Popular Posts

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pictures of Latest Alabama Baby Doll, in progress

Yeah!!! I downloaded Picasa (it's free from Google) onto this little netbook,
 and now I can post pictures via it, too.  I  may have posted this doll's 
picture before-- in fact, I'm SURE I did. But here he is again, AND his arms!!

 Here are his arms. Like his face and neck, they are cloth that has
 been gessoed and sanded a couple of times and then painted. 

Here is his face again. I don't like the color of his
 cheeks--needs to be a ruddier color. Will fix,.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Main computer is in Shop

Therefore, I can't download any pics. SOOOOOoooooo, there won't be anything new here for a day or two--at least I HOPE it won't be much longer than that. Right now I have abandoned Miss Dolly Rock for awhile as I finish an Alabama Baby for the upcoming Anything Goes show at Six Rivers Gallery; you can see some of our artists and their work at harborartguild.com  I have a page there, but I need to send in some new pics so our webmaster can update my page. Hopefully, my main computer will be back soon;  in the meantime, I am thankful for my little new-to-me netbook that allows me to at least stay connected. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dolly Has a Friend and Gets Hair

Bald and one-legged, but Dolly has a friend just the same, whose name is Grace.

Bald no more.

Close-up of hair, which is not quite done.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Reconstructing Miss Dolly Rock

I deconstructed the doll and now I am beginning the process of putting her back together. As much as possible, I will try to put her back together as she was before. There may be a couple small patches that I won't put on, as they didn't seem to be serving any purpose. I'm not sure I can force myself to sew the arms and legs on quite as crudely (and with string!) as they were done before. I will TRY but it will be hard to do it that way.

Here are some pictures to look at, of my progress so far:
It says "straight" on the inside of the cloth body. Anyone know what kind of product would be labeled "straight"?

The clean body is stuffed: I used an old clean cashmere sweater and scraps from my husband's undershirt that the paramedics cut off him when they took him to the hospital in March. He was rather sad that they had to cut his almost new shirt off, thus destroying it. I thought it would make him happy to think that his shirt might be inside this doll for, hopefully, another hundred years or two.

Head is stuffed with the same rags as before, but I washed them, of course. There were some pieces of undetermined fibers that I did not wash and did not put back in the head. I used the same tee shirt scraps mentioned above to round out the head's stuffing. I did save all the stuffing I didn't use; someone may be able to identify them down the road. I'm pretty sure that some is probably wool or some other animal fiber.

 Clean and stuffed "first head" sitting on parts of the old cashmere sweater I will use for part of the stuffing.

    Rather large seam allowance of "first head's" center back shoulderplate seam.

Cleaned "first head" positioned on body.
Lower front seam of "shoulderplate" sewed down to body.

Back of shoulderplate of "first head" waiting to be sewed down. You can see how uneven this piece is, but I left it as is, rather than trimming it, as I'm trying to be true to the doll as she was when I received her.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Old Doll Came with Two Dresses: I'd forgotten about them.

This post is just the most recent of several concerning an old cloth doll that has come into my possession lately. If you have not read these earlier posts, you might want to go back a few posts and read forward.

First, though, I'm tired of calling this old doll "Old Doll"--it seems somehow improper and lacking dignity. For one thing, although she is "old" in years, she has the figure of a young lady and a rather stylish wardrobe, not to mention a full head of black hair, so "old" doesn't seem an adjective that applies to her. Henceforth, at least for the time being, I will call her Miss Dolly Rock, a more respectful and dignified name and title befitting this wonderful doll. The " Dolly" part is obvious and Rock is the surname of the family who acquired her most recently. Also, my cousin informs me that the Rock contingent of said family hailed from Minnesota, so she is assuming that this doll most probably entered the family from the Rock side.

