Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hitty's Dresses, By the Book

In Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, Dorothy Lathrop drew the delightful illustrations. Many of the illustrations depict Hitty in dresses that are described in the story written by Rachel Field. I have been reproducing those dresses as closely as I'm able. When I first wrote this posting, I was about half way through. I just finished the last of the dresses, and have added photos of them further down.

In the story, Hitty's first dress is sewn by Phoebe Preble. Phoebe's mother would not let poor Phoebe play with the doll until she was decently clothed:
Phoebe's mother had decided that I was not to be played with until properly clothed. Phoebe was not a child who took readily to sewing, but her mother was firm, so presently out came needles and thread, thimbles and piece-bag, and I was being measured for my first outfit. It was to be of buff calico strewn with small red flowers, and I thought it was very fine indeed.
The cover of the 1998 paperback edition of Hitty shows Dorothy Lathrop's illustration of the dress that Phoebe Preble made. I made an exact copy of the dress by first scanning in the cover illustration. I then cropped one of the little flower clusters, straightened the image, and then duplicated it in a diagonal pattern. The background color of the fabric was also taken from the cover illustration. I then printed the image on a fine batiste ironed onto freezer paper.

The Hitty in the photographs below is Hitty Faith, who is a DRC Hittykin resin doll, made by DeAnn Cole. Hitty Faith was my first Hitty, and I think she comes closest to looking like the first Hitty of all I've seen. Hitty's necklace is real coral beads, strung on elastic, so that it can be removed. The dress closes in back with loops and three 1/8" buttons.

In Hitty, Phoebe Preble also made her doll a pair of pantaloons and a chemise, with her name embroidered on it. Hitty describes how she came by her name:
At first, I was christened Mehitabel, but Phoebe was far too impatient to use so many syllables, and presently I had become Hitty to the whole household. Indeed, it was Mrs. Preble's suggestion that these five letters were worked carefully in little red cross-stitch characters upon my chemise.

"There, said Phoebe's mother when the last one was done, "now whatever happens to her she can always be sure of her name."
Hitty's chemise is shown in several illustrations, including one in which she is burrowing in her trunk. In trying to reproduce the chemise and pantaloons, I quickly noticed that there were no closures on the chemise, either in front or in back. There is a button at the waist, so presumably the petticoat was separate. I assume that the chemise depicted was pulled on over the head. That might have worked for an illustration doll, but it didn't work for a real doll. I found that a neckline big enough to go over Hitty's head also tended to slip off her shoulders. So my Hitty's chemise is buttoned up the back, and the petticoat is attached to the chemise. The fabric is cotton voile, and the lace is French cotton val.

After having been lost by Phoebe Preble on a sea voyage, Hitty was purchased as a birthday gift for 4-year-old Little Thankful. The dress that Phoebe had made was long gone, but Hitty still had her chemise, and Little Thankful's mother made Hitty a new dress:
Little Thankful's mother was better at hymns and Bible lessons than dressing dolls. However, I was so glad to feel decent cloth upon my back again that I was in no mood to insist upon the latest fashions. She made me a rather voluminous dress of cotton print, in a far from gaudy pattern. It nearly covered my painted feet, and the ruffle about my neck practically hid my coral beads. But these were small matters. I was clean and comfortable and I belonged to a little girl again.
There is no mention in the book of the colors in the print fabric that Little Thankful's mother used, so I made the solid stripes brown and the little flowers in shades of peach. This is another print that I generated using Adobe Photo Elements, and then printed on batiste. The brown color actually is quite a bit darker than it appears in the photos below.

I made the collar of cotton voile, with tiny loops of tatting for the edging. As there was no illustration of the dress front to limit me, I put the stripes on the bodice front on the diagonal.

