I like pigeons. I like the city beasts. And I have an affinity for the less loved creatures, ants bats, rats, mosquitos etc. Pigeons fit right in. What I love best about them is that they manage to be imperious and goofy – all at the same time.
So I want to make a pigeon. I stalled in the muslin draft phase. Stalled real good. The universe keeps sending me excellent pigeon fabric though. Maybe that’s why I got stuck – couldn’t choose. There is also a little anxiety about when to move out of prototyping – and all the freedom and experimenting that affords – into trying one in beautiful pigeony fabric.
I ended up deciding to combine a mix of collections in a way I don’t very often. I used Fortuny for the body and will use it for the feet also, an Edwardian pinafore and other garment scraps will be feathers and some beautiful teal from Sri Threads for the head.
The teal is what finally got me to take a shot at turning out a finished bird. It arrived lately with some other magnificent pieces and I couldn’t resist trying it. I’m happy with the shape and I’ll move into details this weekend and start a couple more too – using more of the exquisite things from Sri.
A condescending yet vacant pigeon or two should be forth coming.
The winner is – number 330 – there will be an email coming your way shortly Annie L!
Janine Vangool (upper case magazine) makes beautiful things. I’m happy to be included in the latest volume of her Encyclopedia of Inspiration series – Stitch-Illo. It’s a collection of artists who tell stories through stitch work.
The stories I tell with the things I make are sometimes very direct – like little birds who camp and put on plays.
More often I think of them as little mysteries – open ended questions – magical possibilities – ships that might float right in your window like a moth or a bit of dandelion fluff. Creatures whose expression and body language imply a history – a world of their own.
It’s a big book – and there is a huge variety of techniques and of the ways narratives are used by the 46 artists featured. There are several pages devoted to each and 600 color photos, some of my favorite artists are included- like Adriana Torres.
I’m also discovering beautiful work that’s brand new to me.
And here’s the fun part – I have one to give away. Everybody is welcome and I’ll make it super easy – just pick a number between one and five hundred and leave it in the comments. I’ll announce a winner next Thursday.
*Update – Comments are closed now – I’ll announce the winner (chosen by random number generation) and the winner will be announced later today.
Mr. socks is in print! My second print pattern is in the shop. It’s a 12 page booklet with 47 hand drawn illustrations. I’m starting another print pattern this evening while the mechanics of putting it all together are all still fresh in my mind. And while my drawing muscle feels strong. I love the little booklets – they are a giant amount of work but I love making them.
Maybe you’ll make a mischievous cat. Maybe he will have an adventure. I’m rolling around the idea of a photo contest for later this summer – more on that soon.
Just in time for your holiday weekend stitching – the rutabaga pattern is here. It’s a relatively quick project – depending on how long you linger in the details. I taught it at a workshop recently and fabulous turnips and rutabagas were created in under 4 hours.
Personally – I like to linger in the details of these – especially the appliqué. It’s repetitive, easy, relaxing work that requires just enough attention to make it the perfect activity for percolating ideas. I make it my job to have ideas – lot’s of ideas – and I love the sensation of letting an idea percolate, letting my subconscious have a crack at it. I drift into pleasant, soft focus daydreamy work and behind the scenes problems get solved, perspective shifts and connections are made. A brisk walk works too but then I don’t get a lovely rutabaga out of the deal.
I also like the appliqué portion of the program because it goes against my grain a little (a lot). I’m sometimes afraid of raw edges in a way that inhibits me creatively – I can get too obsessed with being neat and buttoning things up and lose the essence of the thing. I’ve been experimenting with pretty traditional appliqué (I’ll show you soon) and would like to get a little free-er in my designs.
Besides the meditative benefits there are so many reasons to make a rutabaga (or turnip) – they are, I think, the most beautiful of the root vegetables. No one is ever expecting a stitched turnip so they make wonderful gifts. And these rutabagas have a secret ingredient that makes them balance in a dynamic, root vegetable-lish way.
I add a little weighted fill – 1mm glass bead fill is my favorite. I put 2-4 spoonfuls in the toe of an old pair of tights to keep it in one spot and insert it into the bottom. The result is a rutabaga that perches at a jaunty angle instead of just lying on its side.
I hope you make rutabagas (or turnips)! And if you do I’d love to see – you can email photos to me at info at ann wood handmade dot com.
Have a beautiful weekend,
And just like that I’m a finishing machine (lots of the new things are in the shop today).
I haven’t felt this much momentum in a long time. I’m even finishing stuff that was already finished – a little extra. A few days after crossing Matilde off my to do list it was clear she was missing something so I made her an underskirt from an antique wedding dress and added the button bustle and black stitch detail at the last minute – I love the combination of black and ivory.
I finished so much stuff I’m allowed to start new things and I have lots of ideas. Many of those ideas sprang out of a lovely package form Sri Threads that appeared with the usual serendipity – unexpectedly and at a perfect moment. Such inspiring old cloth.
