Saturday, April 19, 2014

Its a Long Way to Tipperary!

Bernie (Bernadette) in Uniform, by Kathy O'Malley
One of the reasons I love accessorizing and dressing dolls is the history I get to research in doing so.  I recall taking a series of Art History classes in college, and while we learned a great deal about cathedrals, statues, and frescoes, one thing stands out above all else, the rich knowledge I gained concerning the history surrounding these objects.  In lieu of majoring in European History, we got snapshots in detail of the events that changed the course of history over the years.  And, so it is with dressing dolls.  And, so it is with collecting antique dolls! 

I love uniforms.  The sharp, clean lines, the authority they give the wearer, memories of my father from photos of WWII in his naval uniform.  I think in part, this is one of the reasons I adore nautical, or sailor outfits on my dolls as well. 

Her Little WWI Knapsack - by Me
When my friend, Kathy O'Malley, makes a uniform for Bleuette, I must have it!  She is one of the finest seamstresses sewing the antique, French patterns for this doll out there.  And, such was the case for Bleuette's G-L 1915 Tipperary uniform.  Yet, as an accessorist, I needed a bit more to snap this outfit into shape.  A knapsack.  A miniature WWI knapsack for her to carry letters in, and perhaps a snack or two.

Straps and a Pocket For Letters
Bleuette's vast pattern wardrobe followed the rich history of France, and this was also to be the case during WWI.  During the war years, Bleuette would get a Red Cross nurse's uniform, a Ticket Taker uniform for the trolley cars (as this traditional job for men was taken over by women),scouting uniforms, and a Tipperary uniform to honor the allied forces of Ireland and Britain who helped fight against the Germans in France. 

A Gusset Making for Plenty to Hold
Why Tipperary?  Well, my guess is that the very song, a marching tune written by Jack Judge and Harry Williams in 1912, was so melodic and sentimental, that it seemed most appropriate.  And, indeed honored the men who valiantly fought on French soil.  I've been humming this tune for a few days now, and always remember how Snoopy marched through the field to his Sopwith Camel dog house and was shot down over the fields of France on Charlie Brown's, Its the Great Pumpkin cartoon.

And, where is Tipperary?  Tipperary is a county in south Ireland, and indeed it would have been a very long way home from Britain for Irish soldiers pining for their loved ones back home.

The Shoulder Straps
Kathy and I have known each other for years, and she has been very supportive of my foray into costuming.  I think she also enjoys my work in accessories, for when I asked if she'd send along a remnant for me to make a knapsack with, she sent several pieces and a bit of leather. 

Allied Troops in France
 I began looking on the Internet for images of knapsacks from WWI.  Often they were camel colored to blend in with the uniforms of the times, yet you will see so many more U.S. haversacks from this era in green.  I chose a simple design with a front pocket just because I like details.  The leather straps are sewn into the flap and fasten with buckles.  The same is true for the shoulder straps.  I even made machined X stitching on the straps where they secure to the back, as many were made this way to strengthen their hold.  I made it with a gusset as I had with Katy's bluebird school bag.

It is not in the cards for me to sew for this doll.  I can't read French, and the patterns can be quite unusual causing me a headache to try and piece together.  And, I simply adore Kathy's work.  Purchasing her Bleuette couture is always a treat.  And, then I get to accessorize it!  Check her out at

Miss E. Mouse

Soldier and a French Girl

Tip Top Tipperary Mary

County Tipperary

Right there!

A Poster For Enlistment

A News Article

WWI Boots, Very  Much Like Daisy's Work Boots
Up to mighty London came
An Irishman one day,
Singing songs of Piccadilly,
So all the world was gay
Singing songs of Piccadilly,
Strand, and Leicester Square,
'Til Paddy got excited and
He shouted to them there:
It's a long way to Tipperary,
It's a long way to go.
It's a long way to Tipperary
And the sweetest girl I know!
Farewell to Piccadilly,
Goodbye, Leicester Square!
It's a long long way to Tipperary,
But my heart's right there.
It's a long way to Tipperary,
And it's a long way to go.
It's a long way to Tipperary
And the sweetest girl I know!
Farewell, Piccadilly,
Goodbye, Leicester Square!
It's a long long way to Tipperary,
But my heart's right there.

