All posts by annwood

the big 2020 review and plans for the new year

art and drawing supplies on a pink desk

let’s start with the first project of the new year:

Years ago I got a very old, wobbly, pink console table at a flea market in Brooklyn. Turning it into a place to make my little daily paintings was the first project of 2021. My current living situation (Guilford, Connecticut since June) is serviceable but I have not really made friends with it. The pink desk is the first thing that has made me feel at home, less disoriented in disorienting times.
It needed a thorough cleaning to brighten the odd pink paint and tightening the leg screws completely eliminated the wobble.

art and drawing supplies on a pink desk

Ritual and habit anchor me. And the pink desk adds to the painting ritual. They happen mostly in the evening, the last thing I do each day. Pretty much. I haven’t missed a day in two plus years. I love that it’s waiting for me. It removes an obstacle to beginning. Removing obstacles is super helpful when committing to practice, to building a habit.

art and drawing supplies on a pink desk

more on new year plans in a minute, first let’s look back

Amidst the swirling debacle that was 2020, two lifelong dreams were fulfilled.

You know I love a list. Partly because I like to look back and see what stuck and what didn’t. What plans turned into reality and what stayed in the someday folder. I made an intentionally audacious (audacious for me anyway) list in 2015.  Looking back at it now I’m surprised how much of it came true. It also pointed me back at some things I’d still like to accomplish and some I’m probably letting go of. Like surfing. Mostly cause I’m scared of sharks.

Two big items on the list happened this past summer:

I planted a garden and took a pottery class. The hurricane at the beginning of August dropped a huge tree on the little garden and pretty much wiped it out but still… some stuff survived (mostly herbs and radishes) and I got to play in dirt and ate stuff I grew myself. I also learned a lot about bunnies, bugs and deer…

3 ceramic handmade plates

The pottery class was at the Guilford Art Center over the summer. It took most of the ten week class for me to figure out what I want to make and learn even the basic rules of clay. I am swirling with ideas and all the energy of being a beginner.

hand holding a tiny ceramic mushroom

And I made a painting. I’ve been intending to bust out the mini scale of my painting work and experiment for a long time.  At the end of the year I made it a priority. It was an experience. I learned a lot, including that paint is expensive. It’s something I’ll continue to experiment with but at a less ambitious size unless I win the lottery.

blog and shop stuff

A few highlights : The Elegant (and sometimes nude) Rag doll pattern was released as well as 9 new free tutorials:

picnic bugs
wire doll house bed
overalls for the tiny rag doll and mr. socks
miniature paper hens
scrap flower garlands
chicken ornaments
owl ornaments
pin girls
lucky fish

mouse doll house tea party

My favorite project of the year was the mouse house. Made for joy. 100% Joy. And that’s my plan for 2021. Look for Joy. Indulge in and commit hard to things that bring Joy and let go of things that don’t.

Two of the big lessons from 2020 for me were:

1. Take nothing for granted.
2. I’m capable of more than I think.

Weeding out the things that don’t really bring Joy is harder than it sounds. But I can make it the first question. Put it at the top of the list when deciding what to spend time on, let it steer me. I think the daily painting practice helps with that. Showing up and listening to myself.

If you’re feeling up for a daily practice the 100 Day Project is a good opportunity to test drive one. The next round starts January 31st. Think of it as an opportunity to listen to yourself.

I’m still feeling around for my goals for this year. There are a few things I know for sure in the short term – in the next few weeks you will see a new sewing pattern (the crow), prints and notecards made from daily paintings and plans for the third annual international scrap festival.

Lots of other ideas are still swirling and percolating and I’m giving them room to do that. Building more time in my days to feel around for Joy.

creatures and dolls stitched by readers

It’s hard to choose what to share here, there is so much. And one of the ideas I have swirling around for this year is making it easier for you to share images with me and with each other.  It’s ambitious but I think it would be lovely to have our own community, a place for sharing what you make and ideas. And I think it adds to the charm of the patterns – you all come up with such sweet variations and details.  Does that idea appeal to you? You can let me know in the comments and I’ll keep you posted as I explore possibilities for that.

Checkout the reader made items below and you’ll also find some instagram feeds that I think will be right up your alley.

