I’ve been seeing pigeons in my dreams for weeks – not real pigeons – stitched pigeons – they insist on being made. You know how pigeons are – always insisting on things. I have to trick myself into starting a new shape – I love the process when I’m in it but there is always anticipatory anxiety – it’s knowing I have a series of failures ahead of me. I don’t mind them as they happen – it feels like process, progress and discovery, I get immersed in it. But still, even though I know that – starting – taking the very first step – is always hard, even for stuff I’m pretty excited about. So I start with a baby step and it’s almost always the same. I give myself the gift of putting it off for one more day but it goes on the list for the next day – first thing. I also gather what I need to start so it is handy and ready to go. I usually wake up ready to dive in. Who knows what magic my subconscious works overnight or maybe just the simple acts of putting it on the list and collecting the supplies gets me past the onerous starting line.
New creatures start with a drawing. I like charcoal on drafting velum – messy and spontaneous. From there I can trace out a profile and start to guess at gussets. Next I sew up and stuff a series of drafts – marking them up with sharpies and making adjustments. The first draft was less pigeon and more small sad turkey with issues….. I made about a half a dozen more, making a little progress on each and eventually getting close to the shape I want – the pigeon shape below.
I’m pretty happy with this shape – it needs a little more fullness in the breast so I’ll probably do one more draft and then try it in good fabric. Hopefully pigeons will appear over the weekend.
One more note on starting – I’ve been doing something new for a while and it’s working well for me. Historically – I have kept things on my worktable – tools, notebooks, fabrics – a perimeter of stuff. As an experiment I got rid of it all – found other nearby homes for everything. I also began emptying the table of whatever I’m working on at the end of the day. It seems counter productive if I’m just going to work on the same thing in the morning but it has a magic effect. Emptying the table ends the day. It feels official. And when I wake up there is just my list and an invitingly empty space. It feels like a fresh start. I make clear and conscious choices about what to do without an overwhelm hang-over from the previous day. I start the day more peacefully and feeling in charge and since I work by myself I am, technically, supposed to be the one in charge. Putting the stuff away is extra work but the benefits have out weighed that.
And please meet Edmond. A contemplative rat – like his brethren the mosquitos, pigeons and spiders – one of the less loved creatures.
Can you imagine – the hands that wove and embroidered them, the rooms they decorated and moved through? I am mesmerized by these textiles – most from the 1700’s – the vermeer yellow velvets below are 17th or 18th century – the goldenrod piece with gold lame roses is French 19th century.
The colors are intense and I wish you could feel the texture – the weaves are thick and tight. I wondered if they would be sewable and they are – amazing. They came as a complete surprise – I have remarkably good luck in the fabric department – this was an incredibly generous gift from Trish Allen of Trouvais – a collector’s shop of rare and special early textiles – lovely, inspiring treasures – the antique ballet costumes – oh my.
The box has been here for weeks and I take them all out and look at them almost everyday. I only photographed a few things today – I might show you some more tomorrow – along with a new creature I’m working on. I started my first project today – a french blue songbird made from an embroidered 18th century silk. Next will be mosquitos and I think something botanical.
And speaking of songbirds – a new crew of Fortuny birds – here they are discussing some important songbird issues.
The Sweet Paul Makerie is coming to Brooklyn! And not even just Brooklyn but my neighborhood – a couple blocks from my place – so good. I taught a stitched botanical class in 2015 at the Philadelphia Makerie and had a marvelous time – it was a beautiful event in every way – every detail thoughtful and lovely – so looking forward to the spring retreat. The class line up is great – you can see them all here. I’m offering 2 workshops – an intro to 3 dimensional sewing (a stitched rutabaga!) and ship building.
If you’ve got questions feel free – email me at info at ann wood handmade dot com and please put workshop in the subject line.
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
Maybe it’s my favorite – or maybe tied with March – I like the blustery months. It is just so extraordinarily pleasant – perfect days. And I’m sewing a ton – hours and hours of hand sewing every day after a longer than usual phase of other things – planning workshops for next year, teaching, making sewing patterns etc. – there was a lot to swim through so I could sit and sew again. I’m making lots of songbirds- some Fortuny – like the birds below and some from antique garments. I’m also making owls, and rats, building ships and working on a new shape – a new creature.
