Saturday, June 16, 2018

Cassandra, the Gypsy Girl

Summer conjures up so many feelings in us.  The thrill of the last school bell (still!), the desire for sandy shores and beach chairs, the sound of the ice cream truck (do they even have those any longer?), and a restlessness for faraway places.  To travel unimpeded...perhaps in a glorious wooden caravan with a bell that tinkles suspended from an ornate hook by the door.  Perhaps to meet up with Dorothy's traveling salesman who just happens to have a crystal ball on board.  I'd grab my dog and my basket in a blink and go with him anywhere.


Truly, we all know (I hope) that the gypsy life of years gone by was not a picnic, and there was simply no such thing as feminism.  Girls were bought and sold, used, abused and beaten.  A girl dare not fall in love with any man her father did not pick for her.  Shall I go on?  No.  Because when we muse on "gypsy", we imagine the exotic, the untamed, the swirl of colorful skirts, and the teller of fortunes by palmistry, tarot cards, and that translucent orb, the crystal ball. 


In my research, I was reading a wonderful blog by a woman whose great-grandmother was a gypsy.  She included this stunning studio photograph of her great-grandmother, and had written "that all gypsy girls were dancers and fortune tellers".  Sadly before I had a chance to read the entire journal entry, my computer froze up and I had to reboot.  So be it.  Try as I might, I could not recover the article. So I continued looking for a photo that would inspire. 
  
I have made several gypsy costumes for dolls over the years, but a recent purchase of a "fortune teller" doll by a friend got me interested in making one from the knickers up.  I have a cabinet of sad little Lawton dolls who over time have lost an accessory, gotten dirty with age, or were simply no longer wanted.  These are the dolls I create "brand new" ones from.  And, so it was for the Lawton "Danielle" I had stashed away.  She's a 14" wood body and porcelain, which are the dolls I most prefer to create with.

After some continued browsing around the Internet and Pinterest, I found this fabulous studio portrait of two gypsy girls in costuming that caught my eye.  So unusual.  Pleated skirts!  The caption read "They appear to be wearing traditional ethnic clothing.  The photographer is Olga, and the studio is located in Oravicza, Romania."  Bingo.  That did the trick.  Had to do this one.  And, lucky me, I got to select the colors the skirts and scarves would be.  In other words, I had to "make this up".  Test my mettle, as a creative sort and all that. 

I pulled out all my silks and made several piles of coordinating patterns and colors.  I wanted this costume to be as authentic to what these girls actually wore in the sepia photograph as I could make it.  For all I know, they could have been wearing red and aqua.  But, I liked the earthiness of the burgundy, mauve and purple.  Sunset colors.  Summer sunset colors.  And so I began. 

I'm not a fan of making undergarments.  Never have been.  Why?  They do not show.  Seems a waste of effort.  But, after I found a suitable wig for the doll, I made a pair of knickers in a beautifully woven shirting cotton.  No photo.  Sorry.  Can anyone tell me what a girl child, a gypsy girl child would have worn under those skirts?  Maybe your guess is a good as mine.  Knickers seemed likely for the time period.  No one's going to see them anyway, and I wished to concentrate on the costume. 

A blouse was next.  I've seen many images of gypsy girls in short, puffed sleeves.  Peasant blouses.  And, women with alluring, eye catching d├ęcolletage.  Cassandra is a child, and she also has a wood body - not that this has ever bothered me - but long, billowing sleeves seemed right for her - in opposition to the costuming in the photograph.  My doll.  I can mix it up a bit if I like, but I did create the high ruffle collar for the blouse.  As she is a "cabinet doll" and will never be redressed (by me at least), I closed the blouse with little snaps in the back.

Not liking to work with velveteen very much, I did the vest next.  Oh how I forget how difficult it is to work with!  Especially lining it.  The velveteen has mind of its own.  I do pin the silk lining to it alternating the direction of the pins, but it never really wants to behave.  Third try, I got it.  I lined it with a beautiful black silk that has tiny gold embroidery on it.  Little diamonds of gold.  It was the only black silk I had on hand, and this felt right.  Use what you have on hand.  The belt naturally came next.  Do all the velveteen at once!

