Tag: on the work table

abandoned quilt tops and stitched crows

fabric crow

It has some great moments and some highly questionable choices (worn towels…). All of it is very nostalgic for me.

salvaged quilt top

I’m always on the look out for  vintage or antique quilt tops. They are frequently super cheap and a great source for unusual little bits of fabric, perfect for all sorts of small projects (including doll quilts). Or if you find something  with no objectionable moments or issues you can take it across the quilt finish line. The quilt above (found on ebay) was probably assembled in the 70’s and has lots of sweet calicos. Another I found recently is pale and has a mix of small turn of the century and depression era prints salvaged from garments. Both are coming to workshops in LA with me.

needle book pages

I’m using the older quilt for needle book pages. I’ve been stitching up lots for the class.  You wouldn’t think machine sewing a ton of rectangles would be appealing but it is. I’ll probably get over it but right now I can’t get enough. It’s peaceful and satisfying to stack up the finished pages. Also I’m thinking of offering the pre-sewn, ready to embellish  pages as a kit this winter – what do you think?

stitching crow wings

Besides needle books we will be making paper ships, beetles, mushrooms and crows. I’m bringing lots of old garments to work with.

fabric crow

carved beaks and an edwardian skirt

paper ship

find workshop details and sign up here

 

basket of edwardian lawn gowns

And as soon as I get back to Brooklyn I’ll start shooting steps for a crow sewing pattern. In other pattern news the large rag doll and soldier patterns are coming soon too – I have a major do-over to deal with but hope to have at least one of those ready before the holidays.

stitched beetles

stitched beetles made from scraps

I wonder what they talk about – somebody seems pretty bossy…

PS – you can checkout highlights from this week in LA as it happens if you like -look at the LA workshop story highlights in instagram.

a misbehaving beetle, homemade spray starch and 4 more little joys

a guilty little beetle up to no good

a guilty little beetle up to no good

He’s done something. I’m sure of it. It’s all over his face.  More about this naughty little beetle  in a minute. First I want to tell you about some simple things that are bringing me joy this spring. Since you found your way here they might be up your alley too:

sewing in bed

1. sewing in bed

It’s always on the joy list, such a gentle way to wake up. Get something ready to sew the night before and there is nothing at all to think about. Just start sewing. My current bed sewing is sails and needle books (I can’t stop making those little pages). Simple, meditative stitching.

 

tiny rag doll gardening

tiny rag doll sewing pattern

2. the adventures of althea

This is sweet, and beautiful and funny. Dawn Smith has created a magic world for her tiny rag doll  and she photographs Althea’s adventures daily.

Follow her while she has tea and visit friends and gardens. It’s awesome.

 

lilacs in my studio

3. lilacs

It’s such a glorious smell and gone so quickly. When I wake up to the cool spring lilac air I have no choice but to sew in bed. It’s the only responsible thing to do.

 

how to make laundry spray starch

4. homemade spray starch

It’s easy to make, cheap, works beautifully and it is non-aerosol and packaging free. Most importantly I did not have to leave my apartment when I ran out of spray starch for my sails.

I love to iron.  I’ve been sorting through sail fabric for ships, ironing it and making neat little piles. This is also called procrastination.  Productive procrastination but still…  Anyway the homemade laundry starch adds even a little more joy to the ironing party.

recreational ironing

The starch is just cornstarch and water. Add a couple drops of lavender oil (or whatever you like) for a glorious fresh laundry smell. Laundry is right up there with lilacs for me smell wise. Plus I feel super thrifty and oldschool.

make some laundry starch:

  • Whisk 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch into 2 and ½ cups water. You’re already almost done.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, boil for about a minute while stirring.
  • Remove from the heat and let is cool to room temperature, add a couple drops of scent if you like and pour it through a strainer into a spray bottle.

 

5 sketchbook

My daily painting and drawings. It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times, such a huge pain in the a**  when I’m super busy.  But the joy wins. And it makes me a better thinker.

 

yogi tea

and a little bonus joy:

I love this tea! I drink buckets of it all day long. You can find it in most grocery stores I think.