Little Thankful was not very thankful to have Hitty when she saw the elegant china dolls that other girls had at a party. Thankful stuffed Hitty down behind the cushions of the horsehair sofa, where Hitty remained for several years. After being discovered, Hitty soon became the doll of Clarissa Pryce, a little Quaker girl. Clarissa herself made Hitty two dresses. Hitty's everyday dress was made of brown sprigs on buff calico. There is no illustration of this dress, so I did some research on the clothing that Quaker girls might have worn in the mid-1800's. I designed the print with brown sprigs on a buff background, and printed the design onto batiste. The dress is plain, with no embellishment, as befitting a Quaker girl. I made a Quaker pinafore to go with the dress, as well as a plain white cap.
The second dress that Clarissa made for Hitty was for Sunday best. It was "a pearl-gray silk, made in true Quaker fashion, with a fine white fichu crossed in front, lawn cap, and all, for First Day, as the Pryces called Sunday."

To make the dress, I dyed a piece of silk broadcloth with Pearl Gray Rit dye. Like the everyday dress, the gray silk dress was plain, with long straight sleeves and no embellishments. The white fichu is made of cotton voile, with a tiny ruffle as depicted in the illustration. In addition to a white cap made of voile, I constructed a straw bonnet for Hitty, made in the Quaker style.

Here's one more photograph of Hitty in her Quaker dress. She is wearing her white cap, the ruffle of which is peaking out from under her straw Quaker bonnet, which itself is tied with a large silk bow. At least, the bow is large on Hitty!

Hitty stayed with Clarissa until after the Civil War. When Clarissa went away to boarding school, Hitty 'went into camphor,' stored away in the attic with moth balls. The box in which Hitty was stored was sent to some New York cousins, where after a length of two years, Hitty was found by Miss Milly Pinch, the household seamstress. To prove her ability to sew fancy clothes, Miss Pinch made a wonderous wardrobe for Hitty. One of the dresses was a dancing dress made of silk. Hitty was soon appropriated by Isabella, an 8-year-old, who took Hitty with her to dance classes. Hitty tried to join in, but as her legs were pegged, they couldn't move independent of each other. As Hitty said "My spirit was willing, but my pegs were not."

I found that making the dancing dress from silk fabric was formidable. Silk drapes wonderfully, but when gathered, it doesn't fall into graceful Hitty-size folds. Instead, it tends to stand out like an umbrella. So I opted to make the dancing dress from sheer cotton voile. However, the ruching at the neckline and hemline is made from silk ribbon, as is the pink sash around her waist.

Another ensemble made by Miss Pinch is described in detail in the book:

How is it possible for my poor pen to do justice to my new attire--to the watered-silk dress with draped skirt, fitted waist, and innumerable bows? How can I describe the blue velvet pelisse embroidered with garlands no bigger than pinheads? How tell of the little feathered hat and the muff of white eiderdown?

Hitty is wearing this ensemble when she falls from Isabella's grasp and tumbles to the ground at the feet of Charles Dickens. Mr. Dickens rescues Hitty, a memorable event for Isabella.

This outfit was the most challenging of all to try to construct. Elsewhere in the book the dress is described as made of blue silk, so I dyed a piece of lightweight taffeta a very light shade of evening blue. The skirt is slightly fuller in the back than the front and has two rows of ecru braid at the hem. Above those are multitudes of ecru silk bows. Only the lower portion of the skirt is shown in the book's illustration, so I designed the bodice myself. It does have a fitted waist, as well as a square neckline and short sleeves. I did not embellish the bodice, as I didn't want extra bulk under the pelisse.

The pelisse is made of cotton velveteen, dyed a darker shade of evening blue. The sleeves and hem are edged with black cotton val lace, and all the edges of the pelisse are bordered with a loopy rayon braid. The garlands are composed of bullion-stitch pink roses and lazy-daisy green leaves. I had to make a few modifications to the sleeve and pocket, because of the nature of the materials I was working with. The little hat is made from the same silk as the dress and does indeed have a blue feather. The muff, rather than made of eiderdown, is made of a piece of faux fur. I had to shave the pile down considerably to make it Hitty scale.

The last dress that is illustrated in the book was made by Miss Pamela Worthington, who rescued Hitty from life as a pincushion doll and made her a dress of sprigged challis, such as Miss Pamela herself had worn as a child. Eventually, still wearing this dress, Hitty is bought at auction by the old gentleman, and goes to live in Miss Hunter's antique shop, where she writes her memoirs.

