Slow and Stop

My mother always said I have two speeds: slow and stop.

It’s true, and this project proves it. My darling girl, Patience, has certainly lived up to her name. While the doll was a small challenge, the dress became a beast.

Look at this thing.

Oh, sure, looks fine at a glance, but check it out. Remember those armpits? The sleeves on this dress are so jacked up in the armpits, there’s no straightening them out.

The original sleeves from the pattern gave me fits.

So I swapped the fabric for the cuff, which gave me this:

But the oh-so-puffy sleeves were not only high-maintenance, but just plain awful, to boot. I designed my own, the long, straight ones. They were much better, but the armpits . . . heaven help us, the armpits. The sleeve thing was addressed, but I still hated the dress. Mais pourquoi? The neckline was a stinker, as well. Then came the skirt. It was too full and too stiff; I hated it, too. Was there anything I liked, at all, about this girl’s attire? Yes, her undies.

They looked great, and they were fast and easy to make.

See this? Why does it bother me so? The skirt is too full for the petticoat. They should flow together as one. Detestable.

I set about ripping off the skirt to make it less skirtie, but the whole thing was so frustrating. Stiff, incorrigible, unfriendly dress, I flung it away from me.

Why did I dislike this dress so much, aside from the wadded armpits, awful neckline, and ridiculously over-pleated skirt? I didn’t like the way it felt. It was the fabric, THE FABRIC. The nature of the rag doll is its yielded suppleness. Every part is designed for pleasant handling. A rag doll conforms completely to the child’s play. It’s soft for cuddling, fun for tossing, easily manipulated in the hands and with other toys. While the fabric was pretty, it wasn’t pliable or soft which goes against the most basic principle of the rag doll, itself.

I went back to my fabric horde and chose something far more suitable, a nice, soft, unpretentious gingham. Ahhhh… the pleeeezhurrrr . . .

In our continuing work on Patience, I would like to offer this small addendum. Sometimes, pride can threaten our Patience. I was going to win, darn it (get it, darn, sew, get it?). Woman against doll dress, I would arise the victor. This girl does not give up!

Sometimes you have to know when to cut bait. Okay, maybe a whole weekend was going in the scrap pile with the rejected garment, but the process was becoming way more complicated to fix than it would be to just start over. Remember the undies? They rolled out, no problem, because the fabric was right and I was letting it guide me. That lace on the petticoat? It was already sewn onto the old, cotton curtains. I kept much of it intact, just building around it. The piece practically made itself. I ran the back-tie ribbon through the already-sewn hem.

I’m not advocating being a quitter. I’m encouraging the prospect of letting Patience teach us that it’s okay to admit mistakes and search out a new plan.

Confession:

I have a new project, a paid commission, and I’m absolutely on fire to get it going. Why? Because I feel obligated to do so. Bringing pieces of things together, whether for yourself or somebody else, should be a happy thing, not a pressure thing. I admit, I’m a little slow in my process at times, but creating is a joy, not a burden. So what if I don’t start the new thing today, this instant?!  I still have a few things to learn from Patience.

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What’s In Your Drawers???

I am LOSING MY MIND with urination-level joy at this amazing treasure trove of antique linens!!!

A dear friend (and another Mrs. Murphy) clued me to the mother load of vintage fabrics. This is exactly the kind of thing this girl is all about. Let’s face it. Modern retail fabrics are just not what they used to be. Still, most people simply don’t have time or space for the excessive dining decor of days gone by, and for good reason. Fine linens take an enormous amount of preparation and care. But there is nothing, NOTHING, like the feel and drape of a quality weave.

And the hand-work . . .oh, the intricate hand-work . . .

I can’t believe some of it, absolutely beautiful.

These are the lovely, lovely things that can’t be bought at the store, y’all. Sure, not everybody wants or appreciates these things, but what if we could turn some of this into useful and practical (possibly frivolous) things that can add charm and character to an otherwise consumer-goods lifestyle?

Obviously, some of these gorgeous linens will be spared from the knife, but much of it can be converted into, gee, I don’t know. But we don’t have to have a plan. Plans are all good and well for some things–birthday parties for five-year-olds, shortcuts through the high Sierras, civil engineering–but hordes of century-old fabric? No way.

