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A very very loose play by play: Kimono

I hesitate to call this a tutorial because I’m still figuring out ways to make this. This is a a loose guide as to what I’m doing at best.

Disclaimer: I just realized that in most of the yellow yukata pictures in here I have the right side folded over the left. I should have taken the pictures with the left side folded over the right…right over left is only ok if you’re being buried. This will be rectified in the obi pictures.

After making the Mary Frances Kimono/Robe I set out to make a kimono/yukata for my doll. I actually have three in progress, each one trying a different attack. The one I’ll be showing is the third.

An actual kimono is very rectangular.  It’s literally ALL rectangles. The back is one rectangle, The front is the same rectangle slashed in half with an additional piece on each side.

dollkimono

This is part of the first in progress.

 

With a kimono/yukata you get wrapped tightly in undergarments until you’re cylinder-shaped. You can’t change a doll’s shape.  Disney Animator’s Dolls have round tummies and narrower shoulders. I merged the front pieces into two simple shapes (to eliminate that extra seam) and made them slightly narrower at the top.

The yukata I’ll show from now on is a mayb_ gift. My friend, Realafterglow, is in the country. She’s giving a relative (a niece I think) the Tiana doll. I decided to make a yukata in a yellow Japanese fabric similar to Tiana’s cooking dress color and I’ve found a darker frog-print fabric for an Obi belt. If Real Afterglow thinks her niece would enjoy it. It’s hers.

This is the rough pattern I made:

 

 

On the back I serged up the long sides. On the front I serged all the way up the sleeve sides and then up until the neck angle on the sides that fold over.

These kinds of directions are why I’m calling this a loose play-by-play.

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I joined the front pieces to the back.

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I cut a 1cm snip at each side of the neck along the seam. The neck hole shaping is the thing that is most vexxing.

 

Putting wrong sides of the fabric together I measured a 7cm sleeve hole, stitched from the sleevehole to the hem. Then I pressed the seam open

I then folded the  front panel inwards and stitched it.

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I cut a neck sash 6cm by 36 cm. This was an good width when I worked with thicker fabric and had a slightly larger neck-hole….and too wide with thinner fabric.  I’d change to 5 by 36cm for thinner fabrics.

I folded the neck sash length-ways and pressed it. Then I folded all the edges inside 1cm and pressed again. It’s like making a piece of bias tape but it’s not cut on the bias. If you do want to cut on the bias you can and it will make things easier.

I marked the 18cm in (half way) and pinned the sash to the back of the neck hole (right sides together) I stitched the neck sash to the body starting from the center of the neck-hole each time.

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Really hard to make out, I know.

Then I folded the neck sash over and whip-stitched it to the inside of the body.

I tried it on Snow.

Yup, the 6cm width is just slightly too tall for her neck. Because the fabric is thin it buckled and looked wrong. Instead of seam ripping and making it smaller I decided to fold over the collar and whip stitch it, making a double-collar look.

I made a sleeve pattern.

It does occur to me now that I could have attached the sleeves to the body at an earlier point and that might be easier. Too late.

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Now to attach the sleeves.

I set the sleeves in. Sorry for not taking pictures of that…I may make a revised tutorial at some point. I also stitched the serged edge to the inside of the sleeve near the doll hand so her fingers wouldn’t forever be catching on the edge when the garment is put on.

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Last, here she is with her hemmed and stitched kimono. At her feet is the fabric I’ll use for the obi/sash tomorrow.

CORRECT WAY TO CLOSE YUKATA/KIMONO:
Left goes over right.

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Chapter XX: Part two

My continued adventures bloging through the 1915 children’s sewing book “The Mary Frances sewing book; or, Adventures among the thimble people.”

The next pattern to tackle was the dressing sack (lounging jacket being a much nicerterm). This was the final, 4th, outfit to be made with this single pattern.

Screenshot-2017-10-15 The Mary Frances sewing book; or, Adventures among the thimble people - maryfrancessewin00frye_bw pdf

Because all four of the garments have essentially the same construction…how COULD I mess it up again?

The instructions were easy.

  • Cut out by pattern of bath robe, making it only as long as the row of pinholes marked Dressing Sack.
  •  Finish the fronts and neck, and sleeves by “pinking,” or notching closely with the scissors; or,
  •  Transfer the pattern for scallops given below. To do this—With a soft lead pencil, trace scallops through the tissue paper.Turn the tissue over, and lay the picture of scallops against the sleeves (and fronts), and trace over on the wrong side. This will leave a penciled outline on the goods.Instead of this method, the outline of the scallops may be traced through tissue and “carbon” paper.
  • With embroidery cotton, work the scallops in blanket stitch.
  • The Dressing Sack may be finished with ribbon or BANDS, in just the same way as the kimono. Embroider the ribbon or bands with Feather Stitching.

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This is prior to adding the scalloped edges.

Things I did wrong:

  1. That neckline is closer to that of the nightgown (which cinched) than the robe. This means the neck hole is WAY too large.
  2. The fabric leftover from a dress I made and I added the applique leftover from another dress I made this summer.*..and it’s too thick/stiff. It’s not going to drape on the shoulders at all even if the neck hole were small enough…which it isn’t.
  3. Never checked to see how it fit. I just loved my clever jacket and went on!

