05 June 2012

OUT Chapter 3: Mary Frances of This is Marzipan

Ooooooooh!  Another fun one today!  I don't think I've ever read this book that Mary Frances of This is Marzipan played with today.  She makes it look like a home library must.  Plus she made it a family affair!  The best!  I love Mary Frances' simple but unique style.  She uses patterned fabrics with caution and precision, and creates details on her work that set it apart.  Always lovely.  I give you Mary Frances.
spring colors week: yellow
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Hello No Big Dill readers! It's such a privilege to return for my second visit to Once Upon a Thread. My jaw has been on the floor all month watching the amazingness Katy and all the other contributors have brought over here.

I am one of those moms who loves sharing my old favorite books with my kids. I come from a booklover family and could happily revisit "the classics" from my own childhood ad inifitum: Mike Mulligan, the Little House books, Make Way for Ducklings, Arrow to the Sun, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, Charlotte's Web, The Snowy Day. But Oliver Jeffers's Lost and Found is one of those rare new publications that has worked its way soundly into my heart.


In sparse but witty, loving prose Jeffers tells the story of an unnamed boy who finds a penguin and goes to great lengths to get him back home.


Since his hometown resources are no help, the boy decides that he will row the penguin to the place a book tells him penguins belong: the South Pole.


In a boat the boy builds himself, the pair set off. "Through good weather and bad," they persevere until the boy deposits the penguin safely home.


But something has happened over the course of their months spent searching and boat-building and sailing: the penguin has come to love the boy and the stories he tells.

Realizing that the penguin was not lost, just lonely, the boy turns his boat around. But the penguin, having come to the same realization, is also on his way to find the boy. For a moment it seems like they might miss each other...


...but then the boy sees the penguin, sailing along in the umbrella the boy left him.


On now-calm seas, the two can return "home together, talking of wonderful things all the way."



Besides the story itself, some of my favorite things about Jeffers's work in general and Lost and Found in particular are 1) his use of a unifed, vibrant palette throughout the book, and 2) the way individual images are repeated in ways that elevate objects into icons. For example, the boy's knit pompom hat in Lost and Found reappears in the book's sequel, Up and Down. When the two characters become separated in that book, the penguin spends part of his time worrying--and knitting. By the time the two are reunited, the penguin wears a pompom cap of his own--a detail never mentioned in the text but which visually conveys the bond the boy and penguin share, even when they are apart.

In Lost and Found, some of my favorite visual icons are the boy's red-and-white shirt, the rich teal ocean they travel, and the umbrella (always carry an umbrella!) that becomes the penguin's raft back to the boy--and their shelter on the way back home. Inspired by these images, and the characters themselves, I created this family set for myself and my two boys:




Let me share a few details about how I made each piece:

Lost and Found Umbrella Skirt.


This project started with a plain white linen A-line skirt from Banana Republic via my local thrift store. (I didn't bother to iron it before taking this shot, to make it extra "Before"-ish. Like those diet commercials where the Before shot features a woman with zits and a frown, and the After shot finds her magically made up and elated, besides being unnaturally thin. This is the zit shot.)


I dyed the skirt with dye from Dharma Trading Company. This was my first dye project and I was a little worried about how it would come out, but I'm very happy with the results--Dharma has great instructions over on their site.


The umbrella is added to the skirt with reverse applique. There isn't really a picture of the full umbrella opened out like this in the book, so I used the cover illustration to trace the general shape and then extended the lines.


From there, I cut each umbrella segment from freezer paper. I ironed the segments on to Kona cottons in the cover colors, cut them out with a 1/4" seam allowance, and used a paper piecing technique to assemble the umbrella by hand.


When the umbrella was pieced, I used some fusible interfacing to attach the applique to the wrong side of my skirt (right side of applique touches wrong side of skirt fabric). I traced the original umbrella shape onto the interfacing and used that as a sewing guide.


A few snips to cut away the skirt fabric from the front of the skirt...


And voila! A reverse applique umbrella, found.


From there I embroidered the umbrella handle and tag by hand and added a little "string" of machine stitches to attach them. The umbrella tag is another of the book's sweet little unmentioned details. It's the kind of tag that would read, "If found, return to ----." And the book is all about how the boy and the penguin learn to fill in that blank.


"the boy" necktie.


You can find the little boy's tie tutorial I used to make this one at The Purl Bee.


The tutorial uses a single fabric, but I started by piecing together strips of red and white Kona cotton.


The tie is almost all handsewn, and it involves some fussy pressing, but all in all it was not a difficult project. I've wanted to try this tutorial ever since I saw Meg's Easter ties, and I'm so glad I finally got around to it. This is one I'll definitely revisit in the future--probably adding a few inches to the length as my tall 6 1/2 year old grows.


"the penguin" felt mask and wings.


This was a quick and easy addition to the set, and will possibly be the most loved. The mask and wings are constructed from a double layer of felt (I went with the cheap polyester stuff because it was on sale at Jo-Ann's, but it would be lovely in a wool felt or repurposed sweater, too). The beak is a scrap of knit t-shirt left over from another project.


I drew the shapes freehand with chalk, using another mask we had around as a guide for placing the eye holes. Then I sandwiched elastic between the layers for the mask, and just sewed two elastic loops to the underside of each wing. Easier than pie.


And now a few more pictures for your enjoyment. I certainly enjoyed sharing this project--thanks Katy and all, and stop by {this is marzipan.} to say hi anytime!







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Love it all!  Especially that you took a thrifted skirt and detailified it and then made your own stripes for the tie.  Thanks for playing, Mary Frances!


  1. Great post!!! I love love love that skirt!!! Beautiful!

  2. I love the upcycled skirt with the reverse applique and embroidery and I really love the red and white tie!!!

    I've never read this book but now I want to go and find it. Thanks for sharing it!

  3. I love the story. We even watched a short of it at the Children's short film festival that traveled to the Wexner Center Ohio. http://www.oliverjeffers.com/projects/lost-and-found-film. I love the interpretation of the story and illustrations into wearable pieces. Lovely job!

  4. The tie is my favorite. Perfect boys' tie! Nice job!

  5. VERY cool, I love the colors, the reverse applique, the tie, the mask...everything!

  6. Oh, I love it! The skirt is super cute, I want one! And the penguin knits while he's sad? Dear, dear penguin. Must go get that book!

  7. Love it! We are fans of Oliver Jeffers at our house, and inspired by your wonderful OUT, I am in the making of a surprise for Sophie based on his latest (and our favorite) book, 'Stuck' :).

  8. What a sweet book and post! Love the skirt!! :) (and the before skirt description)

  9. I love that book as well! cute skirt...i think i need to go thrifting

  10. I love Oliver Jeffers books! They all have such cute little under stories that I don't know if kids would really understand at first. Great books for discussion with your kids! And the illustrations are magnificent.

  11. We love Oliver Jeffers books, which are in Spanish by Fondo de Cultura Económica.
    Lovely work.

  12. thanks for the kind words, all! and do go looking for Jeffers's work if you don't know it already--you won't regret it.

  13. Love the family outfits and this book looks like a must! Thanks.

  14. Oh my goodness, that skirt is right up my alley! I love everything about it. Lovely, just lovely!

  15. I am melting from the cuteness! We love that book and Mary Frances has made me fall in love with it all over again. The clothing she mad is amazing. Amazing!

  16. this girl mary frances is great. the colors of the skirt are perfect! i'll be on the lookout for the book too.

  17. this girl mary frances is great. the colors of the skirt are perfect! i'll be on the lookout for the book too.


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