Sweet travels Bernadette, don't forget to write.
This is usually what Poet and I say to all the dolls that are leaving, while she helps me pack them up and talks to them so they don’t get nervous. Poet is a very good helper as you can imagine.
Now Bernadette has been the most patient of all my dolls, I do believe that and I am not exaggerating. Her mom and I started discussing her many traits back in late August. Then the crazy Fall had me dreaming of Bernadette but I couldn’t pin her down, as my head was very full with two boys: Amos and Wulfric. Right after these two, another little girl made her presence felt very strongly so we had to let her come through: our sweet Rye.
We started work on her when the move back to Canada became imminent so we had to put her in a special box, surrounded by her favourite things and let her know that I would get back as soon as my sewing machine was ready…which didn’t happen until mid December.
But we were good and ready come January. She slowly started waking up and talking to me, as the dolls always do.
So of course, being in the dead of winter we went for very warm clothes. We had already envisioned lots of brown for her, as you remember she was supposed to be born in the Fall. Now the landscape had nothing but white and blue, and while our friend Snow seemed to love it, Bernadette still wanted all those rich browns around her. I couldn’t agree more with her.
Little by little her wardrobe grew. The yarn I used to knit her over-sized round collar is the same I used many years ago to knit my youngest a little vest. It is hand-dyed 100% wool in the most richest shades of purple, pink, brown, blue, cream…it’s just gorgeous. Bernadette immediately gravitated to this small ball of yarn and claimed it as hers. So we made her something cute out of it.
Then she asked for a cream shirt with cashmere neckline, and her lovely dungarees. By this time we had little to no snow and the first birds come back. Together we saw our first robin and so Bernadette wanted it imprinted on her clothes. I made my very first fat robin with the help of stumpwork techniques and it was so much fun. We spent two or three days working on nothing but her overalls. We made eggs, branches, a real big knitted nest, flowers and another robin. We were having so much fun!
Boots, a knitted kerchief in merino and cashmere, the list is long. But we will get to the beginner of the summer then. Being a girl in love with purple she grabbed tulle, cashmere, wool and even baby-whale corduroy in the same lavender shade. I tried to coax her into the many advantages of using complimentary colours, etc. but to no avail as you can see. She knows what she wants and she kinds of digs her feet and doesn’t budge. I hope her Mom has more resistance than I do because her green eyes and freckle face just melt me. So I said yes.
Bernadette had watched us prune excessively the crabapple trees in the yard, and just like us, she was expecting little to no blooms. The poor trees had sat for a few seasons growing madly and though we wanted to encourage their life for many more years, there were so many dead branches and things in knots that we had to take quite a bit off of them. Well, I guess our prayers were answered. We didn’t kill the trees and they graced us with an exhuberant bloom. Bernadette and I were so happy!
I left for the UK, spent two lovely weeks soaking sun in Devon and Somerset and came back full of energy to see this little girl finished. All we needed were a few buttons here and there, a dash of embroidery and a spot of “sit over there while I take your picture”.
Early summer saw us tryign to do just that, covered in mosquitoes and black flies. The joys of Northern Ontario and Canada in the summer in general. But we persevered because the wildflowers wait for no one and we have to make ourselves known, reintroduce ourselves after a long hiatus and let them know who we are. We met some of Poet’s favourites: the bunchberries. Bernadette said: “Right here Fabs, take my picture right here!”.
This little girl has been with me for so long, that I am a little sad to pack her away if I’m honest. Normally I take very long creating my dolls, that is just how I work. I have tried to be “expedient” and “efficient” and to a certain degree, years of work has helped me to do things like that, but time belongs to the dolls and they actually call the shots. Some days I can embroider their eyes because I just can’t make up my mind. Decisions are very hard when you are making a doll and one day she says “brown” and the next she says “blue”. Stuck between two lovers!
Bernadette and I have spent many, many afternoons adding little snaps, weaving ends, picking ribbon. She has allowed me to measure her umpteen times and has watched movies with me on my lap. Her body, as well as her clothing, is full of little details that I know and will remember. The Fall of her beginning, the move, the early Winter, the Spring and now the full-on Summer. A whole year together, how can I not feel a little sad to see her go? Her sweet belly and those generous arms have made me a happy person whenever I needed a little friend.
But Bernadette and I spent our last weekend together. I thought I was procrastinating massively by not publishing her last blog, but in reality I think I just needed to say good bye. So many people ask me how can I bear to part with the dolls and in all honesty, it’s very hard. To me they are not “just dolls”, they are my little people, my wooly children, I love them with all my heart. I have a bit of a ritual to say good-bye to them and it all starts with sewing the snaps. Photos. Last little bits. Blog. Presents?…and then good bye.
It is hard. it is painful. But also joyful, if it can be both at the same time. I like to think of the person at the other end, the one waiting for them. How many giggles will they get as they play with them, discover little treats, little design details. How much comfort will they receive when they hug my dolls, when they see themselves in them. I hope that the love I feel when I create my dolls translates for them and it makes them happy. One little doll at a time, I say to myself.
And finally, we say those words: Good bye Bernadette, sweet travels, eat all your supper and don’t forget to write back.