Then one day, you find the right stuff; vintage burlap with a fine weave, a fat quarter of ivory wedding dress silk or a square of peach coloured velvet. Sometimes they demand a deviant touch. Thighs or biceps in Victorian flowered cotton or striped mattress ticking, a secret feature for you to enjoy. You collect the ingredients, scour shops and tins for the buttons, a crocheted doily, a strip of ribbon.
You draw the features in lightly, choosing the best angle for the eyes, the tilt of a brow and a rosebud mouth. But none of your cutesey faces. This is a proper character who fills your head. You catch an expression in strands of cotton, a French knot for an eye, and satin stitch lips.
Now that the features are laid down the fine silver needle slips a stitch or two in place. A pale green wink and mulberry smile. The hint of a blush drawn on with a crayon. And then for the cutting. It’s best that the body, neck and head is in one piece. Arms and legs can be slipped into the spaces you left when you machined the outline. You can hardly wait now as the machine purrs on the last seam.
You want to see what she will wear. She is plumped up with filling, elbows and knees flattened in with a seam, and there she sits. There is a tiny smile, a hint of a glint in her eye.
She has no hair yet, but that doesn’t matter. You start with the lingerie, the silk, the lace, the layers she might reveal with a cock of the leg. Like a tiny harlot, she brazenly sits, waiting for you to construct a camisole, as if bearing her poitrine to the world is her destiny.
It can take a good hour to make a dress, even for one so little. The puffed sleeves need gathering, all raw edges must be oversewn, before they are set in the bodice. Cuffs need to be ironed, hems and trimmings arranged, all in perfect miniature, no corners cut.
There is always a mixture of wool that is just right. It has to be the correct blend, for now she is real, she has substance. A touch of grey mohair, purple alpaca and a tint of silver. As soon as the first strands are sewn in place, she looks pleased. She is proud to be here. She is becoming.
There are more things she wants now she has burst forth. Albertine wanted a mohair shawl, a cat and a mate. Beatrice wanted an aran coat, Noah a silk shirt, Ceridwen a hat like mine, the hussy. And will she keep it on? Like the drop of a hat it’s gone. It’s here, it’s there, oh she is a handful, that Ceri.
There are animals too. A tweed dachshund called Frederick, a felt dog, and of course there were the mermaids. How bewitched you can be by a doll who has not yet arrived. But here she is. Aunt Maud. As soon as they are ready they tell you their name. They always tell you their name.
And now Aunt Maud sits proudly at the end of your bed. Watching you. Watching you while you sleep.