Daily Mini Interview: Miniature Landscapes by Louise Smith

Miniature Embroidery by Louise Smith
Landscapes in Silk and Thread

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Tell us a bit about your background as an artist.

Free Bee 2 x 2 inchesAs a teenager, I saw an exhibition of free motion machine embroidery on silk, and was intrigued by how the stitched foreground appeared so near and the painted background so distant, making me feel I’d traveled miles while standing on the spot. But a little research on the subject—in books, in those pre-Internet days—left me feeling this was too tricky and time-consuming an art form to learn at the time.

I must have held onto the idea somewhere, though, and seven years ago when I was seeking something creative to do in my spare time, it popped straight into my head. By this time, the Internet, artists’ blogs and YouTube videos had made learning a bit easier. Despite having done neither painting nor sewing since my schooldays, I went all in, buying a sewing machine and a bunch of silk, paint and thread, determined to make a go of it.

R&R 3 x 4 inchesI did some painting on silk first, getting used to that medium, then took on the task of learning free motion machine embroidery. They’re very different disciplines, but they do share a common power to exasperate! When a painting or sewing session goes well, though, you feel like you’ve climbed a mountain.

Nowadays, I also incorporate a lot of other techniques such as hand sewing, gluing, ribbon work, and using thread lint—whatever’s demanded by the scene I’m trying to create.

What unique materials have gone in to your work?

I doubt it’s unique to me, but I use thread lint sometimes, which is just regular sewing thread chopped finely. I use a toothpick to stir different colors together to get the exact shade I want. It’s great for depicting fields or trees in the middle distance, that are too near for paint and too distant for embroidery. I attach it to the silk using acid-free tacky glue.

Blue Plate Special 4.25 x 5.5 inchesSince I work with woven silk, sometimes when I’m looking for a really fine thread, such as for boat rigging, I’ll pull a single strand of silk from the side of the piece and use that.

One piece featuring seagulls had me stumped, because I tried thread, then ribbon, and still wasn’t happy with the look of the gulls. I ended up using tiny slivers of Tyvek, which is used for everything from envelopes to house wraps, but counts as fiber.

I sometimes use snippets of ribbon or cotton. And I’m a fabric store’s nightmare because I’ll drag out a big roll of some fabric with an intriguing texture and buy a quarter-yard of it.

Tick-Tock 3 x 4 inchesAlthough I embroider mostly with regular sewing thread, I do subject it to processes that make it look different. My work should look absolutely nothing like traditional embroidery with its very tidy, recognizable stitch patterns, because nature doesn’t look like that. So, I might do some free motion machine embroidery and then rough it up with an emery board to make it look like windblown grass; or chop into it with scissors. It sometimes feels like hairstyling on a very small scale.

Why do you find yourself predominantly working in a small scale? 

With the medium of embroidery, it’s partly determined by the diameter of hoop that can fit within the arm of the sewing machine. Much larger than a 10-inch hoop, and you’ll find the edge of the hoop bangs into the arm of the machine and compromises your stitching. And even on pieces that don’t involve the machine, I still aim small because it would take too long to hand-sew a large area.

Half Moon 3 x 4 inchesAs for why embroidery as opposed to, say, large-scale landscape painting, I think it’s because I’m compelled to do something different. If embroidery on a small scale suddenly became a very mainstream hobby, I’d probably look for something else to do. There’s something special to me about bringing a relatively obscure art form to light.

Artists that have inspired you?

Alison Holt, who’s based in the UK, is one of the first artists to have inspired me in this particular medium. And Kirsten Chursinoff is a fiber artist local to British Columbia, whose work I’ve been lucky enough to see in person. I’m afraid I’ve never been able to find out the name of the artist whose exhibition originally inspired me as a teenager, but I’m very thankful to them!

I’m also inspired by artists in all media, because they all have so much to teach me about composition and color, and I enjoy participating in art groups both local and online.

Break in the Clouds 1.25 x 2.75 inchesFavorite artist working with miniatures?

Alison Holt creates small-scale landscapes using free motion machine embroidery—and magic, I think—on silk. Janet Granger, a fellow member of Stitchin’ Fingers, creates exquisite miniature dollhouse furnishings.

Advice you’d share with beginner artists or those working in small scale?

I count myself as a beginner still, but I’d say: don’t hesitate to create a website and/or blog to help publicize your work. In real life, miniatures can be overlooked when displayed beside larger-scale artwork, but in the virtual world nothing can be larger than the size of a screen, so your visual presence can be as large as anyone else’s.

What is the most memorable miniature work you have ever seen?

Maarten Meerman’s miniature wooden sculptures are probably the smallest-scale I’ve ever seen in person. I also admire the work of sculptor Willard Wigan; and I can’t name any one above the others, but I’m intrigued by eggshell carvers.

Into Silver Waters 3.5 x 2.625 inchesWhy small scale for your miniature landscapes? 

I love making people look more closely. I love a double-take. I love outright disbelief. But beyond the initial reactions I sometimes see, I love when somebody looks for a long time because a piece makes them feel something.

