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 3 year tour 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 in 2022-23. 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 via e-mail to find out more about hosting the exhibit.


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.

bed book peek: Scandinavia – part 3

In this part 3 of the 4 part series about the Scandinavian scene, the children and the chair are the focus. Part 1 shows parts of the inside, such as making the framework for the cubby style bunk beds. Part 2 gives a glimpse at the what’s outside: the balcony, flowers, mountains, sun and trees.

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 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America,JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussiaNorth AfricaNorth America and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

As with all of the characters in this book, I paint their features and personalities on 20 millimeter wooden beads with tiny brushes. Then, I make their wigs and bodies, using the same techniques taught in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures.

This little girl has a custom made nightie, patterned with little embroidered flowers.

Even before threading the first needle to make the finished illustrations, I mapped out the entire book, with sketches of each page. It’s a square book, with artwork covering 3/4 of the double page spread. The remaining 1/4 page will hold the text of the story and the animal icons.

When making the parts of the scenes, I match the layouts pretty closely. Books come with certain constraints: number of pages, dimensions, titles, credits and text. Drawings serve as guides, but there are always little changes here and there to the finished illustrations. Surprises are bound to happen – that’s what keeps it fun! Of course, to do this, your editorial team needs to be supportive. You just have to be mindful of the outside measurements and avoid letting anything important get lost in the center gutter.

I could have made the chair in a lot of different ways, but these cactus thorns called out to me. Please don’t ask where I got them – I’ve lost track, since they’ve been in my stash for decades.

Generally, I use a combination of flat pattern and sculpture in my work, without much regard to formal perspective. In this scene, I felt that the chair seat needed to appear more dimensional than usual, so I tapered the angle, with the yellow stripes accentuating its depth.

I am happy to announce that the original illustrations for the book will tour the country after the book is published in the fall of 2020. The Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, Massachusetts will host the premiere exhibit and other venues will follow. As with Pocketful of Posies, I am scheduling a 3 year traveling exhibit, so that more people can see the “real thing”, which is a totally different experience than looking at reproductions on the printed page. Interested museums and art centers are welcome to contact me for information about hosting the exhibit. You can help bring the show to a place near you by reaching out to your local venues and telling them about this opportunity. It would be wonderful to have the original illustrations make their way across the whole country!   

Stay tuned for Part 4 in this series, which will show more interior details.

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 : 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!

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 America (part 3)

In this Part 3, I will describe making all the miscellaneous elements in the children’s bedroom. Part 1 was about the little girl and her bed and Part 2 showed the baby, the crib and the dog.

The scene 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: 
Holland, South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussiaNorth Africa and Iran.
To see a list of all my books, click here

Besides making the figures, my favorite part of creating an illustration is filling the artwork with elements that help develop the characters and tell their story. Most of the spreads in this book show the children’s environment both inside and out. In this one, the wholly interior scene was an opportunity to indulge my passion for miniatures, from the wall paper to the lampshade. Making objects in relief is a lot different than rendering mini replicas of furniture for a doll house, though. Since the maximum depth I have to work with is 1 inch, everything is pretty flat and is made to look more sculptural than it really is.

The lampshade is embroidered felt, with wire stitched to the top and bottom rims for structure. I added dangling seed beads to give it some personality. As you can see, the shade is just half a circle, with the flat back sewn to the wall. The lamp is a miniature turned wooden pot that I sawed in half and painted.

Even the kid’s drawings on the wall are embroidered on felt. Chain stitching is my go-to method for forming lines.

This is the first time I’ve made a basket with silk ribbon. In the past, I’ve woven them with thread wrapped wire, like the egg basket in Pocketful of Posies. Like the lampshade, it’s made in relief (about 1/2″), with a flat back. I really like the silk ribbon made by Silk Road Fibers. I used it other scenes for this book, including the palm fronds in North Africa.

I made blocks to fill the toy basket by coloring square wooden beads with different colored magic markers. It’s important to find parts with holes, so you can sew them in place. Just like with painting doll heads, I strung them on a pipe cleaner for support.

Then, I sewed the basket to the background fabric.

Through the window, you can see a thread wrapped tree branch. It’s inside a balsa wood box that I sewed in back, behind the background fabric. I’ve used this method in other scenes where I want to show receding depth. It’s a way to make use of the hidden space inside the stretcher.

This little toy car reminded me of the pins I used to make.

I may have reached my mini limit with this purple bear.

I hope you enjoyed taking an inside look at making this scene for My Bed.
Part 1 is about the little girl and her bed and Part 2 shows the baby, the crib and the dog.

I am happy to announce that the original illustrations for the book will tour the country after the book is published in the fall of 2020. The Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, Massachusetts will host the premiere exhibit and other venues will follow. Like with Pocketful of Posies, I am scheduling a traveling exhibit, so that more people can see the “real thing”, which is a totally different experience than looking at reproductions on the printed page. Interested museums and art centers are welcome to contact me for information about hosting the exhibit. You can help bring the show to a place near you by reaching out to your local venues and telling them about this opportunity. It would be wonderful to have the original illustrations make their way across the whole country! 