On to the edges! Learning a new skill. Here’s a tutorial I used for figuring out how to do the blanket-stitch scalloped edges.

and…

 

WAY TOO BIG!

I added a pleat in the back, three button holes in the front and some buttons. Salvaged.

Then I went back and cut a lighter-weight fabric ( prepare yourself for MORE crazy patterns) correctly and assembles another light open lounging jacket.

I skipped over doing any fancy edging or embroidery because the print was crazy enough. I simply lined the opening with some left-over black lace (last seen on the skull-print morning dress).

As for the feather stitch I skipped. I have a giant crazy quilt in process and legally don’t have to do any extra embroidery if I don’t want to.

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Mary uses the feather stitch to her…um..advantage to make a riddle for Sewing Bird to close out the chapter:

Good!” as Mary Frances held up the samplers. ”Here is a puzzle, riddle, or conundrum:

“Mary Marie is feather-stitched— Yet not a feather is on her.”

Mary Frances laughed,”I wonder how she’d look in feathers,” she said—

Then Sewing Bird sang:

”She’d make a fine bird, Upon my word, She’d sing a sweet song, And the only thing wrong— Her feathers and song Would be tightly glued on!”

“Oh, Sewing Bird!” laughed Mary Frances, shaking her finger, ”how did you know the voice of a ‘talking doll’ was ‘glued on’?”

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I get the “conundrum” but if someone could explain to me that whole voice/glued on thing I’d be much obliged.

Coming soon: Aunt Maria the hated spinster makes a visit.

 

Excerpts From: Fryer, Jane Eayre, 1876-. “The Mary Frances sewing book; or, Adventures among the thimble people.”

 

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Magic, Mystery and MANTIS.

The Fairy Lady lives on.

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I knew she was reminding me of someone…and it’s in the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 cinema version of Mantis.

GOTG-Mantis
Marvel Cinema… when a character from Jane Eayre Freyer’s 1915 book is LESS problematical than how you’ve written Mantis as an abused, naive, submissive Asian woman trope..you need to FIX YOURSELF.

Avengers1963iss1131

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Chapter XX, Ma Chine (Part one: Kimono)

This chapter begins with Presentation Party.
As far as I can tell, a presentation party involves each Thimble Person we’ve met this far performing a formal self-introduction. It’s like your first day in a new  language class…. but with forced rhymes.

As.Fun.As.It.Sounds.

“We’re going to give a party; And we will evermore be true, And everyone of us to you

Will pledge allegiance hearty.” Sewing Bird began.

“Next—”

Then came Silver Thimble, bowing before Sewing Bird,

“I’m Silver Thimble, Bright and nimble.”

Then Scissors Shears, bowing,

I’m Scissors Shears, With rather long ears.”

Then Tommy Pin Cushion,

“I’m Tomato Pin Cushion— (Silv, stop your pushin’!)”

Then Emery Bag….

It keeps going.

Only….they’ve forgotten to invite Ma Chine!

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Awkward.

Ma Chine is depicted as an older woman with granny glasses. She sends them all on a one-way guilt trip.

“Forgot me,” zummed Sewing Machine. “All theze dayz, my little onez, I’ve been hearing theze lovely lezzons—but not one of you, no, not one, remembered your Ma Chine! Zum! Zum!”

“What shall we do?” whispered the Thimble People.

“Listen to what I zay, I zay! I will take part To-day, to-day!”

”I cannot bear

A thing like thiz, I wished to help

Our little Mizz, Zumm! Zumm!”

Then all the Thimble People cried together,

“Oh, Miss Ma Chine, Oh, our Ma Chine, Forgive us all— Don’t make a scene!”

The internal logic of this world again leaves me confused. Why is the most modern component of the sewing room one of the Thimble Folk elders? She can’t have been around when Grandma was hemming her wedding dress with Sewing Bird.

Also, in all the illustrations the spool shows no thread leading to the needle section of the machine.

Luckily Mary keeps the peace by saying how happy she is to meet Ma, they’ll have another party sometime, and then turning to Fairy Lady to change the subject while Ma Chine zumm zum zumbles to herself bitterly.

A Kimono for Mary Marie.

Of course, it’s not a real kimono or even a yukata. It’s what so many people mean by kimono-style: a loose, simple, wide-sleeved full-length robe….I know I now have to draft a pattern for a doll kimono after this.
The construction of the kimono is the same as for the robe but no tie/rope or closures, a wider neck, and you use French seams.

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For once I’m even using the suggested fabric,  Japanese Crepe (chirimen), because…I’m in Japan and it’s at all fabric and craft stores. Sometimes I score silk chirimen at second hand kimono shops or from kimono-making remanents. Usualy, if I’m buying new, it’s rayon or polyester.

Chirimen has various texture patterns made by having the weft threads tighter than the warp threads (or is in visa versa?) during the weaving process.


I made bias tape trim again, instead of trying to fit a ribbon around curves, this time from leftover satin.

