About Salley Mavor

About Salley Mavor

A needle is my tool, thread is my medium and stitches are my marks. For over 40 years, I’ve created 3-dimensional hand-stitched artwork that ranges from precious to poignant to provocative. What I make and how I do it requires letting go of preconceived notions about needlework, fiber art, dolls, illustration, and even political art.


Where did this doll-infested needle and thread universe come from? It began at the height of the baby boom, in a family of introverts who were either making things or staring into space. You could say that we excelled at parallel play.

Later, while studying illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design, I rediscovered my childhood delight in sewing and creating miniature scenes.

Manipulating materials in my hands was so much more satisfying than rendering with a pencil or brush. Instead of trying to keep in step using traditional mediums, I discovered that with stitching, I could dance the fandango! I found that my hands would direct me in a compelling way and I could communicate ideas more clearly. For most of my career I have followed this path, creating sculptural scenes in bas-relief, much like miniature, shallow stage sets, with figures imposed on embellished fabric backgrounds.

My work is decorative and detailed, full of patterns and found objects, all bound together with stitching. I am interested in universal, playful narratives that reflect the society we live in today. I want to transcend the fiber medium by and of itself and make art that is valued for its message and emotional resonance as well as the materials and techniques I use.


Some of my embroidered pieces are photographed and reproduced in children’s books, including the 2010 award-winning Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. My bestselling how-to book of doll projects, Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures continues to inspire creativity. Personally autographed books, cards and posters with printed reproductions of my embroidered scenes are available in my Etsy Shop.


My new work moves away from the land of innocence and into real world issues and current events. I strive to find the beauty within the struggle and strife, as in my 2016 piece Displaced.

After the 2016 presidential election, I formed a satirical wee folk drama troupe, The Wee Folk Players  (they’re a stitch). Also, my husband Rob Goldsborough and I made a short stop-motion animated film titled Liberty and Justice : A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free.

WGBH (1 of 1)

My solo exhibit Liberty and Justice, which was abruptly cancelled in 2018 at its original venue, due to its political content, was generously picked up by the New England Quilt Museum and the Cotuit Center for the Arts and portions were included in The Art of Cute at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, Maine. You can watch my interview about the Liberty and Justice exhibit on WGBH TV and read the post Finding My Voice, which includes an excerpt of my talk about making art that is both precious and provocative.

I recently finished the artwork for a new picture book. MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World, which will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in September 2020. You can see blog posts showing the book’s progress here. SALLEY MAVOR: Bedtime Stitches, an exhibition of the original bas-relief artwork from the book will tour the United Sates beginning in Nov. 2020. The current schedule is here. Inquiries from museums are welcome – please contact me for information about hosting the show.

I live and work in my home studio on Cape Cod, in Falmouth, Massachusetts. For answers to frequently asked question, please go to the FAQ Page. Contact me via e-mail or write to P.O. Box 152, Woods Hole, MA 02543.


Originals for sale: Please contact me for a list of available artwork. The pieces are displayed under Plexiglas in custom-made cherry wood shadowbox frames. Prices range from $2,500 to $6,500.

  • Subscribe to this blog (top right column of Home Page).
  • Posters, cards and autographed books are available in my Etsy shop.
  • Contact me via e-mail or write to P.O. Box 152, Woods Hole, MA 02543
  • Visit my Facebook Page. Follow me on Instagram.

Rabbitat is a short documentary video about my work:


Book trailer for Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures


  • Posters, cards and autographed books are available in my  Etsy shop.
  • To see a list of all of my books, go to My Books.
  • Watch videos about my work: Videos Page
  • For info about upcoming exhibits, talks and book signings, visit the Events Page.
  • Frequently asked questions: FAQ Page

Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion (pictured below) is on semi permanent display at the Woods Hole Public Library. Posters of the piece are available in my Shop here.


Poster – Self Portrait



Recent Posts

bed book peek – Ghana (part 3)

This is Part 3 in a series of posts about how I made the stitched bas-relief scene set in the West African country of Ghana. A photograph of the piece will be reproduced in my upcoming picture book, MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World. An accompanying US tour of the original artwork used to illustrate the book will begin in the fall of 2020. Information about the exhibition is on this page.

Part 1 shows the process of making the smaller house and figure in the background and Part 2 is about making the child and his house in the foreground.

The book is 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 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Sept. 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussiaNorth America, ScandinaviaHolland and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

Update: My Bed can now be pre-ordered in my shop here. It’s release date is in Sept. 2020 and people have asked if they can pre-order autographed copies ahead. So, if you put your order in now, I’ll have a better idea of how many copies to get. The book will be shipped to you as soon as it arrives!

In this part, I’ll show how I made the shade tree and the bird. Please bear with me while I try to explain ways of working that don’t easily fit into a logical sequence. These are techniques I’ve figured out intuitively over many decades of manipulating materials in my hands and I will do my best to translate into words what my hands have taught me.

In the beginning, I made thumbnail sketches of all of the pages in the book and enlarged them to full size. I used the drawing of the Ghanaian scene to trace and cut out a template of the tree.

Using the template, I traced and cut the trunk shape out of acid-free mat board. Over the years, I’ve gotten more diligent about using archival materials that won’t deteriorate or stain over time. You can read how I learned my lesson in this post about repairing an older piece.

To give the mat board a stitch-friendly surface, I glued layers of thin quilt batting to the front and back of the mat board. That way, there was something to catch the needle onto. I built up the thickness of the trunk by sewing tapered layers of felt to the top.

To make thinner branches, I sewed insulated electrical wire to the top where the trunk divides into 3 sections. I covered the tree trunk and thicker branches with brown felt, using a gazillion stitches on the back to pull it tight around the front.

I stitched a zigzag bark texture to the front with variegated pima cotton (Watercolours by Caron). To make the knot in the tree, I cut out a donut shaped piece of felt and blanket stitched it to the trunk.

To make leaves, I cut out pieces of felt and edged them with blanket stitches. Then, I stitched jewelry wire around the outside edges and formed stems by twisting wire.

I attached clumps of 3 or 4 leaves to the tree branches by winding the thin jewelry wire around the thicker insulated electrical wire.

Then, I wrapped the thick and thin wire with embroidery floss, covering the bumps and lumps until it looked smooth.

The original sketch didn’t include a bird, but after watching the scene come together, I decided to add a third blue focal point to catch the eye. The other 2 are the boy’s blue shorts and the blue skirt worn by the woman in the doorway. They stand out in contrast with the overall orange, brown and green color palette. I researched birds in West Africa and found a spectacular bird called the splendid glossy-starling.

For the bird’s head, I painted a wooden bead blue and formed a beak out of jewelry wire, which I wrapped with embroidery floss. Then I stuck the wire through the bead hole and used the extra length of wire to make the bird’s feet.

I made the bird’s body out of felt and added a wire tail. This starling is really glossy, so I stitched some bling with purple metallic thread on its tail and underbelly.

After sewing the bird’s wire feet to a thick branch on the tree, I could almost hear it sing!

Please stay tuned for Part 4, which will cover how I made the plants and woven fence.

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.

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