Wednesday, March 28, 2012

All Buttoned Up

Standard Pleats and Box Pleats
Midweek and the last button has been sewn on.  Lettie has a new dress and is ready to go visiting.  Well, almost.  She still needs her hat, which I'll begin today.  Her white hair bow sets off the collar very nicely, so we'll be patient.

One of the interesting things about sewing from scratch, is that I often have to learn how to do something all over again.  There was more seam ripping in this little dress than I would have imagined there to be.  For instance, the large, loose cuffs on the sleeves.  I must have fiddled with turning them up, cinching them up and all manner of fussing, until I remembered that there needed to be a cuff band sewn on at the bottom of the sleeve, good side to back side to enable me to roll the cuff over the sleeve and tack it down.

Twenty Covered Buttons in All
I don't know if it was the nature of the Kaufman Silk Cotton, or the nature of the pattern I'd made, but it was a wonderous breeze to keep the bodice softened, the cuffs loose, and the pleats crisp.  The underskirting is the Dharma dyed cotton I spoke of, with box pleats.  These two skirts were sewn together and then attached to the bodice. 

A for the Dharma Dye experiments, I learned that you could use a 1/2 tsp of dye in a tap water bath, dip the clean wet cloth in for 30 seconds, sprinkle a tad of soda ash in the bath, swirl, and remove it quickly to attain a light shade of the color.  The first attempt following the directions gave me a deep, rich color, so the dye is excellent.  The time you leave it in the bath is the key.  I only experiemented with 1" square pieces so as not to ruin the yardage.

I think the greatest challenge was covering all those buttons and hoping they would be in scale for the dress.  The smallest Dritz covered button kit available is 7/16".  Generally, this would be too large a scale for a dress, but Lettie is an 18" antique reproduction doll.  And, when all is said and done, she is just a doll, who doesn't seem to mind a'tall!  I did experient with covering plastic shank buttons, but the fraying was atrocious and looked terribly messy.  What I may do is try to find tiny satin covered wedding buttons, and cover those.  Lettie's clothing not only has ruffles, lace, and pleats, but tons of buttons.

The Illustration Once Again
While I'm designing the hat you see in the illustration, I'll be teaching my mouse paws how to smock.  I just watched a Youtube on the process, but the lady only shared the first row.  I do have a heirloom sewing book I'll have to pull out and see if there's a description in there.  What I'm finding is that there are many different kinds of smocking, so here we go on a new technique adventure.

Now to top things off with a hat!

Miss E. Mouse

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sailing Right Along

Starboard Bow
Sailing right along, we finish Lettie Lane's For School sailor dress.  Several things took place since the last journaling.  Both the mini soutache braid arrived, and the tiny cuff buttons.  It was an interesting process machine stitching all that braid on the collar, cuffs and high neck band.  It was all eyeballing in the process for I don't see how pinning the braid would actually make it go smoother. 

Also, the shell was sewn and embroidered with a wee anchor.  I will admit that I had a ball making this one.  Not only do I love sailor dresses on dolls, but some of this is getting alot easier to do.  For instance, the front plackets and pleats.  And, with the omission of those silly, huge patterns to fuss with, designing these dresses is far more creative and up to the skills I've developed in the past.

Front and Center
The silk ribbon tie just arrived this morning, and while it appears lighter in color, its the lighting in the room that did this.  Its actually a perfect match.  So soft and drapey, too.

I have discovered one thing that I'll make certain not to repeat.  Each time I've gone to hem the dress, I find I don't have enough length to make a deep hem.  I'd have to literally cut the skirt hem to her ankles in order to have a good one inch to one and a half inch hem.  I keep creating these dresses as if sewing for a small child.

The Stern
Yesterday I was experimenting with Dharma Dyes.  The Fiber Reactive dyes are wonderful to play with.  They take to the fabric in tap water and you leave the cloth in the bath just long enough to get your desired color - even if its only a minute.  You don't need to use more than 1/2 teaspoonfuls of dye to get a good color, and a sprinkling of the soda ash swirled in the bath for a minute is all you need to chemically seal in the color.  Equally, a 4oz. jar is very reasonably priced.  After my hesitations with dying fabric, and experimenting with Dharma Dye, I think we're going to have a bit of fun now.  I'll explain and give examples of this in my next entry.  The grey/mauve dress is ready to sew.

Miss E. Mouse


Saturday, March 17, 2012

More Stress Than Seam in Seamstress?

Sailor Dress in the Works
The Illustrated Paper Doll Dress
The Embroidered Anchor
Its been raining night and day, day and night for a week now.  Four feet of fresh powder fell in the Sierra and this little mouse has been keeping warm and dry in her mouse hole.

Since I began sewing last September, its been interesting that I've not continued to stress the theme of the Creative Process.  Oh, I talk about it, but only when the dress is finished.  That is unlike me to skip the good stuff.  And, so while I await the mini soutache braid to complete the sailor dress, it might be fun to see where we're at on this.

