MEASURING BAKED BEANS AND SOUP TINS
One day in February 1985, a woman was spotted in an Aberdeen supermarket measuring all the cans in the tinned food sections and noting down the measurement details. That woman was me. I’m sure that no one could have guessed the reason for this ridiculous measuring, but it involved a television series.
Here is the story. When I was writing craft books for B.T. Batsford one of my editors was Bill Waller. In January 1985 Bill was having lunch with Ann Ladbury – a famous Batsford author well-known for her expert tailoring and dressmaking books. Bill suggested that Ann and I might collaborate on a television series, combining our varied talents. We were enthusiastic about the suggestion and decided upon a ‘make-do-and-mend’ theme.
Ann would demonstrate how to make clothing and accessories from the good parts of old and discarded garments and I would show how to create dolls and toys from the same materials. In those days, charity shops weren’t as posh as they are today and cast-off clothing could be obtained for next-to-nothing. So I began to accumulate a large number of items which would suit our purposes.
Ideally, ‘Do it Yourself’ television programmes should be tailored to the audience, so that something can be achieved by just watching the demonstrations as shown on television. I had designed numerous dolls which didn’t require any complicated patterns and decided to make a ‘rosette’ doll for the first programme.
In the traditional needlecraft world these rosettes are known as Suffolk puffs – circles of fabric gathered up tightly around the edges and flattened to form circular puff shapes. They are normally used for decorating needlework projects, such as quilts, patchwork, cushion covers etc.
For my rosette dolls the circles are threaded on to round elastic or cord, to form a doll’s body, legs and arms. The head, hands and feet are made in the same manner as soft toys. I began making these dolls in 1970, then developed new methods where the rosettes were stuffed, rather than flat.
Subsequently, I devised ‘jointed’ rosette dolls by using smaller circles for the elbows and knees, so that the dolls could be posed in different ways. Here are two examples.
Farmyard and jungle animals followed, all made from stuffed or flat rosettes.
Back to the ‘no pattern’ television doll. It was obvious that our target audience would be interested in sewing and making things from fabrics. Most likely they would have various suitable materials on hand for creating a simple rag doll. However, compasses are required to draw circles for the paper patterns in order to cut out the fabric pieces. The draw-back being, how many dressmaking viewers would be likely to own compasses?
The solution was easy. I just had to find a range of circular items suitable for the doll’s 10 centimetre [4 inch] diameter rosettes, which would be available in the majority of households. The answer was mainly tinned food, where numerous varieties had exactly the same diameter, as I found in my supermarket research. Hence, I could demonstrate making a pattern by drawing around the base of a tin on a piece of paper, or on to the fabric itself.
For the other items – head, hands, feet, skirt etc, these would be straight pieces of fabric which could be given as measurements.
And so I made the doll, noting the diameter size of the various tins and the other measurements in preparation for the demonstration. Unfortunately, I did not photograph the doll before sending it off to Ann but it was similar in construction to the six dolls shown above.
In October 1989, Ann’s agent sent the proposal to Thames Television and that was the end of the story … but not quite. Some of my charity shop cast-offs found their way into my doll and toy designs. One such was an unfashionable, polyester jersey, sparkly evening dress. I used this in one of my fancy dress features for Woman’s Weekly.
Here it is, worn by the pretty model dressed as Queen Guinevere and doesn’t the fabric drape beautifully?
Woman’s Weekly were very amused by the gorgeous jewels in her crown. They are Rowntrees fruit gums, first produced in 1893 and still going strong!
Click here to return to main Newsletters page.
© Copyright Jean Greenhowe Designs 2006 - 2013