Thursday, April 26, 2012

Oar Else

The First Cut
I just tucked a nice nuts and berries casserole into the oven, and while I wait for it to bake, I thought I might journal some notes on Lettie Lane's Canoe Paddles.

I do love working with wood!  I'd forgotten how much so.  This was the first time I'd had to carve something on this scale, and naturally, I had to order a thicker basswood.  With these paddles, I used 1/2" basswood pieces.  Quite a departure from thicknesses of 1/16" to 1/8". 

Vintage Wooden Oar
I sketched the design and dimensions of the paddle directly from the paper doll illustration where she is holding the paddle from behind.  Due to the fact that half of this was hidden, I did a quick Internet search and found a photo of a vintage oar or canoe paddle.   This one was indeed much larger in scale and had a much longer paddle to neck proportion.  Yet it still gave me the full picture and from this I drew the rest.

The first cut was done on a miniature jigsaw and after I broke the first fine toothed blade, I spent half an hour trying to get a blade with larger teeth assembled into the tool.  It went only slightly easier due to the fact that this old blade was a bit rusty.  If I'm going to work in this scale, I'll have to invest in new blades.  The funny thing is, I typically do something like this once, then never again!

There I am staining the paddles.
I use an X-Acto knife to carve with.  I do have carving tools, but they are not nearly as effective.  It came to mind as I was carving these down, that I might have just purchased two big wooden spoons!  Same shape!  But, then they would not have been true paddles. I did alot of sanding to get the rounded shape of the handles and the high, mid middle of the paddles.  A nice Golden Pecan stain was applied, and the last step will be the satin sealer.  The result of all this is a dainty, and utterly feminine little paddle to go with what will now be called the Canoeing Outfit.

Casserole is done!  Time to put my back paws up for the evening.

Miss E. Mouse

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Skirting the Issue or Fan-tasy

A Fan of Skirts
Sunday takes me to a little hole cleaning.  My poor little hole in the wall has been getting neglected and the sunshine calls for spring cleaning.  Still a mouse does get to sit on her tail for a short time and while I'm here, the creative process continues.

Someone recently shook their finger at me and told me that I was doing it all wrong, and alluded to my poor customer.  I was quite taken aback since no one has ever challenged my etrennes or doll accessories.  One of the distinctive traits of my work is the exacting copy of an illustration.  And rather than sewing as they taught you in Home Economics, the fashion school of Miss E. Mouse tosses out the traditional and scampers outside the box.  To some this can simply not be done, but what comes to mind is the figuring of algebra.  I recall so clearly learning the formula to reach the answer of some problem, when a tutor showed me clearly that the same solution could be reached another way.  And, I promise you, I take no short cuts.  Instead I labor from scratch to finish finding the best way to achieve my goal. 
Pleated Skirt Front

I prefer not to read manuals and guide books for they are often confusing and poorly written.  Recently a friend asked me to purchase the book The Dolls Dressmaker, A Complete Pattern Book.  The title alone should have tipped me off, but she claimed that everything I ever needed to know about sewing was between the covers.  Without giving the book an unsolicited review, I can atest  to it being a pattern book, and not a technical manual on how to piece together and sew, which was what I'd hoped for.  I will also add that most doll bodies vary greatly, so while the book claims "actual size patterns", there will still be adjusting, so I think I'll stick to my slopers and hand drafting the patterns in paper towel.

Nice Fit to the Waist
The white pleated skirt was interesting to create.  I learned something on the fly that I'd not considered before.  Since the illustration depicts a pleated, but equally full skirt, I chose to pleat the fabric, then gather it at the waist, thereby achieving the fullness required.  I thought it might ruin the looks of the pleats, but this was not the case.  A pleated and waistbanded skirt would have been too narrow and more applicable for suiting.  I'm almost positive if I shared this with another, they'd tell me I did it all wrong.  There are so very many things we have to do in this life by the book, that I enjoy the artist freedom of creating on my own.  And, one of them is hemming a pleated skirt last. 

In order to keep the pleats nice, I keep pins in the center of the skirt once I sew a stay stitch to the waistband.  To begin, the hemline was folded up a quarter inch, then an inch and a half and ironed, while a gathering stitch held it in place as I pleated the fabric.  It was no trouble at all doing a simple slip stitch to the hem when I was finished.  When it came time to removing the gather stitch, I removed the thread stitch by stitch so as not to crumple the fabric by pulling it out.  Worth every minute of my time.

One of the very nice things about gathers, is that if the sleeve or waistband is a little too large, you can put in a gentle gather to shorten it.  I don't think there is truly any way to rush through creating a garment for a doll.  I would never be so bold as to be slightest bid confident in what I'm doing.  Tiny step by tiny step is how I work and I'm not about to change.

The only thing I've come to dread in the process of garment making, is sewing on snaps and hook and eyes.  If there was an easy way to do this (we'll add buttons to this task as well), I'd be overjoyed!

My Little Lettie Lane on the 10.5" Bleuette Body
I'm already planning the next garment, but in between, I need to begin sewing for the 10 1/2" Bleuette body since I have a little blonde Lettie Lane doll now.

Miss E. Mouse

Friday, April 20, 2012

Surrey With the Fringe On Top!

An A to Z Story of a French Fashion Doll
Inspiration for the Buggy
In between the yardage and stitches, a dear friend of mine asked me to make for her, the buggy for her A is For Annabelle doll.  In truth we discussed this about a year ago when we met up at the Rose Percy charity event held by the boys from the Carmel Doll Shop.

