Sunday, April 11, 2021

Grace and Dolly Dingle Over the Rainbow

Sunday mornings have always been a special and quiet time for me.  Whether I'm at the lake with my dog enjoying the fresh morning air, or spending the early hours of the day in pajamas sipping tea and padding around the house, they are times of dreams and plans.  As I sit here writing this journal entry, my mind goes back to my childhood, where every spring, a televised version of The Wizard of Oz would play.  Like clockwork, Easter would be on the horizon, and The Wizard of Oz would come to television, and it was a family affair.  We'd all gather round the television set, thoroughly enchanted by the story, the music and the technicolor, for which, in part, the movie was made famous.  It was expected that we would all sing along with the songs as we all knew the words and no one thought a thing about it.  Well, maybe my brother didn't, but this is a child's memory, and sometimes, as innocently interpreted, they are the best.  

I was just about bowled over with delight when April's Club Grace box arrived from Rachel Hoffman of Turn of the Century Antiques, and the theme was The Wizard of Oz.  If there's one thing Rachel does that endears me to her, she knows how to play and tug at the heartstrings of childhood.  And, Diana Vining follows up with her outstanding illustrations - the ones that have inspired me to continue to sew for Grace and now Dolly Dingle.  They are joyful!  Both women and their talents.  Joyful.  

The Club Grace box included a romper for Grace in large scale blue gingham, made by Ruby Red Galleria, which was a copy of Rachel's own outfit.  I learned that when she wore it on video, she also wore red "slippers" and fancied up a modern take on Dorothy.  The gift box came with a story card of Dolly being in the play, The Wizard of Oz, and how Grace encouraged her to perform.  Diana Vining gave us paper toys in the form of a Grace paper doll wearing the outfit, a paper puppet of Dolly in her Dorothy outfit, and cut-out and assemble basket with Toto (too).

Also inside, were stickers and cards, chocolates, a rainbow lollipop, and a large Oz cloth photo sheet for taking pictures of your dolls in.  It was folded and needs steaming so I haven't included a photo, but its gorgeous and so appreciated.  You could even hang it on the wall like a poster if you wished.

As I may have mentioned, my intent, currently, is to only sew for Dolly Dingle, outfits that correspond with the Club Grace ones for Grace.  I'd originally planned the Dorothy costume for her, but when Diana drew Dolly in a shorty romper for an updated logo (see bottom of page), I knew I had to make this one instead.  These outfits for Grace and Dolly are equally darling for spring picnics.  I bought Grace the blue gingham shoes to go with the outfit, but red heels, or ruby slippers, are coming when the stock arrives.  When they do, I'll use the back drop to photograph the girls and Remmie Lou with her gingham bows.  One nice thing about wire armature in needle felted dolls is that you can pose them.  So Remmie Lou is sitting in a typical doggy pose for these photos.
When The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was penned by Frank L. Baum in 1900 (yes, 121 years ago!), and was illustrated by W.W. Denslow, it was quite a different story.  For those of you who have never read the story, its almost comes as a shock to learn how very different it truly is from Hollywood's version.  I won't ruin it for you, but it was quite a bit darker with trials and traumas typical of fairy stories of the time.  Dorothy wore silver slippers and her head was covered by a pink poke bonnet.  Both Charles Santore (1997), and Maraja (sometime in the 1950's is my guess), illustrated wonderful interpretations of the original story.  I have both beautiful volumes, with an especially nice copy of Maraja's - one of my favorite illustrators of all time.  The reason ruby slippers were introduced to the story by Hollywood, was for the technicolor reasons.  They showed up better!  I love both versions, and one is not any richer than the other.

When I attended the 57th National UFDC Convention, Rosemarie Ionker created a playset with Riley as Dorothy from the original book. I may have been one of the few attending the luncheon to mention the pink bonnet to Rosemarie, and when I did, she reached into her pocket and pulled out one perfect little pink bonnet and gave it to me.  I can't tell you how much this meant to me.  I have treasured this set ever since.  (see below for a photo)

So, yes, The Wizard of Oz continues to, and remains, one of my favorite themes or stories since childhood.  Sometimes I have to pull my head out of historical accuracy and live outside the box to appreciate re-imagined things, but Rachel and Diana do a wonderful job of encouraging me along. 

