Bed Book peek – Holland (part 3)

This is the third and final post about making a book illustration with a houseboat on a canal in Holland. To see other posts about this scene, go to Part 1 and Part 2.

Eventually, all of the sewn originals will be photographed and printed in My Bed, a book about where children sleep around the world. Each spread will depict a child in a different culture and living environment. The story is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: 
AfghanistanRussiaNorth AfricaSouth AmericaIndia
Japan and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

For the stone dock, I sewed felt rectangles in place with blanket stitch, interspersed with flat polished stone beads. There needed to be something to tie the boat line to, so I looked through my collection of miscellaneous old metal objects and picked an appropriately weathered looking one with a hole. How was that attached, you may wonder? I glued a piece of felt on the back of the metal piece and then sewed it to the dock.

Since glue is permanent and I like flexibility, I glue felt to the back of the object, instead of directly to the background. That way, you can play around and adjust things until the last minute. The glued on felt provides something to catch the thread when you do sew it in place. And it’s always possible to rip it out and try a new position.

The architecture in Amsterdam is a colorful array of tall narrow buildings with interesting roof treatments.

I embroidered blanket stitch with flower thread around the outside of the felt windows and a door. DMC flower thread is no longer available, but Dutch Treat Designs  has some of the discontinued thread  in stock. 

From the images I found, the stepped roof style looked the most distinctively Dutch. I like the way its zigzagged shape stands out against the blue sky. The research photos made me want to visit Amsterdam!

For door hardware, I sifted through old hooks and eyes, until I found a matching pair of the tiniest eyes. A generous admirer recently gave me a box full of them – what a treasure! 

Tube beads worked as architectural details above the windows.

And how can you make a scene set in Holland without a bicycle? 

The bicycle frame is wire, the wheels are betel nut beads, the handlebars are an eye (from hook and eye) and the seat and gears are metal snap parts. In the photo below, you can see what it looks like in the back, with wire and thread holding everything in place.

I found a cord that looked like a well used dock line and fed it through the hole in the metal part on the canal wall.  Then the houseboat could be tied up safely.

I hope that you enjoyed this little peek behind the scenes at making the illustration with a houseboat on a canal in Holland. To see other posts about this scene, go to Part 1 and Part 2

I am happy to announce that the Cahoon Museum will be hosting the premiere exhibit of original illustrations for MY BED: Where Children Sleep Around the World. The exhibit will be coordinated with the book’s publication by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the fall of 2020. Like the traveling show for Pocketful of Posies, I hope to schedule other exhibits, so that more people can see the “real thing”. Interested museums and art centers are welcome to contact me for information about hosting an exhibit. It would be wonderful to have the illustrations make their way across the whole country!

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Bed Book peek: Holland (part 2)

Back for another peek behind the scenes at making an illustration with a house boat set in Holland. To see Part 1, click here. It 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 and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

In the research photos of house boats, it seemed that practically every example showed potted plants on deck. So, I constructed little “terracotta” containers  of felt and made flowering plants with beads, felt and wire.

Wrapping wire with a single strand of embroidery floss is tedious work, but a satisfying process for those of us who are detail obsessed. The leaves also have wire around the outside edge, which makes it easier to position and arrange the plant in the end.

These glass leaf beads have spent years packed away in bags and boxes, waiting for a chance to be useful.

They were the perfect size and color for a hanging plant resting on the house boat roof.

And what house boat doesn’t have a cat? I made a felt hood to put over its wooden bead head, kind of like a Halloween costume with ears. I added wire along the outside edges of the ears to make them extra pointy and firm. Sometime felt is too soft and floppy and needs a little cartilage to hold its shape.

The body frame is made with thread wrapped pipe cleaners, just like the legs and arms in the human dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

After adding a felt body, I sewed the cat to the deck at the bow of the house boat, where it keeps a lookout.

Please stay tuned, because there’s more to come in Part 3. To see Part 1, click here.

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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. The experience has taught me that art and the reaction to it can open up unexpected opportunities. These opportunities include speaking about my work to a wider audience. I am pleased to say that I’ll be giving a talk about finding a voice through art, titled Sweet to Satirical at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA on Sat., Nov. 17th at 1:00 pm.

And now, for some sweet stuff…

This scene with a house boat set in Holland. It 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 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.

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

 

Bed book peek: North Africa (part 3)

This is the third post about the North African illustration for my new children’s book. To see more, click the links for Part 1 and Part 2 in the series. The scene will be included in My Bed, which will be 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. and Iran.
To see a list of all my books, click here.

