Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A is for Annabelle, Part 1

In 1954, Tasha Tudor first published her alphabet book, A is for Annabelle, which explores, in 26 two-page spreads, the wonders of an old-fashioned doll's wardrobe, complete with all the necessary accessories. As a child of the 1950's, I would pour over this book, dreaming of the joys of possessing such a doll.  That was not to be.  I did have several dolls, all well-loved, but none as amazingly outfitted as Annabelle.

Then, several years ago, I joined one of Gail Wilson's online classes, the purpose of which was to make a fashion doll -- not one of the modern fashion dolls, such as Barbie, but one from the 1800s, dressed in Victorian fashions.  After I completed the first doll, it struck me that with a few changes, she would make a lovely Annabelle.  So I ordered another kit and set to work making my very own Annabelle.

Here is my Annabelle.  She stands a little over 12 inches tall.  I added 1/2" immediately above the waist and 1/4" below, to make her torso just a wee bit longer.  In the book's illustrations, the doll's torso is even longer still.  The kit came with brown mohair for the wig; I switched a used blonde.  I also lightened the kit's paint for the skin, by adding quite a lot of white, to make Annabelle's skin  tone a little closer to porcelain.

In nearly all of the book's illustrations, Annabelle is shown wearing a black snood.  I think snoods are a wonderful invention, particularly useful on bad hair days.  I crocheted Annabelle's snood using perle cotton thread.  To be completely truthful, my Annabelle has two different wigs, both made with the same blonde mohair.  This is her snood wig, in which her back hair is permanently stuffed into the snood.  The other wig is for wearing with bonnets.

Here Annabelle is wearing her petticoat.  I did not make a chemise or full-length slip for her, to keep down the bulk under the bodices of her dresses.  But she did need a petticoat under her skirts.  This was made with cotton batiste with an edging of valencienne lace.  There is a silk ribbon trim just above the ruffle.

Annabelle had need for other underpinnings.  This photo shows her pantaloons, trimmed with the same lace used on the petticoat.  The photo also shows her black stockings and black boots, all of which I made.  The boots look like they have bulbous toe boxes, but that's just the angle from which the photo was taken.  Annabelle has very nice, non-bulbous feet.

I recently learned that if you click on a photo, a larger version of it will appear.  Then if you click on that version, a supersized version appears, showing all of the details.

We begin with A is for Annabelle.  There are two dresses shown, a pink gingham and a blue stripe.  They were very similar in construction.  One of the things that I have learned in trying to replicate with actual fabric garments shown in illustrations is that one can do things with paint and brushes that aren't always possible with real fabrics.  In this case, it is the amount of fabric that can be gathered around a doll's waist.  In the illustration, the skirt is fabulously full; my Annabelle's skirt, not nearly as voluminous.  With fabric, the thicker the fabric, the thicker the gathers, and the fewer of them that will fit around the doll.  This gingham is about the weight of cotton lawn, a little thicker than batiste.  I gathered as much as I could around Annabelle, and this was it.  The dress has pink silk ribbon ruched around the sleeves.

Annabelle here is wearing her bonnet wig, which has hair on the front, sides and a little on the back, designed to fit under her bonnets.  The bonnet is made of white hat straw, with silk ribbon trim and ties.  I made the bonnet pattern to fit Annabelle's head.  Do click on the picture to bring up a larger version.

The blue stripe dress is made from fabric that I had printed by Spoonflower.  The fabric is a cotton sateen.  I used white voile for the ruffles at the neckline and around the sleeves.  Voile is a very light, thin fabric, and so gathers nicely in tiny ruffles like these.  Getting the sleeves cut out so that the stripes were on an angle proved a bit of a challenge. 

The blue stripe dress also appeared in "B for her box."  The box is a trunk that I bought at Hobby Lobby.  It was covered with a garish embossed print, which I stripped.  The leather strips along the edges were on the trunk originally, and I saved them to reuse.  I recovered the box with paper-backed bookcloth, reattached the leather strips, and added handles to the sides.  The inside was lined with book-making end paper, which is acid-free and thus good for Annabelle's things.  I made a tray for the trunk, to hold little things.  The final touch was printing one of the flower borders from A is for Annabelle to attach to the inside of the lid.

In the book, Annabelle never gets to wear her cape.  She is just shown in the illustration, wearing her blue stripe dress, viewing her cape from afar.  I took a photo of her actually in her cape.  I dyed thin flannel a tannish yellow, but in the photo it came out much brighter than it actually is.  The black trim I did on my embroidery machine.  The only thing that I use the embroidery machine for is to embellish doll clothes.  Since I spent a good handful of money on it, I figure I might as well put it to use!

 The fabric for the dress on the left (the purple plaid) is one that I created the print for in Photoshop and then printed onto cotton batiste.  This dress appears several times in the book.

