Friday, July 18, 2014

Botanical Garden Stroll for 9" Beatrice Louise

Alice Liddell and Beatrice Louise
I don't normally like doing things twice.  The first time you make something there is the challenge, the intrigue, the curiosity that asks, "Can I do it?  Can it be done?"  And, yes, my 16" Alice Liddell's Botanical Garden Stroll dress was all of the above.  However, when  a friend of mine, Jill (the lady I made the Matinee Dress for), approached me for an outfit for her Katie Grace (Wendy Lawton's exquisitely sculpted Beatrice Louise), I suspected she'd want a tiny version of Alice Liddell's outfit. 

We discussed Lettie Lane costume ideas, maybe Polly Pratt designs, or possibly a sailor dress as well.  I was hesitant to try and recreate Alice Liddell's outfit in a smaller scale for two reasons.  One, there was the price I'd have to ask, and the other was knowing how too much embellishment can overwhelm a small doll.  However, my motto has always been  making dreams come true, so I accepted the commission, and set to work.  Back to blue!

Botanical Garden Stroll for Katie Grace
I had on hand, this lovely blue and white shirting cotton that was earlier purchased as an alternative fabric for the 16" doll's dress.  I would use the lighter Pima batiste for the collar, paper lantern sleeves and bells.  When you have so very many gathers, layers and ruffles, you need lighter fabrics so they'll sew together and drape nicely. 

I must have worked an entire day on the collar alone just getting the lace sewn in between the layers.  So many pins.  So much deftness and dexterity to get the small pieces together and tugged between needle and plate.  Slow stitching and careful turning of pieces under the needle.  I must seriously be one of the quietest, if not craziest, seamstresses.  My machine seldom makes the rumble-rumble-rumble noise of fast, straight stitching.

Just a close up!
Would it be interesting or worth the time to describe how I got the paper lantern sleeves sewn into the bells?  Or how I hand made the 1/3" blue batiste ruffles - that turned and twisted miserably as I tried to pin them on?  Probably not.  But, I can tell you that I did try - for four hours - to make the pleated trim, which in the end overwhelmed the edges of the bells.  This is when I sat back at the cutting table and once again cut a very long 1" strip and ironed it over twice in a mock "bias" style tape, then gather stitched it twice to create the ruffle trim to cover the edges of the bolero jacket, the bell edges, and the embellishment on the top edge of the white skirt.

Full View
Two rows of tiny silk ribbon, tiny buttons on the cuffs of the paper lantern sleeves, and a belt that dresses up the waist much nicer when the doll is not on a stand.  Doll stands can be quite an impediment.  I actually create garments that will accommodate the metal stand around the waist.  That typically means many fittings as the dress is being made.  I wonder how many other designers consider the doll stand when creating a costume?  Or am I just a Type A?  lol

I have to admit that the collar came out perfect.  And, I cut just the right width for the two layered skirts.  One inch more and the tight gathers would not have sewn onto the bodice.  This dress, like many of the jacketed Lawton doll outfits, is made with a lined, sleeveless bodice, so the arms slip into the jacket sleeves nicely.  The doll is much easier to dress this way. 

Lastly the little hat was made.  The dress is a variation in theme of the original, but it fits our little Beatrice Louise perfectly.

The back.
For the next few weeks I'll be solely devoting my time to miniature painting again.  Its been a very long time since I've done this kind of work, and I'm finding the task a welcome change.  I've been working on a toy chest for a 9" Lawton with illustrations from beloved storybook characters.

We've been blessed with a cool day today.  It feels like late September outdoors, yet I'll not be fooled.  The sun is strong and the triple digits are on their way back to make certain we know summer has only just begun.  Make each day count.  They fly by all to quickly.

Miss E. Mouse

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Salt Water Taffy for Amethyst and Sterling

Root Beer Salt Water Taffy
I like stripes.  Especially in summer. They can be found in some of nature's most beautiful designs, even when they follow in concentric circles.  The shell of a snail, the beautiful design of seashells, striation in rocks - these are but a few.  Summer stripes come in circus tents, window shop awnings, patio furniture coverings, writing paper...and pretty clothing.  Its the uniformity, the geometry, the consistency of pattern that pleases the eye and asks us let the design enchant!

