A Utility Satchel

Here’s another gift I made this year for Dottie – and she is an adventurer. She has visited many place and enjoys her travels. And every adventurer needs a good utility satchel.

Lots of goodies in her bag

The satchel was inspired by the contents. I found these a while ago and they are just so cute. There is a compass, a map, a passport and binoculars.

The satchel is lined and also has a functional button. Victorian doll accessories often were true miniatures of full sized items. A satchel is a very handy item for ladies who travel & adventure, read and sew, or like to shop and collect interesting objects during their day.

Ready for adventure!

It is lined with a pretty cotton and has a grosgrain ribbon strap. I’m sure Dottie and her person will have a lot of fun exploring the world with these new useful tools.

To make your own handy satchel, you will need:

Exterior fabric – firm twill up to light upholstery in weight

Lining fabric – a pretty cotton

Grosgrain ribbon – 4-6” of 5/8” wide

A shanked button – 1/4”

Needle & matching thread

Cut both fabrics in a rectangle 3” wide and 6 1/2” long. Fold each piece right sides together to form a square 2 1/2” by 2 1/2”. There should be a 1 1/4” flap. Edit: I wrote this rather quickly, so I apologize it is confusing. Starting with the outer fabric, fold one end right sides together, leaving a 1 1/4” flap. Stitch 1/4” side seams. This should leave you with a 2 1/2” by 2 1/2” square pouch. Repeat with the lining fabric.

Stitch the side seams on both pieces. Turn the exterior piece right side out.

Arrange the lining and exterior right sides together, aligning the open edges of the bag. Beginning at the edge of the flap, stitch down the flap side, across the bag, then back up the other side. Leave the end open for turning.

Turn the lining and then tuck it into the bag. Tuck in the raw edges at the open end of the flap and slip stitch it closed.

Add a buttonhole and button. Stitch the ribbon strap onto the back of the bag. Fill with whatever your dolly needs for her adventures or collects along her way!


Dottie’s Dress

Civil War costumers across America are likely familiar with this pattern from Simplicity dating to the early 00s. The pink and white plaid with black trim is strikingly lovely. It’s out of print now but copies can be found on eBay.

An iconic pattern

I always loved the color scheme of the pink and black, so for this year’s Christmas gift for my sister’s doll, Dottie, I decided to recreate it. It all started while browsing fabric and I came across a pretty pink gingham. Pink is my sister’s favorite color and while this isn’t the exact pink plaid of the inspiration, I think Dottie won’t mind.

Following the Elizabeth Stewart Clark pattern for Dottie & her clothes I put together the bodice fairly quickly, making sure to match the gingham design direction as best I could. When it came to the applied decoration I originally wanted to do some kind of laid work as the inspiration garment would have featured applied ribbon or gimp. But as I looked into it further, I decided instead to embroider the trim. I’m fairly good at a split stitch, so that’s what I used.

Starting the pattern

I did the sleeve stitching before closing the inner seam to facilitate the stitching. While the pattern shows a lot more elaborate trim, this is a doll dress afterall so it’s less embellished for Dottie. Sorry, Dottie. I hope the faux undersleeves I added will make up for it.

Finished sleeve

You will see here on the bodice I have simplified the trims because it’s just not big enough for the second section of trim. I did my best to make this as fitted as is practical to mimic the look.

Simplified bodice trimming

I also took some liberty with the skirt trim by not creating the secondary “box” within each of the square forms. It’s a lot of embroidery haha, I started on the project in October for just that reason. My fingers are tired. But, I think the buttons look pretty and they have a little floral design etched into them.

Pretty buttons

I also had to make the skirt from two 12” sections of fabric instead on one continuous piece due to the direction of the gingham. So there are side seams and I made a finished slash opening at the back.

Finished slash opening

Final finishing was, as always, a dream – these pieces are virtually flawless due to the excellent pattern instructions. Emalie modeled the dress for photos and I suspect she is a little jealous. She hasn’t had a new dress in a few years.

When do I get a new dress??

Merry Merry

Some time ago, I was told a story by a friend of an antique doll in her family. She does not have the doll and it seemed she was a bit wistful about it. I determined at that time to make her a doll so she would have her own.

Because she is intended as a Christmas gift, I have dressed her for the holidays. Her sleeves are bishop shaped and have draw string gathers at the wrist. Merry is made from a vintage Shackman kit and stands about 11” tall.

Her accessory is the sweet embroidery that I showed you recently. While I have been calling her Merry my friend of course can change her name as she sees fit.

A tiny bit of handwork

Today I will share a miniature bit of handwork I created. First, disclaimer, I am not the best at embroidery. However I liked the idea of giving my dolls an “activity” to work. Ok even more so I was inspired by the multitude of Victorian accessories for dolls and handwork was just one. This particular project is a gift but I will surely make one for my own dolls.

So to make this project, I found the miniature embroidery hoops on Amazon, but you can find them on Etsy as well. I bought a pack of assorted sizes & shapes with the idea I could make other interesting things.

