A Sunday Afternoon Walk

This walk actually took place back in early June, when we had a few hours of sunlight and my husband wanted to take us to a new park he’d found. I wanted to take Kirsten to take her birthday photos but also got a little too excited and wound up taking FOUR dolls. This was the first time I’d ever taken dolls to photograph away somewhere, rather than just to a park or something around my house. At first I was a bit shy but found that the more I photographed, the less I Really cared about the people walking by. It probably helped that my husband and toddler son were with me.

So here are some of the pictures I took. It started to rain towards the end so we had to wrap it up. Also I refused to edit my photos because I have just do not have the time, haha.

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Caroline’s Bib Front Gown

I’m continuing to work through the historic stash of fabric in an effort to get Caroline some more clothing –she’s one of my girls who is lagging a bit in the wardrobe department. I’m weirdly picky about which Regency patterns I sew with, and I’m not sure why; I probably just need to get over it. Maybe it’s that a lot of Regency stuff looks more like little girl nightgowns to me? But there are some beautiful patterns out there, and this Thimbles & Acorn Bib-front Gown is one of them!

With the actual bib-front, this dress is more complicated than it initially looked to me, and I did several new sewing things for the first time! I always consider that a successful project, even if in these pictures I can see a thread that needs to be snipped and it’s driving me crazy.

I got more practice in with buttons, which is always nice. I used a brown lining instead of automatically white to make the gown feel a little more… mature? wintery? I don’t know. I just liked the brown. In the pictures, the doll always has a white band underneath that button band, so I’d expected the pattern to include that. I don’t think I missed it, so maybe the doll in the pictures was wearing under garments? Sort of misleading. I need to get Caroline’s chemise on her!

Those frog buttons were a new sewing challenge this time, and the actual making of the not was pretty enjoyable! You set the stage and then tighten everything and it pulls through, which is really gratifying. However, I made actual bias strips this time, and that was not fun. Usually I cheat and use ribbon but I wanted to commit this time. This pattern calls for three long bias strips. We’re talking some serious sewing patience here! But I just worked on them while watching Gravity Falls with my husban and they turned out just fine!

Those keyhole sleeves were also new, and surprisingly easy. I do wish I’d tightened them a little bit more but uh well. I’m also not totally thrilled with my stitches hand-finishing the arm band. I think I might actually prefer just a top stitch to the floating stitches. Still cute. Here you can also see that actually the front of the skirt is rather loose and just ties tight in the back. It’s a very elaborate and sweet pattern that I will absolutely be using again!

 

Happy birthday, Vivienne!

The birthday of one of my favorite (sh, don’t tell anyone!) girls. Miss Vivienne Devereux of course began life as a Cecile, and there are times I briefly consider returning her to that era. But then I recall how precious she looks in Georgian fashions and she remains where she is.

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I managed to get pictures of Vivienne in our first real snow of the year and she looks gorgeous! Even though he would not have been too familiar with snow, either in Haiti or New Orleans.

This doll was actually a 6am purchase at one of (if not the?) first Jill’s Steals and Deals. A friend and I got up at the crack of dawn to make our purchases, and then my two girls went into hibernation in the closet until they could be gifts from my husband. This particular girl was my Christmas gift the first Christmas after we married, when it was just the two of us staying home for the holidays. She spent a day in her meet dress and then I began to sew.

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I was so nervous about getting a pretty doll. This mold during Cecile’s time had an issue with a sort of pinched face where the eyes are too close together. Not great. But without the issue, what an absolutely gorgeous doll!

