create your own wee world

Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures (2015)

One of the most rewarding parts of writing my book, Felt Wee Folk is hearing from fans who’ve wholeheartedly thrown themselves into the wee world. They don’t just make dolls using the patterns and directions from the book. They lovingly create characters who act out narratives in a very personal way. When the first edition of the book came out almost 18 years ago, I hoped that once people became comfortable with the process, they would start incorporating their own ideas. And I’m happy to say that this has happened! Today, I will share words and photos from two people who’ve been inspired by the book. One is a college student and the other is recently retired.

Mary R. Black is an 18-year-old from Grand Rapids, Michigan who wrote to say how much enjoyment she has gotten out of making the dolls from the book. She and her sister have been immersed in the wee world for a long time and it was an important part of their childhood. I just love Mary’s unabashed enthusiasm! (At her age, I was still hiding my penchant for dolls and miniatures.) She says, “I also make fairies, but when I started to see how you made normal dolls, I made dolls for my dollhouse too! They are in some ways more fun to make than fairies because of their variety and accessories, don’t you think?”

Mary goes on to say, “I also have started a little fun project at my college by setting up a fairy house at the base of a tree. I have received so many comments on how it brightens up people’s day, which is exactly what I wanted! But one day, to my surprise and extreme pleasure, I found a little gnome store on the other side of the tree!! I was so excited that my project inspired others to be creative too.”

She wrote back to update me with the news that her little character, Aspen had gotten engaged and married to Cypress. By the way, it looks like the happy couple’s hats are acorn caps from a Burr Oak tree.

Thank you Mary Black, for bringing your delightful imaginings to life and sharing them with your friends and us!

I’d also like to show you what Jane Walster from Chehalis, Washington has been doing in her first year of retirement. She writes, “I have been combining your lovely wee folk designs with additional ideas from Karina Schaapman’s Mouse Mansions.” Look at this comfy rustic living room she’s created for her dolls!

If you haven’t seen Karina’s books, you should check them out. And if you’re in Amsterdam, go visit The Mouse Mansion shop and studio, where you can see all of her amazing scenes on display. Friends have told me that seeing them in person is a wonderful experience.

Jean also sent a photo of her version of the Harvest Folk scene in Felt Wee Folk.

I like how the sheep came out, which I assume are based on the one she saw in a post earlier this year (shown left). It’s an animal icon from my upcoming picture book, My Bed: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World. You can see the post about making the sheep here.

She writes, “Liberty and Justice is such a brave and creative way to share your artistic talent. I love how you combined the personal and political with a big dose of humor. Your work fills me with hope that as I hone my skills, I will discover my own unique artistic style.”
Thank you for sharing your wee world, Jean!

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Euphoria – Ltd. Edition Fairy

I’d like to introduce EUPHORIA, the newest Ltd. Edition Fairy. The group of 25 dolls have been traveling around with me for several months and finally they are all dressed, coiffed and winged! The fairies will be ready to fly off from my Etsy Shop to their new homes on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019 at 10 AM (Eastern US time). They will be sold on a first come, first served basis. Sorry, no reservations ahead of time. I realize that the hour of the day is in the middle of the night for those of you on the other side of the world, but I can’t figure out how to make it perfectly fair.

Despite my intention to move on, I haven’t weaned myself entirely from making fairies. It’s a nice relaxing, portable activity when traveling. I’ve had to put limits on myself at home or else I would make them all the time, instead of pushing myself to do new work. 
And besides, I have to maintain the first “P” in my new slogan:
From Precious to Poignant to Provocative.

So, 1 or 2 times a year, I complete a group of 25 dolls and offer them in my Etsy Shop. They’re basically the same fairies from my how-to book of dolls, Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures. To see EUPHORIA and the other ltd. edition fairies in the archives, click here.

The only potentially messy part is gluing on their hair and acorn caps, so I usually do that in my studio. The hair is wool fleece, which is available in a multi-colored “fairy hair” sampler in my Etsy Shop. There’s also an assortment of faux flower petals to use for fairy skirts and wings in the shop here.

EUPHORIA is 3 3/4″ tall, with a dark brown complexion, black hair, acorn cap hat, hand embroidered wool felt tunic and petal skirt. Each doll is one of a limited edition of 25 look-alike fairies. They each sell for $85.00 and come with a signed and numbered name tag.

To enter my shop, click here. EUPHORIA will be added on Sept. 7, 2019 at 10 AM. Please know that the Ltd. Editions sell out very fast, so if you really want one, be ready. Good Luck!

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Horn Book Cover

This is an edited and republished version of a post that was first written in 2012.

The Jan/Feb 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine is out, with my illustration on the cover. This issue has many wonderful articles and book reviews, including the 2011 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award speeches, which were delivered at the colloquium on Sept. 30th, 2011. As an award recipient for Pocketful of Posies, I had the honor of illustrating a cover for the magazine. You can find out more about my award here.

