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.

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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.

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Bed book peek: Pony

Today, I’m happy to give a behind the scenes peek at how I made this pony, which is used as a spot illustration on the Mongolian spread in my new picture book, MY BED. The story about children’s sleeping places in different cultures around the world was published in Sept. 2020.

The pony is also pictured with all of the other animal icons on the book’s end-papers. If you’d like to see posts about making the other animals, please follow the links below: RoosterCamelParrotElephantGoldfishCatDuckSheepRabbitCow,
 Crocodile, Giraffe, Dog.

A touring exhibition of my original embroidered artwork for the book is traveling around the United States. Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stitches will next be shown at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA, Sept. 15 – Dec. 31, 2021. Then, the the exhibition will head to the Midwest, to the International Quilt Museum in Lincoln, NE, Jan 25 – April 10, 2022 . The five year tour schedule is listed here.

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

Making MY BED

I’ll start off by showing this video, which brings you through the different steps of the pony making process, complete with Mongolian zither music in the background.

Making the Mongolian pony for the book, MY BED

in this series of still photographs, I’ll try to explain what I’m doing. As I’ve said before, I work intuitively, so it can be a challenge to describe the process in exact terms. For most of the animals in the book, I bent a pipe cleaner to form an outline shape. Then, I wrapped the legs, using the same technique that’s taught in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk,

This part is all about building up the body with layers of felt. First, I sewed on a back piece and used scraps of felt to fill the cavity until it was a good thickness.

This is the point where I “upholster” the front of the animal with a piece of felt. There isn’t a supporting photograph because I consistently forget to take a picture of this part. It must be because I’m always consumed in the heat of battle. Just imagine the back as a maze of crisscrossing threads, all working to get rid of any bumps or folds.

Well, after the animal shape looked the way I wanted it to, I sewed on a seed bead eye and embroidered a mane.

I can’t remember how I made the top of the mane where it sticks up, but it could have been several rows of blanket stitching.

To make the tail, I covered the pipe cleaner with embroidery floss.

Research was an important and fun part of illustrating this book. To make an accurate representation, I looked at photographs of real Mongolian ponies, with their colorful, decorative saddles.

It took a while to make the right placement of the ear.

With its bridle in place, the pony was almost ready to go.

All it needed was a brass bead stirrup, which you can see in the last photo.

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MY BED: night sky – part 4

This is the 4th and final part in the series about making the night sky illustration for my new picture book, My Bed. In this spread, all of the children are tucked in bed, hovering among the stars in the night sky. Today, I will show how I made the miniature versions of the children and beds from Russia and North America.

But first, I have some GOOD NEWS on the exhibition front! A new museum has just confirmed that they will be hosting the Bedtime Stitches touring exhibition in 2024. The Albany Institute of History and Art in Albany, NY will show Bedtime Stitches, as well as Social Fabric, a collection of other pieces I’ve made over the past 20 years. This all came about because a longtime fan contacted the museum in her home town of Albany about showing my work. Thank you Janny! This proves that the combination of your enthusiasm, along with local connections can get results.

Bedtime Stitches is currently at the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Mt. Vernon, IL through May 30th, 2021. To see the tour schedule, please visit the Exhibitions Page.

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.

For the night sky scene, I made a smaller version of the traditional “stove bed” ” like the one in the Russian scene. Besides its use for domestic heating, people slept on top of the masonry to keep warm.

To start, I cut felt in the shape of the stove and embroidered the details. The fire box door is appliqued black felt, with a metal hook for the handle and black seed beads for the hinges. I edged the stove and bed platform pieces with blanket stitches and sewed them together. To keep it from being too floppy, I stitched wire all around the outside edges. You can’t see the wire because it’s wrapped with thread.

I made a mini version of the sleeping girl, braids and all.

Then, I created a snug place for the girl to lie down. The back wall and curtain are made of felt and the scalloped edge along the top is thread wrapped wire. Then, I added a wire curl of smoke coming out of the chimney top. The last touch was a stack of seed beads “logs” inside the wood box.

I also replicated in miniature the bed and child from the North American scene. For comparison, you can see how I made the full size illustration here.

i simplified the quilt pattern into a grid of squares made with 4 or 5 horizontal or vertical stitches.

As with the other sleeping dolls, I only had to make the top portion of the child’s body.

The bed posts are tube beads topped off with round beads. I glued wire inside the beads to hold them together. The head and foot boards are made of felt.

Here she is, ready to join the other children!

