Friday, December 30, 2016

Ring in the New! Happy New Year, 2017!

It is always with some sentimentality and wistful musing, that I close the book on one year, and start a fresh chapter on another.  When I look back on 2016, several things stand out in my creative process, while other ones seem to fade away like dreams from the night before.  Its not that each project didn't hold merit, at that time, and for me, but rather that with some, I may have put a little more heart into them for one reason or another.

Specifically, Gay Event, The Wonderful Fashion Doll, the doll and her wardrobe, was one of those once in a lifetime, one-of-a-kind projects that was so long in the planning, the dreaming of, the creating of, that she'll remain a treasure to me always, and maybe a little triumph.  All that embroidery, the silk chiffon ball gown, painting all the flowers on the silk walking costume!

I always enjoy making something new for Alice Illustrated.  Twiggy?  Eh?  Not so exciting.  Laura Peterson and new costuming for her and Louise are equally memorable, enjoyable, but also ever evolving.  Its those finite projects like Gay Event that shine for me.  She was like a Wendy Lawton Masterpiece Edition, and for those who collect Lawton dolls, I think you know what I mean.

I'm also tickled to pieces with needle felting and the chance to truly learn something new that will enhance so many outfits I make with accessories, and even hats.  Currently I'm conferring with my friend, Lesley (a phenomenal needle felt artist), on the techniques of welt felting so I can make doll hats.  This will be ground breaking for me, if I can use it.  I didn't say perfect it.  Yet.  Because I'm just pulling the materials together right now to try it.  Sometimes things work.  Sometimes they don't.  But, I'm going to give it the old one-two try. 

I have plans.  So many plans, and a couple of surprises for the coming months.  And I still have the new reproduction Huret to sew for.  Let us hope I don't experience the fateful French Fashion Doll Scenario again.  Each time I've bought one, she got stored for a year, then sold.  I don't wish to be a stick in the mud, but I truly love sewing for my Lawton dolls, the ones I remake into new characters.  I will give it shot, but that also means drafting new patterns, making shoes, etc.  One thing nice about her is that she's a large doll, and I just might be able to give her clothing more detail.

In the meantime, with all this dreaming and planning, I did manage two little New Year's Eve ball gowns for Lily and Petite Chiffonette.  These are Louise and Laura's Etrennes.  New Year gifts, the French way, for their dolls.  And, yet, these little dolls seem to have a life of their own besides being dolls for dolls, so we can also say that they get to go to parties just like the big dolls.

Lily's dress took three tries, and turned out to be something completely different than planned.  I was trying to use this sage colored silk, but it was stiffer, and tighter weave than others I've used and simply wouldn't gather like tissue and turn inside out properly.  On a larger doll, no problem.  It just couldn't be used for a 4" doll.  Lily's gown is silver silk with a lace border, lace at the waist and a lace bow in front.  It has princess sleeves, which you don't see too often on typical French Fashion, but if Tonner could do it for his 12" Alice, so I could for Lily! 

Petite Chiffonette's party gown is gold silk.  I used the same puffed sleeve pattern as I'd made for Lisette's red Christmas gown.  I used eyelash trim in two rows at the border, then more running the length of the bodice back to front, and three tiny rows across.  Three seed bead buttons finish the look.  While making it, I thought of the March sisters, and what they might have enjoyed wearing.  I'm afraid we can get too caught up in what other people consider proper mid 19th century costuming as we must remember that dress construction wasn't always lappets and bell sleeved jackets. 

So Lily and Petite Chiffonette, in their silver and gold are representative of the stars and the moon.  The glitter on gowns and angel wings from embossed antique postcards...the twinkle of the midnight sky as the clock strikes twelve, and a new year begins.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year!  Let's make 2017 a year full of happy surprises and fun.  I hope you enjoy the lovely antique post cards below.  Three came from Bonnie Rudeski's archives.  Gorgeous, all of them!

Miss E. Mouse 

For Jean (wink, wink)

Etrennes for the New Year

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas Morning From "Santa's Workshop"

Merry Christmas my friends!  As promised, I'm creating a special post just for the gifts I made this holiday season.  Its been difficult keeping them a secret, but as of this morning, the packages have been opened and the toys have come out to play.

