Its no secret that I have always been fond of Becassine. This delightful young woman, with her big heart and two big feet that stumble her into the trouble, has been around for a century.
She first appeared in a comic strip in the French girls' magazine, La Semaine de Suzette, the very magazine that launched the Bleuette doll as an incentive for subscriptions to the periodical. LSdS (as most will refer to it), was the magazine that taught young girls in France to be good mothers, seamstresses, housekeepers and most of all good Catholics.
Becassine would later become affiliated with Bleuette as her very own nanny. Stuffed dolls were made from her image, books like the one pictured would be treasures in a child's nursery. And Bleuette herself, would get a pattern for a Becassine costume in LSdS.
I became familiar with Becassine when I purchased my first Bleuette from Global Doll Corp., when they resided in Lincoln, CA. Not knowing heads or tails about antique reproduction doll artists, I contacted Global after seeing an ad in Doll Reader with a particularly beautiful little Premiere in the photo. The owner said she would be happy to sell me the doll, and on a rainy spring day, I drove down to Lincoln and began playing Bleuette. I also picked up a copy of Barbara Hilliker's book on Bleuette. That afternoon as I sat pouring through this enchanting volume, I began a curiosity in Becassine that would last many years.
My new doll would need a tiny Becassine to call her own, so I pulled out a packet of PaperClay and made her one. She needed a trunk, so I made a miniature wood doll trunk and painted the image of Becasssine in a gold frame, from Hilliker's book, on the front, with light blue and white stripes on all sides. I would make and sell over forty of the 3 1/2" dolls during my first years of Bleuette collecting. I also recall making Becassine toys and clogs with her face embroidered on the wool for a Bleuette doll. All sold. Since then, I've moved on and seldom think of her. These Becassine items can be viewed in a gallery on my website www.zhibit.org/houseofmissymouse
A couple of months ago, my friend Betsy, came to my rescue when the edict of "No More Dolls" came from the "lord of the manor". I'd already committed to purchasing two of Nada Christensen's mini 5" Bleuettes from the Lawtons (as they had extras from the Birdie and Her Bleuette edition), and didn't know what to do. Betsy purchased both for me with the idea that she would get one, and I'd dress and wig the doll in compensation. I was truly overcome with gratitude for the rescue. The request was to make the dolly a Becassine costume.
When I made the tiny PaperClay dolls, the costume was made as one would dress a doll house doll. Fabric pieces and glue. I had to rethink my process, and keep in mind Betsy's dislike of top-stitching. She also requested velvet ribbon trim, which I knew wouldn't work for the scale of the doll.
So I came up with the idea of piecing fabric strips together to create the look. Betsy also has very discerning tastes, so I chose the finest, thinnest velveteens I had, and matching silks for the linings.
This little outfit, making the pattern pieces and constructing it, was as much effort as anything I do for Louise Godey. I know it is difficult to see, but the bodice is a long sleeved "vest" over a white, black and red chemise, that is sewn into the arm holes to connect it. I pieced the white to a black velveteen band, then red velveteen to the black band with an all white chemise back. The "vest" fronts are lined in matching green silk taffeta. This bodice was then lined to eliminate the wearing, and visibility of the pieced together fabrics.
The black sleeve bands are velveteen, lined with black silk taffeta, and hand hemmed. Why silk taffeta? Elegance, surely, but because its the thinnest fabric I could find. The black high collar is also black taffeta, and was one of the most difficult pieces to make. The tiny doll has no neck to speak of, and the true collar is only 2mms or less wide. Buttons and thread loops close the back.
The skirt is pieced together as well and the hem hides this piecing and is hand sewn. The apron is a lined "pocket" sewn into the waistline. I did not have to design the cap, but rather enlarged the PaperClay doll's hat pattern.
I'd originally made brown tights to go under this costume, but the jersey knit was too thick for the tiny shoes, so I made a pair of lace trimmed knickers with a drawstring waistband. White jersey knit stockings complete the look.
I still had to wig the doll. I don't enjoy mohair wigging. I will do it when necessary, but I always cringe at the thought. The last wigging I did was for Lily, Petite Chiffonette's friend, which IMHO came out very well. Its not that I can't do it, but the memory of long hours with bits of mohair and glue all over the place don't make it my favorite craft. For some reason, the wigging of Betsy's doll came out perfect the first time around. She and I discussed at length, what style and color the doll should wear. What was typical of Bleuette? Probably the bob. I should note that it was Nada Christiansen (the artist of the 5" Bleuettes), who taught me the ropes of miniature doll wigging. So, so long ago! An indispensable technique. We miss Nada. She was one of the finest miniature doll artists we had.
The shoes were made in China for Nada's dolls.
Last Friday I finally took my first class in needle felting. It was a basic techniques class for a piece of pumpkin pie. You may recall me mentioning the upcoming class in my last post. I'd messed around with some roving wool and needles awhile back while watching online tutorials. I got about as far as a little blob and wasn't pleased with how it was coming along, and promptly dropped the "learning" until I could find a class or someone to show me the ropes. When I found the class in Loomis, CA, at The Tin Thimble (don't you love the name?!), I was all over it. I generally do not enjoy workshops or classes, for the simple reason that they are intense and students seldom finish the project within the hours given.
However, this class had only three students, and the instructor took us step by step, individually, as we progressed at our own pace. Nanette was the perfect teacher, with patience and encouragement, but moreover, she gave me invaluable hands-on techniques for this and future projects. She also described in detail the wools, their uses, and the needles and how best to use each.
Her sample of pie was a wedge about 4 1/2" long, if my visual memory is correct. She's a miniaturist herself, and welcomed my choice to make one smaller. It would also take less time to make than a larger slice. My pie wedge came out to be 2 5/8" long. The class was for four hours, and I took only two small breaks to use the restroom. It lasted from 11am to 3pm, but she was happy to stay as long as needed for each of us to finish.
I don't believe the other two students did finish as they were struggling a bit with the technique and size they started out with. I left around 3:30 myself, and thanked her profusely for providing this class at The Tin Thimble. She traveled a good 50-60 miles to give it, and I will take future classes from her when she gives them.
This Thanksgiving I am grateful for so many things. But, in particular, I am thankful to Betsy for her enduring friendship, and Nanette Scott for getting me started in a craft that I have long wished to learn and perfect.
Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving. Keep hope in your hearts and never give up on your dreams.