Sometimes, mistakes are needed to make you slow down, pay closer attention and really focus on details. When I made the lovely but too-small drawers recently I spent a lot of time thinking about how I’d do them differently. I realized I’d made some errors on the tucks. I didn’t like the way the insertion turned out. (My doll Mernie however, loves her new drawers lol.)
So after many side projects and time to consider things, I’ve started a second pair of drawers for Caroline. I tried on her the 1875 drawers I made for Emma a couple years ago and then adjusted the waistline per that pattern. No, the drawers aren’t exact to the book I’m working out of, but it’s not like there are Doll Drawers Police ™️ who will be checking them haha.
I decided to go with Swiss cotton insertion and edging. It’s more sturdy for this tiny project and I think it still gives a lovely result. Sadly this is only one half of the drawers and I’ve been terribly busy so not gotten a chance to make the other half. Soon, I promise! Check out Farmhouse Fabrics, the source of this lace, fabric and much more that I use for doll clothing.
Look at these lovely drawers! They are exquisite with the delicate insertion and tiny ticks.
Part of making these clothes is of course making mistakes. Grr. These absolutely beautiful drawers don’t fit.
Although I measured and used my paper towel muslins, the legs are just a smidge too narrow. The waist is also too small. Rats. The lace separated from the head as I pulled the drawers onto Caroline and I had to go back and resew all the insertion.
While I am waiting for some replacement lace, I’m soldiering on with something else. I decided to make Caroline her own dressing gown in an amazing silk I have in a copper & golden brown plaid with rust silk accents. As we know that Inez’s dressing gown fit a bit big, I’m tailoring the pattern to Caroline and also taking inspiration from a Victorian French drawing.
When I undertook this project, I knew I would need to do some customizing of the patterns in the book I am using. Many dolls, such as Huret dolls, are made all the same size & shape, and so easier to dress out of patterns for Huret dolls. This particular book features French fashion dolls of a different brand, but similar style – a fixed body size & shape. The user simply traces the pattern pieces, makes up the garments and voila, the doll has new clothing! But with other dolls, whether historical or modern reproductions, the bodies have been made by an individual consumer out of fabric and some kind of filling, while the head, hands and feet are porcelain. Each doll becomes customized by the skills (or lack of skill) of the creator. Whether inexpert, like my Sunbonnet Sue, or highly precise, like my Hannah, the doll bodies are unique. Sometimes, shoulders are wide, arms are fat, legs are skinny, etc. It is all dependent upon the person who created the doll, and while certainly, a single person might create numerous dolls from a single pattern and each is precisely created, more often than not in the collector market, doll bodies are not uniform.
With Caroline, I found that the settling of her filling over the years has made her a bit…bottom heavy…and her waist and bust are a bit deflated. Her arms are fat, though not the largest arms I have seen. Her waist is high, making her body almost a triangle shape (flat bust, wide hips).
As I worked through the details of fitting pieces to her, I asked myself if I really wanted to make mock up after mock up in muslin, and the answer was “no.” The book suggested a paper towel mock up, and this has become my new favorite way to test doll patterns! Oh my goodness, it’s such a time saver. Simply cut the pattern piece as you normally would, but of durable paper towel. Use masking tape to connect the pieces with the appropriate overlap to simulate the seams. In most cases seams on doll clothes are 1/4″.
This quick, inexpensive method to test and modify patterns to customize them is truly genius. In order to size the pieces, however, I did have to enlarge them. The patterns are for a 12″ doll and Caroline is 14.5″. What’s a quick way to enlarge something? In the past I have used trial & error, complicated math and just drawing & tracing repeatedly. These methods leave something to be desired for me. It can be really frustrating to enlarge & print, then only to find the piece is too big or small. Sigh. BUT, this time I tried to be smart.
I did a bunch of measuring. First, I measured Caroline everywhere – arm and leg circumference, waist, bust, back-neck, waist to ankle, everything. Then, using the paper towel method, I made a mock up of the chemise, put it on her, opened it up with scissors, added the width and length I wanted, then remeasured the finished item. The new measurements gave me a percentage of increase. Next, I took pictures of the pattern pieces with a ruler next to them.
I then used a website to calculate the new measurements of the piece. Then, into Pixelmator Pro (there is a free version of Pixelmator available for Mac and you can find other similar apps for PC), I turned on the grid, placed the image and then enlarged it until the sides were the length I wanted. Print, cut out and hold up to the doll. On some pieces I made an additional paper towel mock up to verify sizing. When I felt confident the sizing was right, I traced out the pieces onto tissue paper. Was it a lot of work? Yes. Is it worth it? Also yes.
I’ve just finished the first item and the fit is perfect!
I’ve mentioned Caroline a few times in previous posts. She is an eBay adoption and as per usual, she arrived naked. These poor dolls. I wonder sometimes if the previous owner got the doll completed and then just ran out of gumption to dress her? There are just so many naked or mostly naked dolls on eBay, it’s kind of funny in a way.
So here is Caroline – in a borrowed wrapper and in the altogether.
I guess she didn’t come completely nude – she had the necklace. Anyway, Caroline is an 1870s-80s inspired doll with her hair piled toward the top of her head. She has lovely, rosy cheeks and delicate hands and feet of porcelain. Her head/chest plate are glued to the body as there are no holes to stitch it on. Her body seems to be made of polished cotton and I think is filled with sawdust or sand.
There was a small hole on the back of her leg which I repaired with this tiny patch of muslin. Maybe it is even ground walnut or almond shells that fills her body, as it’s much finer than sand and not pokey like I would expect from sawdust.
As long as I have had her, I have wanted to dress her in finery because she is such a beautiful doll. After the success I had with Hannah, I decided I’d like to make another silk dress, this time for Caroline. I’ll be using a different book this time.
I will be using the patterns from A French Fashion Doll’s Wardrobe by Louise Hedrick. The book is well documented and loaded with wonderful photographs. The instructions seem detailed and so far as I read them, they should be easy to follow. You’ll see here the second image is the inspiration photo for Caroline. I happen to have similar fabrics – a silk jacquard with little cranberry paisley shapes and a turquoise silk satin. They both have a lovely hand and I’m eager to get started.
But before the dress comes to be, I’ll need to make some underclothes! In the next post I’ll share with you all the gory details about that.