Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Mary New Year!

Mary Marie
December 26th arrived, and with it another day of darkened skies and weeping clouds.  The naked branches of desidous trees seem to reach their shriveled arms to the heavens in prayer for protection and a soft winter.  Though they hibernate retaining their deeply hidden life source, the winter trees appear to open their eyes, and through those leafless branches we can see further and wider than in spring.  I am having a quiet day alone in my little hole in the wall.  It seemed a perfect time to chart the year ahead, and sweep the year's remnants of snips and bits under my memory rug.

Yesterday in the solitude of my studio I finally began to sew something for my Christmas doll, Mary Marie.  Once again Connie and I collaborated on a new doll to sew for and I chose Mary Marie, the doll the child learned to sew for in The Mary Frances Sewing Book (Jane Eayre Fryer c. 1913).  She has been home with me for a few weeks now, but with the skating costumes to complete (Polly's is not yet done!), I expected to wait until I had good time to play with her.

A Mary Christmas Doll
The Singing Thread
The Mary Frances Sewing Book is an antiquated tale of a child left at grandmother's house, and the doll she receives from her mother by post whom she learns to sew for through The Thimble People.  It reminds me much, in illustration, of the work by Johnny Gruelle, who wrote the story The Singing Thread about a spool of linen finding his way in the world of silk spools.  While Jane was born in 1876, and Johnny much later, the theme of fairies and anthropomorphic characters is richly present.  I have tried to read the book for the book's sake, but it was clearly written for a very little child with much imagination and patience to read the banter of The Thimble People. 

The Book
Many folks in the doll world are bringing this book, as well as reproductions of the patterns, to light now.  Why?  Just as Daisy's 100th anniversary was in 2011, Jane's sewing journal was written in 1913, and therefore, it is the book's 100th anniversary.  Some have made cds of the patterns, even to fit different sized dolls.  Some have rewritten the sewing instructions so that they can be made by modern budding seamstresses.  But, true to form, I'll study these illustrations and do my own thing.  For one, I noticed that the illustration of the slip has three tiered ruffles, while the pattern suggests one.  I'm sure you can guess which one I'll represent.  There will be purists who try to make the clothing exactly as described, and some, like myself, will create the wardrobe with the skills they already possess.  What you'll have is a gallery, much like Daisy's, of different fabrics, trims and unique approaches to the clothing produced.

The Pattern Folders with polka-dot bloomers!
Wendy Lawton's Mary Marie
I was first introduced to Mary France's doll, Mary Marie, through Wendy Lawton's interpretation.  She was a 16" spring-jointed wood body doll who arrived to you in a crate (like the real Mary Marie), in a slip with a note pinned to the front from "mother".  The book I have came with this doll, and she sits with my other sewing dolls nicely on her shelf.  Back then I wasn't sewing, and because she is an artist doll, I wished to keep her pure.  I cannot recall what renewed my interest in the Mary Frances Sewing Book or in the dolls (there are two...Angie was her first doll), from the story, but it might have been some interesting discussions from the folks in the doll world.  Regardless, I was inspired to have a Mary Marie of my own and a play doll I could sew for in wonderful colors from simple styles.  As with many works of literature and reproduction dolls, there are always new generations of readers and collectors discovering these amusements as if for the first time!  Let us hope the future generations will continue to prize such works with delight and wonder!

Accessories, a trunk!
A Gentle Note From the Author
As 2013 nears, I intend to fill my garden of dolls with bright colors and fancies.  I already have a special trunk for Mary Marie on the way, and countless half yards and quarters of fabric in blues and oranges (orange, my favorite color and themed throughout the illustrations), and vintage sages and prints.  Yesterday she was given her socks, dressing sack (what we might think of as a bed jacket today), and these fabulous orange polka-dot bloomers.  I'll be curious to learn who thinks I've "gone 'round the bend" with my color palette, but this is what makes things fun!

Polly has a snowshoeing outfit to be made, and both her and Lettie will continue to have beautifully clothing made for them, but Mary Marie is for the pixie in me.  The book also illustrates accessories and of course, The Thimble People, and these I hope to bring to life as well.

Miss E. Mouse

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