Category: resources

make a ship for mr. socks

mr. socks goes boating

paper mache boat

Mr. Socks is going to sea in his very own ship. I made it using my free paper mache boat pattern with a couple changes. If you’d like to make your own follow the original boat instructions but to make it just right for Socks use:

(a note on sail making – there are instructions here if you need them)

a ship for mr. socks

Socks is the kind of cat that does just what he wants so he is off to Paris for a holiday in his brand new ship.

mr. socks goes boating

mr. socks goes boating

mr. socks goes boatingau revoir mr. socks!

 

stripes make a sailor and the easy way to make sails

gentleman sailor owl

stitching sails

When I first started making ships I was doing little handkerchief rolled hems on the sails. They were pretty but drove me crazy and took forever.  When I put together the paper mache ship pattern I wanted something easier and I found it.  It’s super simple and has other benefits too.

sail

I  cut two pieces of fabric for each sail (not usually the same fabric – I like the front and back  to be different  – even just subtly),  pin them right sides together and stitch around – leaving one little section open. Trim the excess off the corners,  turn it right side out,  press and stitch closed.  I add a whip or blanket stitch around the edge and  layers of patches and lace.  You can click here to download the sail pattern below if you’d like to give it a try.

sail_pattern_annwood_2

This method is much quicker than the tiny hems and makes a very tidy sail.  Also the double fabric helps the sails hold their shape when you fill them with wind.

paper mache ship

I’m making an owl to captain the ship I’m working on  and used my favorite piece of antique ticking for his front.  Putting a horizontal stripe on an owl transforms him instantly into a gentleman sailor.  The owl below is the medium size from the little owl pattern.

gentleman sailor owl

And ticking stripes are nice for sailing mice too.

sailor mouse

resources, supplies, tips and tricks

fabric ship

I’ve put together a little collection of resources for you – some of my favorite tools and supplies and a couple tips and tricks. There are one or two things I’ve talked about before and lots of favorites I’m sharing for the first time.  If there’s something that’s not included that you’re curious about – feel free to ask – I’ll do my best to hook you up.

stuffing

Stuffing

I spend a lot of time stuffing things, sometimes starting over  a number of times and I have a strong preference for wool – you can find wool stuffing here.  I use a doll needle to move stuffing around from the outside to fine tune a shape – it can add so much character.  And my main stuffing tool is an old paintbrush with the bristles clipped off close to the base – it grabs the wool (or polyester) a bit so the tool doesn’t slip through. I have a few in different sizes. Hemostats are also handy for placing stuffing very specifically.

brush for stuffing

For making things stand up on their own, especially something top heavy like a mushroom, weighted fill does the trick. My favorites are glass bead fill and crushed walnut shells. Tip: to prevent spillage I double stitch the bottom seams. You can also make a little pouch from an old pair of tights, put in the fill and insert that into your soft sculpture.

ann wood mushroomAnd what about that curvy stem?  Wire works and there are lots of wire recommendations below but this works better: doll armature or coolant hose – it’s easy to work with and holds its shape well – you can do impossible looking things with it.

armature

wire

I use a bunch of different kinds of wire for armatures, bird and owl feet and other stuff, these are my favorites:

paper covered millinery wire – disclaimer – it is spring steel and not easy to work with but it produces beautiful stable shapes. I use it for ship armatures – find it  here  (scroll all the way to the bottom of the page for the paper covered sort). They also have special joiners for it.

fabric ship30 gauge cloth covered spool wire – For things that just need a little support – like little bird tails. Find it here.

17 gauge brown paper covered stem wire – This stuff is sturdy and covered with brown crinkly paper – great for larger stems – I use so much of it I get it by the case – find it here.

paper covered wire –  It comes in a number of gauges and also makes great stems – the paper is smooth and paintable – I also use this for ship armatures.  Find a nice selection of sizes here.

Hillman 18  or 19 gauge steel wire – It’s my preferred  wire for bird legs – one side is a little bit flat and the helps the bent joints hold together – find it here. And the full bird leg tutorial is here.

Hillman 16 gauge utility wire – For larger owl and bird feet – find it here.

Notions etc.

Appliqué pins – They are pretty! And great for small work – find them here.

applique pinsCotton Sateen – The sheen is lovely – just enough – and it dyes beautifully – find it at Dharma Trading.

Dylon Dyes – bright true colors – the Velvet Black is fantastic. Google to find suppliers in the US- there are lots and find the full selection here.

Tiny Ribbon – I love 4mm silk embroidery ribbon for mini bow ties for birds and all sorts of other little details – the color selection is fabulous – find it here.

cake topper birds

Other Stuff

Chenille pipe cleaners – the nice ones- imported from Germany – they come in different thicknesses and are dyeable – find them here.

