black cat pin

I gave a talk today at the First Congregational Church in my home town of Falmouth, MA. The audience included many needle workers who were very curious about how I made some of the pieces I showed in my slide presentation. Jo Ann Coleman brought a black velveteen cat pin to show. It’s one I had made over 30 years ago for her son, who was a classmate growing up in Falmouth. In the late 70’s, early 80’s, I made custom pins for customers who send photos of their cats. I remember seeing the picture of this big black one with a white beard. It’s wonderful that these pins I made decades ago keep coming back into my life! You can read more about the pins here.

Piano Pin

An old friend asked me to make a pin for his wife. Even though I don’t usually do commissions, I couldn’t say no to this request.  

David Wiesner (the amazing children’s book illustrator) and I were in the same class at RISD (1978) and he bought some of my pins back then. See posts about my pins here. He gave them to his future wife, Kim Kahng, who was a student at Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia during that time. At RISD, David and I were lucky enough to have David McCaulay as a teacher. See the pyramid pin I gave him here. Several years ago, David and Kim’s apartment was destroyed by a fire and everything was lost, including the pins.  Years passed and David was reminded of the pins when we recently got back in touch. He thought it would be nice for Kim to have a new pin. I found out that she is a pianist and since I had just returned from visiting Istanbul, where carpets are sold at every street corner, I made a piano flying on a carpet. The pin is about 1 1/4″ x 2″. As you can see I made use of hooks and eyes. David reports that Kim is wearing the pin every day! I’m amazed at how the pins I made 35 years ago still hold memories.

Connecticut Book Fair

This past Saturday I gave a talk and signed books at the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair, which is held every year at the UConn campus in Storrs. It’s a big affair, with about 20 different authors and illustrators giving presentations. Just before my slide talk was about to start, I learned that the ordered cartons of my book, Pocketful of Posies, had not arrived. They had a few copies of Posies (from the UConn Coop), some Felt Wee Folk and Hey, Diddle, Diddle!, but that would be it. I was stunned for about 30 seconds and then decided that I wasn’t going to let this taint my weekend at the fair. People had come to see me and I would give my talk and spend time meeting them even if there wasn’t a stack of books to sign. I had brought posters, so I signed those instead of the Posies book. I met some really nice people and one woman told me that she drove 3 hours to come see my exhibit and hear my 10:15 am talk! And my husband Rob had a great time schmoozing with the other authors and illustrators and their spouses. Oh, see my new leather and carpet purse from Turkey on the table next to me.

The highlight of the evening banquet was seeing my former teacher, David Macaulay. He was one of the authors at the fair and I was hoping to have a chance to talk to him. It had been about a dozen years since we saw each other last, so we had a really nice chat, catching up and reminiscing about RISD days. I was surprised when he pointed to his lapel pin, which looked vaguely familiar. It was a stuffed cloth pyramid that I gave him when I was his student in about 1977!  His Pyramid book came out around that time. 

I had completely forgotten about making it. He knew I was going to be at the fair, so he wore it! I was so touched by his thoughtfulness. I spent the rest of the evening floating on air. Read about my pins here.

We saw the exhibit of my original illustrations from Pocketful of Posies on campus, at the Dodd Center.

Here’s the sign at the entrance to the gallery.

The space is perfect for small work, with lots of cases and good lighting. The curator, Terri Goldich did a great job fitting 39 illustrations into the gallery. There are some comfy chairs and a small TV at the back where you can sit and watch my Rabbitat film, too. 

visit to Studio Goodwin Sturges

I recently visited Studio Goodwin Sturges in their new location in Providence, RI. Judy Sue Goodwin-Sturges and I have known each other since I took her illustration classes at RISD in the mid 70’s. We’ve worked together on books since she started her studio in the 90’s. In addition to teaching, she represents a wonderful group of artists, some of whom are former students, and matches them up with publishers. Here she is in her studio office.

The studio moved from Boston to this window lit space in the back of her house. It’s located a few streets from where my mother grew up in Providence.

I saw a felt banner I made years ago displayed with some of the studio’s books. I didn’t know that they were involved with Puff the Magic Dragon and Judy Collins’ Over the Rainbow books. There’s a nice note from Peter Yarrow.

The Studio is a wonderful, supportive agency that has developed hundreds of children’s books.

