Sunday, March 19, 2017

Suzette and Her First Bleuette

If I could dig up the earliest of my first email correspondence, I could tell you exactly when I entered the collecting world of Bleuette.  I would know because the doll was just about all I talked about.  I recall seeing one of these reproduction dolls in a Doll Reader magazine in an advertisement for Global Doll Corporation.  At the time, they were located in Lincoln, CA, which was about a 40 minute drive from where I live. 

I'd actually phoned them to ask about this doll in their ad, and the owner was more than delighted to sell me this reproduction she'd made, as well as some clothing from the La Semaine de Suzette patterns that the company offered.  However, it was the history of Bleuette that also captured my interest, and I'd bought a copy of  Bleuette, the Doll and Her Wardrobe, by Barbara Hilliker, before I left the office.  While it was Becassine that tickled me most, and would become a passion of mine for many years, the illustrations from the publication that offered the doll, La Semaine de Suzette, would continue to enchant me. 

When I set out to delve into a new project, I do my research first.  If an expert is available to consult with, that person is my first stop on the journey.  And, in my opinion, no one loves or knows more about Bleuette than Martha Nichols, the moderator of the Bleuette Sewing Club.  And, she just happens to be one of the nicest people I've ever come in contact with.  And, accessible!

I wrote to her a couple of weeks ago and much of what I will relay is the wonderful information she shared with me.  Let's face it, there is nothing we love better than to talk about and share our passions. 

I'd recently bought another Wendy Lawton 16" wood body doll and was trying to come up with something to do with her.  I'd found her for a decent price, and loved her sweet expression.  She was once "Lucy Gray", and I have this doll in my collection, so recreating her into another was an easy decision.  I must have been browsing my books when I once again came across the image that graced the covers of the yearly journal of La Semaine de Suzette (Suzette's Weekly).  These hard bound copies would hold a year's worth of the weekly publication.  The children dancing around the teacher always touched my heart.  Especially the two children in the front; the one in the striped dress and the little girl to the right of her in red.

I had on hand, one of Nada Christian's mini Bleuettes and thought, Why not make a Suzette with her first Bleuette?  I love dolls with their dolls!  And, wouldn't it be wonderful if "Suzette" was receiving her very first Bleuette?  This is when I contacted Martha.  I wanted to know how this doll was dressed, what kind of box did she come in, what was her original hairstyle and color?  Within a day, Martha had not only given me all the information I needed, but a scan of the original advertisement for the doll, as well as a photo of the original chemise she wore.  One of the seamstresses from her group (and I think it may have been Marie Scopel), had recreated the chemise for one of her own dolls. 

The Bleuette dolls were available to pick up directly from the publisher, Gautier-Languereau, but she could also be mailed direct to the child.  She came in a plain corrugated cardboard box that would have simply been addressed to the child with a stamp for postage.  The first Bleuettes wore a little chemise with lace atop blue ribbon, and wore no shoes.  It was later, by demand from the collectors, that shoes would become available, as well as ready to wear outfits.  The doll was wigged with blonde curls.  So with this information at hand, I began my Suzette and Her First Bleuette.

I must also make note that there wasn't a real Suzette.  How they came up with that name remains to be known.  But, for me, one of these little girls dancing on the yearly journal cover just had to be "Suzette".  For all we know, the name "Suzette" could have been an endearing name for a little girl, like "Missy" (as in Miss so and so), or for that matter Chiffonette (meaning fluff). 

The striped dress won out, and the look of the child in red became style I wanted.  I changed "Lucy's" eyes to a natural hazel and bought her a wig that looked most like the little girl's in red.  Her dress is a simple fare of raspberry and white striped cotton, fully lined and closed with mother of pearl buttons and thread loops in white.  A black silk dupioni sash is worn empire style with a bow in the back, and she wears a large hair bow in the same silk.  On her feet are a pair of black French-style child shoes tied with large double-faced silk ties in black. 