Love the color and fabric combinations in this songbird in progress by @summerkiser

*you can click the thumbnails for larger images

4.

Elegant and sometimes nude dolls with lots of reader added details.  Made for the the elegant rag doll sewing pattern.

1. @rukodelie_vesnushki

2. and 3. @marilinalittlecraft

4. @angelamarry1

Sweet tiny rag dolls! Full outfitted for adventure. Made from the tiny rag doll pattern and some of the free miss thistle society patterns.

1. @little.village.time
2. @each.of.these

The last free project of the year was a big hit.  There are lots of little Rocky inspired owls in the world now. Made from the Owl Ornament Pattern

1. @cjasews

2. @catsinthecupboard

3. @paper_thread

Chickens! by @cote_jardin28 I love the garland! Made from the minimalist chicken pattern.

I Love this songbird’s attitude and body language. It’s got lots of birdness. Made by @erinsloanprints  from the Songbird Sewing Pattern.

So dastardly! These ill tempered owls are by @erinpcf using the Dastardly Owl Pattern.

Dear Mr. Socks! All bundled up. The sweet coat is made from this free pattern.

1. @everbelles

2. @terrywilsonnecco

There are so many great things to see. You can checkout #annwoodpattern and #missthistlesociety  on instagram for more.

And please let me know what you think about making a community here- is it redundant? Does it sound interesting to you?

handmade christmas: oranges, tinsel and wax paper

making citrus slice ornaments

Simple and sweet. Low pressure. That’s what I’m looking for this year. Plus most of the Christmas stuff is at the bottom and back of all stored things. It seemed like a good idea when I moved in June but now digging it out is entirely unreasonable. I sure do love a Christmas tree though. And a festive smell. Making citrus slice ornaments delivered both. It was easy and I had fun doing it. The smell is exquisite.

making citrus slice ornaments

I followed this tutorial.  A couple notes: I sliced pretty thin and setting the timer was key. 175 degrees turning every hour worked well, my slices were done after four hours.

baking orange slices on a cookie sheet

A couple that were thicker were still a little soft and a couple of the lemon slices were overdone. I’ll eventually paint these with something shiny and clear for extra preservation.

orange slice ornaments on a norfolk pine christmas tree

I love the effect. They are super light and perfect for my norfolk pine who isn’t that into being decorated. I also had some wax paper snowflakes from last year, my mother’s glass bead garlands and some antique tinsel (I’ve been using the same tinsel for years).

I’m super happy with my super simple tree. For wrapping I’m sticking with painted craft paper with tags made from the paper trimmed off the daily paintings.  I go on and on about this here.  And the owl and chicken and fish make perfect additions for extra sweet packages.

hand painted brown paper and tags and ornament extras

I hope your holidays are peaceful and healthy and happy!

ann

owl ornament diy

And I’ve made you something!

These little owl ornaments are a perfect project for little scraps and they are quick to make. I’m making lots as gifts or to add to packaging.

They’re inspired by the little, lost Saw-whet owl who was accidentally transported to NYC with the giant tree for Rockefeller Center this year. He has since gotten some first aid and been returned to his forest.  What an ordeal for the little guy!

owl ornament sewing pattern

Let’s make little owl ornaments!

You probably already have everything you need. And they lend themselves to batch production A glue stick really helps with that – the parts are little and a glue stick is much quicker and easier than pins. You can set up a bunch of fronts so they’re all ready to stitch.  It’s easier than pins.

download the pattern

You will also need:

  • scraps – wool, cotton and linen are great
  • a basic sewing kit
  • chopstick or similar
  • gluestick
  • buttons
  • embroidery thread

1. Cut out two body pieces, two eye pieces and one head and beak and one each of the three wing pieces.

2. With the right side of the front body fabric facing you use a tiny bit of glue stick to place your pieces as shown. Leave the top wing piece off for now.

3. Use a contrasting color embroidery thread to stitch the head cover and wing pieces in place.

4. Stitch buttons to the center of the circles with embroidery thread also. Use regular sewing thread in a matching color to stitch the beak in place with tiny whip stitches around the edge.

5. Uses a contrasting embroidery thread to stitch around the eyes and add some straight stitches to his breast.

6. Create a loop of string or embroidery thread for hanging and knot the ends. Mark the 1/4 inch seam allowance on the wrong side of the back fabric.

