Friday, September 14, 2012

When Polly Pratt Came to Play...

Welcome Polly Pratt!
The year was 1919 and Sheila Young was now illustrating paper dolls for Good Housekeeping.  As the windblown pages flew from the calendar tablet, a little girl about nine years old was introduced with fashions to reflect the changing times.  Still elaborately detailed with ruffles, collars, embroidery and all manner of fussy hats, Polly Pratt''s paper doll wardrobe would celebrate the world of feminine little girls from 1919 to 1921.

1919 Good Housekeeping's Polly
It came to mind sometime last spring that I might add Polly to my Sheila Young family of antique reproduction dolls.  You've met Daisy, Lettie Lane (inspired by Betty Bonnet who has brown hair), and now I'll introduce you to little Polly Pratt.  I phoned up Connie Zink, the artist of both my Daisy and Lettie, and we began to brainstorm on what it would take to come up with a Polly.  Connie knows her doll molds inside and out, and suggested the Steiner-C for my Polly.  I asked that she be smaller, as I see Lettie being about 12-years-old, and Polly's wardrobe and persona seemed that of a much younger child.  We came up with the idea to use the FS14B body, which would make Polly a 16" doll next to Lettie's eighteen inches.  Connie set to work, and my beautiful Polly was born!

Polly's First Halloween Costume
Currently she is still needing even a slip or some undies, but with Halloween approaching, and my customer having just ordered her own Polly, it was decided we must include a Halloween costume for Polly.  Notice that the illustration does include a slip, so at least she'll be modest when Halloween is over. 

This little charmer will of course need her own set of slopers, and I may approach the first by reducing a basic Lettie pattern by about 10%.  I really enjoy the idea of the baby doll style dresses and those above the knee.  There is an endless parade of sweet outfits with many adorable accessories in the Polly Pratt paper doll series.  Fear not!  Lettie will still be sewn for, but we may be doing these next year in tandem.  One for Polly, one for Lettie.  So many of the wardrobe themes overlap and they'll look especially darling displayed as sister dolls.

The dress under the cape-coat.
Meanwhile, the Halloween costume work continues.  I finished the base outfits for the orange-red cape-coat, and began the dresses for the candlestick hat costume.  Sometimes we have to actually sew something up before we can decide that we did it all wrong...and that's what I did over the last two days.  This costume will be all about the sleeves.  And, we continue...the creative process!

Miss E. Mouse

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fear of Flying...On a Broomstick

Lettie Lane's Halloween Costumes
Up from my little hole in the wall, and taking a much needed breather here.  A perfect time to journal on process I've been going through to make these Halloween costumes for Lettie Lane.  I guess I've been at it for...well...since September the first. And, I feel like I've been working on the costumes for a month! 

As usual, I began drafting the patterns for both costumes.  I had honestly hoped these would be a snap, but not-so-strangely enough, they've been yet another real challenge.  As with anything I approach, I try to do the tough stuff first.  Well, that would be everything, it seems, with these costumes.  I can't wait to begin the hats, the shoes and the lantern.  Someday I'm going to learn to enjoy this, but for now, I'm still learning, and wouldn't you know, its the collar, once again, that gave me trouble. 

So what are we looking at?  There's a witch's costume and a Halloween candlestick hat costume.  The cape on the witch's costume is actually a coat, and I've a funny story to share.  After stitching together the mock up of this coat in muslin, I knew first of all that the collar was all wrong - too small, too round.  I also began to wonder how I was going to make welt pockets in the coat.  I'd gone so far as to gather up the sides and posted a letter to a friend of mine, Arlene, who is a genius at sewing for Bleuette.  I mentioned the pockets and showed her the illustrations.  She wrote back that what she'd observed in the illustration is a broom going under the coat and lifting up the back of it.  And that the lump I mistook for a pocket, was actually the shape of the broom handle!  How utterly embarrassed I was!  With all the painting background that I have, why wouldn't I have seen this?  I thanked her profusely, and had to chuckle a bit because it is so like me to make more of something than need be.  I guess I'm so used to detecting hidden details that I imagined a few that didn't exist!  How's that for humility?!  At least I didn't have to try welt pockets in the coat, but admit that I did make a few in small muslin squares just in case.

The mock up.  Lab coat vs. Halloween cape/coat.
Too small and wouldn't meet.
White.  I've also been sewing on alot of white fabric lately.  Here's the thing.  A watercolor illustrator's friend is the white of paper.  It is the base and background for all the art she paints.  So, it is a prevalent color.  To give myself a change of pace, I made the pumpkin-yellow vests first.  I used the same sloper pattern I drew for the 4th of July Patriotic costumes.  I still need to do a little tweeking to the pattern, but the basic shape was  there.  It took me four tries between the two vests to get the hooks in the right places and neatly sewn.  With thread loops and hooks, you have to decide if you wish the back seams to match up or slightly overlap.  Proper placement of both the loop and the hook is essential.  If I don't like the way hook is stitched on, off it comes and we start anew.  Same with the loops.  Yes, it takes practice, but even then, the threads of the loop can get twisted and this is unattractive.

I was delighted with the sunny pumpkin-yellow color and it was reminiscent of the Pumpkin Costume I made for Daisy last year.  Loved that hat!!

Back to the drawing board!
After the vests were done, I still wasn't ready to start sewing on white, so I began the coats.  Even after I drew the collar three times, and tested it the same, once it was cut on the good fabric and stitched to the coat, both the collar and coat edge were too small to fit around the neck.  Such a disappointment!  And, a waste of fabric.  It was back to the drawing board, literally.  The collar in the illustration is high on the neck.  I still haven't figured out how that is possible, but I did manage to get a good facsimile.  I contend that the illustrator can do so much more than the seamstress.  Unless I had a true example to study, I can't see how this is possible.  Regardless, I'm happy with the final results and it took three tries to get everything to meet properly.

Lastly, I had another challenge finding suitable ties.  They simply don't make satin ribbon in the same color as the coat, and silk would be to fine.  Also, if they did carry that exact color, what would I do with 25 yards of it?!  They don't sell it by the yard.  What I ended up using was bias tape.  Incredibly, I found it in the exact same color.  It was too wide to just fold over and stitch, so I trimmed one side off, folded that edge over with the iron and stitch the strip down the middle. 

Tomorrow we begin to sew on white!

Two Vests and Two Coat-Capes
Miss E. Mouse