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Sunday, June 19, 2011

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! 


  1. Replies
    1. Yes, it is, Dixie. I had every bit as much fun taking her apart as I did putting her back together. It really comprised a "walk back through history." Now, in early 2015, I am putting together a notebook that documents this "walk." I may think about making it into a magazine article, or perhaps maybe even a book. Who knows?!? It's been fascinating!!

  2. I will post an update on this doll, soon. She ended up looking so GREAT and now she is in a museum in Deer Park, WA.