As I've mentioned, I've been designing my own patterns now - more out of necessity than desire.  One of the things I made in the process is a sloper pattern.  This is the basic piece from which all other designs can be made.  My sloper pattern is a simple bodice that fits.  Depending on what I want to create, I redraw the neckline, add a collar drawn from the inside dimensions of the neckline, and so on.  This little sailor school dress is one of the most unusual garments I've ever seen illustrated, so naturally I had to tackle it next.  After conferring with an expert seamstress in Philadelphia, she noted that the front piece resembled a shawl.  This made alot of sense to me and when I went to draw it out from the sloper, I named it a floating vest.  The pleated empire skirt of the dress is actually sewn directly onto the bodice and the floating vest is attached at the shoulders and armholes leave it floating over the pleats, and will be closed with a hook and eye. (You can always click on these photos to enlarge them for detail.)

A high neck shell, closing in the back will go under this dress and the sailor collar will be hand sewn on with slip stitches directly to the finished collar edge so when you flip it over, it will fold over the shoulders.  I couldn't think of any other way to do this.  I initially intended the sailor collar to be a separate piece you just slip over the doll's head (see the mock up), but then it wouldn't resemble the illustration.  And, we all know how important that is for me!

The Mock Up in "Stash Fabric"
A couple of days ago I embroidered, free-hand, the anchor on the sleeve, and a smaller one on the shell's bodice front right under where the high collar will stand.  One of the most fun things I learned to do last weekend, was how to fully line this shell.  I watched a YouTube by Magalie Dawson, titled, Magalie's Technique to Lining a Doll Dress or Coat.  Look it up!  Its amazing.  The is absolutely no way someone describe this in writing with full comprehension on the other side.

The Grey Mauve Dress and Hat
The Paper Towel Patterning
So while I'm awaiting the mini soutache braid for the cuffs, and two collars, I began the paper towelling process of making a pattern for this lovely visiting dress.  I might add that I'm also awaiting yards and yards of special lace from The Netherlands for future dresses (, which is why I chose a dress with no lace.  This does have a little hat, and I so enjoy making little hats with buckram bases!  I also have the striped fabric for the underskirt coming and hope it compliments the Kaufman silk cotton of the mauve grey I've chosen.

So while the rain continues to fall, I'll begin a mock up of the visiting dress and tweek the pattern until it works.  You can see from the mock-up of the sailor dress that the floating vest needed work.  I simply redrew it smaller and made another.

 You might notice that Daisy is acting model while Lettie enjoys her rose dress.  Back to pins and needles!

Miss E. Moue

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Stop and Smell the Roses

Spring is here in middlin' California.  The Flowering Plum trees are past peek and daffodils have bloomed evenly with narcissus.  Early?  Perhaps.  But, how lovely!  And, to celebrate, Lettie Lane received a pretty party dress for the season.

Lettie Lane Paper Doll Illustration

Lettie Lane's Party Dress

After the tears this mouse shed over the yellow coat dress, it was time to try, try again.  I'd had my eye on this particular rose print party dress illustration for some time, and had purchased a lovely Lecien fabric to make it up with.  Learning about designing patterns has been a steep curve, but I felt I could tackle just about anything after the last project.  One of the little blessings about being a doll collector and knowing many talented seamstresses is that help is typically at hand.  However, one thing I discovered on my own was that the original Bleuette patterns enlarged to 145% fit the Daisy Elmira body (which my Daisy and Lettie are on) to a T!
The cotton-silk rosette sash.
I looked on the Bleu Door Portal and found a basic sheath and once enlarged, I could alter the neckline and hem at will.  This was how the square neckline was achieved for this dress.  I had to then tackle the Bertha collar.  This collar is not separate - floating from the dress - but, sewn directly under the last edge layer of lace around the collar.  I cut the collar on the bias so that it would stretch nicely with the corners of the squared lace. 

One of the most fun and proud moments of this outfit, so similar to the Dolly Varden dress, was in making the sleeves.  I'd studied and studied the illustration until my eyes blinked, and discovered two rows of tiny ruffles on the sleeve band.  I used a wide short sleeve and lengthened it about a half inch to accommodate the cuff.     This is not a true cuff, but a band that I stitched the two rows of ruffle to, topped with the lace overlay, and then sewn to the gathered edge of the puffed sleeve.  When the first sleeve was done I photographed it just incase the second one didn't come out the same...but, it did!

The first sleeve is in and perfect!
Three small ruffles followed on the hemline topped with insertion lace.  The sash is made from this glorious Kaufman Radiance.  Its pure cotton-silk and is so wonderful and lusterous to work with.  I simply twisted the ends and rolled and tucked to make the rosette at her waist.  Lastly pink stockings and matching slippers topped with bows. 

One of the most difficult things about putting together an ensemble like this is finding good color matches to compliment all the pieces.  The leather I used for the slippers came all the way from Italy, while the stocking fabric was plucked off of ebay.  I suspect that as I continue to learn how to sew or rather learn how to design and assemble these costumes, the searches for perfect notions will take me all over the world.

Don't forget to stop and smell the roses!  Spring is in the air!

Miss E. Mouse