Her First Bleuette was the smallest of the three mini Bleuettes I had left, to work with.  I am not going to grump about "scale" here.  Certainly the Bleuette would be half this size were this a real child and her doll, but we can "interpret".  Can't we?  This one is about 4 5/8" tall.

Suzette's First Bleuette wears her white chemise trimmed with the blue silk ribbon beneath the lace.  The front of the chemise has one long box pleat creating fit around the neck, yet volume at the hem.  Each sleeve has one box pleat down the center creating fit around the arm, and volume (a tiny bit anyway) at the shoulder.  Her wigging is golden mohair.

I created her corrugated cardboard box from another one with the thinnest corrugation I could find.  The ends are "tapped" with brown paper, which felt authentic to me considering Scotch Magic Tape hadn't been invented yet.  A small copy of the advertisement has been saved for posterity.

Suzette will need to learn how to sew for her doll and the weekly patterns with Tante Jacqueline's instructions and encouragement will grow with her through the years.

If I've created the look of innocence and joy a little French girl would have experienced receiving her doll in the post, I've succeeded.

Miss E. Mouse 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Mary Lennox Follows A Robin To the Garden Gate

"She heard a chirp and a twitter, and when she looked at the bare flower-bed at her left side there he was hopping about and pretending to peck things out of the earth to persuade her that he had not followed her.  But she knew he had followed her, and the surprise so filled her with delight that she almost trembled a little."

"You do remember me!" she cried.  "You do!  You are prettier than anything else in the world!" (Frances Hodgson Bennet)

Even before I had finished Mary's debut dress, I knew the second outfit would have to be the red coat she would wear outdoors while meeting the robin.  Another red costume.  Yet, this would be fine.  After all, I didn't illustrate her wardrobe, and Mary needed her coat while winter was still upon us.  The English countryside can be bitterly cold and damp, and skipping rope on the garden path needs proper attire.

I'd been studying this illustration for quite some time, but as usual, had no idea how difficult it would be to create it.  To be honest, I began with the robin to fulfill the desire to work on my needle felting, and provide her a unique accessory.  However, we will introduce him in a little while.  He would be my inspiration and good company while I designed the costume.

The pattern I created for the coat consisted of a collar, a cape, the sleeves, two front pieces for an overlapping closure, and the back.  It is shaped at the waist and slightly flared.  Sounds pretty straight forward, but there was nothing easy about this.  I must have gone through ten pattern renditions just to get the cape the right length and fit around the shoulders.  For one thing, which isn't obvious, the measurements from the neck, across the shoulder and down the arm are longer than that of the front and back which lie relatively flat against the doll.  Its something to consider should you ever try to make a coat like this from scratch.

I began with a beautiful Melton wool in a deep, rich red.  I was so certain that this was the correct color to match the illustration, and the weight seemed right.  It took me a session just to place each pattern piece and cut each piece out individually.  I'd sewn the shoulder seams together then did some pinning to check the fit.  It was upon doing this, and even after a mock up in a navy wool, that I discovered something terribly wrong with what I'd done.   I'd also discovered that the lining I was planning on using wasn't going to work well.  So I began digging through my stash to see if something else would work better, and discovered this lovely wool I'd purchased at Britex a few years back.  It was the perfect red, would match the original lining fabric, and was a slightly looser weave for drape.  The Melton is a tighter weave..  But, the problem of design still needed to be dealt with.

If you look closely at the illustration, the soutache diamonds that close the coat to the side aren't on the straight edge of a coat.  These are extending notches that are a part of the edge.  So I ripped the seams out, redesigned the right front of the coat and began again.  Its a good thing I'd purchased two yards of this lovely, bright red wool!  I had plenty of fabric for mistakes to be made. 

