Saturday, December 31, 2011

Welcome 2012, The Year of Lettie Lane

Just as promised, I am typing one pawed to bring you the last post of 2011. And, there I am! Being tenderly upheld by my new little muse, Lettie Lane. She will be the star of 2012 as her doll house was introduced in The Ladies' Home Journal 100 years ago in the year 1912.

I have long loved the Lettie Lane paper dolls illustrated by Sheila Young, and this particular one, "Pictures of a Little American Girl", just spoke to my heart and I decided she must come to life as a friend for Daisy.

This beautiful antique reproduction was made by the stellar doll artist, Connie Zink, of Land of Oz Dolls, to my exacting specification. Unlike Daisy, she is a German Kestner 174 mold. My intention, and you know I'm good to my word, is to bring to life her clothing from her paper doll page. Just yesterday I ventured out of my little hole in the wall and joined a friend of mine on a journey to San Francisco's Britex Fabrics store on Maiden Lane in Union Square. I bought so many beautiful fabrics in cotton silks, cotton sateens, and cotton velveteens to make these lovely outfits. Ribbons, threads, laces and trims joined the shopping bag and I'm ready to begin 2012 sewing for Lettie Lane.

Is she truly Lettie? We like to believe that the Lettie Lane Paper Dolls depict "Lettie" in all her forms. And, because my Daisy is a blonde and blue eyed little lass, my Lettie had to be her own girl and thusly a brunette with brown eyes. She is wearing a "Lettie" wig purchased from Dollspart Supply, and she will have all the stockings, shoes and hats to go with her lavish wardrobe.

2011 has been an incredible year overall, and it saw Miss E. Mouse add a new dimension to her work as an heirloom doll accessorist, in the form of sewing doll clothing.

So ring in the bells and settle into a gentle winter embracing the beloved pasttimes of reading good books, playing dolls and keeping those little paws busy creating beauty in every corner of your life.


Miss E. Mouse

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Daisy Christmas or Merry Christmouse

It hardly seems another year has come and gone. Its been a very dry and chilly winter solstice, but for a mouse, the dry leaves remain a joy to scurry through. With so much behind us, and so very much ahead, I remain inspired and never tire from one project to the next. Certainly November was a month of very hard work, and sometimes into the night, but Miss E. Mouse is pleased with what came out of it. The December 1911 issue of The Ladie's Home Journal is truly the most outstanding and lovely of the five Daisy issues offered. There were so many pages of gorgeous illustrations of items a girl could make for Christmas, and pages of cut-out paper toys for dolls. One of them was A Christmas Tree For the Dolls, and of this, I made a peg wooden affair in the exact size from the issue.

There were two pages that enchanted me as well, and these were Christmas gifts made in Cretonne, a cabbage rose design. I chose to make the Sewing Chair, The Colonial Work Bag, and the doilly boxes from these pages. But, one of the most enchanting, was the Snow Baby Cake from the "dainties" page. Before I'd even begun making this cake, I had to find tiny snow babies and was very lucky to find a miniature doll shoppe that carried them, made by a lady in England.

The Snow Baby Cake was quite an undertaking as it was made of air drying clay and took a week and a half to completely "bake". The frosting was made from modeling gel, and I made the tiny mistletoe, myself, from scrapbooking leaves and milk glass beads from Prague.

The Colonial Work Bag was yet another intricate challenge. Nada Christensen made the tiny porcelain head on a shoulder plate and even attached it with elastic stringing so the head would turn. The tiny arms are about 1/2" long or smaller! And, just what is a Colonial Work Bag? Nowhere could I find a true definition, so Miss E. Mouse claims it to be a Dolly Work Bag. Much study of the illustration brought me to design the bag "dress" as a drawstring bag opening up under the apron. If you asked me how I did all this, I could barely tell you today as I just fiddled with it all until it came together. Her hair is tiny bits of curled mohair under a silk bonnet. One photo I never took a good one of, details that there is a covered "button" at the bottom of the bag. Girls could use the bag to decorate their dressers or door knobs, too.

