Once again, I apologise for the long gaps between posts, but yesterday I finished not one but two dolls: lovely Howard pictured here, and (D)rag Doll II who will appear later in the week. There are probably four more male dolls and one more (D)rag Doll to go for those of you who are waiting for a return to normal service. One of my blogging friends bought the book I recommended, We Make Dolls, and having meade a Frida doll like the one I made as a Christmas present, seems also to have been bitten by the bug. So think before you make even one!
Back to Howard. The Laura Ashley Ghost Dolls have been in an exhibition in Cirencester and have only just come home, and so introductions have yet to be made between them and their consorts. I think there are seven of them, and being a huge fan of the Golden Age of MGM musicals, I couldn’t help thinking about Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, where the mountain boys carry off the local women after a particularly energetic barn raising/ square dance sequence:
I love the sheer stupidity of the film and the glorious technicolour and the costumes. The brothers all wear different coloured shirts, and the women end up in dresses made from patchwork quilts, still with the cinched in fifties waists. Apparently they were made from real quilts that the costumier found in the Salvation Army shop:
They get snowed in for the winter but propriety is maintained and come the spring thaw everything and everyone is still intact. I ask you. If Howard Keel in all his pomp had given me a quick blast of ‘Bless Your Beautiful Hide’ the story might have had a very different ending. If in any doubt watch him in Kiss Me Kate.
So, Howard Keel plays Adam Pontipee (?), the eldest brother (all of whose siblings happen to be expert dancers and several of them refugees from the New York State Ballet), and so I decided to make a Howard doll to lead the charge when my dolls do finally all get together. Because Howard has red hair in the film I thought my Howard should have red hair too. And because he is the oldest brother I decided to make him larger than the other dolls. He is probably about two feet high. This is a nod to all those medieval paintings in which the donors are much smaller than the most important figures, the saint or the Virgin Mary:
So. I made Howard’s head out of a lovely Laura Ashley cream furnishing fabric which had a sort of damask pattern woven into it. I got it on my fateful trip to Llanidloes when this whole project started. I think the weave gives it an added dimension, not quite so smooth and lovely as when they are made out of calico:
I made his shirt from a dark blue cotton and wool blend fabric I bought years ago in one of the great fabric sales they used to have in the Laura Ashley stores. It was probably £2 per metre and I have used it a lot since, including as a background on the Saint Laura Quilt:
My story for Howard is that he is a failed actor who convinced himself that he never got any great parts because of his ginger hair and now teaches drama at a girls’ private school:
This is the back of his head.
It’s a bit of a family joke that Actorrrrs when they are offstage or offscreen do what we call lovely scarf work, so lots of dramatic flourishes and mufflings up even when it isn’t that cold, so I decided to give him a long hand-knitted scarf. He claims Helena Bonham Carter knitted it for him in her trailer while he was doing some film extra work to keep his hand in. I know that it was knitted with some classy Noro sock wool, Kureyon Sock Yarn, which I got in a bin end sale:
I was also quite pleased that I found some snake skinny trim that I got in a bit bag to make his belt. You can see it in the sample swatch thing I usually do for my own records (and have no idea why). You can also see the paint which I used for his green eyes:
So here are photos of Howard doing lovely scarf work:
No doubt there will be others.
To finish Howard’s story, it is rather sad. Having convinced himself that gingers never get the lead in action films or romances or historical drama, he has had to deal with the extraordinary success of the British actor, Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers, Homeland)
He consoles himself with the fact that times have moved on, and the odd flirtation with one of his drama students…