The belt is decorated with a heavy gold thread that I tacked on to create the design.  The paillettes I used throughout this costume were heavy jeweler's pieces.  I found these 3/8" pieces offered on Ebay and bought all five sets of them.  I had no idea how many I'd use, and its best to be safe than sorry.  They are hammered (indented), textured.  I would have had to make my own from the plastic ones with a hole punch, and fully intended to do so, but the almost "bronze" color of them looked wonderful with the warm colors of silk. 

I had plenty of this burgundy silk left over from Louise Godey's first holiday dress.  I spent a good deal of time pleating and pressing, and pleating a pressing to get this skirt made.  I always hem the fabric first when pleating, then measure the length its going to be.  In this case, 6 1/2".  So far so good.  I attached the waistband, and began on the unusual,. and separate apron skirt that falls to the back and front.  Pleated, once again, but with paillettes running up the sides of the two apron pieces.  Took some figuring out, but I attached a waistband that opens at one side and closes with a hook and thread loop.  I had to make this shorter by an inch, and also make the pleats slightly smaller.  Worn by a child, the volume created by these pleats would indeed provide a wonderful fullness as she spun around and banged her little tambourine. 

Her main head scarf is this horrid-to-work-with tissue weight silk jacquard.  I love this silk.  Its one of the prettiest pieces I have and folds and ties up like a dream, but it ravels like crazy thing the minute a needle touches it.  I did finish the edges with tiny twice folded over edges machine-sewn down.  My sewing machine has a rolled edge foot attachment, but I'll be darned if I've ever gotten it to work.  I know this can be done by hand, but I'm not sure I'd really have the patience to do this - especially for a doll's scarf that's all folded up and tucked in.  (Its just not that important to me, nor do I think it detracts in any way.  This is not an heirloom wedding veil.  My rationale.)

Saved for last was the sewing-on of the paillettes.  Each pleat point on the apron was given one and each paillette is sewn on with its own little knot.  Five go up each side of the apron pieces.  They are sewn to the edges of the vest going up to just below the shoulders.  I never thought I'd get them all sewn on, but all I kept thinking about was how some gypsy mother sewed all of them to these children's costumes - and probably faster and with more skill than imaginable.  What I was doing was nothing in comparison. 

Finally, it was time to make her a pair of slippers, sandals...something on her feet.  Dancing shoes that were also practical for everyday wear.  I created a pattern for a sort of espadrille, and used a dark wine-brown leather for them.  I wanted something that was summery.  A shoe that would be cool and comfortable, speak to the warm days and nights of the season.  I like this style and hope to use it again sometime. 

After I had her dressed, there was still something missing.  A necklace and a little "color spot", a little pizazz to the overall look.  I bought some chain, tiny jump rings and a lobster clasp and made her a "coin" necklace with some 3/8" pressed jeweler's coins.  The color spot was another scarf added as a hair band.  Both scarf styles are noted as proper gypsy wear, and look lovely together.  The fringe on both her hip sash and head wrap were done by pulling horizontal threads out from the fabric. 

I came up with the name Cassandra after listening to Al Stewart's song Helen and Cassandra.  It just happened to be on my playlist that day.  Cassandra was a Greek goddess who was given the gift of foretelling the future by Apollo.  As the story goes, she did not do his bidding, and he made no one believe her when she predicted the fall of Troy by the Trojan Horse army.  Her fate will not be my little gypsy's, but it is such a lovely name and rolls off the tongue like the swirl of silk skirts.  She can be fortune teller and dancer.

Below are some wonderful studio portraits of gypsy girls.  You might even recognize one of them.  Wishing you a pleasant summer!

Love,
Melissa  
    





Friday, May 25, 2018

Last Rainy Day in May

Lately we really haven't been able to plan our days around the nightly weather report.  They kept predicting a high in the 80's every five days out , but with each week that passed, it remained cool and breezy.  In fact, yesterday was like a day in Monterey with fog and chilly temperatures.  Then finally, they hit the nail on the head.  Its not really a fault.  We can only predict, for what happens in the atmosphere is entirely up to the atmosphere.  But, this morning when I turned over in bed, I could hear the plink-plink-plink in the little fireplace set in the wall, and when I lifted my head to see over the lump next to me, the clock read a quarter to eight.  Ahhh...  How very good it felt to sleep in.  And, it was raining. 


