“The beauty shot of Mole was along the path at Lincoln Woods,” begins Cynthia Treen. “We did lots of photography along the Sunset Trail around the edge of the lake with mossy rocks. The winter scene was shot in front of my former house on the West End, and Toad Hall behind Toad’s car was shot in East Greenwich; it’s the home of one of my student’s at the Handicraft Club.”
Treen is describing some of the shooting locations for her latest craft book, The Wind and the Willows Felt Friends: Beginning-Friendly Sewing Patterns to Bring Kenneth Grahame’s Classic Tale to Life. Within the 144 pages, fiber artist Treen provides clear instructions for making main characters Mr. Toad, Ratty, Mole, and Badger.
The book took about a year and a half to create with Treen embarking on her own adventures that included transforming characters beloved since 1908 into figures with patterns, writing the manuscript, and doing most of the photography – except for the cover image and two chapter headings, by Karen Philippi. She also rekindled a working relationship with former colleague Pete Mars, who Treen met when they both worked at Martha Stewart Living in New York City, now also living in Providence.
“When I could not complete all the sets I needed, Pete generously took over, making several from start to finish that beautifully enhanced the book. It was like working together at Martha again,” says Treen, who worked at the company for many years developing soft toys for Martha By Mail, and producing many craft and sewing segments, often appearing on-camera alongside the visionary behind “it’s a good thing.”
To showcase Treen’s endearing models, Mars painstakingly fabricated elaborate sets using many items from the recycling bin such as corrugated cardboard, paper towel tubes, and packing materials. “We used aluminum foil for forming irregular surfaces, masking tape for anchoring elements, and paper towels dipped in white glue to imitate surfaces like earth and tree bark, and to hold the construction together. The surface elements were finished with paints, model railroad ‘earth,’ wool batting to imitate snow, and crumbled tea leaves for the barky surfaces of roots,” Mars explains.
“I mentioned to Pete that Badger's kitchen has a herringbone floor in the book, so he made one for me. He spent a week laying it out with tweezers,” says Treen. “He added so many delightful details into the sets; it is impossible to choose which set I love most!"
Treen has a lifelong adoration of tiny worlds. Growing up in New Hampshire, she remembers spending hours making all sorts of things for a dollhouse that she built with her father. "There is magic in learning, making, and giving that touches our core as human beings. Early on, I wondered if creating tiny felt animals was a bit frivolous, but I’ve learned from my [fellow] makers that it is profoundly rewarding on the deepest level,” says Treen.
Her book is sure to inspire others to construct their own wondrous felt animals, armed with instructions, supply lists, and plenty of visual inspiration. On Treen’s website, she also sells kits with supply packs to make the characters – including Otter (a bonus chapter readers can download from the publisher's website: BookmarkedHub.com) – and then some. She also has a Patreon group where supporters are privy to a new design each month to stitch with either a video or PDF tutorial; donations start at $3 a month.
“With this book and all I do, I aim to create a welcoming space of inspiration for beginners and seasoned makers alike that taps into, nurtures, and spreads good energy,” says Treen. For details, visit linktr.ee/threadfollower. Find or ask for The Wind and the Willows Felt Friends at your favorite independent bookseller.
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