I have more songbirds in progress and I feel like there is a pigeon here somewhere too.
Take my word for it – I’m an expert at being super busy without really accomplishing much.
I don’t know if it’s a seasonal shift or anxiety about how much I’ve got to do right now but I’ve been waking up super early – 5-ish. Man, those early hours are good. And quiet. I’ve been devoting them to things that have been getting away from me – mostly sewing patterns and kits. It’s amazing how much is getting done in those small, early chunks of time.
I do so much better – daily schedule-wise – when I assign blocks of time instead of tasks – it’s all still guided by the big list but it’s way harder to procrastinate and avoid stuff if the commitment is a chunk of time. It’s also easier to start – less intimidating and once I get passed starting I usually get interested – even in the really dreaded stuff like accounting or editing.
It’s effective because I always – ALWAYS – overestimate what I can do in a day but usually underestimate what I can do in an hour. Lately by 8 am after a couple chunks of time devoted to creating pattern documents or illustrations I’m feeling pretty good about what’s done and start my other work with less distraction.
You can read more about all the ways I trick myself into being productive here and here.
* Update – The workshop has sold out but please add your name to the wait list if you were hoping to join – cancellations do happen.
Registration just opened for “Natural History” a three day creative retreat with The Makerie in Boulder – September 22nd to the 24th.
Our assignment for our three days together is to create and document an imagined natural history. We will look for inspiration at the intersection of history, poetry and nature, working collaboratively as well as individually to create and photograph a collection of specimens. We’ll use textiles, paper, found objects and a variety of other tools, techniques, materials and inspiration I’m bringing.
I’ll guide you through improvisational (and fun) exercises designed to spark you creatively, help you dig deeply into your imagination and generates ideas. It’s a spontaneous, “yes and” way of working – each action builds on the previous – you work with what shows up. It’s less about finished works and more about making connections and recognizing serendipity and happy accidents when they appear. We will pull ideas and details from our experiments as a starting point for designing and making our plants and creatures.
On our last day together we will style and photograph our specimens individually and as a group. I’ll share tips for creating compelling compositions and moods, simple lighting hacks and other seat of the pants techniques that I use in photographing my own work.
This is a workshop about experimenting, collaborating, playing and getting out of your own way. That is a life long daily challenge for me and I love sharing what I’ve learned so far. I hope I can help you be a more intrepid explorer of your imagination, reach past the territory you’ve already navigated and expand your skills for sharing that world.
Sounds like fun to me and I hope to see you there! If you’ve got questions please send me a message – I’m happy to help.
*registration has closed but you can still join the wait list here.
It’s such a mistake to let too many unfinished projects pile up. The weight of all that isn’t done can really mess with a person’s momentum and momentum is key. When it happens the only way through is to start finishing things – one at a time. This week I’ve been finishing stuff – big stuff and little stuff. A wooly edwardian owl was the first – he was nearly there so it was an easy win.
He’ll be in the shop next week with some songbirds and other creatures – you can sign up here if you would like an email notification when the new things are available.
Crossing just one thing off the list makes a huge difference, the shift is instant and it’s easier to tackle the next – as each task is completed momentum starts to snowball and replace the self perpetuating overwhelmed and stuck feelings. My next project was finishing up my improvisational doll experiments – also lingering in “all most done”.
He stepped right out of a Jane Austen novel, one of her steady hearted colonels. I love him. And he is excellent at guarding books.
A large project got finished too, creating a new workshop for this September. Come see me in Boulder!
That’s me – in my middle aged art lady uniform. The linen smock (by Cal Patch) really is my uniform – if you run in to me in Brooklyn or come to Colorado there’s a pretty solid chance I’ll have it on. This is my first 3 day workshop ever and it’s presented by the Makerie September 22nd through the 24th. 3 days to explore something with a small group sounds marvelous. The title of the work shop is Natural History.
I can share all the details with you next week and registration will open then too. For now I’ll leave you with this very little fly I made to bring to Boulder with me.
(you can find part 1 here)
The more time I give myself for play like this the better my thinking, my connection making and idea generating get. While messing around with these dolls I have had one million ideas. This kind of experimenting is like giving my imagination vitamins. It is not an efficient way to make a doll, and I get frustrated in the process sometimes (it takes a while to shift out of expectations and perfectionist thinking and into curiosity) but it never fails to get me to new places. In trying stuff – stuff that works and stuff that doesn’t – I make connections I would not have otherwise made and connections are where ideas come from.
I experimented with a bunch of stuff for making arms and legs and landed on something simple I like. I’ve made her arms and legs in two sections upper and lower from the paper covered wire. Each section gets covered with batting and then covered with fabric.
