Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Simple Simon Met a Pie Man...Going to School


Lettie Lane's Green Sweater School Set
Labor Day is just around the corner, and summer is nearing its end. Thoughts of trees turning gold and red, leaves wisping to the ground as little breezes pick up are so welcome and looked forward to. I, for one, adore the autumn season, and this little outfit seems to be just the thing Lettie needs for returning to school. While I can sit back now and enjoy how sweet these photos come out, I will be quite honest in that I need a break from plaid and pleats. Also, I will have to preface that this was not necessarily an outfit I would have chosen to make just for me. However, now that it is done, and in triplicate!, I enjoyed the process of puzzling this one out.

Looking like a little Scot!

Let's talk about the sweater jacket. Initially I thought to make it up in an interlock knit. I learned very quickly that this wouldn't do because the fabric was too light weight and had too much stretch. We can often fool ourselves thinking in terms of knits. I thought this to be a sweater, therefore thinking knit, but close observation of the illustration proved it to be a jacket with cuffs and a collar. What I found was a "cashmere" cotton men's shirt in XL and used this for the fabric. This was some of the nicest fabric I've even sewn with and if I could have found another in a S, I would have bought it to use as a light hiking jacket for myself. The 100% cotton and coziness of it made you think of a luxurious blanket.

The facing with the collar in between.

This was not the way to do it!
Again, I had to fuss with how to attach the collar. I recall from a conversation with the seamstress that got me started, that collars could be put on a variety of ways, and so I tried attaching it without a lining thinking a lining of the same fabric would be too bulky. Dead wrong. This was not something a mock up would have told me, and so I began again. Instead of giving the sweater jacket a full lining (and I didn't have a tafetta to work with), I created a facing that worked beautifully for it. This was one of my most successful facings, and I learned a great deal from drawing it and assembling the pieces. I keep trying to fool myself that we can sometimes get away with not having a full lining or facing, and this just isn't so.

A look at the little back.
The skirts gave me lots of trouble this time. Yes, I've pleated many a time, but when you're pleating plaids like these, the squares are sometimes more rectangular, and the lines might repeat in spaces further away from the neat little pleats you want to create. So I worked with these pleats for three days until I got the look I wanted. Even though I've been gathering the waist after the pleating for a fuller look, for some reason these skirts did not want to behave and I couldn't get the pleats to match in the back. This was quite frustrating and waistbands had to keep being remade. And, of course, to add into this challenge, I had to make one for the 10.5" Bleuette-sized doll. This meant going back out and finding new, and smaller patterned flannel to work with. What I had on hand was plaid silk dupioni! For this I used men's sleep trousers. Honestly, men's clothing has the best plaids. The larger skirts are a heavier flannel that I bought by the yard, but I just couldn't find suitable yardage for the smaller skirt.

With the Bleuette-sized one.

The buttons were also a challenge with these sweater jackets. Due to the weight of the fabric, using the metal cap and bottoms Dritz provides didn't work too well. It worked for the 1/2" covered buttons, but not the 7/16". What I did there was cut out little circles, gather stitch along the edges and pull tight and tack. I noticed that Tonner Doll Company did this for their NYCB costumes, so I thought, why not me? Bleuette's little sweater jacket went through three button renditions. The first was that I was off a mm in the row. Off they came. Then I got them stitched in the right place, but didn't like the beads I used. Off they came! I found little stone beads in a Hallmark store and they worked perfectly. There's a well known motto around my little hole in the wall that anything worth doing once, is worth doing three times. And, so it seems to have been a theme with this project.

Lastly, and the most fun of all, was making the hats. No surprise there! I used a Bleuette sailor hat pattern and intended to add a band like the pattern called for, but didn't like the look. It was not true to the illustration. The hat is essentially like a pie. A whole bottom, a top with a hole in it, and edged with a facing. Making three of them was like making little round tarts. I call them my Pie Hats.

During the next couple of days we are making tubs of applesauce to freeze for winter, as the trees are dropping pears and apples as this is their harvest time. By this weekend I'll be drafting patterns for Halloween costumes. Costumes! My favorite. Halloween and costuming. By the way, the Martha Stewart Halloween Handbook issue is on the racks now. Don't miss it!

Miss E. Mouse


Times Three

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Off the Grid!