So I headed off to my studio once I'd had my tea, and started puttering around.  The idea for a true Etrenne kept niggling at me.  What was I thinking?!  How could I possibly make a doll accessory and have it be incomplete?  So I began making a leather bound sketchbook to fit inside Mary's art sketch box.  I lined the inside with a cotton dimity, cut the pages, made a cotton binding, covered it in a nice green leather, but I wasn't having fun.  It was just something to pass the time.  But, then I started really thinking about her pencil, and asked myself, "What did Victorians actually use for sketching those botanicals?" 

I started looking up "Victorian drawing tools" and was delivered to medical implements.  I suppose the word "tools" was a little too broad a theme.  I knew they weren't using wooden No. 2's, so I gambled on the words "Victorian pencils".  But, of course!  These were some of the first mechanical pencils!  Wow.  Now I was excited. 

Although the history of pencils can be traced back as far as 500 years, the first mechanical pencil patent wasn’t applied for until 1822, when John Hawkins and Sampson Mordan patented an “ever-pointed” pencil in Britain.  Vague details exist of a brass propelling pencil that used a spring as early as 1636, and an actual early mechanical pencil was found on the wreckage of the HMS Pandora, a ship that sank in 1791.  The propelling pencils, or push button lever pencils had refillable graphite leads.  As I was researching how these decorative mechanical pencils were rendered, I found some incredibly beautiful ones, some with fascinating details.  But, of course they were.  They were Victorian.  It leaves me wondering how often these were used for writing as well as drawing, since they were far handier to carry along than pen and ink bottles.

So I got busy and picked up a little basswood stick and started carving a little pencil with my X-acto blade.  I knew right away that I wasn't going to be able to create anything as decorative as a sterling silver mechanical pencil, but that was okay.  I think the shape enthralled me as much as anything else.  Its the shape of a pin vise.  Its the shape of a hypodermic needle.  Its a vial with a very narrow hole going all the way through it.  Engineering wise, this makes me wonder if the latter implements were conceived from the general idea of the mechanical pencil.  Think about it.

Either way, Mary now owns a note book for sketching and a mechanical pencil to tuck into her sketch box!

A couple of days before, I was changing out the costuming for my Ruby Red Galleria Ten Ping Family dolls and decided that yellows and greens would be a fine summer clothing theme for them.  However, poor cousin Ping Li did not have anything to match.  So I got busy and made her a summer set to coordinate with theirs.  I used the same pattern for her wrap top, that I used under the smock for the winter set.  I added a skirt for warmer weather, and made her a new pair of slippers to wear as well.  Now the Pings can go on a picnic with cousin Ping Li.

This is fun.  This is how I enjoy spending my time, besides reading, and being with my dogs. 

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday weekend...rain or shine!

Love,
Melissa 
 
 
 












Sunday, May 20, 2018

Mary Lennox Peach Garden Sketching

Back to Misselthwaite Manor...


I don't know, maybe its Spring that inspired me, but honestly, it was and is, my true intention to keep making these lovely Peck Aubry paper doll outfits until Mary's closet is full.  And, Mary is such a pretty doll that she makes for wonderful playtime, sewing time.


With roses in bloom and summer's apricots and peaches just around the corner, I decided that it was time to try and make the peach dress from this collection.  I've long admired it, although I wondered time and again, just what it would take to bring it to life.  Its a very unusual pattern, and it had all that detail on the ribbon bands.  Its odd, but with this one, after the challenge I had with Alice By the Sea, I just launched into this and kept going without missing a beat.  Of course I engaged in a little prep work beforehand.


I'd been fussing over what to do for the embroidered bands.  And, I'm positive this was one of the reasons it took so long for me to even consider making it.  They were not lace.  It looked like a zig-zag pattern, but in Victorian times, perhaps this would have been called a chevron pattern.  Either way, I was refusing to do that much embroidery, so I wanted to see if my sewing machine would do the stitch. This meant, of course, reading the manual.  I don't like manuals, and I don't like pattern instructions...much less recipes that call for more than five ingredients.  I generally have to read through these things ten times before anything begins to gel in my brain.  I'm a "wing it" girl.  But, I so did not want to do all that embroidery, that I forced myself to try.

