Sunday, 16 December 2012

Fiddling About This Weird Week

A weird few weeks.
I promised myself a decent amount of time to get by my two besties Christmas presents made, and then managed to get them made in just a few days. I also told myself I was going to use the pre-Christmas weeks to work on my Elizabeth 1, without thinking that the logistics of working with another artist on the other side of the world might slow me down a bit.
Working with Linda has been wonderful. I'd swear we're long lost twins sometimes we think so much alike. But while we're waiting for samples and and a few little gifts to cross the ocean so we can get a proper look at the fabric I'm using and the beautiful stones and wire that Linda is using the postal system is slowing things down for us. I have Beth now in her underskirt, sleeves and bodice. Her skirt is made and waiting to be tweaked to get just the right fit. And me and the lovely Linda are working on the plans and designs for the decorations. By chance I found a perfect flaw in the paintwork on the left side of her upper chest that looks just like a beauty mark. And I've managed to fit her bodice wide enough so that it will still show once her wide lace ruff is attached. She's coming along so well in her layers of silk and brocade. I'm so looking forward to seeing the latest of Linda's samples, and am trying my best to not tap my feet and jump out on the Mailman each morning.

I did have a little trouble with Beth's sleeves as at first I tried making them with a full length, gradually expanding sleeves so that they would have the fullness at the shoulder that she needed. But it just didn't look right. In the end I tailored her sleeves to fit loosely along the forearm before they expanded. She looks much better now, and I love how her silk shift peeks out at her wrist and along her neckline.
It's been a weird time in other ways too, as I normally try and slow down if I can at this time of year. but my brain had other ideas about it and has been trowing ideas at me right left and centre. The first of the new ideas I started working on is a little different for me as I normally make dolls to comment on historical society that has shaped how we live, the unusual lives and sufferings of women, the mythical and the strange, and anything else that grabs my attention. This doll is more specifically my comment on women in our own society and in that of the past - She's called Bound, and I hope to be able to show you all soon :-)
Another new thing is the start of a new book, which I always love. My darling husband bought me a few books for our anniversary, so I'm starting with one on Victorian Murderesses :-) I hope to find some new mysteries and more information on some women I've read about before.
Before Bound is even finished, and while I'm still working on her detailing, I got a mad strange idea to make something very silly. The legends of the Welsh Pirate Captain Morgan lodged itself in my head and I though wouldn't it be fun to make Captain Morgan's Daughter :)
From a social statement on the bonds of women (very serious), to total Welsh nonsense.
I told you it had been a weird few weeks!!!

Monday, 26 November 2012

New Dolls, Anxiety, & Dolls Heads

I've got a few new dolls to share while I sit here stiff and aching after yesterdays Birmingham Doll and Teddy show. It was a busy day, and we had some fun, but it was a Long journey so me and hubby took leave from the day jobs today to recover a bit.
I've been so busy lately it's so nice to take a step back and enjoy just being here with Cris and the cats. A nice family cwtchy day cuddled under my blanket :)

Anxiety is an evil thing, and as I've mentioned before here it's something I suffer with and try my hardest to keep under control. Not many people know that it can cause unlimited pain, mental stress and depression, as well as making it almost impossible to function, talk to other people or even leave your home. After a recent unwanted burst of this I did all the obvious things like saw my doctor and talked to my lovely understanding boss, rested myself and worked to come out the other side of it in some sort of functioning state. And I also tried something new - Bach Flower Remedies.

I've used, and liked, the Rescue Remedy they make that many people know of. And when I went to pick up a new bottle I found they also do more specific pre-prepared remedies. I know a lady that swares by Bach Remedies and has always being very helpful with information and advice, so I thought I'd give them a go. I'm glad I did as at the moment I seem to have relaxed and come around again to normal life a little quicker than I normally would. Looks like trying something new is a good idea sometimes :)

I often use my own feelings as inspiration, and this doll is part of what I feel sometimes. She’s dirty and tattered, huddled on her mattress in a dark corner, struggling to keep warm and look after herself. Just waiting to see the daylight and understand her own mind again. If you look at her face she looks calm and contented, Just another normal face in the crowd. But it’s what you can’t see that is what matters, and Anxiety needs help and understanding. Some of us are lucky enough to have the support we need, but there are those out there that need help they can’t get.

Anxiety only wears her dirty thin tattered shift and two ripped stained petticoats with a pair of thick wool long mittens to try and stave off the cold. She will sit of lay on her own stuffed mattress.

