Friday, November 30, 2012

A Christmas Doll, Pt. 2 - Basic Victorian Underpinnings

This week all my children fell ill. We have been at home, in the house, (besides the hurried daily journey to the mailbox each day, which is usually Judah's especial activity) since last Saturday. I'm ready for the weekend. Simply because it means that yes, I will be able to get out of the house. Even if it is just grocery shopping. 

They are all recovering nicely from their respective ear infecitons and bronchitis. During this week, when they have napped more than usual, I have been able to get a few underpinnings made for Anne's doll. I am trying to hurry up to get as much as I can done this week since my mother's birthday and David's birthday are coming up in a week or two and I need to make each of them a birthday present. So, here I present to you the Basic Victorian Underpinnings that the doll now boasts. 

The first thing I made for the doll were these little boots. They are made of one layer of wool broadcloth. I attempted 3 other pair before I finally got these done and I found out that yes, wool broadcloth is ideal since you do not need to line it and it does not fray when cut! Wool felt would probably work just as well. I'd like to make another pair in red at some future point. 

Then the chemise. All these undies were cut down from part of a white cotton sheet so the material was free and it is nice quality. The chemise is a basic square-cut chemise with a gathered neckline. Sort of transitional between the earlier regency-era chemises and the later ones that could be cut with raglan-set sleeves. 
The drawers are basic split drawers of the period. I decorated the legs with tucks and a lace edging. In passing, I will say that I did not construct these in a period correct manner. Due to the size of them there is just no way I can sew tucks in the round on a finished leg! So I am doing mostly flat construction and then sewing the side seams last. I feel horribly non-PC for doing so but I can't really think of any other way that would allow me to make such small things without weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. 
I finished up the little corded stay today. I decided to go with this earlier style instead of the later non-strapped, front-opening style because 1: I had no idea what to use for a separating busk and 2: this style has straps, which allows the stays to stay ON the doll much better. Since the stays do not compress the doll, this is important. Without straps the stays would slip and slide around the torso which is not what we want, right?

I really kind of adore the stays. I love making corsets and even this small one was super fun to do. It's made almost exactly like my regency stays, with less cording and no boning. 
The back laces shut with a single lace. And yes, it is true, the lacing on the back is messed up. . .gotta go back and relace it properly sometime. . .didn't notice it til after I had taken pictures.
And here she is so far! Petticoats are up next.

And for those who have inquired about the pattern, here is a scan of the pattern I eyeballed for this doll. I hope it will print out okay; it is supposed to fit a standard size printer paper. I used about a 1/4" seam allowance and my finished dolly is about 17" tall.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

November Regency Project - Printed Drawstring Gown

This month I made a "to sell" project instead of something for me. This is the Elegant Lady's Closet Drawstring Gown pattern made up in pink printed cotton in size 26. It's currently for sale in my etsy shop along with the remaining 1860's winter hood.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Christmas Doll, Pt. 1 - The Doll

I was up late last night finishing the body of a cloth dolly I am making Anne for Christmas. I have wanted to make one for her since before she was born but lacked the time and/or motivation to actually get to work. But now! Christmas is coming! Any other type of dolly would possibly be hazardous in the hands of an avid chewer so a cloth one seemed to be the ideal kind. 

It has been a few years since I have made any dolls and I am always surprised by the personalities they take on. This one turned out with a rather smug expression. Since Anne cannot currently name her, I will take on that responsibility for myself. Right now I am mulling over two possibilities. Agnes? Or Frances? (to be called "Frankie")

She is made in the same way I have made my past dollies, with separate arms and legs sewn to the body. I made the legs with shaped feet this time since an antique cloth doll I found pictures of had similar style feet. While this doll is meant to be historically-inspired-by, I don't know if the shape of the body and method of construction are really accurate to the 1860's period. I just went for the general look. I cut her out of an old embroidered linen pillowcase by great-aunt gave to me when she moved from her home to a retirement facility. I saved the embroidery for a different project and the rest of the case had plenty of fabric for this doll (and indeed even one or two more).

Instead of a painted face and hair I decided to stick with materials that can, theoretically, remain intact through persistent chewing. The hair took a surprising amount of brown wool yarn, which I stitched securely to the head. 

The back of the head was covered by a very long braid of wool yarn, coiled and stitched into place. 

