Friday, 25 February 2011

The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff

I had to share this book with you, it's amazing!
If you sew at all I'm sure you can find it as useful as I do. It's helped me solve so many problems, reminded me of how to do things, and taught me loads on new things I'd never tried before.
Every page is packed with clear photos, diagrams, and step by step on how to achieve whatever technique or effect you can think of. With all the photo's in plain cream calico in good lighting, so you can see exactly what you need to do.
It's been such a help to me over the years. And my copy is now well thumbed.
I've just used it to learn a cording technique to create a fabric petticoat for my Mary Shelley doll that acts like a hooped crinoline. I didn't think it would come out as well as it has. It even stands on it's own :)
I'll have photo's of it tomorrow when I've given it an iron. But wanted to tell you of this fantastic book first.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Treasury - Corsets & Crinolines

I made up a new treasury of all the beautiful Victorian inspires underwear that you can find on Etsy. Inspired by my sewing this week to get some undies on Mary Shelley.

So far she has on her crotchless bloomers, and it never fails to surprise me that they bothered wearing them as they are just two legs sewn onto a waistband. There must have been a terrible draft!
She also has on her shift, and corset. And a bright red under-petticoat.

Any of you that follow me on Twitter (NatashaDolls) might already know I had a bit of a shock to find that Mary's petticoats need 1 whole meter of fabric each. And she has 6!. She's only 47cm tall, so I never thought it would be so much. But the very early Victorian style of bell shaped skirts that stuck out straight from the tight cinched waist was achieved with a lot of layers, this being before the invention of the hooped crinoline.

After researching how they did it I'm currently working on a corded petticoat that will be the next layer, which is something I've not done before. I had a bit of trouble getting used to this odd technique, but seem to be doing ok now.
I'm adding approx. 20 "cords" to a meter of fabric, which involves sewing string into the fabric to make it stiffer so it's able to hold it's shape, then starching it to help it a bit more. It's hard enough making a petticoat like this for a doll, I can't imagine how labor intensive it would be to make a full sized one, which would have had as many cords as they could manage. And I've read accounts of up to 100 sewn into one layer. It must have taken ages.
Many women of the time wore as many petticoats in varying layers as they could. I've no idea how they sat down.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Work In Progress - Dolls In Bits

It's been quite a productive week for me. So I thought I'd share some photos that I took last weekend while I was putting my 6 new dolls together.

After sculpting, endless sanding, paint and varnish there were 6 bodies and heads, 48 lag bits, and 48 arm bits laying on my table waiting to be strung into dolls.

I spent a very nice lazy Sunday with a real of vintage thread on a wooden spool, that was given to me by my grandmother, stringing these poor bald things together. Hoping they'll become the dolls I see in my head.
From Left to Right we have Rose La Touche, Mary Shelley, Elizabeth Armistead, Christina Rossetti, Katherine Walters, and Lizzie Siddal.
I tend to have spurts when I want to sculpt, so try and make a few dolls at a time to use up that creating burst. Once I have them strung together I dress them one by one, including all the details I want to finish them off.

I've spent this week giving them all some hair, so they all look a little less alien now. Sitting together on my bookshelf wearing only their painted stockings. I've had some trouble with getting the right colour of feathers for poor Katherine, so unfortunately she's still bald until the new order arrives. Why anyone would think that sage green was a good substitute for a medium brown I really don't know.

I always love the soft texture that the LIQUITEX MATTE VARNISH  I use gives to their skin. It's such a nice soft velvety looking colour, and very different from what the colour was before I put it on. Before, the paint was a darker shade, with a shiny finish to it. And I'm always really worried that it won't come out as I want. But I have to give it credit, this stuff always does as I want it too. The glossy touches to their eyes and lips I added last and left dry for 24hrs.

I'm going to spend this weekend sorting them out with bloomers, if they would have worn any, shifts, under petticoats and corsets. I'll take some more photos when they're a little more respectable.

Hope you have a great weekend.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

My First Treasury

A brand new blog, and my very first treasury.
I hope you like them both, although there's not a lot here right now.

This Is Me

I’m an artist that specialised in unique handcrafted Art Dolls – Each made to tell a story.
I live in a very beautiful part of South Wales with a very indulging husband, and some very silly cats. From the window as I work I look out over a landscape that includes stunning mountains and green hillsides, a great sweep of river that shines in the valley, old ramshackle industrial warehouses, an ancient Abbey and countless churches, remnants of forgotten chimneys from long gone pot works, and row upon row of slate roofed Victorian terrace housing, along with the usual assortment of residential and business buildings.
My creative life includes all sorts of different things. I paint and draw, sew, crochet, work in altered art, assemblage, mixed media and paper crafts. But my first love is Dolls - The odd and the weird, altered, sculpted or assemblage. Art is important to me to keep me sane in a mad world.
It’s important to me to tell the stories that wouldn’t otherwise get told. Sometimes it’s the ones that rattle around inside my head – The silly little stories that get stuck somewhere between dreaming and waking. But increasingly it’s the stories of the women in times just past. The women that have just past the time of living memory, and the amazing difference in the lives they led compared to how we live now. It was so recently that such astounding leaps were made in science and medicine, as well as the staggering differences in the way people lived there lives. 100 years ago there was no way that I’d be able to talk to you here with such freedom, able to lead my own life and wear the clothes that make me feel good and ensure that I’m comfortable, not restricted and contorted by corseting and heavy layers. Thinking of all the women to whom these things were all denied makes me very grateful to live in times such as these with all the benefits of our age.
You can find more of what I’m working on, or just things I like at the links below.
Thank you for taking an interest.