BHM Week 4


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:


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:


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: and here:

17 responses »

  1. Maribell’s idea takes me to pictures instead of procedure to apply cording. Is this what I am to see?
    I love the dress and the embroidery. I have digitized lots of embroidery files for doll clothes could you use some?

    • Yes, the link is to a pic of her dress. I’m sure we would all love more embroidery files! You can post the links here or email me and I’ll link to them on the blog jenniebagrowski at gmail dot com

  2. I love 1920’s fashion and I think you did a great job with this dress! I’m sorry it was such a series of misfortunes for you while making it, but I’m so glad you finally got it done! Melody makes a lovely 1920’s little girl with her shorter hair! Thank you for the pattern, for your posts on BHM that were so interesting and for the books you made us discover!

  3. What a trial! But if you hadn’t told us about it, I never would have known. I’m you did tell us because I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who has creative trials. The pattern is lovely.

  4. This is an absolutely lovely little dress! I thought the day my SE and designer Diamond both decided to eat the thread instead of embroidering was bad, your day beats that hands down! I hate to add to the bad day Karma, however, I could not get the Pes file in the PDF to respond. I’ll try later today incase it’s just my computer being a beast. I think this dress would be especially pretty on the Madame Alexander doll I use as a sewing model. Thanks for all you do!

  5. Simply love this 20’s dress. I believe it will look wonderful on any doll size with a tad of adjustment. I couldn’t get the pes(sp) file on my computer so will just use your pattern copy. Hoping I can do the embroidery by hand.
    It is evident how much work went into this pattern and the lovely dress. Curses be gone! I’m up for this one.

  6. What an unbelievable day! I don’t know how you manage to do all you do with the dolls with your full-time job. Then to have a free day to work on this and have everything go so wrong . . . . I can sympathize; I still remember the day thirty years ago when I had planned a nothing-but-sewing-day, and when I turned on the machine, some part flew off of it, and that was then end of my sewing for a couple of weeks (not to mention the two-hour drive to the dealer). But on top of the sewing disaster, your camera malfunction is truly adding insult to injury.

    Thanks for those links to the articles. I know how different shades of black are viewed by people, including those with dark skin, but had never read anything before about the technical issues in photographing darker skin tones–very interesting.

  7. I love the dress and can’t find the embroidery design. Is it on Etsy. Great pattern, much talent. I am impressed.



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