I hope that you enjoyed this peek behind the scenes at how I made some of the tiniest beds in MY BED. The other posts in the night sky series are:
Part 1 – North Africa and Holland
Part 2 – Scandinavia and Japan
Part 3 – India, South America and Afghanistan

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MY BED: night sky – part 3

This is part 3 in the series about making the night sky illustration for my new picture book, My Bed. In this spread, all of the children are tucked in bed, hovering among the stars in the night sky. Today, I will show how I made the miniature versions of the beds from India, South America and Afghanistan.

Update: 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.

Rebecca Bond’s words say, “Can you see me in my bed? I fit so nicely, toe to head.” The open-ended nature of these 2 simple sentences is a picture book illustrator’s dream. They give the cozy feeling of a child in their bed, without any annoying descriptions. There’s just enough information to use as a jumping off point. Generally, with picture books, the words set up the trajectory of a story and the illustrator’s job is to provide the visual details. I can’t remember exactly how I came up with the idea of having all the beds float in space above a silhouetted night skyline. It just seemed like a good way to bring together all of the children from around the world, as well as make a fun eye spy game.

The Bedtime Stitches touring exhibition of the original artwork for the book is currently at the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Mt. Vernon, IL. The exhibition will be there until May 2, 2021. To see the tour schedule, please visit the Exhibitions Page.

To make miniature versions of the beds featured throughout the book, I had to simplify the designs quite a bit. In the case of the child in India, who’s bed is partially seen through an open window in the illustration below, I reduced the scale of the bed and stylized the mosquito net.

I embroidered a geometric pattern on felt for the bed covering…

and fashioned the mosquito net canopy on felt, with wire and embroidery. What would I do without the blanket stitch?

The children sleeping in hammocks in the S. American scene are about 3 1/2 inches from head to toe.

For the mini version, I shrunk the girl down to about 1 1/4 inches tall.

I made a thatched roof for her little hammock to hang underneath. Luckily, I had some straw silk from Silk Road Fibers on hand.

It was a lot easier to replicate the child sleeping on a floor mattress from the Afghanistan scene.

The printed floral pattern was too large in scale for the mini quilt, so I reproduced the flowers and leaves with simple embroidery stitches on a piece of felt.

Here she is, already sleep.

The whole time I was making the children and their beds in miniature form, I thought back to re-imagining the full size outfits depicted in my Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion. By the way, a note card of this detail from the piece is available in my shop.

detail from Self Portrait : A Personal History of Fashion 2007

I hope that you enjoyed this peek behind the scenes at how I made some of the tiniest beds in MY BED. Please stay tuned for Part 4, which will feature more beds in the night sky scene. Previous posts in this series include Part 1 and Part 2.

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.

MY BED: night sky – part 2

This is part 2 in the series about making the night sky illustration for my new picture book, My Bed. It’s like a finale at the end, with all of the children and their beds hovering above the nighttime skyline. Today, I will give a behind the scenes peek at how I made the miniature versions of the Scandinavian children sleeping in their cubby style bunk bed and the Japanese child on his futon. Part 1 covered the mini children from N. Africa and Holland.

Update: 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.

The tiny beds floating in the night sky represent different children, beds and regions of the world that are featured individually throughout the book. To make the mini Scandinavian bunk bed, I simplified and shrunk down the bed frame to the point where it wouldn’t look too unwieldy next to the other beds. You can read about making the full size artwork (below) for the Scandinavian scene here.

Scandinavian scene in MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep Around the World

I painted their faces on really tiny (3/8″) wooden beads and added embroidery floss hair. I think these are some of the smallest braids I’ve ever made. The doll wigs in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures are larger and more manageable than this.

Scale-wise the figures were too big for the bed, but I was determined to fit them in their cubbies nonetheless. The absence of legs helped a lot.

I cut sections of the bed frame out of wool felt and pieced them together on top of a background layer. As usual, everything was edged with blanket stitching. To create depth in the frame, I stacked layers of felt.

I stitched wire around the outside edge to smooth out the bumps and give it a crisp, architectural look.

After making eiderdown quilts and polka-dot curtains, I put the children to bed.

To finish it off, I made a mini ladder with wire and covered it with embroidery floss.

Duplicating the Japanese futon in miniature was easy compared to the bunk bed. To see how I made the full size artwork (below) for the Japanese scene, click here.

I made the the top half of the child’s body and then a futon mattress and pillow for him to sleep on.