The soutache trim was extremely difficult to do.  Some of it could be sewn on by machine prior to lining the coat, but the diamond shapes and royal blue embroidered insets were all done by hand.  One of the most annoying aspects was that the doll's dimensions did not even come close to the child's in the illustration.  In order to achieve a close approximation of the illustration, adjustments in "diamond width and shape" had to be made.  The diamond notches snap to the left side of the coat, and a little button and thread loop close the side at the top under the cape.  Soutache loops trim the collar.  Little domed blue buttons are sewn at the top of the cape's soutache diamonds, and decorate the centers of the embroidered insets at the coat's center.  There are two faux pockets trimmed each with two rows of soutache at the coat's sides. The collar and cape are sewn into the neckline of the coat.  This coat was terribly demanding on my patience.

But, the Wellies were just as difficult.  How many pairs of doll boots have I made in the past?  I really haven't counted, but there was nothing "usual" about these Wellies either.  Wellington's are gardening boots that pull on and provide the gardener a better protection than rain boots.   Mary's were beautifully unique with their lovely design, and I wasn't about to become intimidated by the project...just yet.  I'd started these after making the robin and it was a good thing I did.  I usually try to make the most difficult piece first when starting a new project, and I'm not sure I would have had the heart to do them after struggling with this coat. 

The Wellies pattern took several tries as well.  They would need to open at the back to fit the doll's foot into, and not have any visible seams in the front or sides.  Luckily I'm an American Girl (historical) doll collector, and had a look at a pair of boots they'd designed.  I've gotten many tips from studying the work of other designers.  But, the only workable idea I got from them (seriously!) was in the closure for the back.  I used clear, mini Velcro strips. 

How to do the boot pattern correctly, came to me when I wasn't even thinking about it, and about to give up.  It was all in the curves.  The shaping to the foot was in the curves of the boot pattern!  There are three pieces to each boot.  (The only seam is at the heel.)  The three leather pieces include the black foot base, the dark "muddy" grey of the tops, and the caramel tan of the decoration.  The tan trim was the most difficult to design, but what a lovely pair of boots it made.  All the pieces are topstitched on the machine, which in turn, sewed the boot together.  I use a "jeans" needle when sewing leather.

I would make Mary a proper skipping rope to play in the garden with.  As with Alice Illustrated's little skipping rope, I used duct tape for the handles, only green this time.  It works so beautifully for the handles with a rope of this thickness.  I made Mary a pair of stockings like she wears in the illustration, and a pair of blue mittens from light blue, both from children's socks.  Children's (and infant's), stockings and socks make beautiful accessories like this due to their weight and weave.

And, finally we meet the robin.  The thought of making a Mary Lennox without her robin in inconceivable.  Yet, another reason why it was so important for me to learn needle felting.  I loved the illustration of the little robin on the paper doll folder front.  He appeared so charming and intelligent.  And, he was also responsible for Mary finding the key to the door to the Secret Garden.  In the movie with Kate Maberly (my favorite!), Mary finds the key in a drawer of the vanity in her deceased aunt's bedroom.  In the original story, the robin shows Mary to a patch of earth where the key was lost or buried.  Rusted with age, it still unlocked the door to the secret garden.

Having never really studied birds for making one, I went online to research robins.  I'm not going to pretend to even know how many robin varieties there are out there (nor do I feel like looking it up presently), but the images were vast as well as the varieties of coloring.  Our robins here, in California, do not have white bellies or red on their faces.  What I discovered was that the robin in the illustration was an English robin.  Well, that certainly makes sense, doesn't it?  A cheeky little bird with a cocked head.  How adorable!  It is in the research and learning a bit about my subject matter that makes every project come alive to me.

Mary's little robin friend is about 1 1/2" tall from his feet to the top of his head.  I don't believe I could have made him any smaller and gotten the detail that I did, but size is also something inexplicable when needle felting.  A tiny shape can grow by leaps and bounds as you continue to add wool in coloring and shape. 

I added a novelty key to Mary accessories, that I had on hand.  Interesting that both Alice has a key that plays a prominent role in her story, as well as Mary.  Could it be that the English have a fascination with keys that unlock secret places?

Below are some detailed photos of the little robin from different angles. 

