stitching in prospect park

hand stitched owl

September first was an excellent day for sewing outside. I spent most of the afternoon hand stitching in Prospect Park.  I should do it more often, it’s always lovely. I worked on owls and finished a new songbird.

handmade songbird

mr. gunderson owl

The lambs in pants came too, they read, explored, drank sweet tea and napped all afternoon, the way lambs like to (P.S. the tiny quilt was a gift – it’s spectacular – thank you CP!).

lamb picnic

On the way out of the park I wanted one more photo – the lamb with his book and satchel. The little yellow satchel is special – I love it and it was my plan to never part with it.  When I looked for it among my bags of packed up things it was nowhere. I searched furiously, unpacking everything and realized it was officially gone. Out in the world all alone. It was breezy, it had been quite a while since I packed up and I was far away from where I had been sitting so it seemed pretty hopeless.  Walking back to the original spot seemed like a waste of time and I was already late. But I did it anyway.  And there it was. Undisturbed on the grass under the tree looking especially tiny.  It was a tiny satchel miracle.

tiny satchel

lamb ragdoll

Wishing you a lovely weekend and a Happy September,
ann

margin – or, panic early

I first published this post more than two years ago. In all of my 11 years of blogging it is one of my favorites. It is also still my biggest struggle. I’m sharing it with you today for two reasons:

  1. For the first time in a long time I haven’t got a blog post this week. I’m occupied with filling orders, details for upcoming workshops and beginning to plan new classes and workshops for 2018 (including at least one in Europe…… stay tuned).
  2.  The message, the idea of margin, is one I need to hear and apply again and again but especially right now. It boils down to this – when there is certainly and officially too much to do – the only sensible thing is to decide to do less. Ideally before it gets decided for you.

I’m forcing myself into my high gear, last minute place, that magic spot where priorities are crystal clear and hard decisions get made easily. I’m forcing myself into that place a little early so the week before I leave to teach I’ll be one of those super chill prepared people. For the first time. Ever.

(This post was originally published April 2015 – I’ve updated with images of preparations for my natural history workshop)

Had I already mastered the idea of margin in my life I wouldn’t be editing this post 20 minutes before I need to publish it. But I have not mastered margin, not at all. Margin is the space between, the room left for error or chance, the cushion, and I rarely have any. I’m the guy hand making one more Christmas gift at 2 AM on the 24th, 10 year old me was adding glitter to my styrofoam ball planets on the bus to the science fair. It isn’t really about procrastination (although I’m great at that too) – it’s more – I see some space, some room and think “why not add something?! Why not make it better?! Let’s do both!”.  It is a kind of misguided enthusiasm – it’s hard to say no to something I’d love to do even when I know there isn’t enough time. It also comes from fear of lack – fear that the universe will find me ungrateful and opportunities will disappear, it’s living in fear, fear of scarcity. And I am a wishful thinker, I catch myself all the time planning for things to go perfectly, filling every possible moment with commitments, scheduling things back to back or overlapping. It feels like I’m being diligent, a hard worker, but I’m setting myself up to fail – when there is no room for error some little thing, like the printer breaking, can become a huge deal.

When you have margin you have options – so often in this life that I supposedly designed to afford choice I feel I have none. And I need to fix that. Fix it or miss out on my best work. Fix it or be swept along in the chaos – just reacting to emergencies.

I came across this article recently and for some reason it penetrated in a way that the idea just hasn’t before. It got my attention and it stuck with me and I understand something new: margin isn’t something that happens when things get magically better, it is a decision.

It’s a choice.

It’s a choice and a discipline, something you plan for. I don’t have a busyness problem I have a decision making problem.

It sounds simple – just plan for extra time  – but It means fighting against life long inclinations and habits, the temptation to fill every available minute is strong. My first move in the right direction is to figure out how to take one day a week completely off. Oh boy. My current situation is so far away from that I can barely get my head around the idea and at this point I think it’s going to take a while to make it happen. I’m hoping for progress, not perfection, for improvement, some sense that this is attainable for me.