I’ve also had a great time researching Vivienne’s story. I knew I wanted to keep her in a wealthy family, but didn’t want to do a direct copy of Cecile’s story. I became particularly interested in the complicated racial history of Haiti, where gens de couleur meant Haiti had the largest population of wealthy, free people of color in the Caribbean. They owned land and even slaves, despite there being many strict laws limited their freedoms. Then the French revolution shook things up for all French colonies, and the spirit or revolution struck Haiti. In 1790, the National Assembly in Paris, after intense lobbying, agreed with the gens de couleur in Haiti that they too were citizens of France under the new revolutionary law. However, the French governor of Haiti refused to recognize this, and the gens de couleur refused to either free or arm their slave to help revolt, and so this rebellion was defeated.

img_2068However, a much bigger revolt was on the horizon. In August 1791, the first slave rebellion occurred, marking the beginning of the revolution. Because of the types of crops and method of running plantations on the island, slaves greatly outnumbered whites, creating an important power imbalance when the rebellions began. In an attempt to stabilize the colony and maintain French control, emancipation spread throughout the colony, and was actually outlawed in France and French colonies in short order. However, many slave owners in Haiti –both white and gens de couleur— refused to recognize these proclamations. They allied with the British, who attempted a full-scale invasion of Haiti, but were driven back by the armed and freed slaves of the island, including famous leader Toussant Louverture (one of my favorite names in history). Louverture went on to conquer the remaining colonies of Haiti and Spanish-controlled Santo Domingo. Though Louverture did not call for independence from France, his control of the island was independent enough that Napoleon sent an invasion force to strengthen French control. Louverture was captured and deported to France where he died of pneumonia while imprisoned. Meanwhile word got out that the gens de couleur were set to lose the rights they’d won only a decade earlier and slavery was to be restored. What followed was a horrifically brutal war in which the French did all manner of terrible things in the name of reconquering the island. The Haitian soldiers held their own though, and when at last France entered a separate war with Britain so that their forces were divided, Haiti succeeded in defeating the French and declaring independence. Most of the remaining French loyalist left (mostly for Louisiana or Cuba). Those that didn’t leave were slaughtered by the new leader, Dessalines (several thousand people.)

SO I realize that was a long history lesson, but I have always been fascinated by revolution. For a length of time when I was younger, I thought I’d go into formal studies specifically of revolutions (but what do you do with that degree)? Instead I will just be fascinated and explore those historyies with doll characters!

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First photo of Vivienne and still probably my favorite. Maybe I ought to move her to Charleston just so she’d have an actual reason to wear warmer clothes so often because she looks great in them!

So what does that long hitory mean specifically for Miss Vivienne Cecile Devereux? Vivienne was born into a wealthy family in Saint-Domingue. Her father is a gens de couleur who works for his father on his plantation –his father being a white Frenchman who married a black Haitian woman whom he loves dearly. Vivienne’s mother died when she younger, but was of African descent, the daughter of a seamstress and a sailor. As the Haitian rebellions kick off, her father feels it’s time to remove his family to safety, so he, Vivienne, and her older sister Marguerite move to New Orleans. Vivienne’s older brother Girard feels like their father is a coward abandoning their people in favor of his French white heritage, and so takes off to become a pirate attacking French ships for supplies for the rebels.

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In New Orleans, Vivienne’s father takes a second wife, which is the last breach between Girard and their father. She has two young children of her own –a young son and daughter. Soon violence against French whites in the colony drives Vivienne’s paternal grandparents to New Orleans as well. They blame Vivienne’s father for not sending Girard or Marguerite to school in France and are trying to convince him to send Vivienne. They also make no secret that they vastly prefer this new wife (who is not an aristocrat but is also mixed race and comes from a well-off family) to Vivienne’s mother, though they do not like that he married a woman with children from a previous marriage. Vivienne as a child already has to come to terms not just with complicated race and class issues within her home country and her new country, but even within her family.

IMG_0251I continue to tweak pieces of Vivienne’s story as I learn more about this time in Haitian, French, and American history. I’m in awe of people who had to fight so hard for their independence and civil rights, and heartbroken by the poverty and natural disasters that continue to plague the country of Haiti. Having dolls that represent time periods like this that explore the strength and bravery of people of color is so important and something I wish American Girl did more regularly. The history of the Americas is not just a white history, and the fact that our history curriculum focuses mostly on white history is unacceptable. I try to be respectful and sincere in my creation of non-white historical characters and hope that even if I have missteps here and there (as a white woma learning about non-white cultures) it can be an area of growth and learning.

