Stick and Move

WHAT did I DO all weekend?

I did some things; I did some things…

I worked on the pruning. I hope I didn’t kill the roses.

Before
After

Then, there’s the “thing” on the corner…

Before
After

I didn’t want to shock the poor dears. They’re used to far more TLC than I’ve been giving them, the past year-and-a-half. I must be careful not to repent too aggressively. Be brave, lil’ soldiers!

Remember Raggedy? I gave her some extensions.

No matter how tempting it is to make her into a whole, new doll, she’s best with the character she’s earned, rather than all the hair the doll spa could tie on that head. And that’s what I did; I tied it. She seems too fragile to poke with a big, giant needle, over and over, through the wig. I wove and tied fresh, red, yarn among the old, faded strands. She’s got just enough to liven the original look, not overwhelm it.

What about that red work? Huh? Where’s it?

Here:

Okay, braced and ready; lemme have it. “That’s all? That’s all you’ve done all weekend???” Yeah, that’s all I’ve done. This project could be finished in a day, no problem, but it’s one of those projects. We’ve all had them, the simple project that you decided you didn’t want to work on, anymore. Who knows why? Do you? Do any of us? I have no excuse.

But that’s me. . .

. . . turning nine-years-old in 1975.

I don’t know why I do the things I do, or don’t the things I don’t; it’s my way. I’ll finish the towel, and I will enjoy doing it, but it might take a bit longer than expected. Remember what my mom said about my only two speeds: slow and stop? In some ways, I’m a whole new doll–new hair, new dress–but I’m still the same Raggedy I’ve always been.  For all my character, I can still unravel if I’m jabbed just right. This was a very jabby week.

Here’s to keeping busy until the jabbers stop jabbing.

 

 

 

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Seeing Red

Happy Thursday morning, my loves! Time to check in with the vintage WWII dishcloth. But first, let’s talk about red work.

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Here’s a random example. Not my work, but check it out!

My first embroidery project (that I remember) was started for me by my grandmother–yes, the one who taught me how to crochet. She demonstrated the stem stitch for me on an old handkerchief. I subsequently drew a little picture and outlined it in thread. Unbeknownst to me, that’s red work! This a a fantastic and easy way to decorative stitching. Because it’s relatively quick, you get that instant gratification happiness that comes with eating S’mores or riding your first Big Wheel.

 

Sorry, fellas, I had to go “girl” on this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s see what we’ve got, so far:

There she is. No camera filters on this pic. Now we can see how faded the original image is. You may need to give it a close-up, but look at that skirt pop! Red work’s popularity was slowing down during the second world war, maybe because people were too busy working in factories, or perhaps mass-produced goods were quicker and cheaper. Whatever the reason, this design is a perfect candidate for an awesome and easy technique!

“Why is it called red work when you are clearly using navy blue,” you ask? Look it up. I had a great time researching it on the web. I’m not even posting a link; that stuff is all over the place, and most of the sites are informative, instructive, and loaded with free designs. Take a look!

I want to send a big hug to my mom for the great red work reference. She sent me a note about ‘underground quilts/quilting?’ I may look into that, but today is totes busy so we’re keeping it short and sweet. Everybody make something instead of buying it, and be sure to hug your dog. That guy puts up with a lot.

A Good Flossing

This is gonna sound stupid (when has that ever stopped me?), but my biggest quandary at the moment is the prospect of pruning the shrubbery in the front yard.

If you don’t get the reference, look at this.

I have a family who can really grow things: my mom, my dad, grandparents, all of them, all of them, that is, but me. I want to do it, but I murder things. Once I laid into a hedge that actually recovered. Not so, the various rose bushes around my former home, or the small hedge in the back yard. As is often the case, I claim ignorance.

Yet, this odious task has been put off long enough, for March will soon be upon us. Sigh. But I don’t like working outdoors, or do I? Once I’m out there, the whole experience can be quite enjoyable, even rewarding–once I’m out there. Roses, how I fear them. Oh, well.

