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.
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.
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.
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
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 – 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.
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.
Entirely nude, but for a threadbare whisper of a nightgown.
The gown is made from the sleeve of an Edwardian lawn gown – so simple to make. I just hemmed the top edge – gathered across the front side and added ribbon ties that go around her neck – halter style.
She is offered in the shop – along with a few other new things – as promised I’ve been adding at least one new thing every day and will continue to for as long as seems reasonable. For now she is happy here, she sits serenely, in her nightgown, silently judging that little ant who admires himself so constantly.
And something new on my worktable – an evolving rag doll creature. The texture thing is pretty ambitious and I’m not sure I’ll ever do it again, it’s labor intensive even by my standards. But I do like the effect on him.
Of course she needs a sensible coat! And it’s reversible! I’m pretty excited about the reversibleness of the coat – and the nifty way it goes together – it feels like kind of a magic trick ( I included a video link for that part). I also love that the coat is built from just two pieces and demonstrates an awesome system for making reversible doll garments – you could modify the pattern and use the same easy technique to create all sorts of lined or reversible little clothes.
I also made a little lined flat bottomed satchel for her foraging and a hat too. She is ready for adventure.
Find sample pages from the pattern here and here.
The winter wardrobe pattern is in the shop now and I’m including the little hat pattern in this post too – download the template here and instructions are below – it’s very simple, easy and quick – you can make one in under twenty minutes.
For the tiny hat you will need a little wool, felt or flannel and contrasting embroidery thread. Pin the hat pattern to the fabric and cut out.
Whip stitch all around the bottom edge with a strand or two of embroidery thread.
Fold the hat in half and whip stitch the back seam from the bottom towards the tip.
Knot just before the tip and fray the tip. And finally tie little lengths of embroidery thread to the ear flaps and knot.
She is fully outfitted for her travels. A couple other notes on the pattern- the coat and satchel will fit mr. socks too and you could scale it for other dolls. I have not tried the hat on mr. socks – but I think it would work if you enlarge it a little.
If you make a tiny wardrobe I’d love to see – you can email photos to info at ann wood handmade dot com.
* shop announcement the new things below and some suprises are in the shop now – Friday 11/4
A heroic root vegetable – the majestic turnip. I love making these – rutabagas and turnips – the stitching is meandering and meditative and I like experimenting with textures and layering. I have found that antique table linens are ideal for making the shape – the cotton is thick and there is a little sheen. I layer sheer cottons – often pieces of antique kimonos and lots of stitching to add color and more texture including the rough edge where the leaves were chopped off. That’s my favorite part.
PS – I’m teaching a class on this very subject in the spring in NYC – at the Sweet Paul Makerie.
And do you remember the wolf? He is among a little group of things started over the summer that finally got finished and photographed this week.
He doesn’t look so bad…. He looks sort of pleasant.
But do not trust him – there is a dark side.
And he is only one of the problems a tiny rag doll can run into around here. I finished 5 new mosquitos too – 2 are going on special missions but the other three Edwardian girls will be in the shop tomorrow. Please meet the ladies:
The tiny rag doll pattern was not something I planned on or saw coming but I’m so glad I followed the impulse – it has been and continues to be a very happy thing. A happy thing for me to make and a happy thing to share. I think it strikes a cord – a point of connection so many of you that show up here have in common with me and each other. It’s the kind of sewing I grew up doing – slow hand stitching. There is sweetness, simplicity and nostalgia about it. I came across this thought from Dawn – a tiny rag doll maker – she puts it perfectly:
I love the quiet peacefulness of stitching by hand, using a thimble, putting the tiny pieces together just so. I feel a connection to countless other hand stitchers who came before me. I think it comes through in the dolls.
The doll above – forward looking and ready for adventure is by Dawn ( as well as the next 3) and below I’ll share some other wonderful tiny rag doll work by customers. You can find more and add your own to the ann wood handmade by you Flickr group – there are lovely things happening there – all sorts of ideas and details and variations being shared (including adorable crocheted wigs – a pattern from another fabulous tiny doll maker Beth – scroll all the way to the bottom of her page for the link).
