Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Felt Nativity Dolls

So in addition to my Halloween and Thanksgiving dolls I have made some Christmas dolls.  I have many nativity scenes and they are all breakable. I loved to play with nativity scenes as a little girl. My mom had several and they all had been broken at some point and were glued back together. I decided to make this one out of felt so kids can play with them.
 Mary is made from a pattern of my own design with permanently bent arms and bendable knees and and pointed toes.

Joseph is made of a hybrid pattern from pattern I made for Mary and the pattern I used for the pilgrims, but with longer legs, a thicker waist and broader shoulders.

Their faces are drawn on with a Sharpie and their clothes are made from scraps from my stash. Their hair is crochet thread. Joseph's beard and eyebrows are brown felt.

Baby Jesus is pinker since he is a newborn and swaddled in white felt. Maybe by next year I'll have made a manger for Baby Jesus' bed.

Merry Christmas from the Stemmons!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Tree Skirt

 Over the last three years I've found several ways to recycle my wedding decorations into Christmas decor. I've used the ribbon as a garland, I've glued and pinned fake wedding flowers to Styrofoam balls and now I've re-purposed my former table centerpiece fabric into a tree skirt.

I started with the 18 inch wide squares of fabric I had used as a base under each centerpiece. I cut the squares diagonally into four triangles each and sewed them into a bigger square. (It took eight squares to get this pattern. That's enough to make two tree skirts, but you could always use one on top and one on the bottom to make it reversible.)

 I then measured 18 inches from the center and marked a circle

Luckily the center didn't need to be perfect since it was destined to be cut out.

 I stitched slightly away from one of the seams so I could cut it to open the circle.

I stitched close to the circle markings.

 I left the skirt square so I could easily quilt it,

and then I cut out the circles and the seam.

 Then I bound all the edges using strips of the brown fabric cut on the bias.
The 36 inch skirt is small for our massive tree, but I figured it was fine since the presents won't catch fire or anything if they touch the carpet.
 (Although, that would be kind of awesome.)

For those of you who wish to see my sketching blog, here is the link for

Next time: Felt Nativity Dolls

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Pilgrim Dolls and Mayflower Family History

If your here to read the Mayflower family history, skip to the bottom.

My aunt Ruth made some super cute self standing  pilgrim dolls out of coke bottles, baseballs, and gym socks and dressed them up and gave a pair to my mom when I was little. I grew up with them as our only Thanksgiving decor and I played with them every year. They weren't meant to be played with of course, but I was careful.

I decided last year that I would like my own little pilgrim decoration dolls. I thought I would make them like Ruth's; but Mom couldn't find them right away and I decided I could just make my own dolls and dress them as pilgrims for a similar effect. I wasn't sure where I would find full sized glass Coke bottles anyway. I found a doll making book at the library, The Fairytale Doll Book by Valerie Janitch, (1989) which is apparently also available on ebay. I used the pattern for the doll bodies but the head didn't work out, this may have to do with my inability to follow instructions, or maybe the instructions weren't clear. The head turned out like a sideways potato so I scrapped it and drew my own pattern for the head. I also modified the patterns for the clothing to make them fit and to make them pilgrim-like.

I researched pilgrim clothing and found that what we think of as pilgrim clothing with the buckles and tall hats and all black and white is a Puritan style that didn't come into fashion until well after the Mayflower had landed.  I found a great website about it here with pictures and I used those as my guide.

 I didn't entirely stick to accuracy however, I kept the colors somber and the "pilgrim hat" and belt buckle just for recognition's sake. 

 I also modified the cap to show the hair since it's cuter to me.

 These dolls actually can stand on their own, but only without their shoes and at very uncomfortable looking angles so I'm using doll stands to hold them upright. (score one for the Coke bottle)

 I'm not sure what the material is called that I used for the neck ruff/petticoat. It's a sheer, stretchy, lightweight, fine netting that I got on clearance at Walmart. That piece was made with a long rectangle that I gathered 3/4 of an inch from the top of the wider side, then top stitched it down to lay flat and cut two holes in the sides for the arms. (I would have taken a picture of her in just her petticoat to show you, but the dress is a pain to remove and put back on, and Tilley here is too modest anyway. Seriously, she blushed when I lifted her skirt.)

