Monthly Archives: February 2017

BHM Week 4

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This week we’re focusing on the 1920s.  In Black History, this was the era of the Harlem Renaissance, which featured an enormous blossoming of creativity in art, music and literature.  Some important figures from this era include Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, etc.

The book I chose for this week is called Mystery of the Dark Tower: a Bessie Mystery by Evelyn Coleman (AG History Mysteries).  Being a children’s mystery story, the plot is not as engaging for an adult as some of the other books that have been featured, but it does a nice job of depicting an important era that’s often overlooked in Black History in favor of either the Civil War or the Civil Rights eras.  The historical section at the back is well done and would be a good jumping-off point to learn more about particular people/events.

In keeping with the “mystery” theme, it appears there was a curse on this week’s dress!  I have to admit being a bit heartbroken about how it turned out.  I chose a BEAUTIFUL 1920s dress from Pictorial Review, shown below with my recoloring of the model’s skin from the original pale pink:

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Is that dress not stunning?  So I was super excited to make it, and saving it for the last week of BHM.  I spent an incredibly long time digitizing the embroidery and found some fabric in the perfect shade of green.  Then, on Monday when I was off, I started the project, only to find I didn’t have a dark enough green for the stems.  Not wanting to waste my day driving to the fabric store, I used another type of thread, which I should have known would break and shred in the machine.  Took machine apart, cleaned it out, started again using black for the stems.  This time, the evil embroidery machine offset the peach colored flowers somehow, so they didn’t line up with everything else and the rest of the fabric was ruined.

Back to the drawing board with the embroidery, I changed the bad flowers to some lazy daisies that I knew would work, but now had to choose a whole new color scheme, which I eventually did, although no ribbons or rickrack of the right colors were to be found in my stash to match, so they were omitted.  You’ll have to take my word that up close, the dress looks really delicate and pretty with the pale pastel embroidery, because my camera died.  Yes, the camera that was all set up to do a nice job photographing my darker skinned dolls without a flash!  So I had to use a different one that didn’t let me manually adjust the exposure the same way, and gave it the task of properly exposing both a pastel-on-pastel embroidered dress and Melody’s face.  It failed.  Either Melody’s face looked good and the embroidery disappeared, or  the embroidery looked OK but Melody’s face was too dark to see her features properly.  So it was overexposed and then I messed with the colors in a photo editor, which made them look kind of unnatural:

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Get the pattern here

If you can break the curse and make and photograph a nice version share your pix here

While you’re there, check out Maribell’s idea to put cording instead of piping on the dress from week one – much easier but outlines the curves so nicely!

There are some interesting articles about historical bias toward lighter skin in both film and digital cameras here: http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/04/16/303721251/light-and-dark-the-racial-biases-that-remain-in-photography and here: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/22/magazine/a-true-picture-of-black-skin.html?_r=0

BHM Week 3

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We’re already in our third week of February.  Are you/your kids enjoying their Black History Month reading?  This week we have a book from Newbery award winner Christopher Paul Curtis called “The Watsons Go to Birmingham.”  I’ve enjoyed all his books that I’ve read, but chose this one in particular because it’s a great read for kids.  The Watson children live in the unsegregated north (Michigan) in the 1960s and experience segregation and civil rights issues while visiting family in Alabama.  Kids, identifying with the main characters, will experience it through their eyes and probably feel similarly when confronted with segregation, since it’s completely foreign to their experience as well.

Get the coat pattern here

Why a coat as the pattern?  The book starts with how cold it is during the Michigan winter since the heat is broken, so it will help keep a doll warm as she reads/acts out the story.
All the patterns so far have been at the intermediate sewing level and this is no exception, but if that makes you sad, rejoice!  Next week’s pattern will be very easy, but also have some special touches for those that like things a little more challenging 🙂

BHM Week 2

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If you’re just joining us, we’re celebrating Black History Month with children’s literature and doll outfits to accompany the book.

This week’s book is actually a series – Addy’s books!  When AG was Pleasant Company, the original intent of the books was for kids to learn about history and be able to act those stories out, supported by props available from PC.  If I were to list my favorite story series from the historical dolls, Josefina, Kit, Addy and Kirsten tie at the top of my list, and Addy is one of my favorite dolls.

There have been so many dresses for Addy over the years, both pictured in her books and sold by AG/PC it was hard to decide what to showcase.  I though the Emancipation Proclamation dress would be a good plan, since it ties in a historical event, but when I asked DH’s opinion he said, “Meh.  It’s kind of boring and it’s been done.  Why not do something unique?”  So I hybridized a dress silhouette from Godey’s with a slightly modified soutache pattern from Arthur’s Home Magazine and came up with something new that I just LOVE.  Maybe after reading the series, kids will want to make up their own stories and this dress can inspire them!  Many of the accessories from the French Fashion Doll series would be great for Addy’s time too!

Intermediate to advanced sewers will enjoy the challenge of piping, soutache and a lined skirt with a placket.  Beginners can make the basic bodice easily and substitute a simple rectangle for the skirt.

Get the pattern here

Yay! A new series!

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It’s been a while since we’ve had a “theme” month, and February is the perfect time.

For a few years it’s been on my to-do list to devote February to Black History Month.  The main issue has been deciding what to base the outfits on.  Historical events? Different types of African textiles?  Famous people from history?  Outfits for specific dolls?  Well, this year I finally came up with an idea that got me excited!

Historical fiction can make history come alive for children far more than the best retelling of a historical event in a history book. So, for each of the weeks of Black History Month, I’m going to feature a specific children’s book with an outfit based on it.

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This week we’re reading:

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

I listened to the audio version of this and the actress did a marvelous job with the voices that really brought the book to life!  Not all children’s books are equally engaging for adults, but if you’re an adult and only choosing one children’s book to read during this BHM series, it would be this one.  Stella is a well-developed character you will grow to love, and the author’s portrayal of her life has a very authentic feel.

Get the “Stella” pattern and more info here

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You might also be happy to know Nisha’s 1980s safari dress pattern  is finally available on Etsy!