Let's delay no further.  I will keep this brief, and simply describe what I am sharing.  After all, its Christmas morning! 

The first four photos are of my little 6" Polichinelle.  He was my second needle felting project and was made for a friend who loves the French Punch.  He was modeled after an original French toy, circa 1850.  I learned so much in creating him, and look forward to the next needle felting challenge I provide myself.  I already know what it will be.

The second set of photos is a little wardrobe called Yu Ping's Winter Solstice.  Yu Ping is the tiny sister of Ruby Red Galleria's Ten Ping.  Ten Ping is an 8" Chinese child BJD, and Yu Ping is her 5" baby sister.   You might notice on her blue plaid pinafore the yellow embroidery on the front edge.  It is a copy of the Chinese symbol on Yu Ping's shoes by Ruby Red Galleria.  The color of the flower on the back helped coordinate the outfit to her shoes.

Of course you will recall the pretty pink party dresses for the 9" Lawton dolls.  One was a gift to a friend, and the other a gift to my own doll.  Although you've also seen this one before, I couldn't resist including my friend's gift to her own little Lisette.  A Christmas party dress with holly crown. 

Wishing you all the joys of Christmas and a fabulous week leading to our New Year!  Keep love on your lips, the child in your heart, and the bravery to live the best life possible.

Miss E. Mouse

Side view of the 6" Polichinelle.

Happily sitting beneath the tree.

A back view!

Little dress and pinafore.

The back.  Coordinating bow for the set.

Jacket and play trousers.

The coordinating Winter Solstice with pillow.
Kimono style top with frog closure, and play trousers.

The 9" Lawton doll party dresses.

Lisette's Christmas gown and holly crown.

Some of the best toys are dollies.

The jolly workshop never closes!  Its Christmas year round.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Louise Godey and Laura Peterson's Christmas in America

Today was one of those rare times where I could no longer stand the chaos of my work surface.  My table looked like it had been hit by a hurricane of fabric, pins and paper towels.  And, in order to set up my photo tent for pictures, some tidying needed to take place.  Mainly a little folding, stacking, shoving into a cabinet or drawer, then a paper towel sweep of snippets and thread bits into a basket, careful there were no needles attached to lengths of thread.  This practice feels good, empowering, for half a day. Then slowly it rises to the surface again like the Loch Ness Monster.

Having completed the girls holiday finery, I was hoping to begin dresses for Louise and Laura's dolls, Lily and Petite Chiffonette. Their gowns may end up being Etrennes, New Years gift for "my" children.  But, I'm not confident that the French tradition, Etrennes, crossed the Atlantic  We do know that Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol did, as well as a jolly German tradition, the Christmas tree.  By 1850 the tree was being displayed in parlors.

At first, the decoration of these fragrant evergreens reflected the whims of folk tradition. Celebrants added nuts, strings of popcorn or beads, oranges, lemons, candies and home-made trinkets. However, widely-read newspapers and ladies' magazines raised the standards for ornamentation. (One suggestion: cotton batting dipped in thin gum arabic then diamond dust made a 'beautiful frosting' for tree branches.) Homely affectations gave way to more uniform and sophisticated ones, the old style overtaken by the urge to make the tree a showpiece for the artistic arrangement of glittering baubles, the stars, angels.

The transition to a Christmas economy in America, occurred only gradually, with both merchant and consumer acting as architects. In the 1820s, '30s and '40s merchants had noticed the growing role of gifts in the celebration of Christmas.  Starting in the mid- to late- 1850s, importers, craftspersons and storekeepers consciously reshaped the holidays to their own ends as shoppers elevated the place of Christmas gifts in their homes for the holiday.

The Godey's and Peterson's would have celebrated the holidays with Christmas balls and fine buffets.  The children would be dressed equally as elegant as the adults, and therefore Louise and Laura were sewn new gowns for Christmas.

