I’ve already mentioned that I’ve inherited my tendency to devise complicated and multi-element projects from my mother. She’s just finished one – she’s published a book (The Bridges of Dee – do go and look!) and I’m quite insanely proud of her for that – but once the bulk of the work was done on that, she looked around for something else.
Do you remember Mandy, last seen modelling the Glittering Gentleman’s Nightcap? Well, we’ve still not quite worked out what we’re going to do with her, but at the same time we found Topsy, who was my mother’s doll before she was mine. Topsy is made of papier mache, and jointed with elastic bands to hold her together, and in form she’s much closer to a newborn. So my mother decided to make her a layette, decorated with various forms of bobbin lace. So, over to you, Mam…!
Meet Topsy. Her looks belie her age, since she was “born” just before the Second World War, 1939 or thereabouts. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t know her – too young to read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, so Mam must have named her for me. She is made of papier-mache, with her head and limbs attached by means of a internal rubber band, renewed many times over the years. She has survived numerous house moves, and somehow I could never persuade myself to give her away. About two years ago, she came down from the loft during a general clear out, but still tugged at my heart strings. I decided to treat her to some new clothes (she being naked at present) and let her rest in honour on the spare room bed.
She is a baby doll, practically newborn, so I began by making her a baby vest such as I, and my daughter, wore at this age. It’s tied with ribbon bows at the front as getting a singlet over a baby’s wobbly head is awkward. It is made of fine knitted cloth with the turnings retained with feather stitch, very wobbly feather stitch, looking a bit like the tracks of a drunken spider (can spiders get drunk?). It’s a long time since I stitched, the cloth is unstable, the size of the garment small; excuses, excuses, I know, but I’m enjoying the work. Then I embroidered her name in backstitch. Her nappy is cut from the lone survivor of my daughter’s nappies, so nostalgia is in high drive.