Monday, November 4, 2013

P is for Pilgrim - Thanksgiving Mayflowers

Daisy's Thanksgiving Greeting
In the autumn of 1620, a tiny crowded ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England.  On board were 102 passengers - a mixed company of pious Separatists and "Strangers" thrown together by fate on a perilous voyage to find new homes in the wilderness of British North America.  Among them were three young ladies, Daisy, Lettie Lane and Polly Pratt.  Oh.  Is this not how the story went?  You'd be hard pressed to convince our three little pilgrims otherwise.

After completing Polly's Halloween costume, I was on a roll.  I love the story of our American Thanksgiving, and did so even as a child.  When I was five, and in Kindergarten, our teacher had us make craft paper hats and collars, and we had a Thanksgiving parade around the Kindergarten green.  I wore those pieces day in and day out until they fell apart.  Now, many years later, I've created costumes for my own girls.

Inspiration for Daisy and the Plum Pudding
Having spent many, many hours with vintage postcard images of Halloween, I began poking around Ebay for Thanksgiving images.  I have quite a collection of Old World Christmas Thanksgiving cards, sparkled with glitter, and romancing the great turkey feasting holiday.  The vintage postcard examples are vast for all of these holidays.  Beginning in 1898, all American postcards could be mailed for 1 cent.  This sparked a new fad for sending and collecting postcards that peaked between 1905 and 1915.  By 1913, the total of postcards mailed in the U.S. reached over 968,000,000.  These beautiful collectibles are still in demand, and for me, a haven of inspiration. 

Let's be clear.  I've not tired of creating clothing from Sheila Young's illustrations of paper dolls, but "now that I think I know what I'm doing", I want to try many more styles.  The Lawn Mowing outfit was just the beginning.

Cashmere and Melton Wools, Ribboned aprons.
In the past month I made five of these lovely pilgrim costumes.  I had a request to make two in a light wool for the hotter climes of my Florida customer.  I chose heavier wools for my own girls.  Among the wools I purchased were Swiss, Cashmere and Melton.  As you might guess, sewing on these different wools would require different techniques.  By the time I made the fifth and final, Daisy's, I pretty much knew what I was doing.  Now I'm not asking you to agree with me, but what I found with sewing the lighter wools together, you could easily stay with the 2.4 stitch on your machine.  With the heavier wools, I upped the stitch length to 3.2  I learned this only after finding that the stitches were too tight and too deep in the heavier wools.  It was quite a relief to discover that a longer stitch did the job just as well, if not better.

Inspiration for heaving wools and ribboned aprons.
Lighter wool gowns with capelets
For starters, I'd fallen in love with the dress style of the two little girls with black bows at the center of their collars, carrying a harvest basket between them.  This would be the inspiration for the patterns I created to make all five gowns.  With the lighter wools, I wanted a more traditional look, and made all-white bonnets with a luxurious cotton sateen that ran around $16 a yard.  The wools themselves were exquisite to the touch and wonderful to work with.  The aprons were edged with Swiss lace reminiscent of the illustration I chose to make their capelets from.  The lighter wools also allowed a fuller skirt, and this was something I'd struggle with using the heavier fabrics for my own.  This is quite evident in my own Lettie's black Cashmere dress.  It appears more tapered, but in truth, it was the exact same width of fabric used for the lighter wool.  I'm learning!  Polly's wasn't such an issue since she's a smaller doll.  And, of course by the time I decided Daisy needed a spectacular costume of her own, I'd added six inches to the width of the skirt.

The aprons are different on both sets as well.  Swiss lace was used to decorate the aprons of the lighter wool dresses, and double faced silk ribbons, in three rows, decorated the heavier wool gown.  To neaten the look, I sewed the aprons into the bodice at the skirts' centers.  With the lighter wools this was not an issue.  But, with the first heavier wool, I could not gather it together, and had to put the gathering stitches in by hand.  Another trial for me, was the constant changing of thread colors as I stitched the pieces together.  I think I can thread my machine in less than 30 seconds now!  Finally, silk velvet ribbons in two rows, matching each dress, were sewn to the hemlines in the heavier wool gowns to detail the look of the dresses in the illustration.

Inspiration for capes and Swiss lace
Cozy Capes
I was really enjoying myself making these costumes.  It was not my intention to make the capelets, but after many hours gazing on the postcard of the laced apron, I decided to give them a try.  I used a camel colored wool for the capes and lined them in cotton.  I felt this would be much more traditional, since I doubt silks or satins were available or used by the Separatists.  If I recall, I began with a Bleuette cape pattern to make them.  They needed lots of circle width to drape over the shoulders.  When making Daisy's blue wool cape, I simply added 7.5 inches to the length, and tiny grosgrain ties instead of the covered button band - which snaps to the cape.

Patty's Turkey
Inspiration for Patty's Turkey
I procured two vintage baskets and filled them with size appropriate harvest fruits and squashes.  I made Daisy a covered Plum Pudding in a basket, and Patty, bless her talented heart, made the most perfect needle felted turkeys I've ever seen.  I keep thinking that some day I'd like to learn this craft, but when someone like Patty creates perfection, who am I to mess with it?  Maybe.  Someday.  But, for now, I'll enjoy feeling more confident as I continue to design and sew for my dolls.

This is my second post today, so please read on for Katy Curls' Thanksgiving Party apron below.  I've run out of steam, but have some lovely images to share with you inclusive with this post.  Sometime this week I'll begin designing for Christmas.

Wishing you a perfect month filled with the beauty of autumn, and the warmth of family and friends.

Miss E. Mouse

Little Behinds

Portrait of a Pilgrim

Pretty Pilgrim Polly

Daisy's cape in progress

1 comment:

  1. Miss E. Mouse,
    I am in awe of these costumes....they are so beautiful in their design, choice of fabrics, and colors...I love them dearly!!! I don't know which one is my favorite, so they are all my favorites....I would love to have had one of these outfits! All of the photos are beautiful and fun to look over and drool, but my favorite of all is the "Little Behinds" photo......oh my goodness, cutest picture! Who would ever think a turkey could be lovable until seeing this little guy....he is adorable in every way and done to perfection! Great job to the artist Patty!! Hope your Thanksgiving Day is a blessing for you, thank you for all that you do!! Gobble Gobble, Lori