I’ve shown the kimono before (how quickly I’ve worked on projects has outpaced the speed at which I blog them, but it’s catching up) and where the scrap fabric comes from…but here’s another fabric peak. You can also see that I had such a small scrap of satin to work with that I’ve had to join the bias tape together in a few areas to get the job done. I hadn’t removed the basting stitches yet.

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This is Snow, in her kimono, showing off her taste in artwork. This particular print was a gift from the artist, Phineas X Jones, and was from a run he did to raise money for Japan relief after the earthquake. I’ve got a LOT of his work in my apartment that I totally paid for…and you should too. Here is his print shop AND his Threadless shop.

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As for our new Thimble Folk…Ma Chine helps Mary but there is absolutely no machine guidance given.

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“Fairy Lady gave these directions very slowly, and Mary Frances followed them carefully. When she came to stitching the band, Sewing Ma Chine said,

“Little Lady Seamstress, please just put that under my foot, and it will be done in nearly no time.’

“Thank you. Ma Chine, but Mother wouldn’t let me,” said Mary Frances.

“Oh, I’ll be responsible!” said Ma Chine, and as Mary Frances set the little sleeve under the foot, she began to whirl her wheels so rapidly, Mary Frances couldn’t see them.

“Oh, thank you,” said the little girl.

Thimble Folks prepping or finish Mary’s projects is a common occurrence in the book, it’s not just the Needle-of-Don’t-Have-To-Try.  Even Scissors Sheers helps, and he’s an unstable stabby little Fourvel.

This continues to strike me as unfair. I live alone. None of my sewing items nor my hedgehog, Professor, step up and finish my work for me.

prof

Professor hasn’t helped anyone do anything since he got tenure.

The chapter continues on to making a dressing sack but that’s a complicated story to tell as, once more, I made errors the first time I made it and thus have two finished products…and I pass on the learning to you!

Stay Tuned…

Excerpts From: Fryer, Jane Eayre, 1876-. “The Mary Frances sewing book; or, Adventures among the thimble people.”

 

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Chapter XIX: Her Bath Robe

Mistakes were made…by me. Then I made some new ones.
 Any Sewist knows that sometimes you just have go deeper into some mistakes to salvage the whole.

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“IF only in her nightie clad, She took a cold, ‘twould be too bad — And so the dear child may not freeze, And so the dear child may not sneeze, A nice warm bath robe next will be Our lesson finished—”

Sewing Bird stopped singing.

”Brought to she,” interrupted the tinkling voice of Silver Thimble.

”Silv Thimble!” exclaimed Sewing Bird, ”when I need help, I’ll call upon you—”

Silver Thimble, don’t come for Sewing Bird, she didn’t call for you. Just shush.

don't

The bath robe uses the same base pattern but with a smaller neck hole. The front of the robe is then slit down the front and the transition from the front opening and neck hole is smoothed out.

Screenshot-2017-10-15 The Mary Frances sewing book; or, Adventures among the thimble people - maryfrancessewin00frye_bw pdf

The robe doesn’t use a french seam… which is where I made my first mistake. Instead of the French seam the fabric is stitched and the raw edges are finished with an overcast stitch or blanket stitch that acts like a serger stitch.

Nowhere in the directions does it mention if that seam is supposed to be on the inside of the garment (made with the right sides of the fabric together) or on the outside. I thought that an exposed seam might make the robe seem cuddly and rustic so I figured it must mean an exposed seam.

Then I did it and it just didn’t look right.

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I looked up the very few examples of Mary Frances Sewing finished patterns online.

 

Nope, no exposed seams.

I decided to continue on but to make adjustments to the the robe so that it would look deliberately distressed and comfy.

The edges of the openings are supposed to be finished with a folded over ribbon. I didn’t have ribbon on hand but wouldn’t have used it anyways. You see, when it comes to fitting around the curve of the neck a ribbon wouldn’t have the flexibility of bias tape (fabric cut on the bias) and would be somewhat of a pain-in-the-arse.

 

So, I made bias tape from a second polar-bear printed fabric instead and used that to finish the raw edges.

I then, for the rustic look, I made bias tape of the base fabric, folded it in half with the raw edges exposed, distressed the edges and stitched it next to the lighter colored bias tape… and cross stitched over it.

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The Mary Frances book then has a bunch of steps I skipped but will return to for a future fastener.

  • Hook and Eyelet. I didn’t do this because I liked the look of a wider fabric sash:

 

  • Making a robe closure from embroidery thread (zephyr yarn?!)..didn’t look cozy.
  • Adding hanging tags to the inside of the garment (which seemed like a lesson more about sewing human garments in general than doll garments…useful but not here):

 

This is how my distressed robe turned out.

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Then I set about making it correctly.

I keep mentioning that these sewing patterns require fabric that doesn’t have a one-direction pattern, right? If you do use a one-directional pattern you’ll need to join two pieces together so that the back and front of the outfit have everything right-side up.

I forgot this.

I must not have noticed that the frayed-version had upside-down polar bears on the back.

