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…..
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!
Here it is on the sleeve. We are in the home stretch and I will reveal the full dressing gown soon!
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.
I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I made an update here! And the lovely post I wrote a couple days ago has found its way into the digital unknown so I’m starting over grr. So, almost a year ago I posted about the doll photo shoot I did and then went silent. Well, not because I wasn’t continuing my love of these dolls. There are a few photos of some of the work I did but did not talk about.
I finished this lovely dress and coat for Inez. The dress has caps or I believe they may be called sleeve jockeys that fit over the long slim sleeve. The coat is a sueded pleather and the “fur” trim is made from a fuzzy yarn I found. The coat is fully lined and don’t you just love the tiny buttons?
Mernie also got a new dress and a coat, plus a bonnet. The trim on this coat is handmade, 4-strand braid of embroidery floss. The bonnet is actually made from the pattern for the nightcap I made for Inez! It fits the little girl doll heads quite nicely, a bit better than the bonnet pattern that comes with the little girl patterns.
Emalie also has a new dress and a bolero jacket for summer wear as her dress is short sleeved. Her bonnet is from the little girl pattern. AND Emalie has her own doll now! How cute is this little bitty dolly? She’s about 3.5″ tall and of course entirely hand sewn because she is so tiny. I found this pattern in a book that a friend gave me ages ago with how-tos on all sorts of rustic dolls. She is the perfect size for sweet Emalie.
When last we saw Lydia Kidd, she was borrowing Inez’s wrapper and sheer dress, but she now has her own dress and capelette. I drafted the dress pattern based on Inez’s sizes but had to customize it heavily due to Lydia’s “linebacker” shoulders. The dress is cotton but I would have preferred to make it of silk. But hey, if I hadn’t told you would you have known? Nope. :-) Anyway, the bodice is a darted front, pagoda sleeved and has sheer under sleeves. The capelette is just delicious. It is 100% medium weight wool that someone gave me and is the perfect color for this ensemble. I found an embroidery pattern in a doll book and that inspired the pattern here. It took ages to embroider but I just absolutely love it. The capelette is also lined fully.
In addition to these lovely ladies, I have acquired some new Tudor dolls. As I have mentioned previously, there is surprisingly little information about the actual dolls. Tasha Tudor was a well known illustrator and doll lover, but most of the search results bring up her books about dolls or articles about her and her love of dolls. But occasionally….you find a gold mine on eBay.
Mailed in 1971, this package is all original, showing the 30 cent postage and the original sender “Tudor House” in Scarsdale, NY. Inside you see right away, there is the original catalog included for doll stores to order from!
There is the lovely Lady Patricia and Emma who I have talked about on previous posts. I also have the Dora doll and I’ll tell you about her shortly. This particular box was shipped with Trudy, a lovely 1880s styled doll.
Trudy Tudor is unmade as yet, but I’ll be working on her….sometime lol. Some of the Tasha Tudor dolls have this rosy pink cheek look but on others it is less obvious. Also interesting is that this doll head does not say the doll’s name, Trudy, where all the others I have seen include that. The Lady Patricia I have is from 1973 so some time after this catalog was printed the names were added to the doll porcelain. Trudy is described as a 12″ kit, so she won’t be very tall when finished – around the same height as Hannah (aka Meg) who I made. Of course I will tell you all about Trudy as she comes to life, but it will have to be after Caroline, Julia, Lady Patricia, and a special project for Ruby.
So Dora, that is a doll I actually have two of.
This is Dora Tudor #1 (from 1974). I found her completely dressed and competently so, so she will remain in these clothes for the time being. Maybe one day I will redress her, but I love the sort of bodice wrap thing she has going on here. It reminds me of a garment that I’ve lost the name of, but it’s sometimes called a bosom friend – it’s a knitted wrap that ties around the bodice to keep a woman warm. I was thinking about her shoes and possibly just using a bit of black enamel paint to disguise where the tips were broken. You will notice that the rosy cheeks are less prominent on this doll than on Trudy.
This is Dora Tudor #2 (note that her back has her name!).
