Sunday, August 23, 2015

Jolly Jane's Gypsy-O!

Jolly Jane in Gypsy-O!
For as long as I can remember, I've been enchanted by the idea of gypsies.  The caravan.  The campfires.  The whirlwind of colorful skirts and scarves spinning to the sound of the jingle and bang of the tambourine!

My first encounters with the world of gypsies came on heels of two wonderful Hollywood films.  One would have been The Wizard of Oz, where in the land of black and white Kansas, the wizard, with his crystal ball, asks Dorothy to enter his fabulous caravan and have her future told.  The other, and most prominent, would be The Hunchback of Notre Dame, with Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara, as Esmeralda, the Gypsy Girl.  Watching her dance among the throngs in the town square, she captures the hearts of many men, including those of Captain Phoebus and Pierre Gringoire, but especially Quasimodo and his adoptive father, Archdeacon Claude Frollo.

Frances Tipton Hunter's Illustration
Such a sad, yet wonderful tale by Victor Hugo, published in 1831. The story is set Paris during the late middle ages, during the reign of Louis XI (1461-1483).  The original story ends tragically with both the hanging of Esmeralda, and Quasimodo dying of starvation, exiled.  Yet, Hollywood, being what it is, has Esmeralda saved in the end, and her savior, Quasimodo, wondering why he had to born ugly.

Stepping through time to the 1970's, who wasn't delighted with the cover of Heart's second album, Little Queen?  The cover shows the lovely sisters, Ann and Nancy Wilson, with their band, dressed in gypsy attire in a camp setting with a wonderfully ornate caravan in the background.  Probably last item, of note, was the book Gypsy Folk Tales by Diane Tong, which was released in 1989.  I bought a copy and sat down to read the stories, cover to cover.  Incredible!

Maureen O'Hara as Esmeralda
So when given the decision on whether next to make Jolly Jane's "cheerful cherryland kimono, O-hi-o! (that's Japanese for Good Day), or the Gypsy-O costume, there was no contest.  Well, maybe a little.  Just a little.  And, the reason being that Gypsy-O was going to be extremely tedious and difficult to make.  When do I shy from a challenge anyway?!

I actually began with the tough stuff first.  The accessories.  If I couldn't pull off the scarf, head wrap, it wasn't going to happen at all.  After closely studying this illustration for several months, I chose bead pearls and large gold sequins to make the adornments.  I bought a bag of mid-sized, flat gold sequins, and some hole punches, and began making each sequin by hand.  The large sequins are half inch pieces punched out of the larger sequins.  A tiny 1/16" hole was then punched into the piece at the top center.  The tougher pieces were the "earring-type" adornments.  With these I took the full sized sequin and punched a half inch hole off set from the center, followed by a pin hole at top made with a pair of pliers and a needle, for stitching onto the scarf.

The "donut" shaped sequins were then pierced with a needle in eleven equally spaced holes around the edge to which the pearl beads were then sewn on.  These sat for a few months while I worked on other things.  I guess the process was a bit intimidating, and I did have a few other projects on the plate.  Talk about procrastination!  Well, after Edie's outfits were done, I started afresh.  With the sequin embellishments ready at hand, I could begin.  But, I didn't start there.  I began with the waist wrap.

The waist wrap is made from a cotton sateen and was decorated with silk ribbons to emulate the stripes in the illustration.  Two rows of tiny silk embroidery thread tassel fringe was made on each end.  Careful study of the illustration did not give me the idea that this fringe needed to be all around the long waist wrap.  If it had, I'd still be making the fringe.  Which isn't an excuse, I promise!  If I've said it once, I'll say it again.  Illustrators have wonderful artistic license!  Not everything we see is what it would actually be.  Next I tackled the head wrap.

I used my buckram base start.  Much as I did for Daisy's bathing hat scarf.  Ooooo!  So long ago.  If you just cut a piece of fabric and tied it around the doll's head, it would never look like the illustration.  And, you'd have to fuss with it again and again each time you dressed the doll.  Best to make it into a little "turban".  This, again, was made with the same cotton sateen as the waist wrap.  Added into the head wrap was a piece of delicately flowered cotton batiste.  I'm guessing this "scarf piece" would have tied the red scarf to the head, then the red scarf would have been tied around it.  I sewed on a row of pearl beads between the two circular pearled adornments, then sewed the little sequins above it.

