Friday, May 25, 2012

Down the Garden Path

Lettie Lane's Gardening Frock
Light Pink Roses
Pinning the dotted lace on.  Look closely to see the pulled thread.
Pinned and Tucked
Is it just me, or has May seemed like the longest month of the year so far?  And, even on the 25th, we still have six days left!  While the days fly past, the month lingers on.  How can that be?  How do we mark our time?  I think for me its been from project to project - from start to completion.  And, with the 18" Lettie Lane's Gardening Outfit, completion has come. 

Close-up of Floral Lace Sleeve
Hand-painted Roses, Square-knotted Sash
You may recall that the first dress like this was made for the 10.5" Bleuette-sized Lettie with the blonde curls.  Using the existing pattern I had, I increased the size to 145%, and took it from there.  Having made one for the smaller doll almost now, felt like the sampler.  I know that there is a huge number of seamstresses who insist that Bleuette is the greatest doll to sew for, but I truly love sewing for the 18" reproduction antique.  There is just so much more detail I can accomplish.

Several things occurred while making these two outfits for the 18" doll.  One was that I learned a little trick from a friend on the east coast who told me about finding a little thread to pull in the edge lace that would help form it around a neckline.  It was so brilliant that I wanted to share this with you.  I was concerned that it would appear gathered, but once on the neckline, it acheived the look I was after.  Much better than cutting up and piecing the lace together as I did with Little Lettie's dress.

The other was that I perfected the ladder stitch, and discovered a hidden stitch for dresses that I was using on the hats.  Instead of doing a standard slip-stitch, I did it in reverse, hiding the threads under the edges, between the layers. 

Two bodices had been originally constructed using the dotted French cotton lace since I had two sizes of it.  I wasn't sure my customer would enjoy this as much as I, although it was a thicker, softer lace.  So in the midst of being almost done, I purchased the two sizes of floral lace and made a third bodice.  At this stage I was getting axious.  This particular project seemed to be lasting longer than I intended, so I mixed things up a little and used lighter roses on the hat and in the basket for the dotted lace dress, which I kept.  I also sashed the dotted lace dress with a shorter tie, fastening it in a square-knot.  The other outfit is most like the original Little Lettie outfit with a huge bow, and darker roses.

Part of the struggle, once again, in making this outfit was finding the right fabric.  Although I'd convinced myself that some of the fabric I'd purchased early would work, I found this vintage fabric by accident on ebay one night, and two fulls yards of it at that!  Every blue floral print I'd found previously had been on a cream or ivory background, and I really wanted white.  Pure white.  Why be so picky?  Lace.  The lace needed to match the white shade of the dress and no amount of test dying would produce the shade I needed of cream or ivory.  Lace is as different as the clouds in the sky.  The range of whites is astonishing!

Once again I was able to experiment with painting the roses on the hat's streamer.  After four more pallettes of roses, I'm still not convinced that there was a better way to do this.  Painting this kind of detail on silk would not be my first choice, but the effect is always the main consideration.  Fabric is not the easiest medium to apply wet paint to!

The Fancy Slip
Next?  I've been asked to make a fancy slip, and I'll only be making one this time.  I have a great need to create with color, and have a yellow floral dress project in the works for Little Lettie, which I had to put aside to make these Gardening Frocks.

I'm also going to take a couple of days to put my studio/workroom back in order, and also take an inventory of what I have to work with.  One of the nicest compliments to come out of all this work was when a friend on one of the yahoogroups asked me when I'll be making patterns.  Imagine!  I don't know if this is something I wish to look into, but its certainly something to think about down the garden path.

Miss E. Mouse 

One Last Look

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Picnic in May

Let's go on a picnic!
The Hat
May is the perfect time for a picnic on the lake.  "Let's pack a wholesome and delicious lunch, and take the canoe out across the lake - right over to that shady spot where the grass is nice and soft!"

A Little Close-Up

Finally, the hat straw arrived and I was, then, able to make one of the hats.  I used the Dusty Rose and Black Swiss straw to build the hat, and decorated it with double-faced silk ribbon in a brown to match the smocking and lace-ups on the blouse, topping it with vintage millinery flowers.

The Illustration One More Time

Its often interesting to see how something you've envisioned from an illustration, turn out in 3-D.  An illustrator can do so many things a seamstress cannot.  And, for me, the fun is in the challenge to bring something like this to life.  When I've completed a project like this, I feel like an era has gone by!  So much effort, thought and energy goes into the process, and then its done.  The best way to counter the finale is to be working on something else even before its photographed.

