Monday, May 7, 2018

A Little Background....

Blossoms, Branches and Biography.....

I Left you last week, Dear Readers, with the fourth blossom  completed and the fifth one painted and ready to assemble. I had once again hoped I would manage to make two blossoms in a weekend, but once again I only completed one more. Above you can see the unpainted florets lined up in the box I am using to keep them safe during the many steps required for this process. The florets are tiny and could easily be scattered by passing pets or brisk breezes! I was planning to make the next batch of florets, but decided I needed to make the remaining three shrubs look a little more like the first one before I forgot the steps needed to do so!

Here you can see two of them with only the main stems, 
and even a few of the secondary stems still not attached.
I attached the last few missing stems
 and then wrapped all the joins
 in extra layers of brown paper and glue.
This was to strengthen them and also to smooth
 the transition from one size branch to the next. 
It is only marginally successful at that, 
but I console myself with the assumption
 that no-one is ever going to look that closely
 between the branches!
And because I have already made one of these shrubs, 
I have a good idea of how many smaller branches are needed!

I need to make forty-eight twigged branches for each shrub!
Above you can see twenty four with the twigs added and the glue drying.

This is the number two shrub with the 
stems ready to have the branches added.
I tried to give them the same shape and twists
 as the first shrub, but some adjusting will
 probably be needed as we go on.
 It is remarkably difficult to make the two shrubs
 closely resemble each other!

Here I am starting to add the twigged branches to the stems.....

And more added... 
I think this is fifteen or so of the branches added.....
But it was getting late,
 and I was also assembling that sixth flower blossom.....

Oh, and I forgot to show you the completed fifth blossom!

Just for the record .... here it is!

And here you can see the six completed blossoms together!
(Along with the failed previous method at the right for comparison!)
And the other little bit of background I worked on Dear Readers,
 was the cream colored stitches in the petit-point embroidery.

See? And I have no idea how many stitches
 I added, because I wasn't counting!
It is very therapeutic to sit and stitch on a Sunday morning!
 And since I have so little that is new to show you Dear Readers, 
I thought I would continue with the retrospective of this blog, 
this time sparked by a comment left by one of you Readers!
In the picture of Rose Thorne Cottage that I posted last week,
 visible in the background is the doll whose picture
 is the icon for my blog.
 But I have never introduced you to her!
You must meet Penny Wooden!
She is entirely hand made by me,
 carved from wood a long time ago when I was nineteen.

She is a mortise and tenon jointed wooden peg doll....

She is much larger than dollhouse scale, 
standing about sixteen inches tall....
(Which she doesn't do very well as her knees buckle easily...!)

I had never carved wood before....
 and didn't know how to carve the features.....
I remember going to the mirror to try to see
 how a face rounded from the front profile to the side....
And then I had no idea how to paint the features.....
I do not even remember where I got the paints!
The hair is my brother's hair.... collected after
 he got his long hippie locks cut short....
beautiful curly hair!

The hands are also carved wood.... 
I think the entire doll is made from scraps of pine wood
that we had kicking around at the Farm.....!
I added the swivel joints in her forearms
 so her hands can change their angle of repose!

She is really rather fragile at this point, 
her wood having aged and dried and shrunk....
I let her sit quietly on a cushion beside me on my drawing table.
But her story is a.... well,
 Let me tell you her story!
I made her at a point in my life when I had not yet left home. 
We lived in a very rural area and 
creative materials were hard to come by. 
Trips to the city, which were few and far between,
 always involved looking for
 fancy cloth and books and other artistic supplies.
Shortly after I completed her, I did leave home,
 and decided to give her to my sister 
who was living half way across the country at the time.
I made a fancy traveling box to keep
 her secure and shipped her off.
And I truly forgot all about her!
I was young and doing other things... 
including making cloth fashion dolls for a few years.
My sister is the one who named her "Penny Wooden"
(Because she was carved in the style of the 
antique "penny woodens" of the eighteenth century.)
She sewed her some alternate costumes, 
but decided to keep her in her original gown which you see here... 
(sewn by me with all the underclothes in accurate detail)

You can see here her "bodice" is not
 completely covered by her "stomacher"....
If you care to know such details!
My sister kept her carefully in her box most of the time....
but did let her out once or twice to play with her daughters.
Her leather shoes and neck ribbon and hair lappets got lost along the way.
But my sister moved a lot, 
and boxes get stored from time to time, 
and so she was forgotten.
Truly forgotten. By all of us!
Then a few years ago we were all
 preparing for my Mother to move out West,
 so there was a big clear out of her attics and closets,
 and Lo and Behold,
 There was Penny Wooden in her tattered box!
Wrapped in the old blanket I had first shipped her in.....
only a little the worse for wear...
(A mouse had made a nest next to her at one point,
 and chewed a hole in her gown...)
And so she came back to me!