The dress on the right, which I made in lavender striped fabric, appeared only on the page for "D for her dresses," in a black-and-white sketch.  It is the only dress that Annabelle is never shown wearing and the only one never shown in color.  As there were no other lavender striped dresses, I decided that this could be.  It is a skirt with bretelles (shoulder straps) worn over a white guimpe (what they used to call blouses).

There is much that I love about "E for her earrings."  I love the fullness of the skirt.  I made the dress from cotton voile, which is a very thin, sheer, semi-transparent fabric.  It's thinness allowed extra breadth to be gathered into the skirt.  This also is a fabric that I designed the print for in Photoshop and then printed onto the voile.  The trim is silk ribbon, which appears darker in the photos than it actually is.  If you click on the picture above, you can see the details up close.  I made the earrings from air-dry clay and then painted them an old gold color.  I was pleased with the way they turned out.

I bought the fabric for this dress at Farmhouse Fabrics online.  They call the fabric "Swiss muslin," but it is not muslin in the American sense.  It is more like a voile.  It is lovely fabric to work with.  The flowers on the dress and hair decoration came from  They are lovely roses and I've used them often.  Annabelle's wig here is the bonnet wig.  So that she could have long hair in ringlets down the back, I made a wig extension for her, which attaches to her head via the band of flowers.  The fan itself came from Cats Paws online.  The necklace is made of 2 mm pearls strung on wire.
This blue dress appears only for the letter G.   It also is the only dress with straight sleeves.  Two of the dresses had short puffed sleeves.  The rest all had pagoda sleeves, with a white undersleeve beneath. In the photo, the color of the dress that I made came out darker than it actually is.  I'm not sure how to fix that.  This was one of the first dresses that I made, before I got the embroidery machine, so all of the black loopy trim is hand stitched.  The bonnet is made from blue hat straw, with white silk trim and ties.  The white ruffle inside the brim is made from white tulle lace.  I "ruffled" it on a 1" scale Pretty Pleater board, spraying the tulle with hair spray before inserting it in the pleater so that it would hold its shape when removed.

I made the glove box from cardstock.  The red cover was printed, with its lettering, on my computer printer.  The gloves were made from old vintage gloves that I bought off eBay.  I couldn't find any yellow gloves to buy, so I went with ecru.  The gloves were so tiny that I gave up trying to do a green edging on the white ones.

This dress appeared in the illustrations for several letters, beginning here with "H for her hat".  I call this Annabelle's blue tattersall dress.  Between the several letters represented, the details of the dress vary, particularly in the cut and trim of the oversleeves.  In the illustration here, the oversleeves have no darker blue trim, but in all the other illustration of this dress, they do.  There isn't enough detail in the illustration to make out exactly what that darker blue trim was.  I decided to do it as a little band of pleated fabric.  The hat I made from natural colored hat straw.  I used a mold from PNB Doll Company online.  The hat has a 1/8" blue satin ribbon and a blue feather for trim.

Here is the blue tattersall dress again, this time with the dark blue trim on the oversleeves.  The shawl was interesting to make, as so little of it is actually seen in the illustration.  I made the shawl from a square of Swiss wool challis, which is very thin and thus drapes nicely on a 12" doll.  The fringe was made just by pulling threads from the challis.  The embroidery is a floral border that I did by hand.

The blue tattersall dress appears again in "J for her jacket."  The jacket I made from thin cotton flannel, which I dyed the same color as the darker blue of the tattersall.  The trim is blue rayon braid purchased from  When I finished the jacket and tried to put it on Annabelle, over the blue tattersall dress, to my dismay, the jacket would not fit.  The dress sleeves were too bulky for the jacket sleeves to fit over.  I had tried the jacket on her while making it, but she wasn't wearing the dress then.  I had two choices.  One was to remake the jacket, which I did not have the heart to do.  So I went with the second choice, which was to make Annabelle a blue tattersall skirt just to wear with the jacket.  So she has nothing on under the jacket.  Don't tell!

The blue tattersall dress appears again.  Up until the letter H, the only dress that appeared for more than one letter was the blue striped dress.  Other than that, every letter got a new dress.  And then, beginning with H, four letters in a row have featured the blue tattersall dress.  It appears one more time after this, toward the end of the alphabet.  It is as if Tasha Tudor got tired of creating new dresses.  Either that, or she really liked this blue tattersall.

The kerchiefs were a fun project.  I made three of them, all from voile.  One kerchief has a hemstitched border.  Another has a white ruffle around the edge, the ruffle also made from voile.  The third and fanciest of the kerchiefs has a piece of lace from a lady's handkerchief around the edge.  I also found a little pin the help hold to kerchiefs on Annabelle, as the ends of the kerchiefs didn't tie into very nice knots.

This dress appeared once before, in the illustration of "F for her fan."  Here Annabelle is wearing what must be a party dress to show off her gold locket.  The locket came from Cats Paws and really opens.  I haven't put anything in the locket, because I haven't thought of anything meaningful that would be tiny enough.  Perhaps a sweet remembrance from one of her beaux?