Because the scale was all off, I couldn’t use the same blue fabric to make the quilt, so I embroidered a reduced version of the pattern on felt.

I hope that you enjoyed this peek behind the scenes at how I made some of the tiniest beds in MY BED. Please stay tuned for more posts about different beds in the night sky scene. See Part 1 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.

My Bed: night sky- part 1

This is the first in a series of posts that will show how I made the night sky illustration for my new picture book, My Bed. The spread appears near the end of the story, with all of the children from around the world sleeping in their beds, floating in a starry sky above a silhouetted town. By the time I made this scene, I was about 2 years into the project and had gotten used to taking photos of almost every little step along the way. So, there’s a lot of material to share, which is divided into several parts that I’ll write about over the next few weeks. You can see a list of posts about making the other illustrations for the book on this page.

Update: 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.

The Bedtime Stitches touring exhibition is currently at the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Mt. Vernon, IL. This is an opportunity for those of you in the middle of the country to see the original bas-relief embroidered artwork for MY BED. The exhibition will be there until May 2, 2021. To see the tour schedule, please visit the Exhibitions Page.

Bedtime Stitches exhibit at Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, Mt. Vernon, IL

Thank you to those of you who’ve reached out to museums in your area to tell them about the exhibit. This strategy has resulted in several bookings! In fact, I’m in the process of working out the details with a curator who heard about my show from a fan who’s eager to see my artwork in person. As soon as the dates are confirmed, this museum will be added to the tour schedule.

Way back in the beginning, I sketched out the pages of the book. For the finished illustration, I rearranged the beds at bit, keeping in mind not to loose any children in the gutter. That’s where the pages are bound together in the center, which is marked with a vertical line on the drawing.

First, I made houses and trees out of black felt for the silhouetted landscape. I found some shiny golden fabric in my stash and sewed it behind the cutout openings for the windows and doorways. To help define the buildings and trees, I stitched wire around the outside edges.

Then, I started making miniature versions of the characters and beds pictured throughout the book. Since they are so tiny, I simplified the designs to include important and recognizable features. This one represents the child sleeping on the roof in the North African scene.

To make these reduced scale versions, I had to substitute smaller parts such as red seed beads for the roof tiles.

The girl’s pink nightie is made out of the same old handkerchief that I used to make the larger version in the North African scene. As you can see, the sleeves are not fabric, but embroidery floss wrapped around her wire arms.

I made the head and foot boards of another bed with wire and tube beads.

This is a different interpretation of the child who appears several times in the book – on the title page and in the scene that shows a house full of animal icons. The orange pajamas and star covered quilt are the giveaway.

For the boy in the scene set in Holland, I didn’t even try to duplicate the houseboat in such small scale, but instead made a boat bed for him to sleep in.

I hope that you enjoyed this peek behind the scenes at how I made some of the tiniest beds in MY BED. Please stay tuned for more posts about different beds in the night sky scene.

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.

bed book peek: crocodile

Today, I’m happy to show how I made this crocodile, which will be used as a spot illustration in my upcoming picture book, MY BED. The story about children’s sleeping places in different cultures around the world is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Sept. 2020. A touring exhibition of my original embroidered artwork for the book will travel around the United States. Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stitches will debut at the Cahoon Museum Of American Art in Cotuit, MA from Sept. 11 to Dec. 22, 2020. The tour schedule is listed here.

Update: 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.

For inspiration, I found this felt purse, which is a prototype for a kit I used to sell in the early 2000’s. The different animal kits came with plant dyed wool felt, thread, and beads for the eyes. The purse kits were mostly sold in catalogs and Waldorf School stores, along with my fairy kits.

Using its simple, stylized shape as a jumping off point, I drew sketches until I was happy with the overall pose and level of detail. I thought about how to translate the flat outline into a more 3-dimensional crocodile.

I bent a pipe cleaner and wrapped 2 front legs with tapestry weight wool yarn. I also located square green wooden beads for the crocodile’s eyes. They’ve been in my bead collection since the 70’s, when I made crocodile pins (see one at the end of this post).

I bent the pipe cleaner to form an outline of the animal’s basic shape and sewed on a backing of green felt.

At this point, I must have forgotten to take pictures, so we’ll have to skip the fussy part where I cover the front of the animal with felt. From the looks of it, I padded the inside of the body with extra layers of felt. My original plan was to put a haunch where the back legs go, but the one I made looked awkward, so I scrapped that idea and made 2 back legs to match the front ones. Then I sewed the beady eyes to the top and stitched rickrack along its back.

