Sunday, 1 January 2012

A New Year and Darcy & Elizabeth Finally Have Clothes!

Happy New Year to one and all :)
I hope that 2012 brings you all nothing but happiness and comfort.

It's the first day of the new year, and I've spent it quietly at home with my lovely husband, relaxing and steadily getting a few bits and pieces done to properly launch the January sale at my shop -
There are a lot of my little ladies there that now have 25% off. And a few that have been reduced even further, up to 60% off, as I'm trying to make room for all the new dolls I'm planning on making this year.

The very first dolls of 2012 are my Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett. After waiting so long to get started on them, and after a bit of a delay while I found fabric for her gown, both finally look somewhat respectable and have some clothes on. Although there's still a way to go on them yet.

Mr Darcy now has his fitted straight black trousers that have a flat flap front and a high waist, giving him a very trim narrow waist. And I finally found the perfect fabric for Miss Elizabeth's gown, of all places in a home furnishing store.

It doesn't show up to well in these photos as Wales hasn't seen proper sunlight in a few weeks now. But Miss Elizabeth's dress has long narrow sleeves and a bodice of peach voile fabric that has a textured finish with some thicker shiny threads. She has a second petticoat and gown skirts on cream cotton voile. And I've added some detail by adding pin tucks to her hem. Around her waist in a darker peach satin ribbon.

I spent some time with test pieces of fabric trying to find the perfect patten to use for the pin tucked section of Elizabeth's skirts. And had a little trouble with the scale at first. Women during the Regency where fantastically talented when it came to making their simple gowns. Although they look very basic, every detail of their dresses was carefully created to make sure the finished product fitted perfectly and conformed to the latest fashions. All of the detailing was done carefully by hand in a great range of fabrics. And as Elizabeth was a young women when she first met Mr Darcy I decided to keep with tradition and use pale soft colours, and delicate opaque muslin-like voile.

Sewing pintucks is both a very simple technique to decorate fabric, and complicated to do at times. You can get a special foot for a sewing machine that sews perfect straight tucks every time, but I sew even clothes for myself by hand, so getting things straight can prove a bit difficult, especially if your using a very pale thin fabric that you don't want to wash afterwards as it means you can't draw lines on the fabric and have to measure everything repeatedly and rely on pin placement to mark where your going. To sew a pin tuck you fold the fabric and measure down from the folded edge how deep you want your tuck to be, then sew across the width of the fabric. To make the next, you measure from your first sewn line the distance you want between tucks plus the depth of your tuck, then fold at that measurement and sew across the width of fabric again at the depth that you want. Repeating until you have as many as you want.

I experimented with alternating depths of pin tuck, and different distances apart. As well as copying the beautiful complicated pattern as seen worn by Fanny Brawne in the film Bright Star (a great period film if you get the chance to see it).
In the end everything I tried just seemed too over the top for Elizabeth. I never think of her as a showy character, and even though you get the impression she likes fashion I always think her tastes are more simple and elegant.

My husband bought me the 2007 ITV version of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey for Christmas, and just as I was giving up on what to do for my Elizabeth I thought to watch it for some inspiration. Right at the beginning the young Catherine is wearing a beautiful simple white muslin dress with a deep pin tuck hem of 5 or 6 rows. Each tuck the same distance apart and quite deep. It was perfect. Exactly what I wanted for my Miss Bennett. Simple and elegant, and just the right kind of detail. What I'd been trying to do was much too elaborate, and now I knew exactly what I needed to do to finish Elizabeth's gown.

These too will soon have hair to make them stop looking quite so alien. And I still have Darcy's sage / olive green tail coat and tall top hat to make. As well as a long pelisse coat and bonnet for Elizabeth. Tiny tailoring is always scary, but I hope I can make what I have in my head come from my hands.

Best Wishes for the new year ahead of us.

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