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. Plus all the tiny rag doll patterns are 25% off until September 1.

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?

the completed stitchbook and rookie garment sewing

Ann is wearing a hand stitched double gauze top and holding the completed stitchbook - there are plants in the background

Ann is wearing a hand stitched double gauze top and holding the completed stitchbook - there are plants in the background
Let’s start with the finished stitchbook and then we gotta talk about this hand sewn top – there are awkward selfies and everything.


Finishing is good! I’m definitely a process person but wrapping up a 100 day practice feels great. And there is a prize at the end. The book feels substantial and I love looking at it.
A little bit about the finishing details, the edges of the tabs and slots were stitched with red embroidery thread.

And a little piece of trim was hiding in my bag of scraps that made an ideal fastener, it’s stitched to the middle of the back cover. I used little whip stitches on each side and was careful to only go through one layer of fabric.

You can check out the assembled book and all the pages in the video above. Don’t see the video? click here.

This book, this process was full of surprises for me. Daily practice reveals things and it’s an excellent place for ideas to turn up. Ideas like a reliable place to show up. I’ve already started another book to stitch in France next week. Find all the info on making your own book here.

Let’s talk about the top.

The pattern is by my friend KZ Stevens. It’s been my recreational sewing project for a couple weeks. Parts of it can be machine sewn but I opted to do most of it by hand.

hand stitching seams on a top and hexies by a pool

It came everywhere with me. Hand finishing the seams is a slow, relaxing, chill process. In fact as soon as it was finished I started another so I’d have more hand seams to finish. Plus I’m a rookie garment sewer, I’ve only made a couple things, and the slow process and simple construction were perfect for me. I learned a bunch.

The result is super cute. It’s all about the drape. The fabric is double gauze ( I got it on sale at joann’s – they had tons of pretty colors). And it goes perfectly with the scrap garland necklace – I love the bluish gray with the deep pink and berry shades.

Ann is wearing a hand stitched double gauze top a- there are plants in the background
It’s inside out in this photo but it works that way too since all the seams are neatly finished. It’s a perfect addition to my middle aged art lady wardrobe. As is the cute but somewhat iffy smock below.

hand sewn gray linen smock on a hanger

I also used KZ’s top pattern as a jumping off point for a little smock dress. It’s iffy because a lot of it was made up as I went along and the fit isn’t perfect. And maybe it’s a little short. There are side pockets added and a bunch of other little details that mostly sprung from me screwing up and then fixing stuff.

It took forever and technically isn’t quite finished. There are a few things to neaten up on the inside. It’s wearable though and nice for hot days. You can check out a super awkward mirror selfie here.

other summer news

very small garden with repurposed cedar chest container

The tiny garden is producing! There’s ruby red lettuce, the first strawberries, herbs and tiny squash have appeared. Pretty exciting.

What are your summer sewing projects? Have you tried sewing clothes? Do you prefer hand or machine (I vote hand)?

 

what’s on my work table : whiskers for nice mice

small felt mice in progress on my worktable

little brown felt mouse in the palm of my hand

whiskers for mice

It occurred to me lately that mice have whiskers. But the very nice mice sewing pattern has no whiskers… I have made a ton of mice but I never thought to add them until this guy.

It’s super easy to do.

Make a small knot about an inch away from the end of your cotton thread. Insert the needle and bring it out the other side. Let the knot catch. Make a knot against the fabric on the other side and clip the thread. Repeat for more whiskers.

small felt mice in progress on my worktable

I have a few little wire beds and I’m making a mouse for each.

The main project here at the moment is still the captain pattern. I am in the woodshed with them, making tons. I think you’re going to love the boot method and easy lined jacket especially.

ragdolls with bicornes and military jackets and boots

And forest friends. This is a percolating idea. Since I started hanging things on the wall I get more and more ideas for other things that could join them.

What ideas are you percolating? Have you made mice?  Do they need whiskers?