My 1930's hardcover edition of Hitty has a color illustration of this dress. I used the illustration to reconstruct the fabric in Photoshop, and then printed the fabric image onto cotton batiste. In addition to the color illustration, the book has two other illustrations showing this dress, and in each, the dress is drawn slightly differently. My version is an adaptation of all three.

These are all of the dresses in the illustrations of Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, except for one, which is the glorious bride's dress that Hitty wears at the Cotton Exposition. I know that once I make that dress, I will never want to take it off of my little Hitty. So rather than make the bride's dress for Hitty Faith, who has a plentitude of dresses already, I bought a Hitty made by Susan Sirkis to dress especially as the bride. That dress still needs much planning and thought, but for now, the dresses for Hitty Faith, reconstructing the illustrations in the original version of Hitty, are done.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hitty According to Gail Wilson

Soon after I bought my first Hitty, I discovered the Hitty-size furniture on Gail Wilson's website ( Many of the pieces of furniture and accessories in my Hitty's bedroom and sitting room are made from GW kits. Gail also sells her version of Hitty, ready-made and in kit form. The original Hitty was carved of wood, while the GW Hitty has molded paper mache head, arms and legs with a cloth body. At first, I wasn't sure that a non-wood doll could truly be a Hitty. But then I realized that my other Hittys were all made of resin, which makes them non-wood dolls. So, I bought a GW Hitty kit and gathered together my courage to make a 6-1/2" doll.
This is the GW Hitty that I made. She is a pudgy little thing, more childlike that the original Hitty. She is named Hitty Charity. (There is also a Hitty Hope, as yet unclothed).

Her petticoat and pantaloons are made of cotton voile, trimmed with cotton val lace. I used simple drawstring closures for both the undergarments, so that I could loosen the strings and let them ride a little below her waist if need be.

Also in this picture are the cotton batiste nightgown and nightcap, both made from a GW pattern.

Here is Hitty Charity in the dress made from the fabric included in the Hitty doll kit. She also has a pinafore, both garments being edged with a crochet-type lace. The instructions had the option of embroidering "Hitty" on the bib of the pinafore, but obviously I chose to keep the bib plain.

Also in the picture is Hitty Charity's cape, made of thin cotton flannel. I wanted a forest green flannel, but couldn't find any in the fabric stores, so I dyed it. While I was at it, I also dye a piece of cotton batiste with which to line the hood and collar. I had a piece of narrow jacquard ribbon with a touch of green in the design. I thought it made a good trim for the cape, giving it a Tyrolean flavor.

Hitty Charity is wearing what I think of as a pioneer girl's outfit in this picture. It doesn't show up well in the photo, but the dress fabric is a little cream-on-tan print. Hitty Charity has a pioneer bonnet made of the same fabric. To go over her dress there is a navy-and-tan checked apron, which buttons in the back.

On the dress form is a blue-on-white print dress, which the pattern identifies as one of Hitty's 'best dresses.' This is the style of dress worn by Miss Columbia, a late 1800's cloth doll.

In the GW pattern, this dress was described as a Quaker outfit, designed to be made in gray fabric. I made it decidedly non-Quakerish by using dark red fabric. In the pattern, the dress was two pieces, a blouse and skirt, with the white fichu tucked into the waistband of the skirt. I made the dress all one piece, and modified the fichu so that it tied around in the back. Both are ways that women in the early 1800's wore fichus. Hitty Charity is wearing a Quaker cap, which basically is like the caps worn by women of that time period. At her feet is a Quaker bonnet, with silk ribbon ties and a ruffle to protect her neck.

In this photo, Hitty Charity is wearing a very simple dress, made of a brown-on-tan cotton print. The dress has a hand-dyed brown silk sash as an accent.

In this picture, Hitty Charity is wearing a dusty pink print dress. I dyed the sash to match the darker shade of pink in the print. It took several tries to get the right color! Also, Hitty has a pink bonnet that she can wear with her dress, which has its own hat box. When I made the hat box, I got the lid a little tight. It comes off, but it takes a lot of doing.

Here Hitty Charity is wearing a brown cardigan sweater that goes so nicely with her brown-on-tan print dress. The sweater was knit by my friend Edna. It has real buttons and buttonholes, as well as the tiniest of ribbings. It certainly will keep Hitty Charity warm in the winter.