I love this doll. She has a special place in my heart. She is for sale, and I'll be sad to see her go, but I want to share her meaning and gentle comfort with others and I hope someone will find her and love her like I do.

Another new dolly just made is my Ashiepattle, or Cinderella, doll. Cinderella is one of the most well know of all the fairytales, but my favorite is the original Grimm brothers Ashiepattle.
The story has been used and changed many times, in books, films, toys and all fantasy. But I always go back to the original, creepy version, were the stepsisters actually start cutting off toes and things to get the shoe to fit, and their mother telling them to do it!!!

This Cinderella wears long drawers and layered petticoats under her full knee length skirts. Unfortunately, the hard work she’s been forced to do have left her dirty and tattered, her skirts torn and stained. Her silk blouse has three quarter sleeves and is pulled in tight across her middle by a matching corset, and she has an apron with two rags in the pocket and a broom made of grasses and a twig from my peach tree.

As you probably already realise I'm pretty much facinated by the darker side of life in times past. And I often try and understand why women did what they did and made choices that I could never see myself making as I could never be in the same position. One group of women that I struggle to understand are the courtesans and prostitutes. Logically I understand why they made the decision to live that life, but another part of me can't find the personal conection to that choice because of the modern life I lead. They were strong women that did things to regain control of thier own life, and I have to be honsest that part of me is impressed with them. I also know that many of them must of endured levels of hardship and degradation that we'll never understand. And my heart and soul weep for them.

Madame Lucile is a women that most decent folk won’t talk of. She’s a Courtesan. A high class, very expensive, prostitute that sells herself to the richest men of her choice. Always choosing the best looking and most likely to spoil her with gifts and expensive treats, she’s so successful that she gets to do as she likes. It’s a real shame she hasn’t thought ahead to when her looks fade away and she can no longer rely on rich patrons. But she never did have a head for figures.

Madame Lucile wears her frivolous underwear, all in silk. Her drawers are gathered at the knee and lace trimmed. Her soft chemise is shorter than usual and tucked in to her drawers so she can get that tight silhouette she prefers. Her blue silk corset is trimmed with lace, and her dressing gown trimmed with lace and ribbon. To add to her perfect hourglass figure she also has a set of frills tied around her waist to give fullness to her hips and rear.

At the Birmingham fair I did find myself a little treat in the form of two battered, chipped, broken and repaired, dirty, unwanted, and un-loved old dolls heads.

As soon as I saw these pretty old babies I just had to have them, and the lady selling them wanted so little for them I just couldn't say no. She had so many beautifully preserved dressed whole dolls that these two stood out to me straight away. And for the cost of a bottle of decent wine I came home with two new treasures.

They are really beautiful to me. I know that not everyone would thing so, but I guess I'm strange like that. Even the little squint of this ones pretty blue eyes where they have been fixed in the past a little badly just makes me smile, and I knew I had to save them. I'm going to make them both a simple stand each so that I can display them on my mantle. And I might even make each a soft lace ruff with a satin bow :)

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Jane Eyre, Beatrix Potter & Cinderella

Firstly I have to say I'm really sorry for the state of these photo's. It's rained all week and been really dark. Also I've had some type of nasty sicky bug and just haven't had the energy to take more now that the sun has finally shown herself this weekend.

As I've been stuck on my sofa under a blanket cuddling my cat cutie Meanna I've got quite a lot of sewing done. It's saved me from going nuts with nothing but crap day time tv for company. Here you can see my Jane Eyre in her corded petticoat, and behind her is the start of her blue ruffled petticoat.
I find it easier to set ruffles on the rug so I can pin things down and pull at the threads.

After her ruffled petticoat I made Jane one of Silk Cotton and trimmed the edge with lace. And I made her a cute little chemise corset cover made up of embroidery anglaise trimmed with blue ribbons.

She's come along so fast that I can hardly understand how I got it all done. But sewing silk has been so nice, and I taught myself how to sew perfect handsewn french seams too. I call that a productive week, even though I was slow and vauge headed.

