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 loved 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. 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

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Simple tube dresses for dolls.

So many dolls to dress.  When I do not find an old doll dress in my small stash of them I usually resort to a time honored way with a tube dress. Here is a lovely perfect little parian Alice  showing the new body I made for her this spring.  My friend Penny shared the sweet piece of early fabric some years ago and it has been waiting for the perfect use. The fabric was salvaged from the back of a ragged quilt.  The first step is to cut two rectangles for her sleeves and one larger one for the body of the dress.
Next sew the rectangles into 3 tubes, hemming a closing  in the center back seam.   Hem each sleeve. On each side of the dress body, make a slit longer than the sleeve will be set in, so a dart can be created on each side with the sleeve tube inserted. Be careful sewing in the sleeves, keep right side to right side. This is the only tedious part on the project.

It is not easy to see where to hem the dress yet, so I leave that till last. Beginning at the back of the neckline I turn under a scant 1/4 inch with a raw edge. I run a gathering thread (double thread) about 1/8 inch from the top of the fold leaving that 1/8th inch header.  By making a back stitch where I begin , leaving a few inches for a tie, and ending the same way after I fit the dress to the doll's shoulder, I have the neckline gathered and a tie on each side. Now try the dress on her and distribute the gathers. Judge where you want to make the line of gathering for the waist and make that row of little stitches leaving a tie at the beginning and after fitting the dress on her, make a tie on the other end.  Now you can see where to hem the little dress. The addition of a ribbon at the waist or an apron finishes the outfit. In this case I have given Alice the incredible tiny apron with Van Dyke points in a caramel colored print. The apron is barely over 4 inches long top to bottom!
A great many frozen Charlottes are dressed with a gathered tube and some trim added.  These are usually sewn on the doll after they are gathered on her.  I have a number of dolls costumed this way, Keep in mind the many sleeve shapes and lengths that can be used.  Bits of tatting or other trim can vary the look as will the addition of a cape or shaped apron.
This early doll is most unusual. The head looks like a milliner's doll having a papier mache shoulder head.  Not so.  The complete torso and head are made in one piece of wood. Some few dolls were made like this with mache or something similar molded around the wooden core of the head. That type is sometimes termed an alien head. This entire head appears to me to be made of wood as everywhere the finish coat of gesso is scuffed the wood is right there for her nose and hair and so on.  I believe her to be a transitional type  and a laboriously constructed one of which there would not have been many before the millions of papier mache heads were made.  The torso and head are all that we got. Jack carved arms and legs and I added cloth to hold them in place with out any glue or nails or such. The hair style is from the 1830's as you can see.

These dresses look alright on medium to small dolls. My large Sophia is dressed this way, better than not dressed maybe, but I think the tube dress is clumsy looking on her.  Have fun experimenting with simple sewing and great old calico.  e



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