And finally, here is Hitty Charity wearing her blue shawl with a matching cap, also knit by Edna. The cap has a tiny eyelet pattern worked around the edge.

I had finished all these dresses and finally declared Hitty Charity's wardrobe complete. Then I learned that Gail Wilson had published two new patterns for Hitty. One is an early 1800's dress, in the style of Jane Austen. The other is a style often worn by dolls in the mid-1800's, such as the Izannah Walker dolls. I can hear Hitty Charity saying that she has absolutely nothing to wear and needs some new dresses!

A Few Weeks Later  . . .

Here is Hitty Charity in her new Jane Austen style dress and bonnet.  The dress is made from white batiste, with a tuck and lace at the wrists, tucks near the hem and a ruffle of lace at the neck.  The sash is made of French blue silk satin ribbon, with a large bow in the back.  This style of dress was popular in the early 1800's, the era depicted in the Jane Austen novels.  
The bonnet is also typical of that era, with a large brim and Hitty's curls showing in the back.  The same ribbon in a narrower size trims the bonnet.

And here is Hitty Charity in a dress typical of mid-19th century doll dresses, like that frequently worn by dolls made by Izannah Walker.   It has a round yoke with a bound neckline.  The bell sleeves gather onto the yoke, as does the body of the dress.  The apron has a printed pattern simulating embroidered doll aprons of that same era, which were often seen in brown, such as this one, or red.  Hopefully, Hitty Charity is satisfied with the state of her wardrobe.  Her sister, Hitty Hope, has not a stitch to wear and is beginning to feel slighted.  Sibling rivalry exists even in the doll world.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hitty's Sitting Room

It took awhile, but I finally got Hitty's sitting room constructed and furnished. I think "sitting room" is a good name for it, as it has many places to sit! All of the furniture, except for the round table, were constructed from Gail Wilson kits. Rachel Field and Dorothy Lathrop found several pieces of furniture for the original Hitty, including a wooden settle bench. The original was stained wood; my rendition is painted. The seat lifts to reveal storage space.

In the book, Hitty is shown sitting at a slant-top desk wearing her Quaker garb. The desk in the photo was made from a GW kit. I scratch-built the little bench, copying the bench in the Hitty illustration. The large book on the desk is Hitty's journal, in which she recorded her memories of her adventures. On the ledge is a little mug with "Hitty" written on it, as well as a seashell. At the right on the ledge is an inkwell made of cranberry glass. According to the Greater Cranberry Historical Society, Rachel Field used the home of William P. Preble and his wife Abigail, located on Greater Cranberry Island, for inspiration when writing about the home of the fictional Preble family in Hitty: Her First Hundred Years. There is a green feather in the inkwell, similar to the one that Hitty used in writing her memoirs. The sailing ship on the wall above the desk commemorates Hitty's sea voyages. The little bench with Papa and Mama Bear was made from a Gail Wilson kit. They have no historical connection to Hitty, but the bench fit nicely in that back corner and I'm sure that Hitty appreciates their company. The top shelf also has a pottery jar in which to store Vermont maple syrup. As Hitty lived in the nearby state of Maine, I'm sure she was an afficionado of Vermont's famous syrup.

This is Hitty's seashell collection, housed in a shadow box that I scratch built. There is nothing in the book about Hitty gathering seashells, but I'm sure she would like this collection as a remembrance of her adventures at sea.

The bookcase to the left of the fireplace holds many of Hitty's pieces of china and pottery. On the top two shelves sits pieces of her pink flowered tea set. The tea pot and another cup and saucer are on the round table on the right side of the room.

I built the fireplace unit and the two bookcases that flank it from scratch, mostly using 1/8" basswood. The moldings came from Northeastern Scale Model Company, which was wonderful things for building dollhouses and other structures. The cobalt blue tiles are real ceramic tiles, 3/8" square. I made the fireplace opening so that the tiles would fit. The inside of the fireplace is lined with faux bricks, made from a kit. A template of the brick shapes was applied to the walls of the firebox, then a mixture of rick-colored Plaster of Paris applied in a thin layer over the template. When the template was removed, the brick shapes remained in the walls and floor of the firebox. It took me a couple of tries to get it right! I'm looking for a set of andirons to fit the fireplace, so that I can lay a few logs ready to keep Hitty warm. I'm also planning on filling the basket in front of the fireplace with Hitty-size logs.

