Miss Ruby has her new white dress in time for warmer weather, if we ever get any! We had pouring rain this morning, and it stopped in time for us to go out among the almost blooming tulips for a chilly photo shoot in a little bit of sunshine. Lacey white cotton dresses with snowy white bonnets are just the thing for little girls to wear when the sun shines bright. Little pink toes love to get tickled by cool new-grown grass.
Ruby’s springtime dress was made from Paula Walton’s dress instructions. It is made from a vintage cotton eyelet skirt and has a bell sleeve variation. In the mid 19th century, when little girls wore dresses like these, mothers and grandmothers seldom used patterns to cut out the clothing. Learning how to cut and sew garments was part of a girl’s education on housekeeping. This dress is made entirely from strips of fabric with no pattern. It was typical for the skirt to have one or two growth tucks sewn in, to be let out for length as the girl grew. Because of the position of the lace panel in this skirt, I did not add growth tucks to Ruby’s white dress. I don’t think she will have a growth spurt soon. 🙂
Bonnets for girls and women can be found with many subtle variations, as well, and my guess is that they were also usually made without patterns. I “made up” Ruby’s little white bonnet as I went. I measured the eyelet fabric across her little head for the right fit, then layered it with more fabric and quilted it. I wanted more fullness at the top of the crown, so I measured and cut a balloon shape accordingly. Then I added the ruffle all around, bound the seams, and added ties. The full crown and narrow back give my bonnet a kind of a Dutch silhouette. I think it is charming! And I am so satisfied with the results of “just making it up!”
Actually, having the opportunity to handle and inspect antique bonnets, or doll bonnets, is helpful, if not downright necessary to the “making it up” process. I could see how Paula attached the crown to the brim on the little antique calico bonnet that she made for Ruby, even though I made my crown quite different from hers.
Folkwear patterns made a useful one-piece pattern for a slat brim prairie sunbonnet that comes with the girl’s prairie dress pattern. I reduced this pattern to make a bonnet for a prairie dress outfit for a My Twinn doll.
Viewing old photos is useful for learning what styles were worn when. As you can see, even turn-of-the-twenty-first century little girls wore sunbonnets. Well, at least in MY family, they did! I have two cherished antique family photos with white bonnets in my collection as well:
The bonnet in this circa 1928 photo, above, has a short double or triple ruffled brim with the crown gathered into the center back of the bonnet. It reminds me of Kate Greenway style.
Above, the toddler, Darlene’s, bonnet has a tall upright ruffle, while the baby, Lila’s, bonnet fits her head closely with a narrow ruffle.
So now you know–you CAN sew a sunbonnet without a pattern. Just make it up! Try it with some fabric that is not too valuable, and that you have plenty of to cut new pieces if something doesn’t work quite right. Then, take pride in your creative efforts, and enjoy the sunshine with your new “old” bonnet!