Sunday, 21 September 2014

Lovely Laces

One of my absolute loves, from right back into my teens has been antique lace. When other young girls were reading teenage magazines on how to get the boy that they liked to like them or how to wear the "latest" look... I was reading doll collecting magazines, going to doll fairs and buying antique laces and millinery flowers with my pocket money. I have to admit though, it didn't make me the most popular girl at school and no, I never managed to convince that boy that I liked to like me back, BUT I had a lovely little collection of dolls, laces and flowers.

The fact that I am returning to my love of collecting laces & haberdasheries again feels like coming home. Only this time we live in the age of the internet and actually finding these pieces are far easier. 20 years ago my ability to access these specialty collections was problematic. Now, the internet allows me to access laces, flowers and buttons that I could only ever dream of.

Pieces like this late 19th century ribbon work on guipure lace is no more than a click away. However, being more available has also meant that antique haberdasheries are now far more expensive than what I ever remember them being. Perhaps an argument could be that they are more expensive because they are in fact becoming rarer... but I tend to also think the ability for people to access them has meant more demand on pieces. A small piece of valenciennes lace could reach almost $20 a yard, and sometimes more depending on the detail and rarity.

 Slowly my collection is growing, little bundle by little bundle. Being in the presence of this lace does leave me with quite a spectrum of emotions, excited that I have managed to have it come into my little home, awe at its beauty and a little sadness as well, because although we do make very fine reproduction antique laces still, the reality is that this level of quality is the exception, not the norm.

Its not until you really look at a piece of antique haberdashery that you connect with what we have lost. For me, Broderie Anglaise pieces are an absolute example of this fact. Compare a 100 year old piece to current eyelets for example and it is like chalk and cheese. I have 4 small pieces of Broderie Anglaise that are new/old stock and I cherish these pieces like gold.... the detail is truly exceptional and unlike anything being manufactured today.

I spent some time this week laundering some of my laces and winding them onto homemade bolt cards. As much as I love antique lace, the mustiness is not the most endearing quality about them. For doll making I prefer clean supplies. Even old/new stock that has never been used on its original bolts can feel stale and musty. The difference a bath makes is quite extraordinary.

Before laundering this lace was yellowed and very stiff.

 After laundering the same lace is soft to touch and a lovely white. Amazing that underneath nearly a hundred years of aging is this beautiful lace.
The Powerhouse museum has a wonderful file on washing antique lace that is very informative. I use Lux soap flakes to wash my laces, and the power of sunshine. Any stubborn stains can be treated with lemon juice and sunshine. And it is also very important to remember the fragility of these haberdasheries, try not to pull at wet lace, and if they do tangle during washing, wait till they are dry before you begin to straighten them out.
Mel xx

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Baby Babette

The weather here in Sydney is simply stunning at the moment! The few weeks of rain that we've had has brought the garden to life and the sunny days allow us to actually enjoy it!


I do try and bring my work to the garden as much as possible. Yesterday morning I sat with my dolly pieces and stuffed in the garden, sipping at my Earl Grey tea.... there are always moments when you say life is good and that definitely was one of them... though I do suspect my flowering crabapple was a large part of that joyful moment!!

The dolly that I was stuffing was dear little baby Babette, she has a friend named Betsy... but a little more work to do on her before she is ready to greet the world. I am still pondering what kind of little dresses these babies should have, in the meantime they have some sweet heirloom bloomers on, made from soft batiste and vintage lace.
Mel xxx

Monday, 8 September 2014

Bella Bear In Blue

The last couple of days have been so glorious here in the Blue Mountains. I cannot deny I have been feeling the need to get out into the garden and do some much needed gardening. Besides making dollies... and knitting and crocheting, my other love is gardening. But alas, for the next couple of months its all about creating dollies and bears for the doll show I am attending in October. I'm sure the garden can wait.

I planted borage seeds a few years ago and it is at this time of the year that you can really appreciate just how much they have spread through the garden.... for really they are the only plant in full bloom. Such a striking blue is borage.... I think it truly influenced my work yesterday.

So most of the day was spent crocheting in the garden. Though I did come inside later in the afternoon to put Bella Bear together.

I have been saving this lovely piece of antique tulle for something a little special and I thought it was perfect for Bella. I have to admit, I've grown hugely fond and dressing teddy bears.... playing with flowers and ribbons and tiny pieces of lace.


Bella has joined the other bears on my work shelf.  Slowly I am building up a collection of them. Not quite enough to fill a section of my stall... but definitely getting there.

Mel xx

Friday, 5 September 2014

The Journey of an Art Doll

I've been wanting to get back into my sculpting and perhaps create some art dolls. I love the whole idea of creating art dolls and the endless possibilities... especially with all of my antique haberdashery!

Originally I trained to be a porcelain dollmaker.... and for many years porcelain was my absolute obsession. I would dearly love to return to that, but a lot of work still to do to get my studio done in order to accommodate a kiln and all of the mold making and pouring of slips, cleaning of greenware etc. So in the meantime I have been playing with some paperclay, and while doing so I think I have found a whole new appreciation for the medium. By far my most favourite element to paperclay is its ability to be able to add new clay to an already dry piece... something you simply can't do with conventional pottery clay. Is there anything paperclay cannot make???

This piece was made from DAS paperclay, I dearly want to try Creative Paperclay and La Doll, but both are impossible to get in Australia. So looks like the postman will have to do some paperclay deliveries over the next few weeks.

I thought in future I might do a blog post on how to sculpt a face. I only thought of taking photos once I got to this stage... so perhaps in a later post I'll do a little tutorial on how to form up a face, and take lots of photos. This top photo though shows the first stage of just getting the features into place. |I love this stage because you can really begin to see what little personality is evolving.

Once the basics have been shaped you can start adding a little more detail and begin refining the head, adding nostrils and smoothing the clay. There is still more smoothing to do, but from this stage it will be by sanding the dried head. Then we can think about painting it.
Mel xx

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Spring Hat

Ahhh another winter survived, and this year, fortunately with minimum illness in our house. I do love winter, having the fire roaring, lighting a few candles and settling into some knitting.. or crocheting, which ever I have on hand. But, when those first blossoms hit the trees I cannot tell you how excited I feel.

This week we saw the first day of spring tick over here in Australia. I felt a new kinship to my millinery flowers and Adaline was indeed in need for a spring bonnet.

I have been saving this vintage ribbon for Adaline, and playing with some of my crochet cottons and flowers I felt this was a lovely combination. I think I am probably rather selfish in the way I work, I choose colours that I want to visit for a while. This week I have to admit I have loved working with this soft dusty pink... such a delight, as good as a spring holiday!!!

I have been wanting to work on stiffening my crocheted hats for a while. I have been chickening out I have to admit. Its hard when you spend 5 hours crocheting a hat to suddenly dunk it in a solution that you really don't know what the result will be. When I first put this pink hat in the stiffening solution I have to confess there was a real sense of panic!! But I persevered and shaped it and molded it. I used a hairdryer to get it reasonably set, then over a glass I could move it here, push it there... and stretch it into place.

I really loved the final result and I think it did open a world of millinery possibilities for my dollys. Still some shoes to finish for Miss Adaline, so hopefully over the next few days I will have her final photos done.

Mel xx