bed book peek : bunny

How could I resist posting a little cottontail bunny at this time of year? It will be used as a spot illustration in my upcoming children’s book, My Bed: Celebrating Children’s Beds Around the World, which will be published in 2020. Other animals in the series that I’ve written about so far are elephant and goldfish, parrot and sheep, rooster, cat, duck and camel.

As usual, I started by researching pictures of bunnies and then making sketches to work from. I formed an outline of the animal shape in pipe cleaners and wrapped the legs. The wrapping is basically the same technique that I teach for the dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

The hind leg haunches are made separately. I covered the front side with wool felt and crisscrossed the back with stitches to keep it taut like a drum.

Then, I covered the body with a felt piece. I must have covered the top portion of the front leg with another small piece of felt, but I can’t remember. Each time I make something, I try different ways to do it in a non-linear fashion. That’s why it’s hard to explain the process in a step-by-step manner.

Some people think I “needle felted” the body, but I didn’t. That’s a different process that involves poking wool fleece fibers with a barbed needle. I use flat pieces of wool felt that are cut out and sewn in place. It’s fussy, but it works for me. I admit to not really enjoying the repeated jabbing motion of needle felting and would rather put my energy and focus into embroidery.

The bunny’s head was made from pieces of felt, including the ears. The eye is a seed bead inserted in a cut out hole. The ears are edged with wire, to give them stability and flexibility. Details are stitched with embroidery floss.

The area between the head and body looks seamless, but there are hidden stitches underneath. They are covered with felt fibers, which I coax and smooth over the seam with a needle. That’s the closest I get to needle felting.

Then I covered the body with little embroidery floss stitches. The hind leg was attached next and the cotton tail was last. Happy Easter!

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bed book peek: camel

I don’t know if I could survive a year without hunkering down in my studio during the cold months of January and February. It’s like a gift of time, when you can focus and get things done, without warm weather distractions. My plan is to make as much progress as possible on my picture book My Bed: Celebrating Children’s Beds Around the World. The summer deadline looms large and no matter what I do, the process cannot be sped up. So, that means stitching in front of the fire in the evening, too. I’m not complaining – this is my happy place! For the past year or so, I’ve been sharing photos of the book’s progress on this blog, with more frequent updates on Facebook and Instagram, which a follower called “a daily dose of eye candy.” The story, which features children in different cultures and living environments, was written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. 

Today, I’d like to show how I made a two hump, or Bactrian camel, which will be a spot illustration to go with the North African scene.

UPDATE: I am thankful to Anna from Alaska, who pointed out that African camels are the dromedary or one-hump type, which shows sloppy research on my part. So, I’ve just transformed this guy’s two-humps into one! It’s better to find out now, before the book is printed and smart little kids write in to correct me!

Transformed from Bactrian (2 humps) to Dromedary (1 hump) Camel.

Each double page spread in the book will have a text panel with a corresponding animal; elephant and goldfishparrot and sheeprooster, cat, duck and bunny.

For a guide, I used this wooden toy camel that I made in the mid-80’s, when I went through a period of cutting out shapes on a jig saw.

The legs were made by wrapping embroidery floss around a bent pipe cleaner, just like the dolls’ limbs in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

Here, I’m stitching a blanket with fringe to the simple cut-out felt shape of the camel.

The chain stitch is becoming my favorite way to “draw” and “color in” with thread these days.

I stitched the front and back pieces together with a blanket stitch. But before that, I sewed the seed bead eye in place and embroidered the heavy eyelid. The bead is probably set inside a small slit, cut into the felt. Sometimes, I can’t remember exactly how things are done, which is why these peeks behind the scenes are really too vague to be tutorials.

I cut out a felt ear, outlined it in blanket stitch and and sewed it to the head. I like to add details, even in the smallest of figures and thought that a little hair on the head and neck would make this camel more distinctive.

Here’s an even smaller camel, which will be included in another scene in the book. I think I’ve reached my size limit with this one!

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bed book peek : duck

Let’s start the new year with a duck. It’ll be a spot illustration in my new picture book,  My Bed: Celebrating Children’s Beds Around the World. Each double page spread will have a text panel with a corresponding animal. The duck will appear alongside the scene with a houseboat in Holland, which you can see here.

