Tea for two and you and you

By By LINDA KELLETT/For the Recorder

With a nod to an era of genteel manners, grace, elegance, and the fanciful, make-believe world of childhood, members of the Century Club of Amsterdam rolled out the red carpet for the young and the young-at-heart during the fourth annual “My Favorite Doll Tea” on Saturday.

Dressed in their finest apparel, hats and even gloves, little girls, their mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and in some cases, great-grandmothers dined under glistening snowflakes in the midst of a fairy-tale setting featuring Christmas trees, vintage linens and tea sets, fanciful sandwiches, heart-shaped cakes, and stylish dolls.

Some of the participants even dressed like them.

Nine-year-old Lily Bown, of Broadalbin, for example, wore an elegant, short-sleeved dress with a black bodice, shimmering embroidered skirt and satin waistband that looked just like that of her doll.

Her grandmother, Jackie Bown, also of Broadalbin, said dolls of the American Doll series represent girls from different eras. Lily’s doll “Ruthie” is from 1941, she said. “They’re historical dolls, so Lily has been learning about the history of the 1940s by reading books about Ruthie.”

When asked what Lily learned about that era from her doll, Jackie said, “It was during World War II. Ruthie has a washing machine with rollers. People didn’t have electrical appliances like they do now.”

She said Lily’s sister has a doll from the 1970s; and her cousin has a modern-day doll.

Isabella Hanson, of Perth, who will be 3 in March, was the youngest of four generations of family members present for the tea. Among the first-time participants were her mother, Kelly; her grandmother, Diane Potts, and her great-grandmother, Betty Greco, both of Schenectady. Also present at the table was Isabella’s “It’s My Life” doll.

Kelly said, “We bought it because it had glasses because she has glasses.”

The women came, she said, because “it seemed like it would be very fun to sit together with the girls of the family. I have an 11-year-old son and my daughter.”

Sandra Walton of Amsterdam and her 4-year-old daughter, Marlowe, were at a small table with another Amsterdam resident, who wished to be known only by her first name (Linda), and her 7-year-old granddaughter, Emily.

Linda said Emily, who came dressed for the occasion in white lace gloves and a straw hat that matched her doll’s, came for the first time last year; and “she absolutely had the best time of her life. She’d ask me just about every month, ‘When are we going to the tea party?’”

Sandra said the event gives them an “opportunity to dress up, have fun and support the community.” Her 13-year-old daughter, Chase, was a volunteer at the event, waiting on tables.

Linda and Sandra said they and the girls were present for the club’s Sugar Plum Fairy Ball that kicked off the 2012 Festival of Trees.

“The Easter bunny is next,” said Linda of the March 30 event, slated to take place at the club from 9 to 11 a.m.

Mary Ann Metz, the chairperson of the tea event, welcomed all with a brief history of the club, noting it’s a member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, the state club, the Adirondack District and the GFWC Middle Atlantic Region.

She said the women who organized the organization in the mid-1890s started it because women couldn’t listen to speakers in men’s organizations.

“If they had their own club, they didn’t have to sit behind a screen,” she said.

As noted in literature about the group, “We are women from all walks of life, race and cultures, who come together to make our home, community and world a better place to live. We sponsor annual scholarships, support the arts, and participate in community projects that promote friendship and understanding within the community.”

Among other highlights of this year’s event were a fabric-stamping activity for the children and their parents, as well as the annual offerings of the gift shop.

Favored by the participants of the shop was the display of beautifully designed and masterfully crafted doll clothes sewed by 76-year-old Hagaman craftsperson, Margaret Personeus.

Margaret said she started sewing her own doll clothes on a treadle sewing machine when when she was 10 or 11.

She said, “My mother used to cut out doll clothes. I sewed straight seams—nothing fancy, but it made you feel like you were doing something. You watched it come together.”

When in high school, Margaret made her own clothes because it was more economical; and when her own daughter was young, she made her daughter’s clothing until her daughter started school and wanted store-bought clothes, she recalled.

Margaret started making doll clothes again when her grandchildren were born because they liked playing with dolls, she said.

There’s no real way of knowing how much time a doll outfit takes to make, Margaret said, as she’ll “sit and cut the cloth for a couple of weeks, then sit and serge the seams, then start sewing.”

Her favorite part of the process is designing. While she’ll repeatedly cut the same pattern, she’ll use different materials, vary sleeve lengths, and add trim, lace and accessories so each dress looks totally different.

Because of her health, Margaret doesn’t go to craft shows as in the past, but she will continue to sell her doll clothes during Hagaman’s annual village-wide garage sale and at the Century Club’s tea party and Festival of Trees events.

She also continues to donate crocheted lap robes to the elderly in nursing homes and gives sewn wheelchair and walker bags to veterans at the Veterans Administration Hospital.

“This is my contribution to society,” she said.