traveling stitch experiments, little paint boxes and something to read

slow stitch experiments

The trick is to not have a plan, choose a scrap of fabric and then choose another, a “yes and” sort of process, just see where it goes. Maybe it goes nowhere at all. It doesn’t matter. I like to take these little experiments with me, it’s good road sewing, gentle and meandering summer sewing. It’s also easy to pick up when I don’t really feel like doing anything at all but not doing anything has become awkward… This engages my curiosity very quickly and gets my wheels turning again.

summer stitch experiments

Some of the experiments will become amulets and I think some may be part of a needle book. I can’t stop making needle books. And I can’t believe I didn’t make one for myself until this year. It’s so handy, always ready to go with everything I need in it. Plus the aesthetic appeal, it feels good in my hand and I love to look at it. Have you made one? Here are some more from the workshops in France.

I’m making a bigger version for traveling with larger projects. I used a piece of printer paper as a template for the page I’m working on – adding 1/4 inch seam allowance.

book made from fabric scraps

book made from fabric scraps

It’s ideal for owl and songbird wings, pinning all the little parts to a page. And maybe I need one for my paint brushes and pencils too.

water color travel sets

*FYI – some of the links below are affiliate links – meaning I get a small commission if you purchase through the link.

I’ve held onto my daily painting/drawing/collage habit (it’s mostly painting). Today makes 214 consecutive days. It’s firmly engrained in my routine and still a huge pain in the a** some times. Having a plan for making them while traveling has helped and there are a couple little tools that made a difference. Champagne cocktails did not help (I was pretty much done when the champagne showed up though). I bring a little rag for wiping brushes and a small pad of 140 pound hot pressed paper. And lately I put a little mustard jar in my bag when I go – for water and I can mix color in the little lid.

travel water color set

The pocket water color box is awesome. Historically water color is not my favorite, not by itself anyway. But I also don’t like traveling with lots of tubes of acrylic. So I bring a couple basic acrylics and mix them with the water colors. The box came with a little brush that you can put water in the barrel of. I thought this was ridiculous and gimmicky and almost didn’t try it. It is so good. The water is easy to control and the quality of the brush is excellent. I just ordered a set with different sizes here. And you can get the rectangle watercolor box here for about $12 bucks. I paid almost $30…. I also bought a little round stackable box in Toulouse.  I couldn’t resist the stacked circles. You can find it here.

painting of the arc de triomphe

Having a plan for the bad times is the most important thing. And accepting them. The strength of the habit helps in those times. It helps a lot. It helped in the airport in Paris after flying overnight. I was unspeakably tired and it was unspeakably hot. Being intrigued by the new little box of colors and the fancy water brush helped too. A little novelty in the mix never hurts.

melancholy evening pool

I’ll leave you with the annual melancholy pool photo, a couple questions and a book recommendation.


How do you feel about embroidery and applique patterns? I’ve had some ideas swirling around for awhile, bats, houses, botanical designs. I’m thinking of putting together some patterns and kits. What do you think? Leave a comment below please.

And the book:

I just finished The Writing Life by  Annie Dillard (this is an affiliate link too). Magnificent. It’s shockingly beautiful and I didn’t want it to end. Now I’m reading a Room Of One’s Own. What are you reading? What’s on your summer book list?  Please leave a comment if you feel like sharing.



ann wood painting

Hamish Bowles’ Paris Apartment

PS- There will be lots of new little paintings in the shop on Tuesday 8/6 – noonish – NY time.  If you are on the list for new artwork you will get an email when they are up. If you aren’t sure if you’re on the list send me a message and I’ll check for you.


  1. First, I love your patterns and kits are my jam so I say yes to that. Second, your needlebooks inspire me and I must make one. I make little hand stitched squares very frequently because I am more comfortable watching tv if my hands are busy but had no clue what I’d do with them. They are pretty random and will be perfect for a needle book! Lastly, I’ve seen your pool pics and am just nosy enough to wonder if it’s your lovely yard or a vacation spot!

    • Suzanne Lee

      You’re killing me! I love it all. The green owl and songbird captured me. I thought I was finished with birds for awhile but I feel the call again. Beautiful place! I love the dark grey house.

  2. Such a gentle and meandering post…I enjoyed wandering along with you.

    To your question about embroidery and applique; I love simple line embroidery, and your layering technique is a type of applique that is a real joy.

    Your watercolors have such a dreamy and softly focused look…I love this too!



  3. Love your idea for embroidery and appliqué!! So many of us, as little girls, learned to embroider. Today it seems a lost art for youngsters. Sooo many wonderful ways to have fun with appliqué! Would love to see your imaginative ideas!

    Houses – love love them as a motif – love the cozy feel of a glow in the windows!
    And Bats! Yes, yes – Halloween is a favorite of mine!

    I savor your postings. Thanks so much! : )

  4. Sonia Simpson

    Ive always loved Janet Boltons applique art her textures and sensitive stitching is just stunning

  5. Melissa Hungria

    I love your needlebooks and I have hatched a plan of my own using a favorite tattered shirt of mine and a toddler coat of my daughter’s (she’s 12!). Absolutely yes to embroidery patterns and kits. I love their slow stitch nature (it takes me forever to complete one). I love houses and anything with hearts and/or birds.