As we have reached the midway point in the tale of Annabelle and her possessions, I shall stop here and continue the alphabet in "A is for Annabelle, Part 2."

A is for Annabelle, Part 2

In the previous post, we saw that Annabelle had a wide variety of possessions, including a box (aka trunk), cape, dresses, earrings, fan, gloves, a hat, shawl from India, jacket, kerchiefs, and a locket.  What wonders will be in store as we examine letters M through Z?

The illustration for "M for her muff" shows three new accessories.  One is the coat Annabelle is wearing.  I made it from dark blue cotton flannel, which in Annabel's size looks very much like coat wool.  The coat is trimmed with gold rayon braid from

The second accessory is the muff itself, which I made from minky fabric.  There is no fur, real or imitation, that looks in scale on a 12" doll.  I tried and I tried, but it doesn't work.  Then I found minky, which looks somewhat like beaver fur on Annabelle.  My difficulty was that I couldn't find minky in a golden brown.  I hunt for a couple of years, and finally decided that Annabelle gave her muff a dye job, and it is now dark brown.

The third accessory is Annabelle's head gear, which is a type of winter bonnet worn in the 18th and 19th centuries, called a calash.  Human-size calashes were designed fit over the elaborate hairstyles that ladies wore and then to fold up for storage.  Annabelle-size calashes fit over her hair, but do not fold up.

This dress first appeared in the "F for her fan" illustration.  The nosegay was made from little paper pastel flowers, the kind that often are used to trim doll hats.  I gathered a circle of val lace for the 'doily' underneath the flowers.

This is the first new dress since "H is for hat."  Here Annabelle wears her pink striped dress that has an overskirt.  I wish I had a carriage clock to photograph her with!  The pagoda sleeves have a double row of pink scallops around the edge, while the front opening as a single row of pink scallops. The bottom edge of the overskirt is also scalloped. All scalloping was done on the embroidery machine.  My Annabelle looks so much thicker here than in the illustration.  And for the life of me, I could not get the same drape to the overskirt as in the illustration.  This could be another case of real fabric on a 12" doll cannot always do what can be done in an illustration.  Nonetheless, my Annabelle is a vision of confection in this pink-and-white ensemble.  Cotton candy comes to mind!

This is the first time we've seen this dress since "D for her dresses."  I call it the purple plaid dress, the fabric for which I designed in Photoshop and then printed out on batiste.  The parasol began life as an umbrella that I bought on a Barbie website.  It originally had a brown wood-finish handle with a curve to it.  I sawed off the curved part, which took considerable effort.  I found some aluminum tubing that just fit over the cut-off handle remaining.  I cut the tubing to length and then glued it over the original handle stump.  It took me 3 tries to find a glue that would hold.  Then I glued a silver bead at the end, for the round knob of the parasol in the illustration.

The umbrella needed to be recovered to become a parasol.  I removed the original cover, rescuing all 8 of the little end caps that held the cover onto the frame.  I then sewed 8 pie-shapes of cotton batiste into a circle for the cover.  It took several attempts to get the right size and proportion of pie shapes.  It doesn't work to just cut out a circle of cloth and poke a hole in the middle, because the grain of the fabric needs to run around the outside of the cover, or else when stretched, four segments will be on the bias and will pull funny.  The edge of the cover was trimmed with gathered white val lace.  I also made a very tiny little white strap with a buckle for holding the parasol closed.

I've been working on the Annabelle project on and off since 2008 (more off than on).  Last May, my daughter and I flew from Montana back to Virginia for my mother's 90th birthday.  I wanted a needlework project to work on while on the very long flight to Virginia and back, and decided that this quilt would be a perfect project.  I didn't get it finished on the trip, but I kept working afterward and finally finished it up.  That spurred me to start some of the dresses and accessories that I still had left to do.  I worked on the project steadily through the summer and finally finished everything by the end of September.  I still had all the photographs to take and the layouts to do, but I could see light at the end of the tunnel.

The illustration for "Q for her quilt" only shows Annabelle's head, covered by a nightcap.  I don't have a doll bed that fit and didn't want to buy one, as I'd have no place to store it.  So I decided to have Annabelle sit with her quilt on a little bench.  As more of Annabelle would show in this scenario than just her head, she would need a nightgown.  I made her a simple one from white batiste.  I did, however, make teeny tiny handworked buttonholes for all 7 of the buttons down the front.  In the illustration, there are a pair of slippers peeping from under the bed.  Only the back of the slippers show, so I was free to design the fronts.  I made the slippers out of white flannel, with hard soles.  I embroidered little rose buds, patterned after the roses in one of Tasha Tudor's borders, on the slippers.

Again, Annabelle is wearing the purple plaid dress.  "R for her ribbons" was an easy letter to do.  I first made a small-size hatbox in which to store the ribbons.  The colors of the hatbox are Tasha Tudor colors.  Then all I needed to do was hunt through my ribbon storage box, and cut lengths of ribbons that were appropriately Tasha Tudorish.