So much of the new stuff I’m trying is working but I think this one issue is the lynch pin, the biggest obstacle, the thing between me and real improvement in my work and my life.

mending, tiny pants, a blue owl, and other travel sewing

indigo owl work

Another thing to love about small sewing, hand sewing, is how well it travels. I’m packing up some projects today and heading out of NYC to water and forests and people who have forgotten what I look like.  It’s the first of several upcoming trips.

indigo owl work

indigo owl wing

This blue owl is coming. His indigo wings are all pinned up and ready for stitching. I love the blues, the variety, layered together Boro style.  There is also some small blue appliqué work – I’m experimenting with eyes.  More on that soon.

indigo owl progress

I’m bringing lot’s of mending too. The seats of my pants mostly. I’ve been wandering around Brooklyn lately with extra and unseemly ventilation.

cornell and mending

cornell and mending

Most of my other upcoming travel is for workshops and I’m in serious last minute thinking and preparation mode for both of those – natural history with the makerie and diorama with Squam. I’m spending some time with Joseph Cornell’s boxes and thinking about how things, objects, relate to each other, the moods and atmosphere and ideas those relationships can create and the poetry of things. They are ideas important to each of the afore mentioned workshops.

tiny tousers

And I want to sit by the water and make tiny trousers. Tiny trousers for little lamb gentlemen. I find the little pants particularly satisfying – they are quick and there is just something about tiny pants.

lamb folk progress

I want to come home with a little pile of satchels and pants.

(ps- there is a mr. lamb in the shop).

good and simple lamb folk

mr. and mrs. lamb

mr. and mrs. lamb

Patched and mended, a little worse for wear, but good and happy sheep, sheep who persevere. I made mr. and mrs. lamb from the mr. socks pattern with just a couple little modifications. Their outfits and the satchel are made from the tiny rag doll clothing and wardrobe patterns with modifications detailed here.

The only changes are to the head. I made ears  – gray on one side and black on the other – stitched with the right sides together. I left the last half inch open for turning right side out.

I closed the opening, whip stitched around the seam and then stitched the ears to the head. I cut a little circular head cover instead of the pointy mr. socks head cover.

I pinned the head cover in place and stitched over the ears and across the front. I added a tiny bit of stuffing before closing the back so his head would be smooth.

lamb ragdolls

Here they are all sheepified – mrs. has got some seriously happy ears.

tiny doll wardrobe

tiny trousers

Mr. L’s tiny trousers are my favorite part – made from the tiny rag doll bloomers – I added about 1/4 inch to the pattern and they just fit.

mr.lamb

Mr. L sports the always risky pants and scarf but no shirt look.

mr. lamb in the forest

He is off to wander among the woebegone pines.  Find the free pattern for the trees right here. I’m working on some photographs for the holidays so I’m making a bunch right now.

slower, quieter : experimenting with appliqué

appliqué experiments

appliqué experiments

Sewing is frequently on my mind when I’m painting and drawing and painting and drawing is frequently on my mind when I’m sewing. Lots of intersections, lots of overlap. I wondered what might happen in the translation process – from paint to cloth. Wondered if it would be interesting – what it might change or reveal. I decided to try some things this week. Make my self start, start before I had it all figured out, before I know what they might be. I chose a couple simple and small designs to begin.

appliqué ideas

The ideas emerged from my sketchbook work, my little daily paintings which aren’t so daily right now you may have noticed. I’m taking a break so I can work on some other experiments like this.

appliqué ideas

appliqué experiments

At first I tried turning, basting and ironing the edges of my sometimes tiny shapes before stitching. It was tedious and awkward and I found I liked cutting shapes and turning the edges under as I stitched much better.  And the translation process is interesting. I found lot’s of inspiration there. It is slower and quieter than paint. I think hard about relationships, my decisions are deliberate. And there is an element of happenstance – the cloth brings unexpected details, textures and colors I did not invent.

appliqué experiments

I never would have chosen a warm red for this piece- but it was all I had so I tried it and I love it. Making those big, bold  red stitches was surprisingly satisfying.