Now Jane is sitting on my table in her silk gown trimmed with fine lace. Her dark red hair just dried and she's ready for her bonnet and veil. I've got some really pretty paper flowers for her hat and as soon as I'm done typing I'm going to start refining the shape of her bonnet to get it just right.
I made her gown skirts with two layers of silk, the over-layer being a deep haboiti silk ruffle trimmed at the top and bottom with more lace. Her bodice is gathered at the top with a tight fitted section across her torso. Her sleeves are long and fitted with large puff tops, and she has little lace mittens peeking out from the ends of her sleeves, which sit quite long over the hands as they would have been during the 1820's when the book was set.
I've had to be quite carful with Jane in her ivory silk. I'd hate to get her dirty now I've worked so hard on her, but with two cats in the house I've been worried about a stray dirty paw print (from Darcy of course!!!). To try and keep her perfect I've been making sure I've only worked on Jane when the kitties are either out or sleeping as when Darcy starts going nuts he doesn't care what's in his way - He's coming through whether you like it or not!
This blue eyed little cutie is going to be another Cinderella doll I've been making when I can't work on Jane. Alongside working on my Beatrix Potter doll of course. I don't normally work like this and it's been a bit strange. I'm looking forward to just having one project on the go instead of three or four. And I'm still working on my Elizabethan doll Beth whenever I get a chance. But I got to say it's all gone alright so far. While one thing is drying or I'm waiting for a bit of fabric to be delivered I've had something else to do to keep me busy. It's always at this time of year that I really have a need to sew and create, and I can never decide if it's the cold outside or the aproaching Christmas holidays that make me so focused. But it's good to get things done with the big Birmingham Doll and Teddy Fair coming up at the end of the month.
Beatrix is waiting for her bunny to come sit on her lap, and he's currently drying between layers of paint to build up his copper brown fur coat. I'm really happy with how her deer stalker came out, and she's looking really cute sitting on my bookshelf as she waits for her things to be finished.
I still have to work out how to make her some tiny paint brushed...

Monday, 29 October 2012

A Mad Hatters Tea Party

It's so good to finally get something finished :)

I've been working so hard on so many dolls at once that it didn't really feel like I was getting anywhere for a while. But now I have my Mad Hatter all finished and sitting pretty next to me as I type. I really love how he came out, he's one of the dolls I can't help smiling at - I don't know why :)

The colours this time just all seem to work together as I want, and his accessories just came together in a flash. His sad little face is just what I pictured, and I had a lot of fun making him.

He has a bright turqoise silk waistcoat with a big bow cravat in flowery lawn fabric. His silk hat is trimmed out with a paper flower, pearl head hat pins, a found charm and clock hand, and of course, his 10/6 label.
From his hand dangles a needle and thread, and from his waist is a tape measure. On his other wrist is a felt pin cushion tied on with ribbon.

Beatrix Potter is sitting right next to the Hatter. All dressed now and waiting for the bits and pieces she needs to finish her off. I've made her a little bunny rabbit to sit in her lap, and have finally got my little piece of silk to make her a Peter Rabbit blue scarf. Next I need to make her her own deer stalker hat from a piece of Welsh wool I have. I've no idea how to do this but guess I'll figure it out along the way. And I'm going to give her a little satchel bag with her paints and sketchbook in.

My other little custom doll I can show you, but can't say who she's for at the moment in case the person finds out.
She's an early Victorian lady in a pretty grey lawn dress with scattered flowers. As you can see I still need to add her hair. But all her clothes are finished, all her petticoats and skirts, bodice and corsets. She's a pretty looking thing with her lavendar eyes :)

As soon as I finished off my Hatter I really really had a need to make a doll that's been in my head planning for quite a while now. I've strted my Jane Eyre, and you can see she already has her drawers, shift and panteletts (frilly long separate legs to hid the legs when skirts are raised). And yesterday I put many holes in my fingers making her first petticoat and a corded petticoat from thick textured cream fabric with lines of string sewn in for stiffness.

I've not made a wedding gown yet, so decided to make my Jane in her wedding outfit complete with bonnet and veil. I even splashed out on a mix of silk fabrics to make it in natural shades of ivory and cream.

The book Jane Eyre was set in the very very early Victorian period. Technically really just before Victoria as it was 1810 - 1820.
There isn't a lot of info out there about the clothes of this period, and a lot of it contradicts itself or gets things muddled up. Things seem to jump straight from Regency muslin to the young Princess Victoria, so I'm doing my best to wade through the differing information.

I couldn't resist treating myself to another showing of the film yesterday afternoon, tucked up on the sofa with a cheeky glass of wine and my Meanna in my lap. I forgot just how much I love the story. It really is a wonderful book and I think I need to read it again very soon.