As with the other animals I’ve made so far (elephant and goldfish, parrot and sheep, rooster, cat, camel and bunny. I start with research photos. In this case, I searched for pictures of a classic rubber ducky, with webbed feet. I was so interested in figuring out how to make the feet, that I tackled them first. That turned out to be a mistake because they ended up being too small and out of proportion to the body that came later.

I want to use this duck as an example of how I really work, which is not in a straight line, but here, there and everywhere. My creative process is full of experiments that may or may not end up in the finished piece, but they are essential to getting there.

The second pair of feet (pictured below) are a little bit larger and more neatly defined. It’s not unusual for me to take several tries to get something the way I imagine it. There’s a lot of ripping out and starting over, which is one of the advantages of using thread. For the feet, I devised a kind of weaving stitch that created the webbing between the 3 toes.

The body and wing are made of 2 shades of yellow felt.

The beak was a bit tricky to get to look right and took several attempts. It started with a thread wrapped piece of wire that’s bent into two V shapes for the top and bottom of the beak.

I then stitch the thread wrapped wire onto the head. The round shape of the head is from a wooden bead that is covered with felt, which I forgot to document with a photo. I wasn’t happy with how this beak (below photo) was coming out, so I ripped it out and started over.

I’ve had practice making bird beaks for the Birds of Beebe Woods and the Twitter Bird in my animated film, Liberty and Justice, but it’s like a new experience every time. When faced with a new challenge, I let my hands guide me, trusting that a solution will appear. That’s what keeps it interesting and never boring!

This is the second try at forming the duck’s beak.

After stitching the top and bottom beak in place, I wrapped thread around the wire. I then added a seed bead eye and stitched on the wing.

It looks like I opened up the bottom of the duck’s body to make room for it’s legs. They were the last to stitch in place, with the first pair lingering in the sidelines.

After looking at the duck for a while, I decided that it need more personality. The plain rubber ducky look just wasn’t enough! So I added some details, like the embroidered feather texture and the distinguishing lines on the wings.

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Bed book peek: Persian Cat

This Persian cat will be used as a spot illustration in the Iran spread 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 2020. Children’s book publishers need at least a year to design, print and market a book, so I have to have everything finished by the winter of 2019. That means I’m practically working around the clock to get it done in time.

Just for fun, I’ve added a collection of cats from Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes at the end of this post.

In addition to creating full page illustrations, I’m making a series of animal icons that will appear on the adjacent text panels throughout the book. The miniature stuffed animals  relate to the geographic area of each corresponding scene.

Here are links to posts showing the other animal icons I’ve already made for the book: Goldfish and Elephant, Parrot and Sheep, Rooster, Duck, Camel and Bunny. To see process photos of the finished illustrations for the book, click these links: Iran, South America, Russia, Japan, Afghanistan, North America, India, Holland, North Africa.

The research on Persian cats led to photographs of fluffy dark grey felines whose faces are noticeably different from regular house cats. Their cartoon-like features remind me of those 1960’s paintings of wide-eyed waifs, with large eyes and stubby little noses.   First, I wrapped tapestry wool around its pipe cleaner legs. Then, I stitched features onto its felt face. With pinking shears, I cut a mane out of felt and stitched the face on top.

For the tail, I sewed a strip of felt around a pipe cleaner.

To help make the ears point up, I sewed wire along the top edges. For a finishing touch, I added some tapestry wool stitches to its coat.

As a basis of comparison, I’ve selected a group of cat details from illustrations in my 2010 children’s book Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Autographed copies are available in my Etsy Shop.

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bed book peek – rooster

Today, I’m happy to show how I made this rooster, which will be used as a spot illustration in my new 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 2020.

In addition to creating full page illustrations, I’m making a series of animal icons that will appear on the adjacent text panels throughout the book. The miniature stuffed animals  relate to the geographic area of each corresponding scene. Posts about other animal icons I’ve finished making for the book include Elephant and Goldfish and Parrot, Sheep, Camel, Persian Cat, Bunny and Duck.

When researching Slavic folk art for the Russian scene, I noticed how often a rooster image appears in painted objects, textiles and sculpture. So, I thought it would be an appropriate animal to include, as well as fun to try my hand at making.

