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!

1 comment:

  1. How well I know Philadelphia winters as we face our 9th storm this winter! Last week's necessitated evacuation when the power went out. I hope that situation does not repeat. Another wonderful outfit! I want to come play in your doll room!