Category: other creatures

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).

 

 

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.

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

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.

botanicals, bats and my new favorite supply – buckram

bats and botanicals

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.

buckram

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.

stitched botanical experiments

royal cone flower

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.

mini toadstools

 

 

bats and perseverance

bat work

bat work

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.

stitched bat

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.

stitched bat

edwardian bat

an aristocratic lamb : how to create texture with fabric

lamb rag doll

lamb rag doll hooves

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.

lamb rag doll

lamb rag doll

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.

ruffle fabric

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.

lamb ruffles

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.

lamb ruffles

lamb ruffles

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.

lamb rag doll

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.

 

a miniature world, inhabited by stylish ants

dusting : fortuny ants

dusting : fortuny 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.

ant world

ant world

ant world

ant world

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.

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turnips, mosquitos and the big bad wolf

stitched turnip

* shop announcement the new things below and some suprises are in the shop now –  Friday 11/4

stitched turnip

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.

stitched turnip and rutabaga still life

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.

bb wolf

He doesn’t look so bad…. He looks sort of pleasant.

big bad wolf doll

But do not trust him – there is a dark side.

tiny rag doll problems

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:

edwardian mosquito

edwardian mosquito

edwardian mosquito

pigeon progress and the glorious, inviting emptiness of my work table

pigeon drawing

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.

pigeon drawing

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.

pigeon progress

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.

edmond : rat

 

October is for sewing

fortuny songbird

fortuny

“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.

fortuny songbird

thread

departing owls and songbirds

hand stitched songbirds

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…….

mosquitos on my work table and a pattern sneak peek : turning tiny doll parts

mosquito work : proboscis

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:

turning tiny doll parts

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.

mosquito work

mosquito work

mosquito work : proboscis

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.

a caption contest – win your very own fortuny seed pod

fortuny rat

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.

fortuny seed pod

fortuny seed pod

edwardian mosquitos

grey edwardian mosquito

pale grey edwardian mosquitoMosquitos!  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.”

The Mosquito
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).

ann wood : mosquitos

ann wood : mosquitos

russet edwardian mosquito

green edwardian mosquito