7 things bringing me joy right now

1. vessels  And they’re turning up everywhere, in my paintings, the stitchbook and as ceramics.

little ceramic bottles - one with a pinted windmill scene the other white with little handles

I’ve been taking classes at the Guilford Art Center since I landed in Connecticut and have lately gotten obsessed with vessels. Mostly little ones. There are lots more in progress. The little group below is pre-firing.

2. the stitchbook I’m very surprised and happy at how many people are participating! And it continues to be a fruitful practice for me. I go on and on about that here.

*This post contains affiliate links – meaning I get a small commission if you purchase through the link.

3.the cardboard house I’ve been imagining the pattern for the downstairs walls for a very long time. And carving the little stamps made me want to carve lots more little stamps.

blue pattern being stamped on doll house walls

The old linen napkin I was offloading ink onto made me want to block print some fabric. I love the pattern, I see tea towels in the future…


I’ll get into more detail about the process in an upcoming cardboard house progress post. If you’d like to try making stamps you can *get a kit here – this is an affiliate link – I get a tiny commission if you purchase through the link.

4. packages Making sweet packages makes shipping orders way more fun. Brown paper, stickers, stamps bakers twine and little extras are all magic to me. Also there are  a couple new cards for spring.

packages wrapped in brown paper with stickers, stamps, cards and twine

5. twinkle lights  Most things can be improved by twinkle lights. And I’ve had one long string for many, many years that is particularly awesome. It’s the mini kind – wire with tiny lights, the light is warm and it has a plug rather than batteries. It finally died about a month ago. I tried a bunch of replacements that did not sing to me until this one arrived. It’s just right – warm light, nice and long and it plugs in. *You can get it here – and fyi this is also an affiliate link – meaning I get a tiny commission if you purchase through the link.

little art studio with twinkle lights

6. The tiny garden and  imminent lilacs. So much joy. I am so ready for the garden. I’ve got some herbs, flowers and lettuce I started from seeds in March (that feels so adult), the beets have appeared and it’s looking like my repurposed cedar chest planter is going to give me another year.

Also I’m sure it’s a good omen that a mystery plant has appeared. You gotta admire its chutzpah just showing up like that so it stays. I am gonna move it so it does not dominate the tiny space and has something to climb since it looks pretty climby.

7.  House plants make life better. Freshly repotted, happy plants. The little jade has been with me for 25 years.

Are you a plant person? What’s bringing you joy this spring? Let us know in the comments.

stitchbook : day 83 update – we are in the homestretch

fabric book pages appliqued and stitched

fabric book pages appliqued and stitched

Today is day 83 in the hundred day stitchbook project. Page 17 is the current page. I can’t wait to assemble the book. Some stuff has to be figured out first, most importantly:

Will the pages be chronological?

When I began I thought I would assemble the book with the pages in the order I stitched them. Now I’m leaning toward my pages not being in chronological order, instead arranging them  in whatever order I like. Some of the pages seem to belong together and I like the idea of seeing them side by side when the book is spread open. That decision lead me to the next decision about designing a cover and back.

day 82

There are only 4 pages left to stitch – 17 is in progress now. I’ve decided to make it the cover page and it’s going to be super simple. A couple appliques and then 100 marks/stitches.
One of the other remaining pages will be the back cover. I haven’t decided on a design yet but it will also probably be pretty spare and simple and use the same background fabric as the cover.

The  remaining pages will be approached as the first 16 pages were – experimental, improvisational.

A large part of the value of this project has been getting somewhere I did not plan to go. That’s the huge benefit of a daily art practice. Stuff turns up.

 

There are tons of people stitching pages (I’m super surprised and pleased and excited about that!) and I’ve shared a few below.

1. @lobostitched

2. @prairiewomanarts

3. @teresacass

4. @harpdollz59

5

5. @artcat237

A special over achiever award goes to @shmataboro – she has stitched 60 pages! And they are fabulous.

60 stitched pages

You can find tons more on instagram by searching #annwoodstitchbook. If you’d like to email me a photo you can send it to me at info at ann wood handmade dot com.

