Welcome to My Red Cape. Long ago in another time my husband Jack and I lived in a little old red house. It was the stuff of dreams to us for the few years that we were there. I live there still a number of hours every day in imagination, with old dolls and paintings and fabrics and feather trees. I draw inspiration and happiness from the memories of that space in time and share some of it here with friends who remember how to step with Alice through the looking glass and take delight in whimsies and antiquities.

For more than sixty years I have studied, collected, repaired, and bought and sold antique dolls. They have been back ground music in my life at every stage, sometimes louder, sometimes subdued, but always there with me. To see only the posts about dolls on this blog, click the banner on the right titled Dolls for My Red Cape. Keep clicking “Older Posts” to see more. Some of the posts featuring rug hooking are gathered under the banner For Cathy. From time to time items are offered for sale under the banner “O’Neill’s Antiques” which was our shop name for many years. ~Edyth O’Neill

Monday, July 4, 2016

Early Fabrics for Doll Clothes

I am waist deep in projects.  See how the twins are today?  I am trying to form an approach to strengthening their damaged leather arms.  The girls are watching me sort through fabrics and joining in sometimes with opinions. 


I have been searching through boxes of old fabrics to find the right thing for the little Mad Alice doll.  I have a huge stash of such in shelving in my garage.  Here she is trying an oversized print. the design is about the age of the doll I believe.  Rachael you can enlighten us on that.  I recall a delightful small doll dress in the Richard Wright collection made of an oversized print with these colors. I am not quite sure if little Alice can carry this off.

Some of the fabrics in my scrap boxes have been with me quite a long time. A very few came from my Mother's sewing in the 1950's.  I recognize the tiny check she used for doll house curtains, and a scrap of Pennsylvania Dutch design in mustard color with tulips and birds.  Does this give you some idea how hard it is for me to keep house or "God forbid,"  move?  Yes we had a house fire sometime back, but my studio was untouched in a separate building.  Like many of us I have tons of fabric and add to it right along. Insanity! 

In the 1980's Jack and I bought a country sofa from Barbara and Don Ladd of Connecticut.  Properly made as it was from an old rope bed, this one needed fresh strong ropes and to be recovered.  After we got it home to our shop in Texas, a full day went into taking off the layers of old fabrics. Jack and I were both curious and excited about what all came out of the sofa!   As interesting as the coverings if not more so were the things used as padding.  There was a  polished brown chintz print so fragile and so beautiful I have never figured out what to do with it but have never parted with a thread of it.  It is still with me!





There were many wads of cotton rags, clearly once garments.  There were parts of old linsey woolsey quilts,  now called whole cloth quilts of hand woven wool.  And one beautiful but cutup piece of a small woman's dress, or maybe a child's. The skirt must have gone for other uses, but much of the bodice was in the stuffing of that sofa, . Mind you it was not whole, or I would not have cut it myself.  Friend Jeanie loved to restore the great old patchwork linsey woolsies she collected so she fell heir to a many of those pieces.  But I have held the brown cotton vermicular print fabric of the dress bodice.  Over time I have used some of it nicely on Pockets and sewing roll ups and have always intended that a special doll should be dressed in it.  I guess maybe I had better get on with that if I am going to get it done.   I have decided to try it for a precious tiny Sophia Smith China.  She once had a wooden body, from the shape of her shoulder head, but was only a head when I bought her in Connecticut.  I had a sweet dress on her before it suffered smoke and water damage.
 She is about 8 inches tall on the body I made for her.

Here are two sleeves from the dress, lined with heavy hand woven cotton as was the rest of the bodice..  The sleeves were narrow at the wrist and very full at the dropped shoulder. Of course all stitching is by hand and done with the twisted brown cotton thread we see in our oldest quilts. I anticipated a long session to take the lining from the sleeves, but instead the thread is so old it practically lifted off.  So now I have some nice large pieces of the print to work with. The off white homespun will be washed too and is good to patch old doll bodies or make missing parts of early cloth dolls. 



 I have lots of small pieces of the print fabric, there are three scalloped pieces I have no idea how to use.   The front of the dress came to a pleated point at the waist, does this sound like a dress of the 1840's or 1850's ?  Again I hope for Rachael's input. I have saved some pieces of cording or piping.  The wrists from these sleeves were closed with tiny hooks and eyes, only the thread eyes are with them, the hooks were frugally and none too gently removed.  But one sleeve end is still usable and a tiny poke bonnet must be fashioned from it!  See how that can be a brim?

I know why we keep boxes of scraps, they are boxes of hope and possibilities whether we ever use them or not. How precious is that?!  e

Here is what Rachel wrote for us!

The twins are wonderful Edyth! So utterly charming, with regard to their arms~ have you checked the seam with a magnifier? I have done many a repair on these olde arms, and have found usually, the stitching has just become rotten and disintegrated...leaving the holes intact~ if the leather itself is still strong, one can restitch thru the original holes. I love your little wax girl~ and have too seen really large furnishing prints made into gowns that look both fitting for the era and stunning~ they dressed their dolls in scraps they had on hand. It is most definitely her era, and the sofa print as I call it, just marvelous c1840-50. The Optical pattern background is a fugitive dye (hard to tell if originally was the brown, or a purple shade) which is why you see the blotchy fading~ this will get worse if kept in the light. xoxoxo Rachael
Rachael Kinnison's site is http://ladysrepositorymuseum.blogspot.com/ truly a gem.  e

5 comments:

  1. Hello Edyth, I just have to comment on how much I enjoy your posts! I admire you , your talents and lovely home so very much. Thank you for sharing!

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  2. Thank you, I love to have comments, it is good to know someone is out there reading this!

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  3. Dear E - you said, "I know why we keep boxes of scraps, they are boxes of hope and possibilities whether we ever use them or not. How precious is that?!" Yes, exactly so. Some scraps I just like to hold and study. I have done a little collection of fabrics that remind me of my Granny Ethel, who sewed so much in her lifetime, both at home and at her job.

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  4. I think that large print maybe circa 1820 or 1830. Just my guess. A brodie perse quilt would be nice out of that. Most of the large figures are whole so appliqued onto a background might stabilize the material. The bodice from your description sounds like 1830s too. The print looks like some reproduction prints that are being produced. Stabilizing leather is a conundrum. I will be interested in seeing what you come up with. So fun to look over your shoulder!

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  5. HI Edyth~
    I am sorry I didnt touch on the coral fabric~this print was popular for a long time, 1840 to 1860s and into the 1870s even....and not only in a print but also I have seen silks as such. If I could see construction of the bodice it would help to date, but the scallop pieces are a good indication of late 1840s to very early 1850s date....if the armcyes are very high up on the bodice, then most definitely late 1840s for bodice construction anyway, which would mean at least that or earlier for fabric. They were either caps over the top of the sleeve between shoulder and midway to the elbow, or could have been the very bottom of pagoda shape long sleeves. It would take just a couple of stitches to make the cuff into a cunning bonnet~ a little horse shoe shape piece gathered for the back, and then another little piece if you wanted to add a bavolet(neck ruffle). You will have to share your progress! And what names have you given the twins? xoxo rachael

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