I'll share more photos as soon as I take some :)
Best wishes to all xxx

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Edgar Allan Poe, Beatrix Potter & The Sad Mad Hatter

Finally managed to get a doll finished. All dressed and sitting pretty, with all his buttons in a row. Meet my little Edgar Allan Poe.

If I'd thought about it better I think I may have made this little chap in a bigger size as it would have been really nice to make his jacket removable and get more detail in his waistcoat and shirt, but those green eyes just drew me in.

He stands at only 25cm tall, has his notebook ready to make notes on insperation, and has his very own pet raven to keep him company.

Edgar wears an outfit similar to one he wears in one of his most well-known photographic portraits. Over his long drawers and silk shirt he has a white cravat tied under his high pointed collar, and a double breasted waistcoat made in a cream stripped silk. His black trousers and jacket are made of good quality cotton, with his jacket buttoned high to his neck with a small round collar.
I'm having a lot of fun getting my Mad Hatter dressed up and ready to strut his stuff. It's so nice to be able to go full out and really go mad on all the little details for him. And I've already planned out the details for his crazy top hat.

I've no idea why I think of the Hatter as such a sad charecter, but I always have. I think it's knowing that the poor man knew that he was going mad, and knew it was the mercury nitrate he used in the felting procces that was causing it. But he was unable to prevent it - He had to make hats, and the technology to protect himself just didn't exsist.

I don't think he was always sad, but sometimes in quiet moments I belive he was.
So far he has on his long drawers and a fine silk cotton shirt with deep cuffs and a very high pointed collar. I'm waiting for a fabric delivery that will give me some wonderful silk to make his waistcoat.

That same fabric delivery will also have the stuff I need to finish dressing my Beatrix Potter too. I've ordered a few shades of blue silk to make her a Peter Rabbit Blue scarf to wear with her tweedy skirt and jacket and deer stalker hat. As soon as I get it all I'll be sewing like a demon :)

I have given her a lace trim and high collar to her silk blouse, and as you can see I added her soft brown fluffy hair.
She's starting to look like she should now, and I hope I can do justice to the rest of her outfit.
Sitting on my radiator slowly drying is a small wonky eared bunny to sit in her lap :)

Monday, 8 October 2012

Working Hard and Getting Somewhere - Maybe!

Unfortunately, even though it's been quite a while I don't have a new finished doll to show you.
I've been working real hard to get a load of dolly work done, but have hit a bit of a wall and haven't actually finished anything... Yet.

I have a few dolls sitting around in various states of undress, and a pretty mountain of things I need to do. But today seems to be the first time my bum has hit the seat for quite some time. And I'm taking advantage of it by getting some much needed creative time in.

My own doll Beth is coming along very slowly, and now has all of her petticoats in place over her silk shift and corset. I finished the last of them this morning while cuddling up with a very cute snoring Meanna cat. Her puring little sleepy wuffle always makes my heart ache it's just so cute :)

Over Beth's cream stripped silk petticoat I gave her one of stiff silk in a beautiful bright red colour. And her last one is made of voile edged with a very deep vintage hand-woven Indian silk sari border that I found on the Internet.
I felt so guilty setting scissors to this stunning trim, as I always do with vintage fabric, but she's a special doll and looks really stunning in it.

I've also been working on a custom order of Beatrix Potter, who now has most of her blouse finished and her petticoats in place. I need to add a collar and a little lace to her blouse before I fit her skirts and get started on her jacket and accessories. I couldn't resist trimming her white cotton petticoat with an embroidered floral trim as it just reminded me of photos I've seen of her sitting in her garden among the flowers. She even came with me to the Cardiff City Stadium Craft Fair over the weekend so I could keep on sewing her clothes during the quite spots - even though there weren't that many of them.
It was a good weekend at the fair, but very busy. Lots of my little dolls went off to new homes, and I got some good leads on further events that I'm looking into. One is the Doll and Teddy Fair in Birmingham, which would be quite a trip for us, and another Art & Craft Fair in Tredegar. When I've had a chance to look into them properly we'll see if they'll suit me and my dolls. And maybe, just maybe, I can convince Cris to drive me so far. It may take some sweet talking and bribery.
I found myself a new friend in Cardiff, and couldn't resist bringing her home for my own doll collection. This is Amelia, and she was made by a lovely giggly older lady who had the stall next to mine this weekend. She's a child's toy, but I'm no snob when it comes to dolls and love all types. I just couldn't resist her bright red crocheted hair in ringlets and her cute strawberry print dress. She has the sweetest face, embroidered so carefully. And has a calico body stuffed firm that gives her a beautiful weight. It's been a long time since I saw such cute handmade rag dolls in so many colours and different outfits. I just couldn't believe she was only £15! I have her sitting on my bookshelf at the moment so I can see her pretty face smiling down at me :)

Sunday, 23 September 2012

I Seem To Be On A Colour Theme!

