Monday, 25 February 2013

Mina In The Red Dress

Ooo I love my weekends. I totally undeniably, definitely enjoy each and every minute of them.
No day job to go too, spending time with my lovely husband and the kitties, and spending as much time as I want working on my dolls. What could be better :)
I have to admit to only getting half of my To Do List done, but as it was a mammoth one with no realistic possibility of getting it all done in one weekend I think half is quite good. I sanded and painted up 8 little peg dolls, and sculpted a further 12. Finally got the pleats for Mina's skirts set and attached, and fitted her skirts. And got everything ready I needed to send off to Lovely Linda full of templates and bits and bobs that she needs to get her beautiful wire lace made up for Beth and Cerridwen.

As you can see Cerrid now has her hair and her sleeves have been trimmed with soft pink velvet that really picks out the colour in her eyes and the flower tapestry ribbon I've used as a sash. Linda is planning an elaborate Cleopatra style necklace for her and a Juliet cap, both trimmed with stunning Labridorite crystals. So while I'm waiting on bits from her I think I'll start making her her traditional Welsh hat.
In the end I we both decided that to work on her fully we both needed to know exactly who she was, so I gave Linda her full story and the plans I have for also making her a Welsh hat instead of a pointed witches one, a long cloak, caldron and spoon and all the other bits and pieces she may need. I was so glad that Linda was happy once she knew her too. I'll write up her full story for you once she's a bit further along.

I was asked to make up a little peg doll for someone who I've been chatting to through Twitter so thought I'd better get my bum in gear on my list of those too. Emma has asked for a little Victorian Asylum Peggy, and also mentioned an Elizabeth 1 for maybe in future. I love making Asylum dolls as they have such stories to tell. And how could I miss out on a mini Elizabeth so I can perfect my ruff making techniques. So it looks like I'll be making up both :)
While I'm at it I really need to get started properly on the project I'm working on for my best friend Sarah. For Christmas I gave my two favourite girls a set each of Dickens's ghosts from A Christmas Carol, and they looked so cute in Sarah's tree that she's asked me to make her a peg doll for every month of the year. It's quite a challenge, but I can't wait to see them all on her Christmas tree.
I've had a handful sculpted for a while, but just haven’t had chance to paint and dress them. So I'll be working on her Snow Queen for Jan and a fully gothed up Cupid for Feb.

My larger doll Mina Murray / Harker has proved a bit of a pain over the last week as one of my least favourite tasks in setting pleats in fabric that doesn't want to cooperate. A you can see the fabric needed small pleats all around the hem of what is quite a wide skirt, but now it's finally done it looks amazing. I'm so proud I actually managed it, and just need to reset one or two with the iron to get it perfect.
I added an extra flounce to the inside of her silk petticoat so that it would hold the weight of her skirts better. And I'm glad I thought of it now that her skirt has been gored and fitted as the gathered section at the back is rather heavy.

If you've seen Winona Ryder in Dracula I'm sure like me you'll remember That red dress.
I'm pushing myself with this one, but I just couldn't resist it any longer and am determined to at least try my best to make it.
After searching around the internet I found a lovely blog by a lady named Christine with pictures of Mina's dress that she had made - And she kindly agreed to let me share them with you here so you can see what I'm trying to make.

Christine's detail is absolutely stunning! Every element is just as it should be and every fold and flounce of fabric perfect. I can't even imagine how much time and skill she used to make this creation, but it was all worthwhile to get such a beautiful result. As you can see the original dress was a bright rich red where as mine is burgundy. I decided on the colour change because of the scale of the doll as a bright colour could have made her look a bit brash. And now that I'm making her sleeves I'm thinking of making them a little wider and longer to try and compensate a little for my dolls skinny long limbed body.
Just don't ask me how I'm planning to make that pretty ruffle that runs through the gown and edges the neckline as I have no idea yet. Don't tell anyone but I make this stuff up as I go along ;)

Monday, 18 February 2013

A Very Productive Weekend

I love productive weekends. And also that rare weekend that the house is actually still clean and I only have to whip round with the duster and cloth instead of spending all of Saturday scrubbing. If only houses would clean themselves :)
I got loads done. Tons of things finished and projects moving forward. It's been such a nice time. We even got out Sunday morning to visit a local car boot sale looking for nice vintage things for Hubby's shop and both came away very happy. He managed to find the most allusive of treasures and came away with a 1980's Starwars Atat (one very happy husband :), and I found a vintage 50's half moon basket work handbag.

