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


  1. Beautiful! What an adorable little lady she is and this exquisite outfit suits her perfectly.
    Congratulations on another perfect design.

  2. Hi! Wonderful job on the little bunny apron! Just amazing that you cut out all of the little rabbits and applied them to get the perfect fabric! Have you ever gone to the Spoonflower website, where you can design your own fabrics, and then order them? You should try it, I'll bet you would LOVE it! Just go to It really is too good to be true! So easy and fun! I enjoy all of your creations for Bleuette very much! Thank you! Best, Susan