Yes, on my second robe all the seams are covered and, yet, the polar bears are UPSIDE DOWN on the front. A friend comforted me by saying something like “there are no upside-down polar bears, only polar bears standing on their heads and rolling in the snow” and I’m going to go with that.

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BEHOLD! FROLICING POLAR BEARS.

Maybe I’ll make a third robe, when no-buy November ends.

Soon to come: A Presentation Party!

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Nightgown REMAKE

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Sewing Bird, today we’ll work on a variation of the Mary Frances nightgown.

My issue with the nightgown is that I’d like to be able to make outfits for the dolls of friends’ children. Ribbons seem hard to tie and easy to lose so I set forth to make an elastic-version of this nightgown.

The fabric I used was once again a double gauze. This time it had a one-directional print.

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I had to join the fabric so that both sides of the nighty would have right-side up hedgehogs.

Once again I used a French seam to join the pieces together but, as you see, I’m using my machine. Then I hemmed the nighty.


I clipped the neck just as before but this time I stitched an eyelet trim in place and made a channel that I could pull elastic though. I basted the folded eyelet in place, stitched at the edge of neck and then stitched a channel. Same with the sleeves.

At the back of the neck and at the bottom of the sleeves I finished the channel so that the elastic could be threaded through.

 

I then stitched the elastic together and hand-stitched the edges of the channels closed. When the elastic grows old, if this nighty lives that long, the end of the channels can be opened again to replace the elastic!

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Yay!

To add to Snow’s look I altered the bird she came with.

I didn’t like the raw edges showing so I unpicked the stitching and turned it right sides together. I then restitched it, leaving a gap to pull it right side out. Finally I re-stuffed it and stitched the opening closed.

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And that’s the first of many variations. That’s the great thing about sewing. Once you’ve completed a pattern correctly you can revisit it to make variations.

 

 

 

 

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Chapter XVIII: A Nighty For Her Little Nap

“A charming thing to make Marie, will be a dainty White nightie,”- sang Sewing Bird.

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“Oh, good!” exclaimed Mary Frances. ”That is just what she needs. I had to loan her Angle’s best one; and Angle’s terribly cross. You see, I fear she is a little jealous of my new dolly. I’ll not neglect Angle, but you understand, dear Sewing Bird Lady, that it is my duty to clothe this child—” anxiously— ”Isn’t that perfectly right?”

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Mary, you didn’t have to lend her Angie’s BEST one, you know. You could have come up with a solution where all parties feel cared for. Mary Marie would have understood…right?

It turns out the Thimble People  have prepared a paper pattern for Mary to continue her sewing adventures  with. From now on, when I find a long forgotten pattern I ordered but never made anything from in my sewing room, I shall thank the Thimble People instead of cursing myself for being lazy.

This is the four-in-one pattern for the nightgown, bathrobe, kimono and dressing sack. The final item being far more stylish than it name suggests. Think of it as an indoor lounging jacket.

Screenshot-2017-10-15 The Mary Frances sewing book; or, Adventures among the thimble people - maryfrancessewin00frye_bw pdf

Supplies

  • Three-quarters of a yard of lawn, or muslin. Long-cloth is a very nice kind of muslin to use.
  • Three-quarters of a yard of lace ribbon beading.
  • One yard baby ribbon.

Fabric:

I didn’t know what long-cloth is, Wiki helped: cotton fabric which is of high quality, very soft, coarsely woven, and very often used to make underwear and infants’ clothing.

I went with a double-gauze fabric, not knowing much about WHAT sort of fabric it was but knowing that it had small cute patterns suitable for baby-wear.

Here’s more information from Colette patterns about double-gauze.

The important part of these patterns is to pick soft/fine cloth that drapes easily because with a stiffer fabric the harsh T shape of the pattern doesn’t drape well on a doll’s sloping shoulders. This style of pattern is GREAT for kids because it requires fewer seams but isn’t the most form-fitting for the dolls themselves.

Dainty WHITE nighty? I love prints and colors. I’m not intending to make historically correct doll clothing. White. Not. Happening.

Lace Ribbon Beading*:
*no beads involved.

This refers to a simple trim that has holes or ovals at regular intervals that one can weave ribbon through. It was easier finding it at a store than finding it online as the keywords lace & beading bring up SO many beaded laced trims.

Baby Ribbon: I parsed this as ribbon that wouldn’t fray but would be thin enough to fit through the eyelets of my trim.

This is the fabric I used (double gauze, non-directional print fabric) my trim and ribbon. If my fabric had had a one-direction print I would have had to seam it together at the top so that both the back and front of the nighty had right-side-up designs.

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Directions:

  • Fold the lawn crosswise.
  • Lay edge of the pattern having the two rings (oo) on the folded edge of the lawn.
  • Cut out, being careful to clip the little V-shaped notches before removing the pattern. (Note. — Always clip a small gash in the corner under arm of these kimono-style dresses.)

(Then the action is interrupted to explain the technique for french seams to be used to sew the body of the night-gown)

(Place the pieces together, wrong sides together, and proceed with french seams.)

  • Fold the two long halves together and pin the notches against each other.
  • Baste carefully along this edge, and try on dolly. Alter, if necessary.

