Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Meet Mary Lennox, Happy Valentine's Day!

 Its a beautiful day here in Auburn, California.  The sun is shining warmly, the sky is blue from end to end, and birds flit from tree to bush to tree in an effort to build nests.  We've had so much rain these past two months that I doubt you'll ever hear me complain about the drought conditions or beg for rain again.  The sun is most welcome!  Happy Valentine's Day.

During my discovery and initial interest in the Peck Aubry paper doll line, The Secret Garden set was the one I wished for most.  It was crazy expensive on Amazon, and I could not find it on Ebay.  My only conclusion was that "this must be the most sought after", and therefore, rare.  But, shortly after my diligent search, one came up and I snapped it up.  I knew when the set arrived that I would have to make a Mary Lennox and the hunt for the perfect Lawton doll to make over began. 

My Mary Lennox is a 16" wood body and porcelain make over from Wendy Lawton's "Bobbin Lace".  She has new blue eyes and a lovely human hair blonde wig.  The paper doll collection comes with nine colored illustrations of outfits, and its my goal to create them all for Mary this year. 

The story of The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, was first published in 1911.  This children's classic remains a beloved tale, and was beautifully filmed in a lavish production by Frances Ford Coppola staring Kate Maberly .  If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.  Its one of my favorite films and is popped into the DVD player once a year. 

The Secret Garden is the story of young Mary Lennox, the child of wealthy British parents, and was born in India, unwanted, and raised by servants.  When her parents die of cholera, she is sent back to England to live with her uncle, the Lord Archibald Craven, at Misselthwaite Manor. Mary's life at Misselthwaite Manor is lonely and her attitude sour until a good natured little maid, Martha, tells Mary about the late Mrs. Craven, who would spend hours in a private walled garden growing roses. After Mrs. Craven died in an accident in the garden, the devastated Lord Craven locked the garden and buried the key.  The story then unfolds with her explorations of the garden grounds in search of the door to the secret garden, and her friendship with Dickon, a twelve year old child of a servant who has a magic way with animals.  Eventually a little robin shows her the way to the garden and Mary begins to blossom.

Its rare to find a paper doll holding a hat where her clothing will cover it, but the Peck Aubry Mary Lennox was drawn this way.  Her clothing, as you can imagine, from what I did for Alice Illustrated, is bright and colorful.  There is one dress that is aqua with yellow polka-dots on the extreme, and others that are more in line with what you might expect of Edwardian costuming.  I love them all and have been buying up the fabrics and trims for each costume.

For Mary's debut dress, I chose a red silk with cotton laces.  Finding an appropriate lace for the center panel was costly.  I must have selected seven different laces to determine which would look "most like" the one in the illustration.  The choice was made by width and what would look best with the edge lace for her collar and cuffs.

She wears a chemise or under shirt that is sleeveless and has a narrow, high collar.  Some thought went into the style of dress, and a little research helped me determine the waist length.  Below you'll find a black and white photo of two girls from around 1900 with similar waist lengths.  My first thought was that this should be a drop waist, but it wasn't quite a full drop waist.  Unfortunately, I'd also miscalculated how much silk to buy for the dress, and the shorter waist worked best, as well, for what fabric I had left after a failed attempt at the bodice.  I'd accidentally cut out the back of the bodice from the chemise pattern! 

This is not a complicated little dress, but the collar pretties it up and the cuffs accentuate the delicacy of the overall look.  A hair bow in the silk completes the costume.

Her boots took a few days to draft a pattern for and make.  Since each Lawton body is hand lathed and carved, they are not identical, so any shoe patterns I may have had before were not even close.  When the doll arrived, her feet had been literally jammed into Mary Janes.  I could barely remove them and could not get them back on.  So what I did was sand the feet down so that they were the same size, smoother, and more planed in the toes.  Her boots are brown and black leather with five little side buttons each.  She only has one other pair of shoes in the paper doll set, and those are Wellies.  I have made the pattern for them, and will talk about them with her next outfit. 

Her hat is yellow straw and the flowers are a mix of what I had on hand.  I considered making them of wool felt like Alice Illustrated's hat, but did not have the correct colors in my stash for two of the flowers.  So I pulled all my silk, paper and velvet flowers out and sorted through what would work, then set about to re-making the smaller ones, taking them apart, coloring them with alcohol markers, then reassembling them.  The red rose was darkened with a marker as well.  My mini hot glue gun set the flowers firmly front and center.  I love that mini hot glue gun! 

As I mentioned, this was not a complicated costume to make, but a goodly amount of effort went into it nonetheless.  I was just delighted to be able to complete it for a Valentine's Day posting.  I hope you'll enjoy seeing her wardrobe come to life over the course of the year.  Her next outfit is already in the works since my original intent was to debut it along with this dress. 

Mary and I have already discovered the narcissus blooming in our garden.

Miss E. Mouse


  1. LOVE your work! So beautiful. Do you draft all your own patterns? I have a couple of Lawton 16" dolls and hoped the Mary Frances book would be helpful but the patterns there are too simple and shapeless. Thank you for sharing your beautiful art.

    1. Dear Blossom, Yes, I draft all my patterns from scratch. The Mary Frances patterns are just too large for the 16" Lawtons, but you can tailor them to make beautiful clothes for your dolls. And, thank you!