I finished up all the little details for my commission Mini Captain Morgan's Daughter, and she looks very sweet in her tiny 25cm size. I did have trouble trying to make her a sword as everything I tried just kept bending. In the end I realised that a dollhouse miniature would be the perfect size and I'd wasted quite a bit of time fighting with metal things. But I got one ordered up for her and as soon as it arrives she'll be off to her new home.
In the end I had to make one other small change to her design as the silver thread I'd used on the larger version to embroider her jacket was way too springy and unruly to work so small. I used a lovely gold silk thread instead which worked perfectly.

I had fun with some messy stuff and made my Mrs Lovett some of her gruesome pies to sit on using Styrofoam, modelling rock (plaster bandage) and paperclay. If you've never tried modelling rock I highly recommend it, it's so much fun. Just cut to size and soak for a little minute in water. Once it's flexible you can wrap and push, stretch and smooth it onto anything, covering objects or using things as a mould. you end up covered in plaster of paris and splashed with white spots but it dries quickly within a few minutes and is rock hard. After cutting tube shaped chunks of foam I covered them with this lovely stuff and then once dry covered again with paperclay to get a nice pastry like crust. They look quite cute now their all painted and varnished. And I added just a touch of gloss to the top to give them the look of having an egg wash before baking.

Mrs Lovett is the familiar character from the very well-known legend of Sweeney Todd. But what was it that led this woman to butcher and cook her fellow human beings, and then to go so far as to sell them to her customers?
Was Mrs Lovett motivated by money and success, greed or her love for the man that hardly noticed her in his obsession for revenge?
Even though she’s a fictional character there are true accounts in both British and European history of human flesh making it into the food chain. Meat was expensive, and the more criminally minded of vendors often replaced what we would think of as acceptable food for the meat of cats, rats and anything else they could catch. Some even resorted to dealings with the body snatchers or murder to supply their businesses as the contemporary court files reveal. And the story of Mrs Lovett and Sweeney Todd draws these facts together in a gruesome horrific tale of murder, butchery, clever depraved criminals and pies!

Mrs Lovett has proper Victorian underwear with split crotch drawers, chemise and corset, along with a few long cotton petticoats. Her dress is made of soft striped cotton in red and cream that has a low bodice front and three quarter sleeves. To try and make herself look more fancily dressed she’s trimmed her homespun dress with a box pleated hem trim, over sleeves and crossed bodice in a dark red silky fabric. And she has a smart black bonnet trimmed with spotted veil, ribbon, and matching lace mittens. Her three ghastly pies can be arranged with her or stacked up for her to sit on.

My massive project with Lovely Linda is a little on hold while we both wait on supplies to arrive, but I have been working on Cerridwen's sleeve design and her accessories, as well as working on Beth's gown while Linda works on the crochet metal lace for her.

Even more I got done. Can you believe it!
I've no idea where I found time. Honestly I really don't, but I've been on a mission and have already started on my next doll. There are just so many dolls I want to make I just can't stop. And before I knew what was happening I now have Miss Mina Murray (later Harker) sat on my work box in her drawers, chemise, corset and petticoats. I gave in to the little voice and made her top petticoat from pure silk in a cotton weave. This fabric is so so lovely, and has that unmistakable rustle when it moves. Fuller in back with a small pad underneath her skirts train out behind in that classic Victorian shape, and of course, how could I resist the temptation to try and re-create that amazing red silk gown from the film.
I know I'm letting myself in for trouble with all those ruffles and pleats, but I just couldn't help myself. My Godmother gave me a little box of goodies for Christmas and along with pretty lace and ribbons was a generous piece of silky dark red fabric that is just perfect for her. The original dress was a brighter colour red, but for a doll the darker richer colour is going to work well I think. And I'll be setting the pleats for her underskirt tonight :)
Now I just have to decide if I'll be giving her Vampire fangs or not???

With these big fancy dresses I think I'm going to have to sort out some way of making stands for some of these girls. Maybe I'll have to drag the Husband in to help me so that I can ensure all the hard work of sewing these things I do can actually be displayed properly...

