If you’re reading this post, you’re probably familiar with our abiding love for all things L. M. Montgomery (excepting Emily of New Moon, but that’s a story for another day.) Our most intense fangirl squee is reserved for The Blue Castle, Montgomery’s 1926 romance novel and one of her only works for adults.
Haven’t read it? The full text is available online, courtesy of Project Gutenberg. You’re welcome.
Valancy wakened early, in the lifeless, hopeless hour just preceding dawn. She had not slept very well. One does not sleep well, sometimes, when one is twenty-nine on the morrow, and unmarried, in a community and connection where the unmarried are simply those who have failed to get a man.
The heroine of The Blue Castle is 29-year-old Valancy Stirling, an overlooked “old maid” with the misfortune to be born into a successful, popular, and utterly soulless clan in fictional Deerwood, Ontario. Upon learning that she has a fatal heart disease, she turns her sedate Victorian life upside down in order “that I may have one little dust-pile before I die.”
Valancy saw straight black hair; fine, straight, black brows; a nose she had always felt was much too small even for her small, three-cornered, white face; a small, pale mouth that always fell open a trifle over little, pointed white teeth; a figure thin and flat-breasted, rather below the average height. She had somehow escaped the family high cheek-bones, and her dark-brown eyes, too soft and shadowy to be black, had a slant that was almost Oriental.
We thought that Jess–with her tip-tilted eyes, fair complexion, and gap-toothed smile–would make a perfect Valancy. This Jess doll was purchased from a fellow board member almost three years ago to be customized for our Valancy.
Valancy thought she was almost pretty in that mirror. But that may have been because she had shingled her hair. . . . Barney cut the hair, square off at the back of Valancy’s neck, bringing it down in a short black fringe over her forehead. It gave a meaning and a purpose to her little, three-cornered face that it never had possessed before.
The bob–cut straight around the head at jaw level with a fringe at the front–was the signature (and highly controversial) hairstyle of the Jazz Age.
In staid Deerwood, Ontario, many hairdressers would have flat-out refused Valancy’s request to trim her long, fine locks, which her family decreed she wear in an unflattering pompadour. Our Valancy is sporting a Blythe black bob wig by GoodyBlythe.
When Abel Gay paid Valancy her first month’s wages–which he did promptly, in bills reeking with the odour of tobacco and whiskey–Valancy went into Deerwood and spent every cent of it. She got a pretty green crêpe dress with a girdle of crimson beads, at a bargain sale, a pair of silk stockings, to match, and a little crinkled green hat with a crimson rose in it.
Believe it or not, the green silk crepe de chine for Valancy’s dress was already in my stash, remnants from the green silk wedding dress I made for my brother’s wife in 2010. Even better, we had dyed-to-match china silk for lining as well as scraps of green silk organza.
In designing Valancy’s dress, I spent hours looking at magazines, fashion plates, and vintage sewing patterns from the mid-1920s. Elements were drawn from several different designs rather than copying a single garment.
Her bodice of crepe de chine has a unique one-piece construction with cap sleeves, jewel neckline (not completely indecent), and drop waist. The straight skirt is embellished with three tiers of narrow-hemmed silk organza flounces.
Valancy put on her green dress when she got home. Then she took it off again. She felt so miserably undressed in its low neck and short sleeves. And that low, crimson girdle around the hips seemed positively indecent.
I found the beaded trim at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco a few years back. It was absurdly expensive which is why I only had a third of a yard–which, luckily, was just enough for a crimson girdle.
“You look so nice and–and–different, dear,” said Cissy. “Like a green moonbeam with a gleam of red in it, if there could be such a thing.”
The dress is fully lined with green china silk–no exposed seams–and the back placket closes with vintage mother of pearl shank buttons and crocheted thread loops.
Valancy was still leaning forward. Her little hat with its crimson rose was tilted down over one eyes–Valancy’s smile–what had happened to Valancy!
The bell-shaped cloche hat was a 1920s fashion icon. Fashioned from felt and positioned low on the forehead, the close-fitting cloche could only be worn over bobbed or shingled hair.
Excitement brought those faint pink stains to her face. She flung on her coat and pulled the little, twisty hat over her hair.
Valancy’s cloche hat is handmade from pure Merino wool felt, shaped over a hat form and treated with a resin felt stiffener to hold its bell shape. The brim is finished with bias binding, while the crown is embellished with a ruched band of silk crepe de chine and a crimson silk flower with a fantastic elegant beaded center.
