Saturday, July 14, 2012

Waves of Green, on a Sea of Blue

Lettie Lane's Bathing Suit
Detail of the Hat
Stockings and Bloomers
One of my favorite pieces to make in any of these costumes, is the hat.  I have always loved hats, but it wasn't until I began making these that I truly discovered the range and what you could top a mop of hair with!  As with the dresses, these hats are only illustrations and we must decide how to design them, and what they may look like from different angles.  I'll confess that the originals may not have had all the same atributes, but these are my interpretations. 

When I began the first hat, I tried using the same pie wedge pattern I used for Lettie Lane's Patriotic Costume hat, only cutting four to stitch together.  I used a buckram base shaped over the styrofoam ball I used in the pumpkin costume hat last fall.  I cut the shape in half to a bowl and hand-stay-stitched the edges.  Fitting the four pieced crown over the buckram wasn't a problem, but what to do for the turban roll was. 

Detail of the Bathing Slippers
First I had to make the turban roll.  I stitched all the ribbon trim to a length of cloth, then cut a 1.5" rectangle from that and stitched a seam.  I turned it insided out, and iron-steamed it by hovering the iron over the piece.  Then I stuffed it with come kind of batting or stuffing.  I was then dealing with this striped Tootsie Roll I had to attach to the brim.  I thought of stitching it into the sides of one of the pie wedge shapes.  Tried it, didn't like it.  I was still, also, dealing with the idea of a poof hat and what I was attempting didn't give me that effect.

I ended up cutting a circle of cloth, gathering it along the bottom and sewing the edges to the buckram.  I attached the turban roll, then took a hidden ladder stitch to the top and bottm, and edges of it.  The bows were basic doll dress bows attached to the sides.  Naturally, the hat is fully lined.  And, there you have it.  The Bathing Suit costume is done! 

This truly was one of the most difficult costumes I've made for Lettie Lane.  Why do they keep getting harder, instead of simpler?  I can only guess that my tastes run to details and the challenges to create them.  I'll be finishing up the slip set next, and also working on a new outfit for Little Lettie, the Bleuette sized doll.  I just began hosting a Challenge on the Bleuette Sewing Club, and naturally, it is a Lettie Lane Challenge, encouraging seamstresses to try what I've been doing.  Should be fun!

We're in the midst of summer and the days can get pretty hot.  I recommend ice cream!

Miss E. Mouse

Quite the Bathing Beauty

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The 3D's Design, Detail, Determination

Lettie Lane's Bathing Suit in the Works
That dear ol' illustration
I'm seriously trying to recall when I first began this bathing costume, because it feels like a year ago.  Of all the ensembles I've made in the Lettie Lane series, this one has, paws down, been the most difficult.  Several times I nearly gave up, but then I'd walk away and think on it until my little brain hurt.  Eventually I'd come back, and try something different, rip out a few seams, and start over again.

Final Paper Towel Pattern
The suit began in concept as a onesie bloomer with a skirt over it.  Why?  Because some were made this way.  A full paper towel pattern had been designed with this in mind and I'd even cut one out of fabric.  As I began to design the skirt, I realized this couldn't be correct since it could better be interpretted as a belted tunic or bathing dress.  That meant bloomers had to go beneath and it just got more difficult from there.  One of the things that tripped me up was whether or not to have elastic in the bottom of the bloomers, but I settled on the much more detailed design of little cuffs.  The openings would have to be wide enough to go over the doll's calves (which are substantial), and help keep the stockings up at the same time.

Now, do you see bloomers under that tunic?  No.  Neither do I.  But we know they are there because little girls were covered modestly on the beaches.

The other problem area, and this has plagued my designing and sewing from the start, was the neckline, this time dealing with a scoop-neck collar.  I took a piece of silk and used Dharma Acid Dye to dye it to match the double-sided silk ribbon trim.  I cut a length on the bias believing it would stretch and sew nicely to the neckline, but it puckered and stretched the scoop out of shape.  I considered making a lining and turning it under to finish the neckline and stabilize it, but then you'd still have to deal with the green trim, and that silk ribbon doesn't stretch.  It is not on the bias.  Therefore you'd be right back where you started with a strip of green, cut on the bias and having to sew it on the front and turning it under on the inside.  Again, pucker and losing shape.  I tried it. 

What I ended up doing to make it snug and get the shape back, was put a little gathering stitch along the edge, hidden under the silk and gently pulled it to shape.  It worked and I had to be satisfied with the results or toss the project.  Then there was the hem. 

I had to measure up from the turn up length of the hem to sew the green ribbon stripes along the bottom of the tunic dress.  By the way. the sleeves were fairly straightforward, but this was another exercise in patience and determination.  After several attempts at trying to come to a solution on how to attach it, I settled into measuring with a ruler and pinning the ribbon on the top row first.  I'd sew the top edge on, then the bottom edge, once again measure for the second stripe, then repeat the process.  Anyone reading this blog has to understand that I'm teaching myself how to make these costumes as I go along.  So with every detail I have to figure out what to do.  And, since each costume I create is unique, this study occurs each time.

Bloomers...check!  Tunic...check!  Now for the stockings, slippers and belt. 

Close up of back of slippers and thread loops in stockings.
The stockings were fairly straightforward, thank you very much, but I added a little thread loop half way up the back of the calf to thread the silk ribbons through so they'd stay up.  hee-hee  A proud design moment in Mouseland.  The slippers were fairly straightforward and made from thin Italian lambskin direct from Italy.  Two little thread loops were sewn into the front of the slippers, by hand, so the laces could be threaded through them.  This way, when you put the doll's stockinged foot into the slipper, you can pull the laces up in front to give a little more wiggle room.  If the laces had been sewed in, they'd be a tighter fit and a struggle to put on.  I'm pretty sure that, when studying the illustration, the laces were threaded through loops on the edges of the slippers anyway.  Detailed photos of these slippers will come later when the costume is complete.

Today, I made the belts.  Black lambskin leather with vintage belt buckles.  I chose the metal ones over mother of pearl although the vintage mop buckles were a bit more to scale.  I considered trying to dye the mop buckles, but no one could guarantee the shell would dye black - I didn't wish to ruin them.  Many, many of Lettie Lane's costumes have incredibly large belt buckles.  I will always be on the alert for antique buckle lots due to this.    

Next?  Well of course we need the hat!  Is it a  turban?  Is it a mob cap?  Is it a scarf?  No!  Its Super Hat!  We'll see how much fur this little mouse pulls out of her noggen over this one.

Miss E Mouse