Since I didn't have embroidery floss on hand I used regular cotton sewing thread to embroider the mouth and eyes. It was all freehand so that is why the two sides are not exactly symmetrical but hey, I don't think a 5 month old baby is going to notice or mind. ;)

I am really excited about making the little doll clothes. I want to make a whole wardrobe of 1860's garments for her and will be starting with, of course, the undergarments, including a little corset and a corded petticoat. I really hate sewing tiny things so I made the doll rather large, just so it won't be so frustrating making the little clothes!

In the meantime she sits in unashamed nudity atop the sewing room shelf. I need to get those clothes made rather quickly. 


Friday, November 23, 2012

1950's-Style Thanksgiving Dress

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers! I hope you all had a blessed day reflecting on the good things you have been blessed with. We had a fabulous time with our guests, ate too much pie and played cards. David smoked a pork loin on the grill and I brined and roasted a turkey. They came out great and I think we'll be eating leftovers for a week!
It is true, the majority of the pictures David unwilling took of the dress were candid ones, alas. Forgiveness.

I finished my dress the night before Thanksgiving, putting in the zipper. Did I say I detest putting in zippers? This one was no different. It was one of those "invisible" zippers but it didn't come out all that invisible as my zipper foot does not snug up to the unrolled edge of the zipper close enough to warrant it being invisible once it is zipped. I had to insert the thing literally five times before it was done. It still isn't perfect but oh well. It is what it is.

I really like how the sleeves came out. The one thing I am not pleased with is the neckline. I cut this dress using the pattern I draped for my era-less dress from last year, only raising the neckline a tad. It still seems like it is way too low. I know it's not the dresses fault. It is the fault of currently nursing my baby. I think I'll be much happier with the fit of the neckline of this particular dress once the baby is weaned!

The only other mishap with the dress was the putting on of the waistband. The waistband is cut slightly curved, with the top of the waistband being slightly longer than the bottom edge. I put it on upside down. So the underbust area of the waistband is a bit too tight and the waist edge is a bit too big. This has the unflattering effect of making my stomach look like it is protruding from the underbust. I cannot fix this unless I take the waistband off and turn it around and put it on the right way but right now that seems like more work than it is worth. Maybe I will make a girdle. That might help.

I like the pouf the petticoat gives to the skirt. For a one-layer cotton petticoat it really does give a LOT of body and pouf!

It was a fun dress to wear yesterday although I did not wear the red shoes very long. The boys kept asking me where I was going since I never wear shoes unless I am leaving the house!

But it was NOT a fun dress to eat Thanksgiving dinner in. Note for next year: Wear a loose fitting sweatsuit. That way I can eat more.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cloth Diaper So Far

The sewing room is in upheaval at present. The very large cupboard/wardrobe thingie I have long used to store my fabric is now needed elsewhere in the house so I have now have no where to put my material. It is all neatly folded and stacked (and I rediscovered some pretty amazing fabric I forgot I had) but it's going to be impossible to sew until I have figured out where to put it all. I am looking into wall-mounted storage right now and hopefully I can find something out that won't be too time consuming or too expensive. In the meantime, we can talk about diapers.

So, how is cloth diapering going? A few of you have asked. Perhaps some have wondered, not wishing to verbalize an interest in diapers, which are at best utilitarian and at worst gross and unconversational.

It is going! Rather well, I would say, but honestly it has become so routine I rarely think about it anymore. The few times I have used disposables I have had to pause and pick the disposable diaper out of the wet pail I threw it in by habit. I like cloth diapers. I don't feel all hippie and eco-friendly or anything like that, but they just make so much more sense to me than disposables. It's like using paper plates and plastic silverware all the time versus washing your dishes in between uses. It makes more sense to just wash the dishes.

The linen and hemp cloth diapers I made before Anne was born are still going strong, now that she is past 16 weeks. I had planned for the diapers to hopefully last her til 8 weeks so they are exceeding my expectations! Besides being a bit rumply they are as good as new and still fit her although I think that after Christmas it will be time to make up a new, larger batch.

The one thing that did not work out so well were the wool soakers. In the beginning, I carefully pinned the linen diaper around Anne's tiny little waist and the wool soaker just would *not* contain all the diaper. The soaker was either too small or the diaper too large or both but it is certain they did not work together the way I had hoped. Every time I changed her she was wet all the way through - the wetness escaping from the diaper that peeked out of the legholes and around the waist. It was disheartening.

I made some shaped diapers from wool flannel. They worked much better than the felted-sweater soakers but dampness still escaped from around the legs. I tried to figure out how to make a leg gusset to keep the wet out but it was very frustrating to me. Working on so small a scale is always challenging and I did not feel up to the challenge!
A Very Small and Very New Anne in her shaped wool cover -she was so tiny! Was this really only a few months ago??

My friend Jenny, who owns the business Gabi Sunshine, sent me two PUL diaper covers that she had made as a baby gift. I tried them! And guess, what? They worked brilliantly! I was in love. Plus the covers were just *so* cute!
Newborn Anne in her itsy bitsy cover from Jenny - look at those skinny legs!

For the next month or so I used the PUL covers and the shaped wool covers but I realized more and more the advantages that the PUL covers had over the wool ones. So when Anne received some designated funds for "diapers covers" at her baby shower, I knew what I what kind of diaper covers I was going to get!
Skinny legs no more. Miss Chunky Thighs fills out her new diaper covers quite nicely. 

Jenny made me 6 more covers for Anne and that is what we have been exclusively using the last month or so. I cannot say how happy I am with this arrangement. Now that Anne is almost 4 months old she is more predictable in her habits of excrement and I just simply fold the diaper and lay it in the cover and then put it on just like a disposable would be put on, except of course, the covers snap closed.

Jenny's workmanship is just beautiful and the covers will last us a long time. I'm so relieved to not have to worry about making covers myself. Give me a detailed historical frock coat to make any day, but never diaper covers!!! :P

So, that is, in a nutshell, our experience with cloth diapering so far. Those rare times when I do not have any clean pre fold diapers on hand I use those gauzy flat diapers and two of them folded together into a rectangle work just as well as the prefolds.

I will never go back to disposables.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Pumpkin Dress for Anne

Back in the Spring, when I was shopping at garage sales for little girl clothes, I came across a little long sleeved shirt that had a big orange pumpkin on the front of it. It was a larger size than I thought the baby would need for the fall but I snatched it up anyway. My father's favorite color is orange and when I was little he called me "pumpkin". I had to get it! It would be perfect for his first granddaughter.

Now it is full autumn and I have been wanting to have Anne wear this shirt before Christmas is upon us and pumpkins and harvesty colors will be a thing of the past. I couldn't figure out how to incorporate it into an outfit for her, though. She doesn't have any pants that match the color scheme and I prefer to keep her in dresses, anyway.

The other day I pulled out an enormous floral shirt that my grandma gave me back when I was pregnant, thinking I could use it during my last weeks of pregnancy. Even then, it was far too large! But I liked the material so I kept it, thinking I would cut it down into a dress for the baby at some point. When I pulled it out I realized that there was indeed orange in the print so I decided I would combine the pumpkin shirt with this shirt so Anne can finally wear it.

It was an easy thing to cut off the bottom of the pumpkin shirt. There was a small yellow stain on the lower portion of the shirt anyway that would not come out with washing. Then from the front of the enormous floral blouse I cut a rectangle for a skirt.

I sewed the floral skirt piece into a tube, using a french seam to finish everything off nicely. I hemmed the tube,

gathered it to fit the waist of the pumpkin shirt,

and sewed the two together. Easy! (why hadn't I thought of this before???)

The waistline was still enormous for the baby so I sewed some elastic to the waist seam of the dress to give it a bit more shape.

All done!

Anne obligingly smiled for pictures but it was very difficult to keep her hands out of her mouth. She is in that "I must gnaw everything" stage and the other day she surprised me by swiping some mashed potatoes off my plate during dinner and stuffing them into her perpetually-open mouth. Then she cried for more.

Oh, and aren't these little knitted socks just darling?! I found them at the thrift store the other day. 25 cents was a great deal. They are a little large but that just means she can wear them for a longer period of time!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Election Day, 1864 Style

There are days when, I do admit, I do not like being a homeschool mom. Days when I wish I could just cheerfully say good-bye to the oldest two in the morning and spend my day cleaning the house without it being systematically dirtied behind me. No arguments between the oldest two children to mediate; just Malachi (who is a very quiet and happy and helpful little boy, for the most part) and the baby to care for. Things would be quiet. Things would be peaceful. Things would not require perpetual motion. How easy things would be!

