Today, I’m happy to show how I made this crocodile, which will be used as a spot illustration in my upcoming picture book, MY BED. The story about children’s sleeping places in different cultures around the world is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Sept. 2020. A touring exhibition of my original embroidered artwork for the book will travel around the United States. Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stitches will debut at the Cahoon Museum Of American Art in Cotuit, MA from Sept. 11 to Dec. 22, 2020. The tour schedule is listed here.
For inspiration, I found this felt purse, which is a prototype for a kit I used to sell in the early 2000’s. The different animal kits came with plant dyed wool felt, thread, and beads for the eyes. The purse kits were mostly sold in catalogs and Waldorf School stores, along with my fairy kits.
Using its simple, stylized shape as a jumping off point, I drew sketches until I was happy with the overall pose and level of detail. I thought about how to translate the flat outline into a more 3-dimensional crocodile.
I bent a pipe cleaner and wrapped 2 front legs with tapestry weight wool yarn. I also located square green wooden beads for the crocodile’s eyes. They’ve been in my bead collection since the 70’s, when I made crocodile pins (see one at the end of this post).
I bent the pipe cleaner to form an outline of the animal’s basic shape and sewed on a backing of green felt.
At this point, I must have forgotten to take pictures, so we’ll have to skip the fussy part where I cover the front of the animal with felt. From the looks of it, I padded the inside of the body with extra layers of felt. My original plan was to put a haunch where the back legs go, but the one I made looked awkward, so I scrapped that idea and made 2 back legs to match the front ones. Then I sewed the beady eyes to the top and stitched rickrack along its back.
I did remember to take a picture of the back, which reveals an unsightly mishmash of stitches that hold the front piece tightly in place.
I formed the outline (or lips) of the mouth with wire and covered the shiny metal with embroidery floss. Then I “colored in” the mouth with an overlapping filler stitch.
Finishing touches included zigzag teeth, seed beads for nostrils and a fly stitched bumpy texture on the body.
The crocodile I made for the book is very much like pins I used to make over 40 years ago. As you can see, I’m reworking the same themes over and over!
To see other animals and illustrations I’ve made for the book, click here.
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