Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Betty Boop

Recently, a customer asked if I would make a Betty Boop ornament for his girlfriend.  I said yes and obtained the original vintage Betty Boop cloth doll pattern from over a century ago.  I had to reduce the pattern (original is about 18" and he wanted it about 8-9").

The original pattern called for felt but I used doe suede in a pale colour (shiny side up).  I decided that I wanted her iconic curls so I used paper clay to make the curls and then painted the hair.  I did not paint her body, only her facial features and hair.

The customer had seen a tiny ornament of Betty Boop in a red, high-heeled shoe an wanted that look.  I had a white acrylic white shoe in my stash and I used sand paper to rough it up and then painted it bright red on the outside and a yellow/gold on the inside.

The result worked well:

 Betty Boop is holding sheet music from an old song "Blue Heaven" as the intended recipient is a vocal teacher and piano player.  The dress is made from cherry red jersey and her stole and fur on her Santa hat is "minky" fabric that is very soft and nice and thin-perfect for the scale of the doll.
I gave her bracelets and gold earrings, of course!

Hope you find a good home Betty:

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Friday, 21 November 2014


Well it is that time of year and it is wonderful!  Yes, I am speaking about the Christmas season with all its lights, colours, giving and receiving.  

One of my customers challenged me to make her a 4 foot Santa and I accepted the challenge.  She wants to surprise her husband with an "over the top" gift for their home.  Once I accepted the challenge, I went to work.  I learned which style of Santa she wanted and then I looked for images on the internet and in my many reference books.  Armed with about 10 photos I started by gathering possible fabrics for my project.

I started with the head of the Santa.  If the head does not convey the feeling of merriment and mirth that I want in the Santa then the Santa will not be good enough no matter how lovely the costume.

I was prepared to make as many heads as it took but I lucked out on my first try:

I loved the way this fellow looks like he has a twinkle in his eye.  I made him using knit fabric that I stuffed as usual with polyfil and then I needle sculpted his face.  I then added paper clay to enhance his nose, eyes, eyebrows and add wrinkles to his sweet face. I then  added a thin coat of gesso and painted the face.  I was quite pleased with the effect.  The inspiration for this face was from an old illustration of Santa by Thomas Nast (from the book Christmas Drawings, Dover publication).  I have always loved his cheery depictions of Santa and as it turns out, my customer loved his drawing as well.

Now on to the body:  once again I used knit fabric as I wanted a nice round belly.  This Santa would not have legs as the size would make it very difficult to have cloth legs.  Here is the body:

Notice that I made the arms with a cotton fabric and then made knit arms as the overlay to blend in with his body.  I placed him on an old lamp stand with the rod through his body and head for support.  It worked well and made him easy to move around.

Now I could concentrate on the costume.  I decided that he would have a tunic and a luxurious cape.  The customer mentioned that her home is in the Tuscan style and colours so I used burgundy, gold, and ivory with hints of greenery.  It was fun finding just the right trims for him.  

 He needed a staff so I used an old broom handle and painted it and added a finial, trim and tassels to enhance the rich Tuscan feel of this Santa.

He needed a hint of greenery so I added some and placed two wee birds on his branch.  That is what he is looking at with his sweet grin.

Here are more photos from various angles:

 His beard, hair, and eyebrows are made from Tibetan mohair-perfect for Santa.

I had a piece of real fun in my stash and I used it around the hood of his cape and around his hat.

Final photos, I will miss him when he goes to his new home!

 I added some fun toys around his belt (he is Santa after all)!

Good bye Santa!
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Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Last but not Least- Venice

I have had a love affair with Venice since the early seventies when I first visited with my father.  

What attracts me to Venice?  Hard to say, but it pulls at my heart strings.  I love the exotic-looking palaces laced together by quaint bridges over sun-speckeled canals.  i love the romantic atmosphere of elegant decay, the quiet by night, the chaotic by day, St Mark's square, the cafes, even the gaggle of Chinese tourists with the obligatory guide holding the umbrella handle aloft-it is what makes Venice unique in all the world!