In all the excitement, I'd overlooked the two "extra" doll dresses that arrived with the doll, one of which is pictured here; I wasn't even sure they belonged to this particular doll, but the size looks right and the sewing looks similar to that on the brown dress Miss Dolly Rock was wearing when she arrived at my place: both of these dresses have gathered fabric stitched in the same rather unusual way: a gathered piece added to a flat piece by folding an edge of fabric down, running a long gathering stitch through the doubled fabric edge, and then top stitching it to the right side of another flat piece with smaller stitches:

The reason I say that it's not the "usual" way of adding a gathered piece to a flat piece is that, in my experience, the more common way is to gather an unfinished edge of a fabric, and then join it to the flat piece by means of a seam. That said, I don't know much about how items of clothing were sewn in the past, and perhaps this was a "style feature" at the time these dresses were made. I'm hoping someone with more knowledge of historical sewing methods will read this and offer some insights; I know there are some Civil War Reenactors on the Treadle On list. At any rate, seeing this method used on both these dresses is one reason for thinking the same person made both.

The red print dress has this treatment at the waist and the brown dress has it on the bodice. I'd say this red print dress was made earlier, though, as the brown dress shows evidence of more sewing skill: it has a faced bodice and waistband and buttons and buttonholes on the back, while the red print dress has no facings and only pins on the back to fasten it closed:

The brown dress also has a more complicated design, whereas the red dress is pretty plain. Another possibility is that an older person and a younger person sewed doll clothes together, with the older person making the brown dress while a younger person, just learning, made the red print one. These are just guesses and we really just won't know, unless some person is found who knows the actual history of this doll. Wouldn't that be great?! To know the TRUTH and not have to guess?! (maybe?)

The red print dress is interesting in that it is mostly hand sewn, but there is some machine stitching on it, too, whereas I don't see any machine stitching on the brown one. I am wondering if this red dress was possibly constructed using a portion of old curtain or clothing and that the machine stitching was part of the fabric's earlier "incarnation" and simply incorporated into the design of the new dress. Another explanation could be that a sewing machine was only available some of the time, so the maker of the dress used it when she could, and when she could not, she sewed without the use of the machine, by hand. This fabric in this dress is unevenly faded too, which is another reason to suspect that this fabric was formerly in use in some other item. Boy! I feel like a detective here! Maybe it IS more fun to guess!

Anyway, I hope some of you that read this, and look at the pictures, will chime in with your ideas about this doll, her construction, and the possible reasons for some of the things I've noticed and perhaps some I haven't noticed.

Very Old Cloth Doll: The Story Continues

Three faces! And that's not even counting the outermost face. I believe, in this picture, the face below the other two was actually ON a doll at some point--whether it was on THIS particular doll, I don't know. My reason for thinking this is that, not only is the head complete (it has three pieces: a center panel which has the face, top, and  center back, and two side pieces)  but there is evidence of remains of  brown yarn hair on its top. The other face, the darkest one on the left, might just be a face that the maker rejected, as it's just the onle piece (no back)  but I'm not sure why it's so dark, if it was never on a doll? That's perplexing.

This is a closer look at  the rejected (?) face that was inside the doll's head, mixed in with the family rags used for stuffing.

This is a mixture of light colored rags used to stuff the head; centermost is a handmade buttonhole, letting us know that this piece was once part of a piece of clothing--other pieces in there MIGHT have been from old clothing or from flour or sugar sacks, it's hard to know.

This is the doll's body as I was washing it, inside out and wet. Now I can see what I couldn't  before: some printing on the fabric, indicating that it  WAS once part of a cloth sack holding some manner of household necessity, perhaps flour or sugar. The printing seems to read "TR LIGHT." My husband said maybe it held tobacco. Perhaps someone who knows more about late 19th century products will have a better idea of what kind of sack this was. I DO know that cloth bags were used to package many different things and that frugal housewives used them for everything from dishtowels to clothing items for their children, and in this case, for a doll's body.

Here is one of the doll's arms, showing no less than FOUR layers. I got it a little wet at the top, so that is why the fabric looks so dark there. The hand, though, is not wet; it got dark on its own from being loved so much.