What’s to come from Louise Smith?

I’m working on pieces now for exhibition this winter in a group show called Positively Petite, featuring small-scale artwork and sculpture. That’s in Coquitlam, BC. The qualifying dimensions are around 3 x 4 inches or smaller, so after that I’m usually ready to bust out and do some comparative whoppers at 5 x 6 inches.

What do you want miniature fans to know about you?

Regardless of the scale of my work, my aim is always to create a piece that evokes an emotional response, rather than solely a reaction to the small dimensions or unusual materials. So, as much as I’m trying to master techniques and push boundaries in fiber, my true goal is to move you—miles and miles, and a mood away—through that little scrap of silk and thread.

Louise Smith is based in Vancouver, Canada. View many more of her miniature landscapes on the Threaded Views websiteThreaded Views blog, and check out her Stitchin’ Fingers profile.

Fall at your Feet - in 7-inch hoop

Daily Mini Interview: Miniature Knitting by Althea Crome

Miniature Knitwear by Althea Crome

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How did you get into miniature knitting?

In 1998, I had my second “batch” of children. Augie (my first) was born in 1994, and then I had triplets in 1998! Two years later, in 2000, I built them all a dollhouse. picassob_painting3_smlI used to make knitwear for my children when they were babies. I would make gloves and baby booties, but always craved a bigger challenge. At that time, I was always using patterns by other people because I was intimidated to design my own work.

I began making 1:12 knit works using real needles not miniature needles. My first works were very bulky. I created a vest with roughly 30 stitches per inch. I just loved it. It was truly a light bulb moment for me. And so, my children’s dollhouse never got built as I became obsessed with knitting in miniature. I made all my works in scale.

How did you transition from making miniature knitwear for yourself to selling your work?

I had never been to a miniature show, nor had I seen miniatures before. ribbed_sockThe inspiration for my work was all in my head. I wasn’t writing down any patterns. In due time, I went to the closest miniature shop which was 2 and a half hours away. I put all my miniature works in a cigar box and brought them to the shop. The feedback I received was that my work was too bulky. So, I bought something like a small dress form or mannequin which helped with scale.

Early on, I tried to sell some of my bulky works on eBay which helped to connect me to lots of people in the miniature world. I was soon asked the question, have you ever tried gloves? My first try looked like a baseball mitt! I’ve saved all of these beginner works, by the way. I was so determined. GloveThen I thought, “well now maybe I’ll use sewing needles.” I had previously tried using tatting needles for lace making. They have an eye on the end and are longer and not as sharp. Then, I started to use thread. I made a pair of gloves.

When I joined a miniature knitting and crochet Yahoo! Group, I found Sue Ressuguie. Her knitted works blew my mind. I could stare at her work for hours. She was the first person to mention the International Guild of Miniature Artisans Guild School in Castine. At that time, I started collaborating with Marcia Backstrom, a doll maker. Eventually I attended a show myself – two shows in one year, in fact: the IGMA Guild Show and Tom Bishop. In 2003, I attended the Guild School for the first time and the gloves I donated for the auction sold for $600!

10525788_494919813999124_5492188149455734667_nHow long would it take you to make one of your prototypes from your 24-hour class at IGMA Guild School?

For the 2015 IGMA Guild School, the prototype of the fisherman’s cabled vest took me about 1 week or less to make. I worked for about 5-6 hours a day.

The fisherman’s rope cable has a moss stitch. There’s also hints of algae and basket weaving in the design.

Have you ever made something so beloved you couldn’t sell the work?

Over the years I made very special pieces that were very conceptual. I made a Warhol sweater with soup can pockets and the iconic Marilyn Monroe on the back of the sweater. That work is now in the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center in Maysville. Scuba_front_nohand_smlKaye Browning is the Miniature Curator at the museum and she’s purchased a lot of my work.

For a period of time when I found I could not knit, a scuba diving trip really helped me get through a tough time. So, I knitted a special sweater all about scuba diving. It has on it a water spout, sharks, a dolphin following a boat, coral, fish, and my diving instructor finding a weight belt. I eventually sold this to Kaye Browning.

Some of my most special works are art history themed pieces including a work of a Greek amphora, and a Picasso piece. Those were really stand out works. My most colorful creations are 1:12 scale garments, each of which takes about 30 to 40 hours to design and 100-300 hours to knit.

What works will you start designing when you go home?Greekwhite2_med

I have a pattern in mind right now: a medieval nativity scene based on a triptych. There will be panels in the front. Once I design it, I can knit it. I use a software program that’s a motif maker which pixelates the images. Sometimes I sketch out work or modify existing patterns.

Highlights of your knitting career?

I received a call from LAIKA Studios regarding making knitwear for a feature film. I sewed 14 sweaters and 5 pairs of striped gloves for Coraline. I made the star sweater with sparkles that she wears during the film. I kept the 15th sweater and still have it today!


