All posts by annwood

crow sew-along week 4 : finishing the crow

 parts of a textile crow on my worktable ready to be assembled

The final steps go fast. One minute there are a bunch of parts in front of you and the next thing you know there’s a big bird standing on your table.  It’s been a while since I made a crow and I expected the assembly to take way longer than it did. The reality was just a couple hours and that included me awkwardly filming myself. Let’s jump ahead and take a look at the finished guy before we talk about putting it all together. 

As soon as he was done I took him to the front yard for a photo. Just kidding! That’s the Henry Whitfield House in the background. It’s definitely haunted and the oldest house in Connecticut.

assembling the crow

don’t see the video? click here

Check out the video above  for a pretty solid look at stitching the eye, a little bit of the wing stitching plus a finishing tip at the end, something I do to all my feathered textile creatures. And keep reading for more assembly tips.

He got on his feet easily and did require a bunch of counter weight for balance (about 80 cents). Before closing up his back I pinned on his wings and tail for a test drive. The tail was fine but the wings felt like they needed a tiny bit more texture so I added a feather. 

The most difficult thing about assembling the crow is sewing everything on after the legs and beak are in. There are a couple things that help. Keep your thread pretty short, less to tangle, and hold your bird upside down, feet up, as much as possible, get gravity on your side.

I realized after his official photoshoot that I had forgotten the last step in the sewing pattern – shoving some stuffing up into his shoulders. I think maybe he doesn’t need it though, the extra ruffle detail on the top of his wings is enough.

Good luck assembling your crow! And congratulations where-ever you are in the process. This is the last of the 4 official  crow sew-along posts but we will need a finale post for sure, a parade of crows.  You can checkout crows in progress in the facebook group  and on instagram- #annwoodcrowsewalong.

Plus! the brand new ann wood handmade community – stitch club. Please click here to sign up.

sew along links:  week one     week two     week three

Are you ready to assemble your crow? Did you already cross the finish line? Just getting started? Let us know in the comments.

5 things bringing me joy and community questions

fish and owl ornaments in progress

fish and owl ornaments in progress

small sewing

The fish are getting stuffed with wool and dried lemon verbena from the garden. It dried really well and just a little mixed with wool adds lots of scent. I’m all about a fresh lemony smell. Starting little gifty items early makes me feel like an over-achiever. For now. This feeling will fall apart by November first and I’ll be in a holiday induced panic for weeks.

collection of small cotton prints stacked on my cutting table

fabric score

One of those “start the car!!” moments. Guilford has a couple great church thrift sales every year and I made a major fabric score. That’s yardage people!  And the prints are perfect for the tiny doll.  Little variety packs in autumnal shades will be in the shop next – week-ish.

frog rag doll lounging on a blanket in fall leaves wearing a miniature sweater

sweata weatha

These guys are made from the free frog pattern (the sweater was a gift).  I sure do love making something and then taking it outside for a photoshoot.  You can checkout a video version here.

And you can show me you what your frogs are up to be using #annwoodpattern on instagram or emailing a photo to info at ann wood handmade dot com.  There will be another exciting image sharing option coming soon – scroll to the bottom of this post for more.

 

spooky books

It’s an annual event for my friend Katy and me. This year the official picks are: Frankenstein – Mary Shelley, which I have somehow never read, and the 70’s title (I have a particular love of movies and books made in the 70’s) is Ghost Story by Peter Straub. I’m super into both.  Ghost Story is not available new but I found it at the library and used on ebay. It’s also available in ibooks.  I remember Ghost Story being on my Mom’s night stand a million years ago. Sometimes she would let me read her books with black crayon redactions but this one was entirely forbidden…

a crow wing in progress- feathers pinned in place

crow sew-along

The first ever sew-along (crow sewing pattern) has been a big surprise. There are way more participants than expected and awesome crows are emerging. The real magic (and biggest surprise) has been in the facebook group. There are more than 400 crow makers in the community and it is a supportive, fun, self-sufficient and friendly group. Experienced sewers are helping beginners and all kinds of ideas for fabulous crow details are turning up. Thanks very much to everybody for making it great. The wing photo above is by Heather on instagram.

textil mushrooms in the hands that made them

stitch club

For people who aren’t on social media having a place to share your images has been a problem for ages. The success of our first sew-along has lit a new fire under me to fix that. The ann wood handmade community, stitch club, is currently, officially in the works. I‘d love to know what you would like from that community. Some ideas are sew-alongs, project challenges, maybe make the scrap festival a more interactive event? Your thoughts and suggestions are very welcome. The fine print – at the moment I’m planning on this being a free community at least to start. If it ends up working out I’ll have to figure out how to pay for it and it will likely move to freemium – meaning membership is free but there are also classes or group events available to purchase. If it does’t work out the way I’m hoping I’ll delete the whole thing and we’ll never speak of it again (just kidding- I’ll keep looking for a solution that works for us).