This picture shows how the arms were sewn to the doll's body, with string, not thread. Some of the work on this doll seemed to be done by skilled hands; other parts look as if someone less skilled, perhaps an older child, did the work. One thing is certain: this doll was around for a long while and underwent many "incarnations."

Her she is without her clothing, wearing only some very "holy" black stockings that had been sewn onto her legs. Under the stockings, the lower legs were of a darker fabric. Later, other knit stockings were sewn over these.  She is quite the shapely young lady. 
In taking apart the second layer of shoulder fabric, one can see the rather large "seam allowance" (the whiter fabric) that the person doing the sewing used. To me, this means that the person remodeling the doll wasn't that interested in precision, but just wanted to get the new head and it's attached "shoulder plate" fastened down securely. One would expect that an experienced seamstress would pin the new piece in place, mark the seam line, and then trim the seam allowance to a uniform width to get rid of excess bulk. This person may have been rather unskilled or they may have been in a big hurry to finish the project in time for it to become a birthday or Christmas gift. I DO wish this doll could speak and tell us about her long life and her various owners! 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

It Gets Curiouser and Curiouser!!

Now, in the course of unstuffing the now headless body of this old doll, which was stuffed with a combination of household rags and sawdust, I find a couple of pieces of old wadded up newspaper with the date 1873 and Winona, Minnesota on it! These I will iron flat and include in the scrapbook that I will send with this cleaned up and reassembled doll to our local museum.  She is truly an unravelling story!

Oh, Wow! I'd heard of this but never encountered it for myself!!

Two heads!! She has two heads--one sewn right over the other. This was often done in the "olden days" to extend the life of a doll. Her arms have also been recovered, I think to make the doll look "cleaner" without washing it. Depending on what it has been stuffed with, washing might have been impossible w/o destroying it.
   I am planning on taking her down to the original, unstuffing her, washing her (very gently) and then restuffing her with clean stuffing. If it appears that the head/body fabric won't hang together, I'll cover it with new similar fabric, and put the face on with pen, just as the original had. I am wondering if this doll originally had a china head; if I look under the bottom-most face and see that the head has been sewn to a headless body, I will presume that. The body is made of a different fabric than the head; it is more coarsely woven and the head fabric appears to be regular old muslin.
   I will also wash and preserve the second head/wig so that it can be pulled over the original--the second face, with it's 3D nose WAS something of an improvement, and the original head has a glue stain (I guess) on the back of the head, so I'm sure the maker of the second head/wig considered she'd improved the doll. It was probably a birthday or Christmas present for some little girl. I'll tell you, people "back in the day" wasted NOTHING, and nothing was ever thrown away until it had gone through every transformation possible.

Very Old Doll, I Think.

    My cousin found this old doll when they were cleaning out her mother-in-law's home recently. The doll is quite large, about 28" tall. I believe she is quite old because of several things:
1.  The fabric of the clothing is deteriorating, with several holes. I also don't recognize this fabric as any commonly used today.
2. The doll appears to have been handmade, and one-of-a-kind, rather than made from a conventional pattern. If it IS made from a commercial pattern, it's not one I've seen around.
3. The hair is very unusually applied. It appears to have been crocheted, perhaps, and then sewn to the cloth head by hand; the doll's maker probably came up with the method on her own, as I've never seen hair done this way.
   I haven't yet removed this doll's clothing, so I can't say yet whether she was sewn by hand or machine, but even if she WAS sewn by machine, sewing machines have been around since around the Civil War, so that would not necessarily preclude her being quite old.
   I just now removed her cape, and I'm still not sure if it was handsewn or machine sewn, because it is very well-made--there are no seams visible. All are enclosed or covered. I'll keep removing clothing. I'm hoping I can wash her, but not sure what she is stuffed with, so that is iffy. I wish this doll could talk and tell me about herself. I can hope that the maker signed the doll somewhere, but usually this was not done, leaving us to wonder.
   I will frinish undressing her, take more photos, and post again soon. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Family Letters from Fall of 1931

Just returned from seventh Annual House Girl Cousins' Reunion; it was close. If things had worked out on a slightly different time schedule, I may not have been able to go.  But as it was, DH was very lucky, and I was lucky to get to go to the reunion, too.