Flora brand floral tape – Not all floral tapes are created equal – this is the only brand I buy – nice and crepey and not overly sticky – it  takes paint and glue well. Find it by the box here.

Crepe Paper – There is a huge selection here and some fancy stuff here.

Lascaux  Acrylic Paint – A little more expensive but so worth the investment – saturated color and wonderfully matte  when dry. It’s available in lots of Art supply stores including Dick Blick.

 

Photography Tips

canon remote

I wish I got this years ago – a remote switch for my camera  (I use a Canon). So handy for awkward shots and getting out of my own way. It’s very inexpensive – less than twenty bucks at B and H Photo.

White foam core board – The last tip is super simple and I use it all the time. I don’t have great light here – to get rid of shadows I use a piece of white foam core board to reflect sunlight and fill in shadows – it makes a huge difference -check  it out in the  lamb images below.

lamb_shadow

lamb shadow

 Updates 4//7/2016:

Wooden parts– huge selection – great for paper mache and fabric boats:

My new favorite paint- Holbein Acrylic – not cheap but less expensive than the super fancy Lascaux I love and it has a lovely matte finish and saturated colors.

Sublime stitching – you might already know but just in case – they have great supplies and a huge library of stitch tutorials.

Turning tubes – for those long and skinny tiny parts you need to turn right side out -I only recently discovered the magic.

And finally pocket – it’s an app – so many people recommended it but I resisted – once I tried it though I couldn’t do without it . It basically saves and organizes articles for later and they can ( mostly0 be read off line.

 

armature

muslins

I’m working on a large project, a collaboration that I can’t show you until January or there abouts – the photo below is of some of the many, many muslin drafts I make on the way to a new design.

muslins

This is the first time I’ve made something jointed and pose-able  (which these will be) and I came across something new to me and you might find it useful in your own projects: coolant hose.

armature

Also known as The Best Stuff In The World if you’re making something pose-able or just need a flexible and reliable armature.  It’s made by a company in Taiwan called Jeton. According to their website they specialize in:  adjustable coolant hose, doll armature and doll eyes.  It’s quite a niche.  I purchased it through CR’s Crafts – I got the 3/16th inch coolant hose and the 8th inch doll armature ( it’s just like the hose but no hole. This stuff is easy to work with and holds its shape well. I purchased my joint hardware from C R’s Crafts as well – they have a huge selection right here.  If you buy cotter pin joints I recommend you get the tool – it makes bending the pins much easier.  The joint hardware is new to me too – and it’s giving me all sorts of ideas…. I  love new supplies.

I’m also working on several new patterns and the next is just about ready to go- I’m photographing the steps and beauty shots now – here’s a peek at the new and improved merry wobbler.

merry wobbler

wobbler nest

If you’d like an email when new patterns are released you can sign up here.

 

working through the doldrums

Big projects have them. Usually what keeps me motivated is the process – I like making things, all sorts of things and that has extended to my new project: making patterns  (especially because it’s new to me and I’m all lit up with learning).

I had hoped to finish the paper mache ship pattern in the Adirondacks over the holiday weekend. Planned on it really – no distractions, great light, plenty of room etc. but I’m back in thick, hot NYC summer and I‘ve still got a long way to go. Often, if something is taking me a very long time it’s because I’m lingering in the process – I don’t want it to end. In this case a lot of the fun designy stuff (like the cover) is done. And the project has gotten bigger:

I had made the executive decision to keep it small and manageable – just one ship – one small, pretty ship and I was nearly done with that.

small ship

But then I reversed that executive decision and decided to make it a collection – 3 vessels. The original small ship, a little boat and a large ship (similar to “The Gulnare” one of my favorites) – a big billowy full sailed affair.  And the large ship pattern had to be designed pretty much from scratch – I didn’t have a reliable large ship template. That’s a lot of  designing, and a lot of step photos and instructions, editing, testing etc. A lot.

The Gulnare

This morning I woke up feeling daunted by the hugeness of the task and frustrated about not being where I hoped I would. I re- read a post from James Clear that I keep a quote from pinned to my wall:

 “Reduce the scope, but stick to the schedule.”

It’s great advice. Great, simple advice that I still need to be reminded of often. The size of the project has changed and it requires a new strategy to finish.  Rather than pushing hard towards a completion date or relying on my enjoyment of the work to motivate me I’ve got it on my schedule everyday – 3 hours –  first thing in the morning: photographing, compiling, testing and editing.