I’ll be spending the next few weeks sorting, touching, carefully washing, and rolling around in the soft, cool loveliness of linen.

Gracie likes linen.

Finding is so much more fun than buying. It’s like an Easter egg hunt, but in somebody’s drawers!

Update

Okay, kids, I’m going to commit to Mondays and Thursdays for posts (tentatively, unless something wicked awesome comes up), but this morning I’m going on an unexpected treasure hunt. The post will happen–hopefully–later today, so stay tuned.

Also, this is not a doll enthusiast site. That’s just what’s happening, right now, and we like to go with the creative flow. This is more of a what-can-we-piece-together kind of a site, with a few homespun, humorous insights along the way, sort of a “positive thoughts to ponder” kind of thing with nice visuals.

So , , , you do what you do, and I’ll do what I do, and, God willing, I’ll have a cool show-and-tell session for this afternoon.

 

What Is Real?

Oh, we’re rolling, now.

I worked on Patience all weekend, and here’s my reward:

This isn’t her dress, of course. It’s a piece of fabric I wrapped around her because nobody(?) wants to be naked on the Internet. She has a face, now, so I couldn’t look her in the eyes and do that to her. I know. I’m a freak.

It’s often the case that a project will turn out better than expected, but don’t fool yourself. This girl’s good looks came at a price. Time. Remember how I said I cut off her arms? That little move, that micro-crime that took mere nano-seconds to commit, exacted a terrible, slow, reconciliation.

Yeah. It was a thing.

One doesn’t just snip in the middle of a pattern without knowing that the Seam Allowance gods will exact their revenge. With a copious amount of finagling, measuring, tacking, and a little blood, her arms were added, and she looks pretty good, in spite of it all. But we are exploring Patience, are we not?

You guys should be noticing a theme, here. I’m not trying to start a line of dolls. We’re digging around for something a little deeper than that. When we talk about piecing things together, odds and ends, buttons and string, scraps and bits that others overlook or discard, we’re talking about finding beauty in the ruins. Instead of envying what others have or bemoaning what others have not, we can look around at what’s here. We can work with what we have in our hands, in our homes, and in our hearts.

My very first rag doll, the one that started my love of rag dolls, my ‘Velveteen Rabbit,’ was Raggedy Ann.

I played with her until her clothes, more or less, disintegrated, so I made her a new dress when I was eleven or twelve years old. Not too shabby. Her face is stained with tears and drool from a thousand and one childhood nights. I’ll probably be sewing her foot back on in the next week or so. She’s a trooper.

What I love about Raggedy, is that she loves me back.

As far as I know, every Raggedy Ann doll has a heart full of love. I wanted to give my doll a heart, too, with her virtue written (sewn) on it, because true virtue dwells in the heart. But her chest is so small, I didn’t think I could do it, but Patience paid off.

It took some doing, but the effort was worth the result. Like all virtue, Patience resides in the deepest part of the person who practices it. We are not born with Patience. We must seek it, cherish it, guard it, cultivate it, until it becomes a part of who we are. While those around us take refuge in our diligence, the one who holds virtue privately, like a secret treasure, enjoys a wondrous peace of heart and mind.

Did you watch that YouTube video I inserted into my last post? That woman’s skill with needle, thread, and fabric was a little intimidating to me, I’ll admit. When I’m afraid I’m going to screw something up, I put it off. Making a doll’s face is quite stressful to me, because I think, “Wow. This is the face she’s going to be stuck with, and it’s all my fault.” She’s a doll. It’s okay. The little faults and flaws make this work unique. If I wanted something generically perfect, I’d go to Walmart and buy a Barbie that was stamped out in a factory with a painted face that looks like a thousand other painted faces. Where’s the fun in that?

Don’t strive to be perfect. Be you. Be real.

 

 

 

 

Working Patience

Some have described me as patient, especially during the child-rearing years. Admittedly, most of my pursuits require a level of patience. One sees so little of this virtue demonstrated among the populace these days.

Remember me and knitting? Yeah.