Read on to see the process of making the cover illustration, which I worked on for about 6 weeks this past summer. The original size of the scene is about 12″ wide and 18″ high. I first found a twisted vine to use as the central tree and made a sketch with the Horn Book logo and child characters. I then drilled holes on the vine where wire branches would go.  

To form the branches, I covered wire with felt and embroidered them to match the real vine/tree trunk. This coiled branch has thread-wrapped wire thorns attached.

The Horn Book logo was rendered in wire branches and found objects. For one of the O’s, I sawed the back of a walnut-shell, so that it would lay flat and not stick out too much.  The O in the word Horn is a nest-like acorn cap from an oak tree in Iowa and the B’s spiky acorn caps are from northern California.

For the background, a solid color looked too plain, so I stitched together scraps of naturally dyed wool felt to make a more interesting field for the action.

I made a little fairy to fit in the walnut-shell.

I didn’t want the characters to be animals, but children dressed in animal costumes. So, I made every effort to make them look like children by giving them bangs, ponytails, hands and shoes. These figures are made with similar techniques found in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

During the process, I changed some of the characters in the original sketch and substituted a boy in a dinosaur costume pulling an acorn cap wheeled wagon full of books.

I printed out the words on acetate, so that I’d be sure to leave enough room at the bottom edge. I then embroidered plants and leaves to the felt background.

This little child/mouse is getting red shoes.

The Horn Book staff suggested I include a reading child, so I made a felt book for the face-painted mouse.

All of the parts piled up as I worked. It’s a miracle nothing got lost!

It was really fun thinking up costumes to make for these kids. I wanted to create a scene of children immersed in imaginary play and story.

I added a sun to the upper left corner and embroidered a wavy chain-stitched border. Then, I sewed the felt background to a sheet of foam core board, pulling it flat and straight.

Then, I stitched the tree, characters and other props in place, right through the foam core board. After everything was in place, I took it to the photographer, so he could take its picture. After that, I removed it from the foam core board and remounted the felt background and all of the parts on a cloth-covered stretcher. It is now framed behind glass and was recently bought by a collector. It was a joy to work on this project with Lolly Robinson at the Horn Book Magazine! Having my illustration on the cover will be a great opportunity for many people to discover my work for the first time.

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Here I am with Roger Sutton, editor in chief of The Horn Book.

Polly dresses for the Seashore

For over a year, Polly stood in silence on a high shelf overlooking the studio’s work space. Hour after hour, day after day she saw the same sight – her maker sitting and stitching. Not much action or excitement, to be sure! Then one day she was abruptly grabbed and stripped down to her underwear. She was getting a new sailor suit for a trip to the seashore!

But first, Polly underwent a bit of reconstruction on her shoulder and upper arm. Too much waving, perhaps. Her active lifestyle was the inspiration to add an extra sturdy body to the 2nd edition of my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk. Her recovery time was short and she could soon lift her arms while being fitted with a new blue cotton skirt.

It was important for Polly to have a hat to shade her delicate complexion, so she used the straw one that she wore on a previous adventure in 2016 to Anne of Green Gables territory on PEI. For this trip, it was embellished with a new blue rim.

Polly’s felt clothes are sewn on, since she’ll wear the same outfit for the unforeseen future. Until her next trip, that is.

The sailor collar has a wire stitched around the outside edge for stability.

Then, the outfit’s signature stripes were chain stitched around three sides.

The front of the collar was attached in place with a few stitches.

All that blue and white needed a contrasting silk tie!

Last to come was the hat and she’s off on her next adventure to the seashore. Stay tuned for photos of her trip! To see more of Polly Doll’s travels, visit this page.

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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 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.

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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

Wee Folk playing cards!

I am excited to announce a new set of Felt Wee Folk playing cards! Aren’t they a perfect way for all ages to enjoy the wee folk? C&T Publishing has just added the cards to their product line, which also includes the 1st and 2nd editions of my how-to book Felt Wee Folk. After selling out earlier this week, they’ve been restocked in my Etsy Shop. I also want to take this opportunity to let you know that I’ve added some doll-making supplies to the shop – wool fleece fairy hair, flower petal skirts and wings.

Playing cards

C&T Publishing’s catalog describes them this way:
The popular Felt Wee Folk, created by best-selling author Salley Mavor, spring to life in an imaginative deck of playing cards. Each felt doll is shown in exquisite detail, so their outsize personalities shine through. So cute you will want to play with them all, these popular playing cards make a great gift for crafters and children, but will be loved by all!

• Unique set of playing cards based on Salley Mavor’s much-beloved Felt Wee Folk books
• Adorable characters handcrafted with love 
• This set makes a fun gift for everyone—especially crafters, children, and the young at heart

Standard Size: 2.375″ x 3.5″

Retailers please take note:
The cards are sold in boxes of a dozen in an attractive POP (point of purchase) display.

C&T Publishing – ISBN 978-1-61745-806-4

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