color story : mineral shades

antique textiles in rich mineral shades

antique textiles in rich mineral shades

Vibrant color with some smokeyness to it.  Worlds and continents and centuries overlap in this little collection of textiles. Antique garment fragments from Japan, 18th century silk and velvet and shimmering patterns from Venice.  And all of them found me.  Marvelous serendipity.

textile songbird in crimson and pink

I like thinking about all the things that had to happen in the world across hundreds of years for this bird to be, a crimson and scarlet girl who had her beginnings in the 1700’s.  What has she seen, what does she carry with her.

textile songbirds in jewel tones

I spend huge amounts of time selecting fabrics, lingering in the choices, it slows me down in a way that I need to be slowed down sometimes. I have always loved to do it. Ask my sister, she will tell you that I loved to spend hours in the attic on a rainy day sorting through endless bags of scraps (I come from sewing people)  imagining what I might make.

detail of textile bird eye stitches

I’m doing lots of slow songbird work still. trying things, taking notes and making tiny adjustments. The part I most look forward to teaching you is transforming the basic shape into a bird, adding layers of feathers and details. There is so much opportunity for happy accidents.  An imperfection, one wing a little askew  or a tail feather poking out can suggest the funny, expressive little motions of a perched bird.  Birdness.

teal textile bird

teal and slate textile birds

The deep mineral tones are spilling into other work too. I interrupted the bird work to make a toadstool. Partly  because I was in need of some immediate gratification.  Toadstools are quick to make, especially the minis, this is made from the sewing pattern printed at 75%.   And also because I’m trying to add something new to the shop every day.

textile mushroom made from antique fabric

teal textile toadstool

soldier rag doll with bicorne hat

And The Major, in aubergine, charcoal and graphite with little bits of silver and warm rose. I love him. Especially his fancy bicorne.

 

songbird laboratory

hand stitched songbirds on my worktable

It came to me all of a sudden while I was in the bathtub. I wasn’t even thinking about making songbirds, it just popped into my head, a better way to make the feet and legs. I had been thinking (obsessing) about it a couple days earlier. I’ve been thinking about the songbirds a lot and revisiting every aspect of their design and construction. It is interesting to take something I’ve been making for a long time back to the laboratory.

hand stitched songbirds on my worktable

This is the second songbird do-over. The first was because I misplaced the pattern. So painful. I reconstructed it  from memory as well as reverse engineering from my photos. I made a couple changes and improvements in that round. I’m revisiting this time to get ready for the workshop and eventual sewing pattern. I want it to be fabulous so I am testing and testing and testing again, searching for anything that can be easier or more efficient and more consistent without sacrificing any elegance or birdness.

It was a hard thing to start. There is lots of resistance in my thinking when I’ve been doing something the same way for a long time. It took a while to get into a truly experimental spirit and find my curiosity.

“ The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.”
John Maynard Keynes

 

It is also a daunting amount of very slow work with lots of failures. I only change one aspect of the design at a time. Sometimes there are several time consuming iterations of a change before I know if it is successful. I was stuck on the legs for a while, stuck on how to make  them teachable and more efficient while retaining the expressiveness. There was also one problematic point in the construction where someone could potentially lose an eye.  So awkward. A simple solution for all of it just floated into my mind. In the tub.

hand stitched songbird shape

I’m also examining the body construction and balance. There have been huge improvements in both. Part of this process is digitalizing the pattern (in adobe illustrator) and while I was doing that I saw some possibilities. I simplified the construction a little and the shape is subtly improved and comes together beautifully. And I’ve changed how the legs are inserted and the bird is balanced. The balance, the body language, is so important to the birdness of the finished thing.

textile songbirds on my worktable

And I’m not done. I’m scrutinizing the details the same way now. It is all a massive amount of work but I’m deeply involved in the very best way, the time disappears way. I’m spending the whole weekend with the birds and I’ll show you what I make next week.

