Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Belle, The Governess, And The Asylum Patient

After spending what felt like way too long decorating our living room (Pics below) I had a huge burst of doll making.

Once I finished Scarlett I had a real need to make not just one, but two more dolls. Where Scarlett had been big, these two are tiny little ladies. And all of them have their own stories to tell.

The first of them is Violet.

Violet’s rags were once a pretty flower patterned gown. Now they hang in tatters and she’s ashamed of the way her hem has torn loose and her skirts are no longer long enough to cover her dirty legs. She has no way of replacing her garments or cleaning them, and is laughed at when she asks. She’s sometimes forced into the flea redden “decent” gown that at some point all the ladies get to wear, but only on the rare occasions the kind sad man comes or her family send an overseer to check on her progress. She knows this sweaty oily leering man always takes away the false report the attendants give of her, but what can she do.

She’s not really sure anymore if this is how it always was. She has vague memories and dreams of living in a pretty cottage with flowers around the door. The kind sad man is there, but now she can’t even remember who he is. She’s so confused. Once she thinks she may have known who she was, but the attendants beat her whenever she tries to insist on something as fact, and she’ll do anything to avoid the torture of water treatments again. All she’s now sure of is that 1her name is Violet. She’s trapped in the asylum and has no idea what is expected of her or of if she’ll ever be able to leave. They keep her in a strait jacket with one arm bound as they say she’s a trouble maker, and she can’t even pick up one of the few tatty dirty books that lay on the floor of the gallery. She’s happy in her dreams, at a warm fireside in the pretty cottage, quietly sewing or reading while the kind man studies his paper. Is he her farther? Her Husband?
She would ask him next time he comes, but she knows it’ll only make him sadder.

Next came Sophie. For such a quiet young lady she really shouted out loud. Sophie is a Victorian governess working for a well to do family in a country house near Bath. She was born in a comfortable home where she lived with her brothers and her father, the local priest. She looked after the house for the two men, and quietly taught herself the finer things allowed to her, such as music and poetry. She was a great learned and read many of her father’s generous collection of books. Sophie was quiet and thoughtful, kept away from the greater world by her circumstances and shy nature.
Like many unfortunate Victorian women Sophie found herself alone and without any way of supporting herself when her father passed away. Her brother had his own family to support, and a gambling problem that meant that any money he could have provided to support Sophie was frittered away at the gaming tables. There was only one option open to her (apart from the unthinkable), and that was to become a governess.
She joined a family that looked on her as beneath them. She was of the same background and class as they were, but was treated worse than the lowest servant; forced to clean up the children’s food when they purposely ground it into the rug as the housemaids refused it. She was unsupported in her discipline, and her every achievement ignored. But she was powerless to improve her situation and had to endure the ghost like life she was expected to lead.

Sophie has a quiet subdued gown made of a silky blue patterned fabric, worn with a white gathered high necked blouse, a cream sash and neck ribbon. The gown has a corset style bodice and long narrow sleeves with a wide bell shaped skirt. Underneath she has a red ruffled petticoat that’s actually stiff enough to let her stand unaided, with a plain white cotton petticoat, split crotch drawers, gathered shift and corset below.
My Scarlett was of course inspired by Scarlett O’Hara, as played by the wonderful Vivian Leigh in Gone With The Wind, is one of my favourite fictional people. I love to watch the story and her character unfold from the young spoilt beautiful girl into the determined passionate woman she became. She’s not altogether a nice person; in many ways she’s very spiteful and even cruel, her own stubborn selfish attitude leading to the loss of the one man that truly loved her. But underneath it all she has a lot of love and kindness as she battles through every difficult circumstance while looking after her extended family. She shows courage and resilience, determination and great spirit, as well as pettiness and jealousy. She shows the best and worst parts of human nature.

I decided to make my Scarlett after watching this wonderful epic film again for the first time in a few years. At the same time I found out that one of the lovely doll makers I talk to online is the lucky owner of one of those fabulous Deep South accents. I couldn’t get thoughts of huge crinoline dresses and fluttering fans out of my mind, so made Scarlett in honor of all those stunning past and present Southern Belles.

As I said at the top of this post, I thought I'd show you all the hard work hubby and me have put into getting our Living Room pristine and perfect over the past few weeks. We've seen more dust than I ever though possible, have put up with bare walls and very little furniture, and have worked every minute we could find, and finally we've finished everything. Even the tiny fiddly crappy jobs that always seem to get left.

Before we started we had horrible 70's artex all over the walls. Three of them were just roughly patterned, and ,most hated of all, one whole wall was covered in terrible fans. We also had a big hole in the ceiling from when all of our doors slammed and the house vibrated like a herd of elephants had run into it, cracking the old black plaster and raining a torrent of nasty lumps and dust over everything. The floor was scratched, the cushions old, and the paint work all faded.

We had the ceiling fixed up and over-boarded. There was no way I'd let them take down the old black plaster and lath after seeing how much mess one patch had made, so now we have extra sound proofing for upstairs (score!). Cris and I got to work re-staining and varnishing the floor, window sill, doors and skirting. We had the walls plastered to hide that horrible texture. I'll never understand how that stuff became the fashion in the first place. And we've painted all the walls with a sealing coat and two coats of colour.

It's taken us an age to get everything back to how we wanted it. Of course we had to go through all of our books and move another arm full upstairs. We really do have too many (four big bookshelves full) but I can never make myself get rid of any, and read them over and over again. And in the middle of everything else I decided it would be a good idea to make all new cushions to match our new colour scheme. Finally everything is done; all the pictures are rehung, and the tiny touch-ups done, and everything shiny and bright. I hated it when we were doing it, but I really love how it's turned out. It's not everyones taste, but we love it :)

Next, another doll of course. Not sure who she'll be yet, but I'll let you know.


  1. Your new room looks fabulous! I know how hard a makeover can be but the finished product looks well worth the effort, congratulations! I'm loving the dolls too...especially Miss Scaaaalet, though little Violet is a heart tugger...and as always such wonderful details!

  2. Sophie is adorable and I love her dress (specially the little tucker around her neck). And well done on finishing the living room. Yes, it's the last little fiddly jobs that take forever!
    Throw books away? Why would anyone throw books away?

  3. Thank you both :-)
    I'm so glad it's all finished now and I can relax a bit. Going to have to save up for bigger book cases to get the rest of the collection in, but back to being comphy cosy.
    I enjoyed making these dolls, and I'm really glad you like them too :-)

  4. Natasha, does your imagination know no bounds? I feel so sorry for Violet! The room looks great.

  5. Violet is incredible! And how pretty your new room is!

  6. Thank you Kay and Shauna. Your very kind :-)