Category: on my work table

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.

cozy sewing and in case of emergency paper mache

tiny doll work

tiny doll work

There is nothing wrong with sewing in bed. As long as it is your choice and pins and things are kept track of. I don’t do it often but on a cold snowy day it’s irresistible, the perfect place for sewing tiny things. Plus I got dressed which makes it even more OK. Not exactly going out dressed, more day appropriate lounge wear, but still.

tiny doll work

I’m working on small things, mischievous cats, tiny ladies, bundled up birds and lamb folk among them.  The lambs are made using the mr. socks sewing pattern with modifications you can find here. Some of these things will be in the shop tomorrow (if you are on the list for new artwork you’ll get an email).

tiny pants

lamb dolls

lamb rag doll

lamb in pants

I sure do love a lamb in pants

paper mache ship on my work table

I’ve also been making some paper mache progress.  Paper mache is good for busting out of stuckness. The paralysis and not knowing what to do that creeps in when there is too much to do. When my brain rebels and just won’t work properly.  Paper mache has a magic effect. It does not require much thinking activity and progress is immediately apparent. Those little pieces of paper becoming something else.  That part is satisfying and just getting my hands moving get’s my wheels turning again.

paper mache ship work

I always do all the edges first, using the littlest pieces of paper to negotiate the smalls curves. Once the edges are done the filling in takes no time.  Each complete layer, the brown paper followed by the news print, take less than an hour to complete. These ships are all made from the paper mache ship pattern collection. I did modify the sides of the large ship. I do almost every time I make one, I like to experiment with the shape. This time I made it higher in the back and lower on the sides at the middle.

paper mache boat ornament

This little boat is made from the free boat ornament tutorial you can find here.  My plan is to finish all the ships and boats this weekend.  And to festoon the Christmas Tree (my beloved norfolk pine). I’ll show you next week.

onward,
ann

 

little gifts : endeavor to delight

handmade toadstools

Little things. The kind of things you can make in an hour or two or over  a couple evenings. Something unexpected, something that charms.

handmade toadstools

 

If you visit here regularly you know that the holidays are not my favorite thing.  But that part appeals to me, making presents for people, especially little things.

little sailor mouse

And I like Christmas trees, festive, spicy  smells, sweet packages (download the free little yellow house tags here) and a manageable amount of snow might be nice.

small handmade gifts

small handmade gifts

You can find most of the ornament patterns above in the shop as well as the mushroom pattern ( I reduced it by about half for the minis).  And find the free mouse pattern here and the free woebegone pine tree pattern here.

doll kit making

I’m also making doll kits. One million of them. Not really but that’s what it feels like. I’m assembling and shipping kits (and staying hydrated).  After a few days I found a rhythm and the assembly part has sped up. It’s a good thing I enjoy repetitive tasks. So far anyway. I am not enjoying all the paper cuts. So many paper cuts.

shop note:  Stuff is shipping every day and all current orders (including back orders) should be out by Tuesday of next week. And doll kits will be back in stock by next week too.  Send me an email if you want to know as soon as they are available.

4 free projects to try and a post crash update

4 free projects to try

minki kim linen bookmarks

I’ve been hitting the Pinterest pretty hard lately and collected a few projects I thought you might like to try.  First, linen book marks by Minki Kim. I love book marks as little gifts (it is time to make the things for the people…) and Minki shares some great techniques and ideas for imagery.

felt ornament gift tags

Next stitched felt gift tags from Purl Soho. Purl has a huge collection of free projects, it goes on and on, lots of knit and crochet stuff and a bunch of sewing and craft projects too – all with Purl’s sweet, clean, contemporary style.

bustle and sew alpaca

And a dear Appliqué Alpaca from Bustle and Sew. Everybody loves an alpaca. Find all the instructions and templates right here.

the cheerful space diy

Finally a step by step painting tutorial from The Cheerful Space. I especially love this for a beginner or somebody who is having a hard time starting – this will get you moving and trying stuff.

and the post crash update:

I’m back in Brooklyn but not back to business as usual. It has been a month since the ceiling came crashing down unexpectedly and I’m still dealing with it. I do have a ceiling again, a beautiful ceiling but I have not been able to put things back together here yet. I came home to one hundred years of dust. In everything, it went everywhere.  Looking on the bright side it has been a fabulous opportunity to vacuum, wash, or launder    every    single    thing    I    own.

temporary arrangements

temporary arrangements

And I was very surprised to find about 2 thirds of my place painted an aggressive shade of salmon pink. I have no idea why. No one does.  It should be repainted by Monday and I can’t wait. I am spiritually at odds with this color.

