I felt like having some silly fun today. It’s a Saturday, I have to go and get a rabies jab this afternoon (travel stuff), and just generally because. Earlier this week I was thinking about the very first garments that I made and as I suspect was the case for a lot of people, the first clothes I made were not actually for me. Then I started rummaging through my photo archives, and this post was born!
I started, as I imagine many people do, making outfits for my toys. Specifically Sylvanian Families. My parents gave me my first family of bears when I was three shortly after they were first launched in the UK, and this started a fifteen year love affair with tiny bucolic animals. Even after (I thought) I was too grown up to play with the houses and furniture, I still used to sew things for them. Today my collection of some 150 plus figures is carefully stored in a box at the top of my wardrobe, one family per sandwich bag. As with all collections I don’t really know why I’m keeping them – they are too precious to pass on to my own children, who can have their own if they are so inclined – but these tiny bears were the defining obsession of my childhood and it would be too awful to part with them.
My clothes started with evening frocks for the mothers, which were very simple: a rectangle of something pretty for the skirt, gathered to the waist with straps made of ribbon and a press stud or a hook-and-eye to fasten. I also went through a phase of cutting up my old t-shirts and using the stretchy knit to make a few body-con numbers. Step aside Alaia, I’ve got this.
These sexy outfits were accessorised with matching stoles and home-made necklaces, using scavenged beads and scraps of elastic. Later on I started to experiment with layering silk organza, bought in remnant bags from the local fabric shop, over a sturdy felt base. In reality this dress, and indeed the one shoulder pink number as well, would probably cause some serious flashing problems for its wearer, but at the time I thought those designs were so glam.
Periodically the Sylvanian Families Club (I told you I was obsessed) would publish dressmaking patterns, and I have hoarded these religiously. In fact I should really copy them onto card before the tracing paper disintegrates completely. Through these patterns I learned how trousers are constructed, how to get even gathers in a skirt, and how to make a dress bodice that fits over large rabbit ears. These were some of the last outfits that I made, but they are some of the most sophisticated.
Grandma bear arrived in a job lot of figures that I bought from eBay, and the poor dear didn’t have a stitch to wear. So I rustled up a lovely liberty print frock for her, along with a lacy shawl and even a pair of specs, made using a paper clip and some ribbon. That was always the fun part of working in miniature; even the tiniest scraps could be made into something wonderful!