The original of the painting above the mantel was done by Grandma Moses for inclusion in her 1961 book, The Grandma Moses Story Book for Boys and Girls. The last chapter in that book is an excerpt from Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, telling the story of Hitty being purchased by the Old Gentleman for his friend, the lady who ran the antique shop in New York. The title of the painting is "Sold at Auction."

The two chairs on the right side of the room are from Gail Wilson kits. Instead of using the fabric that came with the wing chair kit, I selected a tan flowered stripe from my stash, because I like the look of striped fabric on upholstered pieces. I did the chair three years ago and had forgotten about the fabric on it when I went to pick the fabric for the walls. Thus, it is serendipity that the walls and wing chair match.

One of the pieces that Rachel Field and Dorothy Lathrop found for the original Hitty was a tilt-top table, so I built one for my Hitty sitting room. The book lying on the table is a miniature version of Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, complete with authentic dust jacket. The flowers in the vase are similar to those that appear with Hitty in her daguerrotype.

This shows the underside of the tilt-top table, including the mechanism that allows it to tilt up and down. The post of the table began life as a part for a dollhouse railing; the rest of the table I built from scratch. The block on the top of the table is connected to the two cleats on the underside of the table top by a dowel (actually a toothpick) running through the parts, which allows the block to rotate. The little latch at the top rotates over the block when the tabletop is down, locking it in place so that it won't tilt accidentally.

In Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, Hitty and Clarissa Pryce suffer a misadventure when they sneak to hear Adelina Patti, who was a real-life concert singer nearly as famous in her day as Jenny Lind. The painting on the wall above the slat-back chair is a portrait of the real-life Adelina Patti. I made the frame from miniature picture frame molding sold by Northeastern Scale Lumber Company.

The original Hitty, who now lives in the Stockbridge, MA Public Library, has a painting of flowers in a rustic wood frame. I downloaded an image of that painting, restored it and made a rustic frame for it. So my Hittys have the same painting on the wall as the original Hitty has.

The bookcase to the right of the fireplace has a few additional pottery pieces and a basket--not sweetgrass, alas! The doll's doll on the bottom shelf is one that my daughter had for her dollhouse collection as a child. On the second shelf are three apothecary jars filled with candy, peppermint stars, red licorice sticks, and candy canes. There are several books from Esther Robertson, as well as a miniature copy of A Christmas Carol. In Hitty, she is rescued by Charles Dickens, so it is fitting that she'd have a copy of one of his books. There is also a small volume containing a poem written by Rachel Field, titled "A Valentine for Old Dolls." This is Hitty's favorite, as she is sure that Miss Field wrote the poem for her.

Rachel Field

Let others sing of cooing doves,
of beating hearts and new-found loves,
These my poor rhymes shall tell the graces
Of china, wax or wooden faces;
The charm of curls or painted braids,
Oh, sweet, perennially cheerful maids.
Your smiles shall last though nations fall,
And the young hands that dressed you all
In flowered flounce and ribbons gay,
Long since to dust be laid away.
Your years you wear like faint perfume
of rose leaves in a quiet room,
When winter at the threshold knocks;
Like some old tune a music-box
tinkles as soft as phantom rain
Falling beyond a window pane.
And so, where'er you be to-day-
On parlor shelf; packed snug away
In attic camphor-still I'll praise
Your stiff-set limbs, your timeless gaze,
Knowing full well when I am gone
Thus you will sit and thus smile on.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hitty's Bedroom

This is the first entry for my blog about my dolls. I finished constructing the roombox for my Hitty's bedroom, and wanted a place to post pictures of it and described it.

