From out of nowhere

October 7, 2011

It’s been ages since I posted anything on the blog. I got busy and the blog wasn’t a priority. Until today. I’ve got a great reason to post today.

Yesterday, I was over on Ravelry tolling around, procrastinating instead of working. I was checking out the Wollmeiseholics Anonymous forum when I came across a photo that PurpleDan had posted of a couple of new silk project bags he was uploading to his Etsy shop.

Gorgeous bags. So, I jumped on over to PurpleDan’s profile to find his Etsy shop. I couldn’t believe it when I read his profile. He creates one-of-a-kind works of art from Barbie dolls and his creations have appeared in various publications all over the world. Awesome.

I’ve got all my Barbies from when I was little. I haven’t been able to figure out what to do with them. They are too well-loved to be collector’s items and the clothes have a little too much sentimental value to just toss. This potentially sounded like a match made in heaven.

I contacted Dan and offered him the setup, being careful to let him know that these are not in pristine condition — maybe a little too well-loved to be used for works of art. I probably got my first Barbie around 1962 when I was five. I was a serious Barbie fanatic for the next several years. Probably the latest dolls in the set date to the late 60s.

They have been stored in the vinyl case that Santa brought me one year for Christmas. The case has a date of 1963 on it. A few years back, I opened it and discovered that moths had gotten inside. Uhhgg. I put in the big guns — lots of mothballs — and hoped for the best. When I opened the case today, there was a faint whiff of mothball, but no new moth damage.

(I think the pictures will embiggen if you click on them if you are interested in seeing more detail.)

I’m posting pictures here today of the whole setup so Dan can decide if these gals, and guys, are art-worthy. While I’m at it, I’ll tell you a little bit about why the clothes are sentimental.

Here’s the outfit with the most moth damage:

My dad was a very talented and creative person. If he could see something upclose and touch it, he could make it. From tailoring most of my mom’s clothes and suits for himself, to making almost all the clothes I wore, to jewelry, to flower arranging, to painting, to carpentry, to landscaping . . . he did it all. As a kid, I wasn’t aware that this was special, or even unusual. I thought everyone’s dad could move seamlessly from building a goldfish pond in the back yard or finishing the basement to making me a new silver ring or a new outfit to wear to school the next day.

It took me years to learn that not only was my dad extra special, he was probably one-of-a kind himself. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else ever who could do as many things as well as my dad did.

He used to tell me that hobbies are important and that you should always buy the very best quality materials you can because if you start with crap, you’ll end up with crap. He also told me that if you start a new hobby, no matter what anyone tells you, buy professional-grade tools. He said amateur tools give amateur results. Professional tools, even in the hands of amateurs, will result in a much better finished product. All of it good advice that I heed even now — as anyone who has seen my yarn stash will attest to.

Can you believe, my brother and I teased him mercilessly for his lack of cooking skills? It was probably the only thing he didn’t do well. My mom went back to college when I was about 11 and on the nights she had classes, dad cooked dinner. My brother still laughs about the night he says dad made boiled hot dogs with celery. I don’t remember that. I do remember that I ended up being responsible for cooking dinner several nights a week from about age 12 on through high school.

After I left for college, dad decided it was high time he learned how to cook. He tackled it with a vengeance — probably to put my brother and I to shame for all those years of teasing. He became quite a skilled chef. We ate his pies for Thanksgiving every year until he died. He made the best pie crusts ever!

However, I’m getting sidetracked. Back to the Barbies. Although I don’t remember him making it for me, I can tell by the handstitching on the patch pockets on this green wool crepe coat that dad made it. The coat is fully lined and underneath the coat is a fitted green shift (does anyone even wear shifts anymore?) made from the same fabric as the coat lining. The tailoring is impeccable given the size of this little outfit.

But the moths.

Even though I know the right thing to do is to throw this away, I get a little teary even thinking about doing that. I can’t imagine how much my dad must have loved me to have sat downstairs after work and measured and fitted and sewed outfits for my dolls for me. I used to sit down there with him; but, often, he worked on projects like this after I went to bed and gave them to me as gifts for my birthday or Christmas.

One year for Christmas, I think I was 7 or 8, he gave me a complete puppet theatre with about a dozen puppets that he made from scratch and a black lacquer stage that stood about 5 feet tall. It had three panels held together with hinges so it would stand on it’s own and hide me, the puppeteer. The stage had velvet curtains and it was beautiful! My brother and I played with that gift for years. The puppets had real hair and clothes and jewelry. They all had sculpted faces made from felt. His puppets were even nicer than the few store-bought ones that he and my mom bought to round out the set. Actually, he probably bought those few from the store to study how they were made. Then, he improved on everything about the puppets when he made his.

It isn’t just the things my dad made for my Barbies that had sentimental value. My maternal grandmother also made me Barbie clothes. There’s a little crocheted vest for Ken. The best part of all of that was that grandma just didn’t make things — she taught me how to crochet so I could make things myself. My very first serious crochet project was a vest for a toy hippo I had. I still have the hippo, dressed in his little vest. I crocheted from the time I was about seven until I was 20, when I decided that knitting was a more practical skill in terms of making myself clothes.

Once again, I digress. So, back on track.

Sure, I loved the store-bought Barbie clothes and probably, didn’t really even differentiate much between the ones dad and grandma made and the store-bought clothes I got as gifts from other people. Today though, when I hold this little green outfit that my dad made in my hand I get all teary. No way I can toss it. It’s like holding a little handful of dad. However, I totally understand, and would even encourage, someone else to throw the useless bits and pieces from this Barbie collection into the rubbish bin. Especially the things that are moth damaged.

So, that’s where you come in Dan, if you are willing. Take these dolls from me and make something beautiful from the pieces worth salvaging.

When I saw those lovely silk bags and the mention of one-of-a-kind works of art, I figured you just might be the reason I’ve been hanging onto these dolls for almost 50 years. I hope that they look like something you can use!

Do you have any friends traveling from the US to visit you in the UK? Maybe I could ship them to someone here and they could haul them over? Maybe I should just plan a vacation to the UK!

I sure hope they look like something you could use. And if they can’t, well, no worries. I’m sure I’ll figure it out one of these days!

3 Responses to “From out of nowhere”

  1. Stephanie Says:

    Those sound like precious memories. 🙂

  2. kimberly Says:

    Only just now read this, Ruth, and I got teary! your dad must have been a wonderful man, and I can see that in you. I am so happy to know you!

  3. christina Says:

    oh what beautiful memories that i definitely enjoyed reading.
    i am like you, very sentimental of things from my past. and if i was you, i would definitely hold onto the little outfits your dad & grandma made. even if they have moth hole damage on them. those are precious things that your loved ones made just for you. so definitely hold on to them precious items.

    as for your barbie dolls, if dan hasn’t replied to wanting them, i would love to have them i myself have some of my childhood dolls. and i know you said they are perfect or in your opinion collectible. but i personally would love to have them. like they say, one man’s (or woman’s trash) is another woman’s treasure. i would definitely love them and give them a good home. and would love to show them off with my childhood barbie collection.

    so, if dan hasn’t spoken for them, please consider me as an alternative to these barbie & friends new home destination.

    thank you in advance.


    christina :o)

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