I think it’s the perfect moment for a tiny doll revolution – the world needs more tiny handmade rag dolls – an army of hand stitched little ladies who mean business.
P.S. If you’ve made a tiny rag doll and have details, variations or tips you’d like to share please do in the comments or email me and I’ll add it to the post.
Below – tiny rag dolls by Karen:
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)
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.
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,
Sometimes it’s hard to shift out of production work and into true experimenting – really letting go of outcome. Production work is predictable – there is a definite beginning and end and the repetition and familiarity can be kind of comforting. I love to play and experiment, I love the adventure of something new but it takes effort, patience and practice to be able to get my head in that place when I need to. Part of it is the anxiety of all that isn’t done – it interferes with the meandering quality of experimenting. The anxious part of my mind protest the gentle open ended nature of the experimenting.
My sketchbook practice helps – I try to spend my sketchbook time in that place – sometimes I get there and sometimes I don’t but it is always good practice to try – especially in a very unideal moment. I gain more skill all the time at quieting the call of pressing tasks and worries that will absolutely always be there – the perfect moment for experimenting will not ever appear.
A lot of my experimenting lately is around dolls and figures – preparing for my workshop at Squam this September. I want to bring a few things that demonstrate different techniques – like building from the inside out. I began without much of a plan – I had a vague idea of maybe trying to make something similar to an odd figure I like that appeared in last week’s sketchbook.
I started playing and trying things, building a little shape by winding batting over a simple wire form and then stitching fabric on top. I love the spontaneity of this method – one thought builds on another and interesting things happen.
By the time the shape was halfway covered I had shifted direction – the little shape had it’s own idea what it wanted to be and mr. socks began to appear. He is not what I planned on at all – I think my tiny rag doll brain crept in – but I was happy to meet him.
Hello Mr. Socks!
And his posterior. I’ve also been making lots of tiny rag dolls and seedpods while working on sewing patterns for each ( at least one of those patterns will be out next week) and I put a couple tiny rag dolls and seedpods in the shop today.
I don’t need much of an excuse to pull out my old box of doll house treasures and I was curious if my tiny rag dolls are in the same doll house scale as my furniture. They are, they accidentally or maybe by a subconscious direction, are a perfect fit. And just like that Miss Petunia is fully outfitted. She has everything a tiny doll needs.
The box of doll house things – the doll house that was the center of my creative life for much of my little-ness is full of wonders. It only resurfaced a few years ago and this was the first time I fully explored all the little treasures.
Including one of Miss Petunia’s earliest ancestors – this funny girl I made to live in my house. And a tiny book for her to read. Holding and examining these things I made 40 plus years ago has a very strange sensation about it that I can’t quite put my finger on.
Miss Petunia is surrendering to the thick hot city day and lying around in her underwear reading.
It sounds like a good idea. Are you reading something great? I recently re-read In Cold Blood – Truman Capote is such a master and currently I have two going – A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway and A Path With A Heart – Jack Kornfield. Also, one of my most favorite books, and I think a fabulous summer read, is Main St. – Sinclair Lewis. If you feel like sharing your favorites please do – just leave it in the comments to this post.
The body pattern for the tiny rag doll is worked out as well as the assembly and directions for the little details – like her shoes and hair. I’ve moved on to patterns for her wardrobe. The original tiny doll had attached fancy underthings that made assembling her difficult and I love the idea of everything being removable so I devoted a big chunk of time to experimenting with tiny lingerie construction. I came up with bloomers and 2 camisoles for the little doll above – miss dahlia. I also made her a pinafore – that might be my favorite thing of all – in fact I want miss dahlia’s whole outfit for myself.
Here she is with miss lilac – all dressed. I’m moving on to outerwear tomorrow – a winter coat and a satchel and then the tiny rag doll will be very well equipped for all her tiny doll adventures.
If you’d like an email when the pattern is available you can sign up here.