Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Canadian Quirky

This feature on Canadian maker Margi Hennen dolls is from the same issue of DOLL as the little felt dolls.

I was inspired by the alliance of wit, warmth, and modern artistic opportunity, with an old-fashioned ingenuity that recalls pioneer women reworking old sheets and clothing into wonderful quilts to soften the rough edges of pioneer life. (We had all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books at home when I was a child. Caroline Ingalls was a remarkable woman. Whatever you made of the (syrupy!) Little House on the Prairie TV series, I would strongly recommend the first book, Little House in the Big Woods....and then there's On the Banks of Plum Creek, Little House on the Prairie, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter..... you get the picture?!)

Anyway - Here's a Christmas angel I made years ago, from samples of furnishing fabric. Basically, as you can see, I just stitched some squares together, made a head (drawing round something circular to get it right) wrapped it up, stitched and stuffed and stitched again. I don't recommend velvet for small work - too bulky on corners - but I'm fond of this Miss.

The pearl bead halo is wired on, and has to be straightened every year when it comes out of the the Christmas deckie box. Ahhh!

Do you see the influence of Margi Hennen in this wild vision in silver? I made her for my mother's Christmas tree: a fairy (definitely no angel!) for the more mature woman!

She has a pipe-cleaner body, with legs encased in woven ribbon.
Instead of felt, I used soft cream cotton for body and hands - which means a seam allowance to allow them to be turned inside out - otherwise she'll fray!
I cut two keyhole shapes for her head and torso, seamed, turned and stuffed them, and stitched them to the pipe cleaner armature. Getting technical now! See next entry ;P

The silver dress is one big rectangle with gathers around the neck slit; seamed down the sides, and sewn around the hands (on their pipe cleaner ends). It's a kaftan really, tied at the waist, with the upper part pulled up to create a bosom, and the bottom edge deeply frayed.

I may have drawn her face before making up the body: there are two advantages to this approach: 1 - you're drawing on a flat surface, and 2 - if you make a mistake, you can just turn over and start again! However, you need to pick pens that will not bleed ink, to remember that the stuffed face will curve, and to think about where her hairline will be. Practice makes perfect, but mistakes can be hilarious, or result in unexpected depths; bottom line - Do it your way!
P.S. The wand is a cocktail stirrer, just to complete the Gin Fairy image!

Next up, the formerly stoned/psychotic angel I mentioned before. She's actually a variation on the felt dolls.

I reset her eyes (felt tip, though you can buy fabric crayons and school-tag permanent pens) but the smudges indicate where I first stitched the beads - so far apart that she was more wasp than fairy.

The head is a gathered circle of felt, as for the felt dolls, with lengths of gold braid stitched on.
The body is a rectangle of felt, wrapped and stitched around padded pipe cleaners. (Again, see next entry.) As you can see, the head is attached at a right angle to the torso.
Her legs are pipe cleaners in the same woven ribbon as Mother's 'Angel'.
The arms are different. I threaded wire through this really thick multi-coloured braid, turned back the ends with pliers because vicious scratches have no place in my Christmas experience, and frayed the ends to suggest fingers.
The dress is a rectangle, not a cone; hemmed at the bottom and gathered at the neck on the doll herself, with a ribbon sash to add fulness and keep it in place.

And this is Harriet. I love Harriet: she's so optimistic, and nothing surprises her. She was my first Margi Hennen-inspired doll.

Keyhole face and torso on a pipe cleaner armature, just as for the Gin Fairy, and as you can see, the pipe cleaners mean that you can pose her.
The terracotta tabard is all that remains of a once splendid silk suit that Habibi had years ago. The under-tunic is a longer piece of fabric, hemmed and doubled over, with a neck slit. Those are beads of semi-precious stone at her wrists and collar, bought in a tiny packet from a haberdasher.

I don't usually buy variegated yarn because I don't like the effect when it's knitted up, but it's perfect for suggesting the various hints and tones of a head of hair. Here, though, I used yarn in two different colours, to get the balance I wanted. I cut a piece of card for length, and wound the yarn round and round until I had the fulness I was aiming for, then stitched the hair in place, without cutting the ends, and used contrasting thread to prevent tangles.

And the moral of the story is, whether you go for nursery felts, pink fur, black leather, purple satin, foil, crepe paper or - whatever! - from a basic model, you can do pretty well anything you like, and if your angel doesn't turn out quite as you expected, you can always sit her amongst the foliage of your Christmas tree, positioned to show her best feature!


Soren said...

I love your dolls! Is there any way I could persuade you to scan the entire Margi Hennen article so I could read it?

Anonymous said...

Margi Hennen is a great teacher, by the way. She lets me help out and as a team, we have a super time. Any need for a class in Spain during the cold, wet, Canadian springtime?

wholesale fern said...

We are state certified tree nursery specializing in native plants and trees, shrubs, fern, and perennials as well as pond plants and wetland mitigation species.