And, lastly, I made Mary's wool tam to keep her head warm.  I used a royal blue wool felt sheet from The Felt Pod to create it, then steam shaped it, smoothing out the seams.

I've attached a couple of photos from a precious copy of The Secret Garden that I acquired while doing some research on the subject.  This is a gorgeous and generously illustrated book by artist, Inga Moore.  Even her robin is the English Robin!

I hope you'll enjoy the photos I've taken of this project.  Spring is nearing us, but who's in a hurry when there are secret places to discover?  Maybe there's even one in your own backyard.  The first green to burst forth from the earth creates a magic all on its own.

Miss E. Mouse

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Meet Mary Lennox, Happy Valentine's Day!

 Its a beautiful day here in Auburn, California.  The sun is shining warmly, the sky is blue from end to end, and birds flit from tree to bush to tree in an effort to build nests.  We've had so much rain these past two months that I doubt you'll ever hear me complain about the drought conditions or beg for rain again.  The sun is most welcome!  Happy Valentine's Day.

During my discovery and initial interest in the Peck Aubry paper doll line, The Secret Garden set was the one I wished for most.  It was crazy expensive on Amazon, and I could not find it on Ebay.  My only conclusion was that "this must be the most sought after", and therefore, rare.  But, shortly after my diligent search, one came up and I snapped it up.  I knew when the set arrived that I would have to make a Mary Lennox and the hunt for the perfect Lawton doll to make over began. 

My Mary Lennox is a 16" wood body and porcelain make over from Wendy Lawton's "Bobbin Lace".  She has new blue eyes and a lovely human hair blonde wig.  The paper doll collection comes with nine colored illustrations of outfits, and its my goal to create them all for Mary this year. 

The story of The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, was first published in 1911.  This children's classic remains a beloved tale, and was beautifully filmed in a lavish production by Frances Ford Coppola staring Kate Maberly .  If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.  Its one of my favorite films and is popped into the DVD player once a year. 

The Secret Garden is the story of young Mary Lennox, the child of wealthy British parents, and was born in India, unwanted, and raised by servants.  When her parents die of cholera, she is sent back to England to live with her uncle, the Lord Archibald Craven, at Misselthwaite Manor. Mary's life at Misselthwaite Manor is lonely and her attitude sour until a good natured little maid, Martha, tells Mary about the late Mrs. Craven, who would spend hours in a private walled garden growing roses. After Mrs. Craven died in an accident in the garden, the devastated Lord Craven locked the garden and buried the key.  The story then unfolds with her explorations of the garden grounds in search of the door to the secret garden, and her friendship with Dickon, a twelve year old child of a servant who has a magic way with animals.  Eventually a little robin shows her the way to the garden and Mary begins to blossom.

Its rare to find a paper doll holding a hat where her clothing will cover it, but the Peck Aubry Mary Lennox was drawn this way.  Her clothing, as you can imagine, from what I did for Alice Illustrated, is bright and colorful.  There is one dress that is aqua with yellow polka-dots on the extreme, and others that are more in line with what you might expect of Edwardian costuming.  I love them all and have been buying up the fabrics and trims for each costume.

For Mary's debut dress, I chose a red silk with cotton laces.  Finding an appropriate lace for the center panel was costly.  I must have selected seven different laces to determine which would look "most like" the one in the illustration.  The choice was made by width and what would look best with the edge lace for her collar and cuffs.

She wears a chemise or under shirt that is sleeveless and has a narrow, high collar.  Some thought went into the style of dress, and a little research helped me determine the waist length.  Below you'll find a black and white photo of two girls from around 1900 with similar waist lengths.  My first thought was that this should be a drop waist, but it wasn't quite a full drop waist.  Unfortunately, I'd also miscalculated how much silk to buy for the dress, and the shorter waist worked best, as well, for what fabric I had left after a failed attempt at the bodice.  I'd accidentally cut out the back of the bodice from the chemise pattern! 

This is not a complicated little dress, but the collar pretties it up and the cuffs accentuate the delicacy of the overall look.  A hair bow in the silk completes the costume.