Morning Dress and School Hat
Ahhhh... A little time out for the mouse. The day is hot, the AC cool, and a pleasant Sunday is shaping up. The sewing room has been tidied up, and we're leaving no loose threads. I just finished something for me, or rather, my Big Lettie. I've had this one in the hopper for about a year now, just waiting for the right fabric and right time. I must have spent untold $$$ trying to find the right plaid for this one. Getting into that literal interpretation thing, I wanted just the right color, plaid pattern and fabric. At first I felt I was settling for the lighter blue color, but in the end the color seemed to suit her well. The dress is, again, my own design and it was actually fun doing this in plaid which appealed to my sense of harmony and structure. The plaid worked like a little ruler and when piecing it together. You'd just match up the pattern of the plaid and stitch.
Timeless Style
The hat is a white straw cloche made on one of PNB's new molds, which I covered in lace, and a pleated band. This was the first time I actually liked the way the collar came out, as  I think I'm getting better at designing them.
The Illustration
One of the reasons I hesitated in creating the Morning Dress was due to the hue of the white in the fabric.  It was more on the lines of an off white, or an ivory, and none, not one of the laces I had, was this meiling color.  There were only two laces needed.  One for the hat, a very wide lace, and one for the collar.  After seeing how stark these laces looked against this plaid, I decided best to try and dye them.  I had some ivory Fiber Reactive Procion dye (cool bath to use with soda ash), and decided that while I was at it, I'd dye the Swiss batiste so the lace would blend better on the collar.  Well, wouldn't you know!  I over-dyed the pieces.  I was beside myself calculating the cost of my mistake, and dumped them in a bowl of bleach and water.  I don't know if bleach has changed that much over the years, but it didn't seem to bleach out the dye, but a tad.  Oh, I did try again, but then the new pieces of lace and fabric wouldn't pick up the dye at all!  So I decided to use what I had.  Besides, I'd already covered one of the halves of the Peter Pan collar and it was perfect.  Why waste a perfect collar?
Mock up of the bodice and collar.
To make this all work together, I decided to keep blending the whites for an overall shade of off white.  I used the oldest mother-of-pearl buttons I had, and used the large lace over white Swiss straw for the hat.  I think the overall effect came out much softer and antique-y looking.  
The layout.
I have to admit that I did not have much trouble creating this dress since similar pleats were done on an earlier outfit, and the waistband was attached the same way the ribbon was to the waist of the Violin Concert dress.  One thing I did new, and tried with this dress, was a machine hem. I'd recently bought a new dress that had a deep hem and was machine stitched.  It worked, looked great, so why not try it on a doll's dress?  Boy-oh-boy!  The time it saved!  It was also easy to do since I was following the line of the top of a blue plaid band.  I'd always heard plaid was hard to work with, matching up the plaid and all that, but this was the best part of piece.  I'm satisfied with this one!
One sleeve like the other.
What's Next!
The next thing I'll be trying is working with interlock cotton knit to make a "sweater".  This little fall outfit will be made in two sizes.  One for the Bleuette sized doll, and one for the 18" doll.  I do think I've plenty of fabric to make one for my own Big Lettie, so I guess I'll be making three. 
I'm feeling the need to make a cup of tea and put my whiskers in a good book right now.  I promised myself when summer began, that I would enjoy the simple pleasures and every single day, and not work myself to the bone.  So far, so good. 
Miss E. Mouse

Time for Fall.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Lemon Meringue Pie and The Petit Four

Lettie Lane's Violin Concert Dress
The Illustration by Sheila Young
Its been a long, hot summer so far.  I've been spending most of my days in my little hole in the wall designing and sewing.  It truly has been at least a week since I completed Lettie Lane's Violin Concert Dress, and I've been trying to catch up on a few things around the place since.  Lettie Lane's slip set proceeded this, and only one of these were made.  I have every intention of making a second Violin Concert dress for my own Lettie some day, but this one was a bear, and I needed to finish the one to begin on the school clothing.

A Side View
Both of these were entirely too difficult to do, and yet, what I learned from designing them, and constructing them, will take me further into exploring what can be acheived.  I call them the Lemon Meringue Pie and the Petit FourFour because of the four different French cotton laces used and the layers of everything.  Lemon meringue...well so very obvious!

A Detail with Forget-Me-Knots
If I try to think of the two things that gave me the most concern with the Violin Concert Dress, I'll have to say the ruffles and the ruffles!  No longer will I call myself the Ruffle Queen.  I've much still to learn about ruffles.  And, believe it or not, this neckline is not completely gathered, and was a difficult to acheive as any preceding collar.  Before the gathered, double ruffle went on, seven tiny pleats went into the neckline from the center out.  The gathers were just from the back of the neckline to the pleats.  All hidden under the collar, but the line theshape of the neckline could not be acheived otherwise.  I tried it completely gathered, and it looked like a clown costume.  I just about gave up.  But, then we know I never give up!

Ha-ha!  And, there was also the stitching of the silk ribbons to the edges of the silk that would be gathered into ruffles.  It was quite tedious work to stitch the first edge of ribbon to the turned under edge of the ruffle band.  The second row of stitching was much easier since the first edge was sewn down already.  The ribbon along the waist band is hand sewn on.  It is not a belt that ties in a bow, but a part of the dress itself.  I was somewhat disappointed that this thin and lovely lemon silk ribbon stiffened the edges of the ruffles when stitched on, but it could not be helped.  I'll repeat that there is so much more an illustrator can do than a seamstress.

The fun of this dress is that it is lovely to hold.  It almost has a life of its own, like a flouncy puppet!  I adore it, and I'd really love to have one for myself, but this is how I make my money.  sigh  Naturally we needed a violin to finish the look, so I purchased a small, 7" Stradivarius for the ensemble!

Lettie Lane's Slip Set is definitely one-of-a-kind.  Its hard to describe what I did to make the chemise, so I will let the photos tell the story.  I will tell you that tiny buttons holes were not meant to be machined onto heirloom batiste!  The fabric is so thin that the buttons and holes would simple tear through in time.  Line the waistband?  This is a for a doll.  The lighter and softer the feel and look, the more authentic it is.  I was asked to do this not as something to be worn under a dress, but as an outfit to be displayed on the doll by itself.  Of course it would then need accessories, so I procured a porcelain wash bowl and pitcher, and monogrammed a wee towelette.

September is but a month away, and the call for plaid clothing is ringing in the school bells.  I love the seasons.  We mark our time by rituals and the changes of the season throughout the year.  Fall is always my favorite, but I have to admit that I have thoroughly enjoyed our spring and summer this year through this little girl I'm dressing, Lettie Lane.

P.s.  Good news!  Polly Pratt is on her way here!!!

Miss E. Mouse