I keep her there on my drawing table.... 
yes, even when I am painting the Christmas cards
 and doing other calligraphy work...
I think she helps me with the creative Dreaming....

So there you have her story Dear Readers,
 along with the blossoms and branches
 And a little background!


  1. The history of Peggy Wooden is enchanting :-). Not only is she beautiful, but she traveled so much and still came back to you after all these years! She's a treasure, and a lovely work of art!

    1. Thank you Millicent & Friends! I am glad I have her! And glad I made her!

  2. Peggy Wooden is gorgeous and the story behind her is amazing!! Wow, you made her, that´s really something. With regards your other projects, keep it going, one day you will get there. In the meantime we all get to enjoy the process with you. Have a nice week :)

    1. Hi Alexandra! I am becoming more and more aware of how long I will have to "keep it going"! LOL! But I will! Thank you so much for your supportive comments! :)

  3. What an original, lovely story of Penny Wooden, Betsy. And you, her very talented creator, made her in a very original and also recognisable way, due the lack of materials for making her in that time! I totally recognize your need for materials in times that someone, who was so creative, couldn't get them at all. You just had to achieve your goal with creative thinking and using what was than available, but you succeeded very, very well, dear Betsy :). Thank you for telling us her life story, now you've made her alive for us! She really has had a true life, like real people can have in life, wow, what a story.
    Regarding your blossoms: I can see that you've made progress, because I know how much work it is ;). The same is for your embroidery, you nearly can't see the tiny, fine stitches, bu they are there. Everyone, who is in making miniatures, knows how much time those tiny works can take. I love seeing all of your your progress on the blog and now we even got treated with the lifestory of Penny :)!
    Hugs, Ilona

    1. Thank you Ilona! Yes, I can't even remember how difficult it was to find materials! We have become so used to the Internet... finding things is only hard now because there are so many options! LOL! I will have to keep on making the blossoms for a long long time....! :):)

  4. a precious doll! a real treasure, thank you for sharing

  5. Hello Betsy,
    What a fun post. the shrubs are coming along really is worth every minute you are putting into it. the blossoms are so realistic I can almost smell them. They are absolutely perfect. I can't imagine having to recreate the twigs that similar, but I know you can do it and do it well.
    I really enjoyed hearing about Penny Wooden. She is a beautiful doll and it is so much in to hear her story. It sounds like she is not merely a doll for you, but a muse that helps channel your amazing creativity and talent. I also must say I love her beautiful costume. Clearly you were incredibly detail oriented from day 1.
    Big hug

    1. Thank you Giac, for your lovely comment! I think she is a bit like a Muse for me... reminding me that I just love to make things... and that has been true from Day 1 as you put it! And also A reminder of what those Dreams were so long ago..... So much to do.... no end of ideas! Focus is what is required to make them real! I will keep working! :):)

  6. I love your background stories, and especially this one. How wonderful to be reunited with your creation after all these years! She is beautiful, and even more so her clothes. And how amasing that your brother cut his hair short at exactly the right time, so she could make better use of his hair. And I'm still in awe over your blossoming shrub project. The blossoms and stems look so real, I had to check the stems in detail to see if they weren't real after all.

    1. Hi Helene! I think it is pretty amazing too... that I made her and that my brother could donate his hair at just the right time! As for the shrubs.... I will be working on them for a long time.... I get myself into these difficult projects somehow...! LOL!

    I have always assumed that she was a doll born in the 18th Century not the 20th! She is quite remarkable Betsy and is obviously the prelude to your AMAZING GIFT for MAKING INTRICATE THINGS!
    I am loving her Even More now that I know her circular history and seeing how precise you have been about THE DETAILS not only of her construction but in her clothing- Most Impressive!!!
    OH and using your brother's hair- HILARIOUS!
    The blossoms, the needlepoint, and Miss Penny Wooden are One Of a Kind
    just as you are, Betsy! :D

    1. Thank you Elizabeth! I made her around the same time as I was starting to rebuild The Lovely Old Dollhouse... before I left home for the wide world and got caught up in adult life.....! I even tried to carve a "penny wooden" for the dollhouse... but my abilities did not match the scale I was trying... the doll was very rough and did not survive the years since. I have always loved to make things... and as I discovered that I could... I was off and running! :):)

  8. What a lovely doll! And her clothing is wonderful. Your projects are always so unique and interesting.

    1. Thank you Sheila! I do love to make things, and my Daddy is an Architect... so I think I have design in my genes! :)

  9. j'avais remarqué votre merveilleuse poupée dans votre précédent message. Je suis maintenant heureux de connaître son incroyable histoire, qu'elle est belle et sa fabrication est très soignée, je ne savais pas qu'elle était articulée. J'adore son visage et sa très belle robe. Amusant aussi qu'elle "porte" les cheveux de votre frère ;-)

    1. Thank you Jean-Claude! I am glad you like her! I thought it would be a good time to "introduce" her! I was more interested in the costuming than the doll-making in those years... so she was the only large wooden one I made. There were others with cloth bodies and paper-mache faces. But she is by far the best one! I guess it pays to make them the slower way! LOL!