This evening she had been compelled to put on the little fancy pair of patent-leather with rather high, slender heels, which she had bought in a fit of folly one day in the winter because of their beauty and because she wanted to make one foolish, extravagant purchase in her life.
Valancy’s shoes have kitten heels, ankle straps, and sculpted black bows adorning the insteps. Her sheer skin-tone stockings are from an eBay seller. All they need is a seam up the back!
She hated that grey flannel petticoat more than any other garment she owned. Olive never had to wear flannel petticoats. Olive wore ruffled silk and sheer lawn and filmy laced flounces. But Olive’s father had “married money” and Olive never had bronchitis. So there you were.
Naturally, The Blue Castle doesn’t lend much space to the discussion of 1920s undergarments. But we can safely assume that after a lifetime of grey flannel petticoats, Valancy would seize the opportunity for stylish lingerie.
The envelope or “step-in” chemise was a lightweight undergarment worn next to the skin. Its straight cut emphasized the rectangular “Flapper” silhouette.
Cousin Georgiana . . . shook hands–furtively eyeing Valancy’s dress and wondering if she had any petticoat on at all.
Valancy’s Envelope Chemise is constructed of luxurious silk charmeuse trimmed with a bit of French lace. The front yoke is exquisitely pin-tucked.
A simple button closure at the crotch defines the leg openings.
To her delight, Barney gave her a necklace of pearl beads. Valancy had wanted a string of milky pearl beads–like congealed moonshine–all her life. And these were so pretty.
Valancy’s pearl beads are a fifteen thousand dollar gift from a Toronto jewelry house. We think Cecile’s pearl necklace adds an elegant touch.
Valancy’s Blue Castle Ensemble is for our private collection and not for sale. (Though I could probably be convinced to make more wool felt hats–that was really satisfying!) The world needs more fans of The Blue Castle, and I hope this custom ensemble inspires you to discover Valancy for yourself!
This is Mr Henry Tilney. He understands muslins.
We, the co-propriotresses of Kindred Thread, cannot lay claim to expert knowledge of early-19th-century textile with the same degree of accuracy as Tilney there – however, we do have at least a working understanding of lawn, batiste, Liberty of London prints, double-faced satin ribbons, and millinery straw.
You see, with the announcement of Caroline Abbott and her 1812 date, we fixated upon a single thought: Jane Austen. Upon learning of Caroline’s location and historical setting, we briefly studied the War of 1812 and Upstate New York to discern an appropriate theme for our new shop section. (Yes, of course we must have a dedicated shop section for 1812 gowns – after the bandwidth-exceeding fun of our French Quarter last summer, how could we not?) And yet, for reasons which must soon come to light, we kept coming back to Austen.
**WARNING: GRATUITOUS WET DARCY ALERT**
At which point we… ahem.. sorry, what was I saying? Oh yes, Jane Austen. However, I don’t want you to believe us a completely shallow pair of ladies. Believe me when I say, this propensity was motivated not solely by Colin Firth.
**WARNING: GRATUITOUS WET DARCY ALERT (AGAIN)**
Yes. Well, I think I’ve made my point quite nicely.
Therefore, we did the only sensible thing (you see what I did there?) and dubbed our new shop section in honor of Caroline The Regency Literary Society. We hope you will be persuaded to join us Tuesday, September 4th at midnight, provided you are not too prideful (okay, I’ll stop with now). This is the same time (approximately) that Caroline goes live on the AG website, so why not open another browser window? We know you’ll be awake.
Joining us for this special event are two talented Friends of Kindred Thread, AG Seamstress and Threads of Troy. Each style of dress will be named after a different Austen heroine – there is no shortage of delightful feminine names in her books! This past month has been a flurry of excitement, featuring such highlights as Meg’s ongoing love affair with millinery braid, and my not having an apoplectic fit while cutting into $33-a-yard fabric. I doubt even Henry Tilney understands that.
So, to reiterate, the Regency Literary Society launches Tuesday, September 4th at midnight (Eastern), featuring Meg and Joni as well as AG Seamstress and Threads of Troy. Be there, or
Severus Snape Colonel Brandon will be much displeased.
You are invited to the house party of the season:
The Kindred Thread Regency Literary Society
- Fashion ensembles inspired by Caroline and our favorite Regency heroines
- Exclusive designs from the Friends of Kindred Thread
Coming Tuesday, September 4 at 12 o’clock Midnight EDT
I have never been a big fan of the premade natural straw hats available from CR’s Crafts and other doll supply stockists. Joni Lynn does a beautiful job of embellishing these with ribbon and bias binding, but the straw splinters easily and it’s just not that pleasant to work with! Collectors of French Fashion Dolls, on the other hand, construct exceptional doll millinery using raffia hat straw braid shaped over a ceramic hat form. With the right size and style of hat form, this technique makes splendid hats and bonnets for American Girls.