And it’s the perfect kind of sewing for the morning – before I’m quite awake. I love having something all ready for stitching, waiting for me when I get up – everything cut and pinned. It is also good traveling work, subway work, sit in the park work.

sketchbook swan

I have plans for lot’s more of these. Some tiny and some large. I’d love to do a very large stitched interpretation of this swan. It will take me one million years to make.

PS – Do you get the newsletter?  The latest blog posts and extras – delivered to your inbox. You can checkout this week’s here. And sign up here if you like.

applique experiments

front bustles, a frothy negligee, tiny medals of honor and other happy details

soldier doll : coat

This is a long post – with lots of dolls in it. All the dolls below are in the shop right now.

soldier doll : coat

The details make me happy. The tiny details. Stitching the feathers and flourishes to his hat and the medals to his coat. I’ve been looking forward to those tiny medals since starting him. They are pretty much why I made him.

soldier rag doll

A note on his fancy hat – I’ve just learned it’s a Bicorne – that is what the Napoleon-ish hats are called. Now you know – in case it comes up.  Let’s talk about the coat. It has a real working, very tiny, button and button hole. It is my first. It might be my last. But I do love it. I am turning him into a sewing pattern and the coat will be included – it’s very easy to make.

soldier doll : coat

doll skirts with front bustles

And I sure do love a front bustle. It looks so pretty on the hem and reveals a scandalous amount of leg.rag dolls with secrets

I wonder what they talk about…….  Lots of progress was made this week on the rag doll pattern. I’m planning on including a basic body, a clever and easy hair method and options for stockings, underthings and a skirt and, of course, the nude option.

rag doll with black stockings

Speaking of nude, I made Nora a frothy negligee – so when she wanders the moors in the mist she is not quite so entirely naked.

rag doll in a frothy negligee

And finally dear mrs. spots. With lots of details, all her necessities. You can find more about how to make her wardrobe here.

mrs. spots wardrobe

mrs. spots doll

indiscreet rag dolls, a colonel, two mischievous cats and expressive feet

rag dolls : expressive feet

The five day – doll every day challenge: I was great at starting them. Less great at finishing them.
They still aren’t done. I made the executive decision to go with “substantially, but not quite finished”.

naked rag doll : nora

Here is who turned up – the first was nora who you met last week. She didn’t get any happier but she did get more naked. I decided to give her all the lady details. She is a little smaller than the original immodest dolls and I also made a lot of progress toward turning her into a pattern.

naked rag doll : nora

A steady hearted Colonel. I like his turned out toes and expression – and I found a new way to make hair easily. I think I’d like him to be a sewing pattern too – what do you think?

steady hearted colonel doll

steady hearted colonel doll

rag doll : fancy stockings

rag doll : fancy stockings

Next – a lady with fancy stockings. Same pattern as nude nora. She and the Colonel both have expressive feet. I try to give everybody expressive feet.

rag dolls : expressive feet

And the last two were a mr. socks and a mrs. spots (find the sewing pattern here). I never get tired of making the mischievous little cats.

mr. socks rag doll

It was a good exercise for me in a couple of ways. My brain got moving again – I generated lots of ideas and found some energy. I made things I might not have otherwise – things I like. And containing projects in a day made me see more clearly how long things really take and how consistently I underestimate that. Still. The week ended up with too many things crammed into it- next time I do this I’ll clear some days completely.

I’ll put all the dolls above and a couple others in the shop next week. You can sign up here if you’d like an email when they are available.

onward,
a

PS – there are a few new paintings in the shop:

               

rowing out of the doldrums with a doll every day

nora : hand stitched doll

For the next few days anyway.
Doldrums. Who ever invented the word deserves a prize. It sounds like what it is, what it feels like: a warm inertia, an unpleasant stillness, listlessness. Apparently I am not a summer person –  productivity wise anyway – I always find myself here mid July-ish.