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 America (part 2)

In part 1, we were introduced to this little girl in her cozy bed and quilt. In this part 2, I will describe how I made her baby sibling sleeping in a crib and her pet dog lying on a rug. Part 3 will come next, with photos of all the miscellaneous elements in the bedroom.

The scene 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:
Holland, South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussiaNorth Africa and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

I am happy to announce that the original illustrations for the book will tour the country after the book is published in the fall of 2020. The Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, Massachusetts will host the premiere exhibit and other venues will follow. Like with Pocketful of Posies, I am scheduling a traveling exhibit, so that more people can see the “real thing”, which is a totally different experience than looking at reproductions on the printed page. Interested museums and art centers are welcome to contact me for information about hosting the exhibit. You can help bring the show to a place near you by reaching out to your local venues and telling them about this opportunity. It would be wonderful to have the original illustrations make their way across the whole country! 

When making the baby’s head, I was faced with the dilemma of how to deal with the bead hole on top. Normally, when making a doll from my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk, the hole is covered with hair or a hat. But in this case I wanted to paint on the hair. So, I glued a small scrap of black felt inside the whole, which blended in with the painted bead surface.

I must say that it felt strange to lay the baby face up, instead of on their stomach, which is what I did in the 80’s with my kids. But, that’s what you’re supposed to do now for their safety. This is just one example of the kind of things that come up when you illustrate a children’s book.

The head, foot and bottom of the crib are made of wood, but the sides are formed with wire, wrapped in embroidery floss. I love using wire for detailed touches because it’s cooperative and strong at the same time. I’d say, when you can’t figure out how to get something to hold its shape, use wire. I use non tarnish beading wire in a variety of gauges and Soft Flex wire for straight lines or wide curves.

I made a black and white mobile-like contraption from beads and wire to hang over the crib. Have you noticed the black and white products for newborns? The reason is that that the sharp contrast of black and white is easier for them to see when their vision is still blurry. So much for pastels.

Now, let’s look at the dog making process. If you follow the other posts about animals for the book, you’ll see that I use pipe cleaners to form their basic shapes. I wrapped the dog’s legs with wool tapestry yarn, so the color and texture would blend with its wool felt body.

For my illustrations, I make all of the parts in shallow relief – characters, animals, furniture, architecture, foliage and everything. After the parts are made separately, they are arranged and sewn to a background fabric. For photographic and framing purposes, nothing should stick up more than an inch from the surface. With that in mind, this dog was made to lay flat on a rug. It didn’t have to be able to stand up or have its back viewed.

I then covered the legs and formed the body and tail with felt.

Looking at this photo, it’s hard to see how the dog’s head was attached to the rest of the body. There is a seam at the neck, but I smoothed the felt fibers a bit with a needle, to cover the stitching. The finishing touch was a stitched fur texture on its body and ears.

Then I stitched a circular felt rug for the dog to sleep on.

After the dog was sewn in place, I added a knotted rope chewy toy, made with beads and perle cotton. Please stay tuned for part 3, which will conclude the series and show all of the miscellaneous elements in the bedroom.

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 America (part 1)

This illustration features a little girl and her doll, tucked in and cozy under a quilt. She’s looking at a book in bed, in her bedroom, someplace in North America. The scene will be included in My Bed: Celebrating Children’s Beds Around the World, 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:
Holland, South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussiaNorth Africa and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

I’m steadily making progress on the book, with the intention of meeting the deadline in a few months. This kind of work can’t be sped up and just takes the time it takes, kind of like children growing up. It’s important that my art have a handmade quality that shows that a real human being labored over it. If I can’t be in my studio, I stitch during every possible moment – in the car (in the passenger seat) and while waiting for appointments. Of course, I sleep, cook dinner, go to exercise class and occasionally pay attention to my husband. Winter is speeding by too fast, but then I’ve come to the age where it seems like my life is going by in a blur. There’s no such thing as boredom.

The quilt is embroidered with pastel colored cotton flower thread on wool felt. I chain stitched the squares from the outside in, around and around, like a Greek key pattern.

I’ve been using the chain stitch a lot in this book, as a way to fill in areas. After the squares were finished, I noticed that they needed more definition, so I outlined them with a darker purple and rose color.

I made the girl’s body out of pipe cleaners and her head from a wooden bead, using the same basic doll-making techniques that are in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

Her doll has the tiniest wood bead head that I could find.

The book she’s holding is felt, edged with blanket stitch and wire to give it form. Otherwise it would be too floppy. I built the bed’s head and foot board of wood, gluing the parts together.

Her room has furnishings, too, such as this chest of drawers.

And there’s wall paper, which I decorated by stitching a vertical leafy vine on gold striped upholstery fabric.

This is the first in a 3 part series about making the scene. There are many more elements to show, which you can get a glimpse of in the photo below. Please stay tuned for parts 2 and 3.

I am happy to announce that the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, Massachusetts will host the premiere exhibit of original illustrations for the book. The exhibit will be coordinated with the book’s publication in the fall of 2020. Like with Pocketful of Posies, I am scheduling a touring exhibit, so that more people can see the “real thing”, which is a totally different experience than seeing reproductions on the printed page. Interested museums and art centers are welcome to contact me for information about hosting the exhibit. It would be wonderful to have the original illustrations make their way across the whole country!

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 : 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.

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.