But then I realize what my kids would miss if they were away from me all day. And what I would miss. The light in their eyes when they learn something new; hearing them sound out their first words. The millions of questions I get asked every day. . .if my boys were gone from me, who would answer them and how would they answer them? "Why does gravity keep us from falling off the earth?" "Mommy, why do things happen?" "When you were a little girl, were there still dinosaurs?" "What happens if I get dehydrated?" "Why do numbers have no end?" "Who made God?"

And then I realize I wouldn't trade these hectic days for anything. They are too precious. The boys' minds are too moldable. These years will be too brief. And so, we continue on here at home. Learning, asking questions, absorbing information. The boys are forming their own opinions and are organizing their own values and beliefs. The foundation is being laid for the adults they are growing into. This is a critical time. I cannot entrust this responsibility to anyone else.

Plus, homeschooling can just be plain fun! We take almost any excuse to make a regular day into a "special day". Election Day was no different. We learned about the election process, the candidates, the role of government and our duties as citizens, but with an 1864 twist.

We dressed up in our 1860's attire, lit the house with candle-light (it was a very dreary and gloomy sort of day) and hung the 13 star flag. The boys helped me with the day-long process of baking an Election Cake (complete with liquor-soaked raisins and candied lemon peel) and we mixed and steamed a round loaf of brown bread and made a big pot of bubbly clam chowder, a nod to the early elections in New England, where I am originally from.
Election Cake - Actually quite good!

When David came home from work we bundled up and headed out to the polls, (little David was disappointed we just went to the local fire station; he thought we were going to the White House!) where the boys watched as we filled the ballot and turned it in. We came home and had dinner, which the boys proudly helped serve up and ate with apparent relish - no leftovers! - while we discussed the election and the various likely outcomes.

I felt a bit of motherly pride when Judah told me he wanted to be president when he grows up. But then he paused and looked at me questioningly. "But how many presents does the present-it get?" he asked. "I want a lot." Perhaps he will make a good politician when he grows up, since even at this tender age it appears he is inspired by greed.

Now on to Thanksgiving! My favorite holiday of the year.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Finished October Regency Project ~ Grey Wool Spencer and Silk Petticoat

It was a beautiful autumn afternoon so yesterday David and I decided to play dress-up and head out to the "back pasture" to take some pictures and to pretend for a little while that we were a regency gentleman and his lady.

I finished my petticoat over the weekend. This skirt once belonged to my 1860's silk dress but after wearing it very often both with and without the matching silk bodice, the skirt became rather dirty from having three little boys sitting on my lap time after time. In a moment of madness I popped the skirt in the washer and it came out having lost almost all of it's crisp body. . .it went from a smooth, crisp, heavy-feeling silk to a rather light and limp silk.

It seemed ideal for this project and I was happy to have a use for the material. I barely eeked out enough length to be sufficient for the high waist of the era but by using a 1/4" seam to attach the skirt to the waistband and binding the edge of the hem instead of turning it, I think the length worked out all right. The waistband is of brown linen and the straps to hold it up are of the same linen. The hem is bound with a strip of indigo blue wool as a substitute for wool tape.

The entire outfit is fun to wear and the wool spencer is quite warm. My only regret is not having extra fabric in the sleevehead to pleat into the armscye. The way the sleeve on the wool suit jacket was cut I did not have  sufficient width to cut a large sleeve head.

I suppose I could have pieced some in but I didn't. The sleeves fit fine and are comfortable but I would have more range of motion with that extra width. . .so, just something to remember for next time!

David looked quite dashing in his linen tailcoat. He needs a woolen one now! He is considering taking up the impression of a doctor of the era, settling into the role quite naturally as he does a surgeons impression in our 1860's reenacting. It would be an easy transition for him.

We'll see. I have drastically reduced my involvement in 1860's reenactments out of sheer necessity for sanity and this era seems like it could be one both David and I would enjoy together.

In the meantime, we can have fun wandering through the tall grasses, listening to the whisper of the wind in the trees and watching the geese fly south for winter.
Susan's Husband

Soon the snows will come and inside we can be cozy with the spicy smells of Thanksgiving and Christmastime, the smoke from David's pipe and a cheerful fire in the fireplace. The boys listening wide-eyed to the tale of the Three Spirits who visited Mr. Scrooge and the baby watching the way the light falls on our faces, talking in her soft baby coos and waving her hands in the air. Good times are a-comin. It is now November.