This style of nightgown comes first because it involves no plackets or fasteners. This means you must make sure your doll can get the wide neckline down over her head (or up over her body) ..if you can’t, make the neckline a little larger or you’ll be sewing a useless object.

  • With running stitch, sew near the basting.
  • Turn to other side and baste seam carefully to enclose the first seam—a French Seam.

“Do you recognize the French Seam?”

“Indeed I do,” smiled Mary Frances.

“You may use the Needle-of-Don’t-Have-to-Try for this lesson,” said Fairy Lady, “because you’ve already learned these stitches. Doesn’t it pay to work patiently at first?”

 WANT!

Patiently is also a sewing term I reject. I’m sure some sewists and beading artists are patient. I. Am. Not.

I make elaborately beaded costumes and other fiddly handmade items. I am constantly being told “I don’t have the patience to make X” as if I contain patient depths of calm and that explains how I can make intricate items.

 

I don’t. I am not patient. I am not to be trusted with a full bag of granola. All bagged food is one serving,

Creating with my hands is the closest I get to being able clear my mind of thoughts. I am told this is why people meditate. With my anxiety and depression every attempt I’ve made to meditate has been harrowing at best. But when I’m working with my hands and three-dimensional objects to create something I can pinpoint my focus and everything falls quiet. I am not patient. I am dearly in need of quiet at times and this does is.

Back to the nighty.

“Now,” said Fairy Lady, “fold a three-quarter of an inch hem at the bottom, and baste. Then hem it.”

The hemming the Needle-of-Don’t-Have-to-Try quickly did.

Now it’s time to finish the sleeve cuffs and neck-hole with our beading lace and ribbon.

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  • Clip a half dozen little slashes in the edge of the neck, and turn back to the right side of the goods one-quarter of an inch. Baste.
  • Turn back one-quarter of an inch the end of the lace beading lor ribbon, and baste it over the turned back goods, beginning in the center of the back.”
  • “Cut off the lace beading one-quarter of an inch beyond the place it meets the beginning, and finish by turning it in one-quarter of an inch. Hem beading down on lower edge.”

So now the Lace Beading should be on the outside of the nighty, around the neck, covering the clipped-appart raw edge. The sleeves are finished the same way except they can just be turned over at the edge without clipping. There’s instructions on how to add lace to the edge of the sleeve but I felt that would be too froo-froo for me.

Now it’s time to BRAIN THE BODKIN.

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“’Bod Kin!” exclaimed Mary Frances, catching the last words. ”Is he a Thimble person?”

“He was!” sighed Scissors Shears, letting several tears fall.

“But,” explained Fairy Lady, “one day he refused to do as the King commanded, and would not go through the muslin—so the King changed him into a blunt-nosed needle; and he has been compelled to be good ever since, even without his own consent.”

I hope that your bodkin isn’t a needle that has been enchanted to serve without free will or the ability to consent to the actions it is to perform.

Mr. Silver Thimble, remember this when next you think to torment other Thimble People, the King COULD lobotomize you and take away your self-control. But, as a soldier you might be safe because you’re acting under orders of the King.

Smash the patriarchy.

Load your bodkin up with the ribbon and thread in through the beading lace. This will make the ribbon into a decoratively pleasing drawstring.

Then just put it on your doll, cinch it, and tie the ribbons into bows.

I think the ribbon could be tacked into place at the point furthest from the bow to help reduce the chance of it being removed and lost by a child….but my next post will cover how I made this more child-friendly (to use on dolls)

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“Mary Frances looked up in surprise. Fairy Lady was gazing at Mary Marie with a sad, wistful look.

“Why, dear Fairy Lady,” exclaimed Mary Frances, “what’s the matter?”

“Nothing, my dear, so very queer,” said the Fairy Lady smiling; “only that nightgown is just my size.”

“Oh,” exclaimed Mary Frances. “So it is! You can have it, dear Fairy Lady. I’ll work and work to make Mary Marie another. Do take it!”

What kind of a midwestern passive-agressive move  is THAT Fairy Lady? And what of Angie? Fairy Lady goes on to turn down the offer but insist that it’s just praise for how well Mary treats her (new) doll and how lucky that (new) doll is…and then announces that she can hear Grandma on the stairs, which I suspect is what she always tells Mary when she wants her to shut up.

Excerpts From: Fryer, Jane Eayre, 1876-. “The Mary Frances sewing book; or, Adventures among the thimble people.”

 

 

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Ralph

Who Benefits from all of this doll clothing?

Ralph Waldo does.

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Meet Ralph Waldo Le Mutt, I’ve known him since I was in elementary school.

He’s not named after that Ralph Waldo. He’s named after a real-life dog named after that Ralph Waldo. 

Ralph, the real-life dog, was as dumb as the rocks he sometimes ate. He was a golden lab owned by Marsha, a friend of the family who boarded in my mother’s basement for a few years of my childhood. He had the run of our basement, backyard, and kitchen. Everything beyond that belonged to our two cats, Martha and Cindy the Cat who outlived all.

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Year one of Cindy, who spent 23 years outliving all other pets.