My poor chubby fingers have never had so many stab holes in them!
I've no idea why, but I just can't seem to help stabbing myself with the eye end of my needle in my middle finger, and it's now very sore. On the upside, a lot of sewing has been going on.

By Elizabethan Beth now has her petticoats and I'm on to her red silk one. I got the most stunning vintage sari border from Ebay to trim it with, but now I have it I think it will be making another one as it's a lot deeper than I thought. It' simply stunning! Handwoven, bright red silk and a silver pattern. So, so pretty!

I wish I could work on her fully, but I'm lucky to have had a few commissions for this years holidays. And as soon as my next fair in Cardiff is over with I'll be starting work on a Beatrix Potter doll which I'm really looking forward to.

To get ready for the fair I decided to work on my own, very first, Mother and Father Christmas dolls to show there. Santa himself is still rather under dressed in his drawers and complaining of the cold. While all Mother needs now is for me to pleat up the sides of her dark red silk over-skirt and a short fitted velvet trimmed jacket with a  matching muff and bonnet to keep her warm.

Soon Santa will have a shirt on. By the end of tonight I hope although there is a new Downton Abbey on tonight...
And over his red silk trousers and long waistcoat he'll have a long, warm velvet trimmed coat and matching pointed hat with a bobble on the end.
I love Christmas :)
And these are my favourite Christmas colours - White, Ivory, Cream, all shades of red with silver and lace. They all make me happy :)
Just wish as always I had more time to sew...

Monday, 10 September 2012

Beth Beautiful In Silk

Just a little post this week, which doesn't really show the amount of stuff I've managed to get done this week.
Unfortunately the pictures I wanted to show you of my new sculpts in progress with have to wait as the sky has been grey and dark all day. And the rain very persistent!

I finished off Beth's shift and got it fitted for her. The embroidery looks really pretty around the edge of the silk. And I decided against a sewn hem edge as it just didn't sit right. I made her sleeves extra wide so they look a bit puffy. But I want to make sure that the slashed outer sleeves she will have will have enough underneath to support them.

The beautiful duck egg blue brocade silk that she's sitting on here will be her outer dress once all her petticoats are finished. I got it from a lovely lady in China through Etsy and am just thrilled with it. I can't wait to see her wear it.

I have an under-petticoat made for her, and am half way through a second in stiff cream striped silk. It's so nice to sew in such gorgeous fabric.
Tomorrow I start on her corset so i can them fit her skirts. Then a bright red silk petticoat that I found stunning hand woven silk sari edging for. I'm making sure Beth has the best of everything :)

I've spent a lot of time this weekend sculpting a big batch of new dolls for all the people that are running around inside my head. And I have a custom order and two or three Christmas dolls to make ready for the next Fair in Cardiff in Oct. I love being busy making dolls. i hope i can keep up with the pace :)

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Margam Fair & A New Doll

Hello, hello, hello all you lovely people :)
I've missed you all greatly, and have been working very hard in the lead up to my very first craft fair. Hear I am above at my little table in the stunning Dining Hall of Margam Castle.

We had a great weekend, and it was a lot of fun meeting all of the other stall holders. They were all so kind, giving me lots of leads to other good fairs, and I'm already planning to attend some next year and am signed up for my next fair in Oct at Cardiff City Stadium. Although the park was soaked with rain all day Monday, Sunday more than made up for it with lots of sales and one of my largest dolls, my Mary Shelley, being taken off with a lovely couple to a new home. I was sad to see her go, but...

You may have seen me comment at various social media sites about my Special Secret Project. And here she is, waiting to be dressed and made decent.
She's a doll just for me. Using all the skill I have and the best of materials. My very first Elizabethan Doll, named Beth (of course!).

I've wanted to make this era of doll for some time, but have always been put off it as I do like to use the fabrics that the woman would have actually worn when I can. And Elizabethan women did not yet wear cotton, and a smart powerful lady like Beth would have worn All Silk!!!

I both love and hate sewing in silk, and such a large project is very scary. On smaller things if I make a mistake and have to do over I've not wasted a great big swath of beautiful silk (reason I hate), but it's such a luxury to use such fine fabric. My needle has been flying along the smoothness in front of me without the slightest hitch. So far!