Her boots took a few days to draft a pattern for and make.  Since each Lawton body is hand lathed and carved, they are not identical, so any shoe patterns I may have had before were not even close.  When the doll arrived, her feet had been literally jammed into Mary Janes.  I could barely remove them and could not get them back on.  So what I did was sand the feet down so that they were the same size, smoother, and more planed in the toes.  Her boots are brown and black leather with five little side buttons each.  She only has one other pair of shoes in the paper doll set, and those are Wellies.  I have made the pattern for them, and will talk about them with her next outfit. 

Her hat is yellow straw and the flowers are a mix of what I had on hand.  I considered making them of wool felt like Alice Illustrated's hat, but did not have the correct colors in my stash for two of the flowers.  So I pulled all my silk, paper and velvet flowers out and sorted through what would work, then set about to re-making the smaller ones, taking them apart, coloring them with alcohol markers, then reassembling them.  The red rose was darkened with a marker as well.  My mini hot glue gun set the flowers firmly front and center.  I love that mini hot glue gun! 

As I mentioned, this was not a complicated costume to make, but a goodly amount of effort went into it nonetheless.  I was just delighted to be able to complete it for a Valentine's Day posting.  I hope you'll enjoy seeing her wardrobe come to life over the course of the year.  Her next outfit is already in the works since my original intent was to debut it along with this dress. 

Mary and I have already discovered the narcissus blooming in our garden.

Miss E. Mouse

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Child of Pure Unclouded Brow

Its a sunny day here in Auburn, California.  And, Sunday mornings are always my favorite time to write.  The peaceful quiet of the day resonates within.  January, for me, is usually a month of not only new beginnings, but quiet contemplation.  This month has been anything but that this year.  The winds were high, rain storms flooded and damaged property, snow fell in epic proportions in the Sierras, and I learned my dearest companion, Dover, had lymphoma cancer (for which he is now on chemo therapy).  Through all of this I have managed to stay in my Zen, but still my heart if heavy. 

As an artist, I am ever analyzing not only all around me, but the changes in myself and how my creativity meets challenges.  What I've discovered recently, is at this time in my life, color, the pure joy of bright color and pattern makes me happy. 

While planning the first costume of the year, I knew I wanted to make Alice Illustrated something new.  I was on Pinterest looking at paper dolls when I discovered the work of Peck Aubry.  In truth, I'd seen his work before and overlooked it as too busy, too bright, too graphic.  Then for some reason it stuck.  I began studying the costumes he drew, how enchanting they truly were, and observed in myself, how joyful they made me feel.  It was then I knew that I'd have to bring one of his Alice costumes to life. 

I tried to do some research on Peck Aubry and found nothing biographical.  This was so disappointing for the fabulous body of work he's acoomplished.  Countless paper dolls in beautiful packaging have been created.  There was his line and also one called Peck-Gandre.  Some sets came with just colored clothing, and others, like his Alice, came with colored outfits, a story page, and a couple of pages of outfits to color in yourself.  What a wonderful way to play with paper dolls!  And, so I began a small Peck Aubry collection for the joy of it and inspiration for further projects.

When choosing one for Alice Illustrated, I chose his School Dress.  Alongside the illustration was written:  School Dress: Alice was a child of pure unclouded brow and dreaming eyes of wonder.  I was smitten.  I had to do this one.  What fun to envision what Alice would wear on her daily rounds.  The costumes are whimsical and lovely.  Bringing this one to life kept my mood as bright as the illustration.

The coat is of emerald green velveteen.  I began with it because it looked the most difficult to do.  I assumed I would embroider these graphic (Mary Englebreit style) roses, but the thought of so many needle holes in the velvet didn't feel right.  So I considered needle felting the roses as appliques.  I tried one, then another, and liked them.  Each is about 1/2" wide.  It took quite some effort to make them, and keep them flat, as appliques will be.  The vines were also made with needle felting wool by working it into a thin strand of yarn.  There would be no hurry in making them as needle felting simply takes time, and twelve rose appliques were made.  Three for each sleeve, and three on each side of the front of the coat.  Sewing the vines and roses on was no easy task either, but the effect was pure Aubry.   The coat was lined in emerald green silk.