 

what’s on my work table this week

hand stitched beetle

You have met the guilty beetle, the naughty little fellow is regretting his mischief.  He is made from gorgeous and very old French scraps. I’m working on lots of misbehaving little french anthropods.

so long little beetle

And ships. I love living with them and have been without a personal fleet for too long. This one has a final layer of old paper collage. Come make beetles and paper ships with me this October – I’m teaching several workshops in LA at French General – find info and registration here.

paper mache ship collaged with antique paper

PS – What are you working on? Have you made a doll bed? What smell transports you?

homemade laundry starch

extreme mending, sledding lambs and the 100 day project

patched and mended sleeves

patched and mended sleeves

Extreme mending, that’s what happens when you can’t let go. I can’t let go of this giant flannel shirt. I got it for a quarter at the Herkimer NY Goodwill in 2010. I started mending it a couple years ago, mostly just worn edges. Last winter it had some major sleeve blowouts and other serious issues. It was barely a shirt anymore but I remain too attached to part with it. I spent my 3 hour train ride to Vermont (more on that in a minute) stabilizing it. And now I’m plugging leaks. Besides my ridiculous attachment to it I like the process of this kind of meandering mending. And I like the result, the unexpected layers and combinations that turn up.

I’m mending my linen smock too where I have worn it thin, keeping it mostly pale. I’ll never part with it either and it will eventually be all patches. I’m good with that.

pale patches on a linen smock

100 days of creativity

The Hundred Day Project starts on Tuesday April 2. It’s a free art project that takes place online. Every spring, people all around the world commit to 100 days of creativity. Are you participating? I sort of am. I do a little painting or drawing everyday anyway so I think that counts. All you need to do is commit to a project (big or small or very small) and tag your instagram posts with #The100DayProject. You can do anything, You could mend something if you like.


This blog started with a similar experiment. It was a little different, I committed to making 100 cardboard horses. I made one Monday through Friday and gave myself the weekend off.  Much like my daily practice now, somedays I loved it and some days I most certainly did not. But I know now I need it.

If you decide to participate I can offer you some of what I’ve learned:

* Be realistic about time. The amount of time you commit can be very small and still have lots of benefits.

* Have a plan for the bad days, a minimal but acceptable effort. And accept the bad days. Everybody will have lots of them. I have some very bad days and post some real stinkers.

* It’s helpful to do it around the same time everyday. Your subconscious gets on board after a while and shows up with ideas.

* Think of it as an opportunity to listen to yourself and maybe get glimpses into your singular and powerful imagination that you would not otherwise get. Plus new instagram friends.

And if you feel like making your daily art a cardboard horse feel free – there is a whole tutorial here. And as an added bonus when you’re done you have a stampede.

Back to Vermont.

I took the train up to Warm Brook Barn in Vermont to teach at their Maple Harvest retreat with French General. The group was lovely and intensely creative. We made silk necklaces, talismans, beeswax candles, wax seals and lambs in pants. There was a beautiful snowstorm of almost exactly the right duration and intensity and It was all generally a blast. And I loved exploring all the fabulous details of the old houses.

fabulous dresser at warmbook barn

PS- If you’d like to make a little sled it’s super easy – I found a tutorial here.

And PPS – A rare occurrence – I’m usually like a ninja, a lamb in pants making stealthy ninja. I was captured in the wild in Vermont, caught in the act, sneaking up on a sledding lamb in pants for a photo.

caught in the act

domestic sewing : confronting the throw pillow situation, a re-write and little paintings

vinatge and antique fabric pillows

ann wood's brooklyn studio

It’s pretty New Yearsy around here. I’ve got all sorts of plans and aspirations for the year ahead. Before the end of 2018 I made myself finish a personal project, I confronted some domestic sewing.

Like you, I wanted to start the New Year with a solid throw pillow situation. It has been kind of a mess for a while, definitely not bringing me joy. I had a bunch of ideas to make it better but they had been lingering on my someday list. For years. Deadlines are awesome. Making the dawn of 2019 the due date got me motivated to churn out some decorative pillows. Once I got going it was fun.

couch cover from antique grain sacks

And I made a cover for the seat too, from grain sacks I got in France last summer. They got super soft after I (machine) washed and dried them and I pieced my favorite parts together. They have lots of beautiful mending and I love the colors.

vinatge and antique fabric pillows

throw pillows

I made the pillow covers from old fabric from friends (including some glorious and ancient things my friend Ching sent me) and more things I picked up at French flea markets last year. By the way there is one spot open in each of my trips to France this summer  – click here for June 21-28  and click here for July 1-8. Come to France with me! And then go home and make some throw pillows…

ann wood in a mended dress

With the couch in happy condition my first official work project of this year was a long overdue re-write of my about page. Especially if you are a new visitor it’s a good place to start.