Onward,

ann

sweet packages, the best glue stick in the world and other tools I love

making handmade tags and packaging

ann wood handmade : packaging

I love packaging, the little details of it, arranging things in the box, the string, the tags, all of it. I make most of the tags and labels myself. I probably should not, this is probably an excellent example of something I should outsource but I like doing it.

making handmade tags and packaging

And before we talk about the best glue stick in the world I want to tell you about a couple other tools I use and love to make my packaging (these are entirely uncompensated endorsements).

tonic studio paper cutter, it is awesome

When I started making kits I was cutting the image for the box with an exacto knife and it was a very slow process. I was not expecting much from this little paper cutter but I had about 100 labels to cut one night and it was less than 20 bucks (at the Paper Source Shop on the corner of my block) so I thought it was worth a shot. Almost three months later it still works beautifully. I use it all the time now for everything, labels and cutting my watercolor paper too. So worth it.

packaging for small paintings

die cutting stamps for tags

I also got these die cutting stamps and mini hole punch there. There is something so satisfying about punching out the little shapes. Now I’m curious about other cutting tools, the fancy digital ones like these with software etc. Do you know about these? Have you tried them? They seem so full of interesting possibilities to me. I am intrigued.

paper flamingo cake toppers

And the glue stick. I have tried them all. High end, low end. Everything. The UHU stick is my favorite. I am a heavy glue stick user. In making my packages, flamingo cake topper making, collage and as a temporary hold for fabric ( for some fabric projects I use a washable glue stick).

sketchbook, collage and paint, far away lands

The UHU stick has staying power, even when I paint over it which I frequently do. It will wrinkle up briefly and then smooths out. I usually hit it with the blow dryer, not sure if that helps or just speeds things up, just so you know.

Have you got a favorite tool or supply?

quilts with problems and a feature in homespun magazine

quilts, plants and twinkle lights

quilts, plants and twinkle lights

Cozy is my specialty.  I love twinkle lights on pearly gray days, lots of plants and lots of quilts. Three of my favorite old quilts have serious and progressing issues.  I’ve been thinking about fixing them for a while and one of them has reached a point that demands immediate attention. It’s a quilt emergency. The other two are technically coverlets, no batting,  so their problems can wait a while.

quilts with problems

quilt repair

The largest and most seriously forlorn quilt is loosing stuffing all over the place.  More of it is falling apart than not. It is probably not reasonable to try to fix it. And I know once I start it is a life long commitment, that it will spring new leaks and eventually be almost entirely repair with just little bits of the original fabric peeking out. I’m fine with that.

patching and mending an old quilt wabi sabi style

I’m motivated partly by my attachment to it, partly by a love for fabric and also because I think it might get interesting. I’m approaching the repair wabi sabi style, boro inspired patching and a meandering stitch.  Some patches with turned edges and some with raw edges, an improvisational yes and process embracing happenstance.  I started by basting muslin over the big problems and then working in and around those areas with smaller patches. I like doing it and I like what’s happening to it. I will keep you posted as it develops.

homespun magazine

In other quilt news the latest issue of  Homespun Magazine (Australia)  has a pattern for the quilt block on the cover and lots of other projects. They always have an impressive array of projects and patterns in every issue.

homespun magazine : ann wood

And I’m in it too! Thanks so much Homespun. Digital copies are available here.

 

serendipitous beginnings, avocado dye and pattern work

indigo owl made from Japanese textiles

indigo owl made from Japanese textiles

Sometimes I begin with somebody in mind and go looking. I spend a long time choosing, experimenting and thinking about just the right combination of texture and pattern and color. The indigo for the blue owl is all from Sri Threads. I love the variety in the blues.  Some other lovely old cloth from Sri is below, miraculous color and  wonderful mending stitches by other hands.

japanese textiles

The black and dark greens for another little owl are mostly Edwardian garments. I love the way the blacks fade, usually leaning purple or green as they do.