Dolly's little outfit went together without a hitch.  I hardly even used patterns for this one.  My mind has been elsewhere, as I've been working on my art doll project, which I will not hurry along, but will take the time away from it for Club Grace.  She might be done by the end of the month.  And, I have a new Alice project to create after that. 
This little romper has a halter top, waistband, and shorty-shorts attached to the waistband.  I had the blue gingham left over from making Grace's "Mary Ann" outfit from last summer's Summer Fling.  I am so aching for Diana to make another paper doll set for Grace like that one was.  I have such fond memories of creating those outfits for Grace.  And, yes, there's the 12 Days, too.

Dolly also wears red sandals in the illustration and a hairband of red with a blue gingham bow on it.  The little sandals have tiny bows on the front.  These were fun to make, and went together as easily as the romper.  I think this happened, in part, because I wasn't over thinking the process.

For Grace, since her outfit was already made, I created a pair of emerald "city" earrings for her.  I had these jewels from when I was thinking of making Renaissance princess doll costuming.  Never happened, but then I only create what inspires me at the time.
From a saved off file of the Dolly Dingle paper toy, I made a very tiny one for Dolly that is only 2 12" tall.  I sewed the limbs to the paper dolly using tiny gold brass beads as mini-brads.  Then I hooked her tiny basket with Toto onto her hand.  She's not very poseable having been sewn, but the effect is perfect for miniature.

With my girls dressed and posed, I can now get back to my art doll project, but the best is that I can enjoy them on my shelf for April.  

Below is a version of Dorothy by Madame Alexander for a playset.  I can appreciate this so much more now that I've created Dolly Dingle's romper.  Also, I've added some magical moments from the Judy Garland movie, and as mentioned earlier, a copy of the VDC logo from which Dolly's outfit was made.

I just ordered a copy of the movie in Blu-Ray off Amazon.  My copy was a very old VHS, and I think my husband and I will enjoy watching it again.  I hope.  He may not.  He hates musicals, but who doesn't love The Wizard of Oz?

Time to enjoy your own emerald green lawns and springtime poppies!  My very best wishes to you always.



Friday, March 19, 2021

Dolly Dingle and Remmie Lou Shoot For the Stars

I'm getting excited.  I'm sure my "excited" doesn't look like a lot of people's "excited", but I can feel this energy deep inside that rumbles around like popcorn in an electric popper.  I live a very quite life, which works for me, since I used to work in the high tech industry and let me tell you, it was intense.  Technology was literally changing by the day, and all manner of getting that new product to the shelves took a level of energy and commitment that wore down every cell in your body.  That was a long time ago, but I recognize that feeling in times like this, and its unsettling.  I'm most content to be the horse grazing in the pasture.  Secure, and with an easy routine.  But, that's not how things work for me.  A little excitement doesn't hurt, but I have to reign it in. For me its a nervous energy.  Anticipation.  The unknown.  

First of all, I picked up a really good book that I'm trying to save just for that hour before sleep.  Or two hours if I can't put it down.  But, mostly, this excitement comes from getting ready to launch the new art doll project that I've been accumulating 

the pieces for, and I am ready!  I've been ready, but other small projects needed to get done first, and one of them, no, two of them, were dressing Dolly for the Shoot For the Stars Virtual Doll Convention, and the other was making a needle felted Remmie Lou to complete my Grace Marie Fitzpatrick family.  

And, who is Remmie Lou?  She's Rachel Hoffman's precious little English Bulldog that Diana Vining includes in her illustrations as a happy canine mascot for the VDC.  I adore English Bulldogs.  I always have.  But, a cuddle bun with short legs doesn't fit the hiking and cross-country skiing lifestyle my husband and I live.  So no bulldog.  At least not a real one, because now I have a tiny one needle felted just to display with the girls, and dress up as necessary.

I wouldn't say a lot has been going on since my last journaling, but enough to keep up with the holiday for St. Patrick's Day, and preparations for the upcoming VDC, March 26 - 28th.

There were still days to go before St. Patrick's Day, and my intention was to make a mini Remmie Lou and dress her in Diana's darling star collar for the event.  

Just around this time, the second Club Grace outfit arrived, and the entire box was themed for St. Patrick's Day.  These boxes resemble a millieu of float tossings from Mardi Gras.  All manner of fun and colorful confetti, chocolate gold coins, large plastic jewels, delightful stickers for our scrapbooks, lovely bits of ephemera, and of course, the new outfit.  The now logo'd boxes are a do-it-yourself birthday party.  And, I LOVE it.  More than just getting a new outfit made by Ruby Red Galleria for Grace, the Club Grace boxes are something to anticipate and look forward to.  I'm so grateful for them.