As a designer I appreciate the stripe, and the check or plaid, for the ease of placing the pattern pieces together.  You can count them across, or you and simply match up the design.  You can also cut them out on the bias creating a completely new and fabulous accent.  Stripes can be thick or pinstripe thin.  Regardless of which way you wish to use them, they always appear fresh and bright.

For Amethyst and Sterling's second matching set, I chose a root beer pinstripe silk taffeta.  I'm calling the collection Salt Water Taffy.

Sterling and Amethyst
When I was little my parents would take us to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk as a summer outing.  The road we had to drive, Highway 17, was terribly steep and windy, with narrow lanes.  Because of this, we would only go once a year, but when we arrived, I could not wait to get to the shop where we could purchase bags of freshly made salt water taffy.  I'd stand in front of the glass window watching with delight as the taffy machine pulled and wound the bright colors and flavors into the cream colored candy.  It was magical.  And, root beer taffy was one of my favorites.   Since my father was not a confident driver, we'd leave early in the morning to avoid traffic, and arrive at the boardwalk an hour before it even opened.  The anticipation of entering the fun house, riding the roller coaster, and putting a nickel in the fortune teller's booth was a huge part of the day's entertainment.

Summer!  A favorite season for all the memories it will carry into fall.

1905 La Mode Illustree
When I set out to design this latest matching set for Amethyst and Sterling, I gave some consideration to designs in La Mode Illustree.  I knew I was going to create the boy's outfit from 1905 for Sterling, but with Amethyst's dress, I had my own design in mind.  Earlier, I'd attempted this bibbed front with a colorful check and piping around the edge, but the piece came out too small - even through I'd done a mock-up.  So I considered it practice, and launched into the blue sailor costumes.  For her dress in stripes I readdressed the bib, but with a tiny ruffled trim.

Close up for Sterling
Amethyst's dress is a bodice lined dropwaist with fuller, longer puffed sleeves.  The shorter "long" cuff was made with the stripe going horizontal, and this accent is also present in the banded waist.  I really had no plan for the pattern of the stripes, but created the look as I went along.  I'd made many sketches of potential dresses to go with Sterling's little suit, but in the end used none of them.  I created "on the fly".  This was not a difficult dress to make, which helped make up for the intense work in designing Sterling's little suit.

Close up for Amethyst
Sterling's suit jacket is a blouson affair with two box pleats, one on each side of the box pleat button panel.  Full sleeves with horizontal cuffs were my deviation from the original design in the illustration.  His onsie beneath has a lined, sleeveless batiste top with blouson knickers sewn to them.  Again, the cuffs of the knickers are on the horizontal.  There is the collar, too.  This collar is attached to a collar band, then to the neckline so the collar folds over and down.  This was not easy!  I'd done this earlier on Katie's blouse, but when working so small, it takes a great deal of patience.

Behind the Scenes
The hats were enjoyable little accents to make.  Sterling's boater hat is turned up with silk ribbon around the edge.  Amethyst's is a wide brimmed, short crowned summer hat with a silk ribbon around the crown.  This, I took with artistic license from La Mode Illustree. After all, the illustrations are but a few, and only suggestions to the historical content of costuming.

I'm pleased with the outcome of this matching set.  It was entirely enjoyable to create, and I loved the detail work with Sterling's outfit.  He is such an adorable "little boy" to design for. 

Little Chapeaus
And here, we make a departure from their wardrobe, for a short while, as I launch into a couple of  new projects.  They'll be smartly dressed for the remainder of the summer...unless I think they need bathing costumes (and that just came to me!).

July is the mid summer month.  The mornings promise the rise in temperatures.  The days can be filled with the promise of good books to read, small crafts on the rivers and lakes, tree shaded picnics, and adventures in vacation travels.  Whether its a day trip to the beach, or a flight to somewhere new and exciting, relish each moment and make those memories.  Each day can be a wonderful adventure when July is in the air!

Miss E. Mouse

Yes, I still do mock ups!

Happy Summer Days for Sterling and Amethyst