Pocketful of Borders: back cover

I always make book covers toward the end of a project. In the case of Pocketful of Posies, I’d already spent a couple of years on the book before I was ready to tackle the all important jacket design. See the front cover in an earlier post here. Whereas the front requires a title and by line, all the back really needs is space for a bar code.

sketch for "Pocketful of Posies" back cover

I decided to make a child inhabited landscape and neighborhood without a clear up or down. This way, I could set the scene for the book, going from general to more specific inside. Day and night would be separated diagonally.

Since the illustration already had a border of leaves, I just had to make a pattern (in red paper) and cut the felt into the wavy shape.

Then, I blanket stitched around the entire outside edge with pima cotton. I also signed and dated the bottom corners with chained stitched embroidery floss. This original illustration is part of the Pocketful of Posies Traveling Exhibit  at the Danforth Museum in Framingham, MA, which will be on display through January 23rd.

back cover from "Pocketful of Posies" 2010

Note: See other posts from the Pocketful of Borders series here.

Pocketful of Borders: Little Jack Horner

Little Jack Horner sat in a corner/Eating a Christmas pie/ He put in his thumb and pulled out a plum/ And said, “What a good boy am I.”

Little Jack Horner from “Pocketful of Posies”
I made this illustration toward the end of the three-year Pocketful of Posies project. I was never happy with the original sketch and by the time I started working on it years later, had changed the design entirely. At first, Jack was sitting under a Christmas tree in an interior domestic scene. The next thing I knew, the wall had disappeared and Jack was half way inside and halfway out. He was still sitting with his pie, but he had let in the wintry outside. I never seem to be satisfied with a design, until nature bursts in.

After the artwork was photographed for the book, I stitched a felt border and framed the picture, which is now touring in the Pocketful of Posies Traveling Exhibit.

I like using variegated embroidery floss whenever possible. It adds a range of hues and a vibrancy that solid colored threads lack.

The snow on the roof top and in the sky is made from circular sections cut out of lace. Inside the driftwood house, the area behind Jack and the tree is textured with tiny stitches of different colored threads.

Little Jack Horner from "Pocketful of Posies" 2010

Note: See other posts from the Pocketful of Borders series here.

Pocketful of borders: Little Boy Blue

Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn; the sheep’s in the meadow, the cow’s in the corn.

Here is the original fabric relief illustration for the rhyme, Little Boy Blue, from my book, Pocketful of Posies. The embroidered piece is first mounted on a foam core board for the photographer. Afterward, I stitch a felt border, remount, and frame each piece, making it ready to hang.

illustration of “Little Boy Blue”

I tried out some different shades of upholstery fabric for the background and selected this warm brown with a vine pattern. Then I cut the border sections out of wool felt.

I used variegated pima cotton to edge the pieces with blanket stitch. Later, I added chain stitched curly cues with variegated embroidery floss.

Sheep are so fun to make, with their curly fleece. Yes, these are all french knots, but they are spaced out a bit, compared to the dense knots in the lambs from my Mary Had a Little Lamb book. (see lambs here)

The haystack is padded with wool stuffing and the texture is stitched with tapestry wool, with real pieces of straw sewn in, too.

Little Boy Blue’s hat is made from thread wrapped wire and his horn is a cactus thorn.

This original illustration was one of 50 pieces of artwork from the book in the touring exhibit, Pocketful of Posies from 2010 to 2015.

Note: See other posts from the Pocketful of Borders series here.

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

“Posies” front cover

detail from “Pocketful of Posies”

When we first started talking about the front cover for Pocketful of Posies, the editors and I didn’t yet have a title.  We were a few years into the project when one of the members of the production team suggested that I incorporate the title and byline  into my artwork, thereby stitching the letters instead of dropping in the usual type set words. After going back and forth with title ideas for several months, someone from Houghton Mifflin came up with a name we all liked, Pocketful of Posies. We added the subtitle A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes to emphasize that this was a collection of  rhymes, rather than a story book.