The original Hitty was a 6-1/4" peg wooden doll bought from an antique shop by Rachel Field and Dorothy Lathrop in the 1920's. They then collaborated on a story of Hitty's life, beginning from the time when she was first carved up until her sojourn in the antique shop. In the story, which of course is fiction, Hitty has many marvelous adventures and mishaps, sharing the worlds of several little (and not-so-little) girls. The book, Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, was awarded the John Newbery Medal in 1930. The original Hitty now resides in the Sturbridge, MA library, together with some of her actual possessions.

I have three Hitty dolls, named Faith, Hope, and Charity. Hitty Faith is a DRC-Hittykins resin pegged doll, who I think comes the closest to looking like the original Hitty of any doll I've seen. Faith has several dresses copied from the Lathrop illustrations. Hitty Hope is a resin doll by Susan Sirkis. Hope is presently rather naked (as in totally), but eventually she will be dressed as a bride in a dress replicating that made by the Larraby sisters. Finally, Hitty Charity is a still-to-be-put-together Gail Wilson kit. She will be dressed in replicas of the illustration in the Wells/Jeffers rewrite of Hitty. Faith, Hope and Charity all plan to share the space in the Hitty roomboxes. The bedroom is shown below. There will soon be a sitting room as well as a wardrobe room.

Here's Hitty's bedroom. Some of the furnishings were made with Gail Wilson kits (available at I made the roombox out of 1/2" foamcore board. The box is 20" wide, 12" high and 12" deep. The upper walls are covered in a Gail Wilson print fabric, the lower walls in miniature wood bead board, and the floors covered in dollhouse real random-width wood flooring, which I stained Colonial brown. Originally, I planned on building a wood cabinet to hold this and two other foamcore roomboxes for Hitty. However, the roomboxes ended up on open shelving, so I finished the outside with miniature clapboard siding, painted slate gray.

The four-poster bed is a GW kit. I made two pillows, rather than one. The first quilt that I made for it, using the fabrics that came in the kit, was a disaster. So the quilt on the bed was made with fabrics from my stash. Both the original Hitty and the Hitty in Field's book had a four-poster bed. The little whale rug at the foot of the bed is an exact copy of the original Hitty's whale rug (but probably not the same size). I downloaded a photo of the original whale rug, resized and straighten the image, and then printed it out on fabric to use as a template for punch-needling the rug. The colors are the same as those in the photo of the original rug.

The original Hitty had her own little peg-wooden doll. My Hitty's peg-wooden, seen in the previous photo, is another GW kit, together with the little pouting chair in which she sits and the little bed against the wall. When I opened the kit, I was dismayed to find that the little doll was just a blank, which I needed to carve, peg together and paint. I managed that, but thank goodness the head is left as a sphere! The little peg-wooden is just 2" tall. In the book, Hitty went on a sea voyage and one of the sailors made her a little blue trunk in which to put her possessions. I made the little trunk from scratch. It was one of my first endeavors, and took much trial and error. The original Hitty's summer quilt was a cotton made in a variation of the log cabin pattern. The little quilt on the wall in my Hitty's bedroom is a GW kit.

The little sampler on the back wall says "Bless this house". It is a kit from HiJinx (, and comes complete with the frame to put together. The original Hitty had a winter quilt made of dark-colored hexagons. I made a grandmother's flower garden quilt out of pastel pinks and lavenders instead. It rests on a quilt rack built from scratch.

The little washstand was built from scratch and has a working drawer. The towel hanging from the towel rod has hemstitching and lace, which is just barely visible in the photo.

The sewing table next to the bed also was scratch-built and has a working drawer. Right now the drawer holds Hitty's jewelry: a pearl necklace and a spare coral bead necklace. The spoolstand on the sewing table, the ladderback chair, and the Shaker sewing box are all from GW kits, as is the sampler on the wall. The batiste curtains are hung on real brass curtain rods that were made for 1:12 dollhouses, but work well here. The window is an actual working window, so that Hitty can occasionally get a breath of fresh air.

Well, that is Hitty's bedroom thus far. I keep rearranging the furniture, and am considering finding things to put on the side walls to the back of the windows. I'm not sure that the room needs more things on the wall, though. I don't want the room to get too cluttered looking. From what they tell me, Hitty Faith, Hope and Charity all value simplicity. They appear to be Transcendentalists, emulating Thoreau.