Here’s a thing:

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My friend with the linens wanted to know if I could restore this World War II/Korean Conflict era tea towel. The stencil looks much sharper in the pic than it appears in the real world. The photo was enhanced so you kids could get into the cool, retro feel of the illustration. She suggested paint, dye, or ink, but I think we need some vintage embroidery action, here. There’s nothing like a cold, wet, day with a needle-and-thread project in hand, especially when one is avoiding yard work.

I may check the Hive Mind (Internet) to see if this illustration exists in color, somewhere. Hmmm…

Nope.

That’s okay. I looked up Mildred McAfee, the first director of WAVES, a branch of the United States Navy, from WWII.

Next, I must survey my horde.

Where did I see that floss stash?

Ah, here it is.

I’m looking for navy blue (obviously), but I’m not finding. Where else…where else…?

See that greenish boot box waaayyy up there in the top of my closet, behind the World Market ginger snap cookie tin? Let’s see…

Nada. I need some cornbread.

Okay, now I can think. Looks like a trip to my local craft store is in order. Before I go, I’ll check the Collective (another nefarious term for the web) for good deals, but embroidery floss isn’t known to break the bank. I haven’t purchased any floss in a while; I hope it hasn’t gone the way of yarn. Heavens-to-Betsy, but yarn has gotten expensive!

Okay, okay, Mr. Murphy has reminded me that I’ve been super-slow to post the finished pictures of the doll bed WITH the lovely, new bedding in full bloom. Go here (also posted in the margin over there, somewhere), to get a look at the precious, precious, thing.  If this twice-a-week serving is just not enough to feed your folk-art head, I display more of my biz on the Facebook Piece Home Studio page. So, until Thursday, everybody go prune something.

Panic Moments and Junk Joys

Ahhhh . . . a project finished, and I’m ready to restock, restore, and dig up some more!

Last night, as I was looking forward to writing  today’s ditty, a had a sudden, tiny lil’ panic: what to write about?! I was so submerged in the doll bedding project that, now that it’s over, I’m having a slight identity crisis; somebody help me! Who am I?! WHO AM I??? 

Hush, now, inner creative voice. It’s time to regroup. My work room is the scene of complete devastation:

Things are piled absolutely everywhere.

And my sewing table, I’m sew ashamed…

Look at them. They’re disgusted.

No worries, the whole nasty business will soon be well in hand. Until then, it’s time to do a little digging in the local junk stores. How I love it.

Mr. Murphy and I hit a few good spots last weekend, and we came home with some goodies and some not-so-goodies. It’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas. Okay, wait a minute, WAIT JUST A MINUTE, and hear me out. I know that we are all still getting past the last one, searching our feelings and visiting our happy places, but come on, guys. Remember how much you hated yourself last November for not preparing, sooner? Remember when you told yourself, and I quote (because I was there with you, in my heart), “Next year, blah, blah, won’t wait so late, blah, blah, last minute, blah, blah, Grandma’s fruitcake recipe.” You said it, and you know you did, because it is a fact.

As much as we hate to admit it, we love to win at Christmas. Why do we feel so complete when everyone is warm, fed, and drunk on Yuletide love? It’s a mystery, but you’ll remember my words, later, as you sit weeping in your car in the angry, over-crowded Bed, Bath, and Beyond parking lot. With that chastisement still fresh on my typing fingers, behold the second-hand treasures:

Every first Saturday of the month, Goodwill marks everything half-price. I know, I know, I’ve heard the rumor about  the CEO’s grotesquely inflated income from reselling donations (the reality is still a bit excessive), but I can’t stop myself when it comes to a-dollar-a-basket and Martha Stewart’s hearth-and-home prowess. Whatever your feelings toward her, that woman is a BOSS.

I’m already scoping out examples of vintage embroidery on the Internet, preparing for my next big adventure: the restoration of a tea towel!!! Woo-hoo!!! *crickets* No, really, it’s going to be a blast from the past with a cool story to go with; I promise. Until Monday, keep an eye out on my Facebook for the latest pics on the new work-in-progress.

Sad Times for Mr. Stinky

Spring is coming. I can feel it, and so can the skunks. Lately, we have enjoyed the February aroma of the sleepy, stupified, local skunk population staggering out of their nests for a bite to eat. They’re not altogether with it, so sadly, there are casualties. After smelling Mr. Stinky about his business for the last week or so, my husband encountered his flat self, or one of his unfortunate associates, squished on the road, this morning. Poor Mr. Stinky. Moral of the story: don’t let spring fever catch you foraging on the wrong side of the road.