The other thing that has always put me off is the things I know I don't have the skills to do. Yes I know I can learn what I need, but to get things just right I'd have to practise for a long time first.

This was my plan, and I've been improving my sewing skills and detail work to build up to such a project. I was saved at my most unskilled task, the dreaded wire work which I am Crap at, by a surprise e-mail from a lovely lady named Linda.

Just as I was thinking I was lost as fine wire and me are just not friends at all, in any way, an e-mail landed in my Etsy inbox from the most amazing wire crochet artist asking if I would be interested in some tiny detailed jewellery for a doll as she loves to work in miniature. I could never have found such a saviour if I'd tried, and we quickly got very excited about working on Beth as a collaboration.

Now that I'm not working my bum off getting things ready for the fair I've thrown myself at this new doll full force. I know what era of Elizabeth's reign I'm designing to, what kind of dress and ruff I'm to make her, and what fabrics I'll be using. Not all the final details are worked out, but her underwear is started and the rest of the fabric I need ordered, along with some vintage lace to start me off.

I still need to get one last piece of silk to line her brocade gown, but am waiting for that to arrive from China so I can colour match it perfectly. And I think I'm going to be needing quite a bit more old lace than I have at the moment.
The danger of course is that I get carried away buying tons of the stuff. I've been very tempted by the lovely laces I've found at different suppliers, and have to admit drooling over the antique lace selling for hundreds of pounds on one website in particular :)

I think I may have found the perfect woman to work with in Linda of Dragons Wire -

She's enthusiastic and very kind. I know quite a bit on Victorian clothing, but this era is all new to me and Linda has been helping me along with details and her vast knowledge on the subject.
Altogether, when we're done, Beth should have the silk clothes I can make for her, and the perfect little stone bead encrusted supportase for her ruff, necklace, hair piece, matching medallions and whatever else she needs from lovely Linda.

So far all Beth has at the moment is a shift which she's not yet wearing while I embroider the hem with Blackwork pansy's, symbol for Love in Idleness or Love in Vain, which was one of Her Highness's favourite decorations.
It's not often my embroidery hoops make it out of the cupboard these days and it's been a lovely relaxing day today sitting quietly with my silks and needle in my lap. I'll have to try and do it more often :)

I'll bring you more about Beth soon with pics of how she's progressing. Hopefully I can get back on track and blog once a week again.
Have a great week everyone :)

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Art & Anxiety

It's not something I've ever made a big deal of, or even talked about generally, but I suffer from anxiety issues and have for many many years. Recently I actually got off my arse and went and talked to my doctor about it. And it's been the best thing I could have done.

Not only has gentle medication helped to level out some nasty hormones and keep my serotonin levels even, but I've had help with other problems too, and proper treatment for things I'd been avoiding because I didn't want to know what was causing them. I'm still having treatment, but the best thing was having my neurotic, depressed, agoraphobic, irrational feelings recognised by a medical professional.

The very nice Dr Jones has been very helpful and understanding. Instead of looking at me down his nose and dismissing me as a hypochondriac little woman he listened to what I had to say, broke down my symptoms into actual illnesses both mental and physical, and got me the help I needed for them all. Now my iron levels are stable again after a long time and a huge drop that should have seen me rushed to hospital if Dr had had his way, my anxiety is managed, and my gynecological problems are at least under control for now, if not yet fixed.

You may wonder why I'm sharing all this on a blog about my dolls.
It's because of the unceasing support I find from my art and the people I've met through it. My husband, friends and family are very understanding for the most part, and forgive or ignore my strange moods at times as I still have days or weeks when all my fears come flooding back. But the kindness and support of people I've never even met personally always takes me by surprise.

Through my art work I've met wonderful people over the internet that I can chat too daily and always have a kind word. And I want to thank those lovely people, my dolly friends, both on Twitter and Facebook as they really don't know how much they do for me.

So thank you. Thank you to my wonderful husband for putting up with my strangeness, thank you to my friends and family for showing me love and kindness no matter what, and thank you to my dolly friends for all your daily kindnesses. I couldn't be me without you :-)

Without my art work I'm not a whole person. There's something inside of me that just has to make things, that has to stretch my imagination and bring to life what I see in my mind. Without art to go back to I find the daily grind of life unbearable and unmanageable. And without the support of all the lovely, wonderful people in my life I wouldn't have any of the confidence they've given me to do it.

