Have you ever tried Buckram? It’s a millinery supply. I’m continuing to experiment with bats and for this patched plum bat I’m trying buckram as a substrate – something to give it sculptural form. You can find buckram on Etsy – and it comes in all sorts of variations – black, white, heavy, light, fusible, sheets, rolls etc. etc. I got a big roll of the heavy weight – non fusible – in white. I’m also a big fan of millinery wire – there’s some of that in this bat too.
You can get buckram wet and form it or cut darts and stitch though it – I stitched it both by hand and on the machine. I like the stability of the shapes I made (you can layer it for even more stability) and how easy it is to stitch through. I did need to cover the edges – they are a little sharp and my fabrics were particularly delicate. I’ve been intending to try it for ages – it’s good stuff! And has given me all sorts of ideas. I’m going to add it to the resource list. If you’re curious about it search on google and pinterest – for buckram and hat making – interesting stuff pops up. There is a lot to be learned about shape building from milliners.
I’ve also been working on botanical experiments, revisiting two exotic species I created last year – The Royal Cone Flower and a Cloaked Bishop Lilly. There are colors and color combinations I come back to again and again – deep smokey plums and violets, indigo, and greens with a little acidity to them and little bits of crimson. The plums, violets and indigos are almost always Japanese (courtesy of Sri Threads). The crimson touches on the bat and Bishops Lilly are both very old – 18th and early 19th century. I dye most of my greens and it’s always too dull for me so they get a quick second dip in sunflower yellow. My favorite dyes are Dylon and idye (idye is intended for the machine – but since I dye tiny things in delicate ways I cut the little dissolvable packets open – it’s messy but works and their colors are great.
And toadstools – little guys – mini versions made from the mushroom pattern printed at about 70% (it scales up and down well). I love the mini- ness – just big enough for the palm of your hand or pocket. everybody needs a lucky mushroom in their pocket – especially in the spring.
I have been bothered by bats for a very long time. They were one of my first stitched creatures. I love them but vowed to never make another. The process was brutal on my hands and had a high late stage failure rate. And they took an outrageous amount of time. But I love them, I love their shape, their curves and the way that shape seems to change as they twirl in the breeze and the lovely shadows they cast.
So lately I started from scratch – a whole new method of constructing them. There have been several dismal failures but in the past week I’ve landed on something good -. It’s much easier hand-wise and the result is reliable and consistent. It still takes forever. Not as bad as the original bats but still problematic. I’m not sure I can get to a place where I can produce them with any efficiency but I’m not done trying.
An aristocrat, from the tips of his well manicured hooves to the perfectly coiffed curls of his head. I can see his whole world – the crumbling manor house, stern ancestors glowering down from the walls, the dim and dusty library, his ever-present walking stick and far away gaze. The once stately gardens are a little more overgrown every year but he either does not notice or does not care. All is well, he has his books, his tea, his evening walks and his memories of his youth and the sea.
I will probably not make another like him – his luxurious texture has been tormenting me – it took ages. I’m never doing it again. I might do it one more time. I like the technique and use it often for small things but there was a lot of lamb to cover here. If you would like to similarly torment yourself I took some progress shots along the way.
I start with long strips of light fabric – a cotton voile in this case – and about 1 and 1/4 inches wide. My old White Rotary has an awesome ruffle attachment or you can achieve the same effect (on light fabric) by turning your stitch size to the largest and the tension to the highest setting. I stitched just off center.
Fold the ruffled strip over at the seam, press and start stitching it on – whip stitching over the seam. Row after row, around and around. In the photo below you can see how much space there is between rows. This varies depending on the size of the project and the ruffle – for my fancy lamb it is between 1/4 and 1/2 inch – I get a little closer in curvy places.
And at last the fun part. When he was all covered I gave him a serious haircut. Holding the scissors parallel to the ruffled surface start snipping. You can do a little or a lot – I did a lot.
The ruffle situation on this guy happened by accident – I was working on a lamb rag doll pattern and couldn’t help myself. There will be a sewing pattern for him soon – sans ruffles.
The Beaumonts are ready for the holidays (if you have not yet met fifth avenue’s most stylish anthropods you can learn more here).
Tiny Fortuny stockings are hung, presents are wrapped, cookies baked, hearth blazing and the whole family is trimming the tree – such festive ants.
Meet the Beaumonts, fifth avenue’s most stylish anthropods.
To celebrate Fortuny’s 2016 Micromondo collection (which means micro–world in Italian) I created a miniature world of cosmopolitan, domestic bliss inhabited by sophisticated ants with a taste for midcentury furniture and modern art. They also really love christmas – that’s part 2.
The ants are 6 inches tall and made from the Micromondo collection. I made furniture, drapery etc. – everything a fully appointed ant penthouse needs – from the new wools, velvets and linens as well as many of the classic patterns – the blue and bronze above is one of my favorites. I also made ant art – I got super into the art making – and family portraits – lots of tiny details.
