Saturday, May 24, 2014

Alice Liddell In the Botanical Garden

Alice Liddell In the Botanical Garden
 "Today there would be no lessons; instead, they (Alice and her sisters), were allowed to go with Mr. Dodgson to the Botanic Garden, not far from Christ Church."  In our story The Other Alice, this is where she is introduced to Gingko Biloba, the oldest kind of living tree in the world, "Many millions of years old!".  It was a magical day for Alice, a white stone day.  And, Alice was dressed for the occasion.

The Illustration
As all is supposed, or fictionalized, in the book, she would have seen many strange plants, met funny animals at the zoo, and learned a great deal from her scholarly tutor and friend.  The Botanic Garden, or Botanical Garden, would have been tenderly cared for by professional gardeners and scientists, neat and trim, each living object a wonder to behold. 

Botanic Gardens have been around since 1544.  This type of garden is one dedicated to the collection, cultivation and display of a wide range of plants labelled with their botanical names.  They are often run by universities or other scientific research organizations for preservation and research, but also for the pleasure and education of visitors; little children like Alice was!

Ready to take a stroll.
For this special day Alice wore an elegant dress, topping her bobbed head with a pretty straw sun hat.  When I set out to create this as the second piece in Alice Liddell's wardrobe, I was a bit ahead of the game since the pattern for That's Where I Live, was the basic same pieces save for an overskirt and lots of pleated and ribbon embellishments.  I took my time, and thoughtfully, methodically, reasoned out what was to be done for each part of this beautiful dress.  Around the time I was ready for the handwork, I truthfully felt I'd sewn together a blue and white striped wedding cake.

For the fabric, I chose two Italian shirting cottons.  One was a white, semi-sheer, almost gauzy fabric with blue thread lines running through it.  The other was a luxury shirting cotton with teeny tiny woven chevron stripes running the length.  Unable to find what the artist of the illustration intended, I chose textured fabrics to compromise. 

In my struggle to find the best ribbon trims for this dress, of which it needed several in different sizes, I chose a 2mm silk for the tiniest double bands, a 1/8" silk for the mid-band on the overskirt, and a lovely double-faced silk for the hat.  I had on hand the tiniest "crochet" lace for the collar (which was just as much a pain to insert as was the lace on the other collar!), and the pleated ruffles were all hand made.  Yes, they were.

I had on hand a blue voile which I cut many long lengths of, folding over once, and then adding a fold over edge to encase the trim.  Each time the trim was added to the edge of the bolero jacket, the double-bell sleeves, and the 32" width of the skirt, I pleat-folded and pinned each pleat in place before machine top-stitching it on.  Just for fun, I counted how many pleats this outfit took.  No less than 350.  But, it was a meditation, a quiet, pleasant pastime to build the embellishments of the costume.

Alice did not like snails.
 And, as with That's Where I Live, false sleeves, or my lantern sleeves, were made to fit under the double-bells.  The cuff on these were done in the blue stripe fabric. 

I noticed a sash, which I will playfully call a dish towel sash, because it looks like a fancy dish towel or guest bath hand towel to me.  I wasn't quite sure how to handle this piece, so I made one long length with identical ends, and draped it over a thin belt that is held in place by waist-side thread loops, then buttons in the back.  It, too, has the pleated trim, and silk ribbon trim.

Lovingly tying her hat's ribbon on Gingko Biloba
Different from the first dress, this one had two skirts, or an over-skirt, which I sewed to the under-skirt and then to the bodice.  I studied this over-skirt for many hours deciding how to approach it.  In order to give it the smooth finish it deserves, I cut strips of the striped cloth and sewed these to a full white skirt.  After the striped strips were sewn on, then the ribbons and pleat trim was sewn on.  It was all quite a bit of cloth to gather at the waist and get pinned and sewn onto the bodice. A jeans needle works well for these thicknesses.  I created the over-skirt as a "separate" piece by stitching up the back seam on it, and then stitching the back seam on the bottom skirt.

Hat Detail
The buttons down the front, of which there are five, are white shell, and sewn on with light blue thread.  The buttons in the back of the dress and the one that closes the belt, are light blue shell with white thread.  I chose not to show photos of these so as not to overwhelm this journal post.  But, they are very pretty.

When all the hand-stitching was done, it was time to make her pretty straw hat, which I did today.  I do enjoy making hats and decorating them.  This one has blue vintage forget-me-nots with pink stamens that I hand-painted over the yellow.

Close up of fabric and trims.
Alice will most likely wear this frock for the next couple of months, and its perfect for the hot summer days ahead.  The blues are so soothing and cool to look at.  She must feel very dressed up indeed.  I may make her a petticoat and pantalets, but I do so with a heavy sigh, as I just don't enjoy making undergarments.  You never see them!  But, they are a part of her wardrobe, and so each piece will be made.  I have the skeleton of an antique parasol I wish to cover for her which would be a fine accessory for this outfit. 

My table is once again neat and clean, and ready for the next project whatever I decide to do.  I have some silk dupioni coming in the mail, and have threatened to make two Jumeau style dresses for the 9" Lawton dolls.  I don't know why I've been a stubborn mule about making such pieces, but they fall into the category of why I don't sew French Fashion.  Its been done, done and done again.  But, I do want the challenge (and new dresses for my little ones), so they will get made.  Why not?

Earlier this year, my friend Betsy pointed out to me that Robert Tonner had made an Alice Liddell many years ago.  What?!  So she directed me to the archival catalogs on his website, and there she was, two little Alice Liddell's made in 1999.  How I would love to own both for the novelty of them.  I do remember the catalog, but I would have skipped over these dolls (back in 1999), as they did not come with a trunk and a few other dresses.  We keep learning and growing...

Miss E. Mouse (If the text wrapping looks strange, sorry!  I tried to fix it and couldn't)

A Side View
The Back

God Bless Robert Tonner!

San Francisco's Botanical Garden - The Moon Garden

Mr. Dodgson's Little Companion and Friend

1 comment:

  1. Miss E Mouse, You outdid yourself on this beautiful ensemble, it's amazing with those wonderful pleats....your wee little paws must so very tired now! This is blue ribbon worthy, in more ways than one! :)