I'd love to give all these special people I big giant hug :-)

If you know anyone that sufferers with anxiety or depression please try to understand them and help stop these hidden problems in society. We're all normal people, but some of us may deal with things differently. It's not something we can snap out of, and we don't need to pull ourselves together. We just need a kind word, a smile, a phone call just to say hi, or just the freedom to be ourselves.


Ps - Lots of dolls coming soon I promise. For now here's a pic of my latest, Christina Rossettil

Monday, 23 July 2012

Back to Reality

I admit it, and am very sorry.
I've been on leave from my day job for two whole weeks and have been very crap at letting anyone that reads this know what's going on in my mad little doll world. We had a lot of fun, and were really busy every day. How I normally find time to come to work I have no idea!!!
Four new little peg dolls have been added to my shop, and I'm still working on Christina Rossetti. Been having trouble with getting her sleeves just as I want them as the trimming would just not sit right and made her look like a clown. I'm on my third attempt and it's going better now. Her skirts are done, so I'm hoping she'll be finished in the next few days. I've already got my next doll planned, and have a secret project in the works with the help of the lovely Linda from Dragons Wire. I'll tell you more soon :-)

Monday, 16 July 2012

Great Aunt Margaret, Cousin Clara, And Christina Rossetti In Progress

 It's really nice to be off work on Annual Leave. I've had lots of time to work on my dolls, and we've been having fun and doing lots of good stuff. Two of my bald Victorian beauties have been finished, and Christina is coming along really well too.

Great Aunt Margaret love to dance. If she could she’d dance all day long and balls would last forever. But now she waits, clinging to the portrait of her as a young girl, hovering in the background and sometimes playing a few harmless tricks on the people of the house. Sometimes she blows on their neck as they sit quietly, sometimes tapping them on the shoulder or brushing past them so they feel her cold presence. Mostly she waits for the music and the lights, the beautiful, colourful dresses and smart young gentlemen to offer her their hand. She waits for the day when everything will make sense again as she’s really not too sure about these new styles – the girls look hardly dressed at all. But she likes them, and longs for the day when she’ll be able to dance alongside them.

While flicking through Facebook a few weeks ago I spotted a post by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and fell completely in love with the bronze of The Dancer by Bessie Onahotema Potter Vonnoh. I decided to make Great Aunt Margaret in the same style of dress as this beautiful figure. I really enjoyed finding out more about the styles of this 1820’s/30’s and sewing the stunning fabrics to make her outfit.
Great Aunt Margaret saw some unusual fashions during her life time; from the gauze hardly opaque fine muslin of the Regency period to the huge cage crinoline skirts of the early Victorian. But she always remembers her youth as her happiest time, right in between the two, so that is how I’ve dressed her. She has no drawers on as they hadn’t come in then (she always thought them horrible un-hygienic things anyway) and wears a long shift and a number of petticoats, one of white cotton and three of white cotton voile two of which are trimmed at the hem with lace (this is a party dress after all). Her soft cotton muslin gown is fitted to be fuller at the sides and back with a flatter stomach, and the waist isn’t quite so high as it had once been. Full sleeve were in full fashion at the time, so I have supported her puffs with a little stuffing to replicate the supports that ladies wore. And her white muslin shawl has been hand embroidered in tiny chain stitch to give it more style. She’s all ready to dance…

Cousin Clara is in the unwanted position of having to live her life at the beck and call of an older, richer cousin. Like many ladies of her class during the 1840’s – 1850’s poor Clara was left destitute by the death of her husband and had no other choice than to become a “Companion” to her relative. She lives a life that is not her own, not quite a servant, but not near an equal. She’s a quiet, kind, beautiful woman that’s still quite young. Maybe one day she’ll be lucky enough to have a family of her own.

For a woman like Clara there were very few options. She had no father living or brother available to look after her. She could lower herself to work as a governess, and for a time spent her days teaching the children their music and needlework, but her cousin insists that she’s a needed member of the household, even though in many ways she treats Clara more like a pet than a woman. Clara I one of the lucky ones; hers could have been a much worse fate.
Cousin Clara wears all the right period undies, and so many petticoats she can actually stand up by herself. As well as her standard white cotton petticoat she has one of calico with a corded hem (before the cage crinoline), one of course brown cotton, and a fancy black and white stripy number with a deep ruffle at the hem. Her orange cotton gown has a small line and dot pattern in a darker shade, and has a wide set neckline worn over a silk neckerchief. The pointed bodice, accordion pleated skirts and tailored sleeves I made to show some of the simple details of 1840’s – 1850’s fashion. Clara also wears a warm Welsh wool shawl and a lace cap.