owl made form edwardian garments

cotton and wool fabric

Sometimes the beginning is entirely serendipitous, a suggestion from the universe. A combination I had not thought of and I was not looking for appears and I get an idea.

fabric boat and rabbit doll

I saw a sailboat and mrs. rabbit and made them immediately. They are both quick projects and  a good break from some slower work. Mrs. is made from the mr. socks pattern. I added long ears and reduced the size of the head cover by one quarter inch all around.

small rabbit rag doll

I’m also working on sewing patterns. I’ve got a bunch in progress and they are all a little stuck so I’m applying a creative sprint to the two that are closest to finished this weekend: the captain charmley doll and the mushroom print pattern. I can’t wait to share my method for creating his head and hair with you. So easy.

captain charmley : soldier rag doll

I’ll focus on just those two until they are done. After that I’ll start working on others again including a print version of the paper mache ships. It is a massive undertaking.

pink fabric dye made from avocado pits

And pink. A soft, moody pink. Just right. It’s made with avocado dye. I had no idea. This came up in the comments section to last week’s post (thanks Alicia). I made guacamole and then boiled and simmered the 5 pits for a couple hours. I love it. Have you tried this?

5 things that are bringing me joy, boats and a goat

a boston fern and a handmade goat

5 simple things,  that made me happy this week:

sewing in bed

1. Sewing in bed. It’s become a regular thing in the morning. I sew by hand for an hour or so and drink lots of coffee.

2. Getting rid of stuff. Lightening my load.  I spent a whole day this week making space and letting go of things.  I plan to do more this weekend. The spring cleaner in me has awakened early this year.

a boston fern and a handmade goat

3. A boston fern. I’ve been walking by it in the supermarket for weeks, watching it get sadder and sadder. I could not take it anymore and shelled out the $12.99 and brought it home. I did not have high hopes for it but it has made a marvelous recovery. I love plants and I’m happy I did this fern a solid, wish I had done it sooner.

handmade goat in gingham with felt horns

stiched goat with embroidered features

4. Finishing stuff.  All of a sudden a bunch of things I’ve been working on forever are almost done. I spent the morning (in bed) finishing this little goat, stitching sail edges and adding patches and details to owl captains.

hand stitched sails

handmade owls

paper mache ships with owl captains

I’ll take the official photos of the ships next week. They just need flags and wind in to their sails.

cordless iron

5. And finally this old iron. So much joy. I have never felt like this about an iron before. It has been a bad year for irons, this is my fourth and I love it. It was free, a serendipitous meeting, and I never would have chosen a cordless iron but it turns out I love the cordlessness. And it gives excellent steam and the surface of the plate is beautiful, it glides.

What little thing made you happy this week? Do you love your iron? What are you making? Do you sew in bed?

unclenching my sketchbook

sketchbook painting of a goat and mr. cups

The purpose of my daily painting and drawing practice is to encourage free experimentation and exploration, expand my vocabulary, fail often, follow my curiosity, exercise my creative muscle and give ideas an opportunity to emerge. I took a long break from it and re-entry has been rough. I think in large part because I started selling some of the little paintings I made. Lots of them. That is on my mind now each time I start and I’m less inclined to try stuff. I feel all clenched up about whether or not I can sell what I make that day and If I don’t make a painting I can sell I feel like I have failed. I love making and selling the little paintings and I will keep doing that but I’m separating the daily practice.  Letting that just be a place for ideas and experiments.

sketchbook painting of a goat and mr. cups

And I’m using a sketchbook from now on ( I was using sheets of water color paper). This was the first week and I like it so far. The page in the book is a commitment, no starting over.

goat painting

I also like the idea of filling it up and making the practice more portable. I have lots of travel coming up and I’m determined not to take any more breaks. I’ll scale back on supplies when I’m traveling. I’m also making the commitment manageable, 30 minutes and one page every day.

ann wood sketchbook

I’ll post all this week’s pages here tomorrow.