- Hat Form to fit a 10-11″ head circumference. The PNB Doll Company has a whole line of Hats for Daisy which fit American Girl, and there are other good choices in their regular catalog. The hat forms run about $20 and are re-usable. They’re also made-to-order, so allow plenty of time for your order to ship to you!
- Glue. PNB carries a special hat-making glue, which holds on contact, dries quickly and clear, and has permanent flexibility. That flexibility is nice if you’re planning to sew trim on your hat; otherwise, Aleene’s Fast Grab Tacky Glue is a perfectly reasonable substitute and readily available at your local craft store.
- Double Sided Tape to position the first row of hat braid on your mold. If you have never used Washaway Wonder Tape, it will be a religious experience. Best. Notion. Ever.
- Optional: A Glue Syringe with a crafting tip is a great help, but you can also dispense your glue using a sandwich baggie with a hole poked in the corner.
- Position a row of Wonder Tape around the bottom edge of the hat mold, beginning and ending at the start point which is marked on the mold. Smoosh the tape around the curves with your fingers and then remove the paper backing.
- Place the first row of hat braid on top of the Wonder Tape, leaving about a 1/2 inch tail which will be covered up by subsequent rows of braid:
- Using a glue syringe, place dots of glue along the top edge of the braid, every scant 1/4″ or so, all the way around:
- Position the next row of braid on top of the glue dots, overlapping the previous row by at least half the width of the braid. (I leave about a 1/8″ underlap visible from the preceding row.)
- Continue gluing the hat straw braid around the hat mold, each new row on top of the preceding one, making sure to maintain a consistent overlap, and easing in the fullness of the braid around curves:
- There is a pull thread woven into the edges of the hat straw braid. When you get near the crown of the hat, you can pull this thread–gently–to ease the braid into tighter and tighter curves:
- Continue gluing the braid down until there is just a 1/4″ gap in the very top of the hat. Cut the braid with sharp scissors, leaving a 1/2″ tail:
- Gently ease the hat off the mold and remove the remains of the Wonder Tape. Poke the cut end of the hat braid through to the inside of the hat and use a bit of glue to position the tail so that it closes the gap that you left at the crown. (The photo below is taken with the hat turned inside out!)
- Place the hat back on the mold and leave it to dry over night!
- Once the glue dries, you’re free to embellish to your heart’s desire. This is a great way to use all your bibs and bobs of leftover ribbon and lace.
If you decide to make your own American Girl sized hat in the French Fashion tradition, send us photos and we’ll share them on our blog.
Think I’m mad as a hatter? You’re probably right! We offer made-to-order French Quarter Bonnets
trimmed with your choice of grosgrain ribbon. Custom millinery requests are also welcome.
Wow, what an amazing year this has been! When Meg emailed me back in January of 2011 to tell me about the amazing idea that she’d had, I didn’t hesitate to jump in with both feet – but I don’t think either of us could have imagined the success we’d find in our new venture, not to mention the joy. We love stitching up tiny historically accurate frocks, and we are so honored that you allow us to dress your dolls! Thank you so much for being our customers and allowing us to pursue our dream, and we plan to continue our endeavor for many more years to come!
So, let’s take a look at some of the events of the past 366 days, shall we? 😉
- We launched our shiny new website on March 1, 2011, on the tail end of the worst winter I’ve ever seen. Our very first sellout was a mint green 1930s dress – I went around grinning like a fool for an entire day!
- We also launched our Modiste line with Meg’s stunning Twelve Oaks Barbecue Dress for Scarlett O’Hara.
- Meg has created ensembles based on many popular heroines of literature, including Anne of Green Gables, Mary and Laura Ingalls, and the March girls from Little Women. I spent close to two weeks creating an over-the-top ensemble based on the film Marie Antoinette.
- We have joined forces with many other talented ladies including Pippaloo for doll food, a group we’ve nicknamed the Friends of Kindred Thread for special one-of-a-kind ensembles, and BunnyBear for patterns.
- We welcomed two new historicals, Cecile and Marie-Grace, and sort of broke the internet. We look forward to welcoming another new historical character later this year!
- We have changed our web host. Twice. Many thanks to the Monkey Man for keeping us in ones and zeroes!
- Constantly challenging ourselves to stretch our skills, Meg took up millinery, and I developed a design for 18th-century French underpinnings.
