"Toys galore! Scattered on the floor! There's no room for more! And, its all because of Santa Claus!" The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, from the Christmas classic, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, just about says it all!
One of the very best parts of Christmas is the gift of giving. And, I do have to admit, that being able to make gifts for the friends I trade with is far more rewarding, to me at least, than shopping in the malls. Hey, I'm not going to knock malls. I grew up on them. The first mall that came to our region, when I lived in the Bay Area, was the Mayfield Mall in Mountain View. You could and would, spend the entire day there, if not just at the huge Cost Plus Market. But, make no mistake, I love to shop. I just do it mostly online now from the very chair I'm writing in.
I'd like to think that this Christmas Day post is a new tradition for me. This year I began making these toys the day after Halloween, and have ached to share a couple of them with you. The thing is, the recipients read my blog, bless their hearts, so it just wouldn't do to share them until now.
I began working on the little Tenniel Humpty the day after I finished Maraja's Alice and her Humpty. I suppose Maraja's Humpty was the Humpty-test for me, and this one would have to be a true mini, since the Alice he goes with is only 3 1/2" tall. Tenniel's mini Humpty is the size of a real chicken's egg. He might just look a little bigger because of his arms and legs. I needle felted this little fellow for two solid weeks, then had to say "done". He was too tiny for fingers, but I'm sure I'm forgiven ;)) Tenniel had done two illustrations of his Humpty. One would preface the story and he sat on the wall. The other was standing and making quite a fuss. It was from both that this little guy was conceived in wool.
The next little toy is a 6" cloth body and composition doll originally by Wendy Lawton. She was the nurse doll to Nola and her Nurse. The dress on my Nola's nurse doll had faded, and I was able to acquire another one just for the outfit. So the undressed doll became a play thing for a larger Lawton. One of my treasured friends had sent me a box of silks from The Lawton Doll Factory, and the pink silk with embroidered blue dots was one of them. The pink silk had been used for The Little Doll Collector originally. I rewigged the 6" dolly, restyled the wig, and made her this outfit and hair bow. Let me tell you! Those embroidered dots were a bear to machine sew over! So unexpected, but a jean's needle had to finally be used. There are blue silk pleats edging the sleeves.
And, then came the Ten Ping and Yu Ping Chinese New Year costumes. I'm pretty sure it was hoped that I'd make an outfit or two for my friend's dolls this year (if you recall, I did the Yu Ping wardrobe for her last year). I really didn't know what to do and time was running out. What I was really hoping for, was that Ruby Red Galleria would offer us Chinese New Year outfits, but to this date, they still haven't. So given that, I made them myself.
Both are made from silk jacquard and Shantung silk. I'd like to say they are "simple" traditional pants and jackets, but these were not simple to make - at least in the silk jacquard. The jackets are lined and the pants have elastic waists. While I was making them, I was looking for miniature Chinese New Year toys. I found this seller in New Brunswick, Canada, who offered these incredible and incredibly tiny ceramic Chinese Zodiac animals, so I included them. At the first of the year, I'll buy a set for myself. Many grateful thanks to the seller for pitching in the extra shipping to get them to me quickly.
The last one going out the door from Santa's Workshop, was a miniature needle felted sock monkey. This little guy was made by request and I hope I did him correctly. I've never really been into sock monkeys, but as coincidence may have it, American Girl's Kit (from the 1930's) got a sock monkey and a monogrammed stocking this year. I'd bought them earlier for my Kit doll, and her sock monkey made a nice example for me to go by. He has wire armature, so he is able to hug the doll holding him. He was made for the Ten Ping 8" and Yu Ping 5" dolls, so he is about 4" I think. I like to photograph these items with thread spools since it gives you and idea of size.
Christmas was still two weeks away, and the gifts were wrapped and on their way. Louise needed a doll for Christmas. I know she has Petite Chiffonette, but I wanted to make her a more "formal" French Fashion doll. I'd purchased a Cathy Hanson doll house lady doll on Ebay and thought she'd make a perfect one. I used a design for a dress that was on a doll from the La Mode Illustree that I often get my inspiration from. Sadly, to make this dress correctly, I had to do a lot of pleating on silk taffeta, and it came out rather stiff. I almost tossed the dress to start over, but I was tired, and frustrated, and pushed through to finish it. It happens. The little doll makes for a nice display, but is not my shinning moment.
