Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Daughters of Lir

Lettie's Shamrock Gown
One of the most enchanting Irish folk tales is that of The Children of Lir.  It tells the tale of King Lir's great love for his four beautiful children and a jealous wife who turns them into swans.  The good children find sanctuary and help among the creatures of nature and eventually are restored to human form to once again be held and treasured by their grieving father.  The tale has touched illustrators such as Gennady Spirin, who illustrated the story for Sheila Mac-Gill-Callahan in 1993.  It also inspired the angelic Connie Dover to write and perform a song called The Daughter of Lir.   And, as I begin to journal on the "wearing of the green", I am wistfully reminded of the beauty of Irish lore.

Daisy's Wearing of the Green
In the early years of the 4th century, a young British boy, whose father was a deacon, was captured by Irish raiders and enslaved off the west coast of Ireland.  Upon receiving a message from God, he escaped back to Britain, and returned years later as a Bishop, bringing Christianity to Ireland.  Irish folklore tells of one of his teachings using the shamrock to describe the Holy Trinity.  The "wearing of the green" in simplicity, refers to wearing a shamrock pinned to your garment, although our Victorian illustrators took this to another level!

Vintage Postcard Inspiration
St. Patrick's Day celebrates the triumph of Patrick's success in bringing Christianity to Ireland, however, it cannot be denied that the modern celebration of "all things Irish' is without question a joy to behold, especially when we so long for the greening of spring after a long winter.  In 1903, St. Patrick's Day became on official holiday in Ireland.  It is little wonder that the illustrators created so many beautiful postcards around this time!  In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I created two postcard outfits, so Lettie gets to wear one, too.
Vintage Postcard Inspiration
Lettie's outfit is a green velveteen bodice with its neckline edged in Swiss lace.  The same lace edges the white pima batiste sleeves, and a drape of vintage shamrock fabric cascades to pretty lime green dancing slippers.

Daisy's costume is of emerald silk.  The corset bodice has straps that tie into pretty bows at the back of her shoulders.  A long green skirt flows down to the forest green, ankle-tie dance slippers.  She wears a guimpe with beautifully puffed sleeves beneath it all.  On her head, she wears an emerald bonnet of the same silk, and carries a tiny of pot of shamrocks.

Stepping Out
I have a sincere stack of green fabrics that were acquired to create just these two outfits.  One of these days, the guessing will get easier, but when a fabric arrives, I know immediately whether or not it will work, and many pieces go into the stack.  I was dubious on the creating of Lettie's, and each time I made a fitting, I kept thinking that this would have been better suited to Polly.  Yet, one of these was to build upon Daisy's postcard outfit collection.  While waiting for the right green silk to show up, I moved forward to create this shamrock gown, and dressed Lettie in it.  Now that it is completed, I'm far more satisfied and glad to have her dressed in it.  I also have a smaller stack of green leathers that didn't make the cut!  And, so the tale is told.

Four little green buttons close the back.
Unsure of how best to make Lettie's outfit, I began by making a blouse that would go under a "jumper" of green velveteen and the shamrock fabric.  But, this didn't emulate the illustration as I wished it to, so this outfit is all one piece.  I remade it with white sleeves sewn directly into the lined bodice, and the empire skirting is attached to the bodice.  The shoes are not your traditional colonial style, and this may be due to hours of my staring at the illustration trying to get them just right.  Who knows?  Maybe I've designed a new wave of colonial buckle shoes!  Or did the illustrator?!

New Wave Colonials
The trials with Daisy's beautiful gown came in a different form.  I knew from my Mary Frances experiments, that the girl was wearing a guimpe beneath her corset, and I tried to make one as one would for a Mary Frances doll.  Nope.  Didn't work.  So I cut the sleeve away, enlarged it, gathered it, and reattached it to the guimpe blousing.  The skirt was easy.  Not much to report there!  The corset, however, took a lot of thought and designing to get it right.  And, yes, I wanted to cheat.  I noticed the bow on the back of the shoulder, and thought...hmmm...maybe you just add a bow to the straps!  Hah!  But, no, that wasn't what was intented.  I studied the illustration some more and realized the straps tied into bows.  So I bought silk ribbon.  First of all, the ribbon was not an equal match to the silk of gown, and it looked like ribbon, not straps.  So out came the ribbon, and back the machine I went to make thin straps I had to turn inside out.  Tied past the shoulder, they worked.  Teeny tiny green buttons were sewn in rows down the front edges of the bodice and hooks and thread loops close it in front. 

Daisy Stepping Out
The mob cap for Lettie's outfit is a plate hat, meaning the pattern is the edge circumference of a dessert plate.  The green silk ribbon that didn't make the straps, became the ribbon around the mob cap.   Daisy's bonnet is my own design in two pieces.  The base is buckram, and is covered in the dress silk.  Like her straps, I made the ribbon to fashion on her bonnet.  It is a double bow sewn to the upper-side of the edge where the bonnet back and crown meet.

Her shoes were fun to make.  This was a new design as there's a long narrow tab at the back of the ankle where the leather lace slips through.  Of course I tried to use that green ribbon for the ties, but they were too wide.  So I cut narrow strips of leather for the ties.  The ties are longer than in the illustration for ease of tying.  Another conquest in redesigning the colonial/Irish dance shoe.  I couldn't quite figure out the highlights on the flap, so I made a little bow for sweetness's sake.  A further feminine touch.

Dance Slippers
The shamrock pot was fun to make.  Here we use an inspired artistic license of Victorian "bling".  Just try to find miniature paper shamrocks!  Impossible.  I was already cutting out silk applique shamrocks (more on that in a minute), and there was no way I was going to cut out forty-some-odd 1/4" shamrocks from paper.  So I purchased a garland, and cut off the shiny "metallic" shamrocks, affixed them to floral wires, and stuck them in floral moss in the tiny clay pot.

Shoulder Ties and Bonnet
And, for "the minute".  I am working on a third outfit was I write this.  Forty-eight 3/4" four-leaf clover appliques have been cut for this last outfit.  I'm having an "experience" with fabric again, but I do believe this will come together by March 17th!

California's drought situation has seen some lovely, if minor, relief the last couple weeks, and we've been getting some wonderful, and much appreciated rain.  Everything is greening up so nicely.   Its been a joy sewing in this verdant hue, but now I am working on something quite special.  In steps.  With lots of thought, naturally, behind each design.

Enjoy some of my favorite postcards, and the detailed photos of these two St. Patrick's Day Postcard costumes.  March is the month of green.  March hails the promise of spring.  March is a time for baby lambs to be born.

A Tiny Pot of Bling
And, now I'll get back to work on a very special outfit.

I might add that I was privileged to attend a rare concert in the town of Folsom in late February.  One of my favorite Irish bands came to town for a sold out show.  Clannad!  What a perfect way to begin the month of March, and inspire me to make not one, not two, but three St. Patrick's Day outfits!

Miss E. Mouse

This was one idea.

So sweet!

My umbrella!

Almost made this one.

Love the Celtic Harp!


Similar Gown, Same Illustrator

Need to do research on these pipes!

Daisy's Wearing of the Green


  1. Miss Mouse, How I love it all, you outdid yourself with these lovely! I adore the emerald green silk dress and bonnet, nothing so feminine as a beautiful bonnet, and her dance shoes are perfect....I really like these, so nicely done! Your work is superb, I so admire you and your attention to details in your beautiful doll clothing! Happy Sewing, Lori

    1. Thank you, Lori! Its wonderful to receive comments as they inspire me to continue working as hard as do! Love, Miss E. Mouse