Next challenge is the size of the work. It’s TINY! Yes I used the magnifying glass to make this work haha. First I sketched out the design on paper to work out how it would look. Many Victorian greeting cards include the word Pax (meaning peace) and because it’s a short word it became a shoe-in here. Christmas bells and holly are also very common images in Victorian greetings. I used a single strand of floss to work the design.

The work space is about 1 inch square. I tried to give the bell some dimension by taking the stitches from the edge to generally the center of the bell, then overlapping them. There’s probably a name for this method in needlework but I don’t know what it is. The stitches for the letters and the holly are about 2-3 threads long. The golden threads were unusual to work with as they don’t lay the same as a non-metallic thread would.

Because the hoop has a solid wooden back I padded the work with a piece of white cotton fabric to keep the wood color from showing through. I used tacky glue to hold down the backing, then again on the edge of the hoop.

Once the glue was in place I added the outer hoop, placed the screw and tightened gently. I don’t want it too tight. I read reviews that tightening too much will break the frame.

I hope you enjoy this little project and that it inspires you to create a little activity for your dolly friends, too.

A Fancy Apron

I had this lone 2” section of a Swiss embroidered edge left from another project and didn’t want to waste it. After considering many ideas, I decided to make it into a pocket on a fancy apron.

The very lonely Christmas tree

First, I trimmed the top edge so the shape was close to pocket sized. Next, I finished the sides with a rolled & whipped edge. I folded the top down 1/8” and then again at 1/2”. To pretty it up I added these gold beads as ornaments.

Golden baubles

To make the apron I used fine white cotton lawn cut 8” X 5” and also a grosgrain ribbon waistband 24” long. I decided to finish the three edges of the apron with red thread to make it more festive. Finally I then placed the pocket making sure the leave the top open. I did a very small whip stitch around the edges of the pocket.

Festive pocket

Attach the apron to the waistband, stitch and finish. For a really crisp look, starch the apron. I’m pleased with this little project. It took about two hours to complete and I expect one of my dolls to host a fancy dress party for the Yule season. Ok not really, but that’s a funny idea.

All done!

Follow Along: Caroline’s Wrapper

When I started this follow along series back in July, I didn’t imagine I would be so sidetracked, but here we are. In August, I made a significant mistake on some drawers and decided I’d make something else instead. But rather than going on to the petticoat, I decided that Caroline should have a dressing gown. If you’ve read even one entry about my doll dressmaking, you know that I can’t just do things the easy way.

I found myself browsing through the silk remnants I have collected over the years with doll dresses in mind. I kept coming back to these two that paired very nicely, and I could easily picture in a wrapper. A lady’s wrapper of course is sort of like her bathrobe, but in the Victorian style, the higher social status or wealth of a lady, the nicer fabrics she would enjoy for such a mundane garment.

Last time, I shared the inspiration photo from La Mode Illustree December 1875.

It was described as being made in blue and gold striped canvas, and while I like many elements of the design, I of course have to do things my own way.

I love the sand/tan plaid and how it pairs with the rust colored silk. The different green silk ribbons make an excellent accent, and the final touches of the bows and the tassled tie just bring it all together. The Victorian era was not shy of embellishment. The bows were beaded, each with gold and green beads (shout out to @sisterkathy55 for the beading tips and supplies!). The buttons have a crest embossed on them, befitting a lady of some wealth.

The original pattern pieces for the 1875 wrapper were honestly quite confusing, so I adapted a different pattern and also took inspiration from some human-size patterns as well. The pleated front of the wrapper is based on the Laughing Moon #120 1840-1860 pleated wrapper pattern.

This time, I’m not going to tell you where the mistakes are or what I did wrong or could have done better, except to say that I hate sewing button holes. All the seams are French seams, meaning the raw edges are enclosed, which will prevent fraying – something silk loves to do.

Yes, the buttons are functional. I also stitched in a gorgeous design on the cuff.

So there you have it, Caroline’s completely unnecessary dressing gown that took a month to make and is unbelievably beautiful. No I did not make her a fussy day cap and I wish you wouldn’t ask me things like that because now I’ll have to make one…..

Follow along: I’m obsessed

This is just one little piece of Caroline’s dressing gown. This is the cuff of her sleeve. It is only 3” wide. I spent at least an hour quilting in that pattern. It’s gorgeous, but yeah, I’m nuts. :-) I sure hope I can duplicate this on the other cuff!

Free handed stitching

Here it is on the sleeve. We are in the home stretch and I will reveal the full dressing gown soon!

Pretty, pretty

Follow Along: I made a boo-boo

Look at these lovely drawers! They are exquisite with the delicate insertion and tiny ticks.

Pretty drawers

Part of making these clothes is of course making mistakes. Grr. These absolutely beautiful drawers don’t fit.

Tiny ticks and lace

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.

French Dressing Gown

Stay tuned for the results of this experiment!

Follow Along: Caroline’s Underclothes

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.

1″ measurement of the gusset side

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.

1 1/4″ measurement of the gusset side

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!

And Caroline exclaimed “I have my own clothes now!”

Follow Along: Caroline

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.