Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Co-creations and Re-animations

Bernie in Bluebird Textiles' Paysanne in Red
 July in summer.  Cool mornings with long shadows that quickly all but disappear as the sun rises to its highest point in the sky.  Warm evenings with longer shadows where only the sound of the bullfrog and cricket can be heard in the soft, still air.  July, on a summer's eve, I watch the steady activity in the air of dragonfly and later little bats keeping mosquitos at bay.  Sunset is a peerless salmon puff pastry.  It is little wonder I wish to spend more time out of doors, than tucked into my studio pressing foot to a sewing machine, or concentrating on tiny work beneath a magnifying lamp.  And, yet, the constant desire and need to create wakes with me each morning, and tucks itself to sleep each night wrapped in a comforter of new ideas.

So when something like Kathy O'Malley's website, Bluebird Textiles, offers a Co-creation like Paysanne in Red for Bleuette, its a near given I'll hit the purchase button.  For one thing, I've been collecting Kathy's costuming for Bleuette for years.  Her work for Bleuette is incomparable, and precious as can be.  And, she just keeps getting better.  Her hand-stitching is awe inspiring, and she adds an exceptional flair to the French patterns that have been made by children and adults for over 100 years.

Co-creation apron I embroidered
When I saw her little Paysanne in Red, I knew it would be perfect for Bernie (Bernadette - my 60 8/0 reproduction by Suzanne McBrayer).  And, it would give me a little project to work on that I wouldn't have to put too much thought into on these lazy summer days.  The short sleeved, empire waist dress with straw bonnet, bloomers beneath, and a pair of her new sandals, came with a finished apron that you would embroider on and add your own button and thread loop to.  She took an embroidery pattern from a La Semaine de Suzette, and transferred it to the apron by hand.  The pattern was of little chickens pecking at seed.

Now I am not accomplished at embroidery, but I wanted to give this a try.  How else do you become good at something unless you apply yourself and practice, learn?  So when the outfit arrived a couple of days later, I dressed Bernie and got busy on the embroidery pattern.  I thought I might ask my friend Patty Kascsak what color the chickens should be, since she raises a variety of chickens, but decided to wing it on my own.

Chut Elle Dort by Kathy O'Malley
The next thing I did was pull out this little silk comforter that Kathy made for Bleuette years ago called Chut Elle Dort, to study her delicate stitch work.  If she trusted the buyer to a co-creation, if she didn't mind someone possibly botching up her beautiful work (lol), I wanted to at least give this my very best effort.  I pulled a variety of colored threads from my stash and began with a brown chicken - the one at the left on top.  Whoops.  Chicken?  It had a comb!  How did I miss that?  Is there such thing as a brown rooster?  I'm laughing as I write this because indeed the thoughts that go through my mind are absurd!  So off to the computer I trotted, and discovered that yes, there are brown roosters.  Silly me.  Of course being male, they have glorious other colored feathers, but these two roosters where only being "outlined".  So the hen.  Yes, the hen could and would be lighter if for no other reason than artistic design.  She has three little chicks also pecking at the kernels in the small apron yard. 

Close up of my embroidery work.
I have to segue here for a moment to talk about the comforter since it lay beneath the work I was doing the entire time.  This, to me, is one of the very best pieces she's ever done.  It shows Becassine with her finger to her lips, asking the little dog to behave.  Loosely translated, Chut Elle Dort means "hush yourself to sleep".  "Quiet please while Bleuette sleeps."   Close-ups of this piece are below.  While a little difficult to see the white embroidery on the pale yellow silk, the work is there and pristine - excellently executed!

After straight stitching the brown roosters with their red combs, I worked on the beige hen, then the three little chicks.  The chicks were the most difficult since they were so small with many turns and edges.  The tufts of grass or weed are a light avocado green complimentary to the dark forest of the dress's edges and color in the skirt pattern.  In fact I chose all the colors of embroidery threads based on the their complimentary colors to the dress. 

The apron was made from a loose woven silk batiste.  Kathy!  Of course she chooses delicate and fine fabrics, but this wasn't the best choice for a novice like me to embroider upon.  When it came to the French knots for eyes, the little underside knot kept pulling through the loose weave of the fabric.  I suppose I could have made a fatter knot on the back, but I was also concerned with the look of the backside.  I once read that the back should look as good as the front.  These things stay with you!

The backside must be neat, too!
I stayed with it though, and decided that if the apron never gets mishandled, the eye knots will stay put.  But, when it came to the corn kernels I lost all hope.  Oh believe me, I tried a few "tricks", but the light weave wouldn't hold the knots.  So! "blink-blink" went the brain lights and I decided to try seed beads for the corn instead.  Her apron my way.  Why not?  Well, if and when I can find tinier (they do exist) beads in both black and yellow, I'll redo the eyes and corn since beading was a perfect solution.  Makes it a little more special - fancy. 

Of course, when I completed the last row of "dirt", I wanted to do another one.  This was PLAY.  It was fun to do and Kathy is a large believer in PLAY.  I hope she makes more of these Co-creation sets and I'm lucky enough to be able to do another.  Her work sells fast.

New Eyes and Fresh Curls
Prior to purchasing and working on Paysanne in Red, a Lawton doll collecting friend of mine asked me to restore seven of her dolls' eyes.  As all serious Lawton doll collectors know, most of the eyes on these beautiful and expensive dolls turned pink or orange according to their original colors of blue or brown.  It happened.  It happened to a lot of other dolls like Tonner's Betsy McCalls, too.  So I worked on them and put new eyes into and pates onto these lovely girls.  I enjoy doing this.  It re-animates them.  Brings them to life again.  I also gave a little attention to helping the curls on the curly wigs be soft and beautiful again.  Sometimes this is impossible to do without completely recurling them, but often just a little combing and smoothing can help a dolly look fresh from the salon again.  This is always enjoyable and proud work to do. 

Here we are in the middle of July now.  I just heard on the news that the last of the snow in Boston has melted.  While here in Auburn, CA, Lake Folsom where I hike my dogs each morning is backing up to a low river now.  Due to the drought, they are draining it near dry this year.  I still find pools to swim the dogs in, but they'll be wading in "Creek Folsom" by September. 

For me, this is another summer of vintage Barbie, and collecting Poppy Parker's Model Scene dolls and outfit-only sets as Jason Wu releases them to the public.  I managed to acquire both the white Irwin Barbie Speedboat and aqua Mercedes in near mint conditions.  At least Barbie and Ken can boat the imaginary lakes of the 1960's summers past.  All is good.  Enjoy these soft, lazy days of summer. 

Miss E. Mouse
Ps. Do click on the photos of Kathy's comforter.  You must see her beautiful work.

Pink and Brown Eyes in Putty

Kathy's beautiful work

Close up

"Chut Elle Dort!", says Bernie.

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