rag dolls and woollies

rag dolls and woollies

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

On Redheads and Ears, Dutch Chintz and New Sleeves

It seems like there is always one in any group that becomes my favorite and this redhead is it. I saw a picture of a ragdoll with ears and decided mine would have them too. I littered the floor with little bits of muslin until they came out the right size. Sort of. (You have to agree that throwing things on the floor IS one of the best parts of sewing, no?)

And I FINALLY found a red head yarn I like. Everything has always been too electric red or too carrot orange. The search continues for a blondie.

I want to make the faces more sophisticated so I saw a way to put in a "dart" on the side of the head to give the eyes some depth. I'm going to try it, so that's next. And noses. I need a better nose, a sculpted one. I've seen a lot of dolls with upturned "ski slope" noses and don't like that look....something more classic is what I want.

Then I found a quilt store in Texas called I Love Quilting which is the ONLY place which sells fat quarters of Dutch chintz fabrics which are reproductions of the chintzes that the Dutch East India Company brought back from the Coromandal coast of India in the 1600s. These imports electrified Europeans and had everything to do with the growth of the cotton industry. It is possible to buy these fabrics from the Dutch company which is making them, but they only sell them by the meter and boy are they expensive! And really a fat quarter is sufficient for a dress. The Dutch company is called Den Haan and Wanamakers and it is a treat for the eye to scroll over their selections. Yum.

The fabric is coming tonight by courier from the US.  I have been reminding myself not to rush this poor lady, say hello first, be polite and not act like a wild animal to get my package from her.

I saw a blouse with a cool sleeve on it the other day and decided to try to reproduce it. Here it is. I think the upper arm needs to be a bit wider so I'll alter that for next time. This fabric was part of my mother in law's stash and I've really fallen in love with it and alas, it is now all gone!

And here is a short sleeve version --

Someone needs to open a store which carries "out of print" fabrics. Occasionally I can find something older, but none of it is organized. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to find Bali quilt fabrics from 2009, say? Or Windham from 2008?

It's been a peaceful time lately. I do hope it lasts! There just may not be anything nicer than than the moments we can wander around thinking about what we love to do...watching for inspirations.....coming up with new ideas...imagining new creations. May we all have lots of those moments!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The new baby

Will you look at This!!??  I look into the room several times a day just to check on It..

I am fortunate that few people in Israel value the stuff I like. So far I've found a loom, a spinning wheel and now this Beautiful Treadle Machine for a song! When I called the phone number on the ad for the machine, the fellow said, "you know, the cabinet is not in good shape."

That's ok, I said, I don't care about the cabinet.

There was a pause. "What do you want this for?" he said, half wonderingly to himself.

The Machine, I told him -- "but you realize it is not electric...." he continued in confusion.  When we met later that day to clinch the deal, he studied me off and on. People just don't get us....

I dragged my friend Dina with me. She has a lot more toys (as my husband calls it) than I do, including TWO Berninas, one treadle machine for sewing and another treadle machine for sewing leather (also a spinning wheel, loom, soap and candle making equipment) -- when I first met her, I just wandered around her house in amazement. She has every book I ever wanted, too.

So I dragged her along and she obligingly crawled around the Machine, looked underneath it, rotated the wheel, squeaked the treadle (it squeaked then), examined the bobbin case....you know, kicked the tires on the thing. "It's good," she said.

And boy is it ever! It is so calming. You don't even need to use it to calm down. You can just sit next to it and feel its solid presence....it's quiet power....it's self-assurance.  I wouldn't presume to name it because it knows its own name (and I may never know what it is).

And it has lions. Two actually, one here and another on the base. Aren't they Fabulous??

Lions belong in Jerusalem. You know, "lion of Judah." And Jerusalem is known as the city of gold because of the colors of the buildings at sunset. And there they are -- Golden Lions.

What's not to like?

And finally after three days of saying he didn't want to, the hubby sat down to it. I had told him that sewing on it would be an experience like no other.  He had been unmoved by this comment. But last night, after I made a few more pushy remarks, and got a little (just a little) obnoxious about it, he sat down at it and he did it. And let out this cute little cry of delight! He's made a lot of noises in the past, but never one like this. "It is so effortless!" he gushed.