Bernie, My 60 8/0 By Suzanne McBrayer

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Daisy's Apron Filled With Patty's Peeps

Daisy's Apron of Peeps
When it came to thinking about an Easter outfit for Daisy...a special antique postcard outfit for our Postcard Girl, there was an endless possibility of illustrations to choose from.  Now I have to admit that most of the postcards I came upon when doing my search were depictions of bunnies and chicks celebrating the holiday in sweet and charming, and often silly ways.  There were ladies in bonnets, girls in pink, children dancing with bunnies, but the one that really caught my eye was the image of a gentle farm girl carrying little peeps in her apron. 

I had the yellow country cotton, and I had plenty of pima batiste for the apron.  I also have on hand quite a bit of French, Swiss and English laces, so there wasn't anything to purchase but a yard of lilac double-sided silk ribbon. 

German Antique Postcard
I wrote to my friend Patty Kascsak and asked her if she'd be willing to make a few peeps for Daisy's apron.  And, a rooster.  It was my intention to make one more Easter outfit that the rooster was intended for, but as you can see from my last post, I got busy making doll houses.

Patty's Peeps
Patty, bless her heart, of course agreed to make me the rooster and baby chicks.  When the first three yellow peeps arrived with the rooster, I was simply awestruck with her artistry and exact likeness.  She told me the rooster was a Silkie, and that me she raised these roosters.  I asked her if she lived on a farm, and this opened some of the most endearing and touching communication I've experienced with an artist.  Patty is surely a modern day Beatrix Potter!  Not only was I creating an outfit for a gentle farm girl, I was getting to know one better!

Lace-up Work Boots
Patty grew up on a 365 acre ranch in Montana where she raised and trained horses, as well as keeping sheep, goats, chickens and ducks.  This landscape of opportunity and lifestyle would keep her close to nature, and so much so that she would often be called to rescue and raise wildlife.  She sent me a photo of a fawn she had rescued that she helped grow to young adulthood with successful release back into the wild.  She also sent me a photo of Cecilia, the baby lamb (one of the sheep's triplets), that had been rejected by its mother.  Cecelia now has her own set of healthy triplets. 

One of Patty's Real Peeps
When Patty married, her husband and her began a residential construction business in New Iberia, Louisiana.  Patty dearly missed Montana, but brought her love of wildlife, farm animals, and skills with gardening with her to her new home.  Here she raises Serama chicken, the smallest in the world, and tells me they are "quite friendly little things".  She also raises a variety of other chickens, geese, quail and turkeys.  With such a variety of eggs being laid, she never lacks for natural Easter eggs.

Her Natural Easter Eggs
This gentle soul also gives much of her vegetable garden crop, and countless eggs to people in her neighborhood in less fortunate circumstances.  A gourmet cook, who used to run her own catering business, she cans and pickles, and there is never any waste.  Patty puts out frog houses in her garden, and has a bird friend whose wing she mended.  Her natural ability to care for, and tend animals, brings them from far and near to her peaceful haven.  Well, it is little wonder why she can create such lifelike needlefelted animals.  Patty has been helping accessorize my doll costuming with little animals for two years, and I'm sure you'll agree, she's quite the talent.  Thank you, Patty, for being you.  A modern day Beatrix Potter.

Wee Gosling
Well, Daisy certainly needed a little bit more than peeps in her apron, and Patty couldn't help me with the work boots, so I made them myself.  It took five days to draft a good pattern, but I finally came up with one that worked.  I used a distressed goat leather in cognac for the lace up work boots.  After purchasing a 1/16" hole punch, I was able to lace up the boots with jewelry cord.  Earlier Jean had introduced me to alcohol pens, and the burnt sienna pen perfectly colored the white jewelry cord.  Alcohol pens.  Try them.  Most people might be familiar with Prismacolor watercolor pens, and the alcohol pens work much differently.  They color fast, and dry immediately without running.  They're great!

