Mossy Glen: Part 7 – Violets and Berries

In this Part 7 of the series about making the spring landscape, Mossy Glen, I share photos, videos and commentary about how I created violets and berry bushes. Part 1 is all about stitching a moss-like texture, Part 2 gives a glimpse at how I made the cherry trees, Part 3 is about the stone walls, Part 4 shows how I made the forsythia blossoms, Part 5 features wire and felt leaves and Part 6 is about chain-stitching leaves.

winding wire stems with embroidery floss

Mossy Glen is the springtime scene in a series of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Mossy Glen and the winter scene, Frosty Morning are available as note cards in my shop here.


While I write this post, I’m in the midst of preparing for my upcoming retrospective exhibition in Kennebunk, Maine at the Brick Store Museum. Even though I’ve hardly picked up a needle and thread this spring, I’m still being creative, but in a different way. My approach to curating this show is similar to how I imagine and labor over my artwork. It’s all about taking a lot of small details and arranging them in a way that contributes to the story. The exhibition, What a Relief: The Art of Salley Mavor will tell the story of my evolution as an artist, from childhood to today. Just like my art, this exhibit will be very busy, with a ton of original 3-dimensional pieces to eye as closely as you like. As my husband Rob says, “With Salley’s art, more is more.”

Early work from the 80’s and 90’s on loan for the exhibition, What a Relief: The Art of Salley Mavor.

What a Relief: The Art of Salley Mavor at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, Maine, (June 7 – Sept. 11, 2022). I will be there on Sat., June 25th from 1 – 3 pm for a meet and greet and book-signing event.

The retrospective exhibition will feature a large selection of my artwork, spanning over 40 years, from early on to the present day. Over 100 pieces from my collection and rarely seen works on loan from private collections will fill walls a cases in multiple galleries on the museum’s entire first floor. Original picture book illustrations, including the entire series from my most recent book, MY BED will also be shown.

Now back to the patch of violets, which appear in the lower left foreground of Mossy Glen. I chose violets because I thought a dark leafed plant would bring some weight to the bottom of the composition. I also wanted something larger scale, to offset all of the itty bitty berries and leaves.

I constructed the leaves out of wool felt and wire and embroidered the veins.

You can see the process of making the leaves in this Stitch Minute video.

After sewing the leaves to the background fabric, I stitched flowers with silk ribbon.

I created stems with wire, silk ribbon and embroidery floss.

The silk ribbon was so fun to use that I couldn’t resist adding some “grass” to the bottom edge.

Scattered throughout Mossy Glen are berry bushes, which I make with wire, glass beads and embroidery floss.

You can see how I form wire and bead berry bushes in this Stitch Minute video.

Wire and glass bead berry bush

At this stage of the project, I picked out some upholstery fabric from my stash and used it to cover the stretcher frames. It hurts my brain to try to explain why and how it’s done, but the process involves cotton padding and lots of contorted hand sewing, kind of like upholstering a piece of furniture. In putting the covered stretcher on top, I’m basically freeing up an extra 1/2″ of depth that would normally be wasted behind the stretched fabric.

I then stapled the background fabric to the back of the covered stretcher and started assembling the pieces on top, inside the upholstered border frame.

Stay tuned for a final post about making the wee folk characters in Mossy Glen.
Mossy Glen (overview)
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 3 (stone walls)
Part 4 (forsythia)
Part 5 (wire and felt leaves)
Part 6 (chain stitched leaves)

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

Mossy Glen: Part 3 – stone walls

In this Part 3 of the series about making the spring landscape, Mossy Glen, I share photos and commentary about how I incorporated stone walls into the scene. Part 1 is all about making moss and Part 2 gives a glimpse at how I made the cherry trees.

Why did I use real stones instead of making them with felt, as I did for Frosty Morning, (which you can see here)? I’ve asked myself the same question and have no clear answer, besides a feeling that real stones somehow balanced out and matched the realness of the wooden doorways.

Mossy Glen is the springtime scene in a series of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Mossy Glen and the winter scene, Frosty Morning are available as note cards in my shop here.

