Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I hope everyone is having a wonderfully great day. Full of family, fun, and food! My day was a good one, low key but good. My sister and her husband are in Texas, I guess they made it there pretty early. She was texting me by 11 (10 their time) this morning complaining about how his father was quizzing her on what foods she will or will not eat (She does have a limited diet). And talking about all the Asian restaurants they will be visiting (where she will no doubt, not find anything to eat). They come back on Wednesday, and I'm sure for my sister that couldn't come quick enough.
Since she's not here my family and I are just planned on having a family dinner. We had roast instead of turkey since we're planning turkey for the make up Christmas with my sister sometime in January. My father was in charge of the roast. Which ended up being a pain, not anything to do with the roast, but just dealing with the timing of making all the side dishes. (Which was all me) I ended up having to throw together the potatoes and the stuffing quickly because by the time I started the meat was already done and cooling. Sometimes things are really just easier when I take charge of everything. In order to save myself some mental anguish I'm planning on being in charge of the entire make up Christmas dinner meal. It's just easier on everyone else, and it allows me to at least be aware of the time schedule that dictates my activities. But dinner was good, it was nice to sit with everyone and have a relaxed family meal. After that was over we all went our separate ways for the rest of the day. Like I said pretty low key, so low key that I didn't even get any presents! I guess I was so naughty this year that Santa just skipped our house!
I'll be fine, I'll get over this slight... someday.
But after dinner I finally got a chance to take some pictures. Since it's Christmas it's high time to show off Charlotte's shelf now that they're all decked out in their Christmas clothes. I've been working hard to meet that deadline, and I'd be kicking myself if I didn't get to share it until after Christmas was over. So without further explanation here's the picture:
Wait... Hmmm, that didn't work...
That's right, as of this post, you've never seen Charlotte's Christmas dress, and yes, Charlotte did get a dress. I just haven't had much of a chance to share it with you, this month has been far too busy to share everything that's happened. So I guess before I share the shelf's photo, I'll share with you Charlotte's dress and how it came to be.
You may remember that I decided Charlotte was going to be dressed as Clara from "The Nutcracker" for this Christmas. Charlotte really likes those Ballet inspired outfits, doesn't she? "The Nutcracker" is one of the very first ballets that I was ever introduced to. I remember watching a taped version of the movie at my Grandmother's when I was much younger. We didn't watch it often, but we would pop it in from time to time. It was the 80's movie that took advantage of being both a play and a movie. Really a great performance of the ballet, I highly recommend it. After seeing it as a child, I didn't see it again for many years, a couple of years ago I was able to watch it online, but wasn't able to view it this year. Seeing it again while more grown up gave me a greater appreciation of this wonderful ballet. One of the scenes that struck me (in both childhood viewings and my most recent one) was the one where three dancers come in and do a short dance that the choreography mimics that action that's soon to come in the ballet. It's an usual scene, but always fascinated me. I remembered liking the female dancer's dress from it, and decided that it would work for my vision of Clara, but when I tried to find the scene online for reference, I couldn't. Isn't that always the case though? Since I couldn't find it, I had to draw it from memory, trying to remember what I had seen over a year ago.
I thought I did a pretty decent job replicated in from what I remembered. I quickly had a sketch completed, and liked it, and thought it could be something I could create. Next I needed to get some supplies for it. I remembered that the dress was pink, a color not well represented in my fabric stockpile. I needed a baby pink, and I only had hot pink taffeta. That's really would not work for what I wanted Clara to look like. I also needed to get some trim for the dress. I couldn't remember the fine detail work for the dress, so I ended up designing my own. We had two options, one that involved a decorative ribbon trim, and one that called for eyelet material (hopefully in pink). Whichever option I chose really depended on what I could find at the store, I do have my limits in that aspect. I was able to quickly find the right fabric at the store, (one of the more expensive fabrics) so I was halfway there. I was also lucky in the trim section. I found this sheer sheer scalloped fabric with pink undertones that was in a box pleat. It wasn't what I was thinking of when I designed the dress, but I liked it so much I quickly decided that it would work so I got it. I ended up getting a half yard of each of them. I didn't bother getting any thread since I still had light pink from a previous project, so I could save some money with that!
After I got the materials I needed I quickly started making the dress, I couldn't wait any longer. The top is a familiar pattern, it's the bodice that I always use. I actually used the unmodified version of the pattern earlier in the month making Vanessa's costume. This one is the modified version that allows inset sleeves. This one is very familiar, I just changed the neckline. This one is just a simple circular neckline that's close to the neck, rather boring really, but I did that for a reason. I was planning on adding a collar, so the neckline wasn't going to be visible. I did hem it though, even when not seen a hemmed neckline usually works out better for me in the long run. Before adding the sleeves I worked on finishing the collar. I was using some of that sheer white material, last seen in the skirt of the wedding dress (Charlotte's not the domo's). I gathered it, and tacked down into a mock cowl collar around the neckline. It's very Georgian (my favorite era), I also added a pink ribbon rose at the center for some decoration. It came out well, although I did have to redo it a few times, but the hassle was worth it.
