Every New Year’s Day I make a doll (although last year I was pressed for time and finished making some birds that I had started earlier instead). This year I went back to making a doll. I thought I would only have a limited time and so I cheated a bit and made the body earlier, although I know from experience I could have completed the body in the time allowed if I had had to. My rules are that it has to be completed in one day, and that day has to be 1 January. I also like either to think about the previous year, or to think about the year to come and make the doll symbolic in some way. It’s been interesting to see how the dolls have developed over the years, the first one is really crude and uninspiring, a gingerbread-man type construction which sits on a shelf in my work room and frankly doesn’t get any more appealing with the passing years.
This year I decided to use the pattern of my Laura Ashley dolls. I wanted to make something about some of the qualities that I want to have this year. I also wanted to use some natural linen that I had acquired at some stage. In the event, of course, I got something quite different.
I started by making the doll a pair of knickers in Liberty lawn trimmed with edging lace. She has blue and white striped legs. I remember a couple of dolls from my childhood that had sawdust-stuffed blue and white striped fabric legs, and I associate them with dolls. One of my New Year dolls also has these legs so it is a theme I return to. Anyway, I was expecting quite a folksy-homesy doll, but she turned out to be very sophisticated.
I started digging through my fabric to look for something to make a dress from. I wanted to make the dress and then attach the linen as a kind of overskirt. I tried a variety of things, but the pale fabrics that would have worked with the linen all allowed the blue and white legs to show through. In the end I came upon a batch of indigo-dyed fabric that I made on a beautiful day with my lovely friends Alison, Ceri, Ruth and Becky.
That was such a great day that it was lovely to remember it through the fabric I used. I found a strip of white silk that I had dyed which happened to have a smaller piece of yellowy-gold silk stitched on the end. The two colours took the dye differently and gave an interesting effect. I put some loose pleats into it and make it into the skirt.
Then I needed a top. I tried a nice piece of batik with my favourite pomegranate symbol on it, but once I had ironed out the wax it was too stiff to work. I thought I would just try the end of a huge piece of lurex jersey fabric that my mother had given me, and it worked really well. I made quite a stylish wrap top:
The finishing piece was the rather nice piece of shisha braid that I bought from Liberty’s years ago and have never wanted to cut into. I quite liked the vaguely Japanese obi effect I was getting.
Then I got to the hair, which I always do last. I have a surprisingly small stash of yarn for someone who used to do Kaffe Fassett style knitting, but I do have a weakness for Noro wool and have several balls of that. Unfortunately, we had a leak caused by a loose tile on the roof and the major casualty was my lovely blue and yellow basket, a present from my mother, that I used to keep all my wool in in the cupboard under the eave. I have been meaning to sort it out since we discovered the leak but haven’t, so I took the plunge and looked in the basket. There were some heart-breaking write-offs, but the Noro Aurora I had bought in a sale was in a plastic bag and not covered in black mould (the leak had been going on for some time). It does smell a bit musty but I am hoping that will go off with exposure to the air. It made perfect hair:
Then I made the little bracelets and then I thought I would break with my own usual practice with these dolls and give her a face. I am still not sure that I don’t prefer them faceless, but she could be worse! I used a very old black felt pen and just drew her a face on.
Thinking about the doll in a talismanic way, I wonder what she has to teach me. I would like to be elegant with fabulous hair, but this is unlikely. What strikes me about looking at the actual doll in front of me is that although she is very stylish, she also looks ready for work. Her sleeves are rolled up and her hair sort of tied back ready to get on with it. I suspect that 2013 will be full of hard work for me; like all professions, universities are having to do more with less, so it seems unlikely that I will have less to do. I just hope I can wear wrapover shibori silk skirts and lurex while I’m doing it.
Happy New Year, and I hope that you don’t have to work too hard.