Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cheerful Owl Yarn Wreath

Here is my newest creation, a yarn wreath for Fall. I guess yarn wreaths are the big new trend now. I hadn't ever heard of them before I was invited to a party to make one. I have a collection of owls which started with my rock owl purchased in Michigan (see the rock art blog for a photo). Once I got it I started to see them everywhere. It has become a game for my husband and me to find owls all over the world on our travels. I have a pottery owl that is a whistle from Nicaragua, a jade owl from China, a carved wood owl from the State Fair in Raleigh, but which I think was made in Mexico, and a pair of metal owls on a whirligig I bought this summer in Michigan. So when I saw the yellow fabric printed with owls at Michael's I knew I had to build my wreath around it. I found everything at Michael's. I thought the bright colors usually used in spring decorations would be a nice change from the usual muted Fall tones. The black feather owl is a Halloween decoration that clips on, so I can remove it after Halloween if I want.

The yarn wreath is easy to make. You basically buy a wreath form. The one I found was straw. Warning: it is messy. Straw goes everywhere when you work with it! You glue the yarn end on the wreath using hot glue or regular glue and wrap it around. Whenever you reach the end of the wreath or the yarn glue the end again. To get the striped look I used a variegated yarn called "Sunshine". I forgot the brand name, but you can get it at Michael's. That took the work out of striping it! I knotted a loop for hanging in as I was wrapping the wreath for extra strength. To make the rosettes I just cut two strips of fabric, one twice as wide as the other, and folded them in half lengthwise, with wrong sides together. I then basted and gathered the unfolded edges, sewed them up the ends, sewed them together, and glued them on the wreath. The owl charm in the center is sewn on. I then glued the pre-made flower decorations on, clipped on the feather owl, and that was it!

I wanted to hang the wreath on my black door for more contrast, but I can't find my wreath hanger. Since the homestager came I have no idea where half our stuff is. It was probably shoved in a box somewhere! I bought a Command hook today so I can move it to the door. I sure hope the house sells soon; last night I made a trip at almost 9PM to get a roll of paper my son needed for a school project, my winter shoes, since the weather will turn cold tomorrow, and I hoped to find the wreath hanger but didn't locate it.

Still, I have to admonish myself for feeling too  much self-pity. Although things may be inconvenient right now, we still have it pretty good. We never had our wreath party because another friend lost her sweet baby, Ella, and the funeral was the same day. This is the second baby this family has buried in 3 years, and I don't know how they can bear it. Ella had a congenital condition which they knew would prove fatal, but I don't think that makes losing her any easier.

I know I will always think of Ella when I see this wreath. I hope it will remind me that I am truly blessed, even when things don't go as I might wish. I hope it will remind me that even on  the darkest day the sun is still shining, and the clouds which hide it from view are temporary.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Winter Ballet

"Before": a Hildegard Gunzel for Gotz doll found sans clothing at the thrift store.

This is a very poseable doll, so I dressed her as a dancer.

Stringing in her arms and head allow her to hold many poses.

Angled disk joints in her hips allow her to stand alone.
Whew! What a week! I am amazed I managed to accomplish anything! We are back in school now, with all the attendant homework, PTA meetings, concerts, etc. Our daughter, mid-way through the second week, got up to the gate of the school grounds and threw up all over the place one morning. So she was home for the day! The baby had his speech and developmental evaluations which confirmed, surprise, surprise, that he needs speech therapy to deal with his corrected cleft lip and palate. I've been running to all our area Targets to stock up on the Missoni collection, both for me and for my eBay store. I have always wanted a Missoni outfit; when I lived in Florence I used to take a special walk just to look in the Missoni window. It's too bad I couldn't have one then when I was so much younger and thinner!

We lowered the asking price on our house and got it all clean, anticipating a new run on showings, but no one came. That was a real bummer. The house by the lake that I wanted has sold, so I am way less motivated to clean up and rearrange our lives. In fact, I'm just bone-tired. This could have something to do with a diet I'm on, however, where you eat only almonds, eggs, yogurt, tofu, spinach, and raspberries. Whatever works! But then again, the Missoni dress and heels I got make me look about 20 pounds lighter and about 3 feet taller, so maybe I'll just stop dieting and wear Missoni!

But I was finally able to finish a project I've had on the back burner for months.  I got all the fabric and stuff out for this and then someone wanted to view the house and I had to pack it all away. Then they didn't buy the house! So I'm actually kind of glad no one wanted to see it this week.