Ralph Waldo Le Mutt (the stuffed dog ) joined our family shortly after Martha  and real-life-dog Ralph moved out, probably around the time I took over the basement room..3rd grade? 4th grade?

In a time when Pound Puppies (the stuffed animals, prior to the cartoons) became popular, Ralph was a found puppy.

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Pound Puppies

My mother and I would, in the summer, spend a week in northern Wisconsin in a rented cabin near a lake in Mercer, Wisconsin. Nothing fancy, as I remember, just a large room containing a kitchen/dining table/two beds and additional room with a bathroom…and maybe a cupboard of extra supplies.

Mercer is HOME OF THE LOONS, those B&W low-riding ducks who sound like a haunting.

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Loon Statue in Mercer

For that week we’d swim, row or canoe, and relax. Maybe we’d drive to see a movie in my mom’s tiny blue Chevrolette or go to a camp-site to make a campfire.

Ralph was found, forgotten and muddy, at such a camp-site. We brought him back to the cabin, washed him, and he’s been mine ever since.

An elementary school friend of mine, Katy T I think, had the female version of Ralph (it had the same Le Mutt tag) and they would play together. Hers was fluffy while mine was always soft but matted in the way that certain stuffed animals never quite recover from being washed.

I think Ralph came with me to college. I think he moved with me to Virginia after college and then back to my hometown when I returned to live with my mom and figure things out.

He didn’t move with me to Japan 16 years ago but he’s here now.. and he has a polar fleece Mary Frances styled bathrobe made.

Ralph Waldo came to Japan in May of 2011.

You see, I live slightly North East of Tokyo. I was affected, though not nearly as badly as others*, by the March 11th 2011 Tohoku earthquake and the Fukushima Nuclear Power aftermath that went with it. It was a traumatic time, for a while I was in my apartment, alone..then in Tokyo with my friend Jo and her son, then in Nagoya with friends, a cat, and a ticket for a three day vacation in Taiwan I’d purchased a month before…then in the boonies of Taiwan with a friend for much longer than those 3 days.

I had not returned to America during any of this.

By April 2011 I was back in my apartment, back to work, checking soil and water information. By mid-April my area’s status as being an anomaly “hot-spot” where ash had affected the topsoil was known and water had iffy days. And my mother had tickets to come see me. To see for herself that I was relatively ok and my location was relatively ok and to see me because. Because.

Note: I am an only child.

Her friends constantly asked her why “She let me stay here”…as if I’m not the stubborn daughter of stubborn parents and controlling WHERE I lived was feasable.

It was a rough trip for both of us. We were both brittle and confused, broken and scared.We get along very well but one breakfast we both managed to say things that left us both in tears. We’re both adept with words and painfully so when we’re feeling hurt…we can cut deep and quickly…so we cried and apologized and recovered.

The trip is mentioned because my mom had no idea what to bring. What do you get the daughter whose circumstances have shaken you to the core and kept you awake for months?

You bring her Ralph. Because you don’t know what else to bring.

Things are better now.

Last March my mom visited. We went down to Kamakura and spent one day going up and down the mountain at Enoshima Island. That morning we’d left out hotel without breakfast and found ourselves at the base of the island mountain hungry and with few options of where we could eat.

We ended up at a Hello Kitty cafe. Each table had a giant Kitty-Chan to sit with. Some women came in small groups, some women came solo and sat with Kitty, and we followed.

ruth and kitty

Mom and Kitty Chan

The following morning, back at my apartment, I awoke and found Ralph seated at my small kitchen table. Mom had set him there to make up for the lack of a GIANT KITTY-CHAN lest I experience a sense of loss.

 

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craft, Disney, Doll, Mary Frances sewing, sewing

Chapter XVI: A Surprise from Mother

The doorbell rings and Katie, Grandma’s servant girl, answers it and reports to the others…

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”A telegram for Miss Mary Frances,” said Katie coming into the dining-room. ”A telegram! And for you, Mary Frances. What can it be!” exclaimed Grandma.

‘’Shall I sign for it, ma’am?” asked Katie. ”No,” said Grandma. ”Mary Frances better learn to sign for herself.”



“There was a little look of excitement in Grandma’s face, and a little pink spot in each cheek.”

Yeah, I’d be flushed because literature has taught me that telegrams are for very important news that can’t wait…like DEATH. You’ve got a family member of varying health and suddenly you get an urgent message? YOU FREAK OUT. Grandma, however, sends Mary STRAIGHT to signing and reading.

Telegram
Miss Mary Frances:
Expect \ by \ Express \ Mary \ Marie \ and \ trunk. \ Letter \ follows. \ \ Mother.”

PARENTAL MORTALITY AVERTED
Quickly, a second letter comes…one meant to arrive prior to the telegram. FATHER!

“Dear Mary Frances: —

Mother bought for you to-day the prettiest doll in San Francisco, and she is going to send it by express, as soon as she gets some shopping done for the young lady. She will send a telegram when she starts Mary Marie on her journey, and will write a letter of instruction as to her health, wealth, and happiness.

Give our love to dear Grandma.

