Saturday, April 27, 2013

What a Racquet!

June 1918 - June 1920
Jeu de Paume in Paris, France 1622
Most historians believe that tennis originated in northern France in the 12th century, but the ball was then struck with the palm of the hand, hence the name Jeu de Paume (game of the palm).  It was not until the 16th century that racquets came into use and the game was then called tennis.  Popular in England and France, it was played indoors and hit off the wall like another game we know today, Racket Ball.  Anyone who watched the fabulous series, Henry VIII, knows well that this was a favorite pastime of his.  And, it appears that Lettie and Polly also enjoy the game!  While the Davis Cup, a men's competition, began in 1900, women and young girls played for the enjoyment and sport of it only. 

Polly Playing Tennis
Sheila's Illustration
With gym clothing now in their wardrobe, and my love of play clothing for dolls, I decided that Lettie and Polly couldn't do without pretty tennis wear.  It can only be my guess, but tennis must have been traditionally played as summer neared.  Lettie's outfit comes from the June 1918 Betty Bonnet page, and Polly's from the June 1920 Good Housekeeping page.  I was also drawn to the color of Lettie's vest, a beautiful deep raspberry color, along with the fabulously ruffled collar with jabot.  Polly's would always appeal to me as I adore uniforms, sailor dresses, tops and jackets.  Anything with a nautical theme delights me and both girls' gym wear included the sailor collars, too.

Basket of Balls
While finishing the gym wear, I made Polly's little hat of navy Swiss straw since I had some on hand.  I matched this up with a 100% cotton fabric in navy, and a muslin top that would sustain a little embroidery.  This outfit, while very similar to her gym wear, had its own challenges.  Three rows of soutache had to be sewn to both the collar pieces and the cuffs.  I've found that if I cut a wider rectangle and stitched the soutache in the middle, I could then trim down the top for attachment to the sleeve without fear of losing the proper amount of navy blue fabric shown top and bottom of the soutache.  If you cut the cuff as you would an unembellished piece, you risk losing the look you're after should you discover that there isn't enough fabric on top to create the image.  Likewise, you've lost some nice soutache and the extraordinary amount of time it takes to sew the wretched stuff on straight!    With Polly's outfit, this is actually braid as it was thin as well as narrow.  Sometimes trims, like a real soutache, cannot be used as they will appear too bulky, and you'll lose the look you're after.  That's just one of the challenges in sewing for differently sized dolls.  What works for one, may not work for another. 

Lastly there was the embroidered flap on Polly's sleeve.  It is not a patch, but a flap done military style.  From Sheila's illustration, I had no idea what I was looking at.  There were chevrons, but no clear pictorial of the stuff at the top. I did a little research into military emblems from this era, and the closest I could come to was the cadet emblem.  Chevrons, and a rope circle with an eagle in the center.  The emblem is still used today for cadets.  Polly's flap was just too, too tiny for such detail, but I did manage a close version of what Sheila drew and what a true cadet emblem would appear like.

Sheila's Illustration
Lettie's outfit was definitely a challenge to me.  This is a time when I get to learn something new.  Pinning ruffle into little collar edges is no picnic, nor is sewing the exact top piece over that bulky ruffle.  Somehow it softly disappears into the seam, but its only by trial and error that you might discover this.  The jabot was another matter altogether.  I must've contemplated this for several days before figuring out just how to make it. 

The jabot on this collar is actually part of the ruffle in the collar, not a separate piece you can just stuff up there and sew to the neckline.  What I eventually did to make this happen, was begin pinning the ruffle from the back edge of the collar, around to the front, then draping it down and up in a loop, then finishing the pinning of ruffle around the rest of the collar.  I made two little rectangles of fabric, turning the edges under, then attached the top one first with a hidden ladder stitch.  I sewed on the row of buttons, then finished the back of the jabot the same was as the front.  This then hides all the gathering of the doubled-over ruffle loop.  The ruffle gracefully moves around the collar becoming the jabot, and ending in a symphony.  I felt very clever after achieving this!  But, like I said, it took me several days and much study to figure it out!  There's some good history on jabots, too.

Ruffled Collar

I couldn't wait to make the raspberry vest.  Perhaps in Lettie's day, it might have been a sweater vest, but I had this beautiful cotton silk on hand, and I don't knit.  It may have been wool, too, but the look on a doll would have been bulky considering the belt that threads through the slits in front.  I can see that all the skills and techniques I've taught myself are now paying off when it comes to assembling a new piece.  I did learn something new with the belt however.  And, that was how to make the fringe on the ends.

You cannot just sew loops of embroidery thread into the edge and trim them.  They pull and fall out!  I did do a little research on doll clothing fringe, but all I discovered was what I already knew about pulling threads out.  Then the light blinked on and I scurried upstairs to find this beautiful velvet scarf I own, dotted with rhinestones, and edged in fringe.  They created theirs by making small tassel like fringe.  With four strands of thread in my needle, I poked it through the edge, lengthened this so the same length hangs in front and in back, snipped it off, made one little knot at the top combining the eight strands together, and there you have it.  Eleven of these across each edge made my fringe.  Dexterity just happens to be a nice trademark of small paws like mine.  NOTHING I do is EASY!!!  Her skirt is borrowed from the canoeing outfit.

No outfit is perfect with its accessories.  So came the racquets and the tennis balls.  Each little "wooden" ball is covered in baby diaper felt, in two figure 8 pieces.  I had to make careful inspection of my dog's tennis balls to see how they were made.  Oh I looked!  I hunted the Internet for tiny tennis balls, but Barbie's were just too small.  Those beautiful tennis racquets are American Girl Molly's.  I simply took all the embellishments off of them, did a little sanding and restaining, and now Lettie and Polly have proper, early 1900's tennis racquets. 

I have made a miniature racquet before and a butterfly net, and I can tell you that anytime you can find a suitable piece that you can remake, do it.  Some of my friends guffaw at the mention of American Girl, but I began collecting the historical dolls and their collections back in 1989, and I can vouch that Pleasant T. Rowland never spared expense at the accuracy of the items.  Today, Mattel takes a lot of license, but I still enjoy them.

Next?  Golf.  Yes, Sheila drew golf outfits for her paper families, too!  These will sadly conclude the sports themed costuming Sheila made for the ladies and girls, but summer is nearing and there is always something up my little sleeve.  And I am looking forward to the golf sets!  I already have the irons, and I'll be making their bags.

Miss E. Mouse

Notice the belt through the slits!

Real Women - Real Tennis

From a magazine cover.

What beauty! Bought this one, too.

Military Style


I purchased this postcard as a treat,

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