As I'd mentioned earlier, when I dressed Lawrence, her brother, I was looking for toys for him to be displayed with. Finding a little brass horn was not an easy task. There are plenty of horn ornaments, but none that quite look like the ones from the early Victorian days. I finally found one for $3.95 that had a rose and greenery glued on it, and it looked to be just about right. The glued embellishments easily came off, and that was his first toy.
There is a French company that makes tiny metal historical soldiers and I was able to find a couple of them that Lawrence would enjoy having. One is your typical tall hatted soldier with his rifle by his side in red and white, and the other was a great little guy that rides a horse (circa 1860). The soldier and horse are separate pieces and he sits quite nicely on the horse. I would one day like to seat them on a little board with wheels beneath for a pull toy. This would have been more accurate for such a toy, but that will come in time.
Christmas Day has arrived. I have so thoroughly enjoyed the season. The last days till Christmas were spent catching up on all my favorite Christmas movies, and reading, my favorite pastime. Both take absolutely no effort, except to stay awake late at night!
Wishing you all peaceful Christmas, and one that fills your heart with gladness.
I know what you're thinking. "That was FAST!" But, the holidays are here! There's no time to waste. And as you know from my last post, Louise was to get a new Christmas gown to coordinate with brother Lawrence's outfit. The very minute I finished his little suit, I began her party dress.
Disappointed that I had to change color themes at the last minute, I dug deeply into my cabinet of silks and found this gorgeous purple-blue and red plaid. I know its been there a very long time since it was way, way in back of the piles. And, there wasn't much of it either. I think the piece was half a yard of 45", and I was cautiously concerned that I wouldn't have enough. Its not the length and width so much that one worries over, but the ability to cut on the bias, the diagonal, for trim!
Plaids are a favorite of mine, especially for the holidays since the colors can be so brilliant and festive. I didn't have much time to think about designing this dress either, and maybe that was a good thing, since I way over thought Lawrence's velveteen suit. Did I mention that it took me half a roll of paper towels to make the patterns for his suit? I must have been having quite the day.
When I do look for ideas for Louise, Sylvia Mac Neil's Chiffonette book has become one of my favorite sources. Its not that the costumes vary so much that intrigues me, but the variety of ways she made up all those outfits from just a few patterns. It was the collar from one of these dresses that inspired Louise's Christmas dress, and I think she only did this collar once. Louise's was done with piping.
The vogue for tartan-like plaids, whether associated with clans or not, was fueled by the affection Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had for the Scottish dress, the Highlands, and Balmoral, their Scottish retreat. But, for all ostensible historicism implicit in the wearing of the plaid, its bold colors were the result of the invention of chemical dyes in the mid 1850s.
About half way through designing and fitting this dress onto Louise's body, I became dismayed. Something just wasn't right about the look. She'd been wearing her high neck, and front pleated chemise, with the three-quarter puffed sleeves. I thought surely this should look lovely with the new dress, but it didn't. This was wishful thinking. I've only made two of these chemise's, and her friend, Laura, is wearing the other.
So I had another look in the "the book" and was reminded that one of Chiffonette's chemise's had a rounded, or Peter Pan collar - only hers was done in lace. I was not looking forward to this set back, but felt that adding this under piece would be beneficial to future dresses, and it would look better with her Christmas gown. Again, this chemise was a case of over thinking something.
You know I really do not like making collars, but it seems that so many wonderful dresses and blouses begin with a beautiful collar. So I suffer through them. Usually I'm lucky enough that I'll be lining the piece so the seaming doesn't show but in this case, the sheerness of the chemise had me going in circles with how to finish it. It could not be lined. Yes, I do know what a facing is, but for some reason making it just as nice on the side we do not see, was perplexing me. After some fussing and fuming, I edged the facing with a simple zig-zag, then tacked it down at the shoulder seams and through the front pleats so it lay firmly in place. The collar and cuffs are edged in lace, and there's a "panel" of lace down the front. Four tiny white buttons close it in the back, just down to the waist.
Back to the dress. Now that we had that in order, I began first with making the piping. I would prefer that the piping was not pieced together, but with so little fabric to work with, it was necessary. It was "fun" trying to get the plaid matching and going in the same direction on the diagonal. For the collar, this time we had the ease of finishing the edge since the bodice is lined, as is the skirt. I wanted something different, a different look than Sylvia's dress for Chiffonette, so I made little rounded epaulets coming off the shoulders. These, too, are piped. There is piping at the waist of the dress as well, which precluded me from having to make a sash that would tie in a bow at the back of the waist. Although one with fringed ends would have looked pretty, I wanted a matching hair bow. I could update this dress at some point with a sash of black silk and fringe just for a change of appearance. Small, shiny black buttons decorate the left and right edges of the collar and one button tops the centers of the epaulets.