The slippers here are not bedroom slippers, but rather are dancing slippers, to wear to the ball.  The Gail Wilson kit from which I made Annabelle had a pattern for making boots, which I modified to make the slippers.  I made them from silk satin ribbon, which I found isn't the easiest to work with in making shoes.  Leather has the advantage of not raveling when it is pulled around the edge of the inner sole and glued.  The slippers in the illustration had little heels, but my Annebelle is flat-footed, and so her dancing slippers are, too.

The dancing dress itself presented several challenges.  Throughout the Annabelle project, I'd put challenges for which I didn't yet have a solution in the back of my head, to cogitate on.  One of the challenges of this dress was how to do the trim.  I ended up by ruching YLI silk ribbon around the neckline and sleeve cuff.  Then I went back over the ruching and stitched strands of lavender embroidery floss down the middle, to simulate ribbon through beading.  The same treatment was used at the top of the ruffle, with wider silk ribbon.  The dress itself was made with Farmhouse Fabric's Swiss muslin, which made a frothy delight of a dancing dress.

The tippet was the first accessory that I made for Annabelle.  The fabric is voile, which is a delicate, semi-transparent fabric.  It is difficult to determine just from the book's sketch of the tippet how it supposedly was constructed.  I decided to make it a double layer with a little Peter Pan collar, both layers and the collar edged with lace.  The lower layer of the tippet has shoulder seams, so that it will curve down over her shoulders.  The illustration in the book does not show a dress with the tippet, although in the sketch Annabelle is wearing a light-colored bonnet.  I decided that Annabelle could wear the tippet with her pink gingham dress and its white bonnet.  The pink gingham dress hasn't been seen since the letter A, so it was time for it to show up again.

We have reached the ubiquitous umbrella.  The umbrella presented a definite challenge, because I wanted one that would open and close.  Gildebrief's once had a kit with directions for making an umbrella frame from metal tubes and rods, together with strings of vinyl tubing that I found at Hobby Lobby in the kids' crafts section under the name Magic Loops.  I did successfully make an umbrella frame using Gildebrief's method, but the size of it was for a much smaller doll.  I needed to enlarge it, keeping all the proportions correct, which was not easy to do given the triangular relationships to the various parts of the frame.  I never did like trigonometry.  Years later, I found the working umbrellas at the Barbie website, which was a much easier solution.  All I needed to do was paint the handle black and the umbrella was done.

In the "U for her umbrella" illustration, Annabelle is wearing a coat very similar to the one she wore in "M for her muff," except that the trim on that coat was a golden brown (or just gold), while in "U for her umbrella," the trim is black.  Buggers!  In the "U for her umbrella" illustration, the coat is also worn over something that has a green and blue plaid skirt.  I decided to let the coat trim remain gold (seeing as it was already gold).  There was nothing that Annabelle had that came close to being a blue and green plaid, so I made her a Black Watch plaid skirt, which she wore with the guimpe from the "D for her dresses" lavender striped outfit.

 At this point, Annabelle already has two straw bonnets, a white one to wear with her pink gingham dress and a dark blue one to wear with her solid blue dress.  At first, I questioned whether she really needed a third bonnet, just for "V for her veil."  Wouldn't the white bonnet work fine?  Then I realized that not only would I have to find a way to attach the veil temporarily, so that it could be removed, but I also needed to attach flowers to the center top of the brim and a ruffle to the back.  Making another bonnet might prove simpler than trying to find ways to attach all three of those temporarily.  So Annabelle got a natural straw bonnet.  The veil is made from cotton tulle, the lower edge of which has embroidered scallops.  The ruffle at the lower back of the bonnet is called a bavolet, and it's purpose is to shield the wearer's neck from the sun.

 "W for her watch" marks the final appearance of the purple plaid dress.  The watch itself was an easy accessory to complete, as it simply required putting in an order at Dollspart.  They have a little collection of accessories specifically designed for Annabelle.

Since X is the letter for which there is no rhyme, the next letter for Annabelle is the penultimate letter "Y for her yarn."  And indeed, yarn is one of the items in the sewing basket that appears in the illustration.  Also included in the basket contents are a little pair of scissors, a tomato pincushion, a packet of needles and some Annabelle-size spools of thread.

The basket itself is an achievement for me, as I have never before done any basket weaving.  I googled the topic and found an article on making miniature baskets (the 1:12 scale size).   I learned that first I needed a mold over which to weave the basket.  I scoured my house for something with the shape that I wanted and finally found a cologne bottle that was basically an orb with a slightly flat bottom.  First I made a mold of the bottom half of that bottle, using Amazing Mold Putty.  It is a type of epoxy that sets in 20 minutes to become a bright yellow rubbery mold.  I then filled the mold with air-dry clay (the only type of clay that I had on hand at the time) and waited for it to dry.  I finally stuck it in the toaster oven at a low temperature to help hasten the drying time.  Once it was solid enough to use, I could begin the basket weaving.  The spokes of my basket were made of hat wire; the weaving was done with waxed linen thread.  If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you'll see that the basket has a waxy appearance.  The weaving pattern was the simplest possible, but I did put a braid of the linen thread around the top edge, as well as attaching handles.  I was very pleased with how the basket turned out.