The community site is in progress now, it’s currently top secret but If you want to try it out add please click here to sign up.

crow sew-along week 3 : add a little shimmer to the feet

Welcome to week 3!  Feet and beak. Before we start let’s talk about the schedule – are you way ahead? Way behind? Not exactly technically, officially started yet? It’s all fine. These posts aren’t going anywhere and know that where ever you are in the process a bunch of other people are too.  Plus life happens so do what you can.  My tail was late and I’m supposed to be in charge of this thing…

the feet and beak

The preferred paper covered wire has not been available so my crow-along feet are made using the masking tape method in the pattern. It works as well as the paper covered wire partly because floral tape is magic stuff. Wrapping tightly with the tape makes the legs stronger and smoother.

For color Decoart Americana craft paint is great. You can find it in most craft stores and it’s super cheap. The finish is very flat and it covers well. I ran into a bunch of it in a dollar store last year and have a lifetime supply that I use all the time.

A super simple way to add a little iridescent shimmer to the feet and legs is a lead pencil. It picks up some texture details and adds a subtle metallic shimmer. If you want to add a talon detail black or silver nail polish on the tips is great.

Sharpie is by far my favorite method for coloring the twig beak. It stains the wood and has a translucency that feels crow-ish.  My carving is pretty rough, leaving lots of texture. If you’re not comfortable with carving a twig, paper clay is a great alternative.

We are just past the half way point in the crow-along and I’m already thinking about the next sew-along – how about an autumnal owl? Let us know what you think in the comments. There are over 400!!  crow makers in the facebook group. The community is active, creative and supportive. Thanks so much to all of you.

Not a facebooker or instagrammer?  A community site is in progress now and is available to crow – sew-along participants only to test. It’s a private group and currently top secret. If you want to test it out add your name, location and email on this form.

What to expect: It’s pretty barebones at the moment but the basics are there. Some things will be changing over the next couple weeks as features and settings get tested and improved. Please be patient with me and yourself. I’ll roll out invitations a few at a time. When you are accepted you’ll get an email with tips and more info.

The hope is that by the crow sew-along finale there will be a place where everybody can share their crow on the new community site. Good luck with your feet and beak! Please leave your questions or tips in the comments.

sew along links:  week one     week two     week three

crow sew-along week 2 : top secret trick for wing texture

stitched crow wings with black feathery ruffles at the top

Welcome to week 2 of the crow-along!

Your goal for this week is to make your wings and tail. That’s steps 33 – 54 in the pattern. Please read through those steps before you start, it helps a lot to see where you are headed before you begin.

week 1 of the sew-along is here

stitched crow wings with black feathery ruffles at the top

The wings and tail are easy and quick and I’ve got a couple tips to make them even more crowy.

Tip #1 – Stripes are your friend.

Stripes give your feathers a little extra bang for the buck. With 2 layers of fabric, right sides together, place the feather pattern piece on the  diagonal and cut, super simple. A variety of scale is nice too.

The pieces are tacked down with a little glue stick. You can hand or machine sew the lines (step – 47 in the pattern.

Tip #2 – My top secret method for making feathery texture with a light weight fabric

 

Please watch the video above (click here if you don’t see the video). And I’ll go over the basics below.

You need a strip of lightweight fabric. The strip should be about 16 inches (it’s more than you will use but you don’t want to run out) of un-gathered fabric per wing. It’s about 1 and ¼ inches wide.

Gather the strip by hand or machine. My stitch line is slightly off center. It’s super quick and easy to do on the machine by turning the tension to the highest setting and the stitch length to the largest setting. If you’re gathering by hand make a back stitch after every couple inches to keep it from all unbunching.

