Summer is a time of day dreaming. The quiet of the early morning hours, a gentle breeze whispering the heat of rising sun, long afternoons sipping something iced while reading a good book...these and the steady lapping of waves on the lakeshore, are the things of summer. What are your day dreams of when a canopy of green is your parasol?
When I'm designing and sewing a new ensemble for doll, my mind wanders hither and yon. Surely there is a good deal of mental energy on the task at hand. How am I going to get the perfect fit, how many inches long should this be, just what the heck is going on with this collar?! But, I also play dolls while I'm busy with my needles and thread. Sewing is how I play with my dolls and creating stories behind them and their costuming is one of the ways I bring the costuming to life. These are never just another dress for just another doll.
Mary Lennox has become one of my favorite dolls, and dolls to sew for. Again, I'll admit that not every single one of the Peck Aubry outfits is to my liking, but a collection, and a complete collection is just that. So while I'm putting off making the two or three that I least like, this one felt it needed making before I labor over an intricate smocking stitch for the next one (just another thing I'll have to learn).
Finding this fabric was like a breath of fresh air. This lovely woven and light, airy cotton is a plaid or Madras of midnight navy and white. The dress surely could have been made from silk, but finding this exact plaid was going to be difficult, if not impossible. Remember, there is always size of the plaid to consider. Just another reason why I love sewing for the 16" dolls. There are more options. The outfit's feature of focus, is, once again, a collar, but now coupled with ivory Swiss embroidered details.
Yes, it is summer, but thoughts of learning and school days are always synonymous with plaids. As my mind wandered, I was trying to come up a purpose for this dress in Mary's wardrobe. When we watch a movie or read a book of The Secret Garden, the story appears to take place within a year. But, Mary's life, to me, was long and full and she would grow up to be a well educated young woman and a philanthropist. As well as a tender of gardens extraordinaire!
This Madras pattern, and the light woven quality of the fabric made me think if India. Authentic Madras comes from Chennai (Madras, India). Both sides of the cloth must bear the same pattern; it must be hand-woven, and this is evidenced by the small flaws, or slubs, in the fabric. How could or would a dress like this fit into Mary's story? At first I thought, Well, she and cousin, Colin, could travel to India. Then I remembered scenes from the Kate Maberly movie where she refers to him as a Raja. And also when she tells him the story of the god that swallowed the universe. In my further story of the hours she spent with Colin, while he was still bedridden, she tells him of the country she grew up in, what it was like to live there, of the people, of the lush and fragrant landscape, of the elephants and the tigers. For this presentation, she shares a map of the British Raj in India. Raj means "rule", thus Raja, "ruler".
Certainly, I do love to write, but this blog also gives the reader a glimpse at what inspires me and how I create from that inspiration, and above all, day dream.
As typical, when I start out bringing an illustration to life, I often downplay the difficulties I might encounter. I initially see "a dress with long sleeves, a collar and a red belted sash". No biggie. Hah! Well, first of all, we're dealing with plaids and I love working with them in the attempt to match up the pattern. I was doing a pretty good job until the very end when I was alerted that the two back sides of the bodice did not match up. I swear that I'd cut them properly, but it could be that when sewing this micro and soutached collar on the neckline, the matching became uneven. I guess it really doesn't matter since, 1) there's a Bertha collar covering it up, and 2) she has long hair, and 3) does it really matter?, and am I being Type A? The dress is closed in the back with pretty, little navy buttons and thread loops. Perhaps I'll be forgiven since the details are still nicely done.
There is a small, white placket at the center of the bodice that has five little mother of pearl shank buttons going down it. The idea of making the back it into a matching point was entirely up to me since the illustration hides this design. I think one of things I enjoyed most about this dress was the complement of the ivory collar and underskirt. A hint of cuff can be seen in the illustration, and I developed this into a cuff design. The lace that edges the Bertha was also used for the cuff, and the cuff was "extended" by cutting up another piece of ivory Swiss embroidered lace that was 4" wide. Its perfectly okay to piece things together if the outcome is pleasing to the eye. And, again, it was my interpretation since the illustration shows Mary with her hands behind her back. So, yes, I do "make things up".
Another example of this was the back of the Bertha. I don't think it would have been too difficult to imagine what this might look like, but my version was very difficult to do. I'm not grumping, but it did take me three whacks at it to create one. After two attempts with a muslin, I ordered, and had to wait for, a Swiss Ivory batiste from emmarob company. I use their batistes exclusively. The turning inside out and top-stitching requires a very fine fabric.
One of the confounding things about the design of this collar was that the square inset borders are laid atop the gathered and fitted, triangle pointed flounce. (How else would one describe it?) I worried over this collar for three days, and finally had to call it done. (It is not a Mary Frances collar, although there was a dress pattern that offered a similar design. Its one of those "memories" of having done something like this before that sat with me.) The dress is finished off with a red silk sash, tied with a bow at the back. I created red thread loops at the sides of the dress to run the sash through. This helps narrow, or scrunch the sash for the look. I like the dress. And with all the research I did on British rule in India, which I've chosen not to share because it isn't Hollywood romance, this will always be the dress Mary wears when she tells Colin of India. Now I wish to see a rerun of the series, Indian Summers, or pop the 1994 version of The Jungle Book (with Jason Scott-Lee) in the DVD player. By the way, Lena Hedley was Mowgli's love interest in that version. Lena Hedly - Cersei in Game of Thrones! Imagine!
Back to summer and day dreaming. How very tempted I am to make something new for Alice Illustrated.
Miss E. Mouse
India during the British Raj
Just about the time frame Mary would have been born.