Or maybe it’s coincidental. The mid summer almost always finds me working on larger – longer term projects – christmas – workshops for the fall etc. Projects that it can be hard to feel progress on.
And sometimes the stagnated feeling means I need a break. Not this time though – this is a restless stuckness. So I am busting out. Rowing hard until I can catch a breeze and some beautiful momentum. For the next few days I’m making – starting and finishing – a doll everyday. Experiments and some of the usual suspects like mr. socks and tiny rag doll. It’s the kind of sewing I feel like doing, the kind of thinking I’m in the mood for.

nora : hand stitched doll

I began today with Nora. A mysterious dark eyed girl. Im still deciding on her  degree of anatomical accuracy and outfit.  I’ll spend the rest of the afternoon and evening finishing her.

nora : hand stitched doll

Working on shorter term projects gives me a sense of forward motion and satisfaction. I can feel the shape of the day again. Hopefully I can bring some of that energy into the larger projects in a couple days.

Have a lovely weekend and check back next week to see who else appears.
P.S. There are a couple new small paintings in the shop.

7/7       

3 ideas to try : paper lanterns, end of day baskets and collage experiments

paper lanterns by oh happy day

Everything I’m doing this week would either not be remotely interesting to you or is top secret so it’s the perfect time to share a few good ideas I’ve come across lately. Stuff I’d like to try. I love paper lanterns, I like things that hang and play with light.  These have so many possibilities. You could use fancy paper, or found paper – mixing in some wax paper and or fabric could be interesting. I love the way they look hung together. Find a tutorial for four different styles on Oh Happy Day.  And lots more photos too – all beautifully styled and charming.

susies scraps basket

I’m a fan of finding ways to use the littlest scraps – especially little bits of fabric I love to much to part with. You’ll find a complete tutorial for this “end of day” basket here. It seems pretty straight forward – clothes line rope, fabric scraps and a machine with a zig zag stitch. I particularly love the black mixed in with bright color on this basket. It also occurred to me that a tiny – doll size – one might be interesting.

julie hamilton collage sketchbook

And the sketchbook collage work of illustrator Julie Hamilton. I discovered her work through the Brown Paper Bag Blog – there is a post with lots of Julie’s work and more about her process. It’s such a good way to experiment and an easy place to start if you’re feeling stuck. Make some marks. collect some paper, cut stuff up and mess around.

If you try any of these I’d love to hear about it – you can let me know in the comment section.

sketchbook 6/18 – 6/24 and current obsessions

sketchbook : 6/21

The sketch book posts don’t usually get included in the blog page but I made an exception this week for a couple reasons. Mostly because I had a good week – I liked everything I made last week – that hardly ever happens. There’s even a naked lady.

And I wanted to tell you about my current obsession with Staffordshire Pottery and how that came about. I love looking at other people’s stuff. I want to look in your windows and open your drawers. I want to stop by when you are not expecting guests and look at everything. I came across this blog lately: The Bible of British Taste.

And I love everything about it – the houses, the art, the stuff, the textiles- on and on. This house in Scotland is my favorite post. That’s where I came across Staffordshire and there is just something about them – formal, sweet and quirky – all at the same time. You’ll also find some Chinese portraits there that have inspired.

