Doll Photo Shoot

Many of my photos in previous posts were not the best. I always had the idea to make a “photo studio” similar to the set up of photograph studios in the 19th century. Using the portrait mode on my iPhone, I was able to make some nice images of these little ladies to show them off. I used a vintage tablecloth and a couple linen napkins for the drapery, a foam core presentation board for the backing; I found the topiary at Homegoods, the eucalyptus at Target and the chair at Michaels. All affordable items I have collected over time. In my mind, I pictured a few more things – like a table and a tiny photo album – but for now, I’m quite pleased with the results. I went back and re-photographed some of my dolls and took photos of some new garments for others. I hope you enjoy! Below you will find links to all of the dolls and their individual posts.

Hannah

Emma

Emalie

Mernie

Inez

Lydia

Paula

Nell

Florence

Meg

Welcome, Inez

It’s as though by saying I wasn’t sure in my last post, I issued myself a challenge. As soon as I clicked the save button, I started thinking about how I would like Inez to look & what fabrics I would use.

Challenge accepted, I guess. 😀

I’m using the Cloth Lady pattern from Elizabeth Stewart Clark. I can’t say enough about the quality of her patterns. The quality of instruction and the breadth of options truly makes each person’s creation a one-of-a-kind customized for them.

An excellent pattern!

While the instructions advise to paint the face and hair, inspired by Dottie, I decided to embroider her face and hair. The more I embroider, the better I get – even though my skill is still limited to chain stitching and simple things. I also recently purchased a McCall’s pattern for a cloth doll inspired by patterns in vintage ladies magazines, and they advise making the back of the hair in long straight stitches. I decided to put in a bun – since that’s a very common hair treatments for ladies – and also the long straight stitches. It was a ton of work but it looks lovely. I also could have made a bun from floss wrapped into a coil and tacked onto her head but I didn’t think about that until she was completed.

Embroider first, then assemble

Putting her together is fairly quick once the face and hair is completed. I used natural cotton that came by the pound this time instead of the roughed up cotton balls and it’s much nicer to work with. To reach the top of her head I used a long chopstick. I stitched in her fingers, elbows and knees as well.

Once she was completed, Inez needed clothing! First came undergarments of course. I just love the chemise pattern in this book. It’s made on a double fold, so there’s no shoulder seam and is incredibly easy to complete. I pleated the centers on this one but you also have the option to gather the centers. I had two bits of trim that were exactly the right length for the sleeves. Perfect!

I have seen some fancy corsets with flossing on the front which is why I put these two red V-shapes on the front of the stays. I’m not sure if they serve any practical function IRL but here they designate which edge is the lower one.

Fully dressed

And then I made this adorable wrapper. I have a wrapper made from this same fabric and yes, I do plan to take a picture with her when we are dressed the same. I forgot to take a picture of her petticoat – it’s crisp white cotton with two pleats and I starched it for fullness.

The pattern book includes multiple bodice and sleeve options, undergarments, outer wear, and more. I also made a low bodice dress in a sheer fabric with a chemisette, but I will show you that in the next post. I need to keep making things to fill up her trunk before the event in September! Come back again soon to see what I’ve completed next.

Meg March

I admit it has been decades since I last watched a Little Women film so I had to refer to the crib notes for a bit of background on Meg. She is the oldest of the 4 sisters and what I read described her as fun loving with a penchant for luxury.

I purchased this Yield House Meg doll completed with the intention of remaking her clothing. As a young woman she would have wanted to wear the latest fashions and not the frumpy frock she arrived in. Since I have been wanting to explore this category for a while it seemed the perfect opportunity.

Red and black with obvious box pleats

Looking at Victorian fashion plates and photos from the mid 1860s I was consistently drawn to the Garibaldi shirtwaist and skirt combination. This was a high fashion look and was sometimes paired with a bolero jacket. On a small scale I decided just the shirtwaist and blouse would be sufficient.

Inspiration drawing

In a previous post I detailed how I made Meg a cage crinoline. She arrived with a decent set of drawers and one petticoat I reused. Additionally I made her a chemise and petticoat of fine lawn.

New chemise & petticoat
Cage crinoline and underpetticoat

I found a lovely red silk charmuse at a local yardage store and originally thought to make her skirt in black velvet. It might have been made that way originally but I realized working the waist would be complicated and it would likely turn out bulky. Taking to eBay I found a remnant on Japanese kimono silk.