I have a Juki Exceed Quilt and Pro Special.  I love it.  Most people love their sewing machines, and swear by them.  I do, too, but I'm realistic.  I think I've used a 1/100 of its capacity, and let's hope that's not what I'm doing with my brain!  I did find the right stitch for an embroidered zig-zag though.  It took about six steps to get there, so I wrote them down with sketches of the buttons I'd have to push and the stitch length I wished.  I know how silly this sounds, but I really hate instructions.  So I tried the stitch on different weights fabric.  Tried it with a interfacing, tried it on a silk-satin ribbon...I tried it.  But, every time I did it, the stitch pulled at the tips.  Please don't say I should have read up on how to adjust the tension.  The machine is supposed to be smart enough to figure it out.  What I did figure out was that I would have to hand embroider all of this.  So I began.  Why not?  Its not like I don't labor at these things anyway.

However, the bands were in the future.  I first had to figure out what was going on in the dress to make a pattern.  This was definitely a time when you insist on making a mock up.  I had this lovely dark peach colored fabric that I'd put away with the others I'd purchased to make some of Mary's wardrobe.  No problem.  All set to go.  However, the fabric, which is probably a chiffon like silk, would not hold a pleat no matter what setting I put the iron on...without melting the fabric.  So off to Jo Ann's I went in search of a peach cotton to use.  Of course this would have been the correct choice originally, but I was so set on the color of the fabric I'd purchased.  I just don't learn sometimes.  I did find a suitable peach cotton, so now I was ready to go.

I started designing the pattern with the triangular collar piece.  This is one of the designs that first catches your eye, so it had to be done right.  I was also concerned on getting the embroidered bands spaced correctly, and making certain that they were just the right width.  They needed to be a little under a half an inch to look right on Mary.  Again, the dimensions illustrated for a paper doll don't always figure for the doll you're sewing for, so you just make adjustments and do your best.  The mock up was done just for the immediate-need details and a sense of what was required to put it together once the patterns were drawn.  I always use a fabric of equal weight for this to ensure that it will look similar, drape right, pleat correctly.

Let me see if I can describe the parts of this dress.  The base is a full bodice and there's a finished panel, a placket, that goes on top of the bodice where the embroidered bands are sewn on.  On top of this is the triangular pleated collar piece, and the rectangular pieces that go over the shoulders goes under this.  There is a high collar edged in lace, that is embroidered with the design as well.  The sleeves have what I call "bucket cuffs" that turn up over the sleeve edge once sewn on.  There's a lovely batiste Swiss lace that edges the center placket and the "over sleeves". 

When it came to the bands, they had to be made by hand.  They're not a bias tape, but were made on the grain, pressed over from right to left, then slightly less the width pressed left to right, under.  This makes a nice band since the edges are clean and there isn't "fray to mess with on the underside.  These bands were cut and hand sewn onto the placket, then embroidered.  One of the things my machine stitch showed me was how it should be done using two threads.  There are also wee dots at every interval of zig-zag.  Just for the fun of it, I measured how much band I had to embroider and it came out to roughly 54".  And, it took time.  The collar band is embroidered the same way as the hem and packet bands.  However, the cuffs were treated a bit differently.

Firs of all, with the cuffs, there are three bands of zig-zag, and the wee dots are only on the top and bottom, and the pattern is a bit larger.  To get the stitches equidistant, I ran a gather stitch through the middle of the cuff to use as a pattern.  The points are marked by the distance of the gather stitches, skipping one in the middle.  This really helped, and the top and bottom row were measured out with a ruler.  My eyes were going a bit wonky doing this, but it was worth it.  The smaller embroidery design, which is dominant on this dress, was done by eyeballing it.

Again the bands on the hem of the dress were hand stitched on, and then embroidered.  I can't tell you how happy I felt to reach the last two inches of each band.  Almost done!  Then I lined the skirt and attached it to the bodice.  Its closed in the back with four hooks and thread loops from the high collar to the end of the triangular piece, then three buttons and loops to the waist.  Of course, none of this shows with her long hair, but I know its finished properly.  Yes, there was a lot of embroidery to be done, but it was worth the patience and time to execute it.

So what else was in this illustration?  A box.  Mary was carrying some sort of little suitcase.  It was too small for an over night case, and she didn't go to school, so she didn't need a case for books (she was tutored at Misslethwaite Manor).  I decided it must be a Victorian art box.  Something to put her sketching pad and pencil in, and maybe a small set of water color paints.  Victorians did beautifully detailed botanical drawings, so this must be what Peck-Aubry had in mind.