7. Place the hanging loop on the face of the owl with the loop facing down and the tails near fabric edge.

8.  Place the back body over the front – right sides together-  pin and sew the seam leaving open along the wing side.

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what’s on my worktable : mending, rag dolls and other loose ends

mending a linen smock

mending a linen smock

Mending never ends. The contemporary holly hobby look requires constant maintenance and if I let it get ahead of me I have nothing to wear. I currently have nothing to wear except yoga pants so I’ve officially declared November wardrobe maintenance month. Plus I like to do it, I love the meandering stitches, patches on patches and unexpected color combinations. It chills me out and invites the universe in. Once I sink in I can spend lost hours stitching, percolating ideas and talking to the plants.

mending a linen smock

(Find the free pattern for the awesome pin cushion here)

Hexies sneak into everything, I love the way the look, just popping up once in a while in non-hexie situations and they are also super handy for tight spots with angles, like near a zipper or seam corner and little pull holes near pockets or straps.

I’m working on patterns too – the crow is coming, seriously it is, there was a technical debacle but I’m still shooting for this year. Also patterns for the soldier doll, more clothes for the elegant rag doll  and a new botanical are in the works.

textile owls and birds in progress

And finishing other almost done stuff feels like a good way to end this weird year. For me that starts with making piles and gathering the supplies I need to finish. Also known as tricking myself into starting. The tiny bit of progress gets my wheels turning.

rag doll parts on my worktable

There was a big box of elegant rag doll parts and semi-done samples made for shooting the pattern. Naked and not naked ladies are emerging. I’ll start putting them (and anything else that makes it across the finish line) in the shop soon.

elegant and nude rag dolls

 What are you stitching this November? Are you mending? Making holiday stuff? I’ve got some gift an ornament stuff going too and  I’ll show you next week.  And check out this raccoon!  It’s genius! Made by @erinpcf from the very nice mice pattern with very clever modifications. I love him.

tiny felt raccoon made form the very nice mice pattern

shop news:

tiny rag doll sewing kit

Tiny rag doll and mr. socks kits are back in stock. And the stitch paintings are available again too including two new designs!

embroidery - blue rooster stitch painting

embroidery - bird stitch painting

8 ideas for your scraps : the autumn scrap festival and swap

scrap sewing projects

scrap sewing projects

It’s officially cozy season and I’m comin’ in hot, in full Autumnal mode. I’ve got a spooky book, scraps in warm fall shades for hexies, wool and felt to bundle up littles and another brand new free pattern for you, it’s perfect for scraps. Plus I’ve scoured the internet for a few more awesome scrap projects for you.

*This post contains an affiliate link marked with an asterisk –  I get a small commission  if you purchase through the link.

And a swap! By popular demand we are having an autumn scrap swap – the rules and details are pretty much the same as the spring.

Find the rules, signup link and the “don’t make me turn this car around” speech right here.

*The swap is full and signups are closed

 

burnt offerings by Robert Marasco

Let’s talk about the *spooky book – a classic haunted house situation. It was recommended by a friend with excellent taste last year and I finally got around to it this year. I’m enjoying it immensely (about ¾ of the way through). Besides being spooky it’s set in the 70’s in New York which I love.

Back to the scraps:

There are tons of scrap appropriate projects in my free pattern collection the most recent being:

1. the minimalist chicken

2. slow stitch fish

3.  Another favorite for this time of year are the trees – I’m working on  a little group now.

stuffed pine tree sewing pattern

A few more awesome scrap projects for you:

hand stitched merit badges diy

4. merit badges – who doesn’t need a charming acknowledgment of their accomplishments  – big and small. I can think of all sorts of interesting contemporary categories like – great job putting on pants today…

5. reversible patchwork bag – it’s adorable and the tutorial is great. I’m a big fan of project bags and patchwork so it’s a double winner for me – plus you could keep scraps in it.

6. For your bigger scraps – a sweet multi pocket apron.  You can never have enough pockets.

nostagi christmas light ornament diy

7. nostalgic christmas lights – It’s not too early!  Especially if you’re making stuff for gifts. Man these are sweet and nostalgic. The tutorial is great and they are super easy to make.

