Saturday, March 30, 2013

CPR For the Mouse

Creative Process Resuscitation Needed!
And, you may ask, What is that?! Well, its Creative Process Resuscitation.  And, this is certainly what I needed after designing the patterns for Polly's Yellow Chinese New Year dress.  Oh, yes, I know.  Chinese New Year was some time back.  I truly hoped to be able to give this to her for Easter, the dress being yellow and all that.  But, I was tired, and needed a break to finish a second set of gym clothes for my own Lettie and Polly.  AND, make a football.  I'll spare you the finished product of the football, but it is out of nutmeg brown pigskin, and I doubt she'll ever really play with it.  The problem?  A little pointy on the ends.  Nothing a bit more stuffing wouldn't fix, but we must move on, mustn't we?

Nice Fit - Just 3/8" more needed on the collar
Recently a lovely woman from one of my groups wrote to ask me where I learned how to sew, and was so kind to tell me that she thought I was gifted.  That touched my heart so deeply.  Little do many folks know, but I once wished to be a clothing designer for people.  Canada College (pronounce with a Spanish n like can-ya-da), in the Bay Area where I used to live, offered a design program I thought I might get a degree in.  I'd even gone so far as to walk through the halls and rooms of the San Francisco fashion design institute, to see what it was all about.  Scared the heck out of me!  I'm very much an introverted little mouse, and the idea of driving such a distance two or three times a week, while working full time, unnerved me.  I wonder sometimes, what I may have learned at either institution that I have not taught myself over the last couple of years.  You certainly wouldn't be seeing me on an episode of Project Runway!

Drowning In Paper Towels
And, there you have it.  No Project Runway for me, just Project Paper Towels.  For some reason the neckline of this particular dress, coinciding with the armhole openings, gave me the hardest time.  Do understand that we are dressing a doll for perfect fit.  I suppose you could conclude by looking at this dress, that all you'd need is a circular neck hole.  Nope.  Not even close.  As you can see from the final mock up fit of the neckline, and the pattern of the collar, we did achieve a perfect fit, but its more of a horseshoe shape.  I was drowning in paper towel throw-aways by the time I was happy with this pattern.  So far there hasn't been one dress or outfit pattern I've designed that I could use for another outfit.  Each is very unique in its style.

Polly's Yellow Chinese New Year Dress
Before I set out to make the gym clothing, I was playing around with how to get the white belt look of the dress.  I understood that it was most likely threaded through, so I made mock-up welt-pocket slits.  When I begin to actually make the dress tomorrow, I suspect there will be four of them (slits).  Two in the front, and two in the back, so the belt can come out the back slits and tie in a bow.  To make the inside of the dress neat, I will probably once again line it fully.  This really is the nicest way of achieving the perfect length hem with a smooth finish in a circular hemline.

Obviously we see that the collar piece needs to be cut about 3/8" longer so it can be hemmed under to the topside of the dress the way I did Mary Marie's.  Remember her?   (wink-wink)  Poor Mary Marie just doesn't have the exciting clothing Lettie and Polly have.  The most you can do to jazz them up, is use exciting fabrics.  I do intend to make her romper shortly, however I have to make this yellow dress before I bat another eye.  I love yellow, and spring is full of bright yellow wildflowers.  Its a high energy color and it makes me happy to work with it.

The best part will be in making the hat (teaching myself a new technique!), but we'll save this for my next entry when the dress is well on its way to completion.  By the way, the parasol has been finished for two months!  Wait until you see it!!

Miss E. Mouse

As soon as I unwind, I'll get started on the dress!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Creating Mossy

Tory and Mossy
Getting back to the root of the matter.  Its all about the creative process!  In this spirit, I wanted to share this darling Edwardian story by Jan Brett about a very special turtle named Mossy.  The story unfolds as Dr. Carolina and her niece, Tory, discover a very unique turtle who grows a garden on her shell.  Dr. Carolina takes her from her pond to put in a special museum display, just as Mossy meets an admiring turtle named Scoot.  Mossy becomes saddened and lonely in her vast terrarium, and Tory finds a way to keep the spirit of Mossy alive in the museum while returning her to her special pond and friend.

The Book
I belong to an online group called the LawtonLoop, where we share our love of Wendy Lawton dolls.  Each month we have a theme to play out, discuss and share photos of our dolls.  This month was favorite authors.  The group often shares only children's themes and authors, so I chose Jan Brett as my favorite of the month.

Mossy, the book, was given as a gift to me by my friend Betsy, who equally shares a passion for Brett's books.  I've been collecting Jan's books since the 1980's, and even went to a few of her book signings where she would draw a tiny illustration in our book then sign her name.  These were very dear events, and will be treasured in memory.