I can’t wait for you to try the ship patterns and I know that focusing on the schedule rather than that goal is the most reliable way to get there.  If something, some goal has been eluding you I recommend trying the approach.

starting where you are

I think if you want to make progress, find your best work and ideas, you must be willing to start where you are – as awkward or small as that might be.  I’m usually very willing to do that – it’s one of my main life skills (the other is that I am insanely persistent, relentless even, the cool hand luke of art and craft).  As soon as I started to compile the patterns I’m working on I realized that video instruction would be helpful – there’s nothing like a demonstration and it helps with language barriers on tricky steps. I have no video making knowledge or equipment beyond my semi  broken iphone and a part of a tripod I found in the trash  but I put something together with stuff I had around that’s working well enough and I wanted to show you in case you’re in need of a similar solution.

video settup

I used a table lamp clamp I got at a yardsale,  a wood clothespin and 2 file clips.  The clips slide in and out of the clothespin easily and I can position it in a bunch of useful ways – it’s getting the job done.  I’m looking forward to getting better but having fun being a mess and experimenting. The whole pattern making experience has put me into that curious and driven kind of place that I was in when I began  7 years ago.

Today I was taking stills ( I don’t use the phone for that) and making videos for the next pattern – paper mache ships and boats (start saving your cereal boxes). I’m hoping to finish the photography tomorrow morning, test the rough draft this week, put it all together over the holiday weekend and have it available just after that.

ship mast

ship romance

paintbox 7/29

paint box 7/29

The ships and boats are a very satisfying project to make and I’m excited about sharing it.

Thanks so much to everybody who has purchased the bird pattern. I’m putting a post together of birds made by y’all and if you’d like to be included you can send a photo to me at: ann at ann wood handmade dot com  (please put bird photo in the subject).

podcast interview

I’m a big fan of  Abby Glassenberg’s  Podcast : While She Naps.  I love having things to listen to while I’m doing mountains of sewing and her  show is one of my favorites.  She asked me to be on a while ago and I took a leap and said yes. It’s definitely something way out of my comfort zone but I’m happy I did it.  Abby is a great interviewer and we had fun.  We talk about creativity, process, sewing, selling patterns, and all sorts of other things. You can listen to the episode here and below is a quote that I love  from a book we talked about:

“Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure.They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.”

Catching the Big Fish – David Lynch

songbird

new songbird in progress

how to make a perfect bird leg

I keep adding things to the bird pattern. Last week I decided it needs videos so last weekend I shot how to sew the body, ( it’s the trickiest part) you’ll get a link to that with the pattern download. And today I shot “how to make a perfect bird leg”.

mason

It’s one of the things I’m most often asked about, the little bird legs, so I thought I would share that now as a gift. It’s my first ever video! It should be below  – if not click here.

How to Make a Perfect Bird Leg

*measurements are approximate for a bigger foot use more wire and create a bigger loop

* and one correction – if you find the 18 gauge wire to difficult use a HIGHER gauge wire – I incorrectly said lower gauge

tools and materials list:

18 or 19 gauge steel wire (hillman is my favorite brand)
floral tape (flora is my favorite brand)
needle nose pliers
wire cutter
hammer
hard surface

I hope you make bird legs! And stay tuned for the little bird pattern – it’s almost there. If you’d like email updates about new patterns and workshops etc. you can subscribe here.  Be sure to check the “make something” box on the signup form.

 

march

I love March.  Especially after a winter like this has been – and it’s not over – but the last couple days have been glorious.  The sun was out, the windows were open and I worked on  little birds this morning.

bird work

I finished the little group of  camper birds this afternoon and started photographing things for the shop.

camper birds

bird departure(after their official photo they went off to enjoy the day)

I got such a late start on photos I had very uneven light – I have found that a sheet of cheap drugstore white poster board makes a  very serviceable reflector.

poste board reflector

Checkout the difference with and without:

lamb shadow

march_lambs

(The birds and lambs will be in the shop tomorrow 3/12)

designing soft sculpture or toys

stuffed animals

Abby Glassenberg makes wonderfully imaginative and incredibly well made toys and in her new book “Stuffed Animals: From Concept to construction” she shows you how to make them as well as how to create your own designs.


This is a solid, comprehensive guide to sewing 3 dimensional shapes – essential skills are explained and demonstrated clearly through 16 delightful and detailed projects.

As you make each project you learn a skill to use in creating your own inventions – like darts and gussets and joints.

tools

The 52 lessons, tips, tricks and equipment overview make this a great place to start  for beginners as well as an excellent reference for more advanced sewers interested in designing patterns or soft sculpture or improving the quality of their work.