  I've named them  Howland and Tilley for two of my Mayflower ancestors.

The dolls bodies are made of 50/50 cotton poly broadcloth (even though the pattern called for felt). The cuffs, collar, cap, and apron are made from an old cotton bedsheet. The suit and dress are made from cotton quilting fabric. The hat, belt, buckle, and shoes are made from felt. The hair is crochet thread. The faces are drawn on with a super fine sharpie. They stand 15.25 inches tall. They took a full month to make with the pattern inventing and all the little details and the fact that I was working holiday shifts. I didn't actually finish them until after Thanksgiving last year so this is their first Thanksgiving on display. I wanted them to be strong enough to hold up to light play by children, but we'll see how long they last.

And now for the family history part of this post. If you are not descended from Mayflower passengers, you are still influenced by them and by their descendants. If you are a Mayflower descendant you are special! and also not, because there are millions and millions of us. It does however make history live a little more when you have a personal connection. My mom had told me at one point that I was a descendant of John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley. While researching for this post I tried to find them and how I'm connected. It took several days of
looking through thousands of family tree names, and in the meantime I found a few more Mayflower passenger ancestors. There may be more, but I ran out of steam. If you are my sibling,  we have EIGHT Mayflower passenger ancestors.

For the Shirts cousins here is the line, the names in bold are the passengers. I don't give most spouses, just the thread of descendants.

John Tilley & Joan Hurst Tilley and daughter Elizabeth Tilley who married John Howland- Desire Howland & John Gorham had Temperance Gorham and Joseph Gorham Whose Children married each other (first cousins) Thomas Baxter & Desire Gorham- Joseph Baxter- John Baxter – William Baxter –Zimri Harford Baxter –Eunice Adelaide Seavy Baxter – Mary Jane Broadhead –Ruth Harward- Max Leroy Shirts 

For the Rushton cousins,

John & Eleanor Billington and son Francis Billington & Christian (Penn) Eaton (Widow and third wife of Francis Eaton – a Mayflower passenger) – Isaac Billington – Mary Billington –Lydia Wood – Priscilla Thompson – Sarah Sturtevant –Dudley Leavitt- Dudley Leavitt- Mable Lydia Leavitt- Ned LaMar Rushton

Francis Cooke- Mary Cooke – Mary Tinkham- Shubael Tinkham- John Thompson – Priscilla Thompson- Sarah Sturtevant –Dudley Leavitt- Dudley Leavitt- Mable Lydia Leavitt- Ned LaMar Rushton 

And now for the inevitable list of famous people who are known to share these ancestors.  Enjoy.

John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley 
Joseph Smith Jr.
Emma Hale (seven generations removed)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
President George H. W. Bush
President George W. Bush
Nathaniel Gorham (Continental Congress President)
Edith Roosevelt (Theodore's wife)
Sarah Palin
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Alec Baldwin
Humphrey Bogart
Christopher Llyod
Chevy Chase
Ted Danson

Francis Billington
President James A. Garfield
Richard Gere

Francis Cooke 
President Franklin D. Roosevelt

President George H. W. Bush
President George W. Bush
Anna Mary Robertson (Grandma Moses)
Dr. Benjamin Spock
Dick Van Dyke
Richard Gere 

My sources are,, and 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thanksgiving Quilt

 I just finished this quilt yesterday. I decided to focus my Thanksgiving on giving thanks to the Lord since He is the giver of all gifts. I chose to represent fruits and grains rather than gourds or turkeys out of personal preference.

 Thanksgiving growing up was when my family assembled and my cousins and I played together and ate at the kids table, and my brothers played football in the churchyard with some neighbors and usually got injured in some way but still had a great time.

It was and still is a time to celebrate the people I love and to be grateful for the abundance the Lord has given in food, in blessings, in family, in health, and in joy.

The finished quilt is 26 x 26 inches. I used fabrics from my stash and the only turkeys included are in the fabric on the border. The appliques are applied with fusible webbing and ironed on then zigzag stitched around the edges.

The daily sketches I promised are forthcoming, but I've decided to start another blog exclusively for my drawings and art. I'll post the link when it's ready.

Coming up: Howland and Tilley, The Pilgrim Dolls