Friday, June 24, 2016

Gay Event's Riding Habit

On the day that Debby found Gay Event in the hidden corner of the attic, the family gathered round the kitchen table and spread her lovely items out for all to see and admire.  The trunk that Deborah's (Debby's great-great-great-grandmother's) father made for the doll included a tray.  "One end of the tray had a special place for slippers - three pairs.  One pair had plaid tops that laced up the sides."  This particular pair of slippers was a pair of boots for her riding habit.

"First we dressed Gay Event in her riding habit.  It was a dark blue wool dress with lots of embroidery.  One side of the full skirt had a loop to go over her wrist.  The black velvet top hat went with this costume and, of course, the plaid topped boots and tiny whip."

From these two descriptions, and the color plate illustration, I struck out to create Gay Event's Riding Habit.  Being in a hurry wouldn't have done me any good.  Not that I ever am in a hurry, but still. 

I remember when I used to create handmade miniature doll trunks that were elaborately painted with scenes from storybooks.  When it came time to drill tiny holes in the wood and glue in the tiny nails that would hold the hinges and latches, I'd panic.  One slip, one wrong placement, and the entire work would be ruined.  With this in the back of my mind (meaning that if I did all this embroidery, and blew it on the sewing, I'd be sunk), I cut out a large triangle of beautiful "dark blue wool" and began an embroidery process that would last two solid weeks.  Whatever "lots of embroidery" meant, I wasn't about to do too little.

First I had to find an embroidery pattern that somewhat replicated what Laura Bannon drew.  The "sense" of embroidery on the illustration is quite a mish mash, but I determined that it was pretty much "outline embroidery", so I went to Pinterest to seek vintage patterns that would resemble the work on the apron for her Walking Costume, and pattern the floral work on the illustration.  I found one that would suit my needs and worked with it in mirror images, partial images and centered placement on the skirt, then snippets for the sleeves.

Finding a way to transfer the pattern took three days.  Wool is a dense and fuzzy fabric.  If you looked at it under a microscope it would look like a thick forest.  Imagine a light snow falling on a dense forest, then a great wind picking up.  That's what it was like trying to get anything, anything to adhere to it.  Long story short, I finally tried a white charcoal pencil.  Whatever the contents of the marker is, it seemed to stick to the wool long enough for me to work around the markers.  I sized the embroidery pattern on plain paper, then with a sharpest tiny scissors I had, I cut out bits of the lines to make a stencil.  Placing the paper stencil on the wool, I lightly scrubbed in the white charcoal tip until I had a mark for placement of the vines, flowers, buds and centers.  I did sections of this in four stages.  I free handed the entire process in lazy daisy, straight stitch and French knots.  I can't begin to tell you how many French knots I made, but I'm an expert at French knots now.  And, wool is a pretty good fabric to embroider on since it doesn't stretch out of shape.  Two weeks.

But, before I even began the embroidery, I made the hem ribbon.  This is a double-sided silk, with two rows of picot trim, top and bottom.  I gave enough length to the top of the skirt to make sure it wouldn't be too short when sewn onto the bodice.  A row of the same navy picot trim edges the sleeves.

The pattern for the dress was easy.  It is exactly the same pattern as the Walking Costume.  I did widen the sleeves and bodice slightly to accommodate the thickness of the wool.  Very important to remember!  I also split the front of the bodice down the center and made a seam to represent the dress in the illustration.  Tiny yellow silk bows run down the front from a doubled and ruffled yellow collar.  I don't even want to talk about the collar.  Me and collars!  The bane of my existence.

Beneath the skirt, peeks a yellow under skirt.  My first attempt at this was with silk, with the netting lace being gathered and sewn on top.  The slip was too long, and the gathers of the netting lace were too bulky beneath the dress and thusly didn't fall right when Gay uses the wrist loop on the side of her skirt to show them.  I made a second one.  This one is of yellow batiste and the same, but not gathered netting lace.  The skirt is wide enough at the waist that it fits over her corset and white half slip. 

After the embroidery was done on the skirt, I once more continued the process of marking then stitching, adding a pretty design to the sleeves before assembling the bodice to attach to the skirt.  At this point I was heavily invested in the outfit, and it was either going to be a "go", or I'd simply give up.  It worked.  Thank goodness.

I then added eight tiny buttons down the back of the dress to close it with eight tiny thread loops.  In all, I used two full skeins of  number 366 embroidery thread using two threads for stitching the floral design.  That, is a lot of thread!  Dark blue on dark blue.  I might also add, while I'm at it, that for my model, I used another Lawton doll with the same lady body, so Gay could continue wearing her new Walking Costume for Spring.

