Monday, 24 February 2020


 PELHAM PUPPET REDRESSED AN ELIZABETHAN LADY

I acquired a Gretel Pelham in a tragic state. Her hair was a total mess (which I was able to easily remove by pulling it off in strips) and her clothing was either missing, full of holes or horribly discoloured. I really wanted to use her as a puppet base, but I drew a bit of a blank - so I decided to stripping her down and hoped that inspiration would hit me.
I removed all of the clothing, screwed off her head and then pealed off her hair and gave her a good and much needed wash. It was then that Glenda Jackson came to the rescue. I had a podcast playing in the background and Ms Jackson was being interviewed. She began talking about filming the fabulous BBC drama Elizabeth R and suddenly I knew how I was going to restore the puppet... she was going to become an Elizabethan court Lady.


At first I decided to concentrate on restoring her hair. The puppet was now totally bald, but I did have a good amount of saved hair from when I stripped her down. I then began sewing a new wig with the lengths of rescued hair. This involved using strips of flesh coloured felt underneath to stabilise  the style. For this puppet I used three. I laid the hair thickly over the felt and stitched with a suitable coloured thread - this way I was able to control any curl or wave. 



I then applied a glue base to the puppets bald scalp and began laying and styling the hair, with a focus on the very front. As the glue dried I cut a crescent shape from buckram, which I then covered with a thin layer of felt - preparing for it's new life as a headdress. I then cut the veil shape from satin, seamed it around the lower hem and initially sewed it round the top of the headdress. Pulling the veil back I then trimmed the headdress with strung pearls, diamantes and cotton lace - which would sit around the inside curve, so that it would frame the face.
I then stitched a gold chain, which sat along her centre parting, so that it ended with a large tear pearl bead which sat on her hair line. It was then a simple matter of gluing the headdress securely into place. After, I ran a thread around the bottom hem of the veil and began to draw it in, making sure I arranged the satin pleats as I went, until I was happy with the result and I stay stitched the arrangement firmly into place. 



Next I turned my attention the puppets body and her costume. After measuring I cut a long rectangular strip of pink brocade and of lining fabric. I stitched together the side edges of each rectangle and then stitched both created tubes together along their bottom hems - ensuring right side faced right side. It was then a matter of turning the resulting underskirt out, machine stitching the hem and trimmed the centre front with gold braid and diamante diamonds. The skirt was then gathered at the waist and stitched firmly.
The overskirt was the same process, only cut a little wider and not stitched along it's shorter side hem, so that it left an open fronted skirt. The overskirt was lined in gold lining and trimmed along it's front skirt opening with gilded braid. It was then also gathered and secured at the waist.


The chemise/shift under bodice was cut in white cotton, from a basic pattern that I have used several times before. The front and back pieces were stitched together, along the shoulder and side seams and then the voluminous neck-line was turn hemmed and a thin cord run through it ready for gathering. The sleeves were cut in the same satin as the over-skirt. They were shoulder length and wide cuffed, ready to be gathered when applied to the puppet. I trimmed the bottom edges in lace and hand-stitched the upper sleeves to the sleeve-holes of the cotton bodice. I then dressed the puppet in the upper garment and gathered the neck-line tightly.
Over this I tightly stitched a purple corset made of full bodied felt, which I had trimmed with strung diamantes. This pulled in and hid the connection of the two underlayers. All that was left to do was finally create a gathered ruff of synthetic lace and stitch it around the puppets neck.
Finally my Elizabethan Lady was finished and ready for sale!

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Pelham Puppet redressed as Moll Flanders


Pelham Puppet redressed as Moll Flanders


I have always loved Daniel Defoe's novel Moll Flanders and when a suitable puppet (a Pelham Cinderella) came my way I decided to get sewing and bring one of literatures most infamous heroines to life!

I began by doing a bit of research on 17th Century clothing and decided to include a typical high waisted gown and lace collar in the design. I also wanted to use red as a theme as I felt it embodied Moll's character. I began by stripping the puppet down and then measured it up to my block patterns, deciding which would be best to adapt.


I started with the skirts and using my pattern I cut one of pink brocade and one of a white lining fabric. I then machine stitched the silver braid along the centre point of the brocade fabric and sewed together both fabric pieces along their side hems. Next I stitched each piece together on the bottom hem - right sides together - then turned them through. 
The over-skirt was a similar case of cutting one of the red upper fabric and one of the lining fabric, using my basic rectangular skirt pattern. I then sewed the braiding onto the upper fabric piece and sewed the upper and lining pieces together, ensuring that the right sides matched. It was then a simple matter of pulling the over-skirt through and gathering the underskirt round the puppets waist, followed by the overskirt, once I was happy that all the braid was centred.
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The sleeves were adapted from a balloon sleeve pattern I already had and I cut two in red fabric. I stitched lace along the base seam of both sleeves and then stitched together the sleeves along their long seam - and bagged them through. It was then a matter of hand-stitching the sleeves into a chemise bodice that I had cut out of plain cotton earlier. I then dressed the puppet with the bodice/sleeves and trimmed the cuffs with bronze effect braiding.
The corset was a simple job of cutting from felt an adapted pattern (making shorter) and then trimming and adding two roses at the bust points before stitching it in place.

