Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ho Ho, The Mistletoe, Hung Where You Can See!

Holly Sprite and Mistletoe Fairy
I was noticing as I wrote in my journal last night that there are barely any pages left to write in this year.  However, the journal's broken spine attests to a very full year by all the little notes, cards, comic strips saved, and bits of paper ephemera between its pages.  We all wonder where the time goes, especially around this busy and cheerful time of year.  All I really need do is page down in this blog to January 2013 to see where most of it has gone, yet it doesn't, and wouldn't, capture all the time spent in a year devoted to my love of doll costuming.  The creative process is a daily study, and often much of my work is done while hiking my dogs on the trail by the lake, or laying awake at night realizing how I could have done something better. 

Party Costume Page
If you've been following my cyber-journal, you'll know that the holidays are a time for me to pull out the stops, and do something a little more than wonderful.  Maybe even a little magical.  Lettie's Holly Sprite and Polly's Mistletoe Fairy costumes were surely inspired by at least two extraordinary artists of long ago, Cicely Mary Barker, and of course, Sheila Young.  I've had my eye on Betty Bonnet's Christmas Party page for several years now, and it was time to try two more costumes from the 1916 illustration.  Last year's Skating Costume for Lettie came from the same page.  Will I do them all in time?  Maybe one or two more...we'll see.

Elegance in Emerald Tafetta

Perhaps its that I've been dressing these two girls for awhile now, but I knew right away that Ever Elegant Lettie would wear the Holly Sprite, and Polly would look adorable as a Mistletoe Fairy.  Its almost like knowing the desires of your own children.  And, that they are to me!

Lettie's costume was another "go round" with designing challenges.  Those sleeves.  I don't even know exactly what to call them, and have only seen them on the likes of Snow White and other characters from lands of long ago story times.  I call them open work lantern sleeves for lack of the correct term.  Or maybe little nightmares!  It was the "idea of the image" I was after, and with no former or formal knowledge of how to make them, I designed them my way.  The other challenge, though minor in comparison, was feminizing the boy's costume.  Instead of blouson pants, I added a full and shorter skirt to a bodice. 

Lettie's Holly Sprite costume is made from emerald silk taffeta, the rustly kind.  And, her cummerbund is a fine Chinese silk, delicate and smooth.  You may recognize the way I approached the holly leaves.  They were hand drawn and snipped out of microsuede with machine stitched veins running down their centers.  The berries are tiny pom-poms, each hand sewn to the garment, and crown.  I have to laugh at myself because by the time I'd made the perfect sleeve (these took almost two weeks to design), I'd forgotten to include the holly leaves at the wrist.  And, so we did them once again. 

Her holly branch was made by hand with the microsuede leaves, pom-pom berries, and floral wire and tape.  I wasn't really sure if this would come out the way I envisioned it, but it quickly came together the first try.  And, why did I not just purchase a branch?  Heavens!  It would not have matched her costume or followed the illustration.

Her diamond cut-out jester boots were fun to design.  I already had a pattern of similar boots from the Grape Harvest Costume, and I simply (or not so simply) redrew the front edge with cut outs.  It took a couple of tries to get the correct amount of red stocking to show through, but they came together nicely.

As with all these drawings, trying to figure out what the artist intended to have, say behind the arm, or in the back, is always a consideration.  With the Holly Sprite costume, the cummerbund "bow" or tie was the issue.  To me it did not look like a standard bow, and since it was on a boy's costume, it would not have been.  Still, I liked the look, and went for a ruched cummerbund with  draped loops, or bow folded over.
Tapping into Mistletoe Kisses
And lastly, we had the cap or crown.  The illustration does not show an open crown of holly leaves, but a rounded cap with an edge of holly leaves pointing up, with berries lining the rim, resembling a crown.  I built the rounded cap out of buckram, then covered and lined it in the taffeta.  The leaves and berries were then hand sewn on.

