When the sun warms the earth and makes it friable, when the birds sing their merry songs and little wee things start to grow, then it's time for the root babies to wake up.
First they open one eye, then another. They make soft gooey noises. They perk up. Mother Nature doesn't let them outside until they have fashioned themselves new clothes, because they must meet the world fresh and ready.
So we fashioned a new outfit for Baby Aelfreda too.
Aside her autumn garb, which consists of a lovely (but practical) dress made of hard-wearing, medium weight, pure linen with lovely wool bits of appliqued leaves in needlepoint-weight wool, her merino leggins (with reinforced knee patches for when she starts crawling about), her hand knit booties of hand-dyed yarn, her ridiculously sweet wool-plaid cape (with customary mushroom button of course!) and her elfish bonnet made in cotton velour and lined in green merino with hand-knit ties and lovely tassels. Yes, that IS her autumn garb. Yes, I also wish I was Baby Aelfreda, we can weep together.
As you can witness over here, we went "to town". We decided Spring must still be a bit chilly where she is heading to (Austria to be exact) so the thin ecru cotton pointelle wasn't going to cut it. So we promptly lined the whole thing with another layer of cotton jersey in white.
We went for the kimono-style top, with cotton twill ties. We used the same merino/cashmere ribbing throughout: on her sleeves, leg cuffs and collar. You know? to make it "pop", but we added a thicker and wider merino band to the waist of her pants, so no chilly wind get down there. And besides, I love wide ribbing for baby clothes because it helps to keep those clothes snuggly.
We added a length of cotton lace to the bottom hem of her top and then it was right time to focus on her diaper, which we fashioned out of the softest, brushed, un-dyed, cotton-flannel we could find. Lined the whole bit in the same white cotton jersey too.
She needed a somepin' somepin', so we had the brilliant idea of making her a sturdy bib. Babies drool an awful lot, so we added a layer of thick cotton batting and lined in the same cotton-flannel as her diaper. At the very last minute, the muse spoke, we quilted it and added a trapunto heart. Tears of joy, people. Tears of joy.
And she obviously was lacking for a pièce de résistance. Initially we thought we were going to knit da thing. But upon further consideration we went gong-ho on the bonnet and attempted a flower-shaped one instead. Our first and we…I mean…words cannot describe the pride we all feel here. Even Poet said to me she felt like I am graduating from doll-clothing-making Grade 1 already.
For clarity purposes, we did make a muslin first. Not in muslin, in some god-aweful fabric we have in the studio for just that purpose. We drafted a pattern, sewed it all up in this other fabric, and since it fits just the way we wanted, we proceeded to make it out of linen and added a lovely thick green stem at top.
We are a bit in love with it, and we might just topstitch it along the edges before we send Aelfreda home. Who knows?.
Overall we are both surprised and enamoured by Aelfreda. She is not exactly the doll I thought I was going to create. I envisioned a "different" baby, but once sculpted and made in fabric, she was who she was. I made a few hundred dolls and I'm still amazed and mystified by the process.
Of course, as a doll maker (and one in business to boot!) you are after the end product. You want to create a doll, you have ideas, your customer has ideas, there are requests, time constraints and the whole rest. Technically I know how to make them. Technically there is little mystery left for me to discover in the movements of the sewing machine or the pattern itself. However, there is a world entirely unknown for me regarding the magic of creativity.
It is both a curse and what keeps me so motivated. I love making dolls. They surprise me, I surprise myself. Some days I come to the blog to clean things up and I wander around like a ghost. Did I really make those dolls? How could these little hands have made such loveliness? I can't fathom it.
I have mentioned countless times that when I started making dolls I had not one clue on how to use a sewing machine, I did not know how to knit, and I didn't have a camera. My husband bought me an expensive sewing machine, he invested in my creativity and gave me time and space to get to know this inner creative person that was busting at the seams to express herself.
My children sparked every single change in my creations, from the way I added pockets to everything because they kept filling theirs with every object known to men; to the creation of each single doll style thereafter, like the Figlette, or the Mannikin, or the poseable baby, or the Petite Fig.
It has been an incredibly journey of self-expression, self-knowledge and means of creation. And is if this wasn't just enough weight to sink a whole ship, the people I have had the pleasure of meeting and talking to, it's just what makes this whole thing such an amazing adventure.
Baby Aelfreda goes to a mother who I am deeply connected to, and who I think of very often. Even though it has been a while since she has perused the doll world of Fig and Me, she is present every day in my studio. I have so many little things she has sent over the years to me, and whenever I look at them I think of her. I thank her and I carry on, with a lighter heart and a wider smile.
She has inspired many a book reading, music sampling and deep digging on motivation. We both share an admiration for russian authors, Elsa Beskow and Sybille von Olfers, as well as Beatrix Potter.
I wanted to thank you Nina, for giving me the marvellous chance of creating Aelfreda for you. I know she took you by surprise, just as she did with me. I know it took some time to get adjusted to the idea of a head-strong doll, even when she is just a baby, but here we are. Life is full of surprises, isn't it? Little did we know that you looking for a little doll made of cashmere for your son, would land you in my lap and the rest is history.
It has been so great to know you and your little family. To know of your upbringing, the line of work you do, and the many tidbits you have shared with me along the way. I think of the dolls I have made and sent your way and I always breathe easy knowing they are in such a loving home, and firmly hoping they give you joy.
I will be packing and sending Aelfreda with so much love, it might also take you by surprise. Thank you for sticking out with me, for your patience and your trust. For being quiet, but present. And for your kindest, loving words.