I first time I used real stones in my artwork was in 1995 for the picture book, Mary had a Little Lamb. I can remember sitting on the beach, sifting through the sand for small flat stones to use in the garden scene. When it came time to glue them to the background fabric, I was a nervous wreck, afraid of dropping glue in the wrong place by mistake and ruining all my work.

This time, I found more stones than sand to sift through at the beach.

Woodneck Beach, Falmouth, MA

I came home with a varied selection of stones, ranging in size from 1/2″ to 1 1/4″. They needed to be thin so they wouldn’t be too heavy and flat on the back so the glue would have a surface to adhere to.

As I played around with their arrangement, I decided to add a mossy felt section to the composition, which I embellished with silk ribbon. This ribbon is made by Silk Road Fibers.

One downside of using glue is that once you’ve cemented something in place, that’s where it stays. I’d rather have the flexibility to move parts around, so I glued stones to individual pieces of felt. That way, I could make adjustments as I built the wall. It’s a lot easier to rip out a bunch of stitches than move a glued object.
Aleene’s makes a variety of fabric embellishing adhesives that all work well. Do I use hot glue? No, because it’s stringy, messy, shoddy looking and I don’t trust its holding capabilities.

Once the stones and their felt backings were sewn in place, I covered the felt and filled in the cracks with a gazillion french knots, making a carpet of moss.

As with the moss in other parts of the Mossy Glen (that you can see here), I combined different shades of green embroidery floss to give it a naturalistic appearance.

As I stitched french knots around the stones, I realized that the mossy wall was too plain and would look better with something growing in front of it.

So, I formed a vine out of wire, silk ribbon and embroidery floss. Even though I documented the process with photos, it’s hard to remember exactly how I made it. All I know is that the silk ribbon loopy leaves came first and then I covered the wire and ribbon with embroidery floss. In my head, can hear my mother’s voice saying that the floss covered a multitude of sins.

I sewed the vine in place in the spaces between the stones.

I expanded the Mossy Glen neighborhood to include another stony bank with 2 more doorways.

This time, I glued the stones directly to the background fabric because I was more confident about their placement.

When I stitched around the stones, I left some room between the knots, so the blue green felt showed through. Again, I thought the hillside was too plain, so I stitched a few plants with silk ribbon.

As I embellished around the stones, I periodically checked the positioning of the moss covered wooden doorways, to make sure that they fit OK.

Here’s a photo showing the back of the hillside, with a green felt strip along the top edge. It’s kind of like piping without a cord filler inside.

I added the green strip along the top of the mound to create a space for blades of grass. In contrast to the myriad of greens, I used bright warm colors to stitch the grass.

Stay tuned for more posts about making Mossy Glen. Other parts in the series will focus on the forsythia bush, leaves, embroidered embellishments and the wee folk characters.
Mossy Glen (overview)
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 4 (forsythia)

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

Mossy Glen: Part 2 – Cherry Trees

Flowering trees in the spring are glorious, aren’t they? Maybe we appreciate them because their showy display is so brief. In this Part 2 of the series about making Mossy Glen, I share photos, videos and commentary about how I created the cherry trees that sit atop the hillside, off in the distance.

Mossy Glen is the springtime scene in a series of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Mossy Glen and the winter scene, Frosty Morning are available as note cards in my shop here.

The pink tinted trees against the blue sky remind me of the blossoming apple trees in this book jacket illustration for my 1995 book, Mary Had a Little Lamb.

Mary Had a Little lamb 1995

Of course, apple and cherry trees are shaped differently and their flowers aren’t the same shade of pink. I also constructed them differently – the apple trees are embroidered directly onto cotton velveteen, whereas the cherry trees in Mossy Glen are made with a combination of wrapped wire and embroidery on wool felt.

I also made the cherry trees as separate objects that could be shifted around. That way, I could adjust their position according to how the surrounding parts came out. Over the years, I’ve found that keeping an open-ended playful element in my process is more and more important. The idea of following a set pattern or grid, without much wiggle room, such as in knitting, cross-stitching or weaving makes me feel trapped and constrained, without room to breath.

I formed the tree shapes with wire, using a finer gauge for the smaller branches. The loops on the ends were big enough to sew a needle and thread through.

I wrapped the branches with embroidery floss and covered the trunk with wool felt, which I embellished with vertical rows of chain stitching. This Stitch Minute video shows how I wrapped the wire and stitched the blossoms with french knots.

