Monday, 29 April 2013

A Husbands Horror Doll Request

I always give full credit and much appreciation to my lovely husband. He gives me endless support, puts up with my tempers when things go wrong, complains very little when dollies spread out all over the house and pretty much puts up with my mad, creative, living in the past, off my head self.

For his birthday this year I asked him if he'd like me to make him a doll of his very own. And while his answer wasn't a massive surprise I have to admit that the character he chose had me worried.
Being a huge Batman fan my lovely geeky hubby asked me for a doll of The Joker.
Specifically the one played by Heath Ledger, with his purple suit and deeply scared face, green dirty hair and make-up on his collars. So that's what I set out to make him.

Taking my dibber thing (bradawl) to one of my dolls faces has to be one of the scariest things I think I've had to do to one of them. Give me tiny collars, corsets, mis-behaving fabrics and nightmare tailoring anytime over having to do that again. Especially in such an eye-catching area as their mouth. I sat there in a sweat gently scraping through paint, varnish and clay till I had a pretty impressive ear to ear smiling scar carved into his face. And as soon as I'd done it my once smart looking man turned instantly into the cold blooded psychotic killer I was making. Even before I'd added his face paint!

Next came that of course - the face-paint. And I applied scrubbed off layers of white to his face so that the skin tone showed through in places. More mad eye-liner and a deep red pained lip-stain across his mouth and scars. Finishing him off with gloss and varnish to seal him. He looked Nuts!!!!
This one even gave me the creeps. And I know, I know my dolls are considered creepy by many, but I don't normally find them creepy myself.
It was something in his eyes and expression after the paint was added that did it, but Husband was happy and that all that mattered to me.

Next came his undies, just a little pair of boxers and something around his arm joints to tighten them up a little. And a shirt in blue cotton that had to be painted with fine spidery lines (trust me you can go check. His shirt has a pattern on it :S).Then a black cravat style tie that needed tiny white embroidery added to it, and a green waistcoat.
Easy so far, right?
No. We had a disagreement on whether or not The Joker's long purple coat was the jacket of his suit or an overcoat. I said not and Hubby says yes, so we had a frantic hour searching through Goggle Images so I could prove myself right and find the pic that I'd originally seen that shows the lovely Mr Ledger's coat open and a blue suit jacket beneath his purple overcoat. That got made and his overcoat too, and all you can see of the blue is a tiny line around the edge that I've tried to arrange in the pics so you can see it at all :)

I scuffed him up a bit and added paint for dirt and white watercolour pencil around his collars to look like make-up worn off his chin. Then added his feather hair in beige, green and mossy colours to make it look like the die was wearing off, slicking it back with hairspray to make it appear greasy.
He's still waiting for the chair I'll be making him from some vintage playing cards (Jokers of course), but he's sitting happily on our mantle scaring our visitors as they come through the door. I don't make many dolls so specific to my customers wants, but I don't think I'll be scared of any proposals after this for a while :)
I love to make my Cris smile :)

Monday, 22 April 2013

The Beauty of White Cotton

What is it about a good piece of fine white cotton fabric, perfectly clean and fluff free, spread out in front of me waiting to be turned into all sorts of underwear for my Victorian ladies?

There's something so appealing about it. Something that just grabs my attention and holds my imagination as I think up all the different shapes and styles, trying to decide what each doll needs and how I'll be able to trim them in ribbon and lace.

I always start my dolls this way. Only sometimes changing to a different colour when the lady demands it. Only listening to her when it comes to frills and trimmings. Just that blank white expanse of fabric in front of me waiting for a mark, a pin, a fold, a cut...

Before I know it I have a pair of wide split drawers, a gathered of fitted shift or lacy chemise, a corset, a petticoat. All working together to build up the shape and design of the finished gown, building curves and shape onto my skinny little dolls bodies. Giving them hips and a waist, protecting joints and starting the support for all manner of dress shapes.

Working with so much of the stuff I always try to buy good quality, not too thick with a good tight weave, occasionally changing to white cotton lawn or silk, but always starting with that big clean piece of white fabric in front of me. Chasing away the cats so that not a hair will mare it's surface. Making sure my hands and needles are clean and dry so I won't spoil it with a mark of make-up or dust. Searching for the best way to cut it so as not to spoil and make sure I get as much use from the meterage as I can. Saving every little scrap so I know I always have a piece to make that tiny collar or cuff later on. Folding, cutting, gathering and pleating - Turning that sheet of white into small items of underwear for my dolls while I dream and imagine what her final gown will look like.

Maybe she'll need a Hoop Crinoline. Maybe a corded stiff petticoat or row after row of ruffles and frills, or something built up at the back to help support a bustle. Perhaps she should have embroidery, or lace. Maybe plain and simple. Whatever she needs I can change and form that whiteness into what I need.

It's the one fabric I can't do without. The one that I make sure to never run short of. And the one fabric I always go back to :)

Monday, 15 April 2013

Time is Flying Away, And I'm Sewing As Fast As I Can

Busy busy bee trying to get everything ready and sorted out early for my next fair in July. It's going to be a lovely day at Margam Orangery where Hubby and me got married, and I'm really looking forward to spending the day in such a pretty place with the stunning gardens around us.

I've no idea what's been happening lately as I never seem to have enough time to do all that I want these days. All day every week day at the day job and my nights sewing up a storm. Then the weekend comes around and I think that I'll have loads of time and make loads of plans and then there's the chores and errands to run :S I need to claim me a day for dollies and get some period drama's on to keep me company. Maybe I'll have to talk Hubby into a night out with the boys so I don't annoy him :)

My Alice and The White rabbit is all finished and listed in my Etsy shop -
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is the favourite book of many of us all over the world. The wonderful characters and strange tales inspired me to make these two little dolls, and I always find myself returning to Mr Carroll’s books again and again.

We meet Alice sitting on a sunny band with her sister, bored and looking around her for something more interesting to catch her attention. Suddenly she sees a White Rabbit – A talking rabbit with a waistcoat and pocket watch rushing away to an appointment he was very late for. I love the imagery of Alice’s strange fall through the rabbit hole chasing the White Rabbit. Landing at last in a strange room with a tiny door, a table with a key and a bottle of strange liquid marked “Drink Me); and a small glass box hidden underneath with a small cake inside marked “Eat Me”. Such a wonderful story from a great writer.

Alice wears pretty lace trimmed underwear with layers and layers of frills. Her blue dress is made of pure silk, and she has an apron of white cotton trimmed with more lace. In her white blond hair she has a small white bow, and a small bottle of strange red liquid marked “Drink Me”. The White Rabbit has been hand sculpted and has movable arms. His copper brown waistcoat is painted with a shimmery paint and he has a purple satin bow tie. His watch-chain hangs from his pockets, and in his hand he carries the key to the Queens garden.

I've also been working to finish my Queen of Hearts and now have her all dressed and just in need of her crown and sceptre, and the plate of tarts that I want to make her :)
She's looking rather pretty in her red silk and satin gown trimmed up with gold lace and black and white check ribbon frills.

My Queen has layers of white underwear with lots of lace frilling under a red petticoat with white polka dots and more lace frills. Over a bright red satin underskirt decorated with a heart motif she has a dark red silk over-skirt with a train at the back with a matching decorated heart and wide border of gathered spotted silk at the hem. She has wide puffy sleeves trimmed with lots of frills, and a tight bodice.

Although she's not yet quite finished I've been really very lucky to have found her a home already. Once she's done she'll be off to the lovely Dominique in Australia :)

What am I working on now? Let me think what's next...
I found a very sweet little brass cauldron in a thrift store that has a tiny Welsh lady on the front so I want to make a Welsh Witch with a proper Welsh hat to go with it. I'm not sure which one she'll be yet, but I've started her undies and am planning on wide skirts and a blouse with a shawl to keep her warm.
Then I need to make me some peg dolls and make Sarah her April and May peg dolls. As well as getting started on my Anastasia now that I have the perfect peachy pink silk for her dress. And I also want to make another Jack The Ripper, and...
No wonder I have to time! I have way too many ideas to keep up :S

Monday, 8 April 2013

Emily, Lizzie Borden, And Dolls In Progress

Wow! What a week or two I've had!
Seems like I haven't sat still once and I still have loads to do :)
Isn't it always the way when you want to settle down to do something important.

Well, Ok. Maybe dolls aren't the most important thing in the world, but they do always make me happy :)
I have somehow managed to get a lot done with my dolls, although it seems I've hardly picked up my needle. Emily and her dolly are finished and listed in my shop. And Lizzie Borden too. So here they both are for you to see.

Emily is a pretty, sweet little girl with a dark twisted heart. Murder and mystery surround her, but no-one ever believes that such a pretty little thing could be the cause.

It all started long ago when Emily was thought to have found her nurse-maid killed after what was thought to be an attempted robbery. Eight months later Emily’s mother was found to have died in her sleep after an apparently accidental arsenic overdose. And now her new step-mother has been found in the garden with her throat cut!
Emily’s farther is starting to suspect he may need some help with his strange little girl who doesn’t seem in the least upset that these events keep happening in her home.

Emily wears a pretty peach dress trimmed with white lace and ribbon, and has a full skirt and puff sleeves. Underneath she has traditional split crotch drawers worn under frilly lace legs to help hide her limbs. She has lots of lace trimmed petticoats to help hold her dress full. Her little doll has a lace trimmed white dress with pink ribbons, and behind her skirts she hides her favourite weapon – the knife she uses to cut her victims throats.

Lizzie Borden was accused of killing both her father and step-mother by repeatedly striking them with an axe. A terrible violent murder that caused a sensation throughout the country.

Lizzie was acquitted of the crime and chose to continue to reside Fall River, Massachusetts, but was ostracised by society. The case became so famous through the press that is even inspired a rhyme describing the event – Lizzie Borden took an axe / And gave her mother 40 whacks / When she saw what she had done / She gave her father 41.
No-one now knows who it was that killed Lizzie's parents in such a brutal manner, or even if she had in fact done it herself. There are many reasons why she or others might have been driven to do it, but I guess now we’ll never know.

Lizzie wears traditional white cotton underwear trimmed with lace and ribbon under her corset. Over a lace chemise covering her corset her cream silk blouse has a gathered front and fitted bodice, with a high neckline and puffy long sleeves with a row of pretty buttons fastening it down one side. Her tweedy grey skirt is tailored to fit her. And in one hand she carries a blood stained axe.

I've no idea why I choose to make two such violent bloody dolls right now but think the influence of Hubby's birthday doll might have something to do with it.
My Joker is all finished (apart from his playing card seat) and looking just as creepy as I first felt sitting up there on the bookcase. I'll have proper pictures of him soon to share with you, but want to use some vintage joker playing cards to make him something simple to sit on first before I take his portrait.

I've also managed to dress a small doll of Alice, and have sculpted her a White Rabbit in a waistcoat that I need to paint this weekend (as well as give poor Alice some hair). And have started on a Queen of Hearts ready for my next fair as well. You can see her here in her underwear and crinoline, but she's looking quite mad right now in a mad mix of red, cream and gold fabrics as I'm starting to plan out her dress.

Ok, so maybe I've done more than I thought I had :S !!!
I really want to get some new smaller dolls ready for the fair at Margam Orangery in July, but closer to the time I'll have received some of the wonderful wire lace from Linda for Beth and Cerridwen and I know I won't be able to resist getting back to work on them. I really can't wait to show you all these two very special dolls :)