After the successful pattern and stitching of Laura's chemise, or blouse, with long sleeves, I set off to make a similar one for Louise with short puffed sleeves.  This pattern can be used many times over with lace insertions and variations of collar and cuffs.  I am quickly depleting my stash of the tiniest laces and will have to replenish my supplies quickly.  Sadly, I've forgotten where I purchased certain styles. 

Louise's soft teal gown is a silk taffeta.  It boasts six pointed lappets, each trimmed with a silk covered button and tassel at the tip.  Shoulder "points" are equally embellished.  The bodice is a deeper cut variation on Laura's first gown - the gold and burgundy striped silk dress. 

The covered buttons were not as difficult as I initially made them out to be, and they certainly embellish the garment in a richer fashion.  Louise was given a matching hair bow for her tresses.

It was my intention to make both girls dancing slippers, possibly in white.  "Alice shoes" I would call them.  But, I felt I ran out of time.  Girls would wear the short boots with their dresses just as fashionably as slippers.  Another time perhaps.

For Laura's second dress, I chose a hand-dyed velveteen in deep peach, and a darker peach, almost mocha silk, for her skirt.  While taking my first needle felting class, I was perusing the shelves of The Tin Thimble and found these fat quarters of velveteen.  It was a luxury purchase at $15.80 a fat quarter, but I purchased them all in hopes of maybe piecing them together, or using them for small jackets and coats. 

I had several shades from blush to peach to mocha silks to consider as complements to the velveteen.  One choice was the silk I used for Mignonette's recent new dress (with the French jacquard ribbon).  I almost did use it, but decided it was not rich enough in color to set off the hand-dyed velveteen.  This decision was made after I lined her jacket with the blush silk.  As it turned out, it was a good choice for the lining since the white of the chemise gave it sufficient color.

The jacket was a little bear to construct.  The velveteen felt thin enough to use in laying out the pattern, but upon construction, I was tugging with frustration in turning it inside out of the silk lining.  I was then disgruntled as it looked more like a bed jacket than a fancy belled sleeved topping.  Fifty percent design, fifty percent sewing.  I spend an incredible amount of time in the design and it often takes place during the construction phase.

I set it aside and began working on the skirt.  I wanted to try a center point waistband for this one.  I also considered bordering the skirt with pintucks.  Twenty-five inches of pintucks times three.  Then decided against it in favor of a bias band of silk.  The jacket still needed something to make it purposefully complement the skirt.  So once again I made silk covered buttons for embellishments.  The sleeves of the jacket each have one little tassel at the notch.

The simple design of the skirt will allow me to make other jackets for her to go with it. 

One of the nice things about taking the time to make covered buttons is that you can use simple, inexpensive plastic buttons for the base.  When done, they dress the garment up in a way that lends a certain fancy flair to the overall appearance.

Laura also received a matching hair bow for her new outfit.  The girls are now set for the holidays.  In the next few days, I am planning on making new gowns for their dolls, Lily and Petite Chiffonette. 

The painting below is by Eastman Johnson (American painter, 1824-1906).  Its title, Christmas Time the Blodgett Family (1864 Detail), depicts a family during the season with their undecorated evergreen to the right, and in the back of the scene.  The full blown fancies of Christmastime would evolve over time. Tree decoration would soon become big business. As early as 1870, American businessmen began to import large quantities of ornaments from Germany to be sold on street corners and, later, in toy shops and variety stores. Vendors hawked glass ornaments and balls in bright colours, tin cut in all imaginable shapes and wax angels with spun glass wings.

Decorated trees (and cards), however, were only window dressing to the custom of Christmas gift-giving that blossomed in American during the 1870s and 1880s. Gifts had played a relatively modest role in Christmases of the past. Now they lavishly gilded the already popular holiday. Louise and Laura would have been young married women by this time, with families of their own.

One of the reasons we love our dolls, is that they never age.  And, if we want a lady doll to dress, then we can have one of those, too.  I hear people say that Christmas brings out the child in us, but I treasure it today in a different way.  It is subtle, but still brings me great, and sometimes giddy joy. 

Betsy posted a lovely quote by Elizabeth Akers Allen, the other day.  "Backward, turn backward, O Time in your flight, Make me a child again just for tonight!"  Merry Christmas!  Enjoy each and every moment of this most welcome holiday season!