Are you stitching along? Are your pages going to be chronological?  Please let us know in the comments.

onward!

ann

a sneak peek at miss thistle’s house and tips for building with cardboard

cardboard doll house in progress

cardboard doll house in progress

 It’s flexible, free and easy to work with, I’m a fan of cardboard and it’s the perfect material for a house for miss thistle.   The house was begun a year – or two? ago and then stayed stuck. Stuck in over thinking, indecision and architectural correctness. It needs the right spirit and that spirit kept slipping away in the effort. 

A couple days ago I put a deadline on it – there had to be a finished structure by the end of the week.  The time limit was motivating and got my wheels turning, I stumbled into a secret ingredient that solved lots of problems – gummed paper tape.  

brown tape over cardboard house edges

*this post contains an affiliate link

It’s a thick brown paper tape with adhesive on the back that you moisten to activate. I used it to cover edges and seams – it adds strength and stability to my quick, messy build and fills in pretty big gaps. I ended up putting it over every gap, seam and edge.  I’ve used this tape before for tacking down watercolor paper but never in this way.  It is awesome. *You can get it here (This is an affiliate link – meaning I get a small commission if you purchase through the link).

A couple tips for working with it – use a sponge to dampen the adhesive – don’t dip the tape in water. And if you’re pushing it into a corner seam, crease it first. I also used it to cover the edges of some of the windows and door opening. This was kind of a pain so I switched to masking tape for the little areas.

The main downside to working with cardboard is it warps and gets soggy when painted. I’ve got a few suggestions for avoiding that:

Use wood glue. It sets up quickly and has a nice grab almost right away. I used tons. Hot glue works too but I’m pretty over burning myself.

Cover the raw edges of the corrugated board. Use the aforementioned paper tape or masking tape. The paper tape has a nicer surface.

Laminate. It makes a huge difference. Laminating two pieces together makes a much sturdier and warp resistant structure.  Wood glue is perfect for sticking them together. I laminated the front and floors. I wish I had done the sides too but I think it will be ok.

Paint in thin coats and don’t add water. I’m using latex paint and dry brushing on a super thin layer as a primer. When the whole thing is covered in that I’ll start adding color, decoration, etc. Always in thin layers. Plus I want to retain the “cardboardness” for this house.

lifting out the removable floor

And a building tip – I used clothespins to support the second floor. I wanted it to be removable to make decorating easier. The clothespins are taken apart and wood glued to the walls. They are adorable miss thistle size beams.

I’m on fire for the little house now. So excited to do the fun decoraty stuff. I tested out a few of the tiny things inside and it all feels just right.

house on my table - ready to paint

Are you building a tiny doll world? There are lots of tutorials for furniture and accessories on the miss thistle society page, including the hearth, rug, stove and pot above.

Stay tuned for more cardboard house updates!

 

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.


customer and reader project gallery

This year we are celebrating the 16th!! anniversary of ann wood handmade with the charming, magical and imaginative work by customers and readers. I’ve added links to the maker wherever possible – check them out –  there are tons of links and you will find a pinterest level of rabbit hole fun exploring them. The mushroom below (little mushroom pattern) and gorgeous photo are by Trish.

projects made by customers and readers

You can find all the patterns for the projects below in the shop or on the free pattern page.

Crows by Gillian and Anni the wing details are fantastic!

Songbirds by Gabi, blue bird by Alexandra and colorful songbirds by Sue.

mushrooms by Sarah and Michelle

elegant rag dolls by Marilina

Frogs (find it on the free pattern page) by Barb and Cris.

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on fire for captain charmley

The heavy lifting is done and I’m at the perfecting stage. Making lots of tiny adjustments, in the zone. This is the fun part, the woodshedding.

Captain Charmley has been through some changes since his first appearance here. The original soldier dolls sprang out of  this experiment and were much smaller. I do want him to be a companion to the elegant rag doll so his size and proportions were all re-worked. This is also known as pretty much starting over.

soldier rag doll and elegant lady doll in progress in ann wood's hand

legs and boots stitched form cotton in ann wood's hand

Through all his iterations I’ve waffled on a couple details. Expressive feet and sideburns mainly. It comes down to a balance between effort, complication and effect. Is a tiny detail worth adding steps to the pattern. I’ve decided that the sideburns and expressive feet are definitely worth it.