But still, I am home. Happy to be here and making things. Please meet Fernando (dashing in powder blue) and Alvaro.

fernando and alvaro : fortuny owls

fortuny owl : fernando

alvaro : fortuny owl

4 free projects to try

owls on my worktable and the socks family farm

blue fortuny owl

I like the creatures I make to have an attitude, an expression and body language that imply a history – a point of view, a world of their own.

mr. socks' tree farm

Mr. Socks for instance is a mischievous cat. A wanderer, a vagabond and sometimes a bit of a rascal. He goes where he likes and does what he likes. He has a good nature but is not entirely reliable. There is one thing about him that you can count on though, for his whole cat life every autumn he heads North where he works on the Socks family Christmas tree farm in Woebegone Pines. The whole Socks family lives in a big black house at the end of a crooked road where they cultivate very special varieties of forlorn firs and pines.

work table and owl feet

I’m headed back home to Brooklyn tomorrow. Exile has been interesting. This forced change of pace and place.  And it has had its benefits. I’ve spent more time outside than I would have, slept in good cold air and have been slightly over fed. And I have been reasonably productive.

fortuny lamb

The lamb (made from this sewing pattern) is part of a group of creatures for Fortuny.

blue fortuny owl

And there is a little houndstooth fellow too.

My head is already in next week. I’m finalizing plans for 2 more workshops in 2018 (more on that soon).  And I’ll have a surprise for you, a new free project. Last year it was the woebegone trees with mr. socks above, the year before very nice mice and this years project fits into that tiny world as well…

october is for sewing

This year it’s for sewing by the pool. I love a forlorn pool, all its summer sparkle and glory gone. It’s a contrast and a particular flavor of melancholy that I have always been attracted to.

I’ve temporarily relocated myself outside of NYC while my entire ceiling is replaced. It is a spectacular October and it’s good to be sewing again after a truly miserable week.

I brought a sewing machine, tons of fabric and projects to work on. Besides the pool I have a big sunny room to work in and a diligent helper. He loves the sewing machine. And thread, he really loves thread.

The first thing finished was another soldier  – more a Wickham than a Darcy this time. He is handsome and beguiling, all poetry and romance, but don’t believe him when he says his heart is yours……..

I’m hoping to have the soldier sewing pattern perfected, drafted and converted to an illustrator file in a couple days. I’ll shoot the steps as soon as I get home. I’m also working on a collection of Fortuny animals (they will be in the NY showroom for the holidays) and lots of little things, small sewing I never get tired of.

Thank you for your thoughts and concerns since the big dusty crash. I’m still all turned around and unsure of what to do next but things are generally well enough and I am finding a rhythm.

onward,
ann

the sky has fallen and emaline in the park

I’m writing to you today from the wreckage of my dear old place. The plaster ceiling collapsed on Monday. I’m crammed into the “safe section” with all my belongings and lots of dust. All my plans for October are canceled and I’m scrambling to get things together to leave for the rest of the month at least.

wreckage

The event itself was shocking and my brain has not really worked right since. All the rubble is still here ( which is interesting…..) and I sift through sometimes looking for tiny things that might have survived.

tiny tea cup among the rubble

I hate to wish time away. Especially October. It’s such a good month. But the next few weeks feel impossible. I will keep you posted as the situation and my whereabouts unfold.

rubble

When the catastrophe happened I was having a perfect rainy October day, hand sewing a rag doll, sitting right underneath. I’ve got good reflexes. She and I just ended up dusty and surprised.

emaline in the park

Her perfect October continues, spending blustery days in the park among the fading flowers and leaves, reading about star crossed lovers and thinking her wistful thoughts.

emaline ragdoll

gunderson and snodd, a plum bat and other creatures

ann wood owls back

* The owls and everything below (plus some lambs in pants) are in the shop now.

Meet Mr. Snodd and Mr Gunderson. The best of friends.  I spent the last couple weeks finishing things, getting almost done stuff across the finish line. It clears out so much brains space. And I love the sensation of crossing something off the list.  I’m shifting my focus now to last minute workshop prep. I did not achieve the dream of being fully prepared  a week ahead of time but I’m in better shape than I usually am this close to leaving. Progress, not perfection right?

ann wood owls back

hand stitched bat

hand stitched bat

This plum bat is the second one I’ve made with the new method and I’m happy with it.  There are still some complications and difficulties I need to get rid of though before I can think about turning it into a sewing pattern.

paper mache ship and owl

The ship above is made from the small ship pattern.  And the gentleman sailor owl is the small size from the little owl pattern.

paper mache ship and owl

And a slate finch. I wish you could feel her velvet head.

slate finch : handstitched songbird

ann wood songbird

antique lace

antique lace

I’m spending the rest of the day sorting through mountains of fabric and lace to decide what’s coming with me. Some will be for workshops and some for the Squam Art Fair. I’ll be there with sewing patterns and some vintage supplies. Or just come say hi. If you do please bring me a beer (the keg is by the door).

 

 

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: