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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.

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