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crow sew-along week 1 : making the body shape

textile crow and printed fabric overdyed with purplish black on my work table

Welcome to week 1 of the crow sew-along, or, crow-along! This week will be focused on getting the body shape sewn and stuffed. That’s steps 1- 32 in the sewing pattern, so do-able!

If you are new to this kind of sewing it seems like a lot before you begin. Focus on accomplishing one step at a time. Each step is super simple if you just focus on that task. You’re going to make an awesome crow.

How this sew-along works :

Each week we will focus on completing one section of the pattern. There will be a blog post with tips and some additional insight or instruction. All the pattern steps will not be recreated in the blog post – please follow the pattern steps in your pdf and read each section before beginning.

Please check the blog on Fridays for sew-along posts – there will not be an email each week.

This is not a class or live event. You don’t need to sign up for anything or be available at a particular time. All you need to do is purchase the crow pattern and complete the steps each week – sharing on instagram or facebook is totally optional.

Ask questions or offer your own tips in the comment section. There are lots of people participating and some are beginners. If you have made the crow before or you’re an experienced sewer and can help out with questions that is very much appreciated.

For sharing images and discussion please use #annwoodcrowsewalong and #annwoodpattern on instagram and you can join the crow facebook group.  At the end of the sew along I’ll also provide an email you can send photos to so you can share your finished crow that way if you like.

Let’s start by checking out how the parts come together to make a 3 dimensional shape. Seeing the bird assembled helps you get your head around the construction steps before you start. This is especially helpful if you haven’t sewn anything 3-D before. Please watch the video above – if you don’t see the video click here.

week 1 – making the body

Please read the pattern notes and at least the first 32 steps before beginning.

textile crow and printed fabric overdyed with purplish black on my work table

I chose a cotton fabric salvaged from a vintage apron for the body.  The wings and tail will be made from that fabric as well as other scraps that were overdyed in black. Overydyed fabric is a great way to use a bunch of old clothes or fabric  scraps you already have for your crow. It’s especially helpful if you’re feeling stuck on fabric selection, throw a bunch of scraps in a dye bath and see what turns up. The fabrics above were dyed with RIT dye which gives a very purple tone.  I’ll mix these with some true black for variety in the feathers.

In steps 1- 4 of the pattern you will cut out your pattern pieces and mark the seam line.  Careful cutting will make the rest of the project much easier and  it’s super important to not skip marking the seam line even if you are a very experienced stitcher. I’m using a white colored pencil. Measure and mark dots at ¼ inch  all around the pieces and then connect the dots. It goes fast – marking all the pieces only took about 15 minutes. Pro tip: place a sheet of fine sandpaper under the fabric piece and it won’t slide around so much.

Also mark the front of the head and the section to leave open.

In steps 5 – 8 we begin to assemble the body by adding the head gusset. If this is your first gusset congratulations! Notice I’ve used a ton of pins. I’m sewing the seam on the machine and I don’t want my carefully matched edges to move around. Pin and sew the other side of the head and follow steps 9-11 to sew the back seam.

the exciting and magical world of darts!

Darts are magic, they pull the crows legs under him. Darts look scary and complicated but they’re not! And once you know how darts work a new world of sewing possibilities is available to you. Before we install the underbody we sew the darts. Make your marks carefully using the dart template (steps 12-13).

Fold the leg in exactly on the fold line (step 14). I always stitch these by hand using super small stitches.

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overdyeing fabric scraps for birds and mushrooms and owls

textile mushroom with a goldenrod dyed cap with french knots

Overdyeing, dyeing fabric that already has color or print, can transform cut up clothes and all sorts of mismatched scraps into great fabric for birds and owls and mushrooms.

Let’s start with a natural dye, goldenrod. It’s all over the place on the east coast right now and I’ve always wanted to make dye with it. You can find all the details in this tutorial for the dye experiment , here’s what happened in my rookie effort.

goldenrod flowers and scraps of printed an linen fabric for dyeing

The scraps are cotton and linen, some with prints and several neutral shades.  The fabric gets soaked in hot water before going into the dye. I harvested enough flowers to half fill a big stock pot. They were brought to a boil and then simmered for about an hour.