I’m getting better at drafting patterns for dolls but I feel I could have done better on this shirtwaist. It’s not my best output. I like the skirt – it’s made with double box pleats and I loved the hand of the silk. So nice to work with! But honestly I like her undergarments better.

C’est la vie I suppose!

Pretty Paula

Today’s doll is one I don’t have to redress. She is quite beautiful and I don’t plan to change a thing about her.

Paula in soft dimity

The dress she wears was described as dimity. I had to look up what that is, because while I have heard of it I don’t think I have ever seen it. According to JoAnnMorgan.com, dimity’s trademark feature is a line in the weave, and a windowpane dimity looks like it has boxes. This pretty dress appears to be of windowpane dimity as you can see the boxes in the weave.

Sheer windowpane and ruffles

The dress is just exquisite. It is sheer and airy, so incredibly fine. The pattern likely is from the 20th century. When Paula emerged from her shipping box, I was thrilled to discover she has a hoop skirt. It’s is a single bone bridal-style hoop, but nonetheless it helps with the shape of her dress. The hoop was completely crunched up, but with some gentle adjustment it went back to a round shape. Her drawers feature some of the tiniest tucks I have ever seen.

Paula’s dress has a bit of a train, or is in an elliptical shape. This shape came into fashion in the second half of the 1860’s, moving more fabric to the back of the skirt. You can also see in this photo the 3/4 sleeves with the repeated three rows of lace trim. The ribbon trim is an 1/8” velvet. It may have originally been a brighter teal color.

Paula in profile

The bodice of the dress features a starched wrap, probably made of batiste. I hesitate to remove the wrap to see the bodice underneath. I am not certain if this wrap piece is considered a bertha or not. A bertha was often part of a ball gown. Take a look at the tiny buttons. They are a teal color. Maybe the are really beads, I’m unsure.

One of the unique features of Paula’s styling is her hair. I don’t know if you will be able to see in these small photos, but she has a braid that goes all round her head and then a cluster of curls on the crown of her head. This is hair styled for a ball.

Another thing that attracted me was the inclusion of a letter from a previous owner of this doll. It was written in 1972 by an unnamed person, and explains the doll was a kit designed by Julia Hoople, and Paula was created by Merry Lane in Florence, Oregon. I think Merry Lane might be a person, but it could also have been a doll boutique. She originally had a yellow bead necklace and a white picture hat decorated with flowers. Those items have been lost to time.

Paula has joined the rest of the gang in my cabinet and I am pleased to include her in my collection. I hope you have enjoyed hearing all about her. See you again soon!

Melody’s Pictures

Hello world!  I have added a new sidebar item that you may enjoy. Look over there, on the right. It’s a little gallery for Melody to post photos. This started as a Girl Scout project to fulfill the Digital Photographer badge, and hopefully she will keep it going.

Melody is also an editor, so if you see any posts that sound like they were written by an eleven-year-old, that’s why. :-)

Is it a burrito? Is it nachos?

It’s a BURRACHO

My husband made up this tasty fusion in a fit of desperation when I was away from home and I have to say, it’s delicious!
The burracho combines all the great parts of burritos and nachos into one tidy package. It has taco meat, cheese, tortilla chips and anything else you might enjoy. We added chopped green onion, but diced tomato would add a lot of great flavor as well. The crushed chips need to be small enough they won’t poke your mouth but big enough to add their flavor to the mix. No bigger than a quarter is good. 
To make your own burrachos here’s a handy how-to:

1 lb ground beef or turkey

Large flour tortillas

Shredded cheese

Crushed tortilla chips

Chopped onion

Chopped tomato

Salsa

Preheat oven to 450. Cook ground beef with taco seasonings (or just use 1/4 tsp each cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder and onion powder). Drain meat. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. 

In the center of a tortilla, layer a spoonful of ground beef, shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips, onion & tomato (or a scoop of salsa). Fold in the left and right sides, then the top and bottom sides. Don’t pull too tight or the tortilla can rip. Place seam down on the baking sheet. Repeat until you have as many as you want to make. We did 5 and had at least 1/2 the meat left. 

Place in the oven for about 12 minutes. The shell should be firm but not hard. 

Pro tip: You can do interesting things, like brushing with melted butter, a dollop of red sauce or cheese. Make it your yum. 
Serve with whatever salsa or hot sauce you like. 

