Saturday, December 12, 2015

Marigold and Polly, A Winter Holiday

"Here we come a-wassailing,  Among the leaves so green;  Here we come a-wand'ring, So fair to be seen!"  And, the Christmas season is upon us.  While many a merry soul is out shopping and decorating for the celebration ahead, I reside studiously in the comfort and warmth of my little hole in the wall, and play with my dolls.  Children with dolls, adults with dolls, dolls with dolls!  What a happy and pleasant pastime to hold close to our hearts this time of year.

It is in this spirit that I selected my last design for 2015.  Marigold Greenaway was patiently awaiting a new costume and would require a coat, at the very least, for the chilly months ahead.  I'd had my eye on this delightful illustration from the poem Mamas and Babies, from Kate's book of verse, Marigold Garden.  I must give credit for the inspiration as well, to Betsy, who loves Kate's work and at one time was expounding on the beauty of the fancy coats and bonnets women and children wore.

I knew I would make this costume for Marigold at some point given my love of coats as well. And, bonnets, of course.  I suppose I always, also, intended to make her the doll, for I love dolls with dolls.  And, so "Marigold and Polly, A Winter Holiday" began.

The attraction to this coat, which seems to be the object that draws the eye in, was the extent of ruffles, which I have not found present in other coats by Kate.  Most have the shoulder cape attached (edged in ruffles at times), but the coats are generally edged in fur.  I had this pretty pine green velveteen on hand, and felt it might be thin enough to handle ruffling.  I chose a heavy yellow cotton sateen for the gown, and aqua blue silk for the bonnet.  Brown leather shoes seemed appropriate for winter, since undoubtedly Marigold might be slushing through snowy streets, and silk slippers would not do.

The dress was pretty easy to put together.  I'd already had a pattern from one of the gowns I'd made her earlier.  The white dress with blue floral print and green sash.  The heavier sateen also seemed to be appropriate as this was a winter garment. 

I edged the square neckline in a white English lace, and closed the back with color matching buttons and thread loops.  Again, this is fully lined, which prevents the garment from showing hand-stitched hemming tacks.

With the under garment created, I began the pattern for the coat to fit over the dress.  So important since the sleeves of the dress must slide nicely into the arms of the coat, and the coat must close around the fullness of the gown.  While I'd been studying the illustration for over a year, when it came to designing the pattern, I was stumped.  For some reason my eye was telling me that the way Kate drew this, the ruffles going down the front should be offset to the side of the coat.  I tried this and failed miserable, since it would be impossible to connect the double tiered, ruffled shoulder cape suitably.  So I tried again (with less fabric to work with!), and this time positioning the ruffles and closure right down the middle. 

No part of making this coat was fun.  This was one of the most difficult garments I've ever made.  The velveteen, thin as it was, still became much thicker when gathered.  I must have over 100 inches of fabric in all the ruffling, including the tinier ruffles at the sleeves' ends.  I lined it in Kauffman's cotton silk, in celadon.  The slippery texture allows the heavy cotton sleeves to glide in easily through the coat's.  And, it has a luxurious look to it.

The double ruffled shoulder cape is lined in this celadon as well.  There is a ruffle at the hem of the cape, as well as one at the neckline.  I closed the coat in a fashion I felt would maintain a clean line when worn.  Two little matching green buttons with loops are sewn to the area closest to the neckline where the cape will close in front.  Then two more buttons are spaced equally to just above the knees to keep the coat closed.  Two hooks and loops fasten the capelet in front.  What a job!  As much work went into this coat as all the other parts combined.

In doing my best to stay faithful to the illustration, I might have chosen a green cotton instead for the coat.  It certainly would have had a smoother line in the end.  However, I love velveteen and felt this would be (or wool, even worse to work with given the ruffles) the best and most authentic choice.  On a child, it would have worked beautifully.  On a 16" child doll, a little more of a challenge, to say the least.

Marigold's little doll is named Polly.  The beginning of the poem, Mammas and Babies begins, "My Polly is so very good, Belinda never cries; My Baby often goes to sleep, See how she shuts her eyes."  So Polly it was.  Her little Polly is also a Wendy Lawton doll.  As I was searching through my boxes for an appropriate little doll to dress for her, I knew that an all-porcelain one would not have draped in Marigold's arms well.  I happened to have an extra "Jewel", which is a 5" doll with a porcelain head and shoulder plate, forearms and lower legs, on a leather body.  Nice and floppy. 