Next I tackled the neck scarf.  This is a cotton silk square that's been edged, like a quilt?, with red silk.  This took a little puzzling out since the corners needed to be mitered.  It worked, but after considering the folding of the square into a triangle to tie around her neck, I decided, rather than turn the edges of red under and hand stitch them, I'd do something different.  I folded the square over to a triangle and sewed the edges together.  Then I turned it inside out and pressed it into a tiny shawl shape. With a few rolls from the wide end, I got the look I wanted when tied around her neck.

To me, the three toughies were done, so I went on to designing the jewelry.  She has two long necklace wrapped twice around her head for the doubled drape affect.  I strung gold and aqua beads on this beading thread called Stretch Magic.  Its the clear elastic beading thread that makes stretchy necklaces and bracelets.  This way I didn't have to use clasps and the doll's hair would not be in harm's way.  I also made her three gold bracelets this way.  Only I used rectangular old gold beads.  The idea of a solid gold bangle was out of the question.  It would never fit over those fingers on the doll's hand (without breaking a finger or two!)

The blouse came next and this was made of that pretty cotton silk I enjoy using.  The pattern was drawn with a wide center in front for gathering to achieve a rather peasant blouse look.  Normal peasant blouses have puffed sleeves, either long or short, but Francis Tipton Hunter drew hers like a blouse a little child might pull from her closet in 1923.  So I followed suit.

The skirt is made from a yellow silk.  It might be a Shantung silk, but I don't remember.  I've had this piece in my fabric collection for quite awhile.  The fun thing about this skirt is that while deciding what kind of waistband to put on it, I did a rather "Kathy O'Malley" move, and gave it a gold silk waistband.  This almost gives it the effect of a belt.  Since the waistband cannot be seen in the illustration, I took some artistic license myself.  It closes in the back with a thread loop and yellow button.

Finally I tackled the black velveteen vest.  The vest is lined in black silk dupioni and has shiny gold soutache, or braid, edging the armholes and edges.

What a lot of work!  I was lucky to find another gypsy costume set by Magic Attic that had the tambourine in it.  Magic Attic was a Tonner produced fantasy doll from the early 90's.  Four little girls would go up to Grandma's attic and find a costume in the trunk to dress up and play in.  They'd step through a magic mirror and be transported to a time, in costume, to live through a life lesson experience.  Yes, I have Megan, and also her gypsy costume.  So Jolly Jane has a perfect little tambourine for the show.

This was fun.  Challenging, yes, but fun.  I love working with costuming, and have my sights on Halloween.  This early?  Why of course.  It does take time to make these costumes.  I don't know if I'll do another right away, but Katy Curls may want one from Frances Tipton Hunter's The Children's Party Book.  (Remember the George Washington Party?)

So I'll end on that note. 

" A GYPSY-O!  That's what Jolly Jane chooses to be at the children's dress-up and make-believe party -- Ringle-Jingle-tingle-toe!" - Frances Tipton Hunter

Miss E Mouse


Ringle-Jingle-tingle-toe!  Jolly Jane is Gypsy-O!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Cloudland Play Dolls: Lulie Gets A Dolly Named Edie

Lulie and Edie
I'd been collecting dolls for about twelve years when Tonner Doll Company entered a joint venture with NIADA artist Shelley Thornton, to produce Shelley's Cloudland Play Doll line.  During these years Tonner was also releasing dolls like the 18" Kitty Collier and Ann Estelle to the public.  I was primarily, as usual, collecting dolls with trunks and wardrobes, so the delectable fifties fashion shop owner, Kitty Collier, was very present in my home.  And, for this, and only this reason, did I miss the debut of Cloudland Play Dolls.

I'm guessing that a few years after Shelley's dolls were on the market, one of them, Lulie, with her short blonde hair, showed up on the secondary market, and I fell in love.  I bought her.  I'd never been into art dolls before, but there was something so dreamlike about Lulie, that I couldn't resist.  Shelley designed the Cloudland Play Dolls from 2001-2005 and seven dolls were produced. 