With "Z for her zither," we come to the end of the alphabet.  The pink gingham dress makes its first official appearance since "A is for Annabelle," so it was both the first dress and the last dress in the book.  The zither is my master creation.  The light colored wood is basswood, which was used for the top and back of the zither.  The darker brown wood is real mahogany, which isn't prohibitively expensive when buying sheets of it for miniature work.  The fretboard is a piece of basswood colored black with a Sharpie.  It worked!  The wood is black like ebony, and up close the grain of the wood can still be seen.  The frets are silver-colored wire.  I carved little channels across the fretboard in which to glue the frets.  The pegs that hold the strings are the tops of toothpicks from Cracker Barrel and the strings themselves are simply white sewing thread.  Here is a close-up photo of the zither:

This was a wonderful project to undertake.  It needed creativity, ingenuity, patience and perseverance.  One of the photos that I took of Annabelle while I was making her is dated 2008, so the project took 7 years to complete.  Of course I did a lot of other things during that 7 years.  For one thing, my house has a lot more dolls in it now than it did 7 years ago.  I am glad that I started the Annabelle project and I am glad that I finished it.  All of Annabelle's things fit neatly into her trunk.  She spends her days on the table next to the couch, where she and I can chat in the evenings.  I enjoy looking at her, as she has a sweet countenance.  And so . . . 

The project is done,
And this is the end.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Prudence: Hitty Dressed as a Bride

In Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, midway through the story Hitty travels to New Orleans, where she ends up in the possession of two elderly gentile ladies, Miss Hortense and Miss Annette.  They came from an old, distinguished family and had fallen on hard times after the Civil War.  The ladies had been given the challenge of dressing Hitty to be displayed at the Cotton Exposition.  After much deliberation, they decided to use an old family wedding handkerchief to make Hitty a bridal gown.

When I was making the outfits for my first Hitty, Faith, replicating the clothes in the illustration of the original book, I first thought I would make the bridal gown for Hitty Faith.  I came to realize, though, that the bridal gown was so elaborate and would be so intricate to make that I would never want to take it off the doll.  Consequently, I decided to buy a doll specifically to wear the bridal gown.  The doll I choose was one made by Susan Sirkis, and is shown here in all her unadorned glory. She is almost an inch taller than the traditional Hitty, which I thought would be an advantage in making the bridal gown.  I named her Prudence, as I hoped she would be prudent in marrying.

I knew that the very full skirt of the bridal dress would require some support underneath, so I first made Prudence a hoop skirt.  I used thin hat wire for the hoops.  The vertical bands and waistband were made from 1/4" twill tape.

Next, Prudence would need a petticoat, to smooth out the ridges the hoop skirt wires would make.  I made the petticoat of white cotton batiste, adding a self-fabric ruffle around the bottom.

Below is the illustration of Hitty dressed as a bride from the original book and a photo of the bridal gown that I made:
The dress was made from a voile-weight cotton from Farmhouse Fabrics, called Swiss muslin, and from embroidered cotton tulle that I bought at the Little Trimmings website.  The silk tulle for the veil also came from Little Trimmings.  The paper roses trimming the dress and veil were from Mini-Dolls.

For the ruffles on the underskirt, I cut strips of Swiss muslin and ironed them folded in half.  The folded edge became the bottom of the ruffle.  I then used a 1" scale Perfect Pleater to make the ruffles.  My secret to getting the ruffles to hold their shape was to spray the strips with hair spray before inserting in the Perfect Pleater.  I made a bell-shaped lining and slip stitched the ruffles to it, bottom edge first.  The second row of ruffles overlapped the row underneath, to hide the raw edge of the lower ruffle.  Five such ruffles formed the underskirt.  The tulle of the lace is cotton, while the embroidery was done with rayon thread, giving the lace a little shimmer.

The sleeves are made from the same lace as the overskirt.  The sleeves are bell-shaped, with the back of the sleeve a little longer than the front.  The bodice is covered with a different version of embroidered cotton tulle.  The ruffle at the top of the bodice is 1/8" wide, made of Swiss muslin folded double.  The necklace is 2 mm seed pearls, purchased on the Gail Wilson website.  I can think of nothing else to write, except that it took three tries to get the bodice to come to a nice point at the center front.  I wasn't going to mess up anything on this dress!

So this is the end of my Hitty project.  Originally, it was going to be one doll and a room or two.  It ended up being six dolls, two rooms, and a ton of clothes.  I keep thinking up new projects, the number of which feels overwhelming.  I've been working lately on bringing some of my doll projects to completion, which feels wonderful!  There is, however, one last thing for Hitty not yet done.  I still need to find some twigs to put in the basket by the fireplace in the sitting room.  But I think I might leave that to do in 2016.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Miss Unity, a Hitty-sized doll

UFDC's Miss Unity
The shop on the United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC) website had a little doll for sale, named Miss Unity, that was just Hitty's size. She was UFDC's logo doll, made by Robert Tonner.  Every now and again, I'd go look at her and think about buying.  But each time, I'd click the X to close the page.  Five Hitty-size dolls was enough, I thought.  And I was running out of room for displaying dolls of any kind.