One box filled room was full of books that Judy Sue moved from Boston. We combed through dozens of boxes until we found my books. She’s trying to down size, so she gave me most of what she had.

One of my early dolls was propped up on the center table at the studio. Her shoes and vest are made of leather.

It’s the same doll that I’m making in the photo below, which was taken by my roommate at RISD in 1976.

salley at RISD 1976

I also saw the framed pin display I made for Judy Sue sometime in the 80’s. This way she could see her collection. The custom-made cow may show my first use of  bead udders.   

pin display, 1980’s

Visiting the new studio, with so many visible memories, makes me appreciate how much support I’ve received from Judy Sue to do what I love to do!  I’ve written about how she encouraged me during my student years at RISD in earlier posts here.   I love this picture of her with some of her former students, including Ashley Wolff and Holly Berry. Thanks Judy-Sue!

Judy-Sue (back), Salley, Ashley Wolff and Holly Berry, 1980's

Closeups (grapes)

I smelled grapes this morning. Wild Concord grape vines strangle the trees along the bike path and their dark purple fruit is ripening. Women were picking low growing grapes and filling plastic bags. Here are some closeups of grapes in my artwork over an almost 50 year span.

crayon on lined paper, 1960 (age 5)

This pin was made by covering red beads with sheer lavender fabric. Read the story of my pins here.

pin, 1978

The grapes in this fabric relief piece were made the same way as the pin, but about 1/2 the size. I used real curly grape vines. See another detail from “Vineyard Family” here.

detail from “Vineyard Family” 1985

Here’s one from my kitchen faux tiles, which you can see here.

faux tile, 1991

Here’s a scene from Mary Had a Little Lamb, when the lamb was following Mary to school. See other closeups from the book here.

detail from “Mary Had a Little Lamb” 1995

And this is a felt pin from my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: Enchanting Projects.

felt pin from “Felt Wee Folk” 2003

Note: See other posts in the Close-ups series archive here.

Close-ups (shells)

This is a series of shell images, starting with a fabric scallop pin, which I made in the late 70’s. See the story about my pins in earlier posts here.


The scale and natural delicacy of shells make them suitable props for my little dolls. Here’s a 2″ mermaid photographed on the beach.


This is an appliqued felt purse from the 90’s, which is like the ones featured in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: Enchanting Projects.


Shells make good sleeping places, too. This is a detail from an illustration in Wee Willie Winkie, from the page which reads, “Are the children in their beds?”.


Here is a detail from “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?”, which is included in my picture book, Pocketful of Posies; A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes.  


This is from “the old woman stands at the tub, tub, tub” verse, which is also in Pocketful of Posies. Her washing tub is made from a “boat” shell that is commonly found on our local beaches.


Note: See other posts in the Close-ups series archive here.

Close-ups (peas)

My peas are starting to come up in the garden. Their vines are such a cheery sight in the spring and then the first food to pick in June. This series of closeups begins with a peapod pin made with velvet ribbon and green wooden beads. You can read the story about my pins here.

peapod pin 1977

peapod pin 1977

Here’s a detail from “Picking Peas”, a fabric relief from 1985. The full scene is on another post here. The peapods are glass beads. I must have figured out how to knot the string to make the net or cut a piece out of an existing net.

detail from "Picking Peas" 1985

detail from “Picking Peas” 1985

The peapods in this illustration from Mary Had a Little Lamb are made from seed beads sewn inside thin satin ribbon.

detail from " Mary Had a Little lamb" 1995

detail from ” Mary Had a Little lamb” 1995

This is a felt pin from my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk. The peas in the ribbon pods are glass beads in both this photo and the one below.

pin from "Felt Wee Folk" 2003

pin from “Felt Wee Folk” 2003

 Here are some felt pea vines from an illustration in my upcoming book, Pocketful of Posies.

detail from Pocketful of Posies” 2010

Note: See other posts in the Close-ups series archive here.

Felt Cat Pin tutorial

This project is from the first edition of my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: Enchanting Projects. I showed how to make the cat pin on HGTV’s The Carol Duvall Show soon after the book came out in 2003. Here are the same pieces we used in the step-by-step demonstration on the show.

Find out about books I’ve illustrated with fabric relief here. See more cats I made of felt in an earlier post here.


