baby banner for Xavier

Since delivering the artwork for my upcoming book, My Bed to the publisher, I’ve had time to catch up on overdue gifts. Like this baby banner for Xavier, the newest member of a family of dear friends. He is now a toddler, and I hope the banner is something he won’t ever outgrow.

I make banners for friends and family that commemorate special events like weddings and births. You can see others I’ve made by scrolling through the archives here. They all feature 2 of my favorite things; embroidery and handwriting. When I form letters in wire, I think back to that day in 3rd grade in the Woods Hole School, when Mrs. Cleveland called each student up to her desk, one at a time, to show us how to write out our names in cursive handwriting. I was transfixed, watching her make a line of loops and bumps that magically spelled my name, without lifting her pencil off the paper.

I use floral wire to make the letters, because it’s covered with green thread that provides a non-slippery surface to wrap embroidery floss on top of.

I usually use variegated floss to wrap the wire, which can look like stripes on the 2nd pass. The wire ends are bent over and wrapped, so that no raw ends are hanging out. It’s similar to the technique I use to make doll limbs in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk.

Out of my stash, I selected bone beads to make a decorative separator between the names and birth date.

And what better than a bead to dot the i.

A little chain stitch never hurt, either.

Writing out the letters in wire sometimes follows a different path than actual handwriting, especially for b’s.

Over the years, I’ve adapted my handwriting on paper as well as wire to a personal style that’s part cursive and part block letters.

I went through my collection of driftwood, picked out a bumpy piece, and cut it to the right length with a saw.

Many years ago, I bought these beach stones with drilled holes. I use them sparingly on special projects.

This shows how I sew the wrapped lettering to the felt banner piece.

For a hanging cord, I braided pima cotton made by Caron.

I have lots of Wee Folk Studio labels left over from when I made felt purse kits, so I sewed one to the back of the banner.

I attached the cord to the wood bar with knots and stitched it to the banner at the top corners.

This banner will soon hang on Xavier’s bedroom door. Welcome to the world little Xavy and congratulations to his parents, Mark and Cal!

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Wedding Banner: Shawn & Max

Today is Shawn and Max’s wedding day. The bride is a family friend and I wanted to make a banner to commemorate the occasion. This kind of project is quick (about a week) in comparison to the other work I do, which takes months or years. In the weeks since delivering the artwork for my upcoming book, My Bed to the publisher, I feel like a free woman! Besides gardening and paying attention to my husband Rob, I have indulged in making fun gifts like this.

It’s been a long time since I made a banner – you can see others in the archives here. I’ve also made personalized wedding dolls, which match the look and style of real-life couples. They inspired the new chapter in the 2nd edition of my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures.

Personalized wedding dolls from the archives

The banner features 2 of my favorite things, cursive handwriting and embroidery. I start by forming the letters with paper covered florist wire.

Then, I wrap the wire with a double strand of variegated embroidery floss.

The letters flow from one to the next, with occasional breaks, like in Max’s name below. I made a separate piece to complete the “x”.

In a nod to the theme of love, I made a heart shaped vine of wire and glass beads.

After I sewed the wire heart to the background felt, I stitched more leaves with embroidery floss.

For much of my art, borders are an important element. I like to define the edges using blanket stitching with a thick variegated thread – Watercolours by Caron.

The wedding date is written in light letters and numbers on a separate dark piece of felt.

I added glass leaf beads and silk ribbon French knot roses.

I put 2 carved bone fish beads in the open areas around their names and sewed the felt sections to the long banner piece.

After chain stitching spirals to the scalloped bottom edged, I sewed shells to the points. These shells are from old souvenir necklaces from Hawaii.

I even remembered to sew a Wee Folk Studio label to the back.

I cut a piece of driftwood to hang the banner from, drilled holes in it and attached the banner with thread. I then made a braided cord with variegated thread – Watercolours by Caron.
Congratulations Shawn and Max. May you have a long and happy marriage!

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Stuart & Nancy ~ 50th gift

stuartnancyWM-1284I had the pleasure of making a 50th anniversary gift for my friend Judy Sue to give to her dear friends Stuart and Nancy. She asked me to include pertinent info like names and dates and suggested that I put in a pair of birds and a heart. As always, I began by drawing thumbnail sketches of the basic design.

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About halfway through the process, when I’d already made the birds, I realized that this would be a good project to show how I work. You’d think that this would be automatic by now, but it’s always a challenge to stop and document while you’re engrossed in the middle of something. I took a few photos and also asked Rob to do some filming. You can see high action close-ups of my hand stitching, winding and arranging parts in the video below.

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In this piece I tried a new way of handling thread wrapped wire. In the video, you can see me winding wire around another straight wire rod and pulling it out, creating a curled spring.