Monday, 11 February 2013

Cerridwen, Mrs Lovett & A Tiny Pirate

So early in the week and I can tell it's going to be one of "those" already.
Seems like sometimes you just can't leave home without the world either trying to kill you or get on your last nerve. But at least I know there are some lovely supportive people in my life, like my husband who patiently reads my ranting text messages and simply replies "I love you". What a doll he is :)

I've been getting stuck in with my dolls and been planing to learn a few new techniques to help me achieve the look that I want for my girls.
Cerridwen is coming along slowly as me and Linda work out her details. And I get more and more excited as I see each new piece of lace Linda is making for Beth.
This week I had to find a way of getting some sort of base for Cerrid's head over to Florida for Linda so she can start in on making her a Juliet cap of fine wire and semi-precious stones. So I had a great messy time on Sat morning as I carved out a piece of polystyrene with a big kitchen knife to make a base to be covered with muslin. It was so funny to watch my cat Meanna chasing the little floaty beads as they fell on the floor, getting them stuck in her black fur so she looked like she'd been snowed on :)
Even though Cerridwen and Elizabeth are such different dolls, women with such a difference in both themselves and their stories, they are both developing into a really beautiful pair of very special dolls.

After considering Cerrid's look we both decided that she looked much too restricted, bound too tight by her high neckline and narrow sleeves. So I altered her neckline by bringing it down into a low square shape and added a tapestry ribbon sash high around her waist. I then used her original sleeves as under-sleeves to ones made of the same brocade at the rest of her over-gown, lining them with a soft pale gold silk and shaping them to hang in long points behind her elbows.
Now she's looking much more elegant and ethereal. Much more like herself I think :)
Next I think she'll be getting some hair once Linda has decided on the colour she'd like. And then while I wait for the first bits of lace to arrive from across the seas I can sit with my girls and add embroidery and snippets of lace to both their gowns.

Mrs Lovett is all dressed now and only waiting for me to make her a proper hat. She's not happy about having to wait but rejected my wonky fabric attempt so she now has to as I wait for some suppliers to arrive. I don't want to show you a proper pic yet until she's finished.
The very lovely Ashley of Mystic Magic Masquerade helped me out with some advice on the type of material I've been looking for to make tiny hats with and I ordered some up last week. Once it arrives I'll have a nice playing session learning how to shape this new stuff into a reasonable hat shape, and then all that Mrs Lovett will need is a few pies from her gruesome bake-house.

While I wait on all that I've been making up a tinny tiny version of my Captain Morgan's Daughter after being contacted through my facebook page by a nice lady that liked my full sized version but wanted something smaller. It's been fun to work on lovely tiny details and see this version of my imagined character come to life alongside her original. Tonight I get to finish off her little coat and embroider in the silver details. I'm hoping to get her all finished by the end of this week and off to her new home :)

How I always wish there was more time in my life for doll making.
Hope you all have a great week and avoid the idiots in this world.
Hugs and fairy dust wishes to everyone :)

PS - My brain has been cooking up a Vampire Siren all afternoon. She may have to be my next doll :) We'll see!!!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Two Special Ladies, And The Worst Baker In London!

I know I've mentioned her before a few times, but as she's an ongoing project between me and the wonderful Linda of Dragon's Wire - I thought I'd get around to showing you all a few proper photos of my Elizabeth I.

I was approached by Linda with the kindest offer, completely out of the blue, offering to make me any accessories that I may want for my dolls from her stunning crochet wire and beads. As soon as I saw her work the doll I'd been dreaming of making for years came to mind.
I've always wanted to make Elizabeth. Even though she's not my usual style, as I find her fascinating. And with the immense amount of information, some factual and some if it myth, about her available, and the perfect fit of Linda's amazingly delicate wire work with the era that she lived I found myself thanking Lovely Linda and mentioning that when I finally got around to making my Beth I'd be in touch with her to talk of what we could do together.