Check it out – I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Also – For the next few weeks any way – I’ll be adding little paintings to the shop each Thursday.

a fortuny ragdoll, a little brown owl goes to sea and new things in the shop

fortuny ragdoll : josephine

hand stitched owl

I like this little fellow – amazing what turning buttons a little can do for an expression.
I’ve made him a boat and he is going to sea alone – perfect for him – he seems pretty bossy.

owl and sailboat

He is made from the small size of my little owl pattern and the boat is made from this pattern (both patterns are on sale for subscribers through the July 4th holiday – you can sign up here if you like– you’ll get the code shortly after).

owl and sailboat

I’m making more over the weekend. I want to bring a couple to the Squam Retreat with me in September. I’ll be at the art fair on September 16th with sewing patterns and art work and some surprises. I hope you’ll come say hi. It will be only the third time I’ve done this sort of thing in the 11 years I’ve been in business – I am generally pretty hermity. But it’s the last year for the retreat and the art fair and the first time I have print patterns to sell (there are more on the way – I’m drawing the mushroom pattern illustrations now) so I am showing up. I will kind of dread it for the next couple months and then end up having a good time, proving my wise mother right again – her advice around anxiety producing situations was always “ You’ll be fine once you get there”.

fortuny ragdoll : josephine

And please meet Josephine and some curious birds. Her dress and silver slippers are made from Fortuny and she has Edwardian lace unmentionables.

fortuny ragdoll : josephine

teal nuthatch : stitched songbird

stitched songbirds

Have a lovely long weekend – I’ll be here – making lots of things.

suddenly a billy goat appeared and the space between ideas and action

billy goat rag doll

billy goat rag doll

Suddenly a billy goat appeared. A very distinguished goat. It was not my plan, he is not on my list or schedule and I probably should have been doing something else. But I felt a strong spiritual directive to make a surly goat. I had the impulse and I followed it immediately, that hardly ever happens and I think its a good thing to do. I usually have quite a lot of time between my ideas and when I do something about them. Sometimes they get stale – resistant to action. Maybe too much time lets doubt creep in or I get stuck in an endless circle of overthinking. There is huge value in diving right in, creating the first iteration, maybe making a mess but also getting a feedback loop going. I’m pretty sure there is some actual brain chemistry around this but I haven’t looked it up yet – I was busy making a goat.

billy goat rag doll

I made my gray goat rag doll from an Edwardian skirt. I used the aristocratic lamb pattern with some adjustments to the head. I’m working on another in black now (and I do plan to release this as a sewing pattern).

billy goat rag doll

small art

Goats have been on my mind, turning up in my little paintings often (by the way I’m adding new small paintings every Thursday – including the goat above). And I’m working on some tiny goats for a project I’ll show you this fall. I love their expressive, humany faces. They always look like they are silently judging you.

This goat  be in the shop next week – I’m thinking Tuesday – with some other recently finished things including some Sri Threads songbirds.

You can sign up here if you’d like an email when the new things are available.

bird, hand stitched from japanese textiles

bird, hand stitched from japanese textiles

my new favorite paint and songbirds on my work table

mosquito painting

mosquito painting

I’m particular about paint. I like very flat color. I’ve been using Holbein acrylics for a while and the last time I went to pick some up I discovered something new – or new to me – from Holbein to try – Mat Acrylic.

They come in big tubes and the colors are flatter than flat. Very opaque too. They flow beautifully on paper and the finish of the paint when dry is almost paper-like itself. They are unlike anything I’ve tried before – the closest comparison I could make would be gouache which I find difficult to work with. Also – in case you are wondering – I paint my little squares on hot press watercolor paper. I like fluid 100 and Arches.

And lovely Sri indigos and teals. Teal is the color that is on my mind lately – smokey and mysterious.  I’m working on things for the shop and will add these as soon as they’re finished – possibly tomorrow , more likely Saturday.  I also have some rag doll experiments in the works, including some Fortuny rag dolls I’m excited about.

stitched sri songbirds

indigo sri songbird

Thanks to everybody who entered last week’s book give away – the winning number (chosen by a random number generator) is 330. I’ll be sending an email your way Annie L. for address info. If you would like to order a copy of Stitch-Illo you can find it here.

stitch illo

confronting the pigeon : progress on my city bird

stitched pigeon progress

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.

stitched pigeon progress

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.

stitched pigeon progress

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.

sri threads textiles

A condescending yet vacant  pigeon or two should be forth coming.