The other details include a bias band at the hem (pieced together), and box pleating at the waist. I had just enough left over for a bow for her hair.
Why was I in such a hurry to get this done? Well, because its Christmas! Most of November, and the rest of the next two weeks, or less I hope, has been, and will be spent making Christmas gifts. Each gift is a little project on its own, but so important as these are gifts of love. And, that is what Christmas is all about. And, Hallmark movies, Christmas specials. And decorated trees and homes, and noshing on nibbles we only eat Christmas time!
While searching for a few lovely Christmas themed images to correspond with this posting, I came across a surprise. A Christmas special was made for the PBS series, Victoria! The only information I could find was that the DVDs would be available on December 26th (thank you very much) and shipping from the U.K. I have no idea if it will air this season in the states, but I'll be on the look out. ( See below for the cover of the DVD.) If you know anything about this, please post to me (us).
Lawrence and Louise are excited and looking forward to the merry making of this holiday season. They are now dressed and ready to begin the festivities which they can enjoy (I can enjoy!), the entire month. My wish for you, is to have one of the very best holiday seasons ever. Merry Christmas one and all!
Whoosh! The days are flying by. Its hard to believe that we're in the last week of November already. If only I possessed a magical spell to slow the hours down...but I do not. No one does, but I think there must be a way to do this by maybe, perhaps, taking a little more time out in our days to rub the doggy, dress a doll up for the holidays, read a chapter in that wonderful story, take an hour's walk in nature...and if its not close by, or the weather isn't cooperative, rest your eyes on the wonder of nature, and feel those marvelous changes of the season.
As the year wraps up, I'm reminded of the very many projects I wished to do, or even complete. What happened to the collection of Mary Lennox? Didn't I wish to finish it by the end of the year? Well, let's be frank. Not all the outfits in that paper doll series were pretty. There are only three I wish yet to create, but they'll make wonderful spring projects in 2018. My studio time, on any project, has increased in size due to the needle felting accessory-displays (I make to go with the outfits), and this won't always be the case. And, this past month, this November, I was in Christmas gift making mode and even this will continue for awhile yet.
So what prompted me to finally pull Lawrence Godey out of the "dolls to make" cabinet, and debut him? Well, there was an auction on Ebay for Tonner's Viktor Dreary Scary Christmas (and both his sisters), and I didn't bother bidding because I didn't feel lucky enough to win all three and not go into hock. It was Viktor's short pants outfit that reminded me that I have my own little boy to sew for, so out he came. I've had the doll and plans to make Lawrence, Louise Godey's brother, for almost a year now. Maybe longer. A friend sold me just the doll from Wendy Lawton's Harlequin. He is, like Louise, a 14" wood body and porcelain doll.
Dressing him would be quite a departure for me, since I've been dressing the girls for so long. Yes, I've made boy outfits before, but only for the 9" Lawtons, and not that many. Their tiny bodies with bodices attached to the pants, make it a bit easier, and with this 14" doll, a little more fitting and fussing would need to be done. Plus the age old, fabric choices, and his first outfit was intended to be one of gray velveteen, not this luscious, rich purple. I wanted to make both Louise and him Christmas outfits (in lieu of missing out on the Dreary children). Louise's silk arrived and it was the wrong silk sent. Frustrated, and feeling the time pinch, I carefully went through my stash to see if there was anything else that would work. And, lucky me, I found one. This also prompted a color change for Lawrence, since I wanted their outfits to coordinate.
I'd been going through the books I have on historical children's fashions, and was coming up with a blank for Lawrence. Some of the outfits just seemed too involved for a debut costume I had only a week to make. And, then there was the notion of era accuracy, which I've decided to be lenient on for certain reasons. Let's face it, when we talk about Victorian fashion, that's a long stretch of years. And, boys' and men's clothing really doesn't change that much, and is also often a product of the country they hail from. I did discover some interesting anecdotes and facts though. The short pants worn by the American boys were often straight legged, until after the turn of the century and up to the 1930's - ahem!, but were also poufy in earlier times. Some legs tapered, some were banded below the knee, some were like Turkish short trousers. Fashions went back and forth, even as they do today (for women at least). How they fastened changes more, but I'm not sure I want to become an expert at sewing correct pants for boys with front flaps and laced gussets in the back. Sometimes just knowing a thing, but enjoying how something less involved "displays" is alright.