I don’t generally review things here but this book answers  questions I’m asked so frequently I wanted to offer it as reference for anyone interested in sewing their own designs.

sponginess and some irregularity

These are the two of the  qualities I wanted my mushrooms to have – a sense of sponginess and sometimes a little oddness in the shapes.

toadstools

I also  very much wanted a concave underside for the cap – that has been the biggest struggle in creating the patterns and process . I didn’t want to make something realistic or botanical, not this time anyway,  but I did want a great deal of mushroom-ness. Mushroom strangeness. Also contributing to  mushroom-ness, I hope,  are  the curvy stems and tilted caps – impossible balance but for  stem bottoms weighted with glass bead fill thanks to a tip from abby glassenberg.

glass fill

It’s marvelous stuff. It is also magical stuff- pretty and sparkly and there is some delight and ceremony  in taking out the wooden  box I keep it in and spooning a bit into the stem.

There are new Fortuny toad stools too- I’ll show you those and more new things from that collection tomorrow.

squam art workshop

I taught a boat making  class at The Squam Art Retreat in the beginning of June.  It was my first time at  Squam  and my first time teaching anything ever.  Teaching was a leap of faith sort of thing and I think it went well – I didn’t spontaneously combust or anything and everybody made truly great boats. I liked teaching more than I expected to, so much so I hope to do it again soon – maybe here in NYC .  The class was held in the nature center – Sugar House – it’s a  camp so all the buildings have names.

squam classroom

I had wonderful students – skilled, generous and lots of fun.

julie's boat

I have written a few tutorials but participating in other people’s very individual processes, feeling their enthusiasm and having a peek into their imaginations was an interesting shift in perspective. I left with some new energy for my own work and pretty fired up about teaching again .

student boats

And  I made new friends  including some from right here in Brooklyn :  lovely and talented Jessica  Marquez – she has a book coming out in October ( congratulations!)  and   Rebecca Ringquist ,   I have  been a fan of her work for a very  long time  – she gave me two of her beautiful  hand screened embroidery samplers.

rebecca ringquist samplers

I wish I had taken more pictures. I saw the biggest weirdest bug I’ve ever seen in my life marching up a dock and did not take a photo.  The lake and the forest and the turn of the century cabins  are astoundingly beautiful and so up my alley – not one picture.  I was too busy having a fabulous time.  Other people took lots of great photos though-  there is a flickr group here.

Squam June 2012

(photo by Christine Chitnis)

the new artisans

I can hardly believe I’m included in this book – it is magnificent in every way. I think Olivier Dupon has created something very special.  In less expert hands this wealth of  information might  have been overwhelming or the spirit could have been lost but Olivier presents it with simplicity and real elegance – you are never distracted from the central idea: that this is a book about love of craft, process and materials or Olivier’s true affection for the subject.

Find the book: http://www.thamesandhudsonusa.com/new/fall11/551585.htm

on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-New-Artisans/108346249261751

Olivier’s blog:  http://dossier37.tumblr.com/

the new artisans

the new artisans

the new artisans

“This book captures the new mood – a return to a preference for the unique and the handmade. Design expert and acclaimed blogger Olivier Dupon has sourced the cream of the contemporary design world from all over Europe, Australia and the United States, profiling 75 artisans who use craft techniques, rather than mass-production methods, to create stylish, whimsical, covetable objects. Hundreds of colour photographs feature a huge variety of crafts, including art, ceramics, furniture, glasswork, jewelry, lighting, metalwork, papercraft, textiles and woodwork. Complete with a directory of products, and Dupon’s personal recommendations for inspiring shops and websites to visit, this is the perfect resource for discovering unique and beautiful objects made by new, talented artisans from all around the world.”

things to do on a rainy day

rainydayship

I made the ship above  as a prop for a TV commercial a couple years ago.  I assembled some boxes and parts of boxes into a shipish shape and then added all sorts of stuff – pipe cleaners, dixie cups, part of a birthday crown, wooden ice cream spoons, buttons, felt, etc. etc. The castle collage below was for an ad as well. I think they would be fun for little people to make ( with some grown up help).

castleflat

Both  involve using the die cut sections of boxes for details .  I can’t resist a good piece of cardboard – I live near a fancy grocery and their recycling is full cartons and boxes with  interesting cutouts and shapes.

cardboard

boxes

Everything I make starts in a box and then lives there until it’s done. The boxes are  for organization – keeping the many little bits for many little projects together and they are also a thinking tool  and  most importantly  a way to start, it is very easy to put things in a box.

owlbox3

I love Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit. Here’s a little of what she has to say about boxes:

“The box makes me feel organized, that I have my act together even when I don’t know where I’m going yet. It also represents a committment. The simple act of writing a project name on a box means that I’ve started work”

birdbox2

I have different sorts of boxes for different sorts of projects. The clear plexi boxes above are  children’s shoe boxes from  the Container Store.