Miss E. Mouse

Christmas Time The Blodgett Family (1864)

Mother Goose and Santa Claus (circa 1890)

A Visit From St. Nicholas, McLoughlin Bros. (1896)

Louise Godey and Laura Peterson's Christmas Finery

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Christmas Nears

Oh, how I have missed writing!  Tonight we're in for a cold snap.  There's a hearty fire warming the living room with that wonderful glow from the fireplace.  The Christmas tree is twinkling with tiny colored lights and all my favorite Old World Christmas ornaments.  The dogs are curled up in their special corners (on the sofa), and I've a nice hot cup of Constant Comment tea in my red cardinal mug. 

Since I last posted, I've been spending every creative minute in making my Christmas gifts this year.  One took me over three weeks to complete.  Its been so tempting to blog on them, but the recipients of these gifts do read my posts, so that just won't do.  No, it won't.

What I've decided to do is share them on Christmas day.  It is typically very quiet here, since it is just my husband and I, and the two dogs.  He prefers to observe the holiday quietly, best if there's snow to go cross-country skiing in, yet always looks forward to my dinner.  This year I'm having a Honey Baked Ham delivered on the 21rst, and he insisted we begin working our way through it as soon as it arrives.  I don't blame him.  They're delicious.

However, there are two, no four, items I can share since Betsy opened her box the minute it arrived in her office.  Naughty girl.  The last gift I made before wrapping, packaging and mailing parcels off, was a Christmas party dress for one of her 9" dolls.  I had this luscious pink silk taffeta, and a silk dupioni in blush.  My Mignonette had not gotten a new dress in over a year (she was still in  her gypsy costume), so I decided to make hers first as the mock up. 

This dress is a spot on copy of one that the Lawton seamstresses made for their One-of-a-Kind Gathering.  Theirs was a marshmallow pink with blue jacquard ribbon.  I was looking for a vintage jacquard ribbon to trim the dresses, when I found the same ribbon they'd used only in two different colors.  It was kismet!  The ribbon is vintage French jacquard with scallop trim.  Its not the easiest trim to work with since when you cut it, the back embroidery threads are loose.  Its fine, and delicate, but oh so lovely.  The pattern I drafted for the dress was measured off the original as well.  It was never my intent to make the dresses this way, but when I started working on them, it went so smoothly, that I allowed the creative process to flow.  The differences are mainly the colors, of course, and how they are constructed.  I always line my skirts so there is no visible hemming, unless the design won't allow me to do that.

My Travel Doll is wearing the gifted party dress, and Mignonette is happy for a change of wardrobe.

Prior to starting the gifts, I created a Christmas party gown for my friend's Lisette doll (same as my Petite Chiffonette).  She'd asked me to make her doll a chemise, so she could display the doll in the chemise surrounded by her gowns and skirts.  Like a dressing room vignette.  She accepted my offer to make Lisette a Christmas gown as well as little mules so her feet wouldn't be chilly while wearing the chemise.

I used a red silk taffeta to create the gown.  It has a doubled skirt and puffed sleeves with tiny bows topping the shoulders.  The design was inspired by one of Sylvia MacNeill's creations.  I made a tiny crown of holly with red beads sewn into it for berries.  Too tiny to see, I stitched on four teeny red crystal beads as button decoration down the bodice.

The chemise, which can be worn under dresses or skirts, and will double as a blouse, is pintucked and lace edged.  The tiny mules (never again!) are made from thin, blush colored leather. 

Currently I'm working on holiday gowns for Louise Godey and Laura Peterson.  Louise's gown has been completed at this writing,  and I'm still designing Laura's.  These will be my pièce de résistance for the year.  I cannot let them see the holiday without new finery. 

I've worked long, and hard, over the last three months and yet I never feel the need, or desire, to slow down.  Winter is the best time to tuck into projects and I've plenty to consider. 

Time for one of my beloved Hallmark Christmas movies, then its off to bed.  A Princess for Christmas remains a favorite. 

Miss E. Mouse