I did learn where the term "breeches" came from.
As you know, little Victorian boys wore dresses until a certain age. But, why? Well, it was for potty training purposes. The toddlers couldn't handle all those buttons for pulling pants down or even the flap, much less getting them up and buttoned again. So when a boy toddler was breeched, that was the day he wore his first pair of pants. All grown up now. And, it was quite an affair too, as the boys would be paraded around the neighborhood in their new grown up pants, and likewise praised.
There was a fashion for boys that buttoned their short jackets to the front of their pants. When fashion changed to longer jackets, the buttons remained on the front of the pants for decorative purposes. And, those fussy, lacey jabot blouses the boys wore with their velveteen suits were called Fauntleroy, after the Little Lord Fauntleroy. And, naturally, their hair was grown in the fashion of the long curls the little lord wore.
For Lawrence's holiday and debut, I chose the beautiful, rich purple velveteen I had in my stash, and lined both the pants and jacket with silk taffeta. His ball brass buttons are vintage, and I'd been saving them for just the right costume. His jacket is belted, and his blouse is a lined shell for ease of dressing, and with a rounded collar. A white, silk chiffon bow was made from the left over fabric from Gay Event's ball gown. White stockings make the costume dressy for the holidays.
There is no doubt that I will be thinking of updating Louise's fashions to reflect various Victorian decades, and Lawrence will get a new corresponding outfit to compliment hers. Louise's best pal, Laura Peterson, may get new things, too, but its mainly Louise and her brother that I'll focus on for the future. And, toys/accessories for Lawrence. What did young boys play with? From the Victorian postcards, I know they played with toy soldiers (and sailboats), so he may get one to hold at some point. So much to think about!
I hope everyone had a marvelous Thanksgiving. And now its on to Christmastime! I'm very much in the holiday spirit and have been all the month long. Time to begin Louise's new dress for the holidays. Make each moment count with love and joy in your heart.
When I was a little girl, I spent many a rainy day, and sunny one, studying and immersing myself in the books my sister was given for the holidays. Having been born five years before me, and the first child, my mother seemed intent on enriching her life with beautifully illustrated children's storybooks. When I came along, and having noticed that my sister showed no interest in the books, book gifting seemed to have lost my mother's interest. However, the books were there, and I innocently claimed ownership of them.
One of them was The Adventures of Pinnochio, illustrated by Maraja. These fabulous pictures captured my imagination, and while I never read the story, I knew it by heart through the lavish paintings. It was a curiosity to me because they looked nothing like the ones Disney drew, and of which we were supposed to relate. For all I knew, this was the only book someone named Maraja illustrated.
It wasn't until the advent of the Internet, and my keen collecting for antiquarian children's books, that I began a search for my own copy of The Adventures of Pinocchio. When I did, I discovered a wealth of other childhood stories illustrated by Maraja, and one by one I began collecting them.
Libico Maraja (1912-1983) was one of Italy’s top post-War illustrators. Born in Bellinzona, Svizzera, Maraja studied in Lugano and began his career working for the Ala studios. In 1940, he moved to Berlin, where he cooperated with IMA Film, among others for the animated film ‘La Rosa di Bagdad’. After the war, he became well known for his book illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Adventures of Pinocchio, Peter Pan, and many other classics. These were the years he worked with the Italian publishing house Fabbri. Pinocchio was his first published children's classic in 1955. These beautiful books were printed in Italy for the publishers Grosset and Dunlap (NY).
Many of these old books can be found today in various stages of condition. I'd like to think that they were just as loved as my sister's was, when I sat quietly for endless hours admiring the gracious Blue Fairy. I purchased my own copies of Alice in Wonderland, and recently Alice Through the Looking Glass, to add to my collection. When I completed Delamare's Alice, I knew there was just one more art doll Alice I'd need to do before the end of this year - Maraja's.
Having desired to make a needle felt Humpty since I began dabbling in the craft, I chose Maraja's for his simplicity of clothing and innocent appeal. I'd recently found a Wendy Lawton "Phoebe Preble", minus her Hitty doll, and purchased her for the purpose of turning her into Maraja's Alice.