Most of the finished things above are headed off on a special mission in the UK but I do plan to have lots of things in my shop soon and will be sending creatures to the Fortuny showroom in Manhattan next week.
And check back for progress on the new shape I’m working on – it is another of the often less loved creatures and one I have a complicated relationship with…….
Briefly – as there is much to cover today – the very first print pattern is in the shop. I’ve turned the tiny rag doll sewing pattern into a 16 page hand illustrated booklet accompanied by three pattern sheets. To celebrate this (for me) huge milestone – the first 25 purchasers will get some bonus items with their pattern.
It’s the first day of fall – it doesn’t feel like it but it will by Sunday and I’m looking forward to it – it’s been an airless summer in NY. I got an excellent dose of forest, air and space at The Squam Art Retreat and so did mr. socks. I also came back with lots of creative energy – I love watching people move through their process and getting glimpses into their imaginations. I taught two experimenting with dolls workshops and was impressed by the willingness to truly experiment and try things – to pick up a thread and follow it. It certainly isn’t easy but can take you to interesting and unexpected places. I’m deeply grateful to everyone who participated for their willingness to be open and vulnerable – I loved being part of it. I’ve shared many dolls below and some were still being worked on – I hope to show you those soon- good things were happening…..
Sondra’s enchanted fish
Tif’s (dottie angel) gentleman moth –
“my name is Cedric Randolf. i am a moth, I fought in the Boar War. i am quite wise and quite old. in one eye i have a cataract, with my other eye i see only goodness”
Rabbit Girl (in process) by Tricia
The moon – and all her phases…. by Jaime (fancy tiger crafts)
Vanessa’s Edwardian lady
(lots more photos after the jump)
For a brief moment – a while back – I was making hand drawn postcards to include in packages. Lovely to do and they made packing and shipping more fun but not a super rational or realistic time management decision. A good exercise though – it woke up a drawing muscle I don’t use often – simple line drawings. They are quick and definite and it’s a kind of drawing that is peaceful for me and I can get deeply focused pretty quickly.
It started wheels turning in my head about making illustrations for my patterns and getting them in print. The wheels started turning and that was pretty much it – one of those things that felt too big and scary to start – I sat on the idea for a few more weeks. I could and maybe should out- source the illustrations but I wanted to do at least one pattern myself. I have illustrated in an official capacity before – it is a little known fact that I illustrated a cook book – Jasper White’s Summer Shack Cook Book – A Complete Guide To Shore Food. All Jasper’s cookbooks are great and this one is my favorite – it has a gazillion illustrations – all pen and ink – I did the “how to” technical stuff as well as the fun stuff. I ate so much lobster I couldn’t be near it for two years.
Since there is nothing like a credible threat for productivity I decided to take tiny rag doll kits – with full printed instructions – to my doll workshop at Squam last week as an extra for my students (more on that soon). It is amazing how quickly you can figure things out when it has got to get done. I decided very late the Friday before my Wednesday departure and started drawing like a madman – all day – everyday and usually into the night. I formatted the pages in photoshop and figured out how to turn it into a booklet – quickly. The deadline was magic – I brought it to the retreat (so glad I did – it’s a fun travel project) and had a chance to tidy it up and make some adjustments when I got home. It is done. And I am happy with it. There may be a fancier iteration in the future but I kind of love this hand drawn version – hoping to have it available in the shop tomorrow. I don’t have a clear idea what the appetite for printed patterns is – if it’s significant I’ll do them all – probably starting with the mushroom pattern. What do you think – do you prefer PDF or printed patterns?
Except for her jewelry and 18th century silk slippers – she is unabashedly and completely nude. And just when you think she couldn’t be any more scandalous she even drops her diaphanous wrap.
Please meet Esmé – my first naked lady – a recent doll experiment.
I put the sketchbook practice on vacation for a couple weeks to free up time to experiment with dolls – in preparation for my Squam class next week. I have had a blast. I wanted to practice some things I’d like to demonstrate, come up with some templates and practice pattern making on the fly – quick and messy. I also wanted to try to get a sense of what this class will feel like to participants and look for ways to help people feel free and playful.