It is a delight to send the prettiest doll in San Francisco, to the darlingest little girl in the whole wide world — at least she is to her

Loving Father.”

Ok, That’s a bit of an odd way to end a letter, “You’re the best…and least >I< think so” but I’ll allow it.

We’re getting a new doll! Well, Mary is.

Yesterday I found myself wandering a Disney store looking at other dolls. I’ve been doing well with my No-Buy November but yesterday was stressful (overslept and got through a morning of classes with no coffee) so I tempted myself.

The Moana in stores is ADORABLE but I’m happy with Snow.

moana

If I see a used or discounted Mulan or Pocahontas I’ll buy it.

Mulan looks like she is calmly side-eying the world. Pocahontas is exhausted from ALL your bullshit.

“San Francisco is so far off’ said Mary Frances; ”but, oh. Grandma, isn’t it too lovely! Will Mary Marie have light hair and blue eyes, or dark hair and brown eyes, I wonder?”

Mary is assuming it’s a white doll (spoiler: IT IS!). I’ve read the Housekeeping book and have started drafting my blog/blogs about it and I KNOW how she treats paper dolls of color (spoiler: Poorly!). She would not be happy with Moana.

Much rejoicing and excitement is had! A gift is coming. Don’t worry, this gift is essential to furthering our plot so there is NO NEED to delay gratification, by the next page it arrives,



“Oh, Miss Mary Frances, here comes the expressman carrying a box!” exclaimed Katie a few mornings later.

“Katie, Katie, go to the door,” cried Mary Frances running down stairs.

 

Katie brings in the wooden crate and opens it by using an axe to pry the nails out. Mary removes layers and layer of tissue paper to reveal her new doll.

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There’s some great blogging over here at The Panopticon that mirrors my feelings about Katie and all the cast of characters.

Angie, doll of before, prepare to be forgotten. Mary Marie is hear to replace you. If the blog I linked to above is to be believed we shall never speak of you again. All Hail Mary Marie and her long, delicate, blond curls. Long live Mary Marie.

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Mary and Mary 4EVA

Angie?

Surely Mary Marie was a lovely doll. She had beautiful long curls tied with pink ribbon; and on her feet were short stockings and slippers,—but her dress was a very plain, simple, “slip” of lawn.

There was a note pinned on Mary Marie’s dress, and a little key. The note read:

Dear Mary Frances:

This is Mary Marie. Isn’t she lovely? She is the very doll I’ve been looking for, for my own dear daughter. Father has told you something about Mary Marie, but I want to add some particulars. I have nothing to say about the care of her, — for I contentedly know my little girl’s careful, neat ways so well. You may be surprised when you unpack her trunk, to find no dresses. Mother is sending you, instead, all kinds of pretty goods which you may make up into dresses and clothes for your new little daughter; and you will find all kinds of laces and ribbons, and buttons, and hooks and eyes — everything Mother could think Mary Frances or Mary Marie could possibly want.

There is a set of toilet articles, — but I’ll not tell you about the other things, for I know you are anxious to find out for yourself.

I wish I could be with you, dear, to teach you how to make the pretty things; but I will, I hope, be able to do that before so very long. Meantime, I want you to use everything just as you wish. I’ve asked Grandma to let you do exactly as you want to with these things, and I ask you not to go to her with your sewing problems: for the doctor said that Grandma must not strain her eyes with any such work. I know you understand.

Does Mother know about the Thimble People? If she doesn’t I simply cannot fathom what she’s thinking. She promised to teach Mary the basics of sewing over the summer but now can’t. Mary isn’t allowed to bother Grandma, who isn’t around anyways, and Katie doesn’t seem to be available for fine work like stitching because she’s too busy making pork chops and opening crates with axes. Somehow Mary is to outfit her doll from this stash without assistance.

 

 

 

I have yet to finish reading the first book of cooking but I gather Mother was sent to a sanitarium, left Mary some instruction/recipes, and the Kitchen Folk taught her. This may have given mother the impression that you just leave Mary alone with objects and she figures it out herself.

Mary doesn’t have the Internet or access to other people. Sure, she might be able to steal Angie’s clothing reverse engineer some of the dresses but even that takes some assistance or enough items to work with that you can make a few wasteful mistakes.

Was the Fairy Lady in on this? Is Thimble Land near Kitchen Folkville? Do girls of a certain class status have a network of objects that teach them when their social network fails?

I guess I’m still asking:

HOW DO I GET A NEEDLE OF DON’T HAVE TO TRY?!?!

Mary uses the key to open her new trunk of dry goods. Let’s note, Mary now has TWO boxes with locks, take that…patriarchy.

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Mary rushes to the sewing room, introduces Mary Marie to all the Thimble Folks assembled, and explains about trunk of fabrics and fixings.

We’re off the Grandma Grid. We’ve got our own fabrics now!

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In the next chapter Fairy Lady teaches Mary how to stitch a tiny linen handkerchief. It’s finicky and I haven’t any linen so I will return to it in the future…with our next Mary Frances chapter installment we’ll get to stitching doll clothes…finally

As always, excerpts From: Fryer, Jane Eayre, 1876-. “The Mary Frances sewing book; or, Adventures among the thimble people.”©1915

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Chapter XIV & XV: A Loan From The Thimble King & Three Little Kittens.