Our Uncle Jim passed away in March, and his son sent along several paintings Jim had done, as well as family pictures and bundles of letters: love letters between our grandparents dated 1900, and another bundle of letters written to our Uncle Ernie by his two sisters and mom, dated 1931. I am enjoying reading them, and am going to scan all for the other cousins who want them. Thankfully, our aunts and grandmother had legible penmanship, so they are quite easy to read.

Things were very tough, financially, in 1931, much like they are today. My grandmother was being nagged for the ten dollar washing machine payment, and my aunt had to pay her creditors half of what she usually did. At one point, my grandmother was in danger of having her electricity turned off. One aunt and uncle and their baby had to move back to the little house next to her parents, and she ate lunch with them everyday. Being invited to eat at someone else's house made groceries last a little longer. One of the letters gives prices for flour and sugar, and I'll post those later.  Mills had cut hours to six hour days and three on Saturdays, and they'd cut wages, as well. All this has a familiar ring to it as teachers in WA state where I live had a 1.9% pay cut this year--the first pay cut ever in my recollection. It's hard not to worry, but it's also encouraging to read these letters from 1931 and see that my relatives found ways to deal with hardships and go on to thrive. We can do that, too.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A New Adventure

About a year ago, I bought several of Dan Reeder's books on making paper mache "monsters," dragons, etc. He has creations he calls "Screamers" that don't look too much like my own Screamer creations. A local art teacher used to have her students make these big Screamer creations, and our local public library would display them hanging from the mezzanine. I liked them a lot and it was always interesting to see the variations that kids would produce.

Anyway, I managed to get several of Reeder's now out-of-print books, and I intended to make one of his dragons last summer, but never got around to it. So I decided that I would begin my dragon now, and work on him out-of-doors this summer, as the paper mache part tends to be pretty messy and I am known for my ability to make even "clean" projects quite messy.

So here is the humble beginning of my dragon: simply a wadded up big ball of newspaper, stuck into a wire coat hanger, and taped around with masking tape. Doesn't look very promising, you say? Yeah, I know, but, believe it or not, it looks just like the picture in his book Dragon Makers Handbook. Stay tuned. I'll post pictures of each step, and if you want, you can make one, too. One problem I have already run into in my rural, off the interstate, locale, is that I can't find white glue in quart bottles, and I need 2 quarts. Guess I will try Michaels, as our Home Depot didn't have it in that quantity. I know they make big bottles of Elmers because when I worked in a public school, we had quarts of it, or maybe it was even a gallon. I had to stop where I was for lack of a second wire coat hanger.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Life Happens, Again

My husband LaMont had emergency open heart surgery on Weds, May 25 at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle. And yes, he got yet another ride in a helicopter.  We are wondering if he's set a record with two rides in ten weeks.  He had a HUGE aortic aneurysm with no symptoms;  if he had not had a routine echocardiogram that day, it probably would have most likely killed him before it was  discovered. I may be able to post a picture next week, as the thorasic surgeon's PA snapped a picture with her cell phone when they got his chest open. I saw it and it was unbelievable. My youngest (but grown) son wouldn't let me look until he looked first, but it was not yucky, just scary-big.
    DH is actually recovering from this surgery faster than he did the organ failure two months ago, as he was healthy when he went into surgery, except for the little fact of that aneurysm lurking there.
    We are hoping Life will resume its rather humdrum quality around here now, and that further drama will not intrude. That said, we feel extremely lucky that this could be fixed, and supremely thankful to the skillful surgeons who did the work, and the many nurses who cared for him afterward. How do you adequately thank someone who literally saved your life?!