Stitch Minute – wire tree

This was the first time I can remember creating a tree with its own section of sky attached. Luckily, I had some pale blue felt that was almost the same shade as the cotton velveteen background sky.

After sewing the wire tree to the felt, I embroidered a few extra branches to fill in the gaps and added pink blossoms with french knots.

I made a patch of sorts, by cutting the felt around the contours of the treetop. At this point, I’d figured out where to put the trees, so it was okay to decorate the surrounding area. Watch this Stitch Minute video to see how I stitched some little bushes onto the velveteen background.

Stitch Minute – bushes

In the future, I’ll give a closer look at how I made the foliage on the hillside that’s positioned below and in front of the cherry trees.

Stay tuned for more posts about making Mossy Glen. Other parts in the series will focus on the stone walls, forsythia bush, embroidered embellishments and the wee folk characters.
Mossy Glen (overview)
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 3 (stone walls)
Part 4 (forsythia)

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

Mossy Glen: Part 1 (moss)

Wouldn’t it be nice to step out your front door onto a mossy carpet every morning?  In this Part 1 of the series about making Mossy Glen, I share photos, videos and commentary about how I created just that for the wee folk who live there.

Mossy Glen is the springtime scene in a series of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Mossy Glen and the winter scene, Frosty Morning are available as note cards in my shop here.

I always start a project with an image in my head. In this case it included a forsythia bush overhanging a neighborhood made up of stone walls and doorways nestled into moss covered mounds. I drew a thumbnail sketch of the basic composition and printed it out in full scale using Block Posters. Over the 5 months working on Mossy Glen, I used the enlarged drawing as a general guide, not as an exact template.

Faux Moss
About 10 years ago, I fell in love with stitching moss while making my piece Rabbitat, which you can learn about in this film.

Rabbitat 2011

I can’t believe it’s taken so long to get back into embroidering moss. The simple idea of stitching multiple French knots side by side to form a naturalistic ground cover isn’t a new concept, but it reached a heightened level of obsession with Mossy Glen. It’s one of those repetitive activities that has you totally mesmerized.

Out of curiosity, I calculated that each square inch of faux moss contains an average of 144 knots, depending on the thickness of the thread, number of strands and the density of the stitches. That means that Mossy Glen is covered with several thousand knots.

If you follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram, you’ve gotten a preview of the process of making Mossy Glen. Last summer I shared photos and videos of whatever part I was working on that particular day. One constant question was, “How do you stitch on wood?” Back then, I was immersed in the act of creating and didn’t want to switch on the explaining part of my brain. Now, I’m ready to talk about it.

So, how do I stitch onto wood? It helps to think of art is an illusion, that the goal is to make the viewer perceive something in a way that suspends disbelief, like magic. The thing is, people who make stuff are super curious and aren’t satisfied until they can make sense of how something is done.

Here’s the simple rundown – 1. find interesting pieces of wood, 2. glue pieces of felt to the wood, 3. stitch onto the felt. As long as there is something to catch a needle with, you can make stitches. I usually shy away from using glue because it’s messy and unpredictable, but decided to try it for this purpose. Aleene’s glue makes a variety of fabric embellishing adhesives that all work well. Do I use hot glue? No, because it’s stringy, messy, shoddy looking and I don’t trust its holding capabilities.

French knots/Colonial knots
It’s been pointed out by people who know such things, that I’m actually making a Colonial knot, not a French knot. It has something to do with the twist at the end. Being self-taught, I’ve never paid attention to the names of different stitches or doing them the “right” way. I just use the basics in combinations that work for me. Here’s a Stitch Minute video that shows how I stitched the knots.

Stitch Minute – Moss

Thread
To make the moss, I used all kinds of thread, from silk to cotton floss, depending on what kind of look I was after. The naturalistic appearance comes from combining different shades of green in groups of 3 or 4 strands. I used these threads: DMC cotton floss, Vineyard Silks and Watercolours by Caron,

This 2 minute video gives a further glimpse into my process.