My first drawing for the cover had a circling group of characters from the book, echoing the ring around the rosies theme. I presented it to the powers that be and it and was asked to try again. No problem, I needed try something different. The design was too balanced and straight forward and, well, too boring and static for a cover, which should be dynamic. When it comes to sales, books are judged by their cover, especially picture books. People should feel the compulsion to open the book and look inside!

I decided to keep some of the characters, but had them doing different actions in a natural environment. I played around with angles and curves, adding large leaves to separate the sub-title and by line. I decided to enclose the action with a border and bendy, circular vines, which move your eye around inside the picture.

Some of the characters were removed in the process of translating this final sketch into the finished sewn illustration. I never know how things are going to turn out until I start cutting out shapes and constructing dolls. I made sure that  both boys and girls were represented, as I didn’t want my sewn artwork to come across as too girly centric.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to make the letters, but I wanted to try something that had depth, so that the title would pop out. I figured that if it didn’t work, the graphic designers could always type set the words. I found some titles done in a nice flowing script in a book my mother had as a child, Chimney Corner Stories, by Lois Lenski. I liked the way the P looked, which featured prominently in my title, so I used this lettering as a guide.

from “Chimney Corner Stories” 1925

Using green cloth-wrapped florist wire, I wrote out the words by bending the wire to form the connecting letters. I then wrapped the wire by hand with 2 ply variegated embroidery floss. I don’t really remember how I finished off the ends, but probably made knots at the back (no glue). The picture below shows my first attempts at bending and wrapping. I had to try different ways of compressing the U and Y, so that the words could all fit on the leaves. I also changed the floss color to something lighter, so there would be more contrast with the green leaf background.

Besides the title, the cover illustration has a lot of other thread wrapped wire. The stems, vines and every leaf are edged with wire, making it possible to bend and shape the parts, tweaking until the last-minute, when the photograph is taken. See other posts with wire lettering here and here. I used red felt for the background, so that the green leaves and vines would stand out.  Also, many of my recent books have had blue covers and I wanted something different.

Pocketful of Posies is sold in my Etsy Shop and includes a free bonus copy of my 2001 book In the Heart.

detail of “Pocketful of Posies” front cover


Pocketful of Borders: Bow, wow, wow

Last summer, in the rush to finish making borders for the Pocketful of Posies Traveling Exhibit, I forgot to take pictures while I was working on the border for this illustration. It’s for the rhymes, Diddlety, diddlety, dumpty, the cat ran up the plum tree… and Bow, wow, wow! Whose dog art thou? Original artwork from my book  Pocketful of Posies will be on display until Oct 31st at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, Mass. and then the show will open on Nov. 13th at the Danforth Museum in Framingham, Mass. See future locations here.

illustration from “Pocketful of Posies” 2010

Here are some early layouts of the page, showing the progression of the design. Originally, there were three children, with the Diddlety rhyme positioned in upper left corner. I incorporated an island to make the tree and characters grounded, instead of floating around in  red space.  The mound was also big enough  to hold the Bow, wow, wow rhyme.    

Time went by, maybe a year or more before I started working on this page. I looked at the design with new eyes and was unhappy with the type placement.   So, I redid the layout, enlarged the tree and repositioned the Diddlety rhyme on top.                                       


The tree was inspired by some wrought iron gates I saw, with graceful interwoven branches. I added bead leaves and glass pear-shaped beads. Here are some details of the finished border.

Note: See other posts from the Pocketful of Borders series here.