Dora #2 (from 1972) has lived a dangerous life and it shows. She came naked and her body has discoloration all over it, plus there is the whole broken arm issue. I have an interesting idea to address that. Also note that the shoe style changed between 1972 and 1974. Dora #2 has flats, but Dora #1 has boots. The reason I purchased a damaged doll is to practice remaking a body and making repairs. I have been asked to update a true antique doll named Ruby that belongs to my cousin (and it belonged to her great grandmother). Ruby has a number of issues that need to be addressed, and Dora #2 is going to help me develop those skills.
Finally, while last, not least, is Molly Tudor. I mentioned to my daughter that I had seen her on Ebay, and lo and behold, she arrived at Christmas!
Molly is sweet, even if her legs are a little cockeyed. It’s difficult to get the legs to stay straight sometimes when assembling a doll, so we just say she has a limp. Molly. has the big round rosy cheeks of youth. She’s young, featuring shorter hair than some of the others. The hair styles can cue us in to the implied age of the doll, meaning this is maybe a teen or tween doll, instead of a lady doll such as Trudy.
Now I just have to find these new Tudor dolls: Anna and Abby. Both look beautiful, Anna with a painted neckline and Abby a bonnet-head doll. I have never seen either in my eBay or Etsy hunting, but I’ll persevere!
So there you have a rather long, image heavy update on the doll situation here. If it hadn’t been for a painter who backed out at the last minute, I could have kept up my stride on doll crafting, but alas, I had to keep my office/sewing room packed for 6 months while we sorted through the contractor situation. But now that the place is painted and I’m getting my things back into their places, we can start playing dolls again!
In my haunting eBay and learning about vintage dolls, I found many references to kid-bodied dolls. These doll bodies were made with kid leather instead of cloth. Then one day, I saw this artist’s reproduction made with a kid body, for the right price, and I had to have her.
She came with nothing, completely naked, poor love, and has been standing there in her altogether for quite some time now. You can see how her arms and legs were jointed which is fascinating. I can’t imagine the care and skill that went into making her. She is a bit stout around the thighs and her feet are rather chunky, but we can work with that.
As I was working on Inez, just for kicks I decided to try some of the undergarments on Lydia, fully intending to stop there. As it turns out, the Inez garments were a smidge tight…I made notes in my book and went back to Inez. But Lydia was right there, watching me with a look that said “I am naked as a jaybird, lady!”
I resized the chemise pattern and whipped one together. This one has gathers and white work trim, btw. Back to Inez…!
I made the chemisette and sheer low body dress for Inez, honest. I have a sheer dress made of this same fabric and plan to have Inez wear it the same day I do at our upcoming event. But in the meantime, Lydia is going to wear it. It fits her body better than it does Inez for some reason, but it’s too long for Lydia. You will note that Lydia’s petticoat is a fancy embroidered one. I used the edge of an old dust ruffle for it. It just barely shows through the sheer.
The sleeves are a two piece Bishop sleeve, similar to the sleeve on my sheer dress. Lydia is a bit more endowed in the bust than Inez, which fills out the dress differently. Perhaps I need to make some little “bust pads” for Inez. This was actually a thing back in the day!
This is a temporary dress for Lydia – I always pictured her in light pink with roses. I have the fabric but I haven’t decided on the pattern yet. Come back again soon to find out if I’ve made it yet!
It’s as though by saying I wasn’t sure in my last post, I issued myself a challenge. As soon as I clicked the save button, I started thinking about how I would like Inez to look & what fabrics I would use.
Challenge accepted, I guess. 😀
I’m using the Cloth Lady pattern from Elizabeth Stewart Clark. I can’t say enough about the quality of her patterns. The quality of instruction and the breadth of options truly makes each person’s creation a one-of-a-kind customized for them.
While the instructions advise to paint the face and hair, inspired by Dottie, I decided to embroider her face and hair. The more I embroider, the better I get – even though my skill is still limited to chain stitching and simple things. I also recently purchased a McCall’s pattern for a cloth doll inspired by patterns in vintage ladies magazines, and they advise making the back of the hair in long straight stitches. I decided to put in a bun – since that’s a very common hair treatments for ladies – and also the long straight stitches. It was a ton of work but it looks lovely. I also could have made a bun from floss wrapped into a coil and tacked onto her head but I didn’t think about that until she was completed.