We all know Real Men aren't supposed to be cute, but the truth is the truth. It was cute. I made him tell me about it twice more just to enjoy his reaction again. He is obliging that way.

So the best I can figure, this machine was made by the Standard Sewing Machine Company for a smaller company named Phillips. The serial number would fit Standard's numbers for 1905. Ain't that somethin'? Later in 1934, Singer took them over (it seems Singer took everybody over) and Standard was no more. But they had been there since the 1880s in Ohio, turning out machines in more than 600 different names for smaller dealers. I don't think I'll ever know when it traveled overseas to Israel.

But now, this year in Jerusalem, it'll be back to work for the first time in many, many years!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Serious thoughts about cotton

Have you read Cotton: The Biography of a Revolutionary Fiber by Stephen Yafa?

Malca found it for me in a used bookstore and I've dog-eared it badly by reading it so many times. I've only been able to interest two friends in reading this book -- most people do things like 1) get very quiet or 2) become interested in something else in the room or 3) back away -- and sometimes they do all of the above. They don't realize what they are missing.  This 344 page book with notes, glossary and index is a fascinating read--and I heard it was on the NY Times bestseller list for a while.

In addition to fascinating, I found it very disturbing. In cotton's several thousand history - dating all the way back to Mohenjo-Daro in the Indus Valley at the dawn of civilization, cotton has been implicated in the slave trade, child labor, the invasion of India, and excessive use of pesticides worldwide. In ancient times, young girls were recruited to spin cotton into gossamer thread -- so that it could be woven into a gauzy-type of fabric only for royalty and it was said they went blind after working on it after only a few years.

The best known slave trade was to the US for work in the cotton fields. But Yafa also mentions slaves imported to Arab lands as well. The first use of child labor for spinning and weaving cotton in the factories was in the very first textile factory ever -- in Cromford, England. The practice quickly spread all over the industrialized world.

When the cotton gin was invented and cotton could be cleaned quickly, the slave population increased dramatically. We all know about the civil war. And the sharecropping lifestyle that followed it. Cotton spawned one of the most famous bugs in history -- the boll weevil. And when huge farm equipment and
sophisticated pesticides came on the market, thousands of sharecroppers were thrown out of work. He also says that "cotton has been responsible....for an ecological disaster of epic proportions in central Asia...."

The author writes that "no legal plant on earth has killed more people by virtue of the acrimony and avarice it provoked."

It was really disturbing to read all of this! Nobody that I know of fought a civil war with hundreds of thousands of deaths over sheep. I've never heard of vast numbers of people displaced and enslaved over merino or corriedale. Certainly no one has invaded New Zealand in order to control its wool trade. If there are bugs made world famous by sheep, I'm not sure what they are. Certainly sheep have bugs and I imagine there are pesticides used in growing feed for sheep and there is a lot of controversy over preventing fly infestations in sheep by  mulesing which is supposed to be phased out in Australia now. There are bad practices out there but sheep raising seems a lot less destructive.

I read that different varieties of cotton are found naturally all over the world.  Cotton would seem to be out there to make use of (religious overtones left out) but how exactly should we use it? Certainly not in such a destructive manner....which suggests we must use a lot less of it I guess. If we only use what we can grow without pesticides, the global crop would certainly be a lot smaller.

This book really changed my life. I decided I would only use organic cotton in weaving, knitting and doll making. Camomille Connection (http://www.chamomileconnection.com/organiccottonyarns.htm) sells organic cotton for warp for a very reasonable price and it is so much silkier than non-organic! And Dharma Trading Company (http://www.dharmatrading.com/) has a fine price on the organic muslin I use on my doll bodies. I am still using up left over dress fabric which is not organic, but soon I will be in the market for organic, printed quilt fabrics which are my favorites for making doll clothes. Any ideas where to find it?

This artisan/crafting business can certainly be serious stuff!