Monday, August 9, 2010

Three Grandmothers and Emily Rose

On the day before I went to Petaluma to take the Froud 3-day class, I was in San Leandro at the Barbara Willis Memory Box doll class. Barbara Willis is known world-wide for her exquisite dolls, classes and books. She is a long-time member of my Phoebe Doll Club. I had been wanting to take a class from her since I started making dolls and joined the Phoebes five years ago. I was thrilled when she decided to conduct one of our four Phoebe-sponsored classes held each year. The class was on her recently designed Memory Box doll, which hangs on the wall and is designed around a box filled with collected nostalgic items.

At the class Barbara demonstrated the various techniques for needle sculpting the face and assembling the box, but there was little time for other work in the class. The pre-work had included sewing and stuffing the legs and torso.

After I returned from Petaluma and finished Keiran and Valentine, I started working on finishing Barbara's doll. I decided to dedicate it to my adorable granddaughter, Emily Rose (now five years old), and incorporate meaningful items relating me, my mother, Sarah, and my grandmother, Amelia. We are Emily's grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother, respectively.

I never realized how labor-intensive this doll would be.

I cannot tell you how many hours and days I have worked on it. I can only say I spent more time on this doll than any I have ever made! I finally finished it yesterday. I scanned photos of all of us and reduced the sizes (Emily's two photos are in the heart-shaped locket hanging on the back right-hand corner of the inside of the box. The three grandmothers are in frames on the left inside door.

All four of us share similar interests in the ultra-feminine and we grandmothers have shared similar skills and interests. We have all three been interested in sewing. My grandmother would take my mother window shopping when she was a girl. They would pick out designs they liked and my grandmother would come home, draft patterns, and create copies. My mother made almost all my clothes until I was in high school—until I started sewing some of them for myself. Her sewing was amazing... she made beautiful garments and many of my prom dresses, often out of silk, and often beautifully and tastefully embellished with beads, etc. I started sewing and never stopped, eventually becoming co-owner of two tailoring, dressmaking and alterations shops. My business partner and I created many one-of-a-kind designs which were featured in the shop and many local fashion shows.
My grandmother and mother were masters at crochet. Between them, they crocheted hundreds of doilies, tablecloths, curtains and clothes from fine crochet thread in the most exquisite lacy patterns, sometimes incorporating tiny seed beads. I was the knitter and I was once really into knitting about anything you could think of, including dresses. We all three loved any type of crafts. The tiny hat hanging in the back of the box was made by my mother as a pin from some sort of natural coiled fiber. She won many awards for her flower arranging. She was constantly making centerpieces and decorations for parties and events she attended and I often helped her.

The buttons are from my grandmother's button box. The heart locket is some "junk jewelry" I had as a kid. The doilies and laces we all three collected. The perfume bottle was my mothers. I made tiny hat boxes by covering an old plastic zipper container (remember those?) and a small cardboard salt container we used to take on picnics. I made the dressform from black wire and stuffed doe suede. I put one of my grandmother's antique buttons on the heart in the doll's hands and scanned and reduced the images of some old postcards I had collected. I added a minature Eiffel Tower I brought back from my recent trip to Paris.
I will keep the doll hanging on my wall until Emily Rose is a little older and can understand the meaning of the items. In the meantime, I will go on sewing clothes for her—my living doll—because she really, really loves clothes and all things "girly." She definitely inherited her three grandmothers' genes!


  1. Your doll turned out so lovely. I don't know how you took the class and then Wendy's the next day. I would have been exhausted.

  2. I am just amazed at how much you get done. Wow your doll is amazing