One rather dull afternoon I was perusing the internet, I stumbled across Mister Finch's truly stunning creatures and fell in love. Specifically with the mice... Anyone who knows me, knows that I share certain infinities with mices (yes I mean mices not mice!) and thought heck, I can make a mouse too! So I decided to have a go and make my own ragdoll mice, only mine would be vintage circus mice. Eventually I will make a little tutu and waistcoat to clothe them but I have not had the time yet.....
(Above: Mister Finch's truly gorgeous mice, see his blog and work here)
And here are my mice, obviously very different, they have the OrchidsHeart touch, but I am very happy with how they turned out as I had zero experience in creature construction when I started this process. It was not as hard as I expected but a great deal of trial and error was involved...
First of all I drew some little sketches of how I envisioned them. Long limbed and a little bit creepy but also with a delicate vintage feel. I also started going through my collection of antique and vintage fabrics putting things aside for the project, but as I had no idea how to construct them I acquired a huge piece of thick fabric to practice on (turns out the thickness of the fabric was problematic).
I sketched out what I thought the shapes would look like and cut them out of the fabric, trying to keep the stripes in mind.
After I had all my pieces (except for the tails which I would make from dusty pink velvet), I cut them out and laid them out.
I decided the head was way too small and made another.
The problem with this fabric was turning the limbs out once I had sewn them up, it was a nightmare in places. I was carrying all these limbs around in my bag with a chopstick and spent too many a commute trying to get them the right way out. So I figured I needed a fabric with more give for sure....
After a lot of fiddling I ended up with this fellow, due to the lack of tail I made him a rabbit and added a little waistcoat and gave him to a very special little boy I know. But I was not that happy with it so I made some alterations.
First off a three panel head rather than two.
I gave this one mouse ears to work out the ear proportions as I was much more pleased with its head shape.
She ended up looking like this. I named her Molly Mouse and gave her to my niece.
As Molly Mouse looked much better I decided to start on the real mice! So I dyed an old pillow case in some rose black tea (purely because it was the only old black tea I had hanging around).
My lace and fabrics drying after their dye.
And set about cutting out the pieces for two circus mice.
The faux velvet was from a truly ugly top I found in a flea market, some kind of 90s lingerie I think. I stitched up all the limbs, cutting into all the curves to turn them out better and leaving a small gap in each for stuffing.
Next came the joints, I did not bother jointing the others but I wanted these to be pose-able so bought some off ebay. I put them in so that the plastic screw faced into the body. You have to slot the washer on first then the cap.
Et voila, a body with two arms. A bit creepy I know.
This shows a close up of a tail, I put some pipe cleaners into it to make it bendy and pad it out a bit.
A whole pile of mouse pieces.... Frankenstein's lab comes to mind...
The legs were all made separately. These are the legs for Ava. I painted the stripes on so that they would follow the curves of the legs (unlike if I had cut them out from stripey fabric). Muscgot's legs were to be made from embroidered fabric as he would not be wearing a dress so they were not painted.
Once I had the body shells I started stuffing and stitching up, starting with the body, then legs, then arms. This was so that other parts did not get in the way.
Also I made the ears and sewed a channel around the edge to push more pipe cleaners through to make them stand up.
Most of the hand sewing, stuffing etc I did on the go in various metro stations and trains. I made a portable sewing kit and just whipped it out whenever I had the chance. This is me working off my knees on a platform in Chatillion.
Woop, the bodies and legs and A tail! And my handknitted (by my grandmother) socked feet.
I finished the heads and I was done.
The lace on her head is inspired by the 1920s.
He has one painted eye to look like face paint, you can't see easily in the picture but the eye is embroidered in like the others.
I am quite pleased. Though they are not perfect, as I had no clue what I was doing I think it was a success. Next time I will make a fox...!