Monday, February 17, 2014

Our Washington's Birthday Party

Katy's Colonial Gown
On the 22nd of February we celebrate the father of our country, George Washington's birthday.  And, Katy Curls is going to a party in his honor.  She is dressed as a little colonial miss and will play lots of games as described in Marion Jane Parker's little handbook, The Children's Party Book (1923), illustrated by Frances Tipton Hunter. 

It appears that this adorable and very handy little pamphlet may have been produced by the Calumet Baking Powder Company as a promotional-advertising tool.  For in it reads a foreward and aft, by Helen Harrington Downing, describing not only how to put on the very best party for children, but providing recipes for yummy refreshments using Calumet Baking Powder.  And, if you think about it, Katy could be wearing a "powdered wig" having used Calumet as well!

Our Washington's Birthday Party
When I began my love affair with the works by Frances Tipton Hunter, I found The Children's Party Book, yet resisted the purchase due to the price.  Then I finally caved, and was delighted I had.  For in it were fabulous illustrations of children dressed at these seasonal, year round, parties, and well written descriptions of the games a hostess should introduce at the party to keep the little ones busy.

The book begins with a Father Time Party for New Years, followed by a Valentine's Day party, the next being a party for George Washington's birthday.  As I'd just finished two Valentine outfits, I had little time to get Katy ready for the birthday party.  While I don't think children go to parties for George Washington any longer, this book was written at a time, after WWI, when patriotism was again at a height. 

See who showed up at the party!  Puff, Katy's cat!
Since Frances Tipton Hunter was Katy Curls' illustrator, and The Children's Party Book was written around the same time (not to mention that Katy's cat, Puff appears in this book), I decided that Katy would have to go to each and every party and I would have to sew costumes and outfits for her to attend them.  How fun!  Talk about inspiration!

Katy's colonial costume was once again, one of those I was bound to learn so much from.  With Polly's French Witch costume, I'd worked with paniers (bread loaves), the poufy half-skirts that cascade from the bodices.  Yet, I'd not inserted lace into them, much less "poufed" them.  I do recall once watching as Melanie, of Melanie's Alterations in town, was fitting a bride-to-be with her gown.  The bride wished to have this panier look to her gown, and Melanie had to insert pulls to gather, and hooks to hook it up to the under dress. 

Shall We Dance?
I did as close a study to colonial dresses as I could by Internet searches, but again, if you don't have the costume in hand, its a bit of guess work.  I do have the American Girl historical doll, Felicity, so I already knew all about stomachers.  These are the center insets (v-shaped) that could be alternated in the bodice as one would chose a new blouse to wear with the same skirt each day.  Women did not have many dresses, but a change of stomacher could give the dress a whole new look, dress it up, or down as well.  With Katy's costume, I gave the bodice the look of a stomacher.  Since this was a child's costume, it should be one simple dress to slip into, fastened at the back. 

Colonial Knots and Bows
This outfit was not easy to design (is anything I do?), and the bodice was made four times before I got the look I was after.  1) the muslin mock-up, 2) one done in a similar calico, 3) using the good fabric, 4) panicking with the rest the remnants of the good fabric to make it right!   This alone, the panicking, was a good practice in patience and perseverance.  After sleeping on it, I got back to work and carefully placed each pattern piece on the remains and gave it all one more try.  I'd also lost a lot of the 1" Swiss edge lace with bodice #3.  It was a good thing I'd purchased five yards, because by the finish of the outfit, I only had maybe three-quarters of a yard left in two pieces.  When you gather lace, it takes a lot yardage.