- Between the two of us, we have collectively added 5 new dolls to our households… 6 if you count Bitty Twins!
- I even treated myself to a new sewing machine last summer.
- I am not even going to try to add up the number of yards of fabric we have collectively purchased. But you wouldn’t believe me anyway.
- We have kept right on sewing through all sorts of upheavals. Most recently, I took a part-time job and Meg adopted a second dog!
- We continue to be fueled by Diet Coke (Meg); Hershey’s kisses (me); and deadlines (both of us).
We have some fetching new Limited Edition designs in commemoration of our first birthday (cupcakes included). Thank you so much for being our customers!
Hello, friends! Did you have a wonderful holiday season? We did! Santa brought me Molly’s table and chairs, which was the last major item I needed from her collection. Now she and Emily can do their homework together…
Since Meg and I were both so busy crafting Christmas gifts in the month of December, we opted not to do a release of new products for January. However, I am glad to say we entered 2012 newly inspired to create. We have lots of new goodies which will be available for purchase in the Limited Edition section of our site on Wednesday, February 1st. Here is a sneak peek to whet your appetite…
And I know I say this every single time, but I really feel like we’ve outdone ourselves. Be sure and stop by the site at midnight EST on the 1st, as our Limited Edition products can sell out fast!
Speaking of the site, have you noticed our lovely new website design? Meg has been constantly working to make our site more user-friendly (and less likely to crash) and I think this is our best version yet. Have you noticed that you can add products to your cart directly from the home page? Or that each individual product page has a Facebook ‘like’ button? (This is a good way to drop hints if your birthday is coming up, hee hee.) And if you have purchased one of our products you can even leave a comment and product rating on the item’s page.
And do you see that little red ‘P’ logo at the bottom of our home page? That’s right, Kindred Thread is on Pinterest now. As a social media junkie I am having WAY too much fun on this site, which allows you to ‘pin’ images from all across the web to a central location for drooling purposes. We currently have five pinboards on topics from ‘The 1940s’ to ‘Pretty Things’; you can choose to follow an individual board or follow all of Kindred Thread’s pins. Pinterest is supposed to be the hot new thing in social media (I am usually five years or so behind the times!) so do check it out.
So, remember to visit our site, and stay warm in the winter weather!
…That I am a pattern designer now? I’ve partnered with the epically talented Nann of BunnyBear Patterns to make my Route 66 dress design available to seamstresses.
…That two of our styles this month, the Home for the Holidays Apron and the Mint Chocolate Chip Dress come with delicious treats from Pippaloo?
…That the sewing machine ruffle attachment Meg used on her Merry Little Christmas dress cost more than twice as much as my first sewing machine?! (P.S. She is going to kill me for telling you that.)
– That Cyria of Dancing With Needles is just as crazy-talented with embroidery as she is with smocking? (Seriously, it makes me weep a little.)
– That Lucy Van Pelt’s dress is created from silk twill (the same material they use for neckties) and hemmed by hand for an invisible finish? It took an entire episode of Criminal Minds.
We still have lots of products in our Holiday Boutique, and remember, your order ships FREE to the U.S. and Canada. Happy shopping!
The auction for our Bonne Année Ballgown with French Quarter Bonnet is now open. You can place your bid below, or enter your email address to receive auction updates.
Auction ends Saturday, December 3 at 9 PM EST. For more information on Kindred Thread Auctions, please check out our Auction FAQ.
The auction for our Christmastime Is Here Lucy Van Pelt’s Party Dress is now open. You can place your bid below, or enter your email address to receive auction updates.
Auction ends Saturday, December 3 at 9 PM EST. For more information on Kindred Thread Auctions, please check out our Auction FAQ.
Here at Kindred Thread, we embrace the Miracle on 34th Street model of marketing:
“If we haven’t got exactly what the customer wants . . .
we’ll send him where he can get it.”
There have never been more talented seamstresses offering historical reproduction doll clothes for American Girl, and we are thrilled to use our site to feature the work of some of our favorites!
This December, we invite you to shop the Kindred Thread Holiday Boutique, featuring:
- 1930s, 40s, and 50s holiday frocks by Nora’s Room and Joni Lynn;
- Deliciously retro Christmas aprons;
- A French Quarter silk taffeta ballgown for Kindred Thread Modiste;
And exclusive designs from the Friends of Kindred Thread:
The Kindred Thread Holiday Boutique opens Thursday, December 1 at 12:01 AM EDT. Quantities are limited, so shop early for the best selection!
P.S. Join us on Facebook beginning Cyber Monday for exclusive previews of our Holiday Boutique styles.