Thursday, November 21, 2013

Poodle-less Poodle Skirts

A few years ago, my sister (Borg #7 of 8) bought some fabric and patterns to make costumes for one of our nieces.  That niece has since outgrown dress-up, but the fabric was still around.  She gave it to me in hopes that I might find the time to make up the garments before we ran out of nieces little enough for dress-up play.

One of the costumes was a poodle skirt  for which she had bought pink felt.  I happened to have some lime polyester green felt sitting around from a time when I had planned to make a tree skirt with it.  (After purchasing the felt, I realized this fabric choice may have been fine in the 70s but fleece would be a better fabric for a tree skirt since it is much more washable, has a nicer hand and comes in a greater variety of colors and patterns.)

So I had it in my mind that I had the fabric on hand to make a pair of poodle skirts some day when Maggie announced that the theme for her birthday party this year would be a Cat and Dog Birthday “Pawty.” Now "some day" had a deadline.
No poodles here. 

Neither Maggie nor Lily are really poodle people, so I was inspired to use the cat appliqué in the pattern for Lily and the Scottie for Mags. 

I envisioned designing the skirts to coordinate by using this lime green polka dotted ribbon (from my stash) to make a bow around the neck on the pink skirt and a matching hot pink ribbon for the green one. I had pale pink soutache on hand from the Victorian velvet coat which was perfect for the traditional leash. (Probably the one traditional element left by the time I was done)   The cat appliqué pattern included a face, but it looked too much like those mean Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp.  I came up with this design for green eyelashes and a little hot pink embroidered nose which I adapted to the Scottie as well.  (These are clearly not faceless Amish pets.)
Detail of embroidery and matching ribbons

I mailed off the skirts in time for the party. Their mother (Borg #6 of 8) reported to me that it is impossible to wear a poodle skirt and not spin around in it until you’re dizzy if you are Maggie.  

Dizzy Maggie kerplops with her Scottie skirt

Here, she and her friend Caitlin take the skirts for a spin. (Lily is boycotting dresses at the moment.)  
They just can't help themselves.
I wonder what it will take to get me to make the other costumes my sister entrusted me to finish for her.  Tick-tock.  Maggie and Lily are not getting any younger... 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Victorian Ensemble for Dollies

Gown, underthings, muff and hooded coat

After making the Colonial doll clothes I was inspired to move up a century and make a Victorian ensemble. 

Undershirt and pantaloons
This pattern included lovely underwear that I trimmed with lavender beribboned laces.  There was no corset or bustle with this outfit, but I doubt the doll minds.

I went into my stash for another tiny calico print and came upon this pale blue fabric with royal blue and hot pink flowers among green leaves.  This is a fairly plain skirt and blouse, which is probably a reasonable every-day garment.

Muff and hooded velvet coat
It was this hooded coat that really inspired me to make a Victorian outfit.  How could I resist making a matching muff?  I had such fun plucking this deep green cotton velvet from my stas
h, discovering a pretty blue polyester lining fabric and putting together the pink and blue trim to coordinate with the pink and blue of the dress.

Back hood detail

Here, a dolly models the ensemble
Undies, dress and coat with muff

Next up for these dolls?  Something from the 20th century?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Please, please, please Cross-stitch

Trust me, in person it looks great.
A dear friend has always loved the combination of black and hot pink. And also The Smiths.  So I made this for her and had it framed at AC Moore which was much cheaper (and had the right hot pink matte) than Michaels:

Please, please, please Let me get what I want this time.
I used a variegated hot pink embroidery thread.  I like the effect it had against the black Aida cloth. I also love the contrast of cross-stitching with Morrissey quotes.  Maybe I will get around to stitching up a Princess Bride sampler.  (Imagine a border of ROUSes!)

I went "old-school" and found some graph paper to design the pattern based on an alphabet I found in a cross-stitch book. I imagine there is some way to do it on a computer, but this worked just fine.  I took this picture because I was amused by how huge the pattern was and how small the final product is worked in Aida cloth. 
Large graph, tiny Aida cloth
I hope Morrissey appreciates how inspiring we find him. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In Honor of Great Britain's 2 Million Spinsters on Armistice Day

Aunt Carrie, American Spinster, Sidesaddle Horsewoman circa 1900.
In addition to honoring those who served in the military, I think it is important to also recognize some heroines of mine who were created by the devastation of the first World War: the spinster generation of Great Britain.  (American spinsters were not as profoundly affected because single male immigrants made up for many of the homegrown numbers who went to war and never came back .)

With so many men
lost to the war, this was the first generation of women who had no hope of marrying. So what did they do? They became suffragists and social workers, writers and secretaries. They infiltrated the domains men had once completely dominated because they did not have the distractions of husbands and children, but had to make a living somehow. So many progressive social movements have their roots in a generation of spinsters with the time and energy to fight for the most vulnerable in society. They were veterans of the homefront and deserve recognition as well. 

Their story is told in the book Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson. 

It's a fascinating book. Until that generation, spinsters were entirely dependent upon their fathers or brothers. Thanks to the development of the typewriter and the nursing profession, they were able to make their own (albeit minimal) livings. Higher education was available to women for the first time. With so many men dead or diminished by injuries and PTSD, these women filled vacancies and forged new lives of their own with no map or handbook. They didn't have kids, so they poured their creativity and nurture into improving society and their lot in it. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Horsies and Kitties Jumpers

Horsey and Kitty Jumpers

Horsies galloping across the skirt
Lily had a horse-themed birthday party last year.  Eventually I had the vision to make over a vintage dress into a jumper with horses galloping across it.  

