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. ~Edyth O’Neill

Friday, March 27, 2015

How to Clean Wax Dolls


I have dozens of doll projects, a few of which are being worked with now. The nice blond paper mache head getting a new body is an American doll not found too often.  Her facial paint is pristine, never mind the loss of a bit of shoulder plate. 

I ordered a nice pair of old wax over papier mache arms for a doll needing them. They will do very well, To clean them I will use some Johnson's paste wax on a soft cloth. This is a good way to carefully clean soiled wax dolls, taking care not to remove any wax that is painted and must stay,  dirty or not!  Some wax and wax overs have eyebrows and lips painted under the wax and others are painted on top of it.  Determine carefully which case you have before trying this.  e 

Tasha Tudor loved Dolls.

I have found very little information about the unexciting doll kits bearing Tasha's signature and a related date.   They were authorized by her though not designed by her. Dates on the backs of the dolls range at least from 1973 to 1982.  The dolls are not particularly attractive but they are of interest because of their association with the beloved artist.  I have seen a picture of one with an impressed date and name and the year 1985.  It may not be connected to the earlier run of them.  
Here are a few of the doll heads:

See how carefully Meg is signed in 1973. Later dolls seem to be done in a much heavier hand and perhaps not by Tasha herself at all.


1974 Emma has the more refined lettering.
They in no way represent Tasha's own artistry, but are reproductions of common German china heads from about 1900.    The dolls are readily found on ebay by searching Dolls, Tudor.  They were made with red hair, blond hair, and black. Names for them include Meg, Trudy, Sally, Beth, Mollie and more.  Kits included patterns, muslin, ceramic arms and legