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 :)

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