>How did you get interested in sewing? Especially for dolls?
I wanted to sew when I was very young….I think about age 4, and my mom of course brushed me off. I do remember sneaking into the sewing bench and getting needle and thread one day when ‘we’ were napping (mom was, not me!) and sewing a button onto something. I never bothered much more about it until I was in 8th grade, though Mom and both of my Grandmothers sewed all the time. Too busy being a tom boy I think! But in 8th grade we had to take Home Economics and I was immediately hooked and took it from then till I was out of High School. I had the same teacher the first two years and boy was she ever strict – for which I have been very thankful – for since the lessons sunk in quite well! I sewed for myself then, and my little sister. I also sewed for my husband and the two girls when they came along.
I had no machine to use after I married and left home, so the oldest daughter’s first outfits were cut from some of my dresses and sewed by hand. Seeing the need for a machine, we were able to purchase one at the PX for $60, a little Singer.
Anyway, I sewed along for the family and dolly clothes for the girls as they were growing up. Sewed for dances and proms, and then sewed both of their wedding dresses and all of the bridal attendant’s dresses.
One day my oldest suggested that I sew some Barbie clothes as she had seen them being sold on eBay and thought I should try selling mine. (She helped out before she had children by taking care of correspondence and the business end of things, though she did help cut out skirts and make ruffles for me.) I have always been very particular about my sewing and my outfits were well received. It made me feel so good to hear comments from folks who bought them as that was all the encouragement I needed to sew more!
Then Jenny (the oldest) told me about Gene Marshall dolls and thought we should get one of those. Oh, now I was even more hooked on sewing for dolls. She was so grown up compared to Barbie! Then along came Tyler, Cissy, Kitty, Ellowyne and the list goes on ending with the recent acquisitions of resin ball jointed dolls.
>What about Diana made you a fan?
Her generosity and compassion for all people! She was wonderful and continues to be an inspiration to so many!
>What drove you to create the reproduction clothing for the Princess Diana?
After I started sewing for Gene, I was asked if I was sent a pattern for a Scarlet O’Hara wedding dress, would I make it for her. I was so excited and said of course. She like my work so much she told us about the Franklin Mint Princess Diana doll and how she wished we would consider sewing replicas for her. Jenny and I put our heads together and did a lot of research, finally deciding it was a good idea and the first gown was Lot 44, the red and black Spanish Flamenco inspired gown by Murray Arbeid.
The person who told us about this also pointed us to the Yahoo group Princess Diana Doll Club. We joined and the first gown was a huge hit with the members and that started the venture into sewing for the Princess. (The group is the first and largest Princess Diana yahoo group). I earned and was awarded the Club’s highest honor of Royal Dressmaker, Tiara Level. To qualify for this award “Princess Diana Doll Club – Royal Dressmaker – Tiara Level Trader” I had to have 15 different customers nominate me. I felt so very honored.
Sewing for the Princess is a bit of a challenge as I am replicating real fashions, but it also a part I enjoy. I have many books and photos to use for reference, as my goal is to make them as near the original as possible, including fabric types when feasible. Then there is the challenge of creating the pattern. The end result has always been worth the effort and continues to give me a good feeling that I am providing such happiness to others.
I was very honored to be asked by one of the current co-owners of Lot 67 to recreate that gown as a Christmas gift to her sister, the co-owner. She was very pleased with the result.
>I am aware that at one point in time there was a gal who made fabric to >match many of Princess Diana’s actual dresses but to the scale of the >doll – – How do you find the fabrics you need for these reproduction >outfits you make — no need to give away any secrets — just a general >reply. What & how do you search for the fabrics?
I have looked through the books and photos so many times that I am sub-consciously looking for fabrics for these replicas whenever I am shopping. The Lot 59 fabric was almost a fluke. I walked past it at the fabric store on my way to something else when I stopped cold. Whoa, is that the same print?? I took it back to Jenny and we thought it was near enough to be a possibility. It is a bit darker, but so similar. Often it has happened much the same way, stumbled upon something similar.
It was a real boon when we could have some of the prints duplicated, well not exact of course, but close. Though the drawback was they were only available on 8X10″ blocks of silk and that had to be taken into consideration. I did get one printed on legal size sheets though.
We also we so fortunate to have a wonderful customer personally ink a yard of fabric to use for Lot 8. I know it took her hours, but it worked perfectly.
>What keeps you creating the outfits for these dolls?
I love the challenge of replicating, and I love to sew! When I was younger, and asked what my hobbies were, it was always sewing and reading. I should have listened to myself then and I could have started this much sooner, LOL! Sewing for dolls is its own reward because the end product can be seen sooner as it takes less time than sewing for real people.
>What would be the ultimate Diana doll outfit for you to create? Or if you have already created it what outfit was it?
I want to replicate Lot 65, sequins, beads and all. I have everything I need but time. Before the supplier of printed fabrics stopped producing the prints, I was able to get sheets of the base print to apply the sequins and beads on. There will only be one though as that is all the fabric I have available to me.
I would also love to bead and create Lot 46 (and make a copy for the owner who I met at the exhibit in 2007) and 27. Then there are less infamous outfits that I would like to do. I have to be careful whenever I am looking through the books for something particular or two or three others will grab my eye and I find myself thinking about them also……
If you are interested in contacting Connie Casteel for doll clothes commissions, her E-Mail is firstname.lastname@example.org; her website address is www.http://oursweetcreations.com/; Connie also has a Yahoo Group at – http://groups.yahoo.com/group/oursweetcreations/; she also sells on Etsyhttp://www.etsy.com/shop/oursweetcreations and once in a while on eBay; become a Fan on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Doll-Fashions-by-Sweet-Creations/201354709716?v=wall
The people in the group photo above are: Back L-R: Ellen Russell, Nigel Arch Director of Kensington Palace, Alana Bennett, Donna Hamlett, Jenny Unternahrer Front L-R: Me, Nancy Zacharias owner Lot 46, Caroline Davenport (who owned most of the ‘Little Dresses’), Stephanie McKee, Julie Lakins owner Lot 10 — Connie contributed several of the dresses displayed in the cabinets for this exhibit.