Sunbonnet Sue

She’s had a hard life

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.

So forlorn

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.

Weird discoloration

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.

I’m ready to get dressed now, please

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. :-)

My modesty has been preserved!

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.

Pretty and simple

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:

Bonnet-head doll

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.

Hats Off to Bonnet-Heads via RubyLane.com

Heritage House – Riverside, CA

Sunday June 30 we were so pleased to attend the 20th Annual Old Style Independence Day Ice Cream Social at the Heritage House in Riverside, CA. This gorgeous Victorian house has been lovingly restored and is a curated museum of Victorian life in early Riverside. Mr and Mrs James Bettner moved from New York to Riverside for his health in the 1870s. After his death, Mrs Bettner commissioned the house as a grand showcase of Victorian living. The house gives tours from September to June. The summer months are reserved for updating projects and the upstairs rooms are just too hot for guests. This is a vintage home and they did not have central air, lol. There is a gift shop and the House staff is wonderful! My colleague from history events is a docent there and it is clear she has a deep love for the home.

The Ice Cream Social is an annual fundraiser for the House, and all proceeds will be used to pay for school busses to bring 3rd & 4th grade children to visit the house. It is important that young children not only get a lesson in local history but also touch the beauty of Victorian culture. If just one child in a group finds a love of history and goes on to promote learning, then the fundraisers have been a tremendous success! Children learn games and past times that do not involve electronics, how laundry was washed in a manual agitator washing machine, and how the grace of the Victorian era was more than just architecture. Check the gallery for some photos from our visit.

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