* 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:
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.
“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…….
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.
Update 8/4 : Thanks so much for all the great captions for last weeks contest! The winner is:
“Left, right, cha, cha, cha! One, two, cha, cha, cha!”
I love the idea of him practicing his dance steps with the mirror – nice work Lourdes!
I’m working on mostly top secret things right now – holiday stuff, 2 brand new workshops for next year and the tedious parts – formatting, editing etc. – of creating the rag doll and seed pod patterns. Since I can’t show you what’s on my work table it’s the perfect time for a caption contest.
I try to make creatures whose expression and body language imply a history – a definite point of view, a world of their own. And I like to photograph them in a way that invites you to wonder what’s going on outside the frame. This is one of my most favorite photos – taken last year in the Adirondacks. What do you think this dapper rat is up to? What’s on his rat mind?
Make up a caption and leave it in the comments to this post – an esteemed panel of judges will choose a winner to be announced next Thursday. Everybody is welcome to enter – please leave your caption comment before Wednesday 8/3.
And the prize – a Fortuny seed pod! Such a tragic flower – gone to seed – collapsed in a pretty heap.
Mosquitos! Delicate mosquitos, hand stitched from Edwardian garments. I wonder what she would think, the 19th century girl who floated across lawns in the gown their wings are made from. They are mischievous ladies who will bite! But they will be so gentle you won’t feel a thing. There is a special place in my heart for the less sympathetic creatures – the rats and bats and spiders and who is less loved than mosquitos?
“It is your hateful little trump
You pointed fiend,
Which shakes my sudden blood to hatred of you:
It is your small, high, hateful bugle in my ear.”
BY D. H. LAWRENCE
I made 6 – I had a truly marvelous time – completely lost in them for days. They are all in the shop (there are some songbirds too).
Songbirds are slow work – it’s all slow work I guess but songbirds in particular will not be hurried. They are the boss of me. I know when I start it’s going to take a long time and I struggle with that for a while – try to speed it up – it never works. I don’t make any real progress until I settle in and forget about finishing at all.
They have evolved over the years into something more realistic than my early songbirds. And every time I make one I reach for more – more life-force, more curiosity, more birdness. I want them to seem to have just perched, or as if that are just about to take off, or take a step or as if they only discovered you this very moment. I’ve added the four above to the shop today – from left to right : a Brown Speckled Wingnut, a Mrs. Brown’s Nuthatch, a Bashful Finch and an Ebony Woebegone. You can see the Edwardian skirt the Mrs. Brown’s Nuthatch is made from here – I’ve been making things from it for years.
Last year I focused on creating my first patterns and a couple other large projects and made very little of my own stitch work – the slow sewing I love to do, the creatures I love to make. I’m determined to do more of that this year and to get them into my shop. To build some momentum, for the remainder of January, and starting today, I’m committing to adding something new to the shop every Thursday. Maybe one thing, maybe several, the usual suspects and some surprises and experiments too. If you’d like an email when new pieces are available you can sign up here. Two of today’s new pieces are below, a dark bird and haggis ( a scoundrel) – both made from Edwardian garments.
I’m working on a dark bird made mostly from an Edwardian bodice ( you can see it here). I wish you could feel the texture of the velvet ribbon – it feels like the silky top of a cat’s nose. The dark bird is one of several pieces I’m working on – dastardly owls among them. It’s been a long time since I made things for myself, for my own shop, it’s been a year of special projects, wholesale, collaborations and pattern making.
The wings are stitiched an stitched, it’s a slow and peaceful kind of sewing. Her beak is carved from a twig – I use an exacto knife on a nice hard dry twig and then sand, stain and buff them. I think this bird’s feet will be made from paper mache. For a bird of this size (it’s one of the largest I’ve made) and owls I use 16 gauge wire for the feet and leg armature. If you’re curious there is a full list of my favorite resources and supplies here.
This August feels so thick and slow and sleepy, everything shimmers and that strange cicada sound – it all feels a little otherworldly to me. Even the creatures I’m making are golden and languid. August is also when I work on holiday designs. I’m planning on some ornament patterns for the shop and I would love your opinion on a couple things. I posted a survey
here – it’s super brief – just 3 questions and as a thank you you get a coupon for 30% off patterns (the survey is closed). I had fun with my handmade Christmas last year and you can check out that post if you’d like to get an early start – there are links to patterns and free projects and ideas. Also in the holiday department – I just saw samples of designs I made for Crate and Barrel this year and I can’t wait to show you – I’m so happy with them.
Have a lovely weekend – I’ll leave you with a couple sleepy Fortuny creatures.
Louis, he got all dressed up for you in his summer best.