Its been far too long for me to remember the last time I used my table saw to make anything like this, but I was happy to explore making one just the same.  I do like accessories.  I feel they complete the look of anything you sew.  Otherwise, you just have a dress.  No matter how pretty it is, its just a dress.  The accessories tell the story.  This little art box is 4" by 2 1/2".  Its made from basswood and the color is derived from a mix of paint and gesso so the grain shows through.  This is the second one I made.  The first attempt was stained with Minwax and did not come out nicely at all.  Nor did it look like the one Mary carries in the illustration.  I'm very particular about this. 

Upon close study of the illustration, I decided to use fine "rope" for the pulls that hold the leather handle to the case.  I drilled little holes in the top to insert them through, then knot them off.  The leather handle and straps are machine stitched with an off yellow thread, and the buckled straps are just that.  Straps.  Brass fittings for the hinges where set and there's a decorative latch on the top.  Yes, the case is fully functional, opens and closes quite nicely, but getting the leather end to go through the buckle was a nightmare (even though this is thin leather), so it will stay closed.  A real Etrenne would have contained a sketch pad and pencil, but I'm done.  I will never display Mary sketching, so that case is closed, so to speak.  Leather bumpers cover each corner.  Those were fun to figure out.  At least I can feel confident that I can still do this kind of work.  Its all I did for years on end, so it was not a great departure for me from sewing.

Mary's hat was from her debut dress, and her Robin friend is always close by.  Below is a Victorian botanical sketch of a peach colored rose.  I'm most certain that Mary's art case carries such a pretty representation.

Love,
Melissa


  





Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Alice By the Sea

For the better part of my life, I lived 50 minutes from the coast.  I grew up loving the sea and would make as many trips over the Santa Cruz mountains to the beaches between Capitola and Half Moon Bay, as possible each year.  It was the high cliffs of the rocky beaches, and large outcroppings such as Greyhound Rock, that would make me take those long, twisting drives from the suburbia to the misty, wet air of the coastline.  I wasn't a sun bather, but one of those who'd walk the lengths of sand, and find a perch of rock that gave me a couple of hours of day dreams and peace.  I'd study the tidal pools for signs of sea life and collect abalone shells from a beach called Ano Nuevo, or New Year's Beach.  This one is famous for the resting migration of sea lions, and long ago, in the 1970's,  was able to see the sea lions, before you needed guided tours.  Sea birds, the seagulls and sand pipers, and the brown pelicans (although the white ones are my favorites), would keep me company from overhead, and I'd watch for seals bobbing in and out of waves.  Oh, how I miss the ocean!  Yet, one of the most beautiful coastal areas I've ever been to was Exmoor, in the U.K., and the White Cliffs of Dover (after which I named my dog, Dover).  And, just writing this passage, I can feel the sharp winds off the coast blowing through my hair, and smell the salt sea air with the sound of crashing waves.

My love of the coast was my inspiration for Alice By the Sea.

My friend, Betsy had sent me this 16" "vintage" Maggie Iacono doll about a year ago, and I tucked her away knowing that someday, just the right project would come along for her.  And especially, because she is a felt doll, needle felted characters would do wonderfully with her.  I had been wanting to make the Mock Turtle, as well.  I hadn't seen this little fellow done in needle felt yet, and he simply intrigued me.  As I once again opened my 1962 version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, to the illustration of the Mock Turtle, the idea for a seaside Alice was born.  And wasn't there another seaside adventure in Through the Looking Glass?  Yes.  That of the Walrus and the Carpenter.  I once again slipped down the rabbit hole and have been gone for a month working in wool, dreaming of the sea.

I didn't quite know what to do about dressing the doll at first, but I wanted her dress to be a back drop to her seaside friends, the Mock Turtle and the Walrus.  Two characters that would represent both books.  While I was determining what style of dress to create for her, I began a more traditional dress for her in wool felt with an entirely different Alice theme.  I'm not saying it was a complete failure, but my heart wasn't as into it, as Alice By the Sea.  During this week of creative muddling, the idea for a middy dress came to be.  So new wool sheets were ordered and when they arrived, the "muddling" was bagged, literally in a plastic zip bag for another day - maybe, and I started straight away on Alice By the Sea's costume.