I did not love the smell. It’s not really a bad smell – just kind of a lot. The color was lovely. Following the tutorial I added about a tablespoon of alum (It’s used for canning and found in the spice aisle in the grocery store) to the pot after straining out the plants and before adding the soaked fabric.

textile mushroom with a goldenrod dyed cap with french knots

After the simmering was done (about an hour) the scraps stayed in the pot while it cooled. The results were an odd yellow perfect for a mini toadstool.

And there is a bird in progress too. There is something about the wash of color over different fabrics that make it feel birdlike and natural. I’ll share the finished bird here soon. I’ve got a few others in progress including blue birds made from fabric overdyed with woad blue (these were done with french general in France this summer).

a selection of prints and solid fabric overdyed with black

And these black scraps are for the crow sew-along. They are dyed with black RIT dye. It’s a purpley shade and perfect to mix into the wing fabrics.

Have you tried plant based dyeing or overdyeing? Are you gathering fabric for your crow? Let us know in the comments.

the first ever sew-along : make a crow (or raven)

handmade textile crow on a table with stones, cermaic vessels, plants and crystals- there is an antiquey feel

One of the great things about a sew-along is it gives you a container, some structure, for a project you might have on your someday list. It breaks it down into manageable pieces and those milestones create momentum. Plus the fun of working on something with lots of other people, the extra motivation and  inspiration that comes with that. And you get insight and tips that go beyond the pattern. We can take deeper dives into stuff like fabric choice, sewing tips and details.

handmade textile crow on a table with stones, cermaic vessels, plants and crystals- there is an antiquey feel

October is a perfect month to make a crow (or raven) and the first ever! ann wood handmade sew-along begins on Friday September 30th 2022. That gives you (and me) two whole weeks to get your stuff together.

A great way to start is the box method.  An actual container. Everything I make starts in a box and lives there until it’s done. The boxes are for organization and they are also a thinking tool. Most importantly a way to start, it is very easy to put things in a box.

In the sew-along posts I won’t be recreating every step of the pattern but I will be demonstrating some steps with further detail and tips. Also if you are participating and tagging on instagram, your progress photo might get featured.

Please use #annwoodcrowsewalong and #annwoodpattern . And – also optional -there’s a facebook group you can join here.

what you’ll need to participate:

 

sewing pattern for a realistic crowget the pattern button

The crow pdf sewing pattern (sorry booklets are not currently available)

Some time – the sew-along will take place over 4 weeks. I’ll give you a schedule on the kick off day (9/30) of what needs to be accomplished each week. Plan on having 2 – 4 -ish hours per week to work on your crow steps.

The pattern contains a material list but a couple notes:

Fabric – For the body a medium weight cotton is ideal. Scraps of silk and velvet work well for feathers and details. Incorporate different shades to give the feathers iridescence – very dark blues, green and purples work well.

Old or vintage clothes are great – suits, lace, prints over-dyed with black would be cool. And speaking of prints, your body fabric does not need to be solid. I used a calico print for the crow in the pattern. Most important is to have a variety of sheen, textures and tones.

textile crow on a pink table next to a pile of black scraps from victorian garments

Really old garments are interesting and inspiring to work with, lots of pleats and trims etc. Ebay is a good source and there is a helpful link in the crow pattern to a specific search category that I’ve been using for years. If you are persistent you can pick up damaged antique garments for not too much money that make great feathers.

There are resource links in the pattern for a couple supplies that are out of stock. I don’t currently have an alternative source for the paper covered wire for feet so we will use the alternative method included in the pattern and make our own. You can find the 18 gauge wire you’ll need in most hardware stores. And floral tape is available in lots of places online and in most big craft stores.

Let’s get inspired! Checkout a few crows made from the pattern.

handmade crow posed on a pink upholstered chair in a forest

Meg McElwee (sew liberated) wrote a beautiful post about her experience stitching her crow – check it out here.

And more awesome crows below – links to the makers where possible.

 

1. by Maralee, 2. by Brandi, 3.  by Amy, 4. by Donna 5. by Elizabeth

Are you feeling inspired to stitch a crow? Gather your materials and check back on September 30th for the first sew-along post. If you feel like sharing your material gathering I’d love to see -please use  #annwoodcrowsewalong and #annwoodpattern on instagram. There’s also a facebook group – you do not have to join to participate but you can if you like – find it here.

sew along links:  week one     week two     week three      week 4

glamping with very nice mice

little handmade mice with a feed sack tent on a camping trip

little handmade mice with a feed sack tent on a camping trip

The admiral, mrs. croft and friends set out on a holiday camping adventure over the labor day weekend. They are, of course, glampers. The kind of mice who feel a chandelier, china, carpets and a proper bed are bare necessities. (PS – note on the photo – the fire is pretend- photoshopped in)

fabric mice preparing their camp site

Do you know some very nice mice who love to camp?