Her gown and capelet are of ivory silk.  Again, there is a ruffle around the neckline of the capelet in theme with "mamma's".  The choice of silk rather than a cotton gown for Polly was based entirely on self preference.  I could not decide whether this was indeed a baby, or a lady doll, so I opted for a middle ground of the two.  I also made her wig.  What a nightmare.  It was too large for her head, but the perfect look and length.  No other tiny wig had this style.  I had to cut it down to fit her head, sew it back together, then heavily trim the bangs.

Her bonnet is gold velveteen and silk ribbon.  This was a fun little bonnet to make and its base is thin cardboard rather than buckram to hold its shape well.

The shoes may have been the quickest piece of this ensemble to construct.  I'd made two silk slippers of this pattern for Marigold earlier, and I find leather much more forgiving...easier to work with.

Finally we have Marigold's bonnet.  This hat was created with a buckram base.  Its been a long time since I've worked a hat or bonnet in this size, and the practice was necessary.  It may seem odd, but for as many bonnet patterns as there are out there, I had to design this one from scratch.  Its more of a stove pipe hat with a crescent brim.  Do I ever have it easy?  No.

One thing I tried with both bonnets, was creating my own ribbon by cutting silk taffeta strips on the bias.  I chose to do this rather than double fold the edges and stitch them down.  Why?  Because that edging adds bulk and tends to lessen the crispness of the fabric.  I also tried this rather than being frustrated in not finding the exact colors and widths I required - and of course, the shipping time around the holidays. 

When we look at the fashions illustrated by Kate Greenaway, we might naturally assume that the designs are simple and would be a snap to make.  In most cases this is correct, but with this costume, it was a labor of love.

Kate's summer experiences in the Nottingshire countryside formed the basis of the Greenaway style.  Kate usually objected to painting winter scenes because she said the cold made the children's complexions go a "horrid bluey-red".  Yet, she was asked time again to create these precious scenes for calendars, magazines, books and almanacs.  These are some of my favorites, the winter scenes, though I had a difficult time finding Christmas specific illustrations to share. 

The first one, below, is one of a few.  It is titled Christmas at Little Peopleton Manor, and appeared in the Christmas edition of The Illustrated London News, the same year Kate's first book was published.  The top left illustration is titled Christmas Day. On the top far right, you have Christmas Eve.  Lacking is a display of ornaments, garlands and Christmas trees, and this might attest to the times.  Even Supper, bottom left, is devoid of garlands in the dining room.  While thumbing through a book of her work, you might pass this one up when looking for illustrations with a Christmas theme!

Following are a few of my the favorites I found depicting the Christmas holiday and winter.  I hope you'll enjoy them.

This is my final blog post for the year.  Plans for Louise's Winter Skate are underway, and will surely be my first post in the New Year.  Thank you all for following my progress and creative process through world of doll costuming and accessories.  This chronicling has been a joy to share with you.  "We wish you a Merry Christmas!, and a Happy New Year!"

Miss E. Mouse

Merry Christmas from Marigold and Polly!


  1. Ooooh! Aother lovely post from a like-minded, but much more creative person than I!

    For me, Chritmas always evokes doll (or teddybear) memories. If a new little resident didn't pop up in my Christmas stocking, then clothes for my existing doll/bear family certainly would. Dolls, dolls' houses and my adored Chiltern and Chad bears ARE Christmas to me, even today.

    Now that my children are grown, I no longer find joy in shopping at this time of year - after all, buying socks or chocolates doesn't have the same element of excitement as hunting for the perfect item in a toy store! So I too snuggle up and enjoy giving the dolls some serious attention.

    But mine are never going to be as well clad as yours...... have you ever thought of selling patterns for your wonderful designs?


  2. How delightful! I don't know how I have missed your other posts, but now I will go back and reread them. I'll also look into purchasing Kate Greenaway's books. They are just the sort of thing I love and perhaps will inspire me to do some sewing.

  3. Melissa , Applause Applause! A Kate Greenaway Christmas. I'm not sure which i love more- your courage with that green velveteen, or your children's book wisdom. Its the perfect combination as your creations leap off the pages of these much loved classics. Thank you! My Christmas spirit has been ignited.

  4. exquisite as always. Just love hearing about your research into just the right fabrics and working out the details on every garment. When I first "met" you, you were not much into sewing, but now you excel at it. Fun to watch you stretch and grow.

  5. Miss E. Mouse, What a beautiful outfit, you really nailed this outfit just right with stunning results! Merry Christmas, Love Lori

  6. I love those books too!! You have done a fantastic job recreating the artwork into doll clothing. Very inspiring. Thank you, Liz