Category: creativity

stitch book : day 1 is here! and 5 more things bringing me joy

sketch book with colorful quote - "done is better than perfect"

sketch book with colorful quote - "done is better than perfect"
I have one important thought for you and for me today and everyday of the challenge:

Done is better than perfect!

This exercise is so not about perfection. It is for listening to yourself. It’s for your imagination, it’s a place to try things – explore. Show up, try stuff, make mistakes, try again, get somewhere new. 100 days of that is magic.

Life rewards action, give it a chance and it will show up with happy accidents. The minute you do something a feedback loop begins. You get information. Begin, listen and respond.

Be brave and be curious.

onward in stitch!

ann

*learn about the stitch book challenge here

 

DAY 1

stitch book 2024 – day 1


5  things bringing me joy this January

*This post contains affiliate links – meaning I get a small commission if you purchase through the links – they are marked with an asterisk

small black day planner in my hand

1. day planner

I’m so into it. In olden times I always had a day planner book. It’s for capturing ideas, project planning and a daily record – at the end of each day I make a little list: 5 things about today.
The book is beside my bed and it’s the last thing I do each day. It is very short and simple but recording this little list makes me notice things.

I’ve also marked each of the 100 days for the stitch book challenge and get to experience the deep satisfaction of checking them off.

I love that it’s small enough to always have with me so ideas can be written down as they happen and the calendar aspect brings so much more organization and context to those notes.

The book is beautiful and super simple. After I looked at every day planner on the planet I went with the *hobonichi techo (a6 size in black gingham).

autumn and ann walking on a path at the squam art retreat

2. Imagination day camp

Next September my friend Autumn Song and I are co teaching (again) at the Squam Art Retreat. We are currently creating a big playful day of imagination igniting fun. That is she and I walking along the path at Squam, ideas and plans tumbling all over the place. We have endless things to say to each other and all sorts of surprising new intersections appear. It’s a you got peanut butter on my chocolate situation for sure.

Autumn and I first met at my experimenting with dolls workshop in 2016. The class was improv based – a yes and approach to making a figure. I loved Autumn’s ability to completely immerse herself in the creation of her doll and watch her gentleman moth emerging a little bit at a time.

a moth doll madefrom antique clothing in progress

“My name is Cedric Randolf. I am a moth, I fought in the Boer War. I am quite wise and quite old. In one eye I have a cataract, with my other eye I see only goodness”

I love working with Autumn. Ideas flow easily between us, they bounce back and forth and get deeper and more detailed and weirder and sillier etc. etc. We both like to think about thinking, where ideas come from and the absolute joy of making things and that is what imagination day camp is all about. Check out Autumn’s instagram here. And her website here.

You can find out more about the class and fall retreat here.

 

slip covered day bed

3. A cozy spot

A perfect spot to hibernate and stitch and watch the snow. I’ve been looking for THIS daybed forever. It turned up (the exact one I wanted!) at a garage sale for just a little money and in perfect shape. The mattress is a chunk of memory foam and the cover is made from big scraps and some toile curtains from a thrift store. This was my first experience with welting and I give myself a B+.  Am I a little awash in toile? Yes. But I like it.

4. What it is

By Lynda Barry. It’s a big book about process, ideas and creativity. I took it out of the library so often I finally bought a copy- *it’s currently on sale. It is visually very dense and when I first looked at it I thought it would be too difficult to navigate – text is hand written and intermingled with tons of collage and drawing. You have to spend a little time with it. She asks questions like what is an image? What is an idea? What is a memory? What is a story? That will make you think. It’s written for an adolescent/teenage audience so it’s perfect for me…

5. Great Horned Owl 

I saw a great horned owl!. First time ever. I had been hearing them in evening, calling in the little forest just behind me since I moved to my current place in Guilford. That small, dense patch of trees got cleared for development and there were no more owl calls.  This winter I started hearing him again on my run and then one evening there he was, huge, in a tree right above me at dusk, calling and being answered by another. That night I got to write “saw a great horned owl” in my list of 5 things about today.