little doll jacket : a free sewing tutorial

tiny rag doll jacket

Sometimes a light jacket is just the thing and I’ve made you a simple and easy sewing pattern in two sizes, one for the tiny rag doll (or any dollhouse size doll) and a slightly larger version for mr. socks. And the pattern scales well so you could use it for other dolls too. It’s quick and very easy.

little doll jacket sewing pattern

tiny rag doll jacket

The hat pattern is free too and you can find the satchel pattern here, if you need to fully outfit someone tiny.

mr. socks jacket : free pattern

You might also notice that mr. socks is wearing pants for the first time. I made them using the bloomer pattern for the tiny rag doll sewing pattern. I add about 1/4 inch to the pattern and left an opening in the back to accommodate his tail.

mr. socks

mr. socks in pants
little doll jacket : free tutorial

little doll jacket : free tutorial

To make the jacket you will need : wool felt, an embroidery thread, a tiny button, basic sewing supplies and the pattern.

download the sewing pattern here

* You can click each image for a larger view

1. Cut out the three pattern pieces and pin to your felt.
2. Cut out one of each.

3. Fold the rounded collar of the front top over and stitch.  I’m using one strand of embroidery floss. You can use any stitch you like, fancy or simple. I’m using a basic whip stitch.
4. Fold over each rounded cuff and stitch as well.

5. Pin the front under piece to the back piece, make sure your folded and stitched cuffs  are on the outside.
6. Pin the front top piece as shown.

Read More

two new workshops : songbirds and elegant rag dolls

This March I’ll be teaching three all day workshops at French General in Los Angeles. Songbirds (sold out) on the 24th and 25th (the same class offered twice) and Elegant Rag dolls on the 23rd. Registration is open and you can find all the details at French General.

Songbirds
Come make songbirds with me. I’ll guide you through the process of sewing, stuffing and sculpting the basic shape, creating natural looking layers of feathery textures, embroidering features, carving beaks, sculpting feet and giving your creation spirit and “birdness”. I’ll also share my some of my favorite supplies, top secret tips and techniques and some treasures from my collection of antique textiles. Basic sewing skills are needed, we will be stitching by hand and machine.

Elegant Ragdolls
Mysterious girls with secrets. The details make me happy, front bustles revealing a scandalous amount of leg, slippered feet, fancy underthings and elegant chignons. I’ll guide you through the stitching and stuffing and details and share my favorite supplies, top secret tips and techniques and some treasures from my collection of antique textiles. Basic sewing skills are needed, we will be stitching by hand and machine.

I hope to see you there!

ships and sailors on my worktable

paper mache fleet

paper mache boats : painting

The last time I showed you these ships they were getting their final layer of paper mache, the newsprint layer.  Then I abandoned them.  I didn’t feel inspired in any particular direction color wise so I left them alone.  Weeks later I still didn’t feel inspired in any particular color direction  so I started experimenting.  I like newsprint and almost always use it as my final layer and  I like it to show. I paint in washes (there is a video of this whole process here).  I use water color and mat acrylics. I don’t use any clear coats on top, I like the matte quality of the paint, but I do burnish them with a soft cloth when they are dry, it just smooths them a tiny bit and makes a pretty surface.

paper mache boats : painting

I also love to splatter them with a fine spray of white or ivory.  I found that bristle brush at a flea market, an old toothbrush works too.

paper mache boats : painting

paper mache fleet

Next I add buttons for the rigging. Lately I like lots of buttons and I’m always on the lookout for antique mother of pearl buttons. You should hide yours when I come over… The three ships below are made  from the paper mache ship pattern collectionI did modify the sides of the large ship, I do it a little differently almost every time I make one. 

paper mache ships : buttons

Each ship is getting a gentleman sailor owl captain (the small and medium sizes from the little owl pattern).

owls and ships on my work table

little sailor owl

I love turn of the  century fabric and lately I’ve come across some contemporary fabrics that remind me of some of my favortite antique small prints.  The fabric I used for this owl’s face is from Cotton and Steel, below on the left and the tiny black and white print on the right is by Seven Berry.