And also in the New Year’s department I re-committed to my daily painting and drawing project. So far so good. Daily practice is no joke, it’s brutal sometimes but I know I’m better off doing it in lots of important ways. The positive effects on my thinking, creativity, idea generation and focus are huge. I’ll scale back to drawing when traveling probably but if I flake on this again you should yell at me.

small art, made every day

The holidays were unusually happy and slow and peaceful for me. I spent a lot of it in pajamas eating cookies with a cat on my lap (I regret some of the cookies). It was pretty nice but I’m happy to be back to business as usual now. How bananas are you? I’m pretty bananas. I require huge amounts of time by myself to think and work and I like routine a lot. I’m luxuriating in time and space and ordinariness now, percolating all sorts of ideas….

tiny sewing for good mental health

little rag dolls on my work table

little rag dolls on my work table

There is always something and often someone in my pocket waiting to be stitched. I’d be lost without this sort of thing. When I wander away from it for too long things go badly, when my pace gets too frantic the magic evaporates. It’s the thing that steadies and focuses me, all the tiny sewing. This is a pile of mental health. A little stack of tiny pinafores and nightgowns and satchels and jackets and bloomers.

stack of tiny doll clothes

I’ve been sewing little folks here and there for the past few weeks. I take them with me for the in between times. Some of this little crew is in the shop now and I’ve already started more tiny rag dolls and bloomers and pinafores and tiny satchels to work on over the holidays.

tiny rag doll with satchel

 

tiny lamb rag doll in pants

Wear them high, wear them proud lamb friend. The lambs in pants crack me up every single time. Something about those little trousers and how happy he seems to be in them…

If you would like to make a lamb he is made from the mr. socks pattern with these modifications.
Or you can come to Vermont and sit by the fire making lambs in pants with me. Pretty cosy right? A few spots (with fancy single rooms) have been added to the Sugar House Retreat. I’ve got other workshop news too – find that right here.

onward,

ann

PS – I wish they sold pine bows all year, it is such a magnificent smell.

bundling up the tiny doll folk and imagining their world

embroidered felt doll hats and jackets

embroidered felt doll hats and jackets

When faced with a stressful situation small sewing is good medicine. This weekend we made some big tech improvements to ann wood handmade that were sort of terrifying. I’m thrilled with the result – especially the speed.

embroidered doll cap

While all the scary work was being done I lingered in the details of tiny felt jackets and hats and slow stitched talismans. Besides needing to distract myself from the website work it has been cold and snowy, all the more reason for cosy hand sewing and bundling the little dolls up. I sure do love to bundle things up.

small stitch experiments

embroidered felt doll jacket

tiny rag doll that fits in the palm of your hand

Find the free little jacket pattern here and the tiny doll hat here.

The folky little winter ensembles make me curious about tiny doll world, the details and history. I’m going to investigate that over the next few weeks. You may recall I explored the world of a family of cosmopolitan ants a couple years ago.

beaumonts christmas

ant family christmas

It was probably the most fun I ever had. I’m looking forward to imagining a world for the tiny doll folk. Stay tuned.

dastardly owl laboratory and the silly bug club

owls on my work table

lots of hand sewn stuffed owls in progress

Update : find the owl sewing pattern here

The bodies are piling up as the owl shape is getting fine tuned. I’m preparing for owl workshops (PS – 2 spots have opened up in the 10/20-21 class) and ultimately a print and pdf owl pattern so every detail and dastardly proportion is being examined. I’ve started with the body shape. There are two construction methods I use for making owls, I created two patterns that produce slightly different shapes, one more rubenesque and another more sculptural and a bit more realistic. I might be the only one who can tell the difference. I tried to choose one to work on but ended up with a hybrid.


owls on my work table

The next step is to test and revise again and again until only what is essential is left, the shape is expressive, the pattern pieces assemble perfectly and any fussiness is removed. After each prototype I adjust and resew and if the adjustment is successful it is further refined in Adobe Illustrator.