  10. I had forgotten most of Penny Wooden's history - that she belonged to Mandy for awhile, for example. thank you for that! She is so beautiful. I don't think a 19-year-old Michaelangelo or Bernini could have done a more lovely face. She is an inspiration.
    Love, Mom

  11. Oh Betsy! I am gobsmacked by Penny Wooden and her beautiful clothing! It is incredible that she was your first carved doll, and to have so much artistic talent at only 19! Truly incredible. I love her. She is a treasure, to be sure. I am so happy you found her in good condition, and I bet she is, too!
    How fast do lilacs grow? That could account for some of the differences in the structures. And, when you look at time lapse video of plants and flowers, they are moving all the time. That could also account for differences in the position of the branches. So see? No need to worry about exact matching!

    1. Thank you Jodi! Yes, I too, am amazed when I look at her.... but I have been aware all my life that I just "know" how to make is a mystery to me why, but I do! It only takes materials and effort to make it happen.... so now I am making tiny bushes! LOL! And yes, you are so right about the changes that one bush will undergo even in one year! I am trying to make allowance for some of that! It is trickier than I thought.... trying to make something that "changes" over time! :):)

  12. What a lovely story! And Penny really is lovely. She is a shining example of your natural talent, for carving her with no experience at all was a major artistic feat! Well done!

    1. Thank you Shannon! I remember having a book about making your own dolls... written for children, and one of them showed the method diagrams for making the mortise and tenon joints, so I can't take credit for inventing them! LOL! But I did have to learn how to carve the face on my own! :)

  13. What a wonderful story of a doll! You must feel really sentimental about her now. Wish I still had some of my early pieces.

    1. Hi Megan! Yes, I am really glad she found her way back to me! I appreciate her so much more now than I did then! LOL!

  14. Penny de los ojos tristes, que bonita! y esas lilas ...vaya trabajo!

    1. Thank you Carmen! I think she has "seen" a lot of the world ! :)

  15. Hello, Betsy - This is a lovely post! The lilacs are coming along beautifully, and in such realistic detail. This is such an ambitious project, and I'm enjoying your detailed accounts of the work. I love your story of the origin of Penny Wooden. She's a wonderful creation, and all the more amazing because you made her when you were so young. What an interesting and colorful history she has. But I'm happy to know that she's back with you, sharing in your amazing creativity.

    1. Hi Marjorie! Yes the lilacs are an "ambitious" project! I am learning that over again every week! LOL! I guess I have very poor skills when it comes to estimating time..... perhaps this will teach me! LOL! I too, am very glad to have Penny Wooden back in my world! She is an inspiration to me!

  16. Hi Betsy! Your flowers are beautiful. Making flowers is a lot of work but also fun. And your Penny... she is beautiful!
    Hugs, piikko

    1. Thank you Piikko! I am glad you like them! It is a lot of work... not so hard... but time consuming! I hope you will not mind how long this will take! :)

  17. You've made a lot of progress for sure. All your visitors here have a clear idea of how time consuming this kind of flower and tree making is. And I really admire your lilac-safety-and-protection-box, what a clever idea. Your lovely cushion is growing as well as a flower patch in springtime - and Penny Wooden... I spotted her too in your last post but forgot to mention it. Yes, I know, it's easy to claim this afterwards but it's true... she is so familiar from your profile picture, just like an old friend. It was great to hear her story - and this lady has for sure a story to tell about her life. Somehow I'm not surprised that the circle got closed and she's now back with you, being your companion and supervisor when it comes to being creative. It's incredible that you made her at the age of just 19, your talent is stunning. And how funny that she's wearing your brother's hair! Hopefully nobody will ever need a DNA analysis of Penny Wooden! *LOL* But now I have to leave you, I need to calm down my nerves and get over this shock... this most incredible, unbelievable saying coming from YOU being the hero of "but I will know it's there"... and now this: "but I console myself with the assumption that no-one is ever going to look that closely between the branches!" I can only hope I will still be able to find some sleep tonight... ;O)

    Birgit (who will also need to get over your plans to make a teenytiny fluttery strawberry cake visitor for your Christmas house... *LOL*)

    1. Dear Birgit, I am SO glad to have blog friends like you who can remind me when I start to fall off the wagon! LOL! Yes, I was already regretting that small dip into "I-don't-care-ness" .....(did you ever read Maurice Sendak's little book titled "Pierre" ?...) and I was contemplating the many ways in which I could easily improve those parts that will displease me even if they are invisible! LOL! I really don't know HOW I got myself into this insane project!! Probably one step at a time... ! LOL!
      And yes, that Who-villian Fluby is constantly teasing my imagination.... !!! I need to get back to the Christmas House sometime........ because it is not done yet! LOL! :):):)