Box of Puff Ball Peeps and Goslings
Daisy's dress is a drop-waist with three tiers of ruffles.  Her pinafore is completely lined and made from pima batiste.  I used a French lace for the collar decoration.  This is not a free standing collar, but lace sewn on below the neckline and around the shoulder to back in a decorative way.  It took me a long time to figure out how to do this.  Finally, her apron has little thread loops for her fingers to hold it up with, filled with Patty's peeps.  I'm delighted with the outcome.  I'm sure next year I'll create the "other" outfit, and this was for Polly.  Best not to think about it and drive myself crazy.  There's only so many hours in a day.

Today the Keyhole Bliss House kit from Jean arrived!  Its marvelous, and I can't wait to begin it.  I do have two things I'd like to do prior to beginning it, and one is to stretch myself into making my first fashion doll outfit.  I  have the Franklin Mint Gibson Girl, Josephine doll, and I've been wanting to make her a Day at the Beach outfit.  Instead of agonizing over whether or not I can do it, I'm just going to.

Happy Spring, and Happy Easter!  Thank you, Patty, for your enchanting little animals and all you do for real ones and humanity.

Miss E. Mouse

Patty's Bird Friend

A Close-up of the Rooster

Cecilia, the Triplet

Patty and the Rescue Fawn

Mrs. Rooster?  I'd run, too, Mr. Bunny!

I do love the umbrellas!

Daisy, the Peeps, and Mr. Rooster

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Home, Sweet Home

Lettie With Her Reed House
Be it ever so humble!  Home, Sweet Home, the song, was written by John Howard Payne in 1823, an adaptation from the opera Maid of Milan.  The tune itself, was composed by Englishman, Sir Henry Bishop.  And, for the last 150 years, it has been sung in elementary classrooms, and quoted by all.  While there's no place like home, there is nothing better for a dolly, besides a beautiful wardrobe, than having her very own doll house to play with.

Katy With Her Folding House
Reed House Furnished With Decalco Lithos
While French artisans were busy in their work shops creating out of this world dolls and toys (Etrennes), in the 1800's, the Americans were not to be outdone in their own versions with paper and wood.  John McLoughlin, Jr. and his brother Edmund would, a century later, become a household name in the eyes of antique toy collectors throughout the world.  McLoughlin Bros., Inc. was a New York based publishing house that pioneered color printing in the early 1800's.  John, Jr. learned wood engraving and printing in his father's business, and after acquiring his father's business, began McLoughlin Bros., Inc. with his brother Edmund.  They created chapbooks, large folio books, puzzles, games and paper dolls using advanced, high colored printing technologies for children's pastimes. 

Their most successful business gave artists like Thomas Nast, William Momberger, Palmer Cox and Ida Waugh a legacy of beloved artistry in illustration that is highly collectible today.  In 1905, John Jr. passed away creating a huge loss of artistic and commercial leadership, and the company was sold to Milton Bradley in 1920.  While the company continued to make books, they were no longer in the business making board games.

Other printing companies were also thriving in the 1900's producing beautiful paper doll houses like Lettie Lane's Doll House for the Ladies' Home Journal readers, while companies like Decalco Litho (1926), another New York based company, were creating pages of printed doll house furniture (among other toys as well).  I could find very little information on Decalco Litho, but I do know they also printed paper dolls in the 1920's.

The Open Roof Plan
My Marble Columns
Among other antique "papers", Jean Nordquist has been collecting McLoughlin Bros. antiques, and scouring the auction houses for beautiful wall papers and paper furniture sheets for her reproduction doll houses for years.  Having hung up my wood working tools, I was keen to "newly discover" the charming dolly doll houses she and her husband Ken lovingly reproduce as kits.  You may remember the Bliss House kit I made for Polly earlier this year.  Well, why stop at one?!  So I purchased two more kits  in order to give myself a stretch from sewing.