Colonial Shoes
Another thing I fussed over was the rosebud edge trim around the neckline of the bodice.  It has come to mind that all the work seems to be in the bodices of these outfits, then you just add a skirt.  I tried to cheat.  I looked for ribbon rosebud appliques.  I looked for satin rosettes that you could just sew on.  I looked for vintage trim!  I bought, I looked some more, and everything was too big and too awful.  So, I sat down with my heirloom ribbon embroidery book and looked for a solution.  What I found was the Colonial Knot.  How about that?!  How fitting!  These knots look like little rosebuds with a dimple in the center.  I tried one several times studying the book illustration, but you know me and instructions.  I simply cannot follow them.  Off to the computer I went, and found a Youtube for Colonial Knots.  Brilliant.  After ten or twelve tries, I finally made a decent one. Using 4mm pink silk ribbon, I embroidered Colonial Knots around the edge of the neckline followed by green ribbon "leaves".  And, that was how I achieved the look I wanted.

Before I finished the lining, by sewing it to the skirt waist, I made little black bows for the stomacher.  I cut a small length of cardboard and wrapped 4mm black ribbon loops around it for each bow.  I used a tiny bit of hat glue to secure each ribbon loop.  Then I placed the loop on the stomacher, and sewed a piece of ribbon up through the back of the fabric, over and down to the inside, to pinch the loop into a bow, and tied the ends off in the back.  Nice, neat little bows.

Crossing the Delaware
Finally I made Katy a pair of colonial shoes with silver buckles.  I did not need to make a hat this time, but bought three different wigs trying to get the colonial powdered wig look.  I tried a BJD wig in gray, which I was going to restyle, but that failed.  Then I called my friend, Chelsey, at Monique Trading Company, and she helped me find just the right wig for the look I wanted...almost.  This wig had curls across the bangs, and I fussed with a few of the curls until they blended into the upsweep of the do.  I also weighted down the curls on the sides and left them overnight.  The third wig is on its way!  It may or may not be a better choice, but I do like the way this one turned out.  For now. 

The Cherry Race
In The Children's Party Book, Our Washington's Birthday Party has many wonderful games to play, and delicious and healthy recipes using Calumet Baking Powder.  (Who remembers Anne of Green Gables writing a story for a contest using the name of Rollings Reliable Baking Powder?)  Of the recipes you'll find, Washington's Birthday Cake, Calumet Assorted Squares, Cocoanut-Cherry Macaroons, Snow Pudding and Charlotte Russe.  Yes, they spelled coconut with an "a".  Out of season, they use candied cherries or cranberries for the macaroons.  The only thing I found healthy in these recipes was the insistence that Calumet Baking Powder made them so.  But, hey!  Katy and the kids love the sweets!

According the party manual, a good hostess will keep children busy, with no breaks in between, so the party moves along swiftly, and the guests will go home happy. We begin with proper invitations to the event.  This one begins, "Come ye, Mistress (or Master), Be ye merry, Tho 'tis blustery February, Help us celebrate, With fun, the birthday of George Washington!  Four o'clock the twenty-second."

Hardtack for Hardships
Some of the games Katy's plays are Finding the Continental Army, Chopping Down the Cherry Tree, Crossing the Delaware, Cherry Race, How Many Words In Washington, Drawing Contest, and Hardships.  In Crossing the Delaware, a rug is laid out in the middle of the room and the children are divided on each side.  Questions are asked about the history of Washington, and when one child answers correctly, they cross the carpet or Delaware.  The first team across wins.  One of the questions is, "Why is a colonial doorway sad?" (see answer at end of blog)

Painting describing Pastor Weems' Fable

Baby Peggy - 1921 Silent Film Child Star
Chopping Down the Cherry Tree
Another fun game Katy enjoys is the Cherry Race.  Children grab a handful of cranberries, balance them on the back of their hand, palms down, and run across the room.  The child with the most remaining cranberries on the back of their hand wins. ( I'm certain Mother has asked the "help" to stay late!)

Katy also enjoys Chopping Down the Cherry Tree, which is played like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, only the children carry a paper hatchet to the cherry tree on the wall and pin it.  The child whose hatchet is closest to the "chop" wins.  One game she didn't enjoy was Hardships.  The children are asked to choke down a hard tack biscuit like the kind the Continental Army had to exist on. 