Remember the restored antique doll bed commission?

I got some stuff together and started it last Thursday.

Okay, I had to buy the padding, but can you guess where the rest came from ? I know, I know, I ended a sentence with a preposition.

Sure . . . sure . . . I had that stuff. Maybe it was the awesome spring mojo kicking in, but this project seemed to make itself. After the tiny stitching nightmare (did I say nightmare? No nightmare) of small doll making–and there are smaller ones, out there–I was in fine shape for some long, straight stitches.

We’ve got some ticking and jute . . . 

. . . some old linen . . .

. . . some old lace . . .

. . . a little patchwork . . . 

. . . and we’re good to go. 

Now that this project is wrapping up, I get to finish Raggedy; remember her? This is a real labor of love, something very close to my heart.

It’s always good to find your way back home. Watch out for cars.

If you want more photos and/or updates between Monday and Thursday (or Thursday and Monday), take a look right here. Yeah, okay, this episode was a little boring; I know, but only because I have sew much on my mind, my darling ones. More on that, later.

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Lies, Plans, and Common Sense

Happy Thursday morning!

And it is a happy Thursday, because it’s time to start something new. But first, let’s take a look at the Patience work.

No, her legs are not super-short; she’s sitting on a shelf. The shoes turned out really well.

There, now, isn’t that nice? Yes, I like the gingham much better. The softer fabric was far easier to work with, which left me feeling better, and it’s all about the feels. Like Mick and the boys have said so, so many times: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes, you might find you get what you need.”

My first fabric choice set me up for frustration. But I really wanted that floral print. I have a weird thing for tiny flowers. They’re just so happy. But the tiny flowers were lying to me. They told me stories of joyful sewing times and pretty little girls with red hair. Lies. I’m getting upset, just thinking about it. Quick, look at something sweet:

Whew, that was close. What could be cuter than a dog in a box, flanked by a basket of fabric scraps and several years’ worth of Mary Engelbreit’s Home Companion? Better. Now, back to the story. Look at these armpits.

Absolutely pristine! No puckers, no waddiness (pronounced: wah-dee-ness), just clean livin’. I would also like to give a blog shout-out to my wonderful linen benefactress, “Thanks M.L.!!!” Here’s what I’m talking about. Work with the fabric. Like leaving the lace inset for the petticoat, I used the beautiful edging of the linen napkins to embellish the sleeves–all the rewards with a fraction of the work.

I think it was Scrooge McDuck who said, “Work smarter, not harder.” One very important thing I’ve learned (that I forever seem to disregard) is this particular lesson. Sure, Patience is a virtue, and virtues must be practiced, but a good game plan can make all the difference. If you can, when you can, set yourself up for success. A good personal challenge opens the heart and airs out the mind, but have some common sense along the way, why don’t ya’? Common sense is that place on the sliding scale between “The best laid plans of mice and men…” and “counting the cost.” I heard one person call it “making pre-decisions.” Set your alarm clock earlier, and you won’t be so stressed out on the drive to work. Threaten your children calmly before going to the grocery store, and keep fruit roll-ups in your purse. As I prepare for the next project, I’m going to attempt to exercise a little more forethought. If things are easier, I won’t have to struggle so much with Patience.

Coming Up

Oh, no; oh YES! It’s a refurbished DOLL BED!!!

This old doll bed has a new coat of paint, and it is waiting for a mattress, pillows, sheets and blankets so my six-year-old niece can terrorize the family pets. I remember dressing my grandmother’s chihuahua in doll clothes, putting it under the upside-down plastic clothes basket, and pretending I was at the zoo looking at a ferocious animal. Why such primal danger was trembling in a pinafore is anybody’s guess. Six-year-old girls, who can fathom? I’ll be back on Monday with another horrible lesson I had to learn over the weekend that I can share with world wide web. Until then, enjoy the tiny flowers from a distance, and try not to curse in traffic.

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.

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.