Dancing Queen

2016 Recital 4

Thank you once again to Impact Dance Center in Los Alamitos for an amazing recital! Melody performed in three dances – I’ve Got the Sun in the Morning, Pink Cadillac, and Space Cowboy.  Her love of tap dancing hasn’t ebbed at all, and we look forward to more tap and jazz lessons in the 2016-2017 season.

2016 Recital 6 W 2016 Recital 1 2016 Recital 5

Fairies

Melody continues to be fascinated by fairies and fairy gardens. Our outdoor garden is going to be demolished this spring due to some construction we are planning (both yay and boo), so this past weekend she picked up all her various fairies, houses, bunnies, benches, etc. But not to fear! We stopped by M&M Nursery in Orange for some nice indoor plants and moved the fairies inside!

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Fairy magic

You can see in this overview shot that Melody selected a palm, an African violet, some pink leafy things and a small evergreen (?) thing. I am not exactly the right person for naming plants, haha, but I can assure you that these were all recommended as able to thrive indoors. There’s a lot of detail in this garden, so let’s zoom in.

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Details, details

From the right side you can see the pink leafy things a bit better, the kitty keeping watch by the front door of the house, and the mailbox just waiting for a note. The pink fairy is holding a picnic basket. Is she heading out to meet a friend? There is a beehive on the far side so the violets will be well pollinated, and beyond that a small fairy boy swings over the side of the planter. The pebble path has captured some of the sparkly jewels that fall from the fairies when they fly past.

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A hidden garden in the miniature garden

True to their natures, these bunnies got into the vegetable patch, but Mr Dog spied them and they are scurrying away!

The captivating thing about fairy gardens is that the imagination can do so much with these tiny figures. As she created this vignette, I was thinking back to a mermaid garden I imagined and I wonder if I will be able to create that at some point. Melody has two books on fairy gardening, but there are many on the market with hundreds of clever bits and bobs to display along side your plants. If you ever find yourself in Orange, stop by M&M Nursery on Tustin Ave. They have many beautiful fairy gardens that are thriving, magical and oh, so creative! If you don’t live locally, you can shop their online store too.

Gift Review: The USA Time Line 4D Puzzle

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A gift under the tree this year, this is a review of the USA History Over Time 4D Cityscape Puzzle model 40008, available from multiple retailers, including the National Geographic online store and 4DCityscape.com. The puzzle is intriguing, offering to teach first the order of westward expansion, then the order of statehood, and finally the great national landmarks in their order of creation or inception. The puzzle was a gift to Melody, but with 806 pieces in the base layer, she became frustrated and I did most of that part. The instructions say to organize the pieces by color and then put them together in the various territorial expansion. However, with Mexico and Canada being the same dang color, that was tricky, and as we all know, puzzles don’t always lend themselves to good organization! The edge pieces along Canada and the Pacific and Atlantic were often difficult to determine if they really matched and we took those sections apart numerous times during the assembly. We ended up working West to East on the puzzle because that’s just how the pieces presented themselves. Ocean was difficult, but we muddled through. The base puzzle has several different sizes and shapes of pieces, from large cross-shaped pieces to your standard small connectors.

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Once completed however, the base layer is beautiful and interesting. I didn’t remember the Gadsden Purchase and had not known the bit of land above the Louisiana Purchase had been ceded by Great Britain. Had this been the complete puzzle, I would have been satisfied. It took three or four days of an hour here and an hour there to complete. But, once the base layer is complete, there is a second layer of foam pieces in the shapes of the states. Users are directed to assemble these in the order of statehood, but that really didn’t work for us. We just put them together. :-) Melody was very involved at this point and was insistent on doing the assembly. The foam pieces for the most part are very sturdy except for very small states, such as Maryland with its skinny portion around the Bay and Alaska’s finger. These pieces easily became bent. There are four call-out sections for Delaware, Rhode Island, South Manhattan and Washington DC. The foam pieces were slightly warped in some cases, the larger the piece the more warped it was. I’m looking at you, Texas.

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The next series of pieces were the plastic landmarks to be inserted into the foam pieces. I have two gripes about this sequence.