8. A super simple and charming quilt. I love this and have started cutting rectangles. I’m not sure if I’ll quilt and bind it or use it as a duvet. I love the way the rectangles look and the simplicity of construction – strips of varying width but the same length.

Do you have a favorite scrap project, awesome spooky book  or a seasonal indulgence to share? Please leave it in the comments!

Till soon,

ann

the somewhat weekly newsletter

Do you get my free weekly-ish newsletter? There are tips and tricks, ideas, stuff to try, all the latest news and blogposts and extra stuff, just for subscribers, delivered mostly on Friday. Pretty much.


scrap project ideas

chicken ornament : free sewing pattern

fabric scrap chicken ornaments

fabric scrap chicken ornaments

Let’s make minimalist chickens. They are quick and easy and the sort of thing you can make in batches. I bet you know at least a dozen people who need a chicken ornament. Stuff them with wool or something that smells good, they are a sweet and silly surprise either way.

The idea for them turned up in my sketchbook and then bounced back and forth between drawing and sewing as many things do for me in the percolation phase. As the design became increasingly simple I was more and more happy with it. The little legs especially make them expressive and animated. I used laundry starch to stiffen them so I could get just what I wanted.
You just need scraps (stay tuned for scrap swap news later this week) and a few other things to get started.

**download the pattern**

You will also need:

  • fabric scraps – light cotton or linen
  • felt (I like wool felt)
  • embroidery thread
  • glue stick
  • stuffing
  • a basic sewing kit
  • pencil

1. Pin the body pattern to 2 layers of fabric with the right sides together. Mark the seam line lightly in pencil. Cut out the three small parts from felt. Pin the body pieces – right sides together – near the tail end.

2. Fold back the front of the top body piece.

3. Add a tiny bit of glue to the edge of the beak and waddle felt pieces and place on the body fabric exactly as shown – note that there is a little empty space above the beak.

4. Fold the top body piece back down and pin in place. Stitch just the bottom curved seam. Place the felt comb piece as shown above the body.

inserting the felt comb

5. Insert the felt comb between the layers – placing it exactly as shown – note the little triangle of space between the comb and beak.

6. Stitch the top seams leaving the center open.

7. Clip little triangle notches around the curved seam and clip  off seam allowance  the corners. Be careful not to clip the seam.

8. Use your chopstick to turn the chicken right side out.

9. Stuff the body.

10. Make a loop with embroidery thread and knot.

11. Fold the edges of the body opening in and begin to whipstitch closed. As you are closing the opening insert the loop tails with the knot just inside the folded edges and stitch it in place.

embroidering details

12. You might find this method for hiding your knots helpful for embroidering the details. I added an X on each side for eyes.  Small buttons would be sweet too. Make a few stitches for the wings on each side. For the tail I stitched through both sides with straight stitches.

13. For the legs make a knot about two inches from the end of a length of embroidery thread. Make a tiny stitch in the seam about 2 and 1/2 inches from the point of the tail and pull until the knot catches.

14. Put the needle back in and come out about 1/2 inch away in the seam towards the head.  Make a tiny knot.

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lucky fish : slow stitch project

slow stitch scrap fish diy

slow stitch scrap fish diy

Who doesn’t need some luck? Plus these very simple fish are pulling me out of slushy, stubborn stuckness.

One thing leads to another, if you let it, but first you need to start. Where I really started was ironing, ironing scraps. It went on my to do list because it was an easy win (I felt like doing it). And I had saved a couple bundles of scraps, each sent by a friend, to sort and iron pre-move.

slow stitch fabric fish diy

As I ironed and sorted by color the wheels started to turn and I felt a strong and persistent spiritual directive to slow stitch some fish.

Maybe you feel like stitching some fish too. Let it be a meandering process, try stuff. Let one thing lead to another.

** DOWNLOAD THE FISH TEMPLATE **

You will also need:

  • fabric scraps – light cotton or linen
  • little scraps, buttons lace for embellishing
  • stuffing
  • a basic sewing kit
  • pencil

cutting out fabric fish shape

1. Pin the pattern to 2 layers of light cotton fabric – right sides of the fabric together – and cut out. Be sure to clip out the little triangle notches.