We both got so into the idea of making Beth that before I knew it we were planning out clothing, researching different ideas and making up samples. It all came so naturally and it's been such a joy working with another artist. Especially the new friend I've found in Linda.
She's always been so friendly and approachable, explaining her end of things so that I can understand more the ways in which she can construct tiny tiny jewelled items. And then me trying my best to explain to her how I'll construct and support the heavy silk brocade we chose to use for her gown and the different shapes I've learnt to make for her ruff. We seem to think very much alike, and it's all gone to prove to me that even though you may have never met someone face to face it doesn't stop them becoming a special part of your life.
The only problems we've encountered have all been to do with the fact that I'm here in Wales and she is miles across the ocean in Florida. And of course how difficult it's been with delays caused by the time difference, distance and postal services.
Sending samples back and fore has had to be thought about closely. Linda sent me the most amazing box of samples and gifts, including a stunning witch called Hazel that has pride of place on my book shelf. And I've sent her a box of goodies that I'm still waiting to arrive with her. There have been A Lot of photos send back and fore to each other, with the odd pic of one of our cats to share too :)

Right now we're about half way through and as you can see, Beth is sitting pretty waiting for her next stage which will be when I get the first layers of finished wire lace from Linda. She looks pretty much finished I know, but no where near as dazzling and detailed as a queen needs to be. By the time we're finished with her Beth's gown will be scattered with tiny motifs and bead work, all embroidered onto the fabric by hand (this bit scares me as I've not done much embroidery in years and her skirts are huge!), with a dramatic ruff and sparkling supportase, dripping necklaces and pearls, with her own tiny detailed fan and cross, and a stunning crown.
I could never come to a final cost for Beth due to the massive amount of silk fabric that I've used, the tiny details involved, and the massive amount of work being provided by Linda. So as you can imagine this very special lady with her bright burgundy red hair is all for me :)
I don't keep many dolls for myself, but this one is so special I couldn't dream of ever parting with her.

The doll you can see here with my Beth is Cerridwen, and she's Linda's doll. In the traditional way of trading skills as Linda works to provide me with exquisite wire lace for Beth, I'm working to create her her own doll.
I can't go into a lot of detail about Cerrid as Linda herself doesn't even know who she is yet and I don't want her finding out as it's part of the surprise :) If your interested I'm sure you can find some details on the internet, but she has a lot of legends surrounding her and I'm working on just one as it's my favourite. She knows that she's a very important Welsh lady from many years past, dressed in a medieval style that fits her time in history, and she's seen the photos I'm now showing you too. But the final details, who Cerridwen actually is and all of the final finishing touches she'll be getting to complete her and make her who she really is I'm keeping to myself for now until she's done :)
Linda only asked that I use the same fabrics as I used for Beth, and she's chosen a silver grey streaked hair colour for her. Linda's first plans to make a beaded tourmaline Juliet cap for her which I know will look just stunning.

I've been a busy girl as always and between stitching for Beth and Cerridwen I've been making a new doll for the shop - Mrs Margery Lovett.
Sweeney Todd is one of my favourite stories (I have tones for favourites I know, but am totally addicted to books), and Mrs Lovett is a strange and mysterious character.
Can you ever imagine being depraved enough to consider cutting up and baking another human being. And then having the nerve to go and sell her revolting pies to her unwitting customers.
Was it some sort of twisted depraved love for Mr Todd that convinced her to do it, or was she as I suspect her to be - just totally out of her tree!
The story itself is a mix of legend and fact all blurred together and mixed around until it's hard to tell which bits are true. But there are accounts in Britain and in Europe of people using human remains as a replacement for hard to come by legitimate Meat.

My Mrs Lovett here is dressed so far in a plain but attractive (I think) stripped cotton dress over a few layers of plain petticoats. As a working woman supporting herself I didn't think that she would have had the time to make or the money to buy expensive ruffled petticoats (like the one I first made her and dismissed :S) or a set of expensive and impractical hoops or a crinoline. And I found this lovely stripped fabric, that's the nicest softest cotton, on Etsy.
She's also always struck me as a vain woman in many ways, always trying to show herself off as better off than she is. Dressing herself up in trimmings and lace when she can find them cheap enough and ending up looking gaudy and overdone like one of the renowned Fleet Street prostitutes.
I'll be using the burgundy red silk you can see here with Mrs Lovett, and a quantity of black lace, to trim out her simple plain dress and "dress her up" with bits of finery. And I can't wait to get started on her hat.
I've already added to her sleeves and bodice and tonight am planning to work of some pleating and back details for her skirts.
I'm going to have to make sure to make her some pies too. But as a Vegetarian myself I think they'll be strictly for show only :)