Sunday, 17 June 2012

Work In Progress - Madeline Smith

Since making Jack I've been busy as usual. But to be honest I can't really tell you why ?!?!

I have made a few dolls - 2 little peg dolls, Peggy Sue and Dot, and a small Victorian nurse, Nurse Foster. As well as working on a new doll for my Necropolis series - Madeline Smith.

(I suppose when I think about it, as well as dolls getting a load of things done around the house, helping Hubby with a bumper load of photos of new treasures for his shop, my birthday (tons of fun!), and somehow fitting in a full time job as well probably has something to do with the Busy thing :S)

I'm really enjoying making Madeline. A young woman from a good family that was charged with the murder of her lover by Arsenic poisoning. At the end of her trial the verdict came back as Not Proven. And at that time in Victorian Scotland it was enough to see Madeline walk free (I still can't decide if I think she did it or not).

She stood strong and proud throughout it all - not even needing help to recover herself when all of her love letters to the deceased Emile were read out in court (although the most sensational bits were edited out for decency). Madeline was an attractive 21 year old, seemingly respectable, lady. But the proof of her affair was enough to shock and fascinate the general public.

(Caught on camera by my husband, comfortably sewing a covering to crinoline bands after getting caught in the rain coming back from town. He hates my vintage house dress, but it's just Sooo Comfortable!)

The poison Arsenic was used for many things during the 1800's. And at Madeline's time (1850's) it was still widely used as a medicine which many took under their own care, just like we take paracetamol today. It was used in colour dies for clothes and wallpapers, in everyday household objects, and, as admittedly used by Madeline, as a cosmetic for the skin.

After general research the most unusual example of arsenic poisoning I could find was the absorption through the skin of the substance by wearing fashionable green fabrics. These women were literally killing themselves for fashion.

It's a really interesting subject, and I found a great book on Amazon called The Arsenic Century: How Victorian Britain was Poisoned at Home, Work, and Play by James C. Whorton that I'm really looking forward to reading it to find out more.

To make the crinoline itself I measured and cut each band, making sure that each was equally smaller to the last. I joined the ends together to make hoops with a little tape and by sewing a small piece of the covering ribbon tightly around the joint to give extra reinforcement. After covering all the bands I measured out 10 equally spaced points around all 6 bands, and equal spacing on 10 straps to hold everything together. I sewed each strap into place adding a loop at the top of each. It ties to Madeline's waist making a lovely bell shape to support all of her skirts and petticoats. Even on a doll this size I'd need to make at least 12 petticoats in a combination of corded and flounced design just to get the same shape. The layers needed on a full grown woman must have been staggering!

I had a bit of a delay when making Madeline unfortunately. I remembered to get the metal banding I needed to make her crinoline nice and early, but of course did not remember to make sure I had enough of the right width ribbon to cover them all. So while I waited for the longed for weekend to roll around so I could get to the market to get what I needed I set to work on Madeline's petticoats, bodice base and sleeves. Over her shift she has puffy silk cotton under-sleeves with tight cuffs. they make her look daftly like Popeye The Sailor, but they do work with the later added pagoda sleeves. You can see here a high necked false blouse or chemisette and the start of her finished bodice. At the moment it's quite a plain tightly fitted bodice with a deep V-front. Later I'll be adding a draped shawl like layer to finish it off.

Over her crinoline she has a stiff calico petticoat with a deep ruffle at the hem to get extra width. And over that she now has a soft navy blue cotton petticoat that I'll finish off with some lace and ribbon at the hem. I'm really pleased at how her finished sleeves have come out. And I managed to get the fitted shoulder and gathered bell shape for the pagoda sleeve without too much trouble. I lined everything with plain white cotton as the dress fabric I've used is a lovely chiffon with a really lovely drape to it. I still have to add all of the fussy trimmings and things to them, but Madeline looks really pretty in the beginnings of her soft lilac gown. Next I'm working on a triple layered ruffled skirt and the shawl draped overlay for her bodice, then all the trimmings. I've even managed to find a tiny little bottle I can use for Madeline's "cosmetic" arsenic supply.

Note On The Colour - I know that strictly speaking Madeline shouldn't really be wearing lilac or purple. I know that these colours for fabric were very difficult to produce and didn't become popular outside of the Royal Court where Aristo's

1 comment:

  1. She looks fabulous! Once again I am in awe at the level of detail you put into the!