I was on the Martha Stewart Show a few years ago. Everyone in the audience was working on knitting projects. I was in the front row and spoke to Martha on camera, she had a couple of my pieces on a dish. She asked about some of my prices and I had a few minutes on screen. It was so much fun to do that!

earthI’ve also been featured in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. It was a 2-page spread titled, “Prepared to Be Shocked!” There have been many other wonderful highlights thus far.

Advice you’d give to a new artist?

Follow your passions and work on what inspires you. Start a website, even if it’s only one page. No matter how basic it is, it will help people find you.

Advice you’d give to a new knitter?

One of your greatest resources will be a local yarn shop. Just sit and talk with them and listen to what they have to say. They’re knowledgeable when it comes to what yarns or what needles you may wish to try.

Advice you’d give to a new miniaturist?nano3

Come to the Guild School. I’ve done miniatures and I’ve done other things I haven’t been thrilled about. I always longed to make art or make miniatures. I’m happy now, because my children taught me to pursue my passions. They are tenacious, and keep me creating.

Miniature knitting by Althea Crome has mesmerized the masses of mini enthusiasts around the world. If you’d like to learn from Althea, take one of her classes at the annual International Guild of Miniature Artisans Guild School. To see more of her miniature knitted works, visit AltheaCrome.com.

Daily Mini Interview: By Anni (Miniature Crochet World)

By Anni (Miniature Crochet World)

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What materials do you use to make your crochet miniature animals?

5For my micro creations, I mostly use fine embroidery threads and also sometimes cotton threads and yarn for the bigger ones.

How has your work with miniatures and micro crochet minis evolved?

I’ve been making crochet miniatures since 2012. I first started making micro ones (about 0.4 inches) and would list them on eBay. A year later in 2013, I opened my Etsy shop.

I love making Disney characters, these are my most favorite. I’ve always been inspired by Walt Disney since I was little. I’ve spent whole days watching those magical Disney productions such as Beauty and The Beast, Cinderella… and drawing his beautiful characters with colored pencils and paint.

And now I’m happy to turn them into another kind of art: miniatures. They are always a great pleasure and challenge for me.

6Favorite miniature you own?

My collection of miniatures by other artists is relatively new and has just a few miniatures. But my most favorite one is a little book shop I bought from Petit Connoisseurs not long ago. It was made by the South African artisan Roz Crouch. This is a half scale dollhouse, very well furnished and everything is so small and perfect. I really love it because this is my first dollhouse, and it means so much to me. The house has its own spirit, memories, and is so very realistic that it’s simply unbelievable that it’s a dollhouse. I am very impressed and admire Roz Crouch’s beautiful work. I hope soon I’ll have more of her great work in my collection.

Why miniatures? What appeals to you most about what you do?

11A few years ago I read a blog article about miniatures featuring an incredible video that was revealing the magical world of miniatures. Before that I didn’t even know such world existed, but at the moment I saw the enchantment of building a whole new mini world, a copy of the real one, but even better, I fell in love with this art and decided to try. And it worked.

Why crochet?

After I had started to master the art of crocheting, it was a challenge and it was fun to apply it to miniatures. What I really love about my work is that I don’t feel it’s work. It’s magic, it’s a challenge to recreate what you see on a picture for example in the same crochet shape. And when you get people’s approval and positive feedback, when you find people who love your creatures the same way as you do… that’s the greatest recognition of all.7

Advice for beginner artists?

Make your art with heart and soul, so that it can be unique. Make an individual distinguished style. Place your love on everything you do.

Other activities you enjoy?

In addition to my miniature crochet creations, I’m also a dog clothes designer. I have a Yorkie named Carey. First I started making clothes for her then I opened an Etsy shop. After 3 years of hard work now I have also a dog fashion website.1

My other hobbies are painting and drawing, though I don’t have much time for either lately. I love spending time in nature. Nature inspires me the most. It makes me feel relaxed and at the same time, it charges me with so much positive energy. I adore magical walks in the beautiful forests and to see all wonders of nature, all colors of life. The greatest art gallery of all.

What’s to come from By Anni?

Here in Bulgaria where I live, making miniatures is not very common or popular. But I sincerely hope things are about to change in the future and that we also start attending big miniature exhibitions. 3My dream is to visit some of the world’s greatest miniature exhibitions. Meeting other miniaturists in person and seeing their work live would be a great experience for me. Currently, I’ve been working on my blog and I hope it’ll be ready to go online very soon. Miniature lovers will find there more information about what I’m working on at the moment, what’s coming up next, lots of pictures of my miniature creations and more “behind the scenes.” This will also be a space for fun, contests, sweepstakes and all that can make people enjoy my work even more.

I’m also planning to make a pet collection in the near future and offer crochet miniatures made after real life pet models from pictures provided by customers. 4The pet collection will include different breeds of dogs, cats, and other animals.

What do you want miniature fans to know about you?

All of my miniatures are made without any patterns. Sometimes I use only a picture (for my crochet characters) but mostly I use my imagination and make everything with plenty of LOVE.

Anna Stoykova is from Bulgaria. Her crochet miniatures can be purchased online through her brand, By Anni (Miniature Crochet World). Shop on Etsy, or follow along on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or her Miniature Crochet World blog.