Genevieve, Lulie and Nora
One of the most remarkable things about these 21" cloth body and hard vinyl dolls, was their unique wardrobe.  All the pieces were reversible!  Her jacket, smock or dress, even her bloomer pants could be turned inside out to reveal a beautiful new look for your doll.  Shelley and Robert did produce a few clothing sets, but nowhere near enough to satisfy me, and I guess the line was short lived.

I did collect the clothing sets, mint, on the second hand market, and my very favorite was called "I Can Fly".  Advertised, it showed Lulie in a cloud printed blouse with bloomers in a sky view, cityscape print giving one the impression you were in the clouds looking down on a verdant township.  The costume set also provided you with a fabulous bluebird cape complete with a tail, and lovely golden felt slippers.   To me, these dolls were like surreal children come to life.  I could not get over how happy they made me feel.

Lulie sat on a rocking chair in my studio for many years, and Cloudland Play Dolls all but disappeared from the mind of collectors.  Today they are so rare to come by that collecting them seems like an elusive treasure hunt.  Perhaps those who have one, or are lucky enough to have a few, simply cannot part with them.  And, that is the way Shelley would have wanted it.  I met her once at my first UFDC doll convention.  She had an entire room showcasing her work, and not one Cloudland Play Doll was among the art dolls she showed.  A little disappointed, I went up to her and introduced myself as a big fan of her dolls telling her I had Lulie and loved her.  I asked her if she had plans to make more, but the joint venture had been over for sometime.  She was showcasing some very unusual dolls and none of them could be played with.  This was actually my introduction to art dolls.  I do believe that Shelley Thornton was a pioneer in the sculpted surreal look of the art dolls you see today.

Edie as the souvenir doll.
So a few weeks back, I was browsing Ebay as I often do, and chanced on a search for Cloudland Play Dolls, Up came a funny little 10" doll called Edie!  She had molded red hair that looked just like Shelley's illustrations.  She wore a dress with a bold print and little black boots with purple bows.  She had been a souvenir doll for a NIADA luncheon Shelley had given some time back.  I bought her.  I thought she'd make a wonderful little doll for Lulie. 

I was corresponding with the seller who told me patterns were available for little Edie on the NIADA website, so I went to have a look.  Sure enough Shelley had provided us with a pattern for a dress, and one for a pair of overalls and a blouse.  I printed them out.  And, there they sat for awhile as I gave it all some thought.  I don't like using other people's patterns, but I really wanted to sew something for Edie.
Beautiful body sculpts.
Edie in Desert Skies
When Edie arrived, the first thing I did was undress her.  Which was difficult to do.  She was not made as the large Cloudland dolls were.  She was completely molded of hard vinyl.  And, her underwear was painted on, and so were her shoes!  What to do...?!  Well, I knew that I wanted to make something with the theme of clouds, so I began looking for wonderful quilting fabric (which her green dress was made of), and found lots of choices with planets, galaxies, moon and stars, and quite a few sky and cloud prints.  I purchased several pieces just so I could drape them on her and against each other to see what might work best.  I wanted a soft cloud play outfit, but also something with moon and stars.  So the first outfit I made was one I'll call Desert Skies.

Crescent moons and Forever Skies
After having looked at Lulie in her elephant toy smock for so long, I really wanted to do something like that for Edie.  I began reworking Shelley's patterns until I had what I was looking for.  Blouse, bloomer pants, and smock.  The cutest thing of all, was that Shelley provided us with a bow for her hair. I was not happy with the molded shoes that could not come off, but felt I needed to work them into the outfit I was creating.  I made a blouse and bloomer pants in the black night sky print with dot stars and crescent moons.  To tie in the shoes, I put purple buttons down the front of the blouse, just in case she wore this without the smock.  I chose the darker of the two sky and cloud prints to make her a smock and bow.  I had fun positioning the reworked patterns on the print to get just the right clouds where I wanted them.  I did the same for the bow, and now Edie had  a new outfit.  Dollies do not enjoy staying in the same clothes year after year, especially if they've been sleeping a box in someone's storage cabinet!