Close-up of Mossy
While considering what I might do for the theme this month, it came to me in a flash of spring sunshine that I might portray Tory and Mossy.  I knew I had the perfect 9" Lawton doll just for the task, and somewhere in my little hole in the wall, I had a wee ceramic turtle.  The turtle had been purchased as an accessory, years ago, for a Chinese doll I owned.  A few years ago I sold the doll, but retained her accessories as these are often special pieces I've either made or purchased and may not be available on the market any longer.  Lucky me, I found the turtle very quickly!

The Bus for the Tour
I had some floral moss that I've been stuffing tiny baskets with and glued a snip of this to the back of the little turtle's shell.  Then I clipped the stems off a few leaves and flowers I have stored for hat dressing.  Instant Mossy!  I dressed September Sojourn (Tory had red or strawberry blonde hair), in a little sailor outfit by Boneka.  Instant Tory!  It was a beautiful day outdoors so I scurried down to the woods and took a few photos that might illustrate Tory meeting her little friend.

While writing up the description on the group, I did a little research, which we all know I love to do, and found some charming photos of Jan's bus tour and one of her drawing Scoot at one of her signings.

Jan Brett's books are colorful and beautifully, lavishly illustrated.  The stories, fun and smart and sweet.  Thank you, Jan, for the inspiration!

Miss E. Mouse

Jan On Tour Drawing Scoot

Back Home Near Her Pond

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thompson's Drills and Marches

Fresh air and exercise!
For many of us, the vision of early Physical Education may have been watching Megan Follows, as the youthful Anne of Green Gables, exercising with her classmates in Miss Stacy's school yard.  Yet, Physical Education has long been a part of the thought that strong bodies build strong minds.  Stretching and marching and taking in fresh air was widely used for such a purpose back in the early 20th century.  One such book that promoted this practice with purposeful exercises was Thompson's Drills and Marches.  Now I can't be certain how effective some of these drills were in raising the heartrate, but with titles such as A Christmas Exercise, Doll and Waltz Drill, and Handkerchief Flirtation Drill, they were at best fun and got the girls moving!  This fabulous little volume from 1919, came to me this Valentine's Day from my lovely friend Marie.  It arrived just when I was in design mode for Lettie and Polly's Gym Wear.

What was even more dear is that there was an Imitation Dumb-Bell Exercise in the book, and this inspired me further with Polly's dumb-bells costume from Sheila Young's paper doll book.

Sheila Young's Design
I had so much fun designing these two outfits as for one, they both had fabulous voluminous bloomers, and my favorite, sailor collars!  Lettie's gym wear is lovely piece with what I will call the poet's shirt or perhaps painter's smock.  The top is belted and closed with a covered button and a handmade buttonhole (yes! I finally incorporated one), and she wears a floppy beret or pie hat, as I like to call them.  Lettie seems to be holding what could only be a football in the illustration (she is an American girl), and I was ever so lucky to find a real little one in the form of a keychain.  I had to remove the zipper and stitch the seam back up, but it was just so perfect for her. 

Polly's little uniform is dutifully nautical, or military in theme, with the appropriate sailor collar trimmed in ribbon, and a smart little pocket with a point-ended flap.  This blouse if fully lined and has equally smart little cuffs trimmed in ribbon.  Lettie's smock, however has facings due to the pretty, and a wee bit complicated, construction of design.  There was alot of fiddling and foodling in creating this one, and while I am not posting photos, I can assure you that several mock ups were made in its behalf.  Both blouse collars are then finished with silk ties. 

One surprising thing I did not expect was that I had to make the bloomers for both girls several times until I achieved the right "bloom".  Its amazing how much fabric pulls up when elastic is inserted through the waist seam.  Before the elastic, the pants would look like the ads featuring a slimmed down version of a lady holding up the pants she wore when she was 200 pounds heavier.  I am still not quite used to gauging pattern design, but again, when you're doing something completely different with each new outfit, its hard to refer to your experience.

And, how did I feel about using tans and browns?  Okay, let's be honest.  A country cotton brown, and tan, are pretty basic earthtone colors and don't create alot of pizzazz in theory.  But, make them up into cute little gym outfits from around 1919, and you don't even notice the color!

Lettie, it turns out, has great hand-to-eye coordination, and is mighty competitive in the school yard.  Polly's little dumb-bells make her pretty arms feel long and strong, and in turn give her wonderful ladylike posture.