After that I added the sleeves. Like usual I made them 3/4 length. At the sleeve hems I added the trim, since it was already pleated I didn't have to even gather them to give them that flared look that I love (another Georgian element). The trim was okay to work with, it does have a fraying issue, so it won't last too heavy play, but I doubt Charlotte will wear it enough to cause a real problem. I didn't even have a problem setting the sleeves in. I did end up pointing the bodice at the bottom hem. I love how a pointed bodice looks, and now that I use the tulle to help with hemming I can easily create it. Still have trouble figuring out how to make the point lay flat. Often there's a nasty ripple that really ruins the line of the dress, which was certainly the case with this dress. I guess that's something I can work on this upcoming year.
After I was done with most of the sewing of the top I tried it on, and had a fit issue with it. For some reason Charlotte was swimming in the bust area. It was really over-sized there for some reason, but it fit decently in the hips and waist. I thought about ways to fix it, but remembered an old family saying, "To make up for what God's forgotten, remember it's always best stuffed with cotton" (Thanks Nana). I didn't just jam cotton balls into Charlotte's top (save that for the Domos), instead I made her a simple bra. It's just a white cotton strip gathered in the front, nothing too fancy but the added fabric helps her fill out the top. I did put some effort into making it because she can always use another nice bra. Sometimes when Charlotte wears those older clothes designed for the older bodies she has troubles filling out the bust, this would be a decent way to help fix that.
When that was all squared away I started off with the skirt. Originally I was just planning on having the trim (if I had gotten the eyelet materiel) under the dress, with just the scalloped edge poking out beneath the hem. This new trim was far too pretty to mostly hide under the skirt, plus I didn't think I got enough to go all the way around the bottom (that stuff's expensive). So I changed my plans. Instead of a full skirt I decided to add a panel at the center that used rows of this trim. If you remember the Garden Party dress I made a while back, it's just like that one (or if you remember the actual Mattel Garden Party dress it's like that). Sadly the first front panel I made ended up getting messed up. It was my own fault for trying to use the trim super sparingly, which is so ironic since I messed it up and had to redo it, thus using more of the trim. Luckily I had learned my lesson, and my second attempt at making the skirt panel was much more successful, or else I might have run out the trim. I did however, forget to take into consideration that the Garden Party skirt was shorter than the length of the skirt I was planning for Clara's dress, so I ended up with a panel shorter than the skirt material. I thought about making a shorter skirt, but knew that I would hate that in the end. Instead I ended up sewing another row of the trim at the bottom of the panel. This didn't have the white cotton backing, so you could see through to what she was wearing underneath, but I ended up liking the look. It was a happy accident. After solving that issue, I didn't have much of an issue with the rest of the skirt. Although I did have some problems with the machine pulling on the pink fabric as it hemmed the skirt. I ended up pulling out the machine stitches and hemming it by hand, but in a couple places you can see the fabric is marred from the machine. It's weird, it didn't do that anywhere else, just the skirt hem. But the skirt went together pretty easy, and attached to the bodice well. So that's good.
I also ended up making some pantaloons to go under the dress. I was planning on doing that all along, but now that you could see a bit under the skirt, I knew that I had to. They're very similar to the pantaloons made for the "Tales of the Hoffman" dress and the Harlequin costume. I also used the trim on the Pantaloon cuffs. I really like how that sheer line of the trim shows off the pantaloons and the trim on them, it just makes it look intentional, and not just a quick fix.
For accessories, Charlotte got the long white stockings, and the usual white ballet shoes. I also tied a pink ribbon into her hair. Adding to that her little Nutcracker, and she was done! (And looked darn adorable)
And now that all that talking is done, here's a photo of the entire shelf:And one without the non-Mattel dolls (For In the Pink)
A couple close ups of Charlotte: (You can see she's holding up her skirt in a couple pictures, that's because of a safety pin that's latched onto her skirt with part of the post on the outside of the skirt that her thumb slides under allowing her to hold it up like that. Not sure if the pin is visible.Some of my Christmas cards on the Silkstone Shelf:The rest of my cards on the Vintage Shelf:And the tree on the Japanese Doll's shelf:After I finished the dress, by a random chance, I found a video of the scene in the movie that I based the dress on. I'll add it here so you can see it too.

Check it out, notice something? How about the fact that my memory of the dress was WAY off! I did get a couple things right, the decoration at the sleeves, the neckline (somewhat, it is cowled), and the pointed bodice. Other than that I was very, very off. I forgot the crimson bodice color, the actual neckline, the line that runs down the bodice, and my fabric was much stiffer than the one used for that costume. So really, this is much more "inspired by" than a "copy of", although I will say, I prefer mine much more to the one in the video. But that's just my opinion. (And I could even say mine was original, because I doubt anyone would see any resemblance between my dress and the one in the video.)

And so, Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!
(Oh, and a Happy Birthday to Kelly and Tommy. I got them several years ago on Christmas day, and that became their Birthday. They might be ten years old by now. They grow up so fast!)

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