  6. Definite make the embroidery and appliqué kits. Please, please, please!! And definitely with bats!

  7. I have not drawn or painted for several years, but you are inspiring me. Those kits look so fun.

    As for good books, i have recently finished Just Another Kid, by Torey Hayden. Very gripping true story of teaching emotionally disturbed kids, which is not grim at all! HIGHLY recommend it.

  8. That pink chair nearly jumped off the screen when I saw it! Such a rich pink, nearly makes me want to try watercolor! I made a needle book at the beginning of the year, love it, but hadn’t considered making one for different projects. Thanks for all the ideas in your posts, Jeni

  9. Christina Limpert

    Embroidery and appliqué patterns? Yes, please!

    I just finished Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark. Highly recommend.

    Your newsletter is fabulous. Thanks for taking the time to put it together.


  10. K morris

    YES YES YES To embroideries, appliqué and kits!!! I have yet to embark on a needle book project… am thinkin this winter.

    I loved A Room With A View
    Have you read May Sarton? E M Forrester?

    My list is long and varied

  11. Loved everything about this post.
    I am entering the embroidery world myself, and applique, and rounding up tattered things.
    So great!

    Thank you for the book recommendation.

    Happy Summer!

  12. jlpanecki

    I love the idea of embroidery and applique – together or separately. Needle boks are a wonderful idea for each project bag – I often take a small vintage pocketbook with a tiny project and a needlebook works well for me – if I plan on doing embroidery I thread some of the needles before I leave home – ready to use!

    Janet’s Garden of Design

  13. Hi Ann, I’m reading a book i think you would enjoy – “The Fountain Overflows” by Rebecca West. The blurb on the back calls it “a real Dickensian Christmas pudding of a book.” I’m really loving it so far – it’s a story of a family living in London early in the 20th century and is really not so much about plot but rather a series of vignettes. The characters are all terribly eccentric and the novel has a great warmth to it. My favorite thing so far is when the mother learns that the father had been having an affair she begins reading “Madame Bovary” and becomes so involved in the book that when the father comes home she begins passionately sharing her thoughts about the book and forgets to confront him about his misdeeds! Art is sometimes more real than life 😉

  14. Yes to hand embroidery and Annie Dillard. If you haven’t read “An American Childhood” yet—it will filet you. I’m wondering too if you’ve heard of the now showing in NYC?

  15. Christina Weiner

    Love your newsletter. I am about to read The Sunflower, a book about forgiveness. I’ll let y’all know how it reads when I’m finished. I am hooked on the needle books but cannot get inpired to decorate my first one. Please help. Keep doing what your doing, we love you.

  16. Heleen du Plooy

    I am grateful that I happened upon your work and blog many, many years ago, before IG. Thank you for the inspiration, in a world full of turmoil, I cherish your e-mails. I would love botanical kits. I lost my love of sewing after two neck fusions, but after making a needle book with yours as guide and inspiration, I am sorting my embroidery yarns, wool and fabric stash, só excited.
    Thank you!!!!

  17. Margaret Berryman

    Ann, I so look forward to your emails/newsletters. Would really love any embroidery, etc. ideas. Thank you!

  18. yes please to embroidery and applique Ann – your work is always magical and inspiring x

  19. Yes please! Lots of embroidery and appliqué in your inimitable style and definitely bats. How about a tiny rag doll witch?

  20. Reading THE BOOK OF DREAMS by Nina George, a wonderful book. I love this on page 97:
    “We read a story, and something happens. We don’t know what or why, nor which sentence was responsible, but the world has changed and we will never be the same again. Sometimes it takes us several years to realize that a book tore a hole in reality through which we could escape from the pettiness and despondency of our surroundings.

  21. Cynthia Bourque

    I Love reading your posts. They leave me feeling that everything is ok. Beautiful gentle words for the artists soul. I am in lust with your needle books and they have inspired me to make some with my ever-growing stash of materials. Embroidery has been my new obsession to look at and watch videos of. Though I have not made the leap to do it myself, which is strange being a life long “stitcher” ever sense I was given needle and thread. I would love to see what you come up with.

    Thanks for your inspiration! Cindi

  22. Henriet Ferguson

    My eye just caught the words applique, house and embroidery. My mind’s eye immediately saw a 3D sewed-together little house made up of 4 roof panels (2 triangles, 2 rectangles), 4 wall panels and a flat bottom panel, stuck all over with windows, doors, a vine, a cat, maybe a bicycle leaning to a wall, whatever. A face behind a window? Filled up with something soft? A real button for a bellpush?

  23. sheryl mcgettigan

    I love your posts. It takes me away from all the violence and hate in the world.
    I appreciate your positive attitude and your many wonderful ideas.
    I know what you mean about not being able to stop making the little sewing books, I have made several as gifts and want to make more. With each one a new idea formulates and I need to make another one. Thanks for the inspiration!
    As for books, I have been revisiting my collection of The Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun.