Then the Spring 2014 issue of UFDC's Doll News had an article by AnneLise Wilhelmsen, with patterns for four outfits for Miss Unity.  There was also a paper doll by Gael Shults, featuring some of the same outfits.  Immediately I went to the UFDC website to buy Miss Unity.  The patterns were the tipping point.  They were in the style of 1830's clothing, and as the story of Hitty in the original book began in the 1820's, Miss Unity would fit right in with my little Hitty family.  I had been looking at Miss Unity on the UFDC website for several years, and I was lucky to have bought her when I did, for she sold out shortly thereafter.

I made four outfits for my Miss Unity.  Three of the dresses are made with print fabrics.  In the early 1800's, the fabric printing process was greatly improved, and prints became very popular.  I went to the Reproduction Fabrics website to find 1830's appropriate prints that I liked and downloaded swatches.  I then miniaturized the prints in Photoshop, to make them a realistic size for Miss Unity.  I then had to copy-and-paste the swatch enough times to print out on a 12x15" sheet of fabric, which was more than enough for each of the dresses.

Here is the first one.  I love the soft blue of this fabric.  I used cotton batiste for the fabric, to keep it as light as possible for the small size of the doll.   I was amazed at the detail in the patterns.  Oftentimes, patterns for dolls this size have the bodice and sleeves in one piece, to simplify construction.  This pattern had a separate sleeve and separate front and back bodices.  It also had princess seaming on the bodice, so there were side back and side front pattern pieces.  In a princess seam, the two pieces to be joined have different curves, one concave and the other convex, which makes joining them a challenge, especially in the bodice for a 6-1/2" doll.  But who doesn't like a good challenge?

The second dress has a fabric pattern borrowed from Reproduction Fabrics.  I was trying to get a darker background color, but when printing on very light, thin fabrics with a computer printer, there's a limit to how much ink will be absorbed and thus a limit to how dark the fabric will become.  A thicker fabric will absorb more ink and thus can appear considerably darker.  I added a belt to this dress, copying the paper doll green print dress.

The third dress has the most complicated design.  The pattern instructions had the skirt pieced, so that the stripes ran vertically in the upper portion of the skirt, and then alternating diagonals around the bottom portion.  As I was printing the fabric for this dress from a computer, I just did all the piecing in Picasa.  The sleeves also have a bit of an elaborate design.  The sleeve heads have 4 rows of barrel pleating.  A narrow piece of the stripe is then sewn over the bottom row of the barrel pleats as a trim.

The fourth dress is my own variation of the Doll News pattern, based on a example of an 1830's woman's dress that I found on the Internet.  It has a gathered bodice with a pink silk sash tied around the raised waistline.  The skirt has Swiss embroidered edging with a large tuck above.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Felicity, Hitty's Mason & Taylor Friend

Hitty #1:  Hitty Faith

When I turned 60 and revived my lifelong love of dressing dolls, I quickly found Hitty.  Hitty: Her First Hundred Years was one of my favorite books as a young girl, so I was thrilled to find that there was a thriving community of Hitty enthusiasts.  I began where we all begin, by purchasing a Hitty, in my case, a resin model from DeAnn Cole.  At that point, she was just named Hitty.  I started replicating the clothing in the illustrations of the original book for her.

Hitty #2:  Hitty Hope
I had made a rule for myself, that I would buy just one of each type of doll, to try to limit what I knew could so easily become an out-of-control doll collection.  But then I learned about the revised edition.  I was not as enchanted with the revised version as with the original, but the illustrations were charming and DeAnn Cole just happened to have a resin version of the more childlike Hitty in the revised edition.  So I chucked my one-of-each-type rule and bought DeAnn's Hittykin 2.  Both dolls could not just be called "Hitty," so they became Hitty Faith and Hitty Hope.  While Hope was the second Hitty that I bought, she had to wait a long time for her clothing, which replicated the illustrations in the revised edition.

Hitty #3: Hitty Charity
I began googling Hitty, to find out all that I could about her.  Whilst googling, I found Gail Wilson's website, which had a plethora of furniture and accessories that were just Hitty's size.  I envisioned a mansion in which my two Hittys would live, but settled for a bedroom and a sitting room.  Gail Wilson also had her own version of Hitty, with a cloth body and paper mache head.  To my mind, that didn't count as a real Hitty.  Real Hittys are wood!  Then I realized that my two Hittys were resin, which wasn't exactly wood.  So the GW Hitty came to live at our house, named Hitty Charity.  She got to have clothes made from the patterns that Gail Wilson sells for her.