The last detail on the costume would be the wrist loop.  I had absolutely no idea where to put it.  So I went online and had a look to see what "wrist loop" would show me.  Wedding gowns.  Brides use these to loop around their wrists so that they can dance in their gowns, but they are closer to the hem.  I decided to place it in close approximation to where the illustration shows Gay "lifting her gown" to show the yellow under skirt.  I poked a navy braid trim right through the wool to form the loop, and knotted it on both ends beneath.

Feeling quite done with whole thing, I started on the riding crop, or as Debby put it, "her little whip".  I used to love carving wood.  My father-in-law teased that I was whittling like an old man on a rocker.  Well, I was.  I guess.  And, what's so wrong with that?  Carving soft wood is a joy.  So I carved the knob at the top of her crop, added a thin dowel to it with a fitting inside for strength, then painted it black.
Gay wore white gloves with her riding habit, so I made a small pair of gloves for her.  If you use a "mitt" pattern, you will need the three little lines on top to give them the look of tailored gloves.  I don't know why I'd never thought of this before, but I found a way to do this more easily than pinch the fabric into a tiny pleat and stitch it.  A straight pin works lovely on its own.  You just sew beneath the pin for the length the pin is inserted into the fabric.  Try it.

The most joyous piece of this costume for me was the boots.  These silly little pink plaid topped boots.  With ruffles on the edges! (see illustration from the book below)  I'd never seen such a pair of boots before.  However, I do know that Laura Bannon did her research well, so something like this must have been worn. 

I had purchased this woven mini plaid early on when I began the project.  I had a pattern for the black dressing slippers she wore, so I simply added the boot tops to this.  The entire boot is of leather.

I used Lite Heat n Bond to adhere the woven plaid to the leather boot tops. I have a tiny hole puncher, and this produced the holes the laces go through.  There is a gusset flap on the inside front of the boot top that nestles nicely under the other edge so that no gaps show through when the boot is laced up.  This is also good for warmth as the ankles won't get chilly through the lacings.

The ruffles are a gathered Swiss scalloped lace.  Lots of details make up these boots, but how beautiful they truly turned out!  I was so surprised.  I surprised myself.  I really love them.  And to me, they are the very best part of this very dark costume.  Without the relief in bits of light yellow, and then the jaunty little boots, the costume would be soberly gothic.

I used jewelry cording for the ties, but may at some point use the suede jewelry cording - like on the Walking Costume slippers.  It will be more difficult to thread though.

Finally came the top hat. "Black velvet."  I'd made a top hat once before.  Long, long ago, I made a magician's top hat for Bleuette's Spectacle de Magi.  If there is one thing Barbara DeVilbiss taught me, that has been so incredibly useful in all the costumes I've made, it was hat making - the real way - with that magician's top hat.  I am eternally grateful.

I cheated.  I found a pattern on a website called childrensart for the top hat.  I was finding it difficult to acquire an oval "something" to trace, so I went to the Internet.  Robert Tonner once told me, "look it up on the Internet" (when I inquired on how to make a costume part), so I figured if he could, I could.  Of course, childrensart was for a paper hat, but I got the ovals I needed. 

I used a thin black cotton velveteen that frayed and pilled, but it was thin enough to do the trick covering the buckram base and not looking overly thick and heavy.  The buckram base of the brim has a hand sewn ring of hat wire on the edge for shaping.  The hat is fully lined in black silk, and the same silk edges the brim with a very thin length of bias.  Of course its not going to sit too properly on the curls of Gay's wig, but I'm alright with that. 

The veil is the seventh piece of netting lace, or wedding lace, that I purchased for the hat.  I tried various light blues, but settled on white anticipating the artist's intent. The colors chosen for the riding habit and veil, have much to do with both the description in the book, and understanding how "white" is drawn or painted in an illustration.  When painting white (on a white background), you use hues of blue and sometimes violet. When painting blue on blue, you must use white to highlight what would be the edges of blue on the blue.  Therefore, I used a white veil, and dark blue embroidery on the dark blue wool. 

As I mentioned earlier, I used another doll with the same body to make Gay Event's Riding Habit.  So when the time came, this morning, to dress Gay in her new costume, I was overcome with joy at how it looked on her. 

Now, of course, this is a wool riding habit that would be perfect on a chilly autumn morning, and not so suitable for summer.  However, for the next couple of days, Gay can model her new gown in the air conditioned studio, and then cool off in just her corset and half slip while I create her last costume, the ball gown.

Miss E. Mouse

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Lily, And the Story Behind Chiffonette

Gathering my wits about me after embroidering for two weeks on a wide rectangle of wool for Gay Event's Riding Habit skirt, I was able to finally "play" with my new camera yesterday.  Its a Canon G7X.  There seems to be much to learn about this sensitive little black box, but we'll get to know one another as time goes on.  And, I'm sure, get along just fine.  What I did learn after some 300 unusable photos, is that it likes lots of light when taking miniatures.  And, now with this little lesson under my belt, I'd like for you to meet Lily.  The doll that began the French Fashion sewing movement.

Many of you might be familiar with the French periodical, La Semaine de Suzette.  This was the magazine published in France during the turn of the 20th century, whose purpose was to teach little girls how to become grown up ladies and good mothers.  It taught them how to sew, cook, dress properly, and keep a tidy hearth and home.  The lessons among the pages were taught by Tante Jacqueline, and little girls were able to dress their "premium" doll, Bleuette, in an amazing amount and variety of fashions from 1905 through 1960.  Prior to this publication was La Poupee Modele (among others). 

From what I've gathered in my brief research (and you may fill me in on the errors and blanks, thank you), La Poupee Modele was first published in November 1863 after the Journal des Demoiselles hired Mademoiselle Jeanne Peronne to help develop a new magazine.  Peronne had opened a doll shop near their offices and offered a doll she named Lily to sew for.  The name Lily would be used for a doll of varying sizes, but the purpose remained.  Play and learning.  The magazine was published until 1924, but I suspect Bleuette had fully captured the interest of children in a fuller capacity by then.

Like "Suzette", La Poupee Modele offered not only patterns to sew, but the extraordinary treat of fabulously illustrated paper toys for the dolls to play with.  Lavishly colorized paper dolls and cut-out and put-together projects, like little buildings, were offered to keep their minds and little hands busy.  Today collectors and seamstresses (never use the word sewer, its a place where sewage goes - pet peeve of mine), sew for their own Lily dolls.

Enter Chiffonette.  Chiffonette was conceived to represent a teacher to Lily in the pages of La Poupee Modele.  She was a doll that would be writing to an audience of children in order to shape their tastes in fashion.  Chiffonette's lessons would include differentiating between the types of fabrics one would use, matching colors and shapes, selecting appropriate garments for the day, and how to accessorize for the correct toilette.  In short, this was a doll instructing another doll, and the child would learn through this incredible conception of playing dolls.  Is it any wonder that this rich history and the beautiful costumes to be made, have become so popular among seamstresses throughout the world?

Chiffonette would also advise young girls on etiquette, good behavior, and other things necessary for a child who is well raised.  She appeared in every issue under the title "Causerie", which means "chit-chat".  Often it was in the form of a letter to Lily.  She also responded to letters from readers in a column titled "Petite Courrier".  The name Chiffonette was not intended for a person, but was given the doll as a pet name derived from the word chiffon, or more aptly chiffonner, to rumple, crumple, to be a rag collector, to busy oneself with ones toilet and dress.

In the illustration of the dolls at their toilette, Chiffonette is the doll in the green dress and Lily is seated with her little maid coiffing her hair.  This image was my inspiration for rewigging a second Cathy Hansen Lisette.  I made the auburn mohair style as one would a doll house doll's wig, and even gave her new Swarovski crystal (blue) earrings to differeniate her further.  Needless to say, when Chiffonette receives a new gown, so now will Lily.  These are Louise Godey's dolls.  While they might stand on their own as individuals, their petite size of 4" will solidly keep them in the loving arms of their maman, or mother, Louise.  In this way, Louise, who is the American granddaughter (or niece...) of Louis Godey, of Godey's Lady's Book fame, can play for hours with the two French dolls gifted to her for her education and enjoyment.  When I can get my hands on a nice copy of a La Poupee Modele, I will make a miniature copy for her.

Lily needed a debut dress and I'd not yet done much with scallops.  As this journal post was primarily to be devoted to the history of Chiffonette and Lily, I will keep the creative process of her outfit and the corresponding "match" for Chiffonette to a minimum.  These two gowns and their hats were made several weeks ago.

I may have mentioned a year or so ago having purchased a Janome for the purpose of machine sewing scallops.  Why the Janome?  Because it allowed a stitch length and width adjustment for their few embroidery stitches, where my Juki did not.  Sewing the scallops was not as easy as simply pressing a peddle once the proper length and width of stitch were conceived.  Even for a tiny dress, the length of embroidery on fabric was well past 2'.  Also with the thinness of the lawn fabric, tissue paper had to be placed beneath the fabric to move it along.  This stitch is akin to the tightness of a button hole stitch on a machine, and it can jam up quickly under the foot bed and plate.  Need I say more?!  So doing just this work was something else altogether. 