The other big hurdle is his lined jacket. The mechanics have been worked out and I’m super happy with the process. You’re gonna love it. PS – the fabric was a gift from artist indira johnosn  and marketplaceindia – i love it.

The Captain Charmley pattern will be available later this year. Stay tuned.

stitchbook progress

15 minutes a day is magic. One of the big lessons of this process for me is not getting too attached to previous work, not falling in love to early. Composition is king.
I post each day on instagram and here. I’ve included a 5 day page cycle below.

Are you stitching with me? Checkout out lots of reader stitchbook pages here.

PS – Happy almost daylight savings time! I sure do love March.

PPS – I usually stitch features on dolls after I sew and stuff them – how about you – before or after? Let us know in the comments.

textile book tutorial part one – organizing and assembling

*This tutorial is divided into two parts. This is part 1, part 2 is here. Please read both completely before beginning (start here with part 1).

book made form cotton and linen fabric scraps rest on a worn blue table with sewing notions and a pile of scraps

The easiest way to understand how this little textile book is constructed is to watch the video of the last step –  assembling it –  first.   After that we can talk about creating the pages etc.

Don’t see the video? – find it here.

I’m using the book as a 100 day stitch book project – my first two pages are above. If you are stitching along with me stitch your pages before you assemble the book. I’m sharing the assembly tutorial now so you know where we are headed. Plus it’s a really cool way to make a textile book that you could use for all sorts of things.

Learn more about the stitchbook project here 

To create your pages you need 20 rectangles – 7 X 5.5 inches – you can use the page template download below to make them.  Ignore the other marks on the pattern for now – just cut the rectangles. I’m using cotton and linen for the pages

Stitch whatever you like on your rectangles, embroidery, collage, mess around, try stuff, meander. Leave about 1/2 inch margin all around the edge to make book assembly easy.

To make the book  you will need these  templates:

download the page template here

download the page chart here

Before assembling the book finish stitching on each of your 20 rectangles however you like – (I’m using plain fabric rectangles for the demonstration book today).

Clearly mark the  – right side –  of each of the 20 finished pages with its number using masking tape and a sharpie marker.

The book has 20 pages, including cover and back. There are five sections – each composed of 4 rectangles/pages.

3 sections have slots.

and 2 sections have tabs.

Use the page chart to layout the sections.  For example The first section (a slot section) would look like this.

Use pages 6 and 1 for the front and 2 and 5 for the back of section one.  We are looking at the right sides of the fabric.

And here it is assembled – front and back – page 5 is on the back of page 6 and page 2 is behind one. Use the chart and it all works out.

Below is section 2 – a tab section.

Lay out your 20 numbered pages in 5 sections following the chart and then use the instructions here to sew the slot and tab sections.

With all your sections sewn assemble the book.

assembling the book

Get set up by laying out out your pages just like the left hand column of the chart. Then follow along with the video at the top of this post.

PS – the designer of the slot tab method of binding books is Michael Budiansky – checkout the handmade books blog for more– it’s a cool site.

textile book tutorial part two – making the sections

*  The tutorial is divided into 2 parts. Please read both parts entirely before beginning. Seriously, it helps. Start here.

The book has 20 pages, including cover and back. There are five sections – each composed of 4 rectangles/pages.

3 sections have slots.

and 2 sections have tabs.

This tutorial demonstrates how to construct the two kinds of sections in the book – slot and tab. Before you begin to sew the sections please read this post on how to create and organize the pages.

You will need:

  • your 20 pages/rectangles
  • chopstick or similar
  • a basic sewing kit
  • embroidery thread

make a slot section

1. To make a slot page take two rectangles and lay them out with the right sides facing you.

2. Place one over the other – right sides together.

3. Draw a half inch margin down the right hand side of the top piece.

4. Clip the short lines on your page pattern. Fold the center section back.

5. Place it over the rectangles and mark the short horizontal lines.

6. Sew the half inch seam above and below those marks.

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