Saturday 5 August 2017

Lottie Week - Day 6 - Lottie takes a role in the South Mainland Up Helly Aa (SMUHA)

This is the sixth set of clothes and accessories for Little Miss Es Lottie doll and my personal favourite. This was the most obvious outfit to me and it was in my head as soon as I started planning what to make. Shetland is known for its Viking connections and through the Winter every year the Up Helly Aa fire festivals take place. The most publicised is the Lerwick Up Helly Aa (which is also the largest) however there are many smaller regional festivals. Our local Up Helly Aa is the South Mainland Up Helly Aa (SMUHA).

SMUHA is a more recent addition to the fire festival calendar and is more inclusive allowing women to be part of the squads and to take the role of Guizer Jarl (or head Viking). The festival consists of squads of people in fancy dress with the main squad (the Jarl's Squad) dressed as Vikings. They lead a torch lit procession through the streets ahead of a galley which is then set on fire at the end of the procession. The smell and the atmosphere is like nothing else and the work that goes into the suits is amazing! There are all night parties at local halls after the burning and the Jarl squad will attend charity events in the following year. Little Miss E's Dad and Brother were in the squad a few months before she was born in 2013 so I loved the idea of Lottie getting to dress up as a SMUHA Shield Maiden, and the progressive nature of SMUHA seemed in keeping with the ethos of the Lottie company.

SMUHA Lottie in front of Hoswick Beach 

The 2013 SMUHA was the first we attended with our little girl and so the night holds fond memories for our family too.
The Galley - Sunnahamar

Lighting the torches

SMUHA Lottie Outfit
Thankfully SMUHA 2013 has an extensive website which documented the suit making. This allowed me to look in depth at the shield maiden suit as well as the extra detail in the jewellery and I was able to see the real thing on display at the Hoswick visitor centre. This outfit isn't a perfect replica but I would say it is "inspired" by the 2013 squad... and thankfully the squad members who have seen it recognise it!

I had the perfect piece of dark green fabric in my stash and I immediately knew that it would make the base dress. I started with the mini dress pattern I used for Day One. I then needed to figure out how to insert the sleeves. I have not inserted sleeves in anything this way before and I was mindful that I was trying to do it on something so small! I spent quite a bit of time looking at shirt making and to draft the sleeves I measured the armholes in the dress, then I made the curve of the sleeve the correct size to fit into the armhole. I then added on a generous seam allowance and tapered the ends to give a wide cuff so there were no issues getting the hands of the doll in. I used an old pillow case to make up mock dresses to see what would work and make sure the sleeves would go in OK. It took a few attempts before the sleeves were wide enough and the shoulder seams were sitting right. My first attempt with the actual fabric was a disaster - it frayed and fell apart – and I tried and emergency zig zag stitch but it was too late. The second time I traced the pattern onto the fabric and zig-zagged along the lines. I then cut around leaving a small seam allowance. I stitched the two back sections to the front piece right sides together along the shoulder seam and then inserted the sleeves. I stitched the sleeve seam and the sides of the dress on each side and before hemming it I added the rest of the details.

I used a dark green felt to make the shorter dress that goes over the top. As with many of the pieces in this project the construction was based on trial and error. I sketched out the shape of the front piece and added a seam allowance at the sides. I then measured the back pieces so they were as wide as the back pieces of the dark green base dress. I stitched the sides of the dress to the front pieces and then trimmed the seam to make it as snug as possible and, finally, stitched the top of the felt dress to the base dress.

2013 inspired dress design

Celtic knot style buckle
For the belt I cut a long strip of black felt,  again judging the width by eye. I stitched this from one of the back pieces at waist height along to the second back piece. I then had a lot of fun playing with metallic embroidery thread to make the buckle. In the end a circle was satin stitched using green metallic embroidery thread and I used three lazy daisy stitches in silver embroidery thread to make the Celtic knot style motif. The circle was cut out and the edges were stitched with more green thread. The buckle was then attached to the belt.

I could not find the right ribbon to the trim the dress so I used a strip of silver that I had in my stash and embroidered over the top. The stitch I used in the end was, I believe, my own creation. I got 9 strands of embroidery thread and plaited each set of three. I then plaited the three sets together and (this is where it becomes unusual) separated the top loop of the plait and secured it with a small loop, creating a hole. I moved along one section of the plait and separated the bottom strand and secured it in the same way. I moved along the plait created holes alternately in the top and bottom this way. Although not an exact match to the ribbon used in the original it gave a good effect.

Embroidered Ribbon

With the dress comes a cape/skin so I used a sample piece of fake reindeer fur for this (and it was just big enough!). I measured the length it needed to be and calculated the width by lying Lottie down and adding on the shoulder sections. I sketched this all out and cut it out of a piece of cream felt. I used this to make sure that it was the right proportions. I added a press stud to each shoulder piece and then used the felt as a template to cut the fake fur. I was nervous enough not to spoil a 99p sample, so goodness knows how nervous they were with full skins! The fur and the cream felt were stitched together using a blanket stitch and I then added the other half of the press stud to the corresponding part of the dress. In the original there is a chain that goes between the two sides of the fur. To recreate this I added three small links from a bracelet making set.

Chain detail.
After all of these details were added I tided up the seams, creating small rolled hems and hemming the felt and dark green dress together to reduce bulk. After this I added the strip of Velcro down the back of the dress so that it was easy to get on and off.

The joy of looking at all of the details on the website is that I got to see the making of the jewellery – they had amazing necklaces and knotted bracelets. I took liberties with this for Lottie's accessories and to make the necklace I used an idea I had seen for making friendship bracelets where you fasten them with (yet another...) tiny button. The main part of the necklace was contructed using finger crochet to incorporate a charm. I had some sparkly green beads that made a lovely bracelet on some elasticated thread.

Lottie SMUHA inspired jewellery
The final part of the outfit was the shield. It is probably no surprise that I chose to use felt as it has featured heavily throughout. I embroidered the design using metallic silver thread and a chain stitch. The dot in the centre is a single French knot. I then cut a circle out around it and added a second circle of felt to cover the back of the embroidery. I stitched them together using silver metallic thread and a blanket stitch. There was a small piece of elastic added on the back so it would stay on Lottie's arm.

2013 SMUHA inspired shield

This outfit was a really interesting one to make as it was all about trying to recreate something that already existed. The previous outfits had been about making something I had imagined, and even when I used a template I often added my own twist or whimsical fabric. It was lovely to go back and look at the little details and be inspired by someone elses designs. I know it is not a "to scale" replica but I have to remind myself again that the idea was to make a toy not an exhibition piece. It did feel different to make this outfit with the pressure of staying true to something you admire.

SMUHA Lottie looking out to sea.

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