bed book peek: Scandinavia – part 2

Let’s continue with the Scandinavian scene. Part 1 showed parts of the inside, such as making the framework for the cubby style bunk beds. This post will give 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, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussia, North Africa, North America and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

To make the balcony, I cut out holes in a piece of felt and edged everything with blanket stitch. I finish every raw edge this way to help contain the object I’m making, so that it’s less obviously made of felt. I want the viewer to take in the whole scene and be immersed in the subject, before noticing what materials I use.

For the flowering plant, I tried something new for the leaves; silk ribbon. I will now attempt to describe how this works in steps. Keep in mind that you use one long length of ribbon to make multiple leaves. 1. Twist wire to form stems. 2. Starting at the tip, loop a silk ribbon leaf. 3. Cover wire stem and ribbon by wrapping with embroidery floss. 4. Loop more leaves down the stem, covering the ribbon and wire with floss. Yikes, this is hard to explain! I hope that you can understand the process somewhat.

The flowers are clumps of French knots stitched with pima cotton thread.

I made stylized fir trees with covered wire trunks and branches. The branches and pine needles are stitched with variegated pima cotton made by Caron.

I’ve been using wire more and more to create a raised edge or outline, like on the sun and mountain below.

And the chain stitch is becoming a favorite way of forming lines.

I sewed curtains from blue felt, chain stitching lines to look like folds and decorating with white French knots.

The whole time I’m working, I refer to the drawing, making sure that the scene will fit into the page dimensions, without anything important getting lost in the book gutter.

To make the window, I edged a piece of felt with blanket stitches and wire. Even with photos documenting the process, I wasn’t immediately sure how I made the window grilles shown below. I remember looping lines of thread on wire, which was similar to casting on a knitting needle. Then, I joined 2 lengths by stitching them together down the middle. The wire gives the grilles enough firmness to hold their shape after being sewn in place inside the window frame.

Stay tuned for Part 3 in this series, which will show the children and more of the interior. To see Part 1, click here.
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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!   

bed book peek: Scandinavia – part 1

It feels like time to share another illustration from the bed book. This one is set in Scandinavia, with children sleeping in a cubby style bunk bed. I must have made it last summer, from the look of the green leaves outside the window in the photo above, It’s hard to keep track of time because I’ve been working 7 days a week for about 2 1/2 years straight. Between the Wee Folk Players series, the animated film and this book project, it’s been a stitching marathon around here. Hey, I’m not complaining – this is what I love to do and it’s a handy excuse for getting out of social obligations. But, I’m almost finished, with just the cover to do this month. And then, I’m going to switch gears to the garden, which has 2 years worth of overgrowth!

This 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,JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussia, North AmericaNorth 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. 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!   

To make this double page spread, I started with the roof, which has a string of felt shingles folded over, accordion style. Then, I got to work on the walls and bed frame in the interior.

I cut out little tree shapes and edged them with blanket stitch.

There was enough variety in the brown hues to make the shapes stand out on top of the background strip. So, you may ask, “Where do you get your felt?” The stuff I use is a plant dyed, thick wool/rayon mix, that I hoarded a few years ago. Unfortunately, the business seems to be on hiatus. You can get some nice plant dyed and commercially dyed wool felt from A Child’s Dream, though.

I sewed Soft Flex beading wire along the edges of the architectural details in this illustration. It adds a firmness that helps keep the felt pieces from flopping over.

Stay tuned for part 2, which will cover the exterior scenery.

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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: 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.

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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

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.