Detail of the Collar From Behind

Right now I have two Little Lettie outfits on the table, and of course, I'm making two of the blue floral outfits for Big Lettie.  For Little Lettie, there's a shepperdess costume and a yellow floral dress with four overlapping, lace ruffle layers on each sleeve.

Its a beautiful morning here.  Yesterday I spotted a very large bumble bee in the azaleas.  The other day, late blossoms on one of the apple trees.  Is there truly any season more enchanting than spring?

Miss E. Mouse 

One Final Look

Monday, May 7, 2012

Flowers For Mother's Day

Two days ago the world experienced an incredible phenomenon.  This was the perigee moon, that the media referred to as Super Moon.  The term, gently translated, addresses an unusual orbit of the moon in close proximity to the earth; brighter, larger in appearance.  I'm a star gazer and the phases of the moon are always a special feature to me in the night's sky.  Large or small, beauty transcends.

The Paper Doll Illustration
This weekend, another small miracle happened.  I finished my very first outfit for the Bleuette doll body.  In my last post, I introduced Little Lettie, and now she has her first paper doll dress.

This particular illustration comes from Lettie Lane Comes Home for Christmas, but it is just perfect for the first days of summer.  I was preparing to make this particular outfit for my 18" Lettie Lane when I came upon a small remnant of cloth that begged me to make up this outfit for the 10 1/2" doll.  I knew I'd have to be very careful, and not make any serious mistakes, since there simply was no extra fabric.  Of course I started with a mock up, and derived this from an original Bleuette pattern redrawing the neckline and shortening the length for the top portion of the drop waist dress. 

The Quick Mock Up
One of the most tedious and difficult areas of constructing the dress was making a true lace collar.  Collars will continue to haunt me, and every single dress I wish to make has one.  Each is different!  Since lace is made on a ribbon line, even if its scalloped, there is no scallop that actually matches the curves of a collar.  Then you have the size of the pattern to deal with.  What I ended up doing after ruining a foot of expensive English cotton lace, was cut four of the scallops off and piece them together around the neckline, finally hand-stitching the edges together.  The long bodice of this dress is fully lined the Magalie Dawson method with interior tuck stitching to the actual three-tiered skirted bottom.

Half Done
Added Belt, Working on Hat
The second trial was in making the belt.  Since we cannot see what is actually going on behind the illustration, I decided upon making a bow attached to the belt to compliment the tiny row of blue bows marching down the front of the bodice.  After fiddling with a detachable bow, and many attempts to make it lay flat in the back, I slipped the belt through the back loop of the bow and that seemed to do the trick.  This is something I'm certain to repeat in the future.

Of course, then, we needed a hat.  I had one Bleuette sized hat mold and I formed the sticky, wet buckram over the mold, then hit it with a hair dryer.  The over fabric is that lovely silk and the hat is lined in an heirloom muslin.  The tails or ribbon of the hat gave me another chance to scratch my little head in wonder.  My first attempt was to embroider these flowers, but even with one thread, it was not a clean look.  Hand-painted silk has long been a lovely accessory for women, so I took the opportunity and did just that using Jacquard's fabric paint.  While I'd painted the bands of the indian dress for Daisy last fall, painting on fabric is whole new ball game.  All those tiny fibers sit up when dabbed with wet paint, so extra precaution must be paid to get the detail.  I don't know if there'll be another opportunity to do this, but I have a full pallette of colors to work with now. 

Hand Painted Flowers
Finally we add a pair of socks and shoes.  Shoes are not my specialty, if I have a specialty at all.  But, I did have to design a little pattern for these Mary Janes so they could be cut in one piece.  I first tried top-stitching one shoe and the stitching overwhelmed the look, so I cut out another one and made them up with tiny white shank buttons. 

Adding lastly, a basket of roses to complete the costuming, the outfit was finally done.  Now I won't say I'll do this every time, but designing a new pattern on a small doll is alot quicker since there is less to work with.  Now I have both a pattern and practice behind me to create two for the 18" Lettie Lane.

Each day I take the time to find a little sunny corner and enjoy what nature is blooming forth.  A little time to read or reflect nourishes and inspires.  Enjoy this re-energizing time of year!

Miss E. Mouse

A Final Look