Next, I worked on the hat.  My friend Lesley, in Canada, is an accomplished needle felt artist, and encouraged me to try wet felting.  I'd watched two Youtubes on wet felting hats, yet my impatience (I can be impatient), provoked me to try the blocking method on a hat mold instead.  I tried this first with a sheet of wool felt in red to save the green for the real one.  A mock up, a trial hat.  I took the sheet and agitated by hand in hot soapy water until it was thick and heavy.  Then I squeezed most of the moisture out in paper towels and stretched it over a hat mold.  It took four days to completely dry.  One trick I learned was to fill a toe of pantyhose with sand and nestle this on top of the felt covered mold.  It helps contour the shape while it dries.  I liked the blocking method best for ease of creating a hat such as this one, but for the green, I soaked the wool in starch before forming it on the block.  With the starch, the hat retains its shape better.

While the hat dried, I began the flowers.  Again, the marvelous Youtubes were most helpful.  Flowers can be made from crafting felt, so I simply followed their instructions, in miniature,  with pure wool felt sheets.  The yellow center of the light pink flower was needle felted, but the rest were done with scissors and thread.  The only time I used a glue gun was to affix the flowers to the hat.  I bought a new "mini" glue gun for this purpose and it worked beautifully.  To try and sew them on would have tampered with the shape of the hat.

There are three styles of flowers on the hat.  One I will call a chrysanthemum, there are two roses, and I have no idea what to call the light pink flower.  I'm neither a botanist or gardener, so I apologize.  The light pink was created with three separate rounds of varying sizes and each petal cut with a pair of sharp embroidery scissors.  I like using Kai scissors.  The leaves where simply hand cut as well, on both the coat and the hat.  I hope to find myself making flowers like this again as I enjoyed it immensely.  True crafting.

Upon completion of the hat, I began the dress.  I'd found the red, green and white striped fabric on Ebay as Christmas fabric.  It reminds me of peppermint, or candy sticks.  The kind we used to buy in old fashioned candy stores in a jar.  Creating the sleeves on the bias for the diagonal stripe was enjoyable and something I seem to recall doing for the pink and silver Twiggy dress last summer.  It was a simple dress, the base pattern and color for the highly decorative coat and hat.  It has an attached under slip in Swiss batiste that is edged in a tiny lace.  Details, details.

There surely were a lot of components to this outfit, and the next I tackled was the dickey.  I made a triangular scarf shape out of the velveteen and lined it with the same silk as the coat.  I will forever struggle with lining velvet since  pinning alone does not prevent slipping under the sewing machine foot.  I've yet to find a better way to do this other than hand baste it first, but even that is annoying since the silk piece of lining persists in pulling away from the velvet.  A snap in back at the neck, and a little scrunching in front give the dickey its shape.

The last piece to conquer was the cummerbund.  Looking at an illustration and translating it as you think it should be doesn't always work.  My first attempt was with making a true pleated cummerbund.  I knew this would be difficult in such a small size using the velveteen, but I'm a real stick in the mud when it comes to continuity.  The coat and dickey were of the velveteen, and so should the cummerbund have been.  Its following the dictates of an illustration rather than common sense, that made me try the pleats.  Diagonal pleats.  One going one way, one going the other.  Oh, I made one, but was completely disillusioned by the result.  It was far too heavy for her waist and ruined the look of the outfit.  While working on this outfit, my mind was solidly on Dover and his condition and care.  (Into the third week of diagnosis, I've come to terms and am simply appreciating, to the greatest degree, the time I have left with him.)  I felt I needed to change direction and give the cummerbund some time, or myself some time, before I called it DONE.