Chapter XIV & XV: A Loan From The Thimble King

DEAR me,” sighed Mary Frances. “How will I ever get so much done? I didn’t want to interrupt you, dear Fairy Lady, but I’ve gotten, you see, no further than basting the hem of dolly’s apron!”

Big tears trembled in the little girl’s eyes.

I’m not saying that I’ve never broken down in tears faced with the size of task at hand, even one that feeds my heart like dance or sewing. I have. But, Mary, I’m a little worried about. I got help and continue to get help so that small stressors aren’t met with my body serving grand extravagant reactions that are disproportionate.

”Dear child,” smiled Fairy Lady. “We realize how rapidly we’ll have to work in these lessons in order to get through before your mother comes, so we are ready to help.”

But Fairy, we’ve only just begun sewing lessons. We’re borrowing white lawn fabric to make simple aprons. We don’t even have a fabric stash! Won’t Grandma get suspicious? What if she starts asking questions. How much more IS there to sew? Why is Mary so stressed out? I know there’s a whole book of lessons ahead but what do you know, Fairy Lady?

Lady Fairy taps her Bodkin Wand and we meet another anthropomorphic cast member, Needle Book. This is Mary’s own needle book but now it walks and talks.

I didn’t have a needle book when I started blogging this book. My needles usually just lived alongside my pins thrust into various pincushions…and then I started googling and consulting Pinterest.

These are some spiffy vintage needle books.

I made my own, it’s still in progress. I used this tutorial. I couldn’t find my batting so I substituted some polar fleece instead…so it’s a little floppy. I eventually found my battin stash but it was too late.

Then I cleaned my craft room and made a new pocket organizer (which may be slightly crooked. I’ll measure and fix my next day off.

Mary takes her now-living Needle Book in stride:

 

“There is but one needle in the world, your Seamstress-ship,” he said, “which is called the Needle-of-Don’t-Have-to-Try, and the King of the Thimble People has sent it to you by your humble servant,” glancing proudly about. “—and here, dear Mistress, is the Needle-of-Don’t-Have-to-Try.”

Mary Frances saw a bright shiny light come from between the opening leaves of Needle Book; then slowly, very slowly, with his tiny little hand, he pulled out what seemed a needle of fire, and dropping on his knees, held it out on both arms toward Mary Frances.

The little girl hesitated. Would it burn her?

Mary, consult your R’hllor history books! That is obviously Lightbringer the hero’s needle of Azor Ahai. You need never plunge it into Mr.Emery for, after being tempered by the heart of Nissa Nissa , it never grows dull or rusty. You may need to check Fairy Lady for a magic necklace…just sayin’.

“Do not fear,” smiled Fairy Lady. “It will not harm you. The Needle-of-Don’t-Have-to-Try is loaned to you on only one condition: which is, that you will promise to sew some time every day between lesson days.”

 

“Mary Frances found her thimble, and threaded the glowing needle, although she feared it would scorch the thread,—but it seemed like any other needle except that she didn’t have to try twice to put in the thread.

”I wonder how it is different?” she thought as she started to sew.

Then the most wonderful thing happened. She found the needle darting ahead of her hand, making the stitches just as fast as she could touch the eye with her silver thimble.

In a minute the apron was hemmed.

In another minute the apron was gathered.

In another minute the strings were hemmed.

Then the Needle-of-Don’t-Have-to-Try stopped dead still and wouldn’t move.

“Oh! ho!” cried Mary Frances. “What have I done? What have I done?”

“Nothing, dear child,” said Fairy Lady. “But the Needle-of-Don’t-Have-to-Try cannot do for you anything you have not yet learned; so use your own needle and set the gathers of the apron into the band.”

WHAT?!?

Mary gets a magic needle that does for her any sewing technique she has already learned?

As an adult reader I think that this is meant to symbolize the ease of stitching that comes once a technique is fully learned and internalized …but it’s the only artifact of Thimble Land I WANT.

I can make a needle book but I WANT this witched needle.

Mary, when you’re back to life with your mom it is this loss you will cry over…and it won’t be an over reaction.

Chapter XV Three Little Kittens

Nothing much happens. Mary learns to embroider three kittens on her apron. I didn’t use white lawn cotton. I already know how to embroider. Skipped!

Abruptly, Grandma is home!

“Why, my dear,” puffed the old lady, climbing the last of the stairs, “I am home very early, you see. There was no regular meeting to-day because almost all the members of the Ladies’ Guild went to Daisy’s wedding. I’m home for some games with my little girl.”

“Oh, Nanny-dear, will you play ‘Piddy-Pinny-Plump?'” asked Mary Frances.”

“Yes, indeed, girlie,” laughed Grandma.

Discussion points:

  • What has Grandma done to the other members of the Ladies’s Guild that she is not invited to Daisy’s wedding?
  • What is Piddy-Pinny-Plump?

 

Google is of no help and just serves me P’diddy info.

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