After constructing the houses with felt, wire and clay beads, and stitching the landscaping, I made this child to sleep on the rooftop terrace. With the exception of the fingers and toes, she is made the same way as the dolls in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures. Her bare feet are similar to the hands, but it’s a bit more tricky to make them look natural. (Sorry, the hand and feet technique is proprietary.)

Hair styling with thread brings out their individuality.

Her nightie is made from an old monogrammed hankie that was part of a relative’s trousseaux. I took advantage of its white edging while cutting out pieces of fabric for the garment.

Here she is, settling down for a cool night’s sleep on the roof deck.

I made my first palm tree for this scene, which required some photo research.

The tree trunk texture was fun to replicate with lots of fly stitches. I played around with light and dark colors to give it definition and dimension.

To give the right appearance at the top, just below where the palm fronds fan out, I sewed a clump of glass leaf beads.

And then there was the really fun part, when I got to use variegated silk ribbon thread! It’s one the few new needlework products I actually buy. I really like the selection of straw silk from Silk Road Fibers.

A felt moon appeared from behind the leaves.

and started to shine with the addition of some metallic thread.

So, that’s it for this illustration. I’m working hard to complete the whole book by next winter’s deadline and will be sharing more scenes in the coming months.

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

Bed book peek: North Africa (part 2)

This is the second post about the North African illustration for my new children’s book. To see Part 1 in the series, click here. The scene will be included in My Bed, which will be 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. and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

During the month-long process of working on a scene, I keep needed materials and supplies close at hand, with the actual work space increasingly limited to a little corner of my table. The surface in the foreground of the photo is an ironing board. The color scheme changes from page to page, so I select a new combination of felt and thread for each illustration. All of the stitching is done while holding the pieces in my hands, including this building and roof. There’s more about the roof tiles in Part 1.

This is what my work table looks like most of the time, with piles of cardboard bobbins of embroidery thread, spools of wire, a thimble, scissors, pliers, a wire cutter, a seam ripper, rulers, boxes of beads, etc.

After the houses were built, I started in on the landscaping.

These tiny glass leaf beads have been in my collection for years and I wanted to incorporate them in a vine that climbs up the side of a house. I formed the stems with wire, attaching the leaves as I went and then covered the the wire with embroidery floss.

To make a rooftop planter, I painted a miniature wooden pot to look like terracotta. The stems are thread wrapped wire, with seed beads sewn to the ends.

The pot needed something vertical sticking up in the middle, so I added a triplet of felt leaves.

There’s more to share, so please stay tuned for Part 3 in this series.

To keep up with new posts, 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.

Bed book peek: North Africa (part 1)

The book project is moving along, one stitch at a time. Or in this case, one roof tile at a time. When researching the architecture of North Africa, I was struck by the juxtaposition of white and tan buildings topped off with bright red or terracotta roof tiles. So that combination became the dominant color palette of this illustration.

The scene will be included in My Bed, which will be 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 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussia. and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

Since I didn’t have any red beads to make the roof with, I stained some white and brown clay disk beads with red magic marker. Some came out bright red and others had a more earthy tone. I’ve had these beads for a long time and it felt good to finally use them. Don’t worry, the red on my fingertip isn’t blood, but magic marker ink!

The holes in the center of the beads make it easy to sew them in place. I used a range of subtle shades of beige and tan felt for the buildings.

For a decorative scalloped edge, I added thread-covered wire to this strip of rooftop.

Then sewed on the overlapping red bead tiles.

After the roof was sewn in place, I added a decorative bead under the top eaves and stitched a bead curtain in the doorway.

In this part of the world, roofs serve as open living spaces, surrounded by walls. For this one, I made a fence with thread wrapped wire that you can see through.

Clay tube beads stick out like the ends of structural beams.

I made a striped turquoise awning for shade…

and a shuttered window in blue, for color contrast with the red and white.

I’m always looking for opportunities to add patterns and this door needed a carved wood appearance.

This roof section is edged all around with wire, which gives it the necessary structure to stick out from the background fabric. Otherwise the felt would be floppy and not very roof-like.

I search through my stash of hooks and eyes to find the right hardware for the door and windows.

This house is made from a loosely woven, nubby fabric that I thought matched the texture of white washed masonry walls. To be continued… See Part 2 here.

Please stay tuned for future posts, as I have lots more to show about making this illustration. To keep up with new posts, 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.

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. To see process photos of the finished illustrations for the book, click these links: Iran, South America, Russia, Japan, Afghanistan.

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.

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.