First, the pieces are formed on the sort of plastic rails you find in model kits, which is fine. They are numbered according to the landmark poster included with the puzzle. Still fine. However, the font is so tiny as to be nearly indecipherable, and in some cases was not etched on the outside edge but inside the piece. This led to us needing a flashlight to first see inside the tiny figures and then hunt for the numbers. They are also not in any sort of organized collection, and I couldn’t really figure out why some were silver, some matte brown and some a bronze color. Weird. The Statue of Liberty is the only item that shipped separately and green. It goes without saying that one of our most recognizable landmarks needs no special instructions.

My second gripe about this section is that the poster offers no help in finding the location of the various landmarks on the puzzle. Yes, they are numbered on the poster and on the piece, but there is no number on the puzzle. The foam pieces have “placeholder” blocks in a beige color that are to be popped out and the plastic item inserted in place. The placeholders sometimes have an obvious shape (L-shaped buildings and round auditoriums, for example), but they are not numbered or named. Let me tell you, one lighthouse looks a lot like another when all you see are round dots in a sea of foam puzzle pieces lol. We ended up having to google many of the landmarks just to find out what state to search. With 93 landmarks, this part of the puzzle was both very interesting and very tedious. First searching multiple plastic rails numerous times since the pieces are not organized by number, then looking them up on google, then having to actually take the puzzle apart, remove the placeholder block, insert the item, then put the puzzle back together was a process. We ended up pulling out the landmarks for 10 items in a row, then placing them before starting over with the next 10. We placed the landmark on its corresponding picture on the poster.

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You can see that the names of some of these locations are sometimes rather mundane. I can’t tell you how many Old Grist Mills there are on google. The more we handled the foam pieces, the less tidy they were going together again. Some of the small tabs became mashed and wouldn’t lock into place after a while. One item just did not fit into the allowed space and we ended up accidentally tearing the surface paper forcing it through the hole. One casualty of the process of breaking out the landmark pieces was the Las Vegas sign. It broke in half unfortunately.

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The puzzle instructions also indicated that once the foam layer was made, it should be tacked in place using two sided tape. However, I do not recommend this at that stage. It was far easier to push the landmark pieces up from the back side of the foam pieces than mash them down through the top side. Plus, removing the placeholder blocks was at times a struggle because even though they were laser cut, they still had to be dug out of the larger piece, and some of those spots were quite small. The most effective way to remove the placeholder block and insert the landmark was by holding the individual state in our hands. This necessitated the constant disassembly of the foam layer of the puzzle. The kit did include some double sided tape, but it was so dried out it just flaked off its sticker sheets. Oops.

Even with all these sorts of nit picky complaints, we enjoyed this puzzle quite a lot. There are other 4D puzzles available for major cities worldwide, such as London, Paris and Tokyo. I think if we were to take on one of those other puzzles we would apply our learnings from this kit and probably be more satisfied. So, if you attempt one of these 4D Cityscape puzzles, I recommend the following order of assembly:

  1. Assemble the base layer by color but do the edges last.
  2. Organize the foam layer by regions but only assemble the pieces in general sections.
  3. Break out the landmark pieces and organize them numerically.
  4. Insert all the landmark pieces and then assemble the foam pieces into the top layer.
  5. Stick the foam layer onto the base layer if desired.

Christmas Memories

Some years ago, my sister gave me a box of photos from our childhood. As the keeper of the photos, she had access to them and I didn’t have many in my possession, so this was a very sentimental gift. They are mostly from Christmas, and so what a great time to share these memories with you. Our “new” house was built in 1972. We moved in just a month before my 4th birthday, so I was always able to quickly figure how long we’d lived there by subtracting 4 from my age.

Every year on Christmas Eve, my mother would read to us from an original copy of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I have it now and although it has seen its years, it is still in great condition. The story goes that Grammie Hennie went over to Montgomery Ward (a long defunct department store) and picked up a handful of copies. They gave them away for free as a promotional item. I assume she gave one each to her kids, but I have no idea if any remain…Steve? Carey? Anyway, as the book became more fragile, we were more careful with it, one year Kathy even carried it on a really fancy pink tufted pillow that she had. :-) Today we use a reprint.

Somewhere, packed among my photo things, I have all the Christmas cards that my parents sent out every year from the time Kathy was 1 or 2 until she was 21. They are a fantastic study of clothing through the seventies and eighties! I’ll try to find those and share them as well. Until then, Merry Christmas, happy holidays, joy to all.

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