I used Butterick 3762 (the same pattern I used for the flowergirl dresses) and lined it with a blue and white striped fabric from my stash.   

Kitty jumper

Not to leave Maggie out, I made a kitty jumper for her using McCall’s 4006 from this plaid fabric in my stash.  (The pink was left over from the Doctor Who skirt)   

These cat faces are so cute with their button eyes,  embroidered features and rick rack whiskers.   I used dyed shell buttons for the eyes and sewed them on backward so they would have a mottled effect.
Detail of horses and kittiies
Maggie models the kitty pocketed jumper
Maggie liked this jumper enough that she chose to wear it for her second day of school this year.  

Lily's horsey jumper

Monday, November 4, 2013

Felicity's Colonial Dress (with bumroll!)

Several years ago, my cat Felicity sent a little American Girl doll  to Maggie and Lily because the doll shared her name.  (Fergus sent them his namesake Tank Engine too.)  The Felicity doll’s story is set in the American colonial period, so she seemed especially appropriate to send as a gift from Philadelphia where there is so much rich history of the American colonies and the Revolutionary War. 

Sadly, American Girl has retired Felicity. I decided that Lily and Maggie needed some Colonial dress-up clothes for their American Girl-sized dolls. (Or possibly their Raggedies) .   I love the process of making doll clothes.  I first learned to sew making outfits from commercial patterns for my Velvet and Mia dolls. 

I think you can really learn to appreciate history when you look at the clothing and learn about the lives of women and girls of the past.  When I was in grade school, I made Pilgrim and Native American clothes for Velvet and Mia for a school project. I don’t remember much else from 5th grade, but I do remember researching and making those costumes.

Mop cap, bodice, skirt, bumroll, shawl, pantaloons and apron

I used McCall’s pattern3627  and dug into my stash to find a suitable tiny print for the skirt and bodice.  I think I bought this pink beribboned fabric in the 1980s when I was working at So-Fro.  I had some tiny lace in my collection and even found a pink one to use on the edge of the sleeve.

Historically accurate bumroll, apron & shawl. Not pantaloons. 

I love this pattern because it includes under- garments. When we were kids, it seemed like there was never enough underwear for all the dollies.  Not only did this have not-exactly-historically-accurate pantaloons, but the pattern included a bum roll which really gives the skirt an historic shape.  (The pantaloons would have been crotchless to be historically accurate.  I am not sure Lily and Maggie would be all that impressed by that kind of authenticity)
Detail of bumroll shaping

Princess-seamed bodice with pink lace and waist point.

Here is a close-up of the bodice which has princess seaming and comes to this tiny point at the waist. The skirt is actually attached to an under-bodice which, while not historically accurate, makes the outfit work better for the doll.  And let’s face it, there is not going to be a lot of historically accurate play here.  So that skirt can also be worn as a modern-day jumper if one were so inclined.

The outfit is topped off with an apron, shawl and mop cap.  I made the cap reversible from plain white with a pink bow to pink with a blue bow.  Apparently I am still channeling Sleeping Beauty.

The girls were delighted to have new outfits for their dolls.  You can really never have enough doll clothes.   I am so grateful to my sisters who had daughters I could sew doll clothes for.

Here is one of Lily’s dolls modeling the finished product along with the back view of the outfit (including the reverse of the mop cap.)   
It wasn't long before a Raggedy was wearing this outfit.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Flower Girls in Kansas City

Last summer, I offered to make flower girl dresses for my friend Georgiane as a wedding present.  The only problem was that her flower girls are in Kansas City and I am in Philadelphia. 

Libby models the original
She went shopping and found a style of dress that she liked very much and sent me this picture on this adorable little model, Libby.  She also sent some beautiful silk to make the dresses from. 

I used this pattern as a base while lengthening the bodice, but the challenge was to figure out how to replicate those pintucks and ruffles. 

Maggie and Lily play dress-up in the muslins

So I made a pair of muslins and sent them to Georgiane so she could approve them and try them on the little girls to see how they fit.  For some reason she not only sent pictures of her girls wearing the “dress rehearsals” but she sent the dresses back.  (Poor harried bride)  

Lily pretends her First Communion in tucks and ruffles

 I ended up sending the muslins to my nieces who are about the same size as her flower girls and they had a grand time using them for dress-up.   Lily even got hold of her aunt’s First Communion veil to accessorize her outfit.

Thanks for your help, Grandma Betty!

 I cut the dresses out of the fabric she sent and had only these snippets of fabric left over.  Talk about cutting it close!  

As I went to cut the dresses out, I was really struggling, so I asked Georgiane’s Grandma Betty for help.   She really inspired me.  I know Grandma Betty would have made the dresses herself if she had lived to see this wedding.  I felt like I had her on my shoulder through the whole process.  Grandma Betty was love. 

The finished dresses

Here are the finished dresses.  I fully lined them in soft pink silk because I could imagine being a little girl and not wanting anything itchy.  And besides… pink! 
Soft pink lining

Here are the flower girls at the wedding.  Disappointingly, they had one of the few chilly rainy October days for it, so the girls needed little cardigans that covered up the pretty rose ribbon hanging down the back.  Still, it was a beautiful wedding and they had washable silk dresses to wear.  I think they match the original pretty closely.
Madison and Libby with flower baskets and cardigans