I've done many a middy dress for other dolls, but doing one in wool and designing it as a back drop became a focus, and study, of the illustrations by the sea.  One thing they both had in common were their white cliffs.  These limestone outcroppings can also be found in Ontario, Canada, and were most likely connected, as one continent, at one time in the earth's early history.  I have appreciatively explored both coastlines.  Anyway, so yes, this was a common denominator in both illustrations and would thematically connect the two characters into one lovely story of Alice By the Sea. 
 
Of course, I've been studying Maggie's work for a long time, but particularly since I created Tara Tree-tops from the other Iacono Betsy gave me.  Maggie has done some awesome fabric art with her dolls, and I could not, and would never hope to do, what she does.  But, I did pick up on how she appliques her flowers and sometimes little vignettes to their wool felt costumes.  Complimentary thread hand stitching, or top stitching. 

I'd fully intended to make the entire dress out of the blue felt, and fidgeted for days, while making the bodice, trying to figure out how "to make sand".  One of the most darling things about the illustration of the Walrus and the Carpenter, is the portrayal of the oysters in their little boots.  I wanted to include some along the hemline of her dress.   All I can tell you is that a great deal of trial and trial went into the design of it. 

What I came away with was the depiction of the puffy clouds, the white cliffs' coastline, and the curving stretch of sand from the Walrus illustration.  After much fussing around, and some determination to try it, I made the drop waist skirt portion entirely of the sand color.  A "piece" of sand was stitched onto the bodice to make the "bay", and the cliffs were stitched over the clouds meeting at the horizon line.  Thin strips of white wool were hand stitched onto the cuffs and sailor collar for trim.  A red bow of wool felt brightens and cheers up the dress nautically.

Then we came to the oysters.  Here was another deliberation of what to do that took a few whacks.  Somehow, just the shape of each oyster wasn't going to cut it, just stitched onto the "sand".  They needed depth, or shading.  So I cut a slightly larger oyster shape in brown wool then stitched the two pieces together by embroidering the texture of the shells.  Each oyster had to be made before sewing them onto the dress. 

The set to the right (in these photos) were done in shades of gray rather than the taupes of the others.  This was done to give some dimension to the scene.  In the illustration, they are in shade, or rather their backs are away from the sun as where the others have the sun shining directly on them.  Good grief.  How literal did I want to take this without cutting out gray shadow shapes to stitch on at their feet?!  I'm a "less is more" kind of person, yet I still love detail. 

As the doll would seldom be seen from the back, I omitted any landscaping on the back side of the dress.  But, I couldn't help including three more oysters in case anyone ever picked her up to take a look.  Her long hair, a new wig, also precluded any desires to embellish the back.  Finally, just to dress things up a bit, I tried including a strand of seaweed (in case you didn't know what that light green thing was, lol).  Each little oyster got an embroidered pair of legs and a set of little boots in wool felt sewn on with one stitch of embroidery thread.  This was a lot of work, those oysters.

Alice By the Sea needed something on her feet.  Maggie has used microsuede for her Mary Jane shoes, and I considered doing this, but the style just didn't seem right for this outfit.  So I spent three days designing a pair of side button boots to fit this doll's foot.  I intended to do them in black, but then found this oyster colored piece of leather in my stash, and determined that was it.  Little black glass bead buttons close the leather boots.  I think this would be a good time to add that I did style her human hair wig to show off her cute little ears, and tied the hair back with a large black silk bow.  I also redid her make up.  She was terribly pale when she arrived, so I enhanced her eyes, cheeks and lips to brighten her face.  I used watercolor pencils and powdered cheek blush for these purposes.  Or porpoises, as we now get into her needle felted friends. (Sorry, couldn't help myself!  Hope you're still with me.  There was a lot of work put into this one.)

I never start a project of any kind without doing my research.  Learning everything I can about the subject helps me understand and empathize with my subject - to bring it to life.  And, so it was with the Mock Turtle.  If you've never read the story, that's okay.  The illustrations are just as much fun to look at, and help tell the story visually, competently.  (When I was little, I never read the stories, but chose just to immerse myself in the pictures.  They were enough for me.)   So I reread the Mock Turtle's story. 

When Alice is encountered by the Queen who is dragging her off to the games, the Queen insists she learn of the Mock Turtle's story.  They come upon the Gryphon first, then a bit further down the beach, they encounter the Mock Turtle who is terribly sorrowful.  The Mock Turtle then begins the tale of his life under the sea, and his upsetting "education".  He is also taught how to "uglify" himself, rather than beautify.  His story is long, and leads to the chapter where he discusses the Lobster Quadrille, which is a dance performed by the Gryphon and Mock Turtle for Alice.  Sadly the existence of the Mock Turtle is for the purpose of Mock Turtle soup, and the silly fellow ends his chapter by singing about beautiful soup.  That's three chapters in a nutshell for you. 