2. Mark the seam line lightly in pencil.

3. Stitch the seam by hand or machine, leaving open between the notches. Find hand sewing tips here. 

4.  Clip notches around the curves and clip off the points at the nose and tail. Be careful not to clip the seam.

5. Use a chopstick to turn the fish right side out.

6.  Pro tip: use a plastic mechanical pencil to push out the corners – retract the lead first.

7. Stuff your fish.

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hand sewing tips

As chill and relaxing as hand sewing can be, something not turning out right or completely falling apart after hours and hours of work sure is frustrating. I asked the somewhat weekly newsletter subscribers a question last week – are you a beginner and if so what sorts of questions do you have? The most common answer was about basic stitching. From non beginners too. In fact most people who responded were not beginners. It has also been a question at every single workshop I’ve ever taught.

I have a strong opinion on hand sewing: small is the way to go. Really small, between 1/16th and 1/8th inch stitch length. Definitely no bigger than 1/8th. The gaps between the stitches too – smaller than 1/8th. I hope we’re still friends…

A few other tips to set yourself up for success:

*This post contains affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission if you purchase though the link. Affiliate links are marked with as asterisk.

Don’t be in a hurry – take a meditative approach. And practice helps a lot.

Have adequate light.

Mark your seam line – lightly in pencil or with a disappearing marker.

Use a good needle. I like size 9 -11 for basic sewing. *John James is a good brand and easy to find.

Thread – historically I’ve been kind of a slob about it – whatever’s around.  I think cotton is best and recently I tried  *Aurifil and it is fantastic.  And don’t use a super long length of thread – it’s tempting to avoid having to stop and rethread but it will tangle and slow you down.

Secure knots are important – more on that below.

Let’s practice on a simple shape

I’m using the heart from the free needle book pattern.  Use any simple shape you like. We will also turn and stuff the heart to demonstrate a couple more tips.

fabric heart with seam line drawn on

Before you start sewing mark the seam line clearly on your fabric, It helps immensely. Especially when you are sewing small items – the margin of error is small. Also besides large and loose stitches wandering away from the seam line is the biggest reason for hand stitching failing explosively and who wants an explosive failure?

making the knot

Solid knots are key to success! So is the thread length. Cut a length of about 16 inches. Longer thread will tangle.

1. Thread your needle and double the end of the thread.

2. Tie a knot in the doubled end.

3. Pull the ends down and clip  most of the ends – leaving just a little.

4. Bring the needle up through the fabric.  To make extra sure your stitches don’t pull out knot the first stitch – make a very tiny stitch and put your needle through the loop before you tighten it.

5. Tighten the knot. Put the needle in about 1/16th inch away to begin the next stitch.

6. Notice that I’m bringing the needle through the fabric from the top.

7. And then back up from the bottom.

multiple stitches at the same time on the needle

8. As opposed to weaving the needle through to take multiple stitches at once. This is a controversial point. The multiple stitches method goes faster. A lot faster. But the result is, in my opinion, looser and less consistent. I use it for decorative stitching but never when I’m joining layers of fabric.

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scrap fabric project : flower garland

scrap flower garland diy

scrap flower tutorial

*Many of you have asked about the wood thread winders – they are awesome! And you can find them at French General.

These garlands are an experiment in color, working with fabric scraps in green, lots of berry shades and  a little bit of very hot pink. I love the combination of the cooler organic shades with this one super bright (almost neon) shade. This is a project I brought to a workshop this past spring, you know, one million years ago. The idea was to provide an invitation to play and some constraints – in this case time (it was the end of the workshop) and color.

Buttons and wood beads add interest and a little weight so it hangs nicely and you’ll nee a little  stuffing for an extra special touch – more on that in a minute.

You could use ribbon, string, twill tape etc. for the base or make a fabric strip yourself. There are directions for that below but let’s make the scrap flowers first.

make a flower garland from scraps
You will need

  • fabric scraps
  • buttons
  • embroidery thread
  • wood or glass beads
  • stuffing
  • basic sewing kit
  • sewing machine – for making the strip

making the flowers

easy scrap flower tutorial

1. Start by cutting a bunch of shapes from your scraps. Don’t think too much or edit yourself at this point, just give yourself a bunch of shapes to play with – a variety of circles and leaves. Part of the value in this exercise for me is that I end up putting things together that I might not have if I made a plan first. Note – the shapes do not need to be perfect.

 scrap flower garland DIY

2. Layer the leaf and flower shapes and stitch them together with embroidery thread. I cut some circles into pinwheel shapes. Some are just layered and stitched, some edges are frayed. Try stuff. Make more flowers than you need, choices are good.