This weekend I’ll finish the sails and rigging and start more paper and fabric ships. I want to begin the year with a substantial fleet, an auspicious and nautical beginning to 2018.

making small worlds

miniature flagstone fireplace

Where do you lose yourself? For me it is often in tiny worlds. I pay attention when time disappears. I think it means a deeper connection is happening. Something is flowing and I’m letting it, I’ve achieved real presence and there is no struggle or distraction, nothing else tugs at me. I unclench. Unclenched is a good place to be.

ant world

Last year I created a tiny world inhabited by ants, ants with a taste for mid century furniture. I lost myself completely in the process in the very best way. It woke me up early and kept me up late. I was enchanted and mesmerized by the world as it took shape and deeply engaged in the craft, the process of creating it.

miniature flagstone fireplace

The centerpiece was a fireplace made from cardboard and foam core. I cut flagstone shapes from chipboard and glued them to the structure. The whole thing was covered with spackle (3m – patch plus primer is a great one) sanded, and painted.

cardboard flagstone

dusting : fortuny ants

The furniture was a trial and error process with help from this website, there are lots of good tutorials and techniques for building miniature furniture mostly from cardboard. I made the credenza above from cardboard, coffee stirrers, balsa wood and chopsticks.

I love exploring little worlds and objects I did not create too, bumping into them in the big world. I came across this miniature village in the back of a huge antique place upstate.

miniature village

Something about mini speaks to me and always has, especially everyday things presented in detail at a small scale, even more so when it is a working thing like this little oil lamp.

miss petunia's lazy day

tiny underthings

There are other small worlds for me to create and it is one of the things I’m focusing on this year. Something I think a lot about but have not made time for. I want to explore and articulate the world the tiny ragdolls inhabit and follow Mr. Socks up the crooked road to Woebegone Pines and the big black house where the whole Socks family has lived for many generations of mischievous cats.

mr. socks takes a stroll

momentum

Momentum is crucial, and when you’ve got it,  you’ve got it and when you don’t, you don’t. Lack of momentum is why the wheels come off most New Year’s resolutions by February, why projects get abandoned and ideas get filed permanently in the someday folder. I started this blog 12 years ago (officially in february) – my first official post was titled momentum because I felt like my creative life, my personal creative life was in the someday folder.

cardboard stampede

12 years later I still work hard to maintain my momentum and occasionally I lose it and find myself in the doldrums. It happens for lots of reasons, failures, discouragement, disappointments, obstacles or plain old fatigue but most often it’s because I’m feeling overwhelmed, overwhelmed with tasks, or choices or possibilities, overwhelmed with indecision, overwhelmed with all that isn’t done. When I lose it the only fix is action. Easy to say, so hard to do. Inertia is so heavy and oppressive, but there are a couple things I say to myself that do help when there is no wind in my sails:

it’s easier to keep going than to start

Just telling myself that helps immensely. And it means two things for me – it’s smart to make it part of my day to do things that keep momentum alive, basic things like structure and habits that support forward motion, even very small things, done consistently help a lot.  And when I do find myself dead in the water I need to take some small action (it can be really small) –  just start – bust out of the inertia. I posted a while ago about getting stuck and ways to get past it here.

my best work is ahead

I believe this and it saves me, I just need to remind myself once in a while. It makes me not quit and helps me live and act in uncertainty. It pushes me to let stuff go, take the next step  and try new things. I feel like I’ve barely gotten started and I’m so curious about what’s next, its a powerful reason to keep moving, to get through storms and doldrums, to see what’s around the next corner. If I quit I’ll never know.

try

note : I’ve been updating and reposting some of me big creative year posts from 2015. They are ideas that are very much on my mind as I start the new year. I’ve got big plans and apparently I find myself very inspiring. This is one of my favorites from the series.

so long 2017, mending sleeves and bold moves

contemporary holly hobby

ann wood : mending

Everything feels slow and still and there is lots to think about so I am mending. I love to mend, I love the thrift and economy and the meandering pace of it. I love how it looks and what it means, these are badges that tell you something about me.

ann wood : mending

contemporary holly hobby

While I patch my sleeves and collars and knees I’m thinking about the year past and my plans for the next. I’ve got big scary plans and I’ll tell you about them in a minute.  First I want to tell you a painful lesson I learned about attention.