I did remember to take a picture of the back, which reveals an unsightly mishmash of stitches that hold the front piece tightly in place.

I formed the outline (or lips) of the mouth with wire and covered the shiny metal with embroidery floss. Then I “colored in” the mouth with an overlapping filler stitch.

Finishing touches included zigzag teeth, seed beads for nostrils and a fly stitched bumpy texture on the body.

The crocodile I made for the book is very much like pins I used to make over 40 years ago. As you can see, I’m reworking the same themes over and over!

To see other animals and illustrations I’ve made for the book, click here.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

DIY Cloth Face Mask Video

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s been recommended that the general public wear face masks when venturing out of home isolation to hunt for groceries or medicine. And because of the shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment), surgical face masks need to be saved for medical workers.

So, to fill the gap, a brigade of sewers across the country are making cloth face masks. Of course, they are not as effective as the surgical masks, but they are better than nothing.

The internet is full of patterns and suggestions for how to make them and there’s a lot of discussion about what kind of fabric and how many layers to use. This article from the New York Times, What’s the Best Material for a Mask? is very helpful. It cites a study that compares the effectiveness of various combinations of materials, including both air filters and fabric.

Salley in her studio connecting via telephone, while filming the DIY cloth mask video.

I’ve made some cotton masks using a simple straightforward pattern from the New York Times, which you can link to here. My husband Rob and I put together a DIY video based on this design, which you can watch below. Besides a sewing machine, you’ll need tightly woven cotton, cotton flannel (or another filter) and 1/4″ wide elastic to hold it on around your ears, although ties made of grosgrain ribbon or flat shoe laces will work, too. And a pipe cleaner, if you want to make a nose bridge.

Salley Mavor shows how to make a cloth face mask.

There’s also a big discussion about the best way to wash cloth masks. These are some ideas; wash in bleach water (not if there’s elastic), boil in soapy water, press with a steam iron or zap it in the microwave (not if there’s elastic or a wire nose bridge) for 2-3 minutes.

I’m limited by the amount of elastic I have, but I’ve made enough masks for my family and friends. Here I am delivering masks to my friend’s mailbox, which is hidden in an overgrown wall. And, no, that is not their house pictured in the background. Stay safe everyone!

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 – cow

Today, I’m happy to show how I made this cow, which will be used as a spot illustration in my upcoming picture book, MY BED. The story is about children’s sleeping places in different cultures around the world. It’s written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Sept. 2020. Autographed copies can be pre-ordered in my shop here. A touring exhibition of my original embroidered artwork for the book, Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stitches, will travel around the United States beginning in Nov. 2020. See the updated tour schedule here.

Each country or region represented in the book has an animal icon that appears on the text panel adjacent to the full illustration. The cow shows up next to the Scandinavian scene, which I’ve written about here.

To see the other animals from the book that I’ve written about so far, please click on the following links.
Animals (spot illustrations) – Rooster, Camel, Parrot, Elephant, Goldfish, Cat, Duck, Sheep, Rabbit

I’ve enjoyed making cows over the years, including the one below, which is from the 2005 board book, Hey, Diddle, Diddle! (Sorry, it’s out of print) Cows are fun to depict because they are so distinct from other animals.

Close Up from “Hey, Diddle, Diddle!” 2005 board book

To begin, I drew sketches that exaggerated the cow’s squarish head, outspread ears, big eyes and prominent nostrils.

As always, I wrapped the legs first, leaving enough extra pipe cleaner to shape the body.

It’s been a while since I made this, so I can’t remember how I attached the felt body. From the looks of it, I first added a thread wrapped wire tail and then stitched pieces of felt to the front and back of the pipe cleaner form.

Then, I made a little pink felt udder with seed bead teats.

For the cow’s face, I embroidered a nose and sewed on bead nostrils.

To make the eyes more prominent, I outlined them in white.

The ears are felt, edged with blanket stitch and wire.

After sewing the ears in place, I looped Silk/Merino wool thread on the top of her head.

The first cow collar I made was embroidered with pretty flowers, but I had to change it to a plainer version because decorations like that are a Swiss specialty and not Scandinavian.

Before (above) and After (below).

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

Update: Signed copies of My Bed can ordered in my shop here. 40 pages, 9″ x 9″, words by Rebecca Bond, pictures by Salley Mavor, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-544-94906-5