The little tent is made from this free pattern with some adjustments. Print the pattern at 85% and cut out on the cut line. I did not sew it. It’s just one layer of fabric (a vintage feedsack I’ve been saving for just this sort of occasion). The edges are raw. It took about 5 minutes to make.

The mice are made from another free sewing pattern.

a tiny table for mice set with miss matched mini china

The diy for the little dishes is right here.

The wire bed diy is here and the mini chandelier is here. and some more mouse house details here.

Have your very nice mice had adventures? Let us know in the comments.

make this very scrappy and super crafty bunting

scrap puff bunting over my work table

sesomg colrful mini suffolk puffs on a hot day by a pool

In the slushy, hot doldrums of summer it’s the perfect recreational sewing project. A couple weeks ago I started making a few and lost control of myself. You know how that goes. There was no real plan for them but an idea for very scrappy and super crafty bunting emerged while I was stitching.

scrap puff bunting over my work table

mini yoyos (about 1 and 3/8th inch across) in my hand

These little vintage Yoyo’s, or Suffolk Puffs, turned up at the French General workshop.
There is something extra dear and compelling about them and I was immediately charmed. Maybe it’s the size? They are smaller than I have seen before and the fabrics are fabulous.

Maybe you need some scrappy bunting or you are just in the mood to stitch a bunch of something, either way, I got you. It’s super easy and takes forever.

 

1. Start with a circle of light cotton fabric that is 3 and ⅜ th inches in diameter. You can use this template. Use sturdy thread – I’m using cotton perl. Put your needle in ¼ inch from the edge on the wrong side of the fabric and fold the edge over.

2. Stitch right along the folded edge with stitches about ¼ inch.

3. Gather tightly and knot – optional – iron flat – I like them very squished.

That’s the slow part. Making all those little puffs. The assembly part was much quicker than I expected.

 

To assemble the bunting lay out the triangle shape as shown –  a row of 4 on top, next a row of 3, 2 and 1  (I used 10 but you could also make a smaller triangle with less for a mini bunting).

Stitch the string of 4 together with sewing thread. I connected them with 3 or 4 knotted stitches on top of each other. Pro tip – keep your thread attached and trim it later.

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new tutorial : miniature farm house plate rack

doll house with tiny dishes in a green wood plate rack on the wall. The house is made from cardboard and has a rustic feel.

A farmhouse plate rack for her perfectly mismatched heirloom china. It’s easy and quick to make and it might be the sweetest thing in the world. A new miss thistle society project is a perfect way to celebrate the 6th anniversary of the sewing pattern.

There has been major progress and one big set back in miss thistle’s cardboard house. The blue and white combination for the stamped walls was fine. I just didn’t love it. When I tried to paint over it the stamp pad ink ran and smudged and bled through. Relentlessly.

What finally fixed it was a wash of orangey/brownish paint that neutralized the weird blue and made a perfect variegated background for re-stamping with a more teal blue. The result feels just right. I can feel many generations of thistle women in this little room.

*This post contains affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission if you purchase through the link. Links are highlighted and marked with an asterisk.

Let’s make the plate rack. It’s super easy and you could use the same technique to make all sorts of tiny shelves. And it’s quick, less than an hour except for drying time.

tools and materials

Please read through all the instructions before beginning

  • scissors
  • paintbrushes
  • wax paper
  • popsicle sticks  – *find them here
  • wood coffee stirrer
  • optional – miniature clothespins – so cute – *find them here
  • wood glue
  • fine sand paper
  • light weight cardboard
  • paint

1. You need 9 popsicle sticks, 1 coffee stir stick, a piece of light cardboard and – optional- 1 mini clothespin.  Use scissors (that are not your favorite scissors) to trim the popsicle sticks. Measure carefully and make the cuts as straight as possible. Also use caution- the ends you trim will go flying. Note– if your sticks break your scissors are too dull.