I left a little extra at the ends so they would be easy to join and nice and bendy. The legs are made the same way and I added a little lace to the top before attaching by whip stitching to the bottom of her torso with sturdy thread.
I like her spidery arms and legs. I’ll leave her for now and show you progress on the other girl who is no longer a girl. Read More
Its good to experiment – but not easy to let yourself, there is a powerful force that wants you to stay on the well lit path. Experimenting generates ideas and makes you ask new questions. It can shift your perspective, reveal connections and intersections. And maybe most importantly true experimentation helps you work with uncertainty and build a tolerance for trying stuff that might not work. There is no creativity without failure.
One way to make yourself experiment is to create conditions that force you to improvise. I’m going to show you one of the techniques I use. I’m making dolls – from the inside out. It’s a method that is imprecise and difficult to control – in a good way – there is lots of opportunity for happy accidents. It’s a spontaneous process – each action builds on the previous – you work with what shows up.
If you would like to try you will need:
* you can click on any of the images for a larger view
I start by making a simple wire form for the torso and head – I made three. Next cut strips of cotton batting and begin to build a shape by winding it around the wire form. A little bit of glue stick will help when adding or ending a strip.
Keep winding until you are happy with the shape – you can also add bits of batting in some areas for rounder shapes – like in the center image above – I’ve given her a substantial bosom by adding a scrap of folded batting and winding over it. I stitch through the shape here and there to adjust it and help it all stay together and finally I cut pieces of batting to stitch over the shape.
Next I begin to add fabric – I’m using a very light cotton to cover her face and the front of her chest. I pull the fabric around – stitch it in place and trim away the extra.
I covered the edge of the face fabric with strips of cotton for hair – I’ll come back to that later – I want to make the top of her dress first. Also – you may notice another doll has appeared – I’ll be working on her as well.
Her face and chest are covered in a light ivory silk, I used black cotton for her hair and stitched super simple features. Now I’m adding a scrap of lace because it’s lovely and will also cover some edges and seams I’d like to conceal. Read More
Have you ever tried Buckram? It’s a millinery supply. I’m continuing to experiment with bats and for this patched plum bat I’m trying buckram as a substrate – something to give it sculptural form. You can find buckram on Etsy – and it comes in all sorts of variations – black, white, heavy, light, fusible, sheets, rolls etc. etc. I got a big roll of the heavy weight – non fusible – in white. I’m also a big fan of millinery wire – there’s some of that in this bat too.
You can get buckram wet and form it or cut darts and stitch though it – I stitched it both by hand and on the machine. I like the stability of the shapes I made (you can layer it for even more stability) and how easy it is to stitch through. I did need to cover the edges – they are a little sharp and my fabrics were particularly delicate. I’ve been intending to try it for ages – it’s good stuff! And has given me all sorts of ideas. I’m going to add it to the resource list. If you’re curious about it search on google and pinterest – for buckram and hat making – interesting stuff pops up. There is a lot to be learned about shape building from milliners.
I’ve also been working on botanical experiments, revisiting two exotic species I created last year – The Royal Cone Flower and a Cloaked Bishop Lilly. There are colors and color combinations I come back to again and again – deep smokey plums and violets, indigo, and greens with a little acidity to them and little bits of crimson. The plums, violets and indigos are almost always Japanese (courtesy of Sri Threads). The crimson touches on the bat and Bishops Lilly are both very old – 18th and early 19th century. I dye most of my greens and it’s always too dull for me so they get a quick second dip in sunflower yellow. My favorite dyes are Dylon and idye (idye is intended for the machine – but since I dye tiny things in delicate ways I cut the little dissolvable packets open – it’s messy but works and their colors are great.
And toadstools – little guys – mini versions made from the mushroom pattern printed at about 70% (it scales up and down well). I love the mini- ness – just big enough for the palm of your hand or pocket. everybody needs a lucky mushroom in their pocket – especially in the spring.
There are dastardly and debonair creatures on my worktable. I think these three will be the last for a while – there’s new stuff I’d like to try with them and some unnecessarily cumbersome parts in the process to work on. They will remain Rubenesque, ill-tempered and condescending though.
The 2 Fortuny owls below will be going to the New York showroom and the grey edwardian wooly fellow above will be in the shop soon.
I’m also working on new patterns and it is time for a creative sprint in that department. All the way to the finish line. I think this is the longest stretch since I began publishing patterns that there has not been a new one. I got spectacularly stuck – largely because there are too many in progress – I overwhelmed myself, spread my energy and focus too thin. So I’ve chosen one to focus on, to apply a great deal of energy to over the next week (more on that in a minute).
But first I’d like to answer my most frequently asked (lately) question: Will there be a bat sewing pattern? I can answer with a solid maybe. I’d like there to be but as of yet I don’t have them figured out enough to know if they would be a good one. And for me that means:
- something that I can create a linear process with reliable results for
- that this can be done in a workable amount of space – print – pdf wise
- that it can be made with simple materials (ideally repurposed things), in a reasonable – ish amount of time
- and that it demonstrates a useful and/ or unique technique that could generate other ideas
That’s pretty much my criteria – I wonder what you might think – what you prefer?
