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.