The Mock Turtle is a strange little character.  Our minds are a fascinating thing.  We see the word "turtle", think "turtle", and see "turtle" by association.  But, the Mock Turtle has very little "turtle" in him besides his shell.  It often isn't until we try to recreate something that we notice all the little details, and figure out just what we're looking at.  My hat's off to you, if you saw, and recognized these instantly.  I think my mind is lazy at times.

What we have here, to my interpretation, is the head of a cow, with some kind of little horn, only one of them.  He has the ears of a pig and the feet of a pig.  His tail looks to be that of a lion, and he has fins.  Turtles usually have little feet.  Go ahead. Look them up.  They have toes and little claws to move around on.  I did some research on the anatomy of turtles just to get a head start, then of course had to go off course to make what is the Mock Turtle.  Study of his little home, his protection, the shell, was helpful though.  My head hurts just thinking about the study of this illustration to make him into a needle felt for Alice By the Sea. 

What should be intriguing to the viewer, is being able to see for the first time, what he looks like from all sides, ala Miss E. Mouse.  Of course I had to make this all up, but now we know what he might have looked like.  The most difficult part of making him, was all of him.  But if I had to choose just one area of difficulty, it was the folds of his neck.  Maybe he was good practice for creating the Walrus, but there was a lot more detail in him than the Oyster Eater. 

At about this time, I was ready to be done with this project.  I think I made the Walrus in three days' time, but just as much love was put into him as the sorrowful, uglified Mock Turtle. 

We often hear, in politics or important announcements, a part of the poem, the tale of the Walrus and the Carpenter.  "The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things: Of shoes - and ships - and sealing wax - of cabbages - and kings..."  This story, and the poem, were told to Alice by Tweedledum.  Here there is a stunning day, a beautiful day by the sea, which was actually night.  And, along the sand come walking the Walrus and the Carpenter, and bid the oysters to come walking with them for a "pleasant walk, a pleasant talk".  The eldest oyster was reluctant to leave his oyster bed and lead the others along for the walk.  "Their coats were brushed, their faces washed, Their shoes were clean and neat - and this was odd, because, you know, They hadn't any feet".  As it turns out, this little party was nothing more than a ploy to get the oysters out of the water so that the Walrus and the Carpenter could have a feast.  Alice liked the Walrus best "because he at least was a little sorry for the poor oysters".  

Tweedledum's poem is one of my favorite passages between the two books.  Read it sometime. 

And, so I began to sculpt the Walrus.  Naturally, I did some research on walruses.  They dive into deep, dark waters to fish for their oysters.  The bushy whiskers are sent out like little fingers, feelers, to help search for their meals in lightless conditions.  The tusks help pry the oysters from their beds.  They are mostly bubbler and fins and I love the way Tenniel depicted the Walrus in a very dandy suit.  Even before I began him, I knew I would use these little brass, domed buttons for his vest and coat. 
 
I think the folds of his pants at the "ankles" were probably the most troubling part of creating him.  I actually used three photos to create him.  One was from an illustration on the inside cover of the book I have, one was an actual walrus looking at you, and the other was the illustration of the Walrus and the Carpenter with the oysters. Walruses don't have legs or wear shoes...or coats and vests for that matter, and it took a lot of imagination to create him in a needle felt.  Again, I think the fun of these two needle felts is the chance to see, imagine them, from all angles.

The Mock Turtle is almost 5 1/2" tall, and the Walrus is a solid six inches tall. 
 
I've been working long and hard on this entire project and it was one of the most enjoyable I've done.  It gave me the chance to dream of the sea and the coastal areas I miss so much.  It gave me an opportunity to deeply study Tenniel's magical illustrations again, and create a wool felt dress for a 16" Maggie Iacono doll.  And, remind me how difficult side buttons boots are to make.  Each doll foot is different.  One size does not fit all.  This project gave me a chance to do many things I constantly need refreshers on.  But, mostly, I just love Alice.  And, the sea.

Love,
Miss E. Mouse (aka Melissa)