Thursday, January 26, 2012

This Bud's For You

The rain came back this afternoon quite unexpected, and now it is simply grey, drizzly and cold.  Is there a better way, then, to spend the afternoon than on reflection of a project finally realized? 

 Last summer I acquired a reproduction of the Lettie Lane Doll House doll.  It was ever the intention to work on a kit to dress the doll with a respected doll artist.  She'd develop the dress pieces, and I would make the hats to go into the kit.  This, of course, did not come to fruition, so I was left with a hat mold I was not truly happy with, although the hat it made was lovely.  So when I was asked to make the dress and hat for a customer and friend a few months ago, I agree to do it.  But, finding a good match to the blue on white print from 100 years ago was impossible.  Many have said they would make it on the computer, but I have tried such a thing long ago when dressing doll house dolls and the ink is never a deep enough color.  So almost having given up, my friend gave me the green light to make it in a fabric of my choosing.  I chose a tiny yellow rose bud Lawn. 

The design of the dress is true to the original as well as the size of the straw hat.  The little skirt piece was pleated, pressed with a craft iron, and hand sewn onto the one piece bodice.  The dress on this 3" doll is completely hand stitched, and the lace was hand sewn on as well.  While the original dress was sewn onto the doll, I couldn't follow suit since I did not have my friend's doll.  I added two tiny shank buttons and made equally tiny thread loops.  The result is a dress that can be removed, and a dolly that just might get more clothing in the future. 
The new mold for the hat was made with a button and a round box.  It actually worked quite well, and this one I'll keep for future hats should there be any requests.  I'm pleased with the outcome and so is my customer.  My Lettie was proud to show off the little dressed doll, even though she has yet to receive a new dress herself.  One thing at a time.

I just discovered something about the blogsite.  You can click on the photos and they will enlarge for you!  Also, you'll notice that the last three posts are more evenly layed out.  I think I have an old computer and some upgrade must have occurred to correct the problems I was having earlier.  The wide spaces, etc., were never an intention. 

Here's to yellow rose buds!  This one is for you.

Miss E. Mouse

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pail Memories of Summer

"Wherever it is likely that you grew up in America between 1880 and 1950 and played along a shoreline during balmy summer days, you owned a beach pail."  (Theriaults)  And, today these beautifully lithographed beach pails from long ago, the ones that managed to survive, sun, sand and rust, are highly prized by collectors. They were often thematic with nursery scenes, anthropomorphic animals, and naturally, children playing by the shore. 

Back last summer a customer commissioned me to paint her a little beach pail for the 1911 Daisy doll.  As with all my projects I carefully reseach and dream until the vision is clear between my little mouse ears as to how I wish to approach the piece.  Finding a suitable little pail the correct size, and not some cheaply made wedding favor, was quite a task.  What I eventually found was a set of Hallmark votive candles melted into three little vintage-type pails.  I was delighted, and of course bought them.  Preparing them for the hand-painted scene I wished to do was another matter.  Getting the wax out was the first matter to solve.  What I discovered was that hitting the metal with a hair dyrer would loosen the wax until you could pop out the candle.  Thinking this was the end of the story, I tried to enamel spray paint the pail thinking it would cover the existing paint such as you see on the green pail.  This was not to be the case as the enamel ran into a sticky mess.  The problem?  Wax had dispersed somehow on the exterior as well as thinly coating the interior.  To solve this problem I took a bottle of Pure Acetone and scrubbed away at the little pail for hours removing any existing wax and paint, such as you see in the black pail.
Next was to mask off the interior, the edges and the handle at separate times to enamel spray the pail red and the handle gold, leaving the edges the original black of the pail.  I had a very good idea of how I wished to pail to look as I was trying to emulate a pail from around the same time Daisy was "born", which had been lithographed with Art Nouveau borders around a serene Victorian display of children playing in the sand.   This pail was shown in the Theriault's book Life's a Beach.  The wonderous pails and tin beach toys within those pages were enchanting and highly inspiring.  Yet after several days of base paint preparations, time and tide saw me working on a variety of other projects appropriate to the seasons before I could once again pick up the pail and begin the task of painting the beach scene and border.

By the time the first of January rolled around, I'd been mocked for several months by this little pail, and I seriously doubted whether or not I could actually paint it.  Out of practice painting in miniature, I began very slowly once again selecting an appropriate scene that would be size appropriate for the pail.  I chose one of a little girl and her brother startled by a little crab racing along the shore that I found on the Internet.  The little girl takes her shovel and tries to shoo the pinching shell creature back into the water...or perchance into her own little beach pail.  The color scheme I chose closely resembles the original, although altered to blend with a shiny red pepper pail.  The Nouveau gold enamel work, purple pansies and scroll corners at the top were inspired by the pail in Life's a Beach.
The last and nerve wracking thing to do, once the painting was complete, was to spray it with a high gloss finish to protect the artwork and enamel.  I knew the gloss would adhere nicely to acrylic paint, enamel and to metal, but would this work on the combination?  I took a deep breath and gently sprayed the gloss back and forth wetting it thoroughly.  It took two coats and the result is what you see. 

As you can see there are two more pails to do something with.  Perhaps I'll do another.  One for my own Daisy.  Perhaps two, and sell the other.   When the winter winds whip hard and snow blankets the ground, it is the memories of summer that keep us warm.

Miss E. Mouse 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Surely we love sewing beautiful dresses and coats for our dollies, but how often do we remember that they, too, need a little more than panties? So with Lettie, I decided to start from the bottom, up, dressing her. I used the original pattern set from 1911 for her underwaist, half slip and drawers. Working with a fine batiste and a pretty lace, I managed to stitch her up some underclothing.

I noticed when cutting out the drawers that they would have been mighty tight, making sitting comfortably, impossible. So I widened the pattern piece giving her enough room that when wearing the drawers they wouldn't pull around her waist or thighs. I also had a second opportunity to perfect stitching lace on with a sewing machine. By using a tiny zig-zag and placing the edge of the fabric next to the edge of the lace, it attaches like a whip-stitch, only tighter and more permanently. Any areas missed by the machine can be easily hand stitched into place. Lettie also needed socks and slip-ons, so I made those up as well. She'll need brown boots, pink slip-ons and white beach shoes as well, but those will come in time.

Along with making her undergarments, I decided it was high time to learn the proper way of making thread loops for button closures. People kept telling me to use a button hole stitch and it was confounding! "Two threads and a buttonhole stitch", they kept insisting. It came to mind as I was researching such stitches that the term buttonhole stitch was being used most likely because we were attempting to use the loop as a button closure. In actuality, its a blanket stitch over two strands of thread. If you begin your loop from the right by inserting your needle into the cloth, come up a 1/4" to the left (or however large you need the loop to be), and come back over to the right to make a little loop, you can begin the process of making blanket stitches over the thread. I felt like I was earning a mousy merit badge in knot tying doing this, but the results were great. Here are some photos to help you make one.

Nowhere on the Internet could I find examples of how to make one, so I honestly hope these help. My gift to you! They make the outfit so much nicer as an heirloom piece.

Currently I'm working on a dress for Daisy, now that Lettie is "decent". I'm attempting a scalloped collar and cuffs for the yellow coat dress. After much frustration with this and three collars later, I discovered that the original pattern had to be redrawn as a Peter Pan collar, then scalloped. I'm doing this by hand and not machine, and will share with you how I did it in my next post.

Back to the task!

Miss E. Mouse