Stitching Moss with Salley Mavor

Stay tuned for more posts about making Mossy Glen. Future parts in the series will focus on the stone walls, the cherry trees, the forsythia bush, the embroidered embellishments and the wee folk characters.
Mossy Glen (overview)
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 3 (stone walls)
Part 4 (forsythia)

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

Mossy Glen overview

On this cold January day, I’d like to transport us all to springtime in the Mossy Glen. I began making this new piece in my 4 seasons series last May, just when light green buds started appearing on the maple trees. While I worked on it all summer and into the early fall, I took photos of different stages of the process. As with last year’s winter landscape, Frosty Morning, I will be posting several stories about how I created the different parts for Mossy Glen, from the plants and moss to the little characters frolicking about.

To do that, it’s going to take some adjustment on my part. First off, I’m going to have to turn on the explaining part of my brain, which has been dormant for quite a while. Writing this introductory post and sorting out which photos to include is a way to ease the transition from doing to talking about doing. While I’m in the middle of a project, I give myself over to whatever I’m envisioning and trust that it will work out. I solve each problem as it appears, always keeping the big picture in mind. I don’t try to explain the process, even to myself, for fear of dispelling the magic.

Throughout the months that I was making Mossy Glen, I shared glimpses of my work table on Facebook and/or Instagram. Understandably, my followers were curious about how this or that was made. I gave brief and evasive answers, like “I’ll explain later when it’s finished.” and “Let’s just call it magic.” It’s a tease of sorts, but true to my experience. Now that the piece has been finished for a while, I’m free to go back and review the process with a more analytical eye.

There’s a lot to show and I’m still figuring out how to organize the parts. I’ll be sharing several Stitch Minute videos that give closeup views of me working on different sections of the piece.

I’ll be covering moss-making and stone wall building…

and forsythia blossoming…

and views of constructing the little figures living in the hillside.

I’ll show how I made the cherry trees…

and violets…

and even a mini clothes line.

Please stay tuned for more photos, videos and explanations in the coming weeks.
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 3 (stone walls)
Part 4 (forsythia)
Part 5 (felt and wire leaves)
Part 6 (stitched leaves)

Mossy Glen and Frosty Morning note cards are available in my Etsy shop.

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

MY BED – Home: Part 4

PART 4 – Elephant Lamp and Goldfish Lampshade: Today’s post shows how I made the elephant lamp and goldfish lampshade in the child’s bedroom scene at the end of my picture book, My Bed.
Part 1 gives an overview of the page.
Part 2 focuses on the outside architectural details of the cut-away house.
Part 3 takes a peek inside at the furniture and the sleeping child.
Part 5 is about all of the other animal icons represented in the scene.

Signed copies of My Bed are available in my shop here. Watch this 8-minute documentary about making the artwork for the book.

My original idea for this illustration was to show a universal child sleeping in bed, surrounded by stuffed toys that looked like the animal icons featured throughout the book. I soon realized that the bed and floor around it wouldn’t accommodate all of the animals, so I came up with other ways spread them around the room.

The sturdy elephant turned into a lamp base and the goldfish ended up swimming around a sea blue lampshade. The goldfish icon first appears on the text panel in the Japanese spread in the book.

To make the lampshade, I appliqued an embroidered felt goldfish head and tail onto a piece of blue felt.

I added a felt back piece and edged the front and back with wire on the top and bottom. That way, it would stick out and stay curved like a real shade.

For the lamp base, I shrunk the elephant down to about 1/2 the size of the spot illustration on the text panel on the Indian page of the book.

To make the armature, I bent a pipe cleaner and threaded one end through a wooden bead. The bead would become the head and the pipe cleaner extension would form the trunk.

Then I wrapped the pipe cleaner trunk with embroidery floss, covering the fuzzies like the dolls’ arms and legs are made in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk.

I sewed pieces of felt inside the body to fill in the void and give it bulk.

I then covered the bead head and body with pieces of felt. It’s been a few years, so I can’t remember exactly how this part was done, but I remember that it was rather fussy. I probably used 2 separate pieces for the front and back of the body and the head.

You can see the difference in scale between the 2 elephants in the photo of my work table below. They’re like the mother and baby elephant in my first children’s book, The Way Home.

Replicating the blanket at 1/2 size was also fussy, but at least it was flat!