I began working on the 3" Folding Doll House reproduction.  Of course the original was not this tiny.  From what I could tell from a photo Jean sent to me, it was roughly 15" x 15".  This doll house would fold into a sort of album to be stored in its presentation box.  When taken out to play with, you'd fold down the floors of the rooms creating a four room doll house complete with a breezeway through curtains.  Being who I am, I begged Jean to make up sheets of furniture for this tiny house.  She'd not considered it priority, because who would go to the trouble of cutting out such tiny pieces?  ME!  And, so sets of the tiny furniture pages are now available for the 3" Folding Doll House. 

A Side View
While I was awaiting the sheets to be made, I began the Reed House.  The Reed House is another 10" doll house like the Bliss, that you paint and assemble with glue, then cover with graphic papers.  It is different in design from the Bliss as it has exterior columns at the front door and slightly wider dimensions.  We used McLoughlin Bros. furniture in the Bliss House, and Decalco Lithos for the 3" and Reed homes.  While putting these little doll houses together, I was transported to a long ago era of exquisitely designed toys.   It is simply impossible not to fall in love with the artwork of the Golden Age.  I was also able to give them a little personalization.  One by happenstance, one by artistic creativity. 

Home, Sweet Home
With the folding house I added muslin edging and since it is so tiny, and it becomes thicker with glue and double-sided paper graphics, mine would not fold up to show the original presentation cover...but the bedroom instead.  Ah, well...  Its my doll house (Katy's actually), and it will be displayed open.

With the Reed House, I painted the columns (wood dowels), to resemble marble.  We must have elegance!  And, when you make up the furniture, what you choose to put in your dolly house personalizes it as well.  The wooden homes have three sides to sit furniture up against, while the folding one only provides two highly decorative walls.  Sitting paper furniture against an open space bothers me some, but I'm sure Katy with her Dolly Dingle and Kitty Cucumber paper dolls won't mind!

The folding house comes with a cover graphics for a small box, and I purchased a set of 3.5" x 3.5" jewelry boxes to use one to store the "album" in.

Folding Doll House in Box
How the Story Unfolds
Now I must admit that by the time I was cutting out and assembling the itty bitty folding house furniture, I was realizing why I love doing "tiny", and also why I don't do it so much anymore.  Flea furniture!  It can pop right out of your fingers when fiddling with it!  I took a photo of the furniture using the "miniaturist's guide" to show scale.  A penny.  You place a penny next to item and everyone knows exactly how small it is.

During the two weeks I slaved over these beautiful dolly doll houses, I did some research, a little Internet hunting and pecking, to see what other goodies those two McLoughlin brothers had produced.  Incredible!  How I would love to find a color catalogue of all that they made.  You'd think Theriault would have done this!  Since this journal writing is about doll houses, I'll stick with that, but the books and toys are simply amazing.  I would urge you to do a little "image search" and type in McLoughlin Bros. on Ebay.  Its a world of antiquity like no other.

Jean has produced other reproduction doll houses, one being the Keyhole Bliss House.  Just this morning I found an antique one on Ebay for the low price of $1900 (wink, wink).  I just about fell over!  It was incredible in design, and made me resolve to make up Jean's kit at some point.  She told me she is currently working on a new house for her line, with Ken, and I can't wait to see what they come up with.

Follow your heart, follow your dreams, and keep playing dolls!

Love, Miss E. Mouse

Antique House Plans

Furnished With Decalco Lithos

A Penny For Scale - Still Rubbing My Eyes!

Another McLoughlin Bros. Wonder!

With a Fold Down Front

Antique Orig., Keyhole Bliss House

One Last Look

Katy With Her Dolly Dingle and Kitty Cucumber Paper Dolls