Sewing also demands patience. When a sewing project is given its due in patience, the payoff is yummy. A basic skill set in sewing is one of the most useful tools to have in life. Someone who could sew, really sew, was a worthy person to have in a community in the not-too-distant past. We’re so quick to buy something, even quicker to throw something away, when a needle and thread can produce something truly beautiful, useful, and unique.

As a child, my favorite toys were hand-made.

My great-aunt’s mother-in-law made this doll for my fifth birthday. I still remember opening the package that had arrived in the mail from somewhere in Arkansas. My mother said, “Let’s name her Pearl, after Aunt Pearl.” Sounded good to me. I don’t know why we didn’t name her after Pearl’s mother-in-law. Maybe we didn’t know her name. Of course, really old people didn’t have first names, back then.

Point: Hand-made toys are the best!

I love making toys. Okay, they’re not useful to some people, but ask any five-year-old on your street or in your building and that kid will look at you like you’ve lost your natural mind. Of course toys are useful! Who ARE you?

So, here’s my latest project:

This is a pattern for an Edith Flack Ackley doll. She published a popular book in the nineteen-thirties (the woman, not the doll), Making Dolls for Fun and Profit. Google her name and you will find all kinds of variations of this pattern and versions of this doll. I bought a pattern on Etsy for a bee-yoo-tiful little doll (not one of these; this gal designs her own). The intricate little thing is still in the works, but if you really want to see an artist craft a high-end rag doll, check this out on YouTube.

The Ole’ Cutting Board

You probably already know these things. Just let me sound smart. She’s just front and back which makes her fairly easy. Well, somewhat. When making small things like dolls and their clothes, this is the best advice ever: sew first, cut out second. Again, you guys probably know this stuff, but that was a bit of life-changing info for this girl. I traced the pattern, pinned, and then hand-basted in red thread. I’ve gotten so blind, this really helps when sewing machine time comes around, and I always stick myself with the pins. Always. I’m not kidding. There’s blood. Hate the pins.

 

 

After sewing and turning right side out, my girl had super-puckered pits, so I cut her arms off.

Image result for psycho shower scene images

 

 

 

 

 

No, it wasn’t like that; I promise.

 

So Far . . .

 

Talk about patience. Sure, this doesn’t look like that big of a deal, but I took my time. Some of the seams had to be taken out and re-sewn. I squished and shifted and innovated. I had some not-so-good ideas, but I also had some great ideas, too. See the bag-o-lentils in the background? I put those in her feet, her hands, and her butt, so she’ll handle and sit well. It’s not just how a doll looks, but how it feels in your hands. Dolls should be played with, not displayed. A child’s love and imagination bring them to life, like magic.

The best part of this endeavor is the fact that she’s made out of things in my house. Yes. I don’t even know what this material was in its first life. I would say, maybe, a sheet? It’s more likely from old curtains. The fabric feels vintage–super soft, but sturdy. Get down on this: the pattern says to put a small wooden dowel from the torso, through the neck and into the head to reinforce her neck. Ready? I used a drinking straw. What?! Yeah. I stuffed it with some of the poly-fill to make it sturdy with fluff sticking out both ends so there’s nothing pointy, and, get this–I ran my needle through it, from one side of the body to the other to make sure it stays in place. Oh, yeah.

Use what ya’ got. That’s the real spirit of the homemade toy. Sure, sometimes, sometimes, you’re gonna have to concede a trip to Hobby Lobby, but if you think about it, and stop trying to be Ms. Perfect *talking to myself* you can almost always figure something out. Now, you not only have a great toy, dinner, gift, whatever, but you also have a cool story to go with it, not to mention a new skill in your arsenal (and substantial bragging rights).

I’ll be working on “Patience” this weekend, and hopefully I’ll have an update for you sooner rather than later.

To Knit or Knot

Knitting is cool, but knitting drives me knuts.

So unforgiving, so perfection-oriented, all my mistakes on display for the world to see, that’s why I have picked up and abandoned this endeavor, this dream, many times over the past several years. I love and hate knitting as I love and hate myself.

This time, this time, I have MADE myself knuckle down, suck it up, and struggle through the learning. Once again, YouTube has saved the day. My first simple excursion was hideous beyond belief.