The light version, no collar.
I actually started loving her funny molded hair that flies away as in Shelley's illustration, too.  I was really getting into the whole idea of the art doll.  Shelley is also an incredible textile artist using colors, prints and textures taking them to another level altogether.  She was always in the back of my mind, like a muse guiding me, as I began thinking of one more outfit.  One I might like even better.  So I began again, this time with a vintage toy print I'd had in my stash for ages.  I would work with the lighter cloud print as the base of blouse, or jacket, with bloomers, and see what happened.  I can't tell you how uplifting it is to work with a cloud print!  Its like living in a sunny sky on a perfect day.  It just felt great!

Vintage Toy Smock and Bow
While I was beginning this second set, I was looking at how Lulie's smock was made because I remembered that it was reversible.  I will never figure out how the seamstresses actually made them, but I did my best with a little one for Edie.  Edie was not easy to dress and undress as her hard arms are stiff and getting them through arm holes was terribly difficult.  What were you thinking Shelley?  Sorry, but it was a real pain to pull them back, try to pinch them together, just to go into the sleeves and up to the shoulders.  But, I did notice, as it had been quite awhile since I'd played with Lulie, that even her pants were reversible.  So I thought I'd give that a try, too.

Careful placement puts a monkey on her shoulders.
I chose an tiny autumn leaf print whose colors coordinated with the vintage toy print.  This way Edie could have an autumn outfit like her mommy, Lulie's.  So far so good.  This was actually a better way to handle the making of the smock, since I didn't line the first and I think it would have been better lined, than faced.  My biggest problem was deciding how to close, or fasten the front.  With a reversible outfit, you can't have the normal thread loops and hooks beneath, with buttons sewn on top.  I would have to brave buttonholes. 

Lulie and Her Edie
I do not like machined buttonholes.  The process makes chunky edges and if you don't get it placed just right, you've ruined the entire outfit and have to start all over again.  So I sat on this for a day or two.  I looked at Lulie's smock.  It seemed the only way to get this look to work was buttonholes after all.  I went online, and found a Youtube for handmade buttonholes.  I did this only once before with something for Lettie or Polly, and wasn't thrilled about it.  But, with a little more confidence in my experience, I gave it a go again.  My way, of course.  Well, guess what?  The buttonhole stitch is exactly the same stitch as the thread loops, only you do it into the fabric instead of "in the air". 

An Autumn Duo
The first one was a disaster as I used two threads.  The second one was great, so I decided to rip out the first and redo it.  By the time I did the third one I knew it would be silly not to have buttons and buttonholes on more doll clothing in the future.  So I grew.  I challenged myself, learned something new, and it was a good thing.  The buttons would be sewn back to back just like Shelley designed the smocks for the large dolls. 

Reversible Smock and Pants for Edie
Make no mistake that the look of her smock was an accident.  I carefully planned the pattern placement of each piece to get the toys I wanted featured.  I even did this with her bow, which boasts the dolly face in the center.  These bows took a lot of fiddling since you had to turn them inside out and stuff them.  They're really neat though, and go over her "hair" with a piece of elastic.  I made them exactly like the one Shelley did, and Edie now has two.  Now Lulie and Edie have matching toy smock outfits.  They also have a pretty outfit for autumn, my favorite time of year.

As I was taking these photos, dressing and undressing both dolls, It came to me that Lulie had not flown in awhile.  So I dressed her in I Can Fly, and did a mix and match with Edie's new outfits.  Now they can both play among the summer clouds and gaze with wonder at the tiny houses, animals and streets below.

In the catalog Tonner Doll Company produced that introduced Cloudland Play Dolls, there was a lovely quote from Shelley Thornton.  She wrote, "My intention is to give children the spirit-enhancing experience of owning and treasuring objects with captivating aesthetic value.  I know from my own childhood how much a doll can inspire love and imaginative play, and have psychological content.  I hope my dolls will be worthy of love."  They are Shelley. 

If you'd like to see some amazing art dolls by Shelley Thornton, just click on this link:  Its  her website.

Miss E. Mouse

Shelley's Bluebird Cape

So Happy Together

One of Shelley's Art Dolls

Fabulous Costuming

The Night Sky Set With Purple Buttons

We Can Fly!