This box would come with a random selection of either a wig for Grace, or one of two styles of boots.  I did a big "whoop!" when I opened mine and it contained the brown and black boots I longed for.  Bit of Irish luck?  Just all fun stuff.  So when I set to needle felting Remmie Lou, I knew that I'd have to make her a shamrock headpiece.  

Diana had illustrated Grace in her Club Grace March dress, wearing a shamrock hairband, so I made one for her as well.  It was constructed of green glittery scrapbooking cardstock, with the edges and back colored in with a matching green alcohol marker.  I had a strand of black and white twisted cord that I'd saved from someone's pretty packaging of a purchase, and used that to wrap the hairband with.  Remmie Lou's collar was made similarly, but with silk satin green ribbon to tie around her neck.

One of the reasons making Remmie Lou was important, is that my upcoming art doll is going to have three little needle felts accompanying her.  Dogs aren't anymore difficult than other animals, but getting the coloring right took some work.  Thankfully, Rachel had sent us some photos of her dog earlier, and along with Diana's illustrations, I created a somewhat caricature of Rachel's dog.  

I've seen accurately made English Bulldogs on Pinterest, and used some of those images to get a balance, but I was more after the caricature than a lifelike miniature.  This wasn't easy.  I almost did her a second time halfway through, but doggedly (no pun intended) proceeded to needle poke the heck out of this one until I was satisfied.  The eyes on the St. Patrick's Day Remmie Lou were needled felted, which is how I've always done them, but I would purchase glass eyes for her a couple of days later and I like the results much better.  Eyes that sparkle.
When Diana first began to make posters for the upcoming Shoot For the Stars, she created one with both Grace and Dolly presenting the introduction of the new doll Robert Tonner would release for the VDC.  It was this outfit for Dolly that I first became enamored of, and since, Diana has drawn her in two other Shoot For the Stars outfits.  

I'd spent a lot time trying to find a fabric that had both stars and swirls on it, and found a similar match in what was referred to as "Autumn Snowflakes".  Sure, Diana's fabric pattern was all in blue (or silver?), but finding such a fabric was not to be done.  I agonized over this, being the Type A that I am, but went along with it regardless.

As simple as this little dress looks, it was anything but.  None of this comes naturally to me.  I work at it.  It may be in part that I don't wear or try on party or evening dresses and gowns, so I have little concept of how they're made.  You'd most likely see me show up in an embroidered bohemian affair, than form fits and sequins.
Since I had to make it twice, I know that my first attempt at the pattern was correct.  The second attempt had more gathers and the wrap bodice was out of cotton sateen in a light blue.  I was so disappointed in the outcome that I almost dropped the whole idea.  But, by that time, Remmie Lou had her star collar, so I persevered. 

I used the pattern with less gathers and this time tried using silk dupioni for the wrap bodice, which neatly holds nice little folds. In the real world, this dress would be made of star and swirl printed chiffon with silk cross-wrapping around the neck.  In doll reality, we're using cotton quilting fabric just for the print.  It may not have the flow of chiffon, but we do our best.

The back is open like a halter top, and the party dress closes with two hooks and thread loops at the waist, and one at the neck.  This doll is very tiny.  She doesn't look tiny, but there's only 2.5" of fabric length at the back.  
Next, I began to make her accessories, which are always everything to me.  I began with a star bracelet.  Diana may have intended this to be a chain with a star on it, but at closer inspection, it looked to me more like little diamonds or beads.  So I chose to thread crystal dress beading in gold prongs, and jump-ringed a CZ star to dangle.  This was done on fine jewelry elastic so you can pull it on and off her wrist easily.

The headband was made as I did those for Peggy Sue.  But, this time I embellished one using jewelry wires and gold star beads fastened to the wires with jewelry glue.  Nasty stuff.  Its one step down from Super Glue so must be handled carefully.  I don't use much of it, and was lucky to have a second tube on hand, since upon opening these tubes, if you don't use much, or often, the entire tube will dry up into an unusable gloppy gel.  
Lastly, I made her sparkly slippers.  Dolly has short, fat feet, so making highly decorative or interesting shoes takes a little imagination.  

While Diana's straps crossed over the instep, I made these more like ballet slippers with crossing elastic.  They're constructed of light blue .06 leather, and the bottoms, which I didn't photograph, have ballet slipper soles.  For the sparkle, I used glitter glue.  Painted thinly over the slippers, it dries in a lovely, smooth pattern.