IMG_1421So I’m happy to take a day to celebrate this culturally rich, brave girl I created from a beautiful doll created by American Girl. I can’t wait to do the same thing with the Girl of the Year in a few weeks –yes, the first and only black Girl of the Year that American Girl is dropping the ball on in such an egregious way. I’m not sure in what way reminding people that it was a rush job is supposed to be an acceptable excuse… anyway, that’s a whole rant itself that I will make when the time is right.

For now, happy birthday, Vivienne! You’ve helped me learn a great deal about Haiti and its people’s fight for independence. And in return, I will continue to make you a beautiful wardrobe.

Caroline’s White Floral Dress

Now that Caroline has become her true self, girl needs some clothes. I’ve seen seamstresses make some truly gorgeous stuff for her, and I want me Caroline to have a pretty sweet wardrobe too. So I stocked up on Regency patterns (though Josefina’s Christmas dress is one of my FAVORITE patterns to sew!) and have kept a sharp eye out for fabrics. The first one I saw that I knew I had to have for Miss Caro was this floral sprig print sold by PastCrafts on etsy. I stocked up on a bunch of fabric there and knew exactly what I wanted to do with this one. I believe Caroline has a paper doll dress similar to this.

I searched and debated on the pattern, but ultimately realized that Dollhouse Design’s Georgiana pattern actually included exactly the style I was looking for. So first, I want to just vent again: one of my absolute biggest regrets since I began collecting dolls is that I didn’t buy Dollhouse Design’s Georgiana dress –that purple one. I just happened to see it in her etsy store but I don’t ever spend that much on doll clothes so I passed. The next day I was still thinking about it and went back, but of course it had sold. The snowflake one was there but it wasn’t exactly the one I wanted… another regret! These two dresses taught me that if there’s a dress that is just dear, dear to my heart and I will forever regret it if I don’t get it… I find a way to get it. Doesn’t happen often, thank goodness. 

Anyway, those gowns are so gorgeous that I assumed the pattern would be a beast to follow. Not so at all! The gown is sort of surprisingly complicated for Regency gowns –I always think of them as so simple– but the pattern has very easy to follow directions. Some of the steps are a little out of order from what I’m used to (like you sew the arm band on after you’ve already attached the sleeve to the bodice), and it definitely felt like a project that needs your full attention, but nothing ever felt too overwhelming to figure out.

Did you notice the tucks? I love the way tucks look although I hate sewing them. This dress also has pleats! And yet despite both of those things, I think it turned out exactly how I wanted. The fabric was a dream to sew with; not to sticky or too slick. Of course, I didn’t have the right lace so I had to make a trip to JoAnn’s which led to… well…

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They had a sale and I had coupons and I have no regrets but hot damn I need to sew through my oodles of fabric before I buy ANY more. My fabric collection actually wouldn’t be so bad if I had anywhere to put it all, but instead my desk area just gets harder and harder to keep organized.

Another completely random thought: do all Caroline’s have sort of sunken eyes so it looks like they have eyeliner on or is that just special for mine? Scroll up to the portrait and you’ll be able to see what I mean. I can’t not notice it now when I look at her… I just realized the lighting makes her body look like it has discoloration. Just shadows, oops!

To wrap it up: loved the pattern, loved the fabric, looking forward to using both again!

School Photo Reshoots

Just like in real schools, I found that taking school photos actually helped me solidify some things about my collection. Hurray! You may have noticed there’s been a flurry of wig activity. Marisol became Nina (Antonina Anaya) who is my own 1950s Cuban girl who’s super into science and math and wants to be some sort of engineer or inventor. Caroline shed her Cordelia personality and became her true Caroline self (who I planned to refer to mostly as Caro since I have a cousin Caroline, but I’m not sure it’ll stick…), and I’ve begun reading her books and weirdly enough, I think they’re some of my favorites so far! Did not expect that. This means I have no Cordelia, so all those beautiful dresses I made are just going to have to hang out until I find the real and true and final Cordelia someday.. And finally, Molly got her new wig.

