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…..
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!
Many of my photos in previous posts were not the best. I always had the idea to make a “photo studio” similar to the set up of photograph studios in the 19th century. Using the portrait mode on my iPhone, I was able to make some nice images of these little ladies to show them off. I used a vintage tablecloth and a couple linen napkins for the drapery, a foam core presentation board for the backing; I found the topiary at Homegoods, the eucalyptus at Target and the chair at Michaels. All affordable items I have collected over time. In my mind, I pictured a few more things – like a table and a tiny photo album – but for now, I’m quite pleased with the results. I went back and re-photographed some of my dolls and took photos of some new garments for others. I hope you enjoy! Below you will find links to all of the dolls and their individual posts.
In my last post about Lydia Kidd, you saw the sheer dress she was wearing – which I actually made for Inez. It just happened to fit Lydia quite well and I hated her being naked. But, I have been busy lately and making all sorts of things!
The Liz Clark pattern Inez is made from includes all the necessary wardrobe items a mid-nineteenth century doll would need, and I’ve been sewing my fingers off. Here’s a small update on Inez’s clothing & accessories.
Here we have a nice pinner apron. This style was popular for women working in the home. The apron bib pins onto the dress bodice, hence the name “pinner.” While the pattern is actually for a half apron, it was relatively easy to make it into this style instead.
Next, I made her a nightgown. On this one, I used a fine cotton that is incredibly soft. The embroidery was freehand in a basic pattern I made up.
And you can’t have a nightgown without a night cap.
Night caps were used to keep people warm in their unheated bedrooms. Try sleeping outside sometime – the addition of a nice cap will help you sleep comfortably all night long. I made it simple but there’s options to make it much more fancy if you like.
While on the subject of sleeping, I made a simple blanket for her.
The blanket is cotton flannel on both sides. If Inez were to sleep in an unheated room, she would probably be pretty warm with this.
I have made a few more things for her, but I’ll save those for another post. Next time, I should have an embroidered cape and maybe even a soutache embellished paletot completed. This weekend we will be at our event and I’ll be making doll clothes as well as displaying Inez, Mernie and Emalie. If you find yourself at the Huntington Beach Central Park, come find us!