I’ve made a bunch of things I’ll show you in a couple weeks – spontaneous things. I sit down with a little pile of material and try stuff. The bad wolf above was an exercise in quick pattern making – making a super rough sketch and turning it into pattern pieces in about 30 minutes. I sewed up the parts and it had all sorts of problems but I accidentally landed on some things I like too. Now I’m sculpting from the outside and adding details.
The quick experimenting has been good for me – given me a million ideas. If you are attending the workshop you are getting a doll maker on fire. And some of the things I’ve been working on will eventually become sewing patterns (the mr. socks – one of my other quick experiments- pattern is in the works). So looking forward to the class and the whole retreat next week – I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.
P. S. I’ve been collecting lots of inspiring doll images on pinterest you check out here if you like.
It has such a spirit about it. And it even smells and feels like it was just unpinned from the clothesline. A lot of the Edwardian garments I get are formal, often black or brown – somber or special occasion things. The everydayness of this ensemble paints such a picture – the generous side pockets in the polka dot skirt, the wear on the front of the pinafore apron where hands were dried a thousand times or a laundry basket rested.
And that little straw hat – it’s tiny – pure style – not a sunshade – it would have been pinned to her head at an angle for walks in town.
There is another pinafore apron that came with the group that was very stained and is already soaking – I start with just hot water – sometimes that does the trick – then ivory laundry soap and if necessary a mild dose of oxiclean. All the buttons and fasteners are gone and lots of seams have let go but the quality of the fabric is extraordinary and much of it is sewable – the skirt has a bustle and that fabric is quite good. I love it. After pinning it together I did put it all on and swooshed around for a while.
I’ve had a string of good luck lately with garments after a long drought – I’m expecting more soon. The black skirt below turned up about a week ago – it’s ideal in every way. It has a big bustle and the fabric is good. The fades and patina are glorious and the brown lining is excellent – I’m already making dolls and owls.
And tiny doll news – I just added 6 new tiny dolls to the shop : miss rose, miss parsley, miss iris, miss carnation, miss pearl and miss birch. And thanks to everybody who made the tiny rag doll sewing pattern launch a success – I’ll share some customer dolls soon – if you’d like to be included you can email photos to info at ann wood handmade dot com.
Find the pattern here. And she has a tiny wardrobe : dress, reversible pinafore apron, bloomers and a camisole – there are full instructions for all. It’s a huge pattern with more than 80 color photos and tips to make small sewing easy and beautiful – like turning tiny pieces and hiding your knots.
How about those little clothespins? You can get your own here. They might be the best thing in the world.
And she has perfect tiny hair – the pattern shows you step by step how to create it easily – and the technique would work for other dolls too. The sample page below ( page 17 in the pattern) is the end of the hair section and beginning of the feature section.I hope you make tiny rag dolls and lots of outfits for them ( a winter wardrobe will be available later this year). If you do I’d love to see – send photos to info at ann wood handmade dot com.
If you’re not inclined to make your own I’ll have some more tiny rag dolls in the shop next week – sign up here to be notified when new things are available – there all all sorts of new things coming up in the next few weeks,
The tiny rag doll sewing pattern is pretty much ready to go but I’m waiting until next week to release it – just to make extra sure it is all I want it to be. I’ve looked at it so long and so hard I can’t see it any more – you know? I’ll review it with fresh eyes in a day or two. The big challenge of the pattern was the littleness and looking for the easiest and most effective ways to deal with tiny sewing – like turning the little arms and legs right side out after sewing. I included the simple method below in the pattern. Maybe everybody already knows this trick but I didn’t until a couple years ago and it works fabulously well – so just in case you haven’t tried it:
Besides pattern and workshop making work I have some mosquitos on my worktable. Mosquitos are slow, detailed work that involves lots of pins and stabbing myself repeatedly with various instruments – the five below have been in progress forever and are finally in the homestretch.
They suffer such indignities – this poor girl is having her proboscis hammered. I hammer the wire parts on a tiny anvil to stiffen them after shaping and make them a little textured and sparkly. Three of these Edwardian pests will end up in the shop sometime in the near future and the other two are going on special missions. If you’d like to be notified when I have new pieces available you can sign up here.