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Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Story Behind the Story

Like almost all stories the Allison's Journal- Box of Treasures (link here) post has a back story. I have been planning this post for over a year, almost a year and a half. It all came about because of a photograph of my own grandmother I have hanging in my living room and a casual comment from a close family friend.

my grandmother in the photo
that started the idea for the blog post
You see I had found the photo while digging through some of the boxes of my mom's things. I loved the photo so much that I decided to display it and it fit perfectly in my living room. Shortly after it was hung up we had the annual Thanksgiving feast at our house. One of the guests was looking at it and observed how much my own daughter resembles her great grandmother. This was the seed that started the story.

A few weeks later I asked my son, Erik, if it would be possible for him to manipulate a photo of one of the dolls to make it look old. He was interested in the idea and offered some suggestions as to how to set it up. He is interested in both photography and all things computer so this challenge was right up his alley.

I was able to find a frame that looked like a 1/3 rd scale replica of the one in living room fairly quickly. Then I started to look at all my patterns to see what I had. I was stuck at this stage for about a year. I admit the project kind took a back burner. I had a lot of other projects that needed my attention and I knew this one could wait. Besides I wanted to find the right pattern first. (if you want to learn more about the making of the dress I will have the highlights of that in my end of the month sewing post)

One day as I was looking at the photo I got to thinking how cool it would be to be to actually have the pretty dress that grandma was wearing. I am sure it was very fashionable in its day and just to be able to see how it was made would be such a treat. That got me thinking that I could easily age the dress after we took the original photo and then the idea of the dress being a gift from Allison's grandma came about. I love to age stuff and I thought this challenge would be fun.

About the same time as I was in full gear planning stage for the dress (although a month or two away from actually sewing anything) I found the math card set from Paper Minis. These are from about the era that my grandmother would have been a girl. I wanted to make up the kit so I decided to age them. Then I remembered the Paper Minis kit for the doll photo album. I decided to age it also.

That project sparked the memory that amongst the free projects over at Paper Minis happens to be a mini version of my very favorite childhood book. I went ahead and made that up too.

This was the birth of the “treasure box” concept. From there it was easy to put together the project. It just took time.

Along with the dress I needed to make some shoes, I could tell that my grandmother was wearing high top laced shoes. Oh so practical. I have the Liberty Jane pattern for combat boots and decided they would be able to fit the plan just fine. I had been planning to make them up anyway so that was good timing. Again there will be more information on the shoes in the end of the month sewing blog post.

I felt the dress lacked something and I wanted to add something to box that Allison could actually wear. I remembered that in many photographs of my grandmother she often wore a cross necklace. That would be perfect! I decided to find a small cross and a really thin chain. My local Joann's is still in the process of a remodel so finding the parts was a bit of a challenge. I was able to finally find a set of cross charms that had a couple that were small enough. They only came in an aged finish so that limited my choices for the chain. The store had exactly one in the right color that was close to the right size. Then I ran into the stumbling block of trying to find any jump rings or fasteners to match. That was a no go so I picked up some gold color ones and just coated them with some black sharpie marker. Now we have an old necklace!

The most exciting parts for me were the actual photo taking process. I had to pick up a piece of green fabric to use as a back drop. My son said any color as long as it wasn't in any part of the photo. I picked the green I did because I really doubt I will ever use that color on purpose. I do plan to try to learn the process he used so I can do my own photos that I can change the background in later on.

Erik at work
Erik set up my lighting system the way he wanted it and we got the doll set up where we wanted her. Erik took several photos and picked the one he felt worked best. I did take on photo- one of him taking the photos. Other than that I acted as his assistant and tried to stay out of his way.

This was the first time Erik had done the process he used to add the background from the old photo to the new one. It took him about 45 minutes and he was kind enough to record the process and he provided a time lapse video for you to watch of his steps.I set it to music and you can find it here. I put it up on my channel as an unlisted video so you can get to it with the link but it won't show up on the channel.


Now one of my favorite fun steps began- I wanted to make that dress I had worked so hard on look like it was over 100 years old! I started with a tea bath. I had debated between using tea and coffee for the aging process. I went with the tea because it gives a more yellowed appearance to the fabric while the coffee would have been more gray. I did at the last minute throw a handful of used coffee grounds into the the bowl. I left this to sit overnight before rinsing it really well. I then wadded the dress up on an absorbent surface and allowed it to dry.

After drying I still felt it needed more color so I got the fabric wet again and sprinkled on some fresh coffee grounds and since my jar of ground cinnamon was sitting on the counter waiting to be put away I added a few sprinkles of that too. After everything was dry again the dress looked really old and stained.

Next I took my scissors, a knife and a wire brush to the lace to tatter it up a bit. In the end I think it looks great for a dress that has been around for a hundred or so years. 

So that is the story of why and how I put together this particular Allison's Journal post. Not all of them are this complicated nor are they as much fun to put together. I hope you enjoyed both Allison's story and this post. 

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