Saturday, May 27, 2017

Victorian Sailor Stripes for Mary Lennox

 "Oh! the things which happened in that garden!  If you have never had a garden, you cannot understand, and if you have had a garden, you will know that it would take a whole book to describe all that came to pass there.  At first it seemed that green things would never cease pushing their way through the earth, in the grass, in the beds, even in the crevices of the wall.  Then the green things began to show buds, and the buds began to unfurl and show colour, every shade of blue, every shade of purple, every tint and hue of crimson."

"The seeds Dickon and Mary had planted grew as if fairies had tended them.  Satiny poppies of all tints danced in the breeze by the score, gaily defying flowers which had lived in the garden for years, and which it might be confessed seemed rather to wonder how such new people had got there.  And the roses - the roses!  Rising out of the grass, tangled round the sundial, wreathing the tree-trunks, and hanging from their branches, climbing up the walls and spreading over them with long garlands falling in cascades - they came alive day by day, hour by hour."  (The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett)

It was on a day such as this, described by Hodgson Burnett, that Mary chose to wear a bright and jaunty dress of blue and white stripes in a fashionable Victorian sailor style.  I love this dress.  When I first saw the illustration in the Peck Aubrey paper doll book, I knew I'd make it for her as a summer frock.  Even Ben Weatherstaff's eyes brightened up upon seeing Mary enter the garden with an empty basket, ready to pick some flowers for Medlock's vases.

This dress was given us opposite the one I just finished with the elaborate lace collar.  It was not planned that I do things page by page, but it could push me to creating ones I'm not certain of.  So far, the dresses in cloth have paid tribute to the illustrations, and I will continue to attempt to finish the wardrobe thusly.

When I first bought the striped fabric for this dress, I'd chosen a navy and white stripe.  ???  Even my mind plays tricks with my eyes.  No, it was royal blue and white stripes.  So I went back online to Ebay and started searching.  I found this particular stripe from a fabric seller in the U.K., and once again, it was fitting.  If I ever get back across the pond, fabric shopping in England will be at the top of my list. 

Mary's dress would prove to be another puzzle as I began to design the pattern.  I  had rather hoped that the red debut silk dress would provide me a basic, but the sailor collar and the front bodice crossing one "lapel" over the other took me back to square one.  This was made in two full pieces, each consisting of the front and back bodice with sleeve, fully lined, then stitched together at the middle front waist to be added to the skirt. 

Beneath the dress is where I began.  Mary wears a sleeveless waist of cotton with a high collar trimmed in the same blue soutache I used for her red wool coat's trim.  It is closed in the back with four little buttons with loops, and a hook at the collar.  As I began the design of the dress, I had to pay careful attention to what I was given to work with.  Normally one would choose white soutache trim for the cuffs and sailor collar edging, but these were thick stripes.  Stripes the same width as those of the dress.  So tried something.  I pieced the solid blue to the blue striped fabric about 2mm into the color edge that would display, and in doing so, created a fabric I could work from.  

While doing this, I took a photo of a collar pattern (good ol' paper towels - still using them!) to illustrate how this was done.  As you can see, when I would go to cut out the solid blue of the bottom layer, I would sew 2mm into the blue stripe, just enough to give a blue edge below the white stripe.  This is not a no-brainer exercise.  I would have to do this with the cuffs as well as the border on the bottom, exacting the stitch where it should be. 

I learned something with the cuffs, maybe relearned?, that I'd either forgotten or hadn't done before.  If you notice that the cuffs stand out when turned up, creating this look took a little puzzling.  Basically, if you sew the edges of the cuff to the sleeve edges, leaving a pucker in the middle, when you turn the cuff up, it will stand out to the side free of the sleeve.  The pattern for the cuff is longer on the top, smaller on the bottom and angled down.

The skirt of the dress is lined, too, to avoid unslightly hem stitching.  The dress buttons up in the back with loops and a hook at the edge of the collar closest to the neck.  Why don't I make buttonholes?  Again, I don't trust my machine to do them well, and to have a machine stitched buttonhole not come out nicely on a well made dress - well, its a disaster because you've ruined the dress.  I feel that hand sewn buttonhole can be done when needed, but they do take time.  And, Mary's hair covers the closures in the back, so...   Moving on...

Mary's tam was made from the same fabric as the solid border of her skirt.  I call it my Pie and Donut hat because those are what the pattern pieces look like.  The band was embellished with three brass star studs.  These were kind of fun to work with.  I did order them from a seller in China.  I hope I find another use for them because I have 47 pieces left!  Once the prongs are pushed into the fabric of the hat band, I put a piece of cloth over the star, then used my trusty pliers to bend the prongs in.  This saves the metal star from any damage or scratches.

Mary's tie is that lovely cotton silk.  It is attached to the front of the dress through an embroidered thread loop sewn beneath where the collar crosses over.  Her belt is the same fabric as the sleeveless waist she wears beneath the dress and was embellished with two shiny brass buttons. A hook and loop closes it. 

Finally it was time to make the flowers for her basket.  I found this lovely little basket on Ebay.  I  have doll sized baskets, but I needed one with a long handle that reached across the round basket.  There are a lot of "Easter" and "picnic" baskets out there, but ones like this can be difficult to find.  I was lucky. 

The flowers are all wool felt, similar to the ones I made to decorate Alice Illustrated's Peck Aubrey hat.  I worked them with my mini glue gun and it was a mess.  At least it was in particular for the flowers with individual petals.  I have tried sewing these to the center and they do not come out as nicely as a flower would using the hot glue gun.  I set a layer of green wool sheet in the bottom of the basket then glued the flowers into the basket, seating them on the wool beneath.  This is for the case that I wish to reuse the basket at some point, although I seriously doubt that will happen.  Its Mary's flower basket.  But, should someone years from now wish to remove the flowers, there won't be a glop of hard, dried glue at the bottom of the basket.

Mary Lennox will continue to be a bright spot on my doll shelf, and now in bright royal blue and white stripes.  On Monday, I'm traveling up to Vancouver, B.C. to visit with my needle felting friend, Lesley.  From what I can tell, Vancouver has gardens to rival Mary's!  A little holiday is in order. 

Miss E. Mouse 

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to Vancouver Melissa!! What an honor to have you come stay me! I can't wait to pick your genius creative mind! :-)) Mary's Victorian Sailor Stripes are très magnifique ..... as usual xxx