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Stuart and Nancy should be receiving their gift this weekend at a surprise party. It is highly unlikely they will see this post, so I think it’s safe to publish it now. I enjoyed making the piece and it was a real honor to help Judy Sue express her love and friendship to this couple!

See what it looks like finished on the end of this post.

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Wedding dolls: Max and Beth

 

max-bethblogWMMy friend Terry’s son Max got married a few weeks ago. Over the years, Terry and I have worked together on so many fun projects, including these: wedding cake, baby quilt and community quilt. So, Terry and I conspired to make a special surprise for the wedding couple.

I couldn’t wait to make little Max and Beth dolls for the wedding cake. Max and Beth met when they both worked as engineers at the Jet Propulsion Lab in California. Since they helped design parts for NASA’s Mars Rover, it became their obvious prop. Terry found a set of Lego directions for making “Curiosity” and enlisted the help of Max’s cousin to put it together.

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Beth’s dress was one of those strapless jobs. Way before the wedding, Terry sent me a photo of the gown, so I could replicate it in miniature. The biggest challenge was to make a smooth transition between the doll’s felt torso and floss wrapped arms. Usually sleeves or shoulder straps provide a break that hide any raw ends. You can see a couple of stitches on the top, where I fastened the top in place. I don’t know how real life women can wear this style, without the help of magic! In this close-up, her felt chest looks a bit fuzzy, hairy even. But that’s wool felt for you! Fortunately, it’s not so noticeable on the 4″ doll size.

I’m glad that Max insisted on wearing a blue blazer and khakis, which gave the wedding a relaxed Cape Cod feel. They both looked spiffy!

Before we go any further, I want to mention that my upcoming how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures ( March 2015) will have many examples of wedding cake toppers for you to make. You can see other wedding dolls I’ve made here.

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maxbethdolls2Terry was originally going to make a Mars cake for the rehearsal dinner, but decided to simplify things by constructing a non-edible “Mars” stand from an inverted bowl covered with fondant. It was tricky to get the color right and she ended up using beet powder, cinnamon and cocoa. Terry rolled out the colored fondant and made impressions with a celestial patterned sheet of plastic and a rolling-pin, both with raised texture. She then spread the dough over the inverted stainless steel bowl. At the dinner, Max and Beth were totally surprised to see their likenesses lounging on the rover. The pair of dolls also made an appearance atop the wedding cake the next day.

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mars2Both the rehearsal dinner and wedding were lovely events. Congratulations, Max and Beth!

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Ryan and Lael wedding dolls

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Ryan and Lael will be getting married next month in Woods Hole, so I made them a pair of dolls as a wedding present. They met here as children, when they were Woods Hole summer kids.  And this wedding will join two families that have been coming every summer for generations.  I’ve always been a bit jealous of the summer people, who seem to appreciate their time in Woods Hole more than we year-rounders. For them, it’s special and magical, like summer camp, where you play and socialize, without the regular responsibilities associated with your “winter” home.

It was clear that a conventional white gown and tuxedo would not represent this couple’s theatrical leanings and spirit of adventure. Since the bride and groom have more than a passing interest in medieval history, I dressed them in period attire. Their costumes were so much fun to research and figure out how to make.

As with the Glen and Susan dolls, these figures use some techniques, such as wig-making, that will be included in the new edition of Felt Wee Folk. Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures will be coming out in the spring of 2015.

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Glen and Susan tie the knot

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Glen and Susan surprised everyone when they got married in a small private ceremony last December. They are a special couple, who are happy to have found each other at this stage in their lives. Now, they are planning to celebrate their union with their friends and family at their home in June.  I thought that they could use a pair of portrait dolls for the occasion, perhaps as cake toppers. I delivered the dolls a few days ago and you should have seen the look on their faces!

How do you like their eye glasses? It’s the first time I’ve tried making them and now I want to experiment with more ways of bending wire. And how about this photograph? I am so lucky to have my husband Rob document my work at a moment’s notice. We set them up outside in the periwinkle patch and took their photograph at different times of day, with natural lighting. I really like the way this one came out–it shows the dolls in a scene, but you can see the details, too. These dolls use some new techniques, like wig making (not the eyeglasses-they were made after the manuscript was handed in) and clothing, which will be included in my new book, Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures (Spring 2015). Until then, the original edition, Felt Wee Folk: Enchanting Projects is still available from my Etsy Shop here.

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2 new baby jackets

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Within my sphere of friends, two new baby boys have recently been born. So, I made them each a little jacket, which is my go-to baby gift. I love going through my stash and picking out fabric to use for the outside, lining and bias edging. I’ve used the same Simplicity pattern 9647 for about 30 years, adapting it with cotton quilt batting padding, so it’s warm. Their names are chained stitched on the front. Welcome to the world, Eli and Kieran!

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