A few years ago I sort of learned to ride a motorcycle.  Slow in the driveway. I was bad at it.  The most serious problem I had was driving into things: trees, houses, people etc. I googled the problem and found an answer, the fix was remarkably simple and easy:

To not look where I did not want to go.

I was so afraid of driving into the tree, the person, the house etc. that I focused on them and they pulled me like a magnet.  The result was awkward and painful. When I only looked where I wanted to go it was like magic.

Starting now I’m keeping my big plans in front of me. Looking where I want to go. Making myself focus on the big scary things I want to accomplish in 2018.  Everyday.  Keeping the big stuff in front and working backwards from there. The little stuff will align because it must.  I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s next.  Feeling around for it for a while.  This will be a year of change for me.  I want it to be and I want to make sure my plans don’t evaporate in distractions and busyness.  I’m going to give myself very clear, consistent and simple messages about what is important:

write the book

paint the paintings

move north

Pick yours and we will talk more about it next week.

I’ll leave you with one success and one failure from 2017.  First the success. The most popular pattern this year was the tiny rag doll and that is a happy and unexpected thing.  I love the idea of lots and lots these tiny bundled up ladies in the world.

tiny rag dolls

The failure was falling out of my sketchbook habit mid year.  I miss it and feel the lack of it in all my work.  I’ll resume my small, daily squares this  Sunday.

Thanks for showing up and I wish you a beautiful new year,
ann

my big creative year : audacious thinking

forest diorama

note : I first published this post in 2015.  As I’m making plans for the new year audacious thinking and big changes are on my mind, maybe they are on your mind too.

Thinking outrageously, hypothetically removing limitations and entertaining wild possibilities is a good creative exercise, a good thinking tool and I use it often to get unstuck or to work through an idea. But applying that kind of thinking to my life and work in a larger way has been difficult. This weekend I spent time thinking about this question:

What if I could do anything?

If money was no object, if there were no obstacles, no chance of failure or negative consequences – what would I do? I think truthful answers might be enlightening, there might be signposts and arrows among them but I find the question paralyzing.

I’ve never been good at thinking big about my life, my work, thinking audaciously. Big makes me nervous. And it seems to me that I endeavor in the other direction – so much of what I do, what I’m attracted to and what I create for myself is small, the world recreated at a more manageable and comfortable scale.

forest diorama

I find it hard to turn my practical brain off and I think a large part of me never wants to be caught with grand plans – a deeply ingrained belief that modesty is a virtue. I’m fortunate, one thing has led to another and all sorts of wonderful things I could not invent have occurred, it feels somehow ungrateful to reach and it is incredibly difficult and uncomfortable to really get my head around the question. My answers, my list, mostly doesn’t feel very audacious, it feels quite tentative in fact so I’m going to keep working on it – look harder. Getting myself to write anything at all was like pulling teeth, there were a couple surprises though – here’s what I’ve got so far:

I would paint and draw a great deal

I would learn to surf – nothing crazy- little waves

I would plant a garden

I would cook a lot

I would travel a little

I would wander a lot

I would take a hand built pottery class (that seems pretty do-able – I’m looking into it)

Actually – I would take lots of classes – I could fill the rest of my life with that

I would have dogs and cats and goats

I would make a picture book for children or maybe children and grownups

I would make dioramas

I would buy a very old house

I would swim often

I wonder if you ask yourself this sort of question – if you find resistance in your thinking or spectacular visions – I’m curious – if you feel like sharing please do.