Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In Three, Two, One

Polly's Beach Balloons
It came to me recently while watching an episode of Myth Busters ( The Discovery Channel), that much of what I do is to me, as great a challenge as those the busters face in their own experiments.  The question is always, "Can it be done", or is it a bust?  These attempts at the seemingly impossible are what drive me to keep creating. 

In Polly's Beach Balloons outfit, it was not the dress whose myth I needed to bust, but creating a grouping of balloons for her to hold.  Sure, I've seen those itty bitty plastic balloons on plastic stems that display nicely with the likes of a Ginny or an 8" Madame Alexander doll.  And, American Girl has made single molded, plastic balloons with molded handles for the doll to hold.  The joy and fascination with brightly colored floating orbs has long been the delight of many a child and adult alike.

The best I could do for the illustration!
The first balloons came from animal bladders.  A pig's bladder was used by Galileo in an experiment to measure the weight of air.  In 1847 Michael Faraday, a research professor, invented the toy balloon for his experiments with hydrogen.  Two flat rubber rounds were dusted with flour on the inside to keep them from sticking together, then the edges were glued together.  Today's helium filled latex balloons have come a long way since the days of Professor Faraday's invention!  It may have been the balloons themselves that inspired me to make Polly's Beach Balloons outfit.

I've been wanting to make this little outfit since I first began sewing for Polly.  It was always my intention to create this for her in summer.  With a bit of time on my hands and some extra lilac fabric left over from her Halloween outfit (the laced up girdle), I decided now was the time.  Earlier I had been figuring out a way to include the balloons themselves, and finally settled on a set of Martha Stewart Christmas ornaments.  How I came up with that one is a mystery to me now, but I had initially intended on giving Polly a collection of American Girl balloons.  Too big, too bulky, and what to do with those handles put an end to that idea.  Remember, Polly is only 16" tall and a slender child doll.

Sheila's Illustration
But, first let's talk about her little dress.  As you can tell from my last post, this was created in a very short time.  I used the A-line pattern that I made for her Yellow Chinese New Year dress.  The sleeves were a shorter version, and I did have to design the collar and bib.  The collar has small notches over the shoulders creating a soft petal sculpture.  The bib was a separate piece that I stitched beneath the collar and hidden stitched onto the front of the dress, while the petals float atop the shoulders.  Its lined with a violet voile and the little frock is soft and floaty.  Perfect for a hot summer's day on the beach. 

When the lining fell off the hat.
Petal Collar and Bib
For her hat I used the same PNB mold used for Daisy's red and white checked dress.  This style seemed to be quite popular between 1911 and 1920.  My intention was to make the hat in white straw, then spray paint the interior coral.  If you recall, I had success with coloring her Green Basket dress hat this way.  However, after I'd made this most perfect little hat, I ran into trouble.  I'd covered the top with Press'n Seal, then edged it down with blue artist's masking tape.  It should have held.  But, when I began spraying the interior, the tape got wet, loosened off, and the spray colored the top of the hat!  Big boo-boo!  I wasn't sure what to do.  I laughed at my efforts and settled to think about it for a bit.  I could make a new hat, I could borrow Daisy's and try again...but, the hat was such a nice one!  After thinking about it some I decided that a good way to fix the problem might be to paint the top of the hat white, covering the overspray of coral paint.  And, that's what I did.  It's a bit stiffer for the effort, but considering that some people shellac their straw doll hats, I didn't think it would be such a big deal.  In the end, I think it turned out just fine.  And, who's to say they didn't paint those hats back in Polly's time!

And, then we came to the episode of Miss E. Mouse's Myth Buster.  Well first I pulled the silver cup and wire off the ornaments, and spray painted several of them (minus the light blue and green ones), the colors of the one's Sheila illustrated.  So far, so good.  I'd been experimenting with how to support these ultra light ornaments after I'd purchased them in March.  Yes, I've been working on this that long.  I first tried craft pipe cleaners, but the ornament flopped over.  It was after I stitched millinery hat wire into her golf hat, that I discovered a very sturdy and multi-purposeful wire.  So I tried that.  And, it worked.  So far, so good. 

The Hat Close Up
Next I  had to combine the balloons with their stiff wire strings and make a bunch of balloons.  I wrapped them in one spot with that great Press'n Seal paper, then stitched an elastic band together to fit over Polly's wrist.  And, here is where the Myth got busted.  One balloon?  No problem.  They are incredible light.  But seven?!  Polly is just a little doll that is strung together so they turned out being too heavy as a whole for her to support.  I could not get the effect of the illustration after all.  What I might do is make a tube, like a circus or carnival stand, and put the balloons in it and stand it next to her as if she were purchasing them. 

For the time being, this will be Polly's last outfit until this fall.  I will probably begin Lettie's Lawn Mower dress and then its time to launch into a large project I've been putting together.  And, I might just even begin to work on Lettie Lane's tiny doll house.  Remember that?  I'm beginning to feel like I want to paint in miniature again, and Polly and Lettie have plenty to wear...or do they?  And, it is also time to prepare for my trip back east. 

Wishing you a day of colorful balloons and warm summer memories!

Miss E. Mouse

Fran Quinn's precious little sandals.

A Bouquet of Balloons

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