So I picked up where I left off with the Cheshire Cat.  Of course Alice needed her Cheshire Cat!  This kind of accessory is the very reason I'm teaching myself needle felting.  I began him while we were on a snow trip in a Sierras, and I got about as far as the basic body shape then had to stop since I didn't have the right felting needle to attach his front leg. 

I had a friend recently ask me what the Cheshire Cat had to do with the outfit.  My jaw dropped a little, but as this was telephone communication, it wasn't visible.  "Its Peck Aubry's Cheshire Cat for his Alice!", I wanted to say, but stumbled along with some excuse.  Do I need an excuse for Alice to have her Cheshire Cat?  No.  The Cheshire Cat was part of this paper doll set, and I always wanted to display one with her.  Also, Aubry's was graphically rendered so he would be easier to felt.  A Tenniel Cheshire would have been so much more difficult due to the details. 

I wasn't sure how large he would turn out to be, and this made me a little nervous.  I wanted him to be bold enough to display well, but he should also be a cat that could be believable with Alice's size.  He turned out to be 3 1/2" long and 2 1/2" high.

Lesley was highly instrumental with her encouragement, from afar, as I grumped and complained and almost gave up on him.  Sculpting is very new to me and trying to make 2D into 3D takes more than just studying a picture.  I began to look at my own cat, who happens to be named Alice, in a different light.  She will attest to my cupping her head and staring into her eyes, studying the contours of her body from all angles as she lay in cat poses, and generally being a nuisance around her.

What makes the Cheshire Cat who he is, is primarily his human teeth baring grin.  So making teeth was the first thing I worked intently on.  I won't go into how to needle felt and all the techniques you need to learn and employ, or simply make up as you go along, which is half of what I do, but its an art all by itself. 

The eyes were giving me trouble.  I was advised that the white, the cornea, should first be made, but cat's don't show their cornea.  Again, Alice had to put up with me gently pulling at the corners of her eyes to see more of their structure.  Poor kitty.  The shape of the cat's eyes are formed by the outer skin at the edges.  They do indeed have corneas, you just can't see them.  You see solid, luminescent color side to side.  But, after failing the first attempt at them, I did as I was told and put them in the dark wool lined sockets I made, then covered them with the blue of his eyes.  While you cannot see it, there is pink in the corners near the nose.  The highlighting was the hardest and I worked at those white highlights for over an hour.  You're using the tiniest bit of fuzzy wool and trying to make it a solid shape.

As much as I was nervous about adding the stripes, this was probably the easiest part of him.  You do have to be careful because if you poke the wool the wrong way, it will sink into the shape and not lay on it.  I had purchased a reverse needle and thought I'd try working with it.  Reverse needles pull wool out of the blob of felted wool.  What I did was just pick a the edges of the stripes here and there along their line to produce some "fluff" I could smooth over.  This allowed the stripes to not look like "lines".  Curving them to the contours of his body also made for a more natural look. 

Lastly, Alice needed her skipping rope for after school play.  Michaels now carries a heavier cord in their beading department, and I trimmed the "handles" with red duct tape.  Seriously.  They sell colored duct tape now.  I do not feel the slightest bit bad about not hand carving handles for the skipping rope.  I put enough effort into this costume to call it DONE.  But, I guess the cummerbund issue was not resolved yet.  So yesterday I made a new one and this time machine stitched the lines in an apple green color.  I can confidently call it a quilted cummerbund.  And, why not?  Who's to say what the artist had intended.  This is what we call "artistic license", and I'm happy with the finished product.  Its not bulky, its far more slimming, and looks like the illustration.  The cummerbund is lined in apple green silk.

I'm very excited about Peck Aubry's work with paper dolls, and my next big project will be a year long one, as I bring his Mary Lennox of The Secret Garden to life.  My intention is to create all her colored dresses from the paper doll set, and she'll even get a tiny needle felted robin.  For those of you who aren't familiar with this children's classic, Mary Lennox was led by the robin to the gate in the stone wall that opened to the secret garden.

Wishing you all a perfect end to January and a bright and colorful February.

Miss E. Mouse