Hitty #4: Hitty Prudence
So there were Faith, Hope and Charity, living in their two-room mansion.  I planned on stopping there, as three is a good number of dolls to have.  But then, when making the clothes for Hitty Faith, I realized that the bridal gown illustrated in the original book was so elaborate, that once it was finished I would never want to take it off.  So I decided to buy one more Hitty, who would dedicate herself to the wearing of the bridal gown.  Thus Hitty Prudence, made by Susan Sirkis, came to live with us.  She is named Prudence because one should always be prudent when deciding to marry.  [Yes, the bridal gown is done.  I just need to get blogging.]

Hitty #5: Hitty's Friend, Felicity
Four Hittys plus their rooms!  Oh my!  The one-of-a-type rule certainly got thrown out the window.  But with four I planned to stop . . . until Gail Wilson came out with Hitty's friends, the 6" Springfield Woodens, who had a real carved wood body and a paper mache head.  Could I resist?  Of course not!  Felicity came as a kit, with wood blanks for the body, arms and legs and an unpainted paper mache head.  I took up wood carving, which I'd never done before, to shape the body parts, then stained, painted and varnished them.  I painted the head, a task that I find enormously challenging.  I painted her as a Mason and Taylor doll, with blonde hair and the Mason and Taylor blue boots. 

My friend Edna sent me several little knit hats, capes and shawls that were the perfect size for Felicity.  I made simple dresses to coordinate with the knitties, which are shown below.  I should note that Felicity's blue shoes coordinate with absolutely none of her outfits.

Here is a photo of Felicity with Hitty Faith and Hitty Charity in their sitting room. Hitty Hope does not appear, as when this photo was taken, Hope still had no clothes of her own.   Felicity is wearing a dress borrowed from Hitty Charity.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hitty, the Revised Edition

Rachel Field's and Dorothy Lathrop's book, Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, was originally published in 1929.  In the 1990's, the story began receiving criticism for not being politically correct, particularly in how former slaves were portrayed.  Other books were similarly criticized, especially Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn.  Some critics suggested that it is inappropriate for children today to read these books.  I would argue that all books reflect the values and beliefs of the time in which they were written, and that people -- children and adults alike -- can learn much about those times by reading the books that were written in them.

In light of the criticisms, Rosemary Wells wrote a revised version of Hitty, which was published in 1999.  She shortened the length of the book by more than half and completely change the story line in the second half of the book.  The revised version was published as a large format picture book, one that included many colored illustrations drawn by Susan Jefffers.  The Hitty pictured in the illustrations by Dorothy Lathrop very closely resembled the real-life Hitty doll that Rachel Field and Dorothy Lathrop shared.  The Hitty that Susan Jeffers drew was a much younger, more childlike version.  In the first half of the revised version, the descriptions and illustrations of Hitty's clothing remained close to that in the original book.  On the other hand, in the second half, the clothing is unlike anything in the original book.

The first Hitty that I bought was a resin version made by DeAnn Cole, called Hittykins.  DeAnn later made a resin version of the doll in the revised edition, as illustrated by Susan Jeffers, which was then called Hittykins 2.  Planning on making the dresses in Susan Jeffers' illustrations, I bought a Hittykins 2.  She appears in the photo at the left.  Several years have passed since I bought the revised Hitty, whom I named Hitty Hope.  This year, I finally started replicating the outfits in the revised Hitty.  So here they are!

Here is Hitty Hope in her underthings.  Both the chemise and pantaloons are made from Swiss batiste, with an edging of Swiss embroidery.  I threaded two strands of pink embroidery floss through the entredeux on the edging, to simulate the trim shown in the illustration.

In the original book, the child Phoebe Preble sewed Hitty's first dress and underthings.  In the revised edition, it is Phoebe's mother who does the sewing.  This is the dress that Phoebe's mother made for Hitty.  I made the printed fabric by first drawing a block of yellow dots on a red background in Microsoft Word, using the circle template in the drawing tools.  I then copied the block of 4 x 4 dots into Photoshop, miniaturized it, copied the block enough times to get a row that was 12" wide, and finally copied that row enough times to get an image that was 12 x 15".  I printed the image on a piece of batiste ironed onto freezer paper, using my lovely new wide-format printer, and voila! I had the fabric for Hitty's first dress.  The trim at the bottom of the skirt is narrow soutache.  The trim around the yoke is piping that I made from silk charmeuse.  I dyed the silk for the piping and the silk ribbon for the sash, using good old Rit dye.  The cap is made from white batiste, with cotton lace for the trim.  I left the ties longer than in the illustration, as I had enough problems tying a bow that little.

In another illustration, Hitty is shown wearing the Preble dress with a yellow bonnet and green sprigged shawl.  I made the print for the shawl in Microsoft Word.  I found an illustration of a fabric that had green sprigs online, copied one of those sprigs into Word, miniaturized it, and then copy-and-pasted it into the pattern seen in the shawl.  The green lines at the border of the shawl were made with the drawing tools in Word.  I printed the shawl onto a piece of cotton voile, thinking that the very sheer, thin voile would drape nicely over Hitty's shoulders.