Once again we used the services of airbnb to book our apartment for four glorious nights.  The apartment was small but very tidy and clean and in a wonderful location only a short 15-20 minute walk to St Mark's square.

Our first walk, our first glimpse down a canal!

Our first view of the iconic gondola

St. Mark's
My sister and I were worried that arriving in Venice at the end of October would mean rain and wind and flooding.  We are happy to report that we need not have worried!  Our four days in Venice were filled with sun, warm weather (15-17C)  and no flooding!

Our friend arrived in Venice on the Tuesday and we visited the Doge's Palace, St. Mark's Basilica, and spent a day in Murano and Burano (islands a short one hour vaporetto ride away).  What a glorious adventure!

Words cannot adequately capture the beauty and mystique of Venice, nor can photos.  If you have only one trip in mind to view an iconic city, then my choice would be Venice!

travelling by water bus (vaporetto) like the harried inhabitants

Italian glass garden in Murao

picturesque Burano

View of the cemetery only accessible by boat

Canal view with the setting sun

Mosaics of St Mark's Basilica

One of the many artfully displayed stores

Did I mention that I love Venice!  The city is very expensive to live in and inconvenient but for the romantic, there is no place like it on earth!  Could I live in Venice, well not forever but I can visit it year after year without tiring of its beauty and mystique.  I love the lacy palaces, the artisans, the masks, the marionettes, the blown glass, the jewellery, the gelato, the fish markets, the fruit markets, the gondolas, the fishing villages in Burano and Murano, the basilicas, I love it all!  Venice I will return to you again and again.

Arriverdeci Venezia!  

Final Week 3-Fast Cars and Relatives

Well, our adventure is winding down and we say goodbye to two of our travelling companions who head for home at the end of week two.  My sister and I and our friend carry on alone to visit the land of the fast, beautiful cars-Marinello, home of Ferrari, and Modena, home of Mazarati.

A picture is worth a thousand words.  These cars are engineering beauties with style, sex appeal, and roaring engines that anyone can appreciate!

We were thrilled to view the museum with the curator explaining the various models.  We were then treated to a tour of the restoration portion of the Ferrari factory where teams work on a single car for two years, restoring it to the original condition (no photos allowed in the factory).

It was a dream day of fast cars, good food and even better company!

Modena, the land of the Mazerati (beautiful cars but not as known or popular as the Ferrari) was next.  Originally, we were to travel via train to a small town near Pisa that is home of the motorbike, Vespa but our plans changed as there was a one day train strike!  Did i mention that Italy is challenging and chaotic but oh so worth the trip as long as one remembers to sit back, savour the cappuccino, and go with the flow!

Now back to Modena and the beautiful Mazerati cars:

Gorgeous cars, dream machines!

Modena was a quaint, most liveable town with cobbled lanes and lots of bike trails.  I could see myself spending a week there exploring the land of the balsamic vinegar (yes, the food was marvellous as always on this trip).

Now my sister and I travelled a little north and east to Congegliano to visit our cousins and my sole surviving aunt (my dad's sister).  We left our friend in Marinello as he was not done with the fast cars (he went on to visit the Lamborghini factory!).

Farm yard kittens

My sister with my cousin's Lamborghini tractor

Typical plot of land for vegetable garden at my cousin's house

He has ducks and chickens too!
 We had a wonderful stay with our cousins, full of good fun, good food and lots of laughter.  Although it has been seven long years since I saw them last, it seemed like we never left as the love and warmth they gave us touched our hearts.  It was so good to see my aunt (now 86 and not in the best heath) and I do hope that I will be able to see her again!  Arriving in my birth town, hearing my Italian dialect, walking the flat roads of the Po valley, drinking a ombretta (glass of wine) and a grappa, visiting cousins and friends warms my heart and will last in my memory for a lifetime!


  As you all know if you follow me, I am thralled with Frida Kahlo and never tire of making dolls in her image.  Here are the latest two mad...