Something that I think would make a good sewing pattern is rutabagas (and turnips) – that will be the next published pattern. I got a lot of insight into the process last weekend at the Sweet Paul Makerie – I taught it twice as a workshop. Seeing 25 individual interpretations of the majestic turnip was incredibly helpful.
(checkout the makerie instagram for more photos of the weekend – as usual I was having such a good time I forgot to take pictures)
And – I’ve already worked out most of the detail, templates etc. in preparing to teach.
Look for the pattern in the next week or two and I’ll leave you with this little chocolate bunny (forest folk pattern) – have a lovely Easter weekend.
Meet Mrs. Spots – a dear old friend of Mr. Socks. There have been a number of questions lately – and – I have wondered myself – if the tiny rag doll’s wardrobe could work for the Mr. Socks doll pattern. I spent some time experimenting with that and – with some adjustments – it can. And that is how I arrived at Mrs. Spots.
Beginning with the dress (the dress is from the tiny rag doll pattern) – it needs to be a little larger, Mrs. Spots is taller than the tiny rag doll and has considerable girth around the middle. There are two easy ways to do it – you can add a quarter inch to the dress pattern – the cut line becomes the stitch line with the exception of the back center seam – don’t add extra there.
Or just enlarge the pattern to 115% ( I have not tried this with the pinafore apron yet but I suspect enlarging it to 115% would work – if you give it a try I’d love to see).
For the coat – so easy – you can use the pattern at it’s original size but skip the hood and do not sew the back seam (step 3 in the pattern) – leave the full width. The little satchel works as is too. (The coat and satchel are both from the coat, bag and hat pattern).
And finally the free hat pattern – for days when a coat is just too much. I enlarged it to fit and you can download the larger size here.
And some small art news:
I’ll be adding the first of the small art series 2 pieces to the shop soon – either tomorrow or over the weekend (sorry that’s not more specific – I have a couple tech things to work out). I’m planning on adding about 24 little paintings. If you are on the artwork list you will get an email notification (not sure if you are? email me – happy to help) and I’ll also update this post and instagram.
I have been bothered by bats for a very long time. They were one of my first stitched creatures. I love them but vowed to never make another. The process was brutal on my hands and had a high late stage failure rate. And they took an outrageous amount of time. But I love them, I love their shape, their curves and the way that shape seems to change as they twirl in the breeze and the lovely shadows they cast.
So lately I started from scratch – a whole new method of constructing them. There have been several dismal failures but in the past week I’ve landed on something good -. It’s much easier hand-wise and the result is reliable and consistent. It still takes forever. Not as bad as the original bats but still problematic. I’m not sure I can get to a place where I can produce them with any efficiency but I’m not done trying.
A blog anniversary snuck past in February – 11 years. When I did remember I thought maybe I didn’t really have anything to say about it. But the comments about the machine on last week’s post changed my mind. I remembered what a part of everything the machine has been. I remembered the serendipity, the sweetness and steadiness of it’s presence in my life and work.
It has been with me for all of it. My mother’s machine. I have sewn on it my entire life. So I want to mark this anniversary with an entirely true and slightly spooky story about it. It happened in the very beginning of this blog – 11 years ago:
In December of 2006 I had just begun my solo enterprise – I had lots of orders and deadlines and on the eve of one of those very important deadlines I was still sewing furiously very late at night. With a long way still to go the machine suddenly stopped and a chunk of metal rocketed past my face. I found it across the room – an essential part of the machine – no sewing without it – and it was broken. I tried to fix it but nothing worked. I have a drawer full of bits and pieces that I saved from my Father’s workshop – bits of metal and rubber, knobs, washers, gears, springs etc. I thought maybe I could cobble some temporary solution together from those. Another hour of frustration and no luck at all. Exhausted, defeated and ready to give up I pushed the drawer closed and it stuck halfway, I pushed again and it stuck again, I pulled and it stuck. I gave a great big angry pull and the drawer flew out and what had caused it to stick also flew out and landed – right in my lap. To my amazement and disbelief it was a replacement for the broken sewing machine part – the exact part – identical but for the color. Not similar, not “good enough” the EXACT PART in perfect condition. I snapped it in and it worked beautifully, that night and all the nights and days that have followed.
And – a little bit of what I’m working on today. New botanical experiments. I think the one above will be a pink cloaked bishop lily and below a seedpod experiment – playing with the idea of honeycomb texture. I’ve got plans for more and I’ll show you next week. I’m also planning on a shop update
next week (postponed for a bit) with botanicals and some creatures. You can sign up here to be notified by email when new items are available.