Here is a closeup of Hitty's yellow bonnet.  I made the pattern for the bonnet from regular printer paper, trying it several times to get the size and shape just right.  The bonnet itself is made from wool felt that I bought on Etsy and is trimmed with a length of silk charmeuse bias that I dyed red.  The ribbon in the hat band and bow is silk satin ribbon, dyed yellow to match the trim of the dress.

In the original Hitty, the text mentioned that Hitty had an everyday Quaker dress, but there was no illustration of it.  The revised version provided the illustration.  So here is Hitty's everyday dress appropriate for a little Quaker doll.  I made the print for this dress in the same way as for the Preble dress.  Hitty has a fichu of white batiste with rows of tucks, which took me some experimentation to figure out how to handle the tucks in the back.  She wears the fichu with a white batiste apron and a little demure Quaker cap.  The cap is made from the same pattern as the cap with the Preble dress, but the Quaker cap is trimmed with a fabric ruffle rather than French lace.

In addition to a suitable Quaker dress for everyday wear, in the revised edition Hitty had a Quaker "best dress" for wear to First Day Meetings and on special occasions.  When looking to replicate the Quaker best dress, I faced a dilemma, for there were two distinct versions in the revised book, differing mainly in the style of the bodice.  The illustration above shows my compromise between the two.  My version is made of satin batiste, which has a bit of a sheen to it suitable for a best dress.  The buttons are tiny 2mm seed pearls.  The Quaker bonnet was made in the same fashion as the yellow Preble bonnet, also from wool felt.

This is the dress that appears on the cover of the revised edition.  It appears nowhere on the inside pages.  This is one of my favorites, because I think the color looks so good on Hitty, with her dark hair.  I dyed the fabric for this dress, using satin batiste.  There is a narrow cotton lace at the neckline and wrists, and again the buttons are 2mm seed pearls.

This is the dress that Hitty wore in the antique shop, in the last chapter of the story.  It is also one of the dresses on which I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out exactly how I was going to accomplish replicating it.  At first I was going to try to find fabric that had incredibly narrow blue stripes on a white background.  Then I decided that the dress was probably supposed to represent a white-on-white fabric, like a dimity, which is the fabric that I ended up using.  The lace yoke is made from val laces that I cut apart just to get the narrow bands of lace dots -- in 3 different sizes.  I never did find a lace that would work for the pointed edging, and ended up using a lace that had rounded points that weren't as wide as those in the illustration.

The illustration of the back view shows a different color ribbon than that used in the front view.  The ribbon that I used was a closer match to the front view than the back view.  The skirt trim is different in the front and back views, as well.  The front view has 4 ribbon bands; the back view has 2 bands plus lace trim around the bottom.  I went with the back view on that one.  This dress also illustrates some of the differences between an illustration and an actual dress made for a 6-1/2 inch doll.  One difference is that there is no closure at all on the lace yoke, which brings up the question of how was Hitty able to put the dress on?  Another difference is that the ribbon sash in the illustration is very drapeable, even with the double ties.  That just didn't work with the satin ribbon that I used.  I wonder what type of ribbon would make those lovely drapeable double loops on a 6-1/2" doll?

This last dress is the one worn by Hitty to the Cotton Exposition in the revised edition of the book.  It is out-of-order in my listing here, as Hitty wore this dress before the one she wore in the antique shop, described above.  I saved the Cotton Exposition for last partly because it was the last one that I made, but mostly because it was the most elaborate and the most difficult to make.  In the revised edition, the beads on the dress are supposed to be black pearls.  The beads in the illustration are a medium to light shade of gray, which are lighter than black pearls actually would be.  Because black pearls were way out of my price range, I used beads made of hematite.

Here is a closeup view of the skirt.  While the skirt in the illustration is much wider than the one that I made, by my calculations, the illustration skirt has 8 embroidered flowers around, while the one I made actually had one more, 9 flowers.  My skirt is 12 inches in circumference, and I had difficulty getting all 12 of those inches gathered into Hitty's much smaller waist.  There is no way that I could have added in a greater length of fabric around without resorting to cartridge pleating to gather the waist.  I also simplified the beading a bit.  I tried replicating the beading pattern exactly, but it became too much visually.  The flowers and the pink scallops on the skirt were done on my embroidery machine.

Finally, here is a closeup of the bodice and the headpiece.  The scallops on the bodice and sleeve were all done on the embroidery machine, which does much more even work than I can do by hand.  The beading pattern on the bodice follows the illustration nearly exactly.  The beading pattern in the headpiece is also pretty close to that in the illustration.  However, in the illustration, the beads are gray only around their perimeters, and so appear much lighter against Hitty's dark hair than my hematite beads do.

So that is the tale of Hitty Hope, who wears the clothing shown in the illustrations of the revised edition of Hitty: Her First Hundred Years.