A while back I was making my thrift store run when I spotted this doll with some others on the shelf. I could see they were gorgeous dolls and well-made, but I didn't recognize them. There were two blond and on brunette, all with the same face sculpt. A little girl picked up the brunette while I was looking at them, so I didn't get that one. When I got home and researched them I wished I had gotten all three! I found they are by Hildegard Gunzel for Gotz and sell new for $170-$200! All the dolls were missing their original outfits and their hair was a mess. Still, you've got to wonder who these people are who buy dolls that cost hundreds and then just give them away! Do they forget what they paid?

Anyway, this is a gorgeous doll. More limited Gunzel dolls go for thousands and I can see why. She is an amazingly talented artist. This doll is beautifully and realistically sculpted and cast in a scented vinyl that smells sort of like vanilla. They way the joints and stringing are done allows the doll a huge range of movement, making it perfect for a dancer.

I had this lovely blue satin in my scrap bag that matches the doll's eyes and I was inspired to do a winter-themed dress, although what inspired me was our summer vacation to Northern Michigan. I was so hoping for a house by the lake here after going back up north. Everything up there, around Traverse City, is blue or silver, it seems. The air even seems more clear, like crystal! I took these water-colors and really went to town. The dress is encrusted with beading. The tulle skirt underneath is detached so it can be used as a ballet skirt with other doll outfits and she wears handmade pantyhose with a retro back-leg seam. The American Girl clothes will fit this doll, although her feet are large, so I don't know about the shoes.

Speaking of shoes, my take-home lesson from this project is that doll ballet shoes are HARD to make! I almost just went and bought some ice skates and turned her into a skater. I was afraid they wouldn't fit because the pattern I had was for 18 inch dolls and I finished a shoe and it didn't fit! So I had to re-draw the pattern. The shoes are sturdy enough, but rather clunky-looking. Not my best work.

The dress and doll turned out really well, though. The doll had fuzzy hair and some stains in her vinyl. I faded the stains using benzoyl peroxide and Mr Clean erasers and conditioned her hair and re-dressed it. The dress came together well and has tons of handwork. A very unique piece!

Let's hope for a rather less strenuous week to come and, someday, a house by the water!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Box of Possibility

My Friend Mandy as Shirley Temple
Fall is creeping in. The leaves knocked down by Hurricane Irene are turning brown and crisp. The air is cool, mercifully, in the mornings and evenings, and melancholy creeps in too. My father died at the end of summer in 1977, so I have always felt sad this time of year. It seems appropriate that the year should begin to die as well. I also have happy memories in autumn of a time long-gone, my college years. I would drive down Highway 42 to Greenville around this time. Back then all the tobacco warehouses were still open and the "golden leaf" would be ripening in the fields. The entire air would smell like a pipe shop. The road to the beach, usually Highway 13 through Bethel if we went to Nag's Head, would be littered with cotton bolls blown off the trucks. That would be a month or two from now when the semester had settled enough to get away. I love to relive those happy years, but am a bit sad I can't go back to being that young again, with seemingly endless possibilities before me. I am feeling for them "Down East" as we say; they've been dealt a hard blow by Irene.

Right now I am also a bit sad because we are having a lot of change, and change is hard for me. I have not been able to work this week. The baby has been having speech and developmental evaluations through private channels as well as the state, so yesterday and today were nearly taken up with that. We are preparing for an open house Sunday in our effort to sell our house, and tonight someone called wanting to see the house tomorrow. So all the laundry I had sorted on the floor, all the sewing I had started, all my projects, had to be packed away and must wait. Sacrificed to the illusion that we live always in this sterile and professionally-decorated environment.

I did get a reminder today that change is possibility as well. I ordered and received a box of My Friend dolls. Thank goodness I managed to get them for about $5 each, because they are in awful shape. They were evidently owned by a budding beautician or tattoo artist. Every one has permanent makeup, some have names written on their limbs, and a few have hair that's been cut. But the possibilities...who could they be? I have two or three Beckys. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm? Anne of Green Gables? I have some Jennys...Pocahontas? A couple Mandys who may be beyond repair...but then I thought the doll shown above was beyond repair.

I have a "thing" for the 1920s and 1930s. I love the older Agatha Christie mysteries, Art Deco, flappers, and Shirley Temple. What a cutie she was! This Mandy came to me quite distressed, but she turned out to be a perfect Shirley Temple. Sometimes the cut hair can still make a really cute style if it isn't too close to the scalp. I had a lot of fun with her dress design, too. Too bad she doesn't have dimples. I did get a Becky, who does have dimples, with cut hair today. Maybe I'll redo her as a blond!

Today my daughter said, when she saw the box of very disheveled dolls, "I am tired of fixing these dolls, Mommy. I want to just get dolls we can sell and get rich!" But where would the fun be in that? There is so much we can do with this box of broken dolls. It's a good reminder that possibilities are always endless, and out of ruin can come opportunity and rebirth.