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.


Nancy said...

Absolutely amazing.

Endment said...

What a wonderful blog! I just discovered it today and am so disappointed to find no new posts.
Thank you for so much enjoyment

Lynn Molis said...

Could you please tell me how you acquire the tiny picture of Sold At Auction by Grandma Moses?
Thank you,

Lynn Molis said...

Could you please tell me how you acquire the tiny picture of Sold At Auction by Grandma Moses?
Thank you,

Judith in Montana said...

Hi, Lynn! I found a copy of the original Grandma Moses book in which the picture of Sold at Auction appeared. I scanned the picture in Photoshop and then miniaturized it. I no longer have the book (I donated it to our local library), but I do have the 3.5 x 2" version as a tif file, which is the size that I used. I'd be glad to send it to you, but not being very good at this social networking thing, I don't know how to send it!

Lynn Molis said...

Hi Again, Judith ,
I just ran across your response to me sent to me in March!
I, too, have the Grandma Moses Storybook but have not been successful in printing the picture. Because of the seam in the middle did you just photo shop your picture?
My regular email is:
I have ordered some framing material from Northeastern Scale Model Co. So I must come up with a picture! ��
Thank you,

hittyjean said...

Just seeing this and it is gorgeous! Your attention to detail is wonderful. A really beautiful room!!!