While enjoying my research on Frances Tipton Hunter, I discovered a lovely paper doll page about Baby Peggy.  Baby Peggy was one of three famous child stars during the days of the silent films.  You'll notice that child actress, Peggy-Jean Montgomery (aka Baby Peggy) is wearing a costume very like Katy's own.

If only I could create these costumes a little bit faster!

Let us take a moment on the 22nd of February and remember this remarkable man, George Washington, who for without his accomplishments, this country would not be what it is today.  And, maybe bake a birthday cake using Calumet Baking Powder.

Miss E. Mouse
(answer: It always has a knocker.)
Frances Tipton Hunter's Paper Doll, Baby Peggy

Frances Tipton Hunter -  A Brilliant Woman!

Katy Wins For Best Costume

Monday, February 10, 2014

Daisy's Valentine Postcard Girl

You might have guessed that with my enjoyment of bringing vintage postcard images to life in costuming, Daisy would require a special Valentine's Day outfit.  I had quite a few images picked out, but the striped skirt in this one, and the wonderful hat begged to be done.

Once again I found myself swimming in a variety of red and white striped fabrics.  The stripe width, while important to me for scale, was simply not to be met this time. 

I looked for striped silk.  I looked for striped cottons.  I found a piece of fabric called "wedding satin" in a red and white stripe and gave it a go.  When it arrived, the stripe was huge, and the fabric, a thick polyester mess.  Then a lady on ebay listed a "lot" of red and white stripes in a variety of fabrics.  I asked if she might change the auction to a Buy It Now, and within a few days, I had a huge stack of fabrics to chose from.  I have seen red stripes described as "clown stripes", and it certainly gives you another take on the pattern!

I wouldn't normally have chosen this "painted cotton", but it seemed to work for the look I was after.  I also ordered two different hide pieces of red leather for her little slippers.  The hat straw, I had plenty of, so I began designing the bodice right away.

My first intention was to make the bodice out of the red velveteen I used for Daisy's Christmas Caroler, but quickly realized the horizontal stripe at the bottom of the skirt would be best done in the same fabric as the bodice.  So I chose a medium weight cotton sateen in a pretty lipstick red. 

This was not a difficult outfit to make, so it snipped along quickly and was enjoyable to make.

I used a wide brim PNB hat mold for her funny big "bonnet".  After completing the piece, I turned the brim up and found the "string" in the edge of the straw, then pulled this gently to give it shape.  Like our nice French laces, the Swiss straw has threads in the top and bottom edges of the strand.  If you get a pair of pointy tweezers and do a little digging, you can find the thread.  This part took a little work since the thread wished to quickly recede back into the strand. 

I clipped the end of the string and threaded it into a needle.  By pinching the straw at the base of the pulled thread to secure the "gather", I sewed the string back into the straw.

The detailing of the gold design on the edge of her hat took a little thinking.  I tried using a gold oil based Sharpie Paint Pen, but the effect was flat.  I'd considered using gold glitter glue at first, and this was what I ended up using over the penned design.  Its a little Victorian postcard glitter "bling"!

Next came her little slippers, which also quickly went together as I've done quite a few pairs of plain slip-ons.  They are not Fran's beautiful work, but they meet the requirements.  The inner sole was lined in pretty rose floral fabric, so she could "walk on roses" for Valentine's Day. 

Finally the girl in the postcard is giving a valentine to her sailor boy.  I took a bit of the red sateen, sewed the little heart, then stuffed it with batting for a charming little soft sculpture.  I had earlier done this with Polly's Mistletoe Fair wand, with the gold star.  The effect is far more sweet than a flat piece of paper or cardboard.

Red Sateen Heart Stuffed With Love
Shame on me for not putting Daisy's underwear on when I took these photos, but I wanted to share the back of the garment for a purpose.  You can see that her doll stand is threaded through the skirt.  Since I started sewing, one of the things that's plagued me most is how the stand fits under the garment smoothly.  I don't like the stand on the outside of the garment as it creases the fabric and takes away from the display.  So when designing a skirt with a plain waistband, I give enough room in the back for the stand to thread through.  If making a fitted dress, the dress will be wider in the waist to accommodate that infernal stand!