Felt Cat Pin from “Felt Wee Folk”, 2″ x 2.5″

Living without TV, I was unaware of the numerous cable craft shows and was unfamiliar with this new term “tutorial” on the internet. I’m slowly crawling out of my peaceful sewing room, but question how a person can both do their creative work and keep in touch with the vast sewing/fibers network! I suppose, like everything, it’s a question of balance. I hope that you enjoy this cat pin project and use it as a launching pad for other ideas of your own. You can read and see earlier posts about my pin business here.

FELT CAT PIN: To complete the project, you’ll need to understand how to do a blanket stitch, chain stitch, satin stitch and fly stitch.

Materials: 1″ pin back, pinking shears, embroidery needles, 2 green glass beads (about 1/4″), embroidery floss: black, brown, orange, gold, light green, wool felt: 2-1/4″ x 2″ pink, 1-1/2″ x 1-3/4″ blue, 1-1/4 x 1-1/2″ orange

CPTsuppliesWM Step 1. Cut out shapes from wool felt: orange for cat, blue for the middle layer and pink for the bottom layer.

Step 2. Sew the pin back to the bottom layer with floss or sewing thread.


Step 2

 Step 3. Satin stitch the cat’s nose with double strands of orange floss. With brown floss, stitch the bottom end the cat’s nose.

Step 3

Step 3

Step 4. Stitch the mouth and whiskers with double strands of brown floss. Sew the green bead eyes onto the cat face with black floss, stitching vertically to make the eye’s pupil. Stitch an outline around the bead eyes with a single strand of brown floss. With a double strand of gold floss, use a fly stitch to make cat’s stripes.

Step 4

Step 4

 Step 5: With double strands of orange floss, stitch the cat face to the blue middle piece, blanket stitching all around the outside edge of the cat face

Step 5

Step 5

Step 6. With a single strand of light green floss, chain stitch the curly queue on the blue felt, above the cat face. Then, with double strands of light green floss, blanket stitch the blue middle section onto the pink piece.

Step 7. With sharp picking shears, trim around the outside edge of the pink felt piece. You’re finished!

Step 6

Step 6

Noah’s Ark

At 26″ x 30″, Noah’s Ark is the largest piece I’ve ever made.  Everyone has their own scale and mine tends to be small. Even if the outside dimensions of a piece are large, I will fill it with smaller items. Looking at this picture now, I see large areas that would not escape my present-day appetite for embellishment.  It’s tricky to keep the all over design working, so that it draws you in first and then you can appreciate the detail up close. At this time, in 1985, I had stopped making the pins, but was still designing small animals of the same size to use in my fabric relief pictures. You can read a 3 part story about my pins in earlier blog posts here. Showing the story of Noah was an opportunity to continue figuring out how to make a variety of animals. It was also a way to play around with arranging them together in a landscape.

“Noah’s Ark”, 26″ x 30″, fabric relief 1985

 The background fabric is cotton velveteen, which I dyed with a spray bottle, building up layers of  color, giving it a variegated, stippled appearance. The border is made from an upholstery fabric remnant that I remember finding in a bargain bin at a fabric store in Berkeley, California.   

dyed velveteen

Detail of "Noah's Ark", 9" x 12", 1985

sketch of Noah's Ark

During this time, I was hand embroidering the leaves on the trees and adding some leaf beads as well. The fabric is machine appliqued, something I would give up shortly after this in favor of hand stitching. I came to dislike the uniform, flat stitches and put my sewing machine away for years at a time. It’s fun to look at this piece and see early examples of human figures and animals that I will continue to rework and develop for another 25 years.  

Noah and his wife

Detail from "Noah's Ark"

detail from "Noah's Ark"

detail from "Noah's Ark"

Close-ups (hearts)

This selection of hearts begins with a sleeping cat on a heart covered bed spread from my book In the Heart. Then there is a felt balsam pillow and a heart pin covered in french knots, both projects from my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk. The last two are a chain stitched heart that’s part of the endpapers and a heart tart from “The Queen of Hearts” nursery rhyme (see in this post) from my upcoming book, Pocketful of Posies (Sept. 2010). The original illustrations will be shown in a traveling exhibition which you can find out about here.

detail from “In the Heart” 2001

balsam pillow from “Felt Wee Folk” 2003

pin from “Felt Wee Folk”

detail from “Pocketful of Posies” 2010

detail from “Pocketful of Posies” 2010

Note: See other posts in the Close-ups series archive here.