Are you feeling new yearsy?   Are your ready for stitch book 2024? Have you ever seen a great horned owl!? What’s bringing you joy in 2024? Let us know in the comments.

the vacation sewing box, mini stitched mushrooms, and the finished 2023 stitch book

a box filled with hand stitch projects prepared- it's pretty messy

meditative stitching

Simple hand stitching is an ideal activity for percolating ideas. It occupies me but doesn’t require too much brain power and lets my subconscious do its background magic. That background magic is key to everything and there is a lot to percolate! I’m working on new projects to share here and getting ready to head to Squam to teach a workshop all about having ideas…

a box filled with hand stitch projects prepared- it's pretty messy

This box of stitch projects is built for that, a vacation from thinking. Decisions are already made and you can just pull something out and start sewing. My box is lots of mending and mini mushrooms.

a red and white mushroom mad from fabric photographed in nature.

I made the spotted guy from the cut off part of some recently hemmed pants. The soft cotton twill was splattered with bleach first. Now I’ve got a mushroom that matches my pants and I’m positive that’s going to come in handy someday.


finishing the 100 day stitch book

It’s finally assembled! Two big differences for me this year are leaving the edges raw and thinking of the pages in pairs. I loved having a second chance at compositions by treating 2 pages as one image/idea. And I mostly did not work on them consecutively. Especially when I wasn’t 100% happy with what I’d done, putting the idea aside for a bit helped a lot. Checkout the final assembly of the finished pages in the video below.

learn more about the stitch book project here

Don’t see the video? Click here.

plus the mr. socks photo challenge winner!

Congratulations Diane! (@lubydiane on instagram). I love that your mr. socks had a friend on his adventures and all the photos were fantastic. A bundle of scraps will be headed your way! Check out the full reel on instagram. So sweet!

two tiny cat rag dolls posed playfully by a pond

Let’s wind up the summer with another photo challenge

Show us your mushrooms! Are they poisonous? Enchanted? Do they magically appear only when the moon is full? Stitch up a mushroom and take a photo. Please use #annwoodmushroompattern to share on instagram or facebook. Post your photo before the end of September. A panel of esteemed judges (me) will chose the winner of an awesome little bundle of scraps in early September.

a very small indigo capped stitched mushroom captured in the wild

Do you have a travel sewing project? Are you ready for September?!
Are you an over-achiever already working on holiday stuff? Let us know in the comments.

the shimmering space between

materials, fabric and fabric scraps gathered on my worktable

When I began my first 100 day stitch book last year the plan was to be purely abstract. To commit to a “yes and” improvisational process, let go of outcome, be concerned only with making marks with stitches and responding to those marks. Create for the sake of creating.

a collection of very small fabric scraps and colored thread ends in a little ceramic dish

On the first day there was a little pile of fabric scraps and a blank page. The scraps were odd and unintentional shapes – off cuts from other projects.

The vision of pure abstraction dissolved almost immediately, representation crept in, sometimes obviously (to me) and sometimes subtly. There were boats and trees and castles and mushrooms, vessels, and lots more. My first impulse was to work to banish those recognizable images. The problem was they snuck in on their own. I didn’t plan for them. And that really was the improvisational process I had committed to.

day 6 2022

So I let them come. Sometimes they took over and sometimes they shimmered in and out as I worked. The revelation was the images I ended up liking the best, the pages where I felt like I got out of my own way (the whole point of the exercise) shift between abstraction and figure.

2 slow stitched collages in a textile book

Did I make the image or did it just appear?

It’s sort of like looking at clouds. Clouds don’t try to look like anything in particular but it happens all the time, we perceive an image. There is a word for it and everything – pareidolia

“ the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern. “

That was the biggest revelation and lesson of last year’s 100 days. It pointed me towards a place that feels inspiring and creative and challenging, a good place to play. The ambiguity is freeing.

Let’s talk about another word- intuition

“the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.”

The point of this 100 day exercise is to listen to yourself, to learn to feel for and trust your intuition. Really listening, connecting to your intuition and expressing yourself is difficult. Daily practice helps. What might 100 days of showing up and listening reveal about your own work, process, imagination?

The 100 day stitch book begins on January 20th and ends on April 29th. Find the details here.

materials, fabric and fabric scraps gathered on my worktable

I’ll close this post with your warm up assignments :

Checkout the stitch book I made last year- starting at the bottom of the post you can see each page over the five days and you can see the book assembled here.

Gather some materials and put them in a box. Label the box 100 day stitch book 2023. The hard part is over, you already started.

Will you join me for 100 days of stitching? Let us know in the comments and join us in the stitch club community.

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.

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)?