I have less than a week to do much more, if I wish to meet a Valentine's Day deadline.  However, I've been wanting to make a couple of outfits for the Wendy Lawton 9" dolls.  If I start today, I just might make it!

Miss E. Mouse 

Wouldn't this look lovely on Daisy?

Just love the hat!  I enjoy the cards with the gold gilt.

We do love our paper dolls!

I almost made this one.

One of my favorites.  Anything with an easel.

As a collector of umbrellas, these are just fabulous to me!

Another version of the same card.  Raining hearts!  It is not a mirror image, as the wording is not backwards.

This girl in this dress was found on several postcards, but this one had the umbrella.  I almost made this one, too.
And, my favorite.  Cupid as the artist.  So very Rosetti!
Daisy's Valentine Postcard Girl

Friday, February 7, 2014

Polly's Snowshoe Valentine Messenger

Polly's Snowshoe Valentine Messenger
 "Neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night...will prevent Polly Pratt from mailing her valentines!"  Those Philadelphia winters can be awfully bitter, but no matter how deep the snow, or chilly the winds, Polly is ready to go out and play in her snowshoes.

Snowshoes have been around for centuries.  Native cultures developed a bentwood frame with cross-hatching to deter snow build-up, in a large shoe that would evenly distribute body weight to cross snow covered terrain easily.  Snowshoes were an essential piece of equipment for fur traders and trappers, or anyone who needed to get around in deep, frequent snowfall.  Hitty had something in common with traditional snowshoes as both she and they were made from the hard wood, white ash!

While recreational use of snowshoes began with snowshoe clubs in Quebec, Canada (who held events where races and hikes were combined with fine food and drink), the manufacture of snowshoes for recreational purposes really began in the late 19th century, when serious recreational use became more widespread.  And, Polly, ever stylish and contemporary, played in them in the 1920's.

Sheila's Illustration
I first began to think of designing this outfit over a year ago, but when January 2013 rolled around, I was very done with working on white coats for Polly and Lettie.  Still, this darling little sports set begged to be made, and as someone who also enjoys the sport, I finally caved and settled into designing Polly's. Evident right off the bat, were some of the design issues I was facing that deterred me originally.  I'd already decided to use red velvet ribbon to portray the bands, but the cap sleeve epaulets were then, and now, a bit of a nightmare.  For one thing, I had no idea what I was looking at!

Even Cupid Snowshoes
Polly's Snowshoe Valentine Messenger outfit is made from the beautiful Melton wool I've come to love working with.  Winter white wool is very hard to find at any given time, and I have several trial pieces that were purchased last year, that I knew would never work.  Another issue was finding a red and white striped fabric that would have a "close to exact" representations in band size for her belt and stocking cap.  I believe I found this women's sweater to cut up sometime last spring.  I stored it.  And, I did practice a bit on a different wool, the bands I would machine stitch on with the velvet ribbon.  I was so delighted to have come upon the winter white Melton wool this past December, that I knew the outfit would get made in the next couple of months.

The Snowshoes
The snowshoes are American Girl Kirsten, reworked to resemble the kind Polly would use in the illustration.  Fran, of Fran's Heirlooms, made the darling little brown boots.  The cap, mittens and leggings are made from baby blanket fleece.  I often hear people groan that antique doll clothing must be made with vintage fabrics, and that's all good and well, IF you are not trying to make an exact copy of an illustration.  Have you heard anyone complain of Robert Tonner's choice of fabric when he designs for period era dolls?  I didn't think so.  And, so I design antique reproduction clothing for antique reproduction dolls using whatever I can lay my hands on, in the finest quality I can find.

The Melton wool, double breasted sport coat is lined in off white Shantung silk.  It lines wool so beautifully, and makes a nice rustle when Polly "shoes" across the snow.  The tassels on the ends of her belt and stocking cap are made from pretty wool yarn. 