After sketching some basic shapes and designs, I cut out a piece of felt and embroidered the curly tail with lines of chain stitching. The inside structure of the head is a wooden bead with a pipe cleaned neck. The bead is covered with a felt hood, with a red comb stitched to the top. I made the beak by wrapping wire with thread and sewed on a black seed bead for the eye.

I blanket stitched 2 body/tail pieces of felt together around the outside edge.

Then, I sewed the head in place and stuffed the body with wool fleece. The rooster is stitched with DMC flower thread, which I’ve previously mentioned is no longer available. Since then, Catriona from Dutch Treat Designs contacted me to say, “We still sell DMC Flower Thread. We have available for purchase almost 1/2 of the colors DMC made. DMC discontinued the manufacture of their 180 colors of Flower Thread in 2003. We bought the remaining inventory from a large DMC distributor, and offer those colors here for your convenience to purchase while they last. We don’t have every color, but we have many of them.”

The wing is a separate piece of black felt, embroidered in red flower thread.

I shaped the legs and feet out of wire.

I then wrapped the wire with regular embroidery floss for the feet and flower thread for the reddish brown legs. After inserting the legs, I sewed up the bottom and stitched the wing in place.

With the last addition of some fly stitches on his feathery chest, this rooster is ready to cock-a doodle-do!

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bed book peek: elephant and goldfish

Now that our movie LIBERTY and JUSTICE is finished and being entered into film festivals, I’m resuming work on MY BED. It’s a picture book about children’s sleeping places around the world that will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. 

It will be a crunch to get the artwork completed by the deadline, so I’ll have to work even more obsessively than usual, if that’s at all possible! In addition to creating 3/4 spread illustrations, I’m making a series of animal icons that’ll be spot art, appearing on the adjacent text panels throughout the book. The miniature stuffed animals relate to the geographic area of each corresponding scene. Other animals in the series that I’ve written about so far are, parrot and sheeprooster, cat, duck, bunny and camel.

The page set in India will show a little elephant.

To get ideas, I researched traditional decorated elephants from India. After cutting the elephant shape out of grey felt, I embroidered a blanket with cotton floss and metallic thread. I just love the Indian sense of color and pattern!

The trunk has a wire inside to help it curl.

For the eye, I cut a slit in the felt and stitched it like a button hole for the bead to fit inside. Then, I chain stitched a head covering and added a tassel.

To make the legs, I rolled strips of felt into tubular shapes and embroidered toes onto one end.

The wrapped wire tail came last.

The Japanese scene will have a goldfish icon.

Beside all the yellow and orange tones, the fish needed just a hint of glimmer, so I added some metallic thread to its scales.

To see other animals (parrot and sheep) I’ve made for the book, click here.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

Bed Book peek – parrot and sheep

Today, I am excited to share a couple of animals, which will be used as spot illustrations in my new book. 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 2020.

In addition to creating full page illustrations, I’m making a series of animal icons that will appear on the adjacent text panels throughout the book. The miniature stuffed animals  relate to the geographic area of each corresponding scene.

These little animals bring back memories of the late 70’s, when I made a line of fabric pins. Of course, what I’m making today is much more intricate, but they are similar in size and concept.

This green parrot goes with the South American scene .

After doing photo research and drawing a simple parrot shape, I cut out pieces of felt and began embroidering feathers.

I formed the outline of the parrot’s beak with wire. Its eye is a glass seed bead, set inside a cut out hole.

I wrapped the beak with embroidery floss.

Then I added bird’s feet made of floss wrapped wire.

The sheep will go with the scene set in Afghanistan. In my research, I found pictures of local breeds with particularly long faces and ears.

The sheep’s legs are made with a pipe cleaner, using the same basic technique that used for the dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk. It’s face is embroidered wool felt, with seed bead eyes.

Luckily, I had some wool yarn of the right natural shade for the fleece. It was fun to make a tangled mess of french knots.

Then, I sewed on it’s ears, hiding the ends on the top with wool yarn. I’ll be sharing more animals (and scenes) as the book progresses. 

Here are links to posts about other illustrations I’ve finished for the book: AfghanistanSouth America, Japan and India.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.