Dolly is now ready to parade around on stage with Remmie Lou and introduce Tonner's newly sculpted Ellowyne Wilde for the Shoot For the Stars convention.  
As mentioned earlier, I made Remmie Lou's star collar at the same time as her shamrock collar for St. Patrick's Day.

I used yellow scrapbooking cardstock for the shape and cut out a very large hole in the center to tug her head through.  A paper star does not easily lend itself to a snap or hook opening and closure.  I tried.  In fact, the star shape, while pretty, is tricky to work with.  

I made little clips in the center hole for ease of dressing her, while ensuring a snug fit.  Paper stars with seed beads were created for the dangles. I used two stars for each dangle, gluing the thread between the two.  This is completely fiddly work and can take your mind off any troubles that may be swirling around inside.  Miniature anything takes great concentration and agility.
Now you may be wondering why I did not make a star gown for Grace.  Well, the answer is simple.  I didn't want to.  I really do love sewing for child dolls, and I'd just finished the St. Patrick's Day set for her.  For the foreseeable future, I'll just be making outfits for Dolly to coordinate with the Club Grace outfits.  I've a feeling Remmie Lou will get equally attired in matching collars, and that's the fun in all of this.  I will admit that the other eleven reimagined Twelve Days of Christmas paper doll outfits for Grace that Diana drew last year, have been tugging at me, but all in good time.

What I haven't talked about was the souvenir set for this convention that I made prior to Dolly's outfit, and Remmie Lou with her collars.  I made a gold Shoot For the Stars accessory set for Grace, and for Rachel to include somehow in her Virtual Doll Convention.  I spent the better part of the time between the last post and this one, making it.  It consists of a shiny gold pigskin star shaped purse lined in silk, a pair of gold heels with cz star centers, and a set of cz star jewelry.  Two mini pave cz star charms dangle from the purse.  Its a gorgeous set, and I do hope someone will enjoy owning it. 

Its time to clean up my studio and prepare for my new project.  There is no doubt in my mind that this one will take awhile to create, but it will be so worth it.  I hope each one of you is doing well, and enjoying the days as our seasons change.  


Gorgeous Diana Vining!

Join us and Shoot For the Stars March 26 - 28th!

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day with Grace and Dolly

Last night we watched the episode of The Crown where Charles meets Diana for the first time, and alongside it was the story of Irish oppression resulting in the building of the Irish Republican Army and the demise of Mountbatten.  Ireland is a brilliant gemstone.  It has a history both rich in sorrow as well as magic.  Along with the incredible folklore and mythology it boasts, it is a country full off strong and beautiful people who are warm and friendly.  

As an avid reader, some years ago I picked up a copy of Irish folklore and enjoyed reading the tales that involved much more than leprechauns, pots of gold at the end of rainbows, and fairies.  I've loved Irish music for many years, in the form of artists like Mary McLaughlin, Connie, Dover, and the phenomenal band Clannad.  We tend not to think much about Ireland until March rolls around with St. Patrick's Day popping up around mid month.  I haven't spot of Irish blood in me, but I love this grand island and its  treasures.

St. Patrick's Day commemorates St. Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland.  It celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general.  Celebrations involve public parades and festivals, the wearing of green attire, shamrocks.  During this time more effort is made to use the Irish language, especially in Ireland, where the week of St. Patrick's Day is Irish Language Week.  Gaelic is a derogatory term, although many people still do not know this.  Irish is the language and the customs.

I happen to be a great fan of Jean Grainger's The Tour series.  In this series, Connor O'Shea is introduced to us as tour bus guide and ends up half owning, and managing Castle Dysert, Ireland's finest resort and hotel - through a stroke of Irish luck.  Jean, herself, was born in Cork, Ireland.  She has been a tour guide of her beloved home country, a teacher, a university lecturer and a playwright.  She began writing fiction at the suggestion of her clients on tours, many of whom were sure all the stories she told them would make for a great book.  And so this month I picked up Book 5 in The Tour series so I could spend some time in Ireland again.  

In her fictional writing, she also teaches us things about her country, such as the provenance of sir names.  For instance, the O in a name like O'Shea means "of", so you'd be of the O'Shea family.  Mc or Mac preceding the name means  "son of".  For names like Sullivan, which would have dropped the O', these are referred to as soup names, meaning they took the soup.  During the famine of the mid-1800's, soup kitchens were set up by the British, and in order to feed yourself, you had to drop the O from your name, making you less Irish.

