Monday, October 29, 2018

Goldilocks and Little Bear Inspired By Gennady Spirin

Friends.  Where would we be without our friends?  Those who know me understand that I'm not the most social person in the world - a true introvert - but, they know I love them, and I treasure the new ones I make!  And, Olivia is one of the special ones.

Sadly, needing to downsize her collection a tad, she sent me a 12" Wendy Lawton Darla doll to dress.  This line of dolls was based on the Bleuette bodies and were considered "friends of Bleuette".  She'd given me a choice of the two she had, and since I'd never re-created a smiling doll with teeth, I chose the Darla.  I had zero idea what I was going to do with her though.  I truly expected she'd be napping, tucked away in the redo-doll cabinet for a couple of years.

Then as I was looking through my books for my once a year holiday project, I came upon Gennady Spirin's Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Bingo.  She was the only illustrated little girl, in my book collection, that even remotely had a similar face and smile.  So I changed her eyes, and bought her a new wig.  The coolest thing though, is that I was finally going to try creating Renaissance costuming for a child doll - AND a needle felt bear to boot!  I've longed to try a "princess doll" for years now, and this would be my chance.  Goldi as a princess?  A Russian princess no less! 

I love the work of Gennady Spirin.  I must have seven or eight of his illustrated children's books.  If you're not familiar with him, check his work out on Pinterest, or do an image search for his illustrations.  The details and Russian folk art are phenomenal.  I could lose myself in these books for hours.  Which is what I did with Goldilocks and the Three Bears - with a doll and a pile of wool.

If my memory serves me well, I began with the bodice of Goldi's gown.  I think I made it three times before I got a good one.  Dark navy cotton velveteen and this miserable sheer gold fabric that frayed the second you put a needle in it.  If I couldn't get this right, the dress could not be made.  I don't even know what they call this gold fabric, but its metallic and definitely manmade.  I folded and pinned and refolded and repined.  Machine sewed and hand sewed, and finally got a decent square-neck edge on the bodice.  This particular fabric was chosen for its "old gold" color and if you put your iron on the lowest setting, it would "barely" hold a fold.  

Next I tackled the sleeves.  My friend, Betsy, had sent me a gorgeous "Queen of Hearts" doll gown done by Boneka for my birthday.  I studied its sleeve construction, but it wasn't quite what Gennady had in mind.  I did use Boneka's design for the ribbon work though.  I believe these are called "slash" sleeves.  Study of these sleeves led me to believe that the white sleeve itself, was separate from the slashes or ribbons. A wrist band at the ends of the ribbons would give the loose sleeve the tulip cuff over the hands.  So this is what I did.  The ribbon bands are made from a high quality red silk dupioni.   Getting the white sleeves and the ribbon bands long enough to pouf was an effort of several tries - so much so that I was afraid I'd have to make another bodice (from all the ripping out and starting over again), and I didn't want to do that again.  I finally got something that I found acceptable and used a gold metallic trim made in France for the detailing.  To that I added Swarovski jewel beads and gold beading.

The skirting is a burgundy red velveteen.  I created a template, or grid, for the placement of sewing gold beading on.  I beaded the piece prior to lining it in more of the red silk, but I also had to work with that awful gold fabric again to create the ruffle.  Yes, I'm complaining.  This stuff was a nightmare to work with, so I Fray-Checked the edges before even attempting to gather it.  It worked.  Every step of making this costume was "an experience".  I used another piece of French made metallic trim for her little belt, then beaded it with pearls.  Goldi's outfit changes a bit here and there from illustration to illustration, but I loved the look, so included it. 

The hat was an interesting challenge as well.  Page by page I studied what the hat looked like from every angle.  The pattern I made for it was not just an oval, but a oblong one that would include darts at the back to fit the head well.  I used a buckram base and hand sewed millinery wire to the edge so that I could bend it into shape.  The blue velveteen is lined with the same silk lining as the bodice - a rather azure blue.

The hat was then trimmed in pearls.  I discovered a little trick to make them look even.  After you sew the pearls on, run a thread through them, tighten and knot it.  This keeps them all in a little row.  The squashed tomato on top is made from the same red silk and lightly stuffed with fiber filling.  Once again the gold fabric came out and I made the ribbon trims for the hat with it. 

Time to make the shoes.  They were not as difficult as I thought they'd be, but I did have to make a pattern that was in two pieces for them.  Its a little suede slipper or boot.  Gennady's Red Riding Hood wears the same boots, and RRH's drawings were larger and more clear to see and design from.  I like the way they turned out.  I used an ultra-suede fabric for them, using what I had on hand for them.  I think real suede would have been too heavy to work with.  And, I had to get to her companion. 