 Now we come to sweet little Polly's Mistletoe Fairy costume.  At first look, one would want to believe the costume to be that of a Christmas angel.  But, on closer inspection, she has snowy white mistletoe edging the neckline and edges of the puffed sleeves, she wears snowy jester boots, and she carries a wand.  I was immediately enchanted with this adorable illustration and felt only our little Polly could pull it off.  (Lettie would have to be an angel should she ask for wings.)

The first thing I did was make the wings.  If the wings could not be made, neither could the costume, for the wings are the focal point.  I drew out the shape of one wings, then cut the pattern twice out of buckram.  Those wings needed body and shape.  Buckram has so very many uses!  Let's skip how I made them since this post is already getting windy, but do know that they soft sculpture wings of silk, lightly padded with batting.  They hook onto the back of the dress with tiny thread loops on the dress, and equally spaced hooks on the wings.

After making the wings, I tackled the wand.  Yes, I could have spray painted a wooden star, but chose, instead, to go the mile and make a gold silk, soft sculpture star.  It was a fun little task to turn the star inside out and stuff it with a bit more batting.  The wand is gold painted wood. 

Soft Sculpture Wings
Polly's Mistletoe Fairy dress is brought to life with details embellishing a simple A-Line dress (fully lined).  A silk sash with white mistletoe drapes on her hip.  An era appropriate head band of mistletoe crowns her pretty curls.  And, she even got her own pair of snowy white jester boots to wear over the long white stockings.

And what of the actual mistletoe?  Two types of vintage trim that I purchased in September at Britex in San Francisco.  These were redesigned into the mistletoe of the illustration.  I love this costume.  I love both of them!  I can just imagine Polly hopping around a Christmas party tapping children and adults with her wand, and telling them now they must kiss the person next to them.  And, Lettie gently rustles through the party charming all the young lads with her beautiful emerald green costume.  I did not make a set for myself as these were just too involved, but I very, very much enjoyed making these darling illustrated costumes come to life.

I can see again!
New Work Table
During the time I was making these costumes, we had the glass replaced in fifteen of the windows of my little hole in the wall.  Three were in my studio, and I am over the moon with the new glass in my picture window.  I could hardly bare the idea of putting the table back, that used to sit against the "window wall", so my husband suggested a new studio set up for me.  One that freed up the window and created a new space to work.  Off to IKEAs we went and now I have two long, wide tables meeting at their centers with storage units on each end holding them up.  On one side are two storage units with drawers, and on the other side are little storage cabinets with swing doors and one shelf (two spaces).  I'm still in the process of redoing my studio and hopefully streamlining things a bit for no more clutter.  These tables are wonderful for cutting fabric as well.  Creating the perfect space to work can sometimes be as much work as designing a new doll costume.  Things had to change.  Since beginning to design doll clothing in August of  2011, I've hardly touched etrennes, or the doll accessories and miniatures I used to enjoy making so much.  This doesn't mean I won't continue to make them, but the brushes and paints, bits of leather, stacks of wood and findings, will now be stored away until needed - just as accessible, but not gathering dust.

For the rest of the month and into December, its time to put up the Christmas tree, think about something wintry for Katy Curls, and maybe, just maybe make Christmas dresses for my own girls.  The season is upon us!  If you feel the tap of a fairy want, kiss the person beside you!

Miss E. Mouse

Her Own Jester Boots
Mistletoe Fairy

A Holly Branch
Diamond Cut-out Jester Boots

Off to the Christmas Party!


  1. Miss E. Mouse,
    I can't get over the articulate details in these two beautiful outfits....you went all out with both of them! The holly leaves on the sleeves are absolute perfection in design and details! I am really drawn to the diamond cutout details on both sets of their boots, especially the red stockings peeking through....LOVE them! Polly's Mistletoe Fairy's dress has such an innocent and delicate look to it! The wings are over the top when it comes to making wings for a costume, so much detail on cutting these just right!

    Always love seeing all that you do, you're such an inspiration!! Merry Christmas, Lori

  2. Oh my goodness....after I zoomed in on the details of those sleeves, I was amazed! They are beautifully detailed, I'm so impressed!!! Lori