Two things come to mind immediately when discussing this design of this coat set.  One is the cap sleeve epaulets, and to my surprise, the sleeves.  The sleeves were quite a surprise to me when once again I studied the illustration.  In discovering that the bands did not go all the way around, but were set in a seam of their own, the epaulet problem was resolved.  Let me try to explain.

Underneath It All
A sleeve is often one piece of fabric that has an ease, or gather stitch along the top edge for inserting into the coat's sleeve opening.  At first I tried to make a piece that was one quarter the length down from this edge to make the cap, or epaulet.  This didn't work because this is gathered and the look wouldn't be right.  The cap is only at the very top, like a decoration, or extra protection from bumped shoulders.  However with the discovery of the split sleeve, I realized that the cap would be the length of the middle section of the sleeve only.  And, from start to finish (of the sleeves), this took me a month to figure out!  The red piece is a cotton velvet half moon stitched on top of the cotton cap that goes over the wool sleeve center. 

The Back
This red velvet piece alone, was two days in the designing.  If you've ever tried to turn the edges of velvet under, especially on such a small piece, you'll know its nearly impossible to not make a mess.  So this little piece had to be lined.  After several tries with keeping a half inch of edge open to turn the piece inside out and apply, I tried one more thing.  I lay two pieces together right sides together - the velvet and the lining, and stitched them all the way around.  Then I cut a cross in the center of the lining and turned this inside out.  The edges were tight and finished, and the lining would never show since the piece is sewn to the cotton epaulet.  Was all this trial and error worth it?  Yes.

After the belt, and cap were made, I decided Polly needed leggings rather than white stockings.  If you've ever been snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, you'll know that her little legs would have been red and chapped with chill simply wearing stockings.  Her little mittens must be one of my favorite pieces about this set.  The thickness of the fleece stretched over her hands to an exact, snug fit!

Handmade Valentines To Mail
But, Polly needed more than just leggings and a coat to keep her warm.  She needed a onesie under it all.  So I made up one of cotton flannel and top-stitched it in red to match her outfit.  Although it would never be seen, we know its there, and she greatly appreciates being well outfitted.  

With the snowshoes, I had these from a purchase made last year when I first attempted the project.  I wanted to make a band or wrap that she could slip the toe of her boot into that would hold its shape and her foot.  After removing the original leather straps with an Exacto knife and tweezers, I made two top half portions of shoe slippers.  I gathered the edges, sewed the ends together, then sewed this piece to the center of the snowshoe.  NO GLUE!!!  Much more authentic, and everyone knows glue disintegrates when wet with snow!

Our Cute Little Polly
What appeared at first to be a simple project, was by leaps and bounds just another summit to climb, a mountain pass to climb to the peak.  And, now Polly can do just that in a very smart and sporty coat set.

Towards the end of this project, I was beginning to work on a Valentine Postcard Outfit for Daisy.  This is when it occurred to me that Polly might need a handmade Valentine to hold.  And, of course, that spun into a full set of mini, handmade valentines and a satchel to carry them to the mailbox in.  She became Polly's Snowshoe Valentine Messenger!

I'm tickled to pieces with this set and its not only a great sporting outfit for winter, but a darling costume to wear for Valentine's Day.  My work table is still an explosion of red and white valentine fabric, but off to one side is an array of greens and shamrock prints.

Don't let the deep snow keep you indoors!  Strap on a pair of snowshoes and go!  Its a blast and a great way to enjoy the beauty of winter.

Miss E. Mouse

Edwardian Sporting - Snowshoes On Back

Two Little Snowshoers

I have to make this for Daisy!!!!

Snowshoe Into the New Year

I love this one - Take me there!  The Sierra looks like this where I cross-country ski.

A Valentine Snowshoer

Another coat with the epaulets.  Does Polly need a second one?

To Thee From Me
Off She Goes!