stitched owl shape

I arrived at the body shape that feels just right yesterday. And the body pattern pieces feel good too, it snaps together like nobody’s business. Even with difficult fabric like this odd tweedy stuff from mrs. brown’s skirt. I’ve been making things from that turn of the century skirt for 8 years and I’m sorry it’s is almost gone now. It has made lots of wonderful owls and rats and spiders but the weave is loose, thick, ravely and a little slippery, super hard to sew.

hand stitched owl feathers

I’m ready to move on to the feathers, feet and features. As I finish my little pile of owly bodies I’ll experiment with those details until each is transformed into a teachable technique and or pattern piece that produces reliable results.

And the silly bug club! Thanks so much to everybody who showed up for the challenge. I drew a name from a hat and the winner of the mosquito rag doll is @bonniecapaulgallery ! I’ll message you on instagram for address etc. I hope you keep making and posting silly bugs, this was fun and I’ll offer you another challenge soon. Have a beautiful weekend and I’ll leave you with a few highlights from the posts and you can check out all the silly bugs here.

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.

Start by gathering things, inspiration, things to think about and things to work with.  Arrange and rearrange and look for happy accidents.

fabric and found things for inspiration

ammonite fossil(P S – the fossil above is an ammonite. It was a gift and I love it.)

And then try something, listen for the whisper of an idea, pick up the thread and follow it. Follow it around corners and into shadows and back into the light. Keep following and keep responding and noticing.  Be curious.

There are no mistakes, only information,  a yes and, why not, lets see what happens process.

hand stitched amulets

I like what turned up today, my little stitch experiments feel like amulets to me. And they were indeed medicine.  I had fun and lost myself in the process. And I’m just getting started, the idea has momentum and there is lots more for me to explore here. If the amulet idea appeals to you as a shape for your experiments I hope you try it and I’d love to see what you come up with.

what’s on my work table and humidity

tiny rag doll and wardrobe in progress

tiny rag doll and wardrobe in progress

The ridiculous humidity and a summer cold have left me with a stunning lack of ambition. I aggressively indulged the lack of ambition and it transformed into restlessness. I needed to put on some clothes and do something. Anything.

tiny rag doll with smocking detail on her dress

This is where sewing saves me. As soon as my hands start moving my head starts to work again, I can feel the wheels turning. I spent some time making tiny doll things, little dresses and pinafores and bloomers with sweet little details. Peaceful, happy work.

embroidered detail on a tiny doll dress

blanket stitch edging on a tiny pinafore apron

Spending time on the tiny things with tiny details made me happy. And so did these floss winders. Am I the last person to know about these? Historically, I’ve stored my embroidery floss in the traditional way, in a maddening tangled mess. These solve the problem beautifully, I love the way it looks.

french general embroidery floss winder

rag doll and mushroom on my sewing table

tiny rag doll sewing pattern

 

If you’d like to make a tiny doll find the sewing pattern here. I hope you make tiny dolls and if you do you can email photos to me at info at ann wood handmade dot com or use #annwoodhandmade on instagram.  And send your songbirds and mushrooms and other things too, I’d love to see!

onward,
ann

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.

the somewhat weekly newsletter

when ships and dioramas collide (the paper mache ship pattern is in print!)

pattern to create a paper mache ship

And collide in the best way,  in the you got peanut butter on my chocolate way.

In the two weeks leading up to the squam diorama class I spent a lot of time playing with old paper and planning for the class as well as finishing up the brand new print version of the large paper mache ship.  Old paper is interesting. There was lots of it in France. I’ll tell you about that trip soon, it was a giant experience that has not even solidified as a memory yet, just shimmering images (I’m also super jet lagged and kind of dopey).

French General France getaway

My paper interest intensified with the things I collected for the Squam Diorama Class. I love collecting things for that class and happened upon a couple incredible collections of old paper in the last year.

