Sunday, November 2, 2008

An art doll for Nana

My mother-in-law has this awesome art doll, handmade by a textile artist in Virginia. Last year, while Miss E was about, oh, 19 months old, Nana let Miss E play with Rita. We told her she was crazy, but hey, it's her only grandchild, so she was fine with it. Miss E talked about Rita forever, and as our trip to Arizona got closer and closer this year, she was very excited to go play with Rita. And that got me to thinking ...

Nana needed another art doll. No, actually, Rita needed a companion. And that's how Randi came into being. I worked on her in and around all the baby gifts, up until the day or two before we left for Arizona. So Randi is Rita's kid sister. She's just been through a nasty breakup and is done with men and relationships for a bit, and while she's on break, she decided it was as good a time as any to reconnect with her older sis. They haven't talked much for at least a decade, but they never hated each other. Just never really bonded. But where else is a girl to go when she's down and out and needs a friend? To her sister's, of course ... so Randi moved in with Rita, unannounced.

Rita seemed a bit shocked at first, but was glad to see her younger sib. After the first hour or so of acclimating, they hit it off quite well, and by the end of five days, they were the best of friends, as sisters should be. When we left, Rita had just told Randi that she was welcome to stay as long as she needed, and Randi said she'd take her up on that. She quite enjoyed the weather in the mountains of Arizona ...

So Randi is the basic doll pattern from the book "Toys to Sew", like some of the first ones I made for Miss E. I embroidered her winking face and was pleased that it came out exactly the way I envisioned it, which is not usually the way things go. Her dress is two Amy Butler prints with a nice ribbon sash, and her purse is a coordinating AB fabric. Her shoes were a lot more difficult than I expected, and I'd never do them in the right/recommended size again; I'd shrink the pattern like I did the dress. I did the doll at 212% and the dress at 176% (of what's in the book). I kept sewing around and around, trimming as I went, until they finally fit. I do love the ballet ribbon wraps -- it just fit for Randi!

And best of all was her hair -- a totally unexpected bit of perfection. I found the yarn at JoAnn, loved the colors that coordinated with the fabrics, and loved the chunky unevenness of it all. But I tried putting it on like the pattern said, and it didn't work at all because of the uneven texture and thick yarn. So I sewed each strand individually, and it was a piece of cake -- so much faster, so random, so perfect for this doll. I almost want to pull off Jessie's hair now and give her locks like this! The funniest part was that she was bald for so long (at least two weeks), that when I saw her with a full head of hair, I couldn't believe how different she looked. Proves what a good haircut can do, I suppose. And when I spun her around for a good first look, I laughed out loud, because I realized I'd given her hair that made her look so much like my friend Molly (High, Maw-LEE!) it was almost uncanny. No, she doesn't wear crazy makeup and wink all the time, but the hair, the hair, the HAIR -- it's so very, very Molly!

I'm not planning on making another art doll, though I suppose if the occasion arose, I would. But it was a fun experience, and I do love the final product. Miss E was so cute when she handed her over to Nana, and even cuter when she hugged and kissed both Randi and Rita farewell before we drove back to Texas.

I have to also mention the quilt that the ladies are sitting on. I think I got this right -- it's stitched by hand by either my mother-in-law's mother or her grandmother. It has the most gorgeous fabrics on it, including a few baby-themed prints. I couldn't believe the detail on this quilt and the fact that every single stitch on it is by hand! Oh, so very, very beautiful indeed!

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