The Three Bears are royal bears.  Probably Lord and Lady Bear from the look of where they live.  Land owners and favorites of the king.  They rule the forest.  Their costumes alone are enough to drool over.  But, its typical for an artist to always create Baby Bear with Goldilocks, since she had so much in common with him.  The perfect porridge.  The perfect sized chair and bed, too.  So let me introduce Baby Bear whose outfit rivals any court costume Columbus may have worn to greet Isabella. 

I had fun with him.  I think I'm having more fun with the needle felts these days simply because I can make a companion or toy for the doll and not have to fret about finding all the right pieces.  I just make them.

Baby Bear began with wire armature, and I got to learn something new while making him.  Claws.  I did look up Sarafina's youtube on bears and discovered how claws were made.  Similarly to fingers, but longer and you cover most of the wire shapes with shaping wool, then "fur" wool.  It took a couple of tries.  He actually has a darker wool of fast-batting beneath his light rust fur wool.  In one of these photos, I tried to show his five digit claws.  Since they are wire, they can be bent or straightened - can hold a spoon for porridge if desired - can threaten the mischievous Goldi, too.
It probably took me slightly less time to make Baby Bear as Goldilock's costume, but it was infinitely easier poking wool than fiddling with fabric.  Just before I started applying his outer layer of fur, I realized that I didn't have the correct wool colors in my huge piles of wools, and had to order them from Living Felt.  They are so great to work with.

I did call ahead though to see if I might have missed something on their site.  I asked if they had a gold metallic wool.  They've got just about everything else.  The girl I spoke with thought I was nuts, but I do wonder if this wouldn't be an excellent color to add to their line.  Silver, too.  I'll bet they could process gold or silver fibers into the wool to create the sheen that would be required.  At any rate, they didn't have such a thing and didn't have a good solution to dressing a Renaissance bear.  So I chose "pecan" for the gold of his doublet.  His little "suede" boots are their caramel color.  Needle felt costuming is just as important as doll costuming - to me.    
I was grateful that I didn't have to make claws on Baby Bear's feet.  There seems to be a sock of some sort under the Bear's footwear that keeps their toes from wiggling through.  And perhaps the slashes in their footwear prevent the claws from wearing the toe of the shoe down quickly.  That's my guess.  I think its a genius idea and I know Gennady had FUN designing clothing for his bear family. 

The linked gold chain in the illustration, became a simple gold one on Baby Bear.  Gold trim and gold bead work decorate the outfit in the appropriate places.  His costume changed slightly from illustration to illustration, too.  So as with Goldi's, I made choices of what to produce for effect.

The coat was a hoot!  I'm either getting better at this, or just having more fun with it as I become less inhibited about proceeding.  I was the same way with sewing.  It wasn't until I was willing to experiment, and accept the occasional failure, that it became more fun.  I cut wool off the armature and start over again, just as I rip out seams and try again. 

The hat was probably the piece that gave me the most trouble.  I'm not even sure a real bear can wear a hat, much less one like this.  I'd just finished book two of the All Souls trilogy, where Dianna and Matthew time travel to Elizabethan England.  Their costuming was described in great detail and it helped as I created Goldilocks and Baby Bear.  But, nothing was said of hats, their shape or how to pattern them.  I had to sort of form a head on the bear that would make the shape of the hat correct. Or rather shape the hat to make it look like there's a head that fits in beneath. 

Anxious to complete this set before the end of the month, I started revving up the "creativity".  I was going to sew gold beads, in threes, to the hat to create the emblems on it.  That was the plan anyway, until I pulled out some gold trimmings to find one for the cuff of his coat.  The pecan wool, while nice for the doublet, wasn't going to gild this royal costume.  It was in this bag that I found some gold metallic Cluny lace.  Within the design were little flowers.  If I cut them out and cut them in half, they just might work for the emblems.  And, they did.  That was one of those "lights going off" moments.  The feather's in his hat are wool as well.  A plume, a red one, and white pheasant shaped one. 

I'm excited about this project because I really want to explore costuming from the 16th century.  Renaissance costuming.  I won't have time to revisit it this year, but I've a start on design concepts.  Both Goldi and Baby Bear look happy.  Like two little Shakespearean actors ready to step onto the stage.  I hope you've enjoyed seeing them.

And, Olivia, I hope you're delighted with what I came up with for the doll.  Thank you! 

Happy Halloween, everyone!  Its my favorite!  Below are some of Gennady Spirin's illustrations from the book.  All were used and savored over while making this set.



  1. What fantastic costuming and bear you've created this month....sumptuous! I can't get over your work and how detailed, elaborate and glorious it is. Thank you so much!

  2. Thanks, Becky! I appreciate the feedback :))