Alice began her transformation with a new set of blue eyes, and a little blonde wig. The wig was particularly difficult to find since the style Maraja gave her wasn't one my supplier, Monique, had available. I'll admit that I enjoy using human hair wigs for their richness and beauty, but acquired a wig targeted for the BJD market instead. When Monique Trading is out of stock, do check Ebay for the style, color and size you want. Many Ebay dealers purchase Monique stock for their online stores.
Alice's dress is a heavy cotton sateen. This would not have been my first choice in fabric weight, but the color was just perfect. I had the most difficult time, again, with the collar. The bodice, of course, is everything. That's where all the detail is nine times out of ten. I had to make that collar four times before I had it correct! For one, the fabric has such a tight weave that I had to use a jeans needle to get though all the thicknesses. Also, this doll's body is all porcelain, like Asian Alice's was, only along with the round tummy Wendy gave these dolls, the arms are huge and bent. Fitting the clothing on this body as you construct it takes a great deal of patience.
I was very happy with the outcome of the pinafore though. After making apron after apron in all the various styles, this one came together rather quickly. Although I was running out of Swiss Pima Batiste. One of the continual problems I have is judging the length to cut the fabric for skirts. I should know better by now. Make it longer and you can always shorten it at the top of the waist. In this instance, having goofed the first time around, I used the shorter version to make the apron ties at the end.
But, prior to dressing Alice, I'd begun work on Mr. Dumpty. Like I mentioned, I'd been wanting to make one for quite some time, but knew that he would require armature hands with fingers. I had hoped this friend of mine would show me how to make then in person, but like all good intentions, this one went awry. Hence, the first try on Delamare's monkey last month. I do think this second pair went a bit better, but they're not easy to do. The reason you want wired fingers is so that they can be posed, hold objects, shake Alice's hand at the right moment.
Humpty Dumpty took me twice as long to make as Alice's garments. Maybe longer. Yes, I'm still learning to sew. I always will be, but needle felting is still very new to me. It was just last year at this time that I made that slice of pumpkin pie.
The very shape of the egg man needed to be appropriate in scale to that of the illustration. I don't know how many people follow to the letter, an illustration like I do, but many artists have much more imagination than I do. One of the best things you can do when felting the base form, is to get as tight a felting as possible. This allows you to add features and top clothing without misshaping the original form as you proceed. I had a great deal of difficulty with this. But then, he was my first Humpty, and I do plan to do more.
I used several illustrations to get his facial features, which changed throughout each picture. One illustrations was used for his ears. Another was used for his upraised brow and sweet smile. Was Humpty a nice Egg? No, not really, but I wanted a sweet Humpty for Maraja's Alice.
I noticed while browsing on Pinterest, the different Humpty's others have felted, and none took photos of him from behind. Getting him to sit properly was fairly difficult even with armature legs that could be bent into shape. His bottom is an egg shape. He doesn't have a proper bum to sit upon. Why didn't I put him on a wall? Because a wall would take an awfully long time to sculpt out of wool and I simply don't have that kind of room to display such a thing. However, one that was possibly only a brick or two might have helped him sit better. He rather "rocks" like an egg would. Maybe I did do this correctly? That's the A Type in me coming through.
I love Libico Maraja's work. I have loved it for a life time already, and this was a precious and joyful project to work on. I may just have to do a doll as his Blue Fairy, an a needle felt of his Pinocchio. Someday. The Blue Fairy had blue hair...but wait! I think you might be able to get blue wigs for BJDs. See? Not so bad after all.
Below I've shared some of my favorite illustrations from Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. These are very typical of the characters and figures he drew for Pinocchio. I don't know quite how to describe them, and being at a loss for words has never been a problem for me - while writing. They are caricatures in the extreme, but so fabulous that they illicit instant emotion within. You feel them. Experience them. You can't just look at them and say, "That's a lovely illustration." Each makes you feel the character, whether it is an alphabet, a fish or a old man.
For those not so familiar with Through the Looking Glass, Alice encounters a knight who recites a poem to her, a song really, titled A-Sitting on A Gate. "I'll tell thee everything I can: There's little to relate. I saw an aged man, a-sitting on a gate." Maraja drew him fishing as he "set limed twigs for crabs". I simply love this illustration. I hope you enjoy this and the others as well.
It is now November and time to think about the coming holidays. The cooler nights, the coming rains, the change of the clock. Halloween was marvelous this year, and there's so much to look forward to, especially when we have an imagination. Walk through some crackly, crunchy leaves and dream.