I was watching an eBay auction recently of a doll listed as a 19th century antique. I screenshotted all the posted images because she was lovely and I found inspiration in the clothes perhaps for Ruby.
The doll was only $9. How is that even possible? Poorly listed? Not photographed or described well?
I threw a bid in there and promptly forgot about it. Until I won it. Whoops! At least she wasn’t hundreds of dollars.
When she arrived I discovered she is the largest doll in my collection at 25”. She is lovely and I’ll have the ability to study her clothing at my leisure and close up. It looks to be silk and machine sewn. There’s a bustle and drape, putting it into the 1880s fashion wise. Her foot is broken but I really don’t care.
My accidental $9.00 treasure could use a name. Have a suggestion?
Do you make goals for your sewing projects? I shared at one point that I have been using a project book to keep track of the different dolls I have and what needs to be done for them. The current book is a 8.5×5.5 inch Moleskin type book and it’s getting filled with notes!
Some pages have pictures glued in, while others have my janky sketches of ideas. I say janky because I am NOT an artist but I took one life drawing class so I can at least draw a body or dress – don’t ask for realism or details, and definitely no hands haha.
On the front page of the project book I have jotted down some ideas for 2023 sewing projects.
Caroline: drawers, petti, hoop, corset
Dora: practice making new body, make corset as part of torso
Ruby: make new body, repair what I can, full wardrobe, research Harpers Bazar images 1888
Hummingbirds – Mom and A Ruth
We shall see if I stay on task this year. This is a very ambitious project list! Rest assured, I will share my progress with you here and on Instagram. Stay tuned!
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.
My girl Emalie has been a bit envious of her cousin Dottie and all of Dottie’s new clothes. So I made her a new dress, and decided to make her a corded petticoat based on an actual child’s corded petticoat my daughter wore when very young. Corded petticoats were handy and didn’t take the place of a cage crinoline. Children could wear them because there were more forgiving, withstood wear and tear, and they could be laundered more easily.
Anyway, if you would like your dolly to have a corded petticoat, here are some simple instructions. Keep in mind that Emalie is about 10” tall and her waist is 6” around. You may need to customize measurements for your doll.
Medium weight white cotton fabric – 22” x 10.5”
Waistband – 1” x 6.5”
White crochet cotton (I think it’s called Sugar & Cream, I’ve lost the wrapper)
Needle & thread
Start by cutting your skirt and waistband. Set the waistband aside. Next cut 5 22” lengths of crochet cotton.
Lay the skirt fabric flat and measure 2” in from one long edge. Fold the fabric so the other long edge stops at that point. The doubled portion is where the cording will be placed and the single layer will be gathered to the waistband. The longer side of the fold is the outside, the shorter side will be on the inside of the petticoat.
Beginning in the fold, place one of the lengths of crochet cotton all the way into the fold. Stitch through both fabric layers very close to the cord.
Create your next channel by stitching 1/2” from the first stitch line. Then place your cord, and stitch again through both layers, encasing the cord. Repeat this process with the next three cords until you have 5 cords.
Fold under the raw edge of the shorter side of the skirt fabric – the inside piece. You will fold this edge so that the raw edge is enclosed. Stitch with a small running stitch.
I chose to make the back seam a French seam so the edges would be clean. To do this, trim all ends off the cords and tidy up the edges. Match the edges wrong sides together, making sure the cords line up. Stitch, leaving about 2” for the opening.
Turn the fabric right sides together and stitch close to the raw edges inside of the seam. Once completed all the raw edges will be encased in the seam. Finish the back opening in the way you prefer. In this case I whipped it.
Run a gathering stitch along the top edge, then place the waistband. Close with hook & thread bar.
I forgot to take pictures of some of the steps so I hope this is clear enough to proceed! If you have a better way to do one of the steps, please do what makes sense to you. ❤️
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…..