Thursday, February 7, 2013

Skip To My Lou!

Skip to my Lou, my darling!
Around 1844, the frontier was in full swing, and a fun little song called Skip To My Lou was written.  A fiddle dance that made gay of changing partners, then returning to your true Lou, or love again.  This sweet little song would carry through the generations as children delighted in singing and dancing to the happy tune.  Sometimes the title of an ensemble will inspire me to create it, and other times, it doesn't come to me until I am finished.  When I dressed Polly in this debut page ensemble, I could envision her skipping happily down a sunny sidewalk singing "Skip, skip, skip to my lou!"  And, so we dress Polly in her first baby doll dress.

Not only do I really enjoy sewing for the 16" dolls, but Polly's beautiful, childlike features, simply enchant me and I adore sewing for her.  With the completion of her green flower basket dress, I have a perfect sloper for all the other dresses on her Good Housekeeping debut paper doll page. 

Sweet Polly Pratt
This one, like all the other Sheila Young costuming I've done, was intriguing in design with an interesting collar, those miserable cuffs, and a bit of smocking.  This one also would demand a bit of embroidery and an overlay, which took a good deal of time to consider in construction.  Most of us would think that this over-dress would be separate, like a smock, but close inspection tells us it was part, and sewn into the under dress.  One of the challenges was in lining this dress nicely, then developing a new way of hemming that wouldn't involve little gathers or pleats as you turn up a circular hem. The dress, in my opinion, never lays as nicely with a hem done this way.

Sheila's Illustration
First I had to tackle the overlay and how best to attach it to the under dress, and when to embroider three tiny baskets of flowers.  If you commence to do the embroidery first, and the pattern isn't right, you've wasted days of intricate work, and need to do it over again.  There was also a  matter of the basket or bucket cuffs as drawn by Sheila Young.  The very first thing I designed was a new cuff and sleeve.  Just about all the 3/4 length sleeves have this cuff, so I felt best to master that first.  The way I resolved this issue to force them to sit out, once turned up, was to give them a good curve.  While hard to see in the photos, if you pull the cuffs out from the puffed sleeve, they will produce a bucket or basket effect.  Again, what is so easy to portray in a watercolor, is most difficult, and often impossible, to design into a 3D costume.

The embroidered overlay.
The collar?  I'm getting pretty good at these now.  There was a bit of curvature at the shoulder turning into the neckline, and while I drew this in, the three thicknesses of fabric softened it quite a bit.  There is the overlay, the dress, then the lining.  I did consider simple facings, but when I also considered the new way of doing the hem, a full lining in the body of the dress seemed the best approach.

New cuff design and mock up.
One of the difficulties in designing the overlay was in the very soft smocking and the fullness it would require, that would not line up with the dress basic below.  The way I overcame this was to give the overlay a gentle gather of smocking, embroider the flower baskets, then cut away the wider edges to match up with the dress.  The baskets were embroidered with green silk floss in a satin stitch that replicated a basket woven.  The flowers are tiny, two-thread French Knots, and they were the devil to do!  For one thing, they are embroidered on vintage, light weave Dotted Swiss so they kept pulling through the loose weave!  I just worked and worked at them until the design was done. 

Lining and Hem
Let's talk about the hem.  Conventional hems will require you to turn the fabric up, and anyone who has sewn a hem in a circular skirt knows about those little pleats you have to make that thicken the hemming in places.  Because I've done so much full dress lining, I approached this hem the same way.  I took my pattern and recut just the hemline about 2 inches and lay it on the bias.  This then was sewn to the edge of the dress's hem.  The dress lining from collar to hem "inner cuff"was sewn to the hem lining in a hidden ladder stitch.  The overlay on top of the dress was given the same treatment, only it sits higher so the dress is evenly layered. 

I tried a couple of different ways to cover the buttons.  On one dress, I used a tinier Dotted Swiss, and on the other (the one I kept), I used the same overlay fabric.  In essence, this continues to make the dresses one-of-a-kind. 

Tinier Dotted Swiss Buttons
And, then to the hat!  How I do love millinery!  Sadly, emerald green Swiss braid is no longer made.  So I phoned up the fabulous Nelly Valentino of PNB Hat Molds and asked her what to do.  Spray paint.  Yes.  Spray paint.  I had a little can of Short Cuts in Leaf Green and tried it out on a tiny hat that I'd done for a sample piece.  It worked!  It better than worked, and I was amazed at the results.  Why not dye the braid.  Ask Nelly.  For one thing, dying braid this color would take an enormous amount of dye and time, and in my experience, never dyes thoroughly.  And, with the 15 yards of braid it takes to make this hat, you'd have fifteen yards of wet, green spaghetti dripping and curling all over the place.  Spray paint!  Thank you, Nelly!

The Hat
The tiny flowers are vintage flocked forget-me-nots, and I'll be darned if I can find tiny daisies anywhere.  I had the most difficult time finding them during Daisy's 100th anniversary (never did!), and two years later, there are still no proper sized daisies in mulberry paper or otherwise.  Dollspart Supply and PNB Hat Molds sells the best hat making glue around, and it was instrumental in affixing the flowers.  Sew them on?  No.  You'd have a briar patch of stems and would lose the delicate look you are after.  What I did do was twist two paper covered wire stems together and sew them onto the hat.  Then I glued the flowers to that.  The glue is safe, clear, doesn't degrade in moisture, and leaves no trace.  I did try a hot glue gun on a sample wire, and its just too thick, and dries too quickly. 

Next?  I'm committed to sewing for the Lawton Doll Company 9"ers now.  For one, I offered to make an outfit depicting the day Wednesday for a Days of the Week collection that will be a Helper Donation (for the UFDC National summer convention) given with a 9"er offered by Wendy herself.  I also have been asked to make a couple of dresses for the 9" Heidi doll.  I've been putting this off for far too long, just as I had put off actual sewing, so its time to flex my paws and get busy.  Who knows?  I may just enjoy it!

Wishing you all a Happy Valentine's Day!

Miss E. Mouse

Never find another one prettier than you!


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