Marie Terese is a young French Fashion doll created by Alice Leverette, and was given as a souvenir gift at a UFDC conference three years back.  She's 10.5" tall and was modeled after a Huret (if this mouse is not mistaken).  Many collectors displayed her for the young mademoiselle she is, and others, like my friend, made her into another doll. 

The story by Tasha Tudor is for young children and alphabet by item, Tasha illustrates all the glorious items Annabelle possesses.  A very charming book that inspired many a seamstress and doll accessorist to create her loot. 

Shown with a Marie Terese doll 10.5"
The basic buggy was a kit I'd found on ebay that was created for a doll club in 1979.  It was a good start for me since I'd no idea how I was going to get the parts, much less make the chasis.  Still and all the bonnet was a bugger to make.  No lie. 

All by Itself

The main problems were in the assembly and attachment, and while it is a fragile piece primarily for display, it is as well built as a mouse could make it.  The color of the posts and ornate oval came to me after I deduced that black bars would make the buggy look like a jail, and the lighter tan opens the piece up and allows the doll to shine.

In a sense it was good for me to take this departure from sewing for a bit so I could keep my skills fresh...and I do have those paddles to carve!  A box of lovely basswood arrived today.

I also wish to thank my readers for leaving such lovely comments.  I appreciate it more than you could imagine!

Miss E. Mouse

Monday, April 16, 2012

The X Factor

The X Factor
Its Monday night and I've been designing and sewing for three weeks now.  I'm tired, but I'm also feeling some progress on this boating ensemble for Lettie Lane.  Of course, Lettie is still in her grey dress, so dear Daisy must remain in her knickers and be a little mannequin.

This particular little smock has some interesting features.  For one, the length of the shoulder is longer, which required some on the spot designing.  I used the all in one pattern I'd made with the front fold, and lengthened the sleeve a bit.  Then I simply cut the sleeves off "off the shoulder", gently gathered the new sleeve edges and reattached them for the look.  It worked.

Smock Without the Belt
This top also introduced me to smocking.  I must have read three books and watched countless Youtubes only to discover that what was illustrated by Sheila was not true smocking, but a combination of smocking gathers and cross stitching.  I call this Xmocking.  In order to have done real smocking, the top would have needed 20-25 folds in a one inch section and it would not have resembled this illustration whatsoever.  Of course, when you're developing a new technique like the Xmock, you have to perfect it to make it work.  I can't tell you how many times I had to rip embroidery thread out!  What I required was three diamond patterns within five folds or pleats.  I chose to make seven folded pleats in order to have the anchor fold on each end.  Then I measured and pinned and embroidered the decoration within the boundaries of the seven pleats. 

The pockets have a little zig-zag embroidered stitch on them, and the sleeves boast the diamond pattern all the way around.

The collar is squared on the back flaps for a rather nautical look, which was by request - a good one.  One of the most difficult things to do was desiging the v that would become laced up.  I honestly had no idea what to do, but realized it had to be lined.  What I ended up doing was cutting a lining, a shorter version of the top, and once sewn on, I cut a one and half inch slit right through the lining and top.  I stitched down the sides of this cut starting at the neckline, then turned this inside out.  It worked!  I was scared to pieces doing this, but I was at my wits end not knowing how else to achieve this.  I got lucky!

Squared Collar and V to Be Laced Up
The poufy pursey pockets were yet another piece to design.  The pocket ended up being a half moon shape, lined, then gathered all the way around the edge, save for the top ends that would get gathered across left to right, and embroidered.  I stitched them on from the underside of the top, catching the pocket gather just under the pouf so the stitching wouldn't show.  There are many Lettie Lane outfits with these pockets and I intend to further develop these until I'm more comfortable with the look. (Do I dare say, "Have a better look"?)  These will work and they do look sweet, but I think perhaps only the bottom edge might have been gathered.  Next time.

I'd recently gotten an order for several Lettie Lane dresses, so I decided it would be best to make two at a time as my Lettie would wish the same ensemble.  I learned with both the indian costume and the pumpkin costume, that after I'd made one to the finish, it was a very long process to start afresh and make another one.  Also, when you're sewing two, and the pattern is for the first time, sometimes you work something out better on the second, and can go back and redo the first.

Pink Smock Times Two
I just finished the belt today and was able to use these little buttons I'd purchased just for finishing touches like this.  Coral pink hat straw is on order, as well as a golden-brown silk-satin ribbon for the band, and some peach colored mulberry flowers and leaves for the decoration.  I also have a nice piece of basswood to carve the two paddles from.  One for my doll, one for my customer's.  And, then there's the skirt, which I'll begin tomorrow.  But, we all know that I'm the Pleat Queen by now! LOL

Now to Make This Pink Straw Hat and Paddle
Do I spend too much time on these outfits?  Do I agonize over the details?  Is it worth it?  Yes.  It always will be, for what I've done with my etrennes and accessories, I find natural to do with these ensembles.  The result (I hope!) is an heirloom quality costume for our dolls.

I have come to the conclusion though this, that I love working with and around bright color.  I love designing clothing that tells a story and I hope my creations do just that.

The days have turned sunny and nature is dressed head to toe in shades of green. Spring! I do take breaks to sun my little nose and enjoy one of the prettiest times of the year.

Miss E. Mouse