Cotuit, MA) in Nov. 2020 and travel on from there. So far, 2 more venues have signed up for the first year: Cedarhurst Center for the Arts (Mt. Vernon, IL) and New England Quilt Museum (Lowell, MA). Openings are available beginning in 2022. My goal is to have the show travel to as many different regions of the country as possible. I wish I could wave a magic wand and send the artwork to all of the places you live. I’m doing my best to spread the word about this opportunity and encourage you to talk it up with your local museums. Inquiries from interested venues are welcome. They can contact me (salley at to find out more about hosting the exhibition.

Back to this scene – The bunk beds needed a ladder, of course. To make it, I began by picking driftwood from my collection. I wanted wood with a bit of curve to it, as a relief from all the straight lines in the design. For some reason, I decided to make the ladder rungs out of wire instead of wood. Maybe I thought it would be less fragile. After attaching the wire through drilled holes, I wrapped it with embroidery floss.

In this book there are several instances where I use the space behind the backdrop layer to create more depth. In this illustration, I put the children inside their cubby beds, in a shallow space framed with a 1/2″ deep box of made of balsa wood covered with felt. I didn’t think to take a picture, but you can see what it looks like in the photo below, which is from the Holland scene.

This is what it looks like before the background fabric is added to the back of the box. You can see my studio wall through the open area behind the child.

I’ve always thought that the area inside the back of the stretched fabric was wasted space. So, I’ve been figuring out ways to use it, with interesting results. I cut a hole in the stretched fabric, inserted the box and secured it in place with stitches.

With this extra layer, the viewer has the experience of looking into the picture and entering the children’s world.

The last touch was a pair of little shoes, which show up in many styles within the illustrations in this book.

And I made a red rug for the floor. The fly stitch is turning out to be one of my favorites.

What can I say about making the hiking boots? I basically copied the structure and stitching details of real shoes, only shrinking the scale to about 3/4″.

I’m happy to say that all the illustrations are finished and will soon be heading over to the photographer and production team at HoughtonMifflin. Leading up to the book’s publication in the Fall of 2020, I will continue to share more peeks behind the scenes about making the spreads and animal icons for MY BED.

For more about making the Scandinavian scene, please look at Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.

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.

Update: Signed copies of My Bed can ordered in my shop here. Words by Rebecca Bond, pictures by Salley Mavor, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

12 thoughts on “bed book peek: Scandinavia – part 4

  1. Sally, your work is amazing! I wish I could diminish myself and join the children in their bedroom. You have the capacity to make their environment so realistic with charming details. Kudos!!

  2. Now I know why I’ve started to pick up driftwood from the beach…large pieces though, nothing smaller than the length of a forearm. I might have to change that.
    Love the little titbits you’ve given me, so many ideas for my own embroidery I just have to start.
    I’ll have to keep viewing from afar, as there’s a snowball’s chance in seeing your actual embroidery in Australia.

    • Thank you Jeanette. Showing in Northern California has been a dream for a long time now, but so far, I’ve had no luck finding a willing venue. Funds for shipping the art across the country seem to be the sticking point. And I have no personal contacts with museums there. That’s why I’ve asked my fans to talk it up. There is still time to set something up for the My Bed show, though!

  3. Love your work Sally. Do you ever exhibit on the west coast? Would love to see your beautiful work in person. Could you book something in the Bay area or Sacramento area?

    • Thank you for your interest in bringing the show closer to you. Many of my fans have requested to see my work displayed in Northern California and I would love that. To make that happen, I need to partner with a willing museum or art center that not only understands the value of what I do, but has the funds for shipping the artwork across the country. Any personal contacts with possible venues would help a lot.

  4. This is fantastic not only your creativity but your explanations of the creation process. We are all very fortunate. You are both talented and inspirational.

  5. I hope you have some time for rest yourself, now that the book is done. Going back to your stunning H&G video, I thought you would appreciate this photo of Clive Hick Jenkins version of H&G. Alas, we can’t see a performance using his artwork, but the irony of his arrangement is fun.

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