Putting her together is fairly quick once the face and hair is completed. I used natural cotton that came by the pound this time instead of the roughed up cotton balls and it’s much nicer to work with. To reach the top of her head I used a long chopstick. I stitched in her fingers, elbows and knees as well.
Once she was completed, Inez needed clothing! First came undergarments of course. I just love the chemise pattern in this book. It’s made on a double fold, so there’s no shoulder seam and is incredibly easy to complete. I pleated the centers on this one but you also have the option to gather the centers. I had two bits of trim that were exactly the right length for the sleeves. Perfect!
I have seen some fancy corsets with flossing on the front which is why I put these two red V-shapes on the front of the stays. I’m not sure if they serve any practical function IRL but here they designate which edge is the lower one.
And then I made this adorable wrapper. I have a wrapper made from this same fabric and yes, I do plan to take a picture with her when we are dressed the same. I forgot to take a picture of her petticoat – it’s crisp white cotton with two pleats and I starched it for fullness.
The pattern book includes multiple bodice and sleeve options, undergarments, outer wear, and more. I also made a low bodice dress in a sheer fabric with a chemisette, but I will show you that in the next post. I need to keep making things to fill up her trunk before the event in September! Come back again soon to see what I’ve completed next.
For historical costumers, a cage crinoline is a necessity, but you may ask yourself what exactly that is. Modern lingo for this garment is “hoop skirt” which describes a skirt with hoops in it, typically made with plastic bands and sometimes flounced. But for the original cast, a cage crinoline was a modernization of the crinoline petticoat. A crinoline petticoat was a starched cotton underskirt, often times many layers were worn to achieve the desired bell shape to a skirt. In 1856, however, the cage crinoline was patented and allowed women to achieve the shape without all the heavy skirts! They were made with steel bands – not heavy ones – that were strong enough to carry the weight of one or two petticoats on top, plus the skirt of the dress being worn.
And of course, where fashion for people goes, so goes fashion for dolls. There are remaining doll-sized cage crinolines in private collections, and they are of course on a smaller scale and not as robust as human sized garments. They can be used to fill out a skirt for a doll, or simply for the fun of putting a hoop skirt on your dolly.
Looking at how the originals were constructed, I realized this is a simple project I could make and share the instructions here. My doll is an 18″ Yield House Meg doll, but you can adjust these measurements to fit your dolls.
I found this trim that is 5/8″ wide, 95% cotton and reminds me of Petersham. It’s a nice woven, flat trim that will do nicely. I’m also using some aluminum jewelry wire here but you can use what is available to you. You want something that is malleable enough to bend into your shape but strong enough to hold the round hoop shape once completed. All told, I spent less than $10 on the supplies.
First you need to do some thinking and measuring. For a Yield House doll, the skirt is made from a 36” length of fabric. This results in a nicely full skirt similar to those worn in the 1860s. Consider how tall your doll is and how full her skirt is. You want the bottom hoop to be less than the full circumference of the outer skirt. I chose to make the bottom hoop 30” around. The top hoop should be wide enough to fit over the hips of your doll. Meg here needed 15” for decent clearance. For the middle bone I split the difference and made it 23”
Once you have your hoop circumferences, measure your wire to that length plus 2-3” overlap. Cut the wires and then twist the ends together.
Make all three hoops, then you can measure the tape to cover them exactly. Allow at least 1/2” on either end to turn the raw edges under. Beginning at the joint, fold the tape around the wire to encase it and then whipstitch it closed.
Once you get to the end, tuck the end under and whip all the way around the joint.
Repeat on the second and third hoop until all three are covered. The next step will be to find the quarters on each hoop and place a small mark. This will ensure the vertical tapes will hang straight. these marks will be covered, don’t worry.
Determine the drop of your hoop skirt next. This is the length from the waist to where you want the lowest bone. I chose a 9 1/2” drop so the lowest bone would be near the tops of the doll’s boots. This is about where my life size hoops hang as well. Consider you need 1/2” on either end to tuck under – so add this onto the drop measurement. This gave me a 10 1/2” vertical tapes. Cut 4 of these. Don’t forget to measure the waist of your doll and cut a waistband to that length plus 1”.