The Sewing Chair is a novelty that I think has transcended time. If you look in fabric stores, I believe Mary Englebreit made similar notions. This little chair's base is wood, of course, and I covered in it Cretonne. It even has "stuffing" to feel like a real chair and could be used as Dolly's pin cushion. The chair seat lifts on Shaker style pegging. I included two tiny threaded spools, a needle, and a tiny pair of working scissors.

Two Dolly Varden costumes were made for Daisy. I kept one for my own doll. The one you see in the photo was the first one The Ruffle Queen made. So very many more ruffles than the Pumpkin Costume. This was an original Daisy pattern from the Christmas page of patterns for her. And, who is Dolly Varden? I never found out. So much for Google. I'd like to think she was a lady from the stories and illustrations of Kate Greenaway. The dress pattern and hat is certainly reminiscent of that era. This dress was made from a beautiful new Japanese cloth call Yuwa. Its a delicate cotton with a lovely drape printed from vintage inspired patterns. Pink velveteen bands the hat and makes up the cumberbund and drawstring bag. I even added a little silk embroidery to the hat band. I really love the way the Dolly Varden outfit came out. It was for "a Christmas party" for Daisy.

Finally, I just finished this little apron from Daisy's School Page of patterns. Its the perfect little touch to keep her Christmas finery neat and tidy while she bakes cookies. This pattern was particularly difficult for me since the apron is completely lined. Even the pockets are lined, and 1/2" covered buttons are used on the side tabs, and to close the back. As I teach myself how to sew and put these patterns together, I'm gaining as much useful knowledge as any of the accessories and toys have given me in the past. I've added a new dimension to my work!

One of the nicest gifts I got this year was from a dear friend who sent me a set of tiny Hallmark ornaments of mini sewing mice! The acknowledgment was loving and encouraging.

I promise this will not be my last blog of the year. I have so much to share about where my work is headed in 2012. Daisy's 100th birthday year has been fabulous. She has really stolen my heart, and yet the horizon is bright for someone new and equally wonderful.

Wishing you all a holiday filled with warmth, joy, and definitely a little cheese!


Miss E. Mouse

The Great Pumpkin

Seems like an eternity since I last wrote, and September 7th, may well be in mouse years! So please bear with me while I catch up a little. Truthfully I had this entire entry written in my mind and had hoped to post it in October. Then November came and it was time to make Daisy items for Christmas, and that was a long and tiring month in the process. I so wanted these items to be enjoyed all holiday season long, ready by December the first!

As many of my friends can attest, I was the mouse that did not sew. However, when making the miniature version of The Ladies' Home Journal for October, I spotted these costumes a girl could make from 1911, and had to try the Pumpkin Costume. It was one of those illustrations that cried out to come to life. I'd had plenty of experience with buckram based hats and knew the pumpkin hat would be fun to do, and by the end of this experience, I had to claim myself The Ruffle Queen.

I started with a basic Daisy dress pattern and altered it to make this costume up. Yards and yards of ruffles later, I'd learned so much about ravelling fabric. I'd never intended to sell this costume. It came with the little purse, the hat and a pair of black leather slip-on shoes I'd made. Still, I wanted to see what would happen if I did try to sell it. Curiousity busied the mouse and all. Well, it sold! Not only that, I had to make a second one for a customer. It was about this time that I received a new sewing machine for my birthday (which was September 18th). Its a Juki Pro Quilter, and let me tell you, this top of the line little piece of machinery magic almost sews by itself! While I made the second costume, I had to learn how to use the machine and realized how very delicate computerized sewing machines can be.

Along with five copies of the miniature Ladie's Home Journal, I also miniaturized a sheet of party favors from the original magazine. These were place cards, book marks, and favors all detailed with tiny runes. Oh, to have lived in 1911 when everything was made by hand and cleverly thought out and crafted!

I never got to make the witch costume from the page of costumes, so I will save that for next October, or when the bug bites just to do it. The hat alone would be wonderful to make!

Since the sewing bug has been seeping into my little veins, I've done little else. Its a new craft to learn and the patterns from 1911 came without instruction. One more thing to master I suppose. Its a wonderful challenge, and as a friend of mine, Laurie, who is teaching me by way of email, tells me, its like a puzzle. A puzzle you put together to form one picture.

All Hallow's Eve has come and gone, and Christmas is now two days away. I have one more story to tell you before I wish you happy holidays!

Miss E. Mouse