2. Cut 7 sticks to 3 and 3/8th inches and 2 sticks to 2 and 1/4 inch.

3. Cut one piece of cardboard to 3 and 1/2 inches X 2 and 1/4 inches

4. Trim one corner on each of the short pieces to round it. Lightly sand the edges of all the cut pieces.

5. Place wax paper on your work surface and paint wood glue onto the top half inch of the cardboard.

6. Press one of the longer pieces into the glue – centering it on the cardboard along the top edge.

7. Paint another half inch of glue below the first stick and add another – pressing it firmly against the first stick. Repeat with another stick so you have 3 sticks glued down..

8. Apply a strip of glue right under the third stick.

9. Press the edge of the fourth stick into the glue – perpendicular to the other sticks. Hold it for a minute or two to let the glue set a little. This will be your top shelf.

10. Apply a half inch of glue and press the next stick flat below it – pressing it firmly against the edge.

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stuffing : 7 tips and tricks

All your precise cutting and careful sewing are lost without thoughtful stuffing. Songbirds are a great example of how stuffing can take your project from OK to magnificent. The birds need to be firmly stuffed to fully express all their curves and have “birdness”. The birds below were hand stitched using the songbird sewing pattern. I’ve got 7 tips to help make your birds or any 3 dimensional sewing projects awesome.

1. A well stuffed creature starts with preparing the seams before you turn it right side out. Clip little triangle sections out of the seam allowance around the curves. Be careful not to cut the seams.

2. Turn your bird right side out. Take the wider end of a chopstick and run it firmly along the inside of the seams. It gives you a head start on pushing those curves all the way out. I learned this trick from a student at a workshop and use it all the time. It’s especially helpful on small curved seams that you can’t easily press open.

3. Use great stuffing. I only use wool. It makes a firm shape, I find it easier to work with than poly fill and you can fine tune the shape – more on that later. Find it in my shop.

4. Take your time. I spend a huge amount of time stuffing my birds and other creatures. Add a little at a time. Start by pushing the stuffing all the way to the head. Adding too much at once makes it harder to completely fill the shape. Keep adding stuffing until the bird body feels and looks full and round.

5. Close your eyes. Run your fingers gently over the surface and feel for empty spots or lumps. Your fingers will pick up things your eyes won’t.

6. Adjust from the outside. Use a large needle to fine tune the shape, move little bits of stuffing around inside the bird. You can get stuffing into or out of little spots that would be impossible to get to from the inside.

7. When you’re ready to close stitch part way and then add a little more stuffing (songbirds get temporarily closed at this point in their process so I’m basting).

Stuffed! The birds are round and the shape is completely filled out, the seams and surface are smooth. They are ready for feathers and I’ll update this post soon with the finished birds.

sewing pattern for a textile songbird

And if you feel like joining me in songbird sewing the pattern is 25% off until July 31.

Show me your magnificently stuffed songbird by using #annwoodpattern on instagram or emailing a photo to info at ann wood handmade dot com.

Do you have a favorite stuffing trick? Let us know in the comments.

flea market and stitching report : france edition

In June I spent a couple weeks in France with French General stitching and roaming around brocantes and vide-greniers (that’s French for flea markets and yard sales!). I came back with a little bit of stuff and a ton of inspiration. I’ll show you some more of that in a minute (the image above is from a fantastic, elegantly ramshackle shop in St. Antonin). First I want to show you what we stitched in the studio.

Don’t see the video above? click here.

The project was a journal version of the stitchbook, made from scraps and inspirations found in our travels. I sure do love old cloth. It’s mainly what I look for in France and my book is a celebration of that, toile, woad dye and classics like roses and checks.

The students were serious stitchers and embraced the thought of inventing pages inspired by the experience. So many great ideas and interpretations.

 

This book was shorter than the full 100 day stitchbook, 12 pages instead of 20. Also on most of the books the edges were left raw and straight stitched together.  It makes an excellent vacation/road project, easy to carry and perfect for stashing little treasures and memories.

 

This is a little of the fabric I brought back with me. Songbirds are already in progress and there’s a whole blog post about that too. And in the gallery below there are a few more favorite images and treasures.

It was a big adventure! And the first time I’ve traveled in a long time.  It’s also a very happy thing to be home again and back to all the things I love doing. I am a person who loves routine, I think a lot of stitchers are, how about you?