Once again I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed making these outfits, and always feel that a doll never has enough casual dress or play clothing.  I did make my own Polly one of these gym wear outfits, but I'm not sure I'll make my Lettie this one.  There's a sort of scouting uniform, the same color as Polly's outfit, that I've been thinking about making for her.  I have plenty of both fabrics left, but there was so much hand-stitching to Lettie's!  And, needless to say, Lettie has far more to wear than Polly currently.

Easter is just a week away, and I so wished to make Polly the yellow "Chinese New Year" outfit.  We had a little snowfall in the Sierra a couple of nights ago, and I may just take a day off tomorrow and go snow pawing with my pups.  Each time I think one dress looks so like the other, when I begin designing it, it turns out to be quite another production.  There is no speed when it comes to this kind of work, so I can't promise her an Easter dress, but I may have to try. 

Miss E. Mouse

Cup Girls 1919

Gymnasium 1919

Calisthenic Wands 1874
Polly just got a hat on Sunday!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wednesday's Child

Wednesday's Child is Full of Woe
Having been born on a Wednesday, I was never very pleased with this little poem that suffered my childhood.  Woe?  Why?  Who on earth would designate a child's life by giving them a title like Woe?  What a terrible thing to do. Being the curious little mouse I am, I started researching who the dolt was who wrote this.  All I could come up with was that it was under rhymes and Mother Goose and it ended there.  Perhaps a few Wednesday born adults gave a good clobbering to the author, but we'll never know, will we? 

All that said, when the Wendy Lawton doll collector's group that I belong to, wished to create a Day's of the Week Helper Donation for the UFDC Convention this summer, I grabbed Wednesday so that I could do it a little justice.  Wendy herself is donating the 9" doll, and several of us are sewing, others donating beautiful factory made costuming.

The Mary France First Aid Book
Poor Dolly!  Woe!
My first thought was to design a housekeeping ensemble since hole-in-the-wall-keeping is one of my least favorite things to do.  Woe!  But, as I thought on it further, the idea for a little nurse's uniform came to mind.  Perhaps it was after my Mary Frances First Aid Book arrived.  You know me!  I love to bring illustrations to life.  A navy blue dress, apron, cap and a little bandaged dolly would do the trick.  I'm still up in the air about making a tiny Mary France First Aid Book as they are alot of work, but even if I don't copy pages, I will include a traditional miniature of it (nice cover over wood piece).  The convention's theme is Edwardian, and Mary Frances fits so nicely into this concept.

We Comfort the Wounded
I began by redesigning a Ginny nurse's pattern.  The 9" Lawtons have such tiny bodies that by the time I was done, it was a completely different dress.  You can say I used the pattern as a sloper.  The apron is my own design and the cap was again created by using the Ginny pattern as a sloper.  I was once again able to use my sillouhette technique for the red crosses.  This was a fun costume to make, but it did not come together without a few burps.

The Arm Band Snaps On
The first perfect little dress I made was too short in the sleeves and hem.  Sound familiar?  And, this came after I made two muslin mock-ups.  It would nicely fit a 7" Lawton doll, but I haven't the inclination to make a tinier apron and cap unless someone asks for one.  I'll keep the nice little dress in my hopper basket just in case.

The Back
The apron went through only one do over.  The straps were difficult to get just the right length.  I wanted one end to be finished, and the other tucked in to finish with the hidden ladder stitch.  Just turning the straps and bib inside out was a task!  Of course the dress, and the apron are fully lined with my lovely Swiss Bearissima batiste.  It is so thin, yet sturdy, it makes a perfect lining for a small doll's dress.  The navy dress, however, was lined in a delicate light blue fabric.  Just a little hidden surprise.  One thread loop button closes the waist band on the apron, and two little snaps fix the crossed straps in the back.

The little bandaged dolly is one that I've had for several years now.  It is very difficult to give up nice little dollies, but they need to have nice lives, too, beyond the closed box.

I just received some yellow fabric in the mail from the U.K. and wouldn't you know, I had a yard of this already!  I need to do some serious fabric sorting and storing.  I suppose its like office filing.  Wouldn't we rather be playing than filing reports?  And, yet, its become a necessity.  So we take a deep breath and put our paws to work folding and stacking by color.  Yes, I'm a Type A mouse!

Next, I'm going to begin a new outfit each for Polly and Lettie.  These will be the adorable gym clothes they wear when exercising in the school yard.  Little sailor collars give the rompers charm while the girls hold dumbells and a rugby ball.  So, I'll get a chance to make some accessories, too.

A nice little rain storm came through last night, and this morning a bit of hail fell.  Its the perfect day for tucking in and getting lots of work done.

Miss E. Mouse