Pocketful of Borders: Pussy Cat, where have you been?

from “Pocketful of Posies”

Update: This post was written in 2010, so the events and dates mentioned are long past.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be showing pictures I took this past summer. They will show the process of adding borders to the original illustrations from my book Pocketful of Posies. All of the originals are currently on display in Falmouth, Mass. until Oct. 31st, 2010 and then they’ll move to the Boston area for the rest of the year. See the traveling exhibit schedule with future locations on this page. This is the illustration for the rhyme Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?  The original was made at 90%, so it was enlarged just a little for the book. I don’t know why, but some characters and designs are easier for me to make on a smaller scale. Since I’m aiming for the work to be reproduced, it can be blown up to the necessary size, as long as the proportions are correct. I picked out an orange upholstery fabric for the back ground and some lavender felt for the border. I then blanket stitched around the border pieces with variegated pima cotton. The bottom corners were chain stitched with the date and my initials, while the top corners had doodles. The corners need warming up, so I outlined the edge with some golden wool crewel yarn. I added some loopy chain stitching to the side pieces… and sewed it all together. To see a closeup of the cat, see this post. To see other posts in the Pocketful of Borders series, click here.

Autographed copies of the book 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 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.

Pocketful of Borders: Jack Sprat & My son John

All of the borders from Pocketful of Posies are finished and the artwork is hung at Highfield for the first leg of the tour. The book release party will be held at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA on Sunday, Sept. 26, from 4 to 6pm. I hope to see some of you there!  

I still have some photos which show the border making process for a few more illustrations. This one incorporates two different rhymes, Jack Sprat (who ate no fat) and Deedle, deedle dumpling, my son John (who went to bed with his trousers on).   


The gray of the driftwood house is too monochromatic for me, so I added a favorite color combination of orange and blue to the figures and props. I used cool colors on the felt border, allowing the warmer browns and oranges to pop out visually. Jack Sprat and his wife are holding doll house utensils.   


I embroidered the border pieces with variegated thread.   


The driftwood beams and floor boards are sewn onto the felt background through tiny drilled holes. No dreaded glue! Now that I think of it, I did use some glue on the furniture.   


But sewed son John’s bed in place.   


I can remember really liking the process of building the house, which was so different from sewing. There was sawing, sanding, drilling, carving and whittling. Sawdust mingled with threads on the floor.   

Jack Sprat from "Pocketful of Posies" 2010

Note: See other posts from the Pocketful of Borders series here.

“Posies” artwork ready to hang!

Today, we finished framing the Pocketful of Posies artwork and will be ready to hang the show tomorrow! Talk about working ’til the last-minute. I don’t usually do things this way and have everything completed way ahead. The whole family helped out over the weekend, while I sewed the last border together. My studio was a beehive of activity; my husband Rob put the last of the artwork into frames and sons Peter and Ian drilled holes and screwed in the eyes on the back. It will take several car loads to transport all 51 pictures over to Highfield Hall tomorrow morning. It’s a good thing we live close by. Wow, does it feel good to have this project done! You can read about Pocketful of Posies: A Traveling Exhibit and see the schedule here.

Pocketful of Borders: Little piggies & back jacket

This is a quick update on the border project for the illustrations from Pocketful of Posies. I’m working on the last one now, so if everything goes as planned, we will be readyto hang the show next Monday! My husband has been helping by putting the artwork into the frames he made. To see the show schedule, go to the Traveling Exhibit Page here. These pictures are from This Little Piggy and the back book jacket.

Note: See other posts from the Pocketful of Borders series here.

Pocketful of Borders: Go to bed first

There are only 5 more borders to make before we hang the first installment of the Pocketful of Posies Traveling Exhibit at Highfield Hall in Falmouth next week. Besides stitching, all I’ve been doing for the past month is eating, sleeping and occasionally riding my bike for exercise. It takes about 8 to 10 hours of sewing to complete each border, so I’ve been aiming for one a day. My broken wrist  set me back 4 months last winter, so I’m making up for it now.

“Go to bed first, a golden purse” begins the last rhyme in the book.  Here’s my work table with the illustration surrounded by piles of wool felt.

The border colors have been selected and cut.

I was so intent on finishing this one, that I skipped taking pictures of the stitching process. The rug under the beds is decorated with embroidery on felt, with thread tassels.

The different beds are made with found objects like beads, dowels, and hollow thorns.

It’s always a good idea to end a bedtime story book with a picture of a sleeping child.

Note: See other posts from the Pocketful of Borders series here.