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.

Doll Photo Shoot

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.

Hannah

Emma

Emalie

Mernie

Inez

Lydia

Paula

Nell

Florence

Meg

What’s new for Inez?

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.

Pinner Apron

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.

Fancy nightgown
Embroidery close up

And you can’t have a nightgown without a night cap.

Simple nightcap

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.

Cozy Blanket

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!

Lydia Kidd

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.

Poor naked Lydia

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.

Sheer dress with chemisette

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!

Welcome, Inez

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.

An excellent pattern!

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.

Embroider first, then assemble

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.

Fully dressed

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.

Tudor Dolls

A couple years ago I discovered the beautiful doll creations of Tasha Tudor. I have written about them in other posts, and one consistency is that there is little information to be found so far about the dolls she designed, how many she designed, or any descriptions such as what inspired her designs. I am aware that Tasha Tudor loved dolls and is famous for her books and drawings.

For me, it started with Nell. This lovely doll was my first china doll and my first Tudor doll. She has quite a lovely face, black hair, red lips and a slight pink on her cheeks. Nell was produced in 1977 and stands about 12″ tall. I liked working with her so much I made her two dresses, a corset, multiple chemises. She currently wears the gray 1866 promenade dress that I detailed in this post.

The next Tudor doll to come my way was Emma. Emma Tudor was produced in 1974 and came to me wearing a very purple polyester dress. I chose to redress her in an 1876 child’s dress detailed in this post. I don’t particularly love the fact that her cloth arms show, but I love the work that went into her dress and that it is drafted from an original French magazine. It was a tremendous amount of work, so I doubt I’ll change her clothes any time soon. Frankly I’m considering how to make her a hat. Emma is 14 1/2″ tall and has a decidedly child-like look.

The next Tudor doll I worked on was one I built completely. Styled as a Meg Tudor, I changed her name to Hannah. This doll was produced in 1976 but others are dated up to 1983. Here, Meg/Hannah is styled in an 1870s bustle dress. She is tiny, only 11 1/2″ tall! I detailed the creation of her costume in this post.

I had frequently seen Sally Tudor dolls, and wasn’t completely captivated by them until I saw this one. I didn’t want to build another doll, so the fact that Sally appeared to be well made and dressed nicely was a plus for me. Sally was produced in 1979 and is another diminutive doll standing around 11″. She is also rather child-like to me with her short haircut, and even feels a little bit 20th century. She has blue eyes and her dress is well made but a bit too long. I won’t change it any time soon.

After Sally, I thought maybe those were all the dolls Tasha Tudor designed. Four dolls from 1974-1979 doesn’t seem like too much or too little, and these were the dolls I would see on Ebay all the time. Then one day, just for kicks, I searched for Tudor Doll, and found two more!

First was Julia, produced in 1973. I don’t know much about her except to say that she is quite tall! She stands about 20″ in height. Also note her hair is styled with a crown and braid, perhaps for a ball. Her clothing was pinned on her, and features an open neckline which made me think of the ball. At some point I’ll make her a new dress as this one is cotton and I’d like to make her a ball gown in satin. I think.

Next is Lady Patricia. There were actually two of these on ebay and I had never seen her at all in the past several years. Poor Patricia was completely naked and I had this petticoat that I had originally made for Emma. It fits her perfectly. Patricia Tudor was produced in 1973 and stands about 12” tall. I’ll have to make her some clothes of course and her hairstyle of a pretty up-do will inform her style.

So there you have all of my Tasha Tudor dolls! If there are more out there I am not aware of them but would love to know about them. There is just something about the glossy finishes and the fine features that I really like. If you know of additional Tasha Tudor dolls please let me know!