Christina Rossetti has been a long time in the making as I wanted her to be perfect so had to wait for the perfect material to arrive for her dress. She's been sitting in her undies for ages it seems, glaring at me over a pile of fabric on my table. Accusing me of keeping her in a state of undress. But the perfect fabric at last arrived and I got to making her dress as soon as Great Aunt Margaret and Cousin Clara had stopped demanding my attention.

I bought the nicest dark navy cotton lawn fabric that has an almost satin finish and gentle sheen. I can honestly say that I'm never disappointed with the fabric I get from Croft Mill, and if your looking for something nice for a project don't forget to check them out -

I'm making Christina as she would have been during her early to mid 30's, around the early 1860's as she was born in December of 1830.

I'm not really sure if you can see because of the pattern of her fancy top petticoat, and I've tried to fluff it up a bit, but there's an extra panel sewn onto the back of it that has been gathered to add extra weight. Both the top two petticoats, this one and the pale blue cotton one beneath that has a deep ruffle at the hem, are gathered more tightly at the back and the front kept as flat as possible to help control the skirt shape further.
I'd honestly love to spend a day wearing clothes like these. One day I'm going to have to bite the bullet and make myself my own Victorian outfit I guess, but for now I'll stick with my vintage rather than the antique :)

It's taking me a while to get Christina's skirts finished as I'm trying out something new to trim the hem. I've added ruffles and ribbon, tucks and embroidery before. But this era demands something a little more.

The navy cotton lawn is such lovely crisp fabric to work with, although it is quite grippy on the needle and has resulted in a few extra holes in my fingers. It does lend itself really well to pleats and gathers, not creating too much weight or fullness. And I've been drooling through my Manipulating Fabric book again so really wanted to try something a little different. There were so many techniques I could have chosen, but I've always thought of the gathered puff as something particularly Victorian. Around Christina's skirt hem there is now a ruffle of pretty lace followed by a 2.5cm gathered puff panel. I still need to add a gathered ribbon trim and some other bit's and pieces. Then I get to start on her sleeves and bodice :)

Hope your all having a lovely summer.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Three Victorian Ladies, All Still Bald!

All these ladies are about to get hair, I promise!!! But, at the moment, they remain bald and unfinished.
I've had quite a few hold up's with these three, but I'm almost at the point to finish them. I'm not used to having so many dolls in progress either, and it has got a bit confusing at times. The good thing is that as I got held up with one I was able to work on another, so it might not be something I'll avoid as much as I used too.

The dates of all three ladies are so close together, but their dress so different. I love to see the differences between these women. All living at the same time at some point during their lives, but very different in their style.

Cousin Clara still has a corded crinoline, and her skirts aren't quite so full as they finally became. She's just a few years later than Great Aunt Margaret. She needs something nice and soft, a warm shawl with a hand tied fringe I think.

Poor Clara is a ladies companion, or rather she's a poor relation that lives with her rich older cousin, keeping her company and doing her bidding. She's treated almost like a pet. She was left destitute when her husband passed and now has very little choice in what she does.

Christina Rossetti is still early Victorian, but she has a cage crinoline and huge skirts. The fabrics she wears are the cut of her clothes (when she gets them) show her to be a little later again. 

She's been waiting in her underwear, sitting around in her crinoline and blue patterned petticoats, for the navy cotton lawn with a satin finish to arrive from the supplier so I can get going on her smart frilled gown and cream silk cotton sleeves and collar.

Great Aunt Margaret is the earliest of these women, just at the very very beginning of Victoria's reign. She loves to dance, and has a full flowing gown in a very soft grey flowered cotton lawn. I'm yet to finish of her sleeves and trimmings. Being right between the simple Regency styles and the full crinoline Victorian styles Maggie has a slightly unusual dress. The skirts are wider, but not quite yet very full, and her sleeves are big and puffy. All of the bulk is gathered at the sides and back, so the front is still quite full.

I can't wait to get them all done and ready for the photo session. Luckily Hubby and I have a little time off with contractors in the house replacing our boiler. So I'm hopping that some sewing will be happening very soon. I also need to dress a birthday gift for a friend, but I'm not too sure what she'd like yet, so we'll see :)