Finally I came to her hat - which was based on a red felt base, which I sewed to the close form of her head. After trimming off the edges I trimmed the edge of the cap with gathered cotton lace. To finish I stitched on several red silk roses.


Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Wicked Witch Queen


I had a Pelham Wicked Witch puppet in stock and I was deciding what to do with her. She had arrived without her broom, her apron was missing and there was a tear in her skirt so I decided that she would make a good restoration project. I had already done a succesful Wicked Queen (see earlier blog) but I thought that this puppet was calling out for a make-over turning her into a Wicked Witch Queen. 


After the usual stripping and removing of strings I began by making her skirt - which I decided to construct in the French court pannier style. I firstly unscrewed her legs from the body and attached a circle of very firm felt over the screws as a skirt support, before reattaching her legs. I then cut four panels in black satin and one in a suitable brocade - then another five in a lighter lining fabric.  It was then a matter of sewing all panels together; attaching the hem of the lining to that of the upper fabric and pulling up the lining fabric inside the skirt, so that both layers were secure at the waist. I then hand stitched the top seam ready for gathering.


I next applied the skirt to the puppet, over the pannier skirt support, drawing/gathering the skirt up using suitably coloured embroidery floss. I then tied off the floss and the skirt was complete.
The under blouse was cut from a suitable pattern I already had, the trickiest part of its construction being sewing in the sleeves. Quite a bit of hand sewing is involved here. When complete and dressing the puppet it is important to remember to remove the hands as you pull the arm through the sleeve!
The next item to tackle was her corset bodice. Luckily, due to my trusty corset pattern, this is very little hassle. Once cut I edged the top and bottom with strip diamante and finally sewed the corset onto the puppet drawing it in and then stitching it closed at the back opening. 



Saturday, 1 February 2020


THE QUEEN OF HEARTS -MARK 2 



I decided that I wanted to create a new Queen of Hearts; I had made one a short while back, but this time I wanted to focus more on the detail and spend more time on the finish. Firstly I did some research, looking at the original illustrations from Alice in Wonderland by Sir John Tenniel and after doing a few sketches I got a firm idea of what I wanted to produce in puppet form.


Firstly I selected which puppet I wanted to dress from my stock of characters. I decided upon a Pelham Gypsy Girl which had just the right dark looks and puppet like head, feet and hands that I was hunting for. I gave her a light wash in soapy water and was very pleased to find that her hair was in good shape and had remained well styled.
I sorted through my patterns and decided upon a suitable bodice and sleeve pieces, as well as some adaptable patterns for her skirts. I laid out some crepe-backed black satin and began by cutting the underskirt pieces, as well as its lining. 
Before machine stitching I needed to tackle the embellishment; so I basted some silver braid to the underskirts centre and cut two red felt hearts to sit upon it. I then spent a fair amount of time hand sewing the separate pieces onto the base satin and then stitching pearl trim around the inner edge of each of the hearts.  
It was then a simple matter of machine stitching the underskirt and its lining together; cutting a top section (of around a inch in depth of the black satin fabric) which I then attached and gathered the resulting tube about the puppets waist using embroidery floss in suitable fabric.


Next I cut the split overskirt from a mid-weight red cotton - which I also used as lining. I followed the same steps as when making the underskirt and before machine stitching I first firmly applied the decorative felt hearts and diamante diamonds on to the fabric. From there it was a matter of sewing the two rectangles together, bagging/turning it through and attaching a strip of top-piece to gather at the puppets waist.


The sleeves were borrowed from a medieval pattern I had drawn up earlier. I wanted them slightly longer so I lengthened the pattern, before cutting two in upper and two in lining fabric. I then sewed each of the four pieces together along their side seams; and from there it was a matter of basting and then stitching the bottom seams together and then bagging them through the opening of both arm holes ready to be attach to the bodice.


The bodice/shift was made of white cotton. It was cut from an adapted doll's smock pattern and draws tightly round the neck using white embroidery thread. It is made from two pieces, a back and front, which are sewn together along each side and over each shoulders, leaving the arm holes and neck-line open. The neck-line is then hemmed and the sleeves applied using a close hand stitch. Removing the hands, the puppet is then dressed in the shift/sleeve combination.