I love history, and I love learning.  But, I also love celebrating, even in small ways, the countries and cultures that make this world a wonderful place to live.  And, that includes dressing my dolls in shamrock costumes to liven up my doll room.

Last year Diana Vining painted this lively image of Grace and Dolly dressed for celebrating St. Patrick's Day, and naturally, I set my sights on creating it for my dolls.  Would I have dressed Grace without a Dolly Dingle?  Certainly.  But, with the advent of my new Dolly Dingle, sewing this set for the two of them made it all the more fun.

This was one of those costumes you'd look at and think, "Oh, no sweat.  I can do that!".  hmph  It wasn't as easy as I'd hoped.  For one thing, finding a proper green plaid for the skirts was difficult, and I ended up making them out of a woven cotton.  Should I have been able to find a matching wool, the skirts would have been too thick for the small dolls.  The other question when considering fabric, was for their tops/sweaters/blouses, whatever you'd like to call them.

A dove gray jersey may have made a suitable choice, but I had stuck in my mind, "Irish wool", and did have a very fine gray wool in my stash.  

Grace's top was interesting, at best, to design.  I am not a professional pattern maker.  No matter how the outcome may appear, I've paid dearly for it.  My approach is seldom make a pattern, sew it up.  Its more a matter of tailoring and trimming and fitting as I go along.  And, I never do something more than once, so I'm always learning and struggling along.  With this top, the neckline puzzled me, and I considered a zipper up the front, yet I didn't see a zipper pull, so I didn't create it that way.

Pleating this plaid to try and get the most green from it was daunting, too.  It may come as a surprise, but sewing is not fun for me.  Its work.  Its a challenge.  I simply like what I can do with a sewing machine.  Its the results I'm after, and trust me, if I could buy what I'm sewing, I wouldn't hesitate.  I only make things I can't purchase ready made.  

Grace's little hat was the no-brainer.  Were I a knitter, I would have made it thusly, but I do needle felt and it comes in wonderfully handy.  So Grace's little headpiece was needle felted.  It has little silk ribbons topping it and a sparkly shamrock in the center.  

With Dolly's bow, I made this out of green Shantung silk and added another sparkly shamrock.  The shamrocks were earrings, too.  I simply clipped the posts short, then fastened the backs after sticking them through.  Each girl has a black leather belt with a proper gold buckle.

I was lucky to find a piece of 1/8" vintage green rick rack for Dolly's white cotton collar that matched, perfectly, the green in the skirt fabric.

The jewelry was fun to procure.  Love Etsy.  You can find anything there.  Grace's earrings are "human" earrings, and  the shamrock pins, brooches, each of them wear, are flat backed charms I glued tiny magnets to.  Another tiny magnet beneath the blouse holds it in place.  I learned this trick from Integrity.  They make brooches for Poppy Parker this way.

Grace's shoes were something I had to somewhat create.  Facets was out of black pumps for the RTB101 bodies, so I purchased a pair of brown and painted them with fine Arteza and ArtShip Design acrylic markers.  If you're going to paint ready made shoes, use the finest acrylics you can, otherwise you'll have cracks and possible dullness to the shoes.  Less is better.  Topping with Modpodge is a mistake.  A couple of thin layers of quality acrylic paint is enough.  

I added little cotton grosgrain black bows to the heels of the shoes to complete the look.

The fun for me in any project is the chance of discovery.  Learning something new, and discovering news ways of doing things.  Mini a-ha moments.  

However you plan to celebrate the coming of spring, the culture, folklore and beauty of Ireland, don't forget that your dolls enjoy this, too.  Adding a few mini St. Patrick's Day postcards to your display, a ceramic leprechaun (I do have one somewhere!), and sprays of sparkly green shamrocks can lift your spirits as well as your dolls'.  For me, I'm doing it this year with Jean Grainger's book, and seeing two of my favorite girls dressed up in Diana's precious designs.

I hope you'll enjoy the photos below, of Ireland and a special postcard I found last night.  The two illustrations came from a children's book on Irish folklore and mythology.  And, as its always fun to make new friends along the tour, my American Girl, Blaire, is hiking the green hills and taking in the sights of Ireland enjoying her shamrock shaped shortbread cookies.

Love, Melissa