 

ideas – for having ideas

I’ve gathered a few posts for you here on the subject of having ideas. The feeling of a percolating idea, rolling around a problem in my head is one of my most favorite things in life (for the record a couple other top spot holders are dogs and cats, plants, swimming and apparently homemade pizza… So many pizzas…).

I’m curious about thinking, imagination, creativity, ideas and inspiration, how it all works and how to make it work better. When I find something that helps, something that keeps my wheels turning and ideas flowing I love to share it.

amulets stitched from antique textiles worn with a white smock

road sewing, feedback loops and accidental amulets

Life rewards action, give it a chance and it will show up with happy accidents. The minute you do something, take some action, a feedback loop begins. You get information. Begin, listen and respond. This week I accidentally made some necklaces or amulets or talismans or charms or pendants,  I’m not sure what to call them yet. I know I like making them and I like how they feel, I like looking at them and putting them on and I’m sure they are lucky.  And I know that continents and centuries collide in these saved and assembled scraps. They are a happy accident in lots of ways….keep reading

 

deliberate daydreaming

deliberate daydreaming

Wouldn’t it be nice to have it all at your command, to be able to summon deep focus, motivation and drive, ingenuity, and sparkling original ideas as needed or desired.  But our minds don’t work like that. Our minds do what they like and so often just the opposite of what we’re looking for.  Practice, training and attention help though and I’m always on the look out for ways to improve – stuff to try – ways to reach the deepest parts of my imagination and creativity….keep reading

 

percolating ideas and macgyver

I’ve been thinking about some of the painful parts, the really not fun moments, that are part of creative work. The fear and panic I feel when inspiration or solutions aren’t appearing and a deadline is looming. I felt a lot of this during my fox project. The schedule was ambitious – they had to be photographed in mid November and I started designing from scratch in October. They are relatively large, they are jointed (this is brand new to me), they needed to be free standing (nightmarishly difficult for this kind of creature) and their posture and body language were important to the mood, the mood was everything and I wasn’t getting it…. keep reading

 

pick up a thread and follow it, small stitch experiments

Part of the day today was devoted to waking up the experimenter in me. It needs some encouragement so I gave it an assignment, an easy assignment. I’ve been filled with reasons why I can’t do things lately so it’s a baby steps approach: make something small, make something fun, start without knowing.

One thing leads to another, if you let it. But first you need to start. Sometimes without knowing where you are going. If the experimenter in you needs some encouragement too please join me in the little assignment….keep reading

 

30 minute figures : experimenting and generating ideas

Play generates ideas. And constraints make things interesting, they send you in new directions and bypass inhibitions. Find 30 minutes to play. Make a space, gather materials, scraps, paper, cardboard fabric, whatever is around, and tools – a glue stick, tape, paint, the basics. Make an appointment with yourself to show up and set a timer for thirty minutes….keep reading

 

my big creative year : good ideas

Sometimes ideas are like mosquitos – whispers that won’t leave you alone.  Sometimes they are slippery and hard to grasp. Sometimes they’re chaotic, tumbling over each other. Sometimes they are lurking in the shadows, maddeningly half revealed and sometimes they are frightening – too big to hold.

Whether they are big or little, scary, silly, sad, strange, embarrassing or brilliant they are in unlimited supply. You can’t run out.

And this is also true….keep reading

 

how to have good ideas

curating, focusing and finding your voice : practice every day

I consume tons of information – often via podcasts while stitching – a lot of it around creativity – and some around business and marketing – they often overlap and intertwine. There is a lot of discussion and advice, especially lately, around finding your voice, curating and focusing.

I have struggled with all three – especially the focus and curating. I’m all over the place and I think there is validity to the argument that it’s easier to make progress if you focus your efforts narrowly. For example – I know I could grow the sewing and craft pattern business – my newest venture – much faster if I focused solely on that. Maybe I should. I also know there is a lot more to explore and experiment with in my own stitch-work and…keep reading

 

overwhelm

harnessing the power of your curiosity to get unstuck

Curiosity is an energetic place and you can apply your curiosity to stuckness with a very simple exercise: make a list of questions – at least ten.   To get started the questions can be small or absurd or silly – in fact absurdity can be good for waking up curiosity. And I have found the more questions I can come up with the better they get but the exercise is less about finding solutions ( although they may occur) and more about tapping into the energy of a massively powerful part of your mind….keep reading

 

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.