Image result for frankenstein

But I got better:

 

I made all of these from yarn I have accumulated over the years: cast-offs, leftovers, donations. Other people give up. I merely get frustrated, regroup, eat some things, and come back for more self punishment. I hung in there and forced my hands to learn. And that’s really the bottom line. Your hands have to learn; it’s a muscle thing. When your body figures it out, you don’t have to think about what you’re doing, anymore You go ‘auto-pilot, like driving or the United States Government. And, like our elitist leaders, once you get into it, that’s when the crazy sets in . . .

I took a little trip, took a little trip, took a little trip to the basement.

Deeper . . .

Deeper . . .

Oh, yeah, now we’re getting somewhere . . .

Pay dirt!!!

Image result for mosquito in amber

Noooo!!!! Not that kind of find. I’m talking about real danger.

Yes . . . YESSSS . . . It’s alive . . IT’S ALIVE!!! My beautiful horde, how I love it. That’s where I found the fuzzy yarn balls that are older than my grown children.

My precious sister-in-law, who passed away ELEVEN YEARS AGO (I know, it’s awful), gave me a bunch of her weird stash, and these bits survived several of my own media purges. You see, after I mastered(?) the stockinette stitch, I decided it was high time to move on to something more challenging. Sadly, my awesome books (another horde, entirely) provided me with things I thought, perhaps, beyond my blossoming expertise. So I made something up.

YAAAAYYYY!!! It’s my first knitted scarf, y’all! I DID use the books to figure out:

  • the purl stitch
  • how to integrate different colors at the beginning of the row
  • the value of fuzzy yarn to hide mistakes

The giant needles were my mother’s–more cast-offs–and this time, winging it worked. So what if it’s a little *clearing throat* shall we say, primitive-looking? When you’re learning, give yourself a freaking break. It’s warm, it looks pretty good, and it’s soft and snuggly like a cuddly scarf should (be). I can wear it, or better, I can give it as a gift to an unsuspecting victim for Christmas–probably a dude. Even if they don’t like it, even if they wouldn’t let their dog sleep with it, it’s still useful, one-of-a-kind, and from the heart.

I don’t know; I’d wear it.

Don’t kid yourself; in your quest to bring together the bits and pieces of a lifetime to make something really beautiful and useful, you’re going to have a lot of ‘almost’ and ‘near-miss’ moments. Hey, there was a time when you didn’t know how to tie your shoes, right? Take a class if you need to, but it’s been my experience that classes are just what? That’s right: weird, complicated, and expensive. Sometimes you find a good one, but most of the time, you just end up buying a bunch of stuff you don’t need and making a bunch of stuff nobody really wants. Just do the thing. Make some ugly monsters; learn some lessons; but for goodness sake, have fun.

Give Piece a Chance

Is it me, or is life getting weird? Weird, complicated, expensive, that’s how it seems to me, these days. Although I often embrace the weird, I am definitely against the complicated, and don’t get me started about the expensive. There are times when one or all of these terrible situations cannot be avoided:

  • Somebody runs into your car on your birthday.
  • Your sister rants on Facebook about how mad she is at you, because she loves you.
  • Your adult son goes drag to Comicon.

The list goes on . . .

Fortunately, I have a cure. Situated, snug and tidy, here on the internet, is my personal response to all of the above. Whenever life gets weird in a way I don’t like, whenever people don’t do what I say, whenever my lil’ feelings get hurt, I go to my stash of stuff.

MY PARTICULAR CLASS OF STUFF:

  • Fabric scraps
  • Picture frames
  • Glass jars
  • Pens and pencils
  • Card stock
  • Yarn and ribbon and string
  • Sewing implements
  • Knitting needles, crochet hooks
  • Books
  • Books
  • and, yet, more books

There’s more, but let’s not get weird, complicated or expensive.

What?!

I’m a scavenger by nature. When I’m troubled, I go to the library. When I’m hungry, I snack. When I get an idea, I rifle through piles of junk, in my home, in a thrift store, in the yard. Look at me, I’m in your garage, right now.

I don’t know everything. In fact, I find more and more, that I know next to nothing at all. In the spirit of impoverished stupidity, let’s dig up some junk–pieces of this, pieces of that–and let’s see if we can make something we (or somebody) can use!