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 - http://www.croftmill.co.uk/

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 :)