I have mostly dealt with the surface of my paper mache ships in the same way for a very long time. I like soft, often neutral, washes of color with newsprint showing through. I liked the moodiness and spareness of it and still do but I was wanting something different all of a sudden.

the gulnare - a ship made from paper mache

I experimented but nothing made me happy. I didn’t land on anything I liked as well or better.  There was all that beautiful paper for the dioramas but I loved it too much to use it,  you know how that is.  And I didn’t think the texture of the old papers would work well for mache. I started playing with little pieces and was surprised how stable the paper was in the paste and how smoothly it layered on the surface, even with a variety of textures and thicknesses. And it works well mixed in with newsprint too.

paper mache ship with antique paper

The more I played the bolder my choices were and color and shapes crept in in a way I had not expected.

paper mache with antique paper

Now my eyes are open for paper all the time. It seems like a connecting tool for me at the moment, an invitation to happy accidents and a little push into new territories. I’m working on some figures now that incorporate it with fabric and stitching as I prepare for the Fall Squam Retreat (more on that soon).

paper mache ship print edition

pattern to create a paper mache ship

paper mache booklet page

P S  Thanks so much to all of you who wished me well on my travels. It was a huge, exciting and daunting thing for me, I have not been on a giant trip in decades. Your thoughts were truly felt and appreciated.

fly inspected, fly approved and a tip for sewing with difficult fabrics

a tiny handmade fly inspecting fortuny velvet

a tiny handmade fly inspecting fortuny velvet

Most people don’t realize that all of Fortuny’s fabrics are inspected by a tiny Venetian fly.  A diligent and thorough fly.  It is careful and slow work requiring long hours and true dedication.

a tiny handmade fly inspecting fortuny velvet

It’s a big job for a little and old bug but he has been content in his duties, happy even, for many, many decades (no one knows exactly how long, it seems he has always been there).

a dragonfly and fortuny printed velvet

Lately someone new has started showing up, a dragonfly, all huge and full of himself and suggestions, the sort that has come and gone before….

fortuny printed velvets

I’m making owls from the new Fortuny printed velvets. They are exquisite, the colors, the feel, the patterns, everything. Velvet is difficult to sew sculptural forms with and I very rarely use it for shapes.  Even with lots of pins things tend to slide around and the weight and pile make it unforgiving, mistakes show and are hard or impossible to adjust by stitching from the outside.

a handmade velvet owl in progress

I discovered that stapling the fabric together (don’t tell that tiny fly) works magnificently well and does not harm the fabric. I stapled right at the edge, outside the seam line, and everything stayed in place as I sewed.

staples in a hard to sew velvet instead of pins

I’m very happy with the shape, he is round in all the right places, the pattern pieces snapped together perfectly and he already has a bad attitude.

a velvet owl on my work tablea sewing pattern for a dastardly owlget the owl sewing pattern

A note on the beautiful pins – they are entomology pins.  They come in lots of sizes and colors, the quality is excellent and I love the way they look. You can find them here.

I’ll share finished velvet owls and some other new creatures with you next week.

Onward,

ann

fling your soul upon the gloom and something new in the bird leg department

carving a wax bird leg for casting in bronze

When I get whacked hard by life,  this is the poem I read.  And this is my favorite part:

An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.

 

It always cheers me up and I know what to do,  fling my soul hard at the gloom. It is the only thing to do.

I’m back from my teaching trip and It all worked out. But it sure was dicey for a while. There are so many reasons not to do stuff. Trying seems to invite bad luck. It doesn’t, but it seems that way.  The more stuff you do the more stuff there is that can go wrong. And when things do go wrong they love to go wrong in a horrifying cascade. That’s what happened in the 2 weeks before I left for Los Angeles. Lots of little things went wrong and a couple big ones.  There was plenty of gloom. I rarely feel defeated but I did for a while. The darkling thrush saved me.

carving a wax bird foot

I got home at 2 AM on Tuesday, watered the plants and spent the next 30 hours in bed. I am still exhausted. I’m also full of ideas. The first thing I did was ship a ton of  orders and then I carved a bird leg from a block of wax.

bird foot carved form a wax block

I’ve been wanting to try this for a long time.  The intention is to have molds made and cast legs in brass and bronze and silver. I have no idea if I did this right. I just started hacking away at the wax  and did not look up for many hours.

carved wax bird foot

It was a deeply peaceful and immersive experience. I’ll go to a casting place next week and I’ll let you know what happens. If it works out I will start offering them in the shop along with the soon to be released songbird pattern. I’ll keep you posted. And I want to carve more wax – I have all sorts of ideas…

Sincerely,
The Aged Thrush

PS – I got the wax blocks here.

carving a wax bird leg for casting in bronze