SO without further ado:

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OK, I know I really do need to trim Molly’s bangs a little at least, but I think it’s endearing they’re in her eyes and in the books they were too.

Nina is going to read Maryellen’s books with me and we’ll see if I’m convinced I need the doll to be Nina’s friend. But for now me and Caro are reading the Caroline books. I’m not sure why I’m enjoying them so much. Maybe because Caroline is imperfect but not obnoxious? The war seems exciting and yet strangely small because so far they’re focused specifically on how it’s affecting her village. Her mom is great. Her dad is oddly attractive in the illustrations. Huh.

Evelyn’s Flower Gathering Dress

I couldn’t pass up the chance to use frivolousdistinction’s 1812 Day Dress pattern again (previously used for Vivienne’s Play dress) because I really loved the result. The fabric I bought at JoAnn’s a while ago and the only reason I hadn’t sewn with it yet is because I love it so much, I knew I needed to decide on just the right dress. What better thing to do than combine the two, and for Evelyn who I thought would look great in purple? Of course now that she has a purple holiday gown it starts edging to purple overload, but really, since when has two purple gowns been too much?

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The pattern went even more easily this time, though I did not do it all in one day. Instead, I finished it on the same day as Samantha’s alternate Christmas dress, while I was on day three of a splintering headache.

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I’m still thrilled with the pattern, though I think it suited the light fabric better. The adorable tucks get a bit lost on the dark fabric. And I managed to mess up the bodice band a bit so it’s higher on one side, which I’m not thrilled about, but what can you do? It’s still adorable and just the thing for a little girl out gathering flowers.

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Sewing Prep & a Vivienne Dress

I think I mentioned before, I collected so much fabric back in the summer, and then had to take time off from sewing as I took a night class, work got busy, and I found myself chronically pregnancy-tired. But now I’m back at it, and so that meant last weekend going through every doll’s outfit inventory to see what they’re missing, and then going through all my fabric and actually matching a good chunk of it to patterns. Step one!

Step two was then cutting out some of those patterns and figuring out what bits and bobs I need to finish them. Complicating this was the fact that since the fall got away from me, several dolls don’t have holiday outfits or pajamas, which is what they wear in December or January. So while figuring out what to do with the fabric I have, I also ordered a bit of new stuff (for shame!) online, as well as ribbons and such to finish up. Those new things are in the mail…

But in the meantime, I spent my first free Saturday in months cutting out… I think six or seven patterns. I like cutting out patterns in bulk so I’m not dragging my pattern board out all the time, and because then it means I’m ready to hit the ground running with patterns. The drawback is that you don’t end up feeling like you finished anything because all you did was start a bunch of stuff.

I managed to carve out enough time to get a pretty quick dress done using this wonderful polka dot fabric I found and thought would be perfect for Vivienne. The polka dots are the slightest bit metallic… so not 100% historically accurate, whatever. But the cream color is gorgeous with her skin tone.

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I just used Josefina’s Christmas dress pattern, a nice, easy pattern for making what are simple but lovely regency dresses. I had thought about adding a ruffle along the bottom for now I actually think I prefer it without, since it’s just supposed to be a sweet little playdress.

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I had hoped to find brown velvet ribbon in my stock, but did not. However, this green ribbon I love, and it goes perfectly with the dress, I think. And it’s gorgeous with Vivienne’s eyes! Alas, I do not have the right color thread, so wound up just hand-stitching the ribbon with white. It’s visible, but doesn’t actually bother me much at all.

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And look, my dolls are probably always going to have slightly wrinkled, creased clothing until I get an ironing board and a house where I don’t have to go into the basement to iron. Uh well.

I’m thrilled with the result. Simple but pretty and looks like something a little girl could actually around a bit more in than some of her other fancier dresses.