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a full size version of this lamp, with the elephant made out of clay or wood and a painted goldfish swimming around the shade?

Stay tuned for more posts about the other animals in this 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

MY BED – Home: Part 1

PART 1 – Overview: For the past few years, I’ve shared the process of making the 3-dimensional embroidered illustrations for my newest picture book, MY BED. The book has been out for a year and the Bedtime Stitches touring exhibition of the original artwork is well underway. So, I’d like to pick up where I left off last year and continue to show what goes into doing this kind of work. Posts I’ve written in the Bed Book Peek series so far are listed here.

The Bedtime Stitches touring exhibition is at the  New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA through Dec. 31, 2021 and will be at the International Quilt Museum, Lincoln, NE Jan. 25 – April 10, 2022. See the the full schedule here. Visitors often ask, “How did she make all of this in one year?”. It’s confusing because all of the pieces are consistently embroidered with the date 2020 on the border. Even though I worked on it over a 3 year period, the project was completed when it was published as a book in 2020.

Signed copies of My Bed can be ordered in my shop here. Watch this 8 minute documentary about how I created the illustrations for the book.

HOME – Near the end of the story, the illustration shows a child in bed, when it’s almost time to go to sleep. All of the animal icons from the different places featured throughout the book are gathered together in a snug little bedroom. I felt it was important to depict a universal child, who wasn’t clearly identifiable by gender or race, whom any child being read to could identify with. I also wanted the house to convey a warm and playful sense of “home” that could be imagined anywhere.

You can find out more about the Animal Icon spot illustrations in these previous posts – Rooster, Camel, Parrot, Elephant, Goldfish, Cat, Duck, Sheep, Rabbit, Cow, Crocodile, Giraffe, Dog, Pony.

To begin, I enlarged the thumb nail sketch to full scale and used it as a template. The drawing provided a general layout of the house and tree, but once I started making the animals, they took over and pretty much determined what the interior arrangement would be.

I worked on one double-page spread at a time. The background and parts accumulated on an old ironing board that served as an extra working surface. When I needed to press a piece of felt, the iron was right there.

Rob set up a camera and lights on top of the table, so we could make a little animated film before I sewed all of the parts together.

This is what it looks like when you compress 6 weeks into 9 seconds.

There’s is so much to show about making this scene that I’m going to write several posts focusing on different parts, including the animals, the child and architectural details. Stay tuned for more!

Frosty Morning: part 3 (shelters)

Part 3 in the Frosty Morning series is about making these curious looking rounded structures. Part 1 showed how I made the tree trunks and Part 2 gave a close look at how I formed and wrapped the wire tree branches, from the inside out.

This year, I’m working on a group of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Frosty Morning is the first completed scene in the series. Spring, summer and fall will come later.
Note cards are available in my Etsy Shop.

From the start, I knew that the scene would include little characters who needed places to take shelter from the cold. So, I constructed cozy homes for them, like a wee folk housing development nestled in the trees.

Each shelter was custom made to fit between tree limbs. I first cut out pieces of wool felt in the basic shapes. Then, I cut out rounded doorways and trimmed them to conform to the surrounding branches.

To give the shelters a nest-like appearance, I stitched a random cross-hatched pattern onto the felt, using fingering weight Merino wool from Flying Finn Yarns.

As I worked, the spiral around the doorway grew larger, creating a shallow entrance, with an overhanging rim. On top, I added a bit of snow cover with white metallic thread and clear glass beads.

Each shelter was made to be different in shape and color.

This one was built to fit under a piece of driftwood.

In the back, I added layers of felt to make the walls puff out a bit.

Sometimes I drill little holes in wood to sew it in place, but in this case I glued the wood to the back layer of felt.

At this point, I wasn’t sure who would be moving into the neighborhood, but there was much more to finish before they started showing up, anyway

Stay tuned for Part 4 in the Frosty Morning series, which will zero in on the stone wall and its surroundings.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

Frosty Morning: part 2 (branches)

Part 2 in the Frosty Morning series gives a close look at how I formed and wrapped the wire tree branches, from the inside out. Part 1 was about making the tree trunks.

This year, I’m working on a group of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Frosty Morning is the first completed scene in the series. Note cards are available in my Etsy Shop.