  24. Shelly Batt

    Patterns and kits, yes. I love houses. Bats, of course, not just because my last name is Batt. Your creations are so unique and have so much character. Thank you for sharing.

  25. I love your needle books and I would love a kit of printed instructions and the material to make one— even though I am signed up for your needle book workshop at French General in October. Really enjoyed your post.

  26. Wendy Pullin

    Hi Ann!
    I would love to see any and all embroidery and applicay projects. I love doing that kind of sewing. I sew mostly by machine, and embroider by machine as well. But doing your hand work is a growing and strengthening adventure for me. I LOVE it! Please, do some!
    Thank you for all you do,
    Wendy Pullin

  27. Leslie L Donahue

    Dear Ann,
    I always love book recommendations and I shall look up The Writing Life. My favorite reads this year have been Amy Falls Down by Jincy Willet and I read everything by Barbara Kingsolver. Kingsolver’s newest novel Unsheltered was very thought provoking.

    I have taken classes from you at French General and Love your patterns.

    Love to see your new artwork, Leslie Donahue

  28. Dee vlasak

    Because of your love of nature and painting, I think you’ll find Where the Crawdads Sing as complex and fascinating as I did. Love your needlebooks! I’ve made three now, and yes, I kept one for myself.

  29. I love the idea of the new tutorials/kits! And thank goodness for this post. I was trying to find the name of the Annie Dillard book you were reading – if seen it in your IG stories, but those disappear. So yay! I’ve been reading Natalie Goldberg’s “True Secret of Writing” this summer. Very inspiring for my lack luster summer writing habits.

  30. Claudia Jantz

    I love all your posts, try to do a little of everything.Decided to reread the classics this summer.Have finished Wuthering Heights-Emily Bronte, Sense & Sensibility-Jane Austin and am now reading The Hound of the Baskervilles-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Spend five days a week with my five year old granddaughter and three year old grandson and we do some little water colors most days.

  31. Love to see your ideas for applique and embroidery—– slow and unique, vintage needlework— with your eye, your pattern ideas would be soothingly stitch able and probably irresistible too!

  32. Judy Klem

    I Love embroidery and applique so bring it on! I’m relatively new to embroidery and have plans to practice and get better. I am very experienced with needle turn applique and made a Baltimore Album quilt top for our 25th wedding anniversary. I said at the time that if I finished it by our 50th I would be happy. Well, this year we will married 48 years so I better get busy!

  33. To embroidery and applique patterns, an emphatic and gleeful YES PLEASE! 🙂

  34. I love embroidery and applique. I’ve been appliquing blocks slowly for a quilt someday…it’s not about the quilt, it’s a simple portable project to take out when I’m in the mood to stitch or need a “take-along” project – rather like your little bits of stitchery. I took out the blocks one day and was surprised to realize that I’m half way through – which rather makes me want to commit to working on it more steadily so I can start another with ideas buzzing around in my mind. I was intrigued by the needlebook – I hadn’t thought of them as a way to corral tiny pieces of a project! Maybe I need to make one! This past year, I’ve been spending more time on artwork with watercolor and some acrylics. I think I’m about ready to pull out the stitchery for awhile. I have been stitching tiny (flat) felt owls together…they were left over from VBS and I decided to get them finished before I put that project away. I think they’ll make great Christmas ornaments :-).

  35. Peggy Schickler

    It makes my day when I see a new email from you! I have enjoyed making your dastardly owls and will soon make myself a darling needle book, once I collect all the perfect materials.
    Please read “The Unwinding of the Miracle” by Julie Yip Williams. It broke my heart, but I couldn’t put it down.

  36. Anything you create and do would be amazing. Kits and patterns would be lovely.
    I always love to hear what people are reading. Inspires me. I am reading DWELL by Melissa Michaels. It is helping me find a place to call home again ❤️

  37. Maureen Willetts

    Im a bit late coming in with thjis, but yes to more sewing projects, I have made the needlecase and love it, was meant as a gift for someone but as I couldn’t let it go, I had the pleasure of making another one. Keep them all coming in, please.

  38. Yes to applique! This is a go-to for me when I just want to sit but still have something to show for it. And I would love to do a scrap swap!

  39. Allegra Parry

    Hi! I’ve joined because I love your small pieces and needle cases but this Covid and various recent family matters are making me feel unmotivated. I’ve taken over the spare room for sewing and hope I can get started again soon. With all the time I’ve had this year I should have stitched all my Christmas cards by now! I haven’t done embroidery for years but I do make quilts. Love the fish!

    • Hi Allegra – thank you! Start small maybe – I get the lack of motivation in these strange times. It’s great you have a space devoted to sewing.

  40. Shey (Shirley) Morgan

    From Ballarat Australia
    ‘Be still my heart’, I say to myself Ann as I read through. I love reading everything you write about. And yes, I love applique and embroidery so very much.
    Hugs to you and those following you. Hope today is content for you.

  41. Kits? YES! Your work is amazing . So inspiring. I’ve been slow stitching for awhile now.
    Little books and snippets. Had no idea is was a thing until a couple of weeks ago , lol
    Love I absolutely love all of your ideas. Keep it up. Such a fun way to relax and create.

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