But, the dresses are simple patterns due to the size of these dolls.  Obviously a bit of hand sewing was required to keep the softness and flow of the dresses.  I did widen the sleeve pattern to create a larger puff, but even at that, when banded and sewn into the bodice, they don't pouf as they would on a larger doll.  The gathers tend to condense the sleeves in almost-folds.

The tiny hats were made free form as there is no mold.  Would a mold help?  Certainly, but that means purchasing, and making up this rock hard putty stuff, carefully sculpting it into a form both usuable and that would fit a head with hair on it.  In truth, it takes more time to make a nice mold than to free form a hat.

Lily's day dress is a light yellow lawn with tiny golden roses.  She wears a pintucked, high collared chemise beneath.  Two rows of ruffle make up her skirt and a ruffled collar enhances the beauty of her gown.  Her hat is "leghorn" straw colored with antique wired flowers and silk ribboning.

Chiffonette's scalloped gown is of a cream lawn with violet flowers.  I love how the purple stitching pops the color of the roses out.  To make her gown a bit different, she has a faux ruched chemise sewn into the bodice and wears a matching fichu.  As described in the previous journal post on fichus, it was her own fichu that inspired me to do the research and discover Gay Event's Walking Outfit fichu.  This tiny fichu was a monster and tested my pure patience on every level.  But, I persevered and now she owns one for her gown, which looks delightful with or without it. Her hat is of brown straw and decorated with a scalloped edge, a tiny feather, and purple embroidery flowers.

Below are a number of lovely photos and images of both Chiffonette and Lily, and pages from La Poupee Modele.  Among them is my first try on a scalloped outfit for Chiffonette.  While the tiny lavender dot is perfect in scale and temperament for such a skirt and jaconet, the fabric, in my opinion, was too heavy (a quilting cotton), for the look I wanted.  I finished it regardless, and will keep it in their wardrobe trunk.  The waistband with the scalloped edge should also have been 2mm to a quarter of an inch shorter.  This is a very tiny doll to sew for and I don't always have successes.  I'll try this again when I find a more suitable fabric.  Perhaps Chiffonette can write a letter to Lily describing exactly what we should do to make this happen.

Miss E. Mouse
(P.s.  And, by the way, I intend on making the gardening outfit Lily wears below, for Louise.  And, if I can, her green wheelbarrow!)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

On Fichus

Model for Gay Event's Fichu???
During the last few weeks, I managed to create two adorable little outfits for Petite Chiffonette and her new friend (whom I'll introduce very soon).  Two weeks ago my camera broke, and my husband set to the task of researching, locating and purchasing a new one for me.  Which, with all hope, arrives today.  Then I'll have to learn how to use it.  When I do, we'll enjoy a journal posting dedicated to Chiffonette!

While creating the two tiny costumes, I decided I wanted to make Petite Chiffonette a coordinating fichu so her dress would be a bit different from her new friend's.  So I conducted some research on fichus. 

One of the first searches I did was in "Fichu Images".  In the first moments of viewing the photos, my jaw dropped.  One of them, an antique illustration, was Gay Event's "collar".  I couldn't believe my eyes!  Bows down the front, bows on the tips of the shoulders, lots of lace.  Okay, so yes, I do note that the antique illustration is not exactly the same as Miss Event's, as the bows apparently drop down the "back", but if you make a comparison, they are almost identical in concept.  Did Laura Bannon view this same image when she drew Gay Event's "collar"?  Its a wonderful mystery!  Not only this, but the images of the fichus were described as scarves, shawls, and collars.

Apparently was there no one true identifying characteristic other than something draped over a dress at the bodice.  So I looked up "fichu" on Wikipedia, and this was what I found.   "A fichu is a large, square kerchief worn by women to fill in the low neckline of a bodice. It originated in the United Kingdom in the 18th century and remained popular there and in France through the 19th with many variations as well as in the United States. The fichu was generally of linen fabric and was folded diagonally into a triangle and tied, pinned, or tucked into the bodice in front."  I would almost describe it myself, in some cases, as a removable collar.

I was so dazzled by this information (I know, silly), that I knew I had to share it with you.  All of the confusion over what exactly was I looking at, and making, from the illustration, suddenly cane to light.  It encouraged me to continue to pay very close attention when bringing to life an illustration in as exacting a way as possible in the future.  Even if I don't know the name of what I am creating, perhaps sometime in the future, the design of couture will reveal itself. 

Below are a few examples of fichu designs I found during my quest.  There is no right or wrong way to design and make one.  As long as it serves its purpose of decoration (and modesty depending on the era you're designing for), its a beautiful addition to a costume.

Currently I'm embroidering on a rectangle of wool that will become the skirt of Gay Event's Riding Habit.  For the "girl that doesn't embroider", I sure am doing a lot of it these days!

Miss E. Mouse