The puffy flowers in the necklace at the top of the post were added by one of the awesome workshops students – Michele Muska. They are a fantastic addition. She also added some charms and little fabric tails. I love the necklace.

3. The puffy flowers are super easy to make. Stitch around the edge of a circle – this one is about 3 inches across. Leave the needle and thread attached.

4. Gather until it’s almost closed. Add a little stuffing.

5. Pull tight and knot.

6. Bring the needle up through the center.

7. Loop around the edge and insert the needle in the bottom center. Bring the needle through the top center and pull tight.

8. Repeat this stitch around, evenly spaced, as many times as you like and then knot on the bottom. Add a button to the center if you like.

scrap flower pincushion tutorial

These flowers also make a sweet mini pin cushion. I liked it so much I interrupted my flower making to make a little needle book to add it to.

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miniature paper hens : free tutorial

dollhouse hen diy

miniature hen tutorial

Let’s make tiny chickens! So little and just the right size for tiny rag doll world. They are quick and easy to make and it’s fun to work on a bunch at once. I’m using crepe paper from a roll. Streamers work too but I think crepe paper from rolls and sheets is easier to work with. 

The hens are truly tiny, only about 2 inches from tail to beak. If you require a bigger little chicken I think it would be easy to scale them up.

lets’s make tiny paper hens!

miniature chicken tutorial

*This post contains affiliate links – meaning I get a small commission of you purchase though the links. The affiliate links are marked with an asterisk.

download the template here

You will also need:

  • one inch *styrofoam ball
  • *crepe paper – sheets or streamers – sheets are easy to work with I think
  • glue stick – I love the *uhu stick for paper
  • scissors
  • optional – manicure scissors – super helpful for making little cuts
  • acrylic paint and brushes
  • white glue – elmer’s is good
  • a fine tip black marker

1. Cut out and trace the two tiny template pieces onto cardboard.

2. Cut two triangles into the flat top of the head to make the comb.

3. Push the pointed bottom of the head piece into the ball.

4. Push it in until the bottom corners are inside the ball.

5. On the opposite side of the ball push the pointed bottom of the tail into the ball.

6. Push it in until the corners are inside the ball. Your piece should look like this. Paint a little white glue along the edge where the cardboard meets the ball. Let this dry.

7. Paint the cardboard the same color as your crepe paper.  After the base paint is dry paint the comb area with red and the beak with yellow. It’s already pretty chickeny isn’t it.

8. Stretch your crepe paper – streamers aren’t that stretchy but sheets and rolls of crepe paper are. Cut two strips – one inch wide and about nine inches long each.

9. Fold each strip matching up the edges – the folded piece should be about two inches long.

10. Clip into one side with your scissors creating pointy fringe.

11. Unfold the strips and cut off a two inch piece.

crepe paper hen tutorial

12. Apply glue stick to the tail and wrap the two inch fringe piece around it. Use a little more glue to tack down the end of the paper.

13. Let that dry for a few minutes. While it’s drying cut 8 one inch pieces and 6 half inch pieces.

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july is tiny rag doll month and sweet things made by customers

tiny rag doll sewing patterns

Pack up a few supplies, find a shady spot and spend a peaceful afternoon sewing. You will also need some lemonade and blueberries. Maybe bring some picnic bugs too, just to be nice.

tiny rag doll sewing patterns

Tiny rag dolls are great little projects to take with you.  And there are tons of free patterns and tutorials for her in The Miss Thistle Society. It’s such a deal – for example get the digital doll and wardrobe pattern and you’ve got  a doll, bloomers, a reversible pinafore, dress and camisole plus all the free patterns too. Hours and hours of fun.

The super sweet tiny dolls below are made by customers.  You can checkout lots more on instagram and share yours using #missthistlesociety and #annwoodpattern – there are tons of great ideas.

Links to the makers:

paper hen

PS – I hear you and a tiny chicken tutorial is coming soon – it’s super easy to make.