The corset/bodice is cut from a pattern which I created myself when doing an earlier Anne Boleyn puppet. It is constructed from a thick, substantial felt, or two thinner felt pieces stitched together. A red felt heart was applied to the front and embellished with pearls and diamante. From then on it is a matter of sewing the corset closed (hand stitched in a tight X pattern) around the puppets abdomen. 


Response from the customer who purchased The Queen of Hearts
"Wonderful costume, fast delivery. Thank you"

Sunday, 26 January 2020

MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS - MARK 2


MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS


I had purchased some beautiful shot red taffeta - and having already decided that I wanted to do a second Mark Queen of Scots - I managed to find the perfect base puppet on Ebay.
She was in good condition, save for a crack on her neck. Her hair was especially good and needed very little styling but her clothes were in a very sad state indeed.


I stripped her down and began working with my trusty puppet patterns to create a 16th Century style gown in miniature. The skirt is in five panels, the front of which is a red flock style in short pile velvet. The taffeta sleeves were cut to match in a medieval 'angel wing' style. She is fully lined in black satin to add fullness and structure to the silhouette.
Her corset was made up using my usual method of taking an appropriate pattern (I have various bodice/corset patterns depending on the style of the design) and cutting it in felt; which, in this case, is then embellished with pearl trim and then tightly hand stitched down the back so that it closes and forms tightly to the puppets shape beneath. 


Her hood is constructed from felt and pearl trim, a gold gauze veil hanging behind.
When I came to her cracked neck I strengthened the damage with epoxy resin and then supported it with a band of felt and diamantes which then sat under her gathered lace ruff. 


Her ruff was a simple affair of lace trim being pleated in a figure of eight manner for the desired length. It was then placed about the puppets neck (ensuring the collar of diamantes showed) and was then tightly stitched together at the rear of the ruff. I then secured the ruff to the body with a stay stitch to the cotton shift below so that the puppets hair sat over the joining seam.


This puppet was sold with an original Pelham puppet box included.


Thursday, 12 December 2019

THE SNOW QUEEN


THE SNOW QUEEN


As Christmas is approaching I decided to take my inspiration for my next project from Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen. I felt that this would give me a good chance to experiment with trim and texture whilst constructing a historical/fantasy gown using a selection of luxurious fabrics. 



I had recently acquired a Pelham Fairy puppet, which I immediately decided had just the look I was after for my festive confection. I stripped her down and removed her strings, keeping them aside to reuse because the were in a surprisingly good condition - not a single tangle! 


I selected a Tudor gown pattern, which I had created for an earlier puppet and cut this from some white/iridescent satin; the underskirt I choose to cut from blue crepe backed satin and I then lined all parts with a pale blue lining. 


I trimmed the dress edge using a white pearlescent trim and followed this by decorating the edges of the felt corset/bodice with diamantes.
For her crown I decided on a stiff, broad metallic silver braid, glued onto a felt formed circlet. To finish I stitched diamante trim to its base. 



1920's FLAPPER


THE 1920's FLAPPER

A while back I had a request, from a very good customer, for me to turn my hand to a 1920's flapper puppet. Although I don't usually take commissions I promised that I would keep my eyes open for a suitable puppet to dress and within weeks I had found a Pelham fairy puppet which I felt would work brilliantly. As always I began with stripping the puppet down, removing all strings and separating the head from the body.


To start, the head... this project proved rather tricky when sorting and styling the hair. The puppet had serious hair loss and her long matted hair was marked with rust from the metal staples, which were supposed to hold the hair's original style. I initially removed the staples, carefully cutting away the staining and then cut the released locks into a classic bob. Carefully I then cleaned the hair using soap bubbles/foam rather than any liquid itself and styled the hair with a comb; ensuring that the large bald patches were nicely covered. It was then a matter of moving from section to section securing the style with a contact glue, making sure that the glue held only the under layers of hair, leaving the top layer free with some natural movement. 
Her headband was a stiped metallic braid cut to size and secured onto the puppets head. Upon this a crystal heart was glued onto the band on its right hand side.


After some research into 1920's clothing I decided to keep it simple and selected a costume worn by Daisy in the film The Great Gatsby.  The dress is a simple shift made from a lightweight blue satin. The pattern was a simple rectangular affair which was tacked and then sewn, ensuring the holes for the arms remained open. After a fitting to check the fit on the puppet, I then ringed the bottom hem with a black fringe and topped this with a double diamante trim. I then used a single diamante row and circled the neckline.


The final touch were the pearl beads; which were simply stitched in place at the back of the neck and then stay stitch at various places on the front of the gown.