The hoops should be equally spaced on your vertical tapes. Don’t forget that you will attach them at the top and the bottom. I measured and pinned the placement for the first and second hoop. The hoops attach at 3”, 6 1/2”, and 10” (the bottom).
Beginning with the lowest hoop, wrap the tape around so the raw edge will be enclosed. Stitch that in place. Repeat at all four quarters.
Moving to the middle bone, fold the tape over the hoop so you can stitch through the vertical tape, through the hoop covering under that, then out the vertical tape. You aren’t stitching behind the hoop wire, just catching the tape wrapping it. Repeat on all quarters and then move on to the top hoop.
Once all the hoops are attached to the vertical tapes you are ready to attach the waistband. Turn the ends of the waistband under and stitch so the raw edges are inside. Remember, the waistband is the measure of your doll’s waist plus 1”.
Find the quarters of the waistband, place a small mark, then pin the tapes in place.
Stitch these in a square that will secure the tape and keep the raw edge inside. Once that has been done you can add a hook and eye or thread bar. You are done!
My doll happens to have a modesty petticoat under her new cage crinoline and then a fine starched cotton petticoat over it. I’m making a silk skirt for her next and this should do nicely to help it hold it’s shape.
All told I used less than the full amount of wire I purchased and less than a full spool of the white tape. Had I made the vertical tapes in white I might have used close to the full spool. I hope you found this little article helpful in demystifying the cage crinoline and will feel confident in trying one for yourself!
5/8” Petersham or similar woven cotton flat trim (don’t use twill tape as it will ravel)
2 1/2 yards white
1/2 yard red (to make in all white add this to the length above)
This little gal is a doll I am calling Sunbonnet Sue. I adopted her from (where else) eBay and I think she has had it rough. But I couldn’t resist her interesting features – most importantly her bonnet. The bonnet is part of the china head, and I have a lot to learn abut these fascinating dolls called Bonnet Heads.
But first a tiny bit about Sue. She is about 11″ tall from tip to toe. Her china pieces are not glossy, leading me to think this is the type of material called bisque. She has been painted and assembled quite poorly. Everything about her is a little sad, honestly.
There is this strange discoloration on the fabric used to make her, which feels to me like skirt lining of all things. It’s slippery. I suppose whoever made her used whatever scraps they had laying around the sewing room. You can also see that her head was attached rather inexpertly. The center seam of her body is pulled off center toward her shoulder. Even worse, her body shape is really off. Her left leg is somewhat toward the center of her body and her right leg is offset to be under her outside of her shoulder. Poor Sue. You can also see that her feet and hands were attached badly and the dear girl is pigeon toed.
She came to me naked (as they almost always do) and I just feel for this girl. She is another perfectly imperfect doll, who has a ton of character, and who I will give a good home & decent clothing. :-)
She perfectly fits the chemise I had made for Nell ages ago and it is a better fit here, plus the drawstring neckline works well with her large head. As I was working with Sue, one of her arms came off! The arms and legs were attached with wire, which I had not seen before – but that isn’t saying much, I am really new to doll acquisition. I was able to reattach her arm and also secured her other arm as a precaution.
But now she is ready to relax and rest, well clothed! I love this fabric – it’s a bit brighter in person than in the photo. I have learned these bonnet-head dolls were styled to the 1830s, and the fabrics at that time were bright and cheery, which is why I chose this. The great thing about a tiny doll like this is you can make a complete dress from a fat quarter and have fabric left over for something else. In the dress, you can’t really see the problems with Sue’s construction, although it looks a bit like she has her hip cocked out to the side. Maybe she’s throwing a 180 year attitude.
I asked in a doll collectors group about bonnet-head dolls and learned that the originals were created around 1900. There are a tremendous variety of bonnet-head styles, but Sue seems to be styled off this particular type:
As you can see, however, she was not painted with such care. During the 1980s, there were numerous kits (and they are still available on occasion on eBay) mass produced for consumers to create. My suspicion is that Sue was born during that era. It is unfortunate that her painting was not done with great detail, but I think I will enjoy her all the same. She is now safely nestled in my cabinet with some other dolls in my growing collection.
Here is an article about bonnet head dolls – much better written by people much more knowledgeable than me.