I started experimenting with wire branches in the mid-80’s, while exploring new ways of adding dimension to my work. The trees in the winter scene below are an early example of the same basic technique I use today.

This piece from 1986, along with over 100 works spanning my 40 year career, will be included in next summer’s retrospective exhibition, WHAT A RELIEF: The Art of Salley Mavor, May 3 – Sept. 11, 2022 at the Brick Store Museum, Kennebunk, ME. Rarely seen works on loan from private collections will fill multiple galleries on the museum’s entire first floor. A large selection of sculptures, bas-relief pieces and original picture book illustrations, including the scenes from my newest book, MY BED, will also be shown.

I use jewelry wire or copper filled insulated electrical wire to form tree branches.

As I described in part 1, the trunk and thicker limbs were covered in felt.

Then came the fiddly part, where I wrapped the wire branches in embroidery floss. I wound thread up and down several times, until the wire was no longer visible and the branches looked smooth and even. Using variegated thread gives the tree a more naturalistic look because nothing in real life is just one color.

Despite its apparent fussiness, the process of wrapping the wire is strangely calming. People often remark at how patient I am, which ironically makes me feel annoyed and impatient. I know it’s meant as a compliment, but doing this kind of work has nothing to do with patience. For me, stitching is a grounding daily practice that verges on obsession. Somehow, that feels different than patience. Watch this video and see what you think.

Sometimes I used the copper wire filling inside insulated electrical cables I found at the hardware store.

Part 3 in the series will be all about making these curious looking rounded shelters.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

Frosty Morning: part 1 (trees)

Are you ready for a blast of cold air in the heat of summer? I hope so, because today, I am giving a behind the scenes peek at how I made the tree trunks for Frosty Morning. Part 2 in the series will concentrate on how I formed and wrapped the wire branches. As the summer progresses, I will share other features of the winter scene, including snow and ice, cozy little shelters, a stone wall and the ubiquitous wee folk characters dressed in warm winter outfits.

This year, I’m working on a group of seasonal pieces that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Frosty Morning is the first completed scene in the series. Note cards are available in my Etsy Shop.

I’m currently deep in making mode, working on a completely different piece – the spring scene, which you can follow on Instagram and Facebook . So, writing this post requires switching my brain into explaining mode. You see, when I’m engrossed in making something, I don’t think about the actual process. I’m focused on bringing my vision to life.

So how did this vision develop? I started by picturing a winter scene in my mind, with expressive branches and sparkling ice crystals. When I sketched out some ideas, rounded shelters showed up, all nestled in the thicket of trees. The original drawing also included a line of little figures climbing high along a branch. The details changed along the way, but the basic thrust and curve of the center tree remained. Over the 4 months that I worked on Frosty Morning, I used the drawing as a guide, but never a template.

Because the center tree is the main focal point of the piece, I constructed it first. The photo below shows how I used matte board and wire to form the structure of the tree trunk.

The concept of using matte board as a base actually began over 40 years ago, when I designed a line of stuffed pins. You can follow the story of my pins here.

i still have the patterns for the various shapes, including the cat. The board inside gave a nice flat backing to stitch the pin fastener onto.

For the tree, I glued a piece of felt (the cheap stuff) to the back of the matte board. That way there is something for the needle to catch onto. Then, I wrapped a piece of felt (the good stuff) around the trunk, covering the front side and stitching it in place on the back.

Then, I stitched a zigzag pattern on the font side with variegated pima cotton made by the Caron Collection.

I used insulated wire of different gauges, sometimes stripping off the rubber/plastic coating to reveal multiple wires inside. It’s the kind of supply that can be found at hardware stores The skinnier wire inside became the finer limbs as the tree branched out.

I searched through my old lace collection until I found something that would evoke snow cover on the center tree’s outstretched branch.

I made the purple tree a little differently.

Being smaller in diameter, the purple tree didn’t need a board backing, so i just wrapped the wire armature with strips of cotton batting until they were the right thickness. I have no logical explanation as to why this tree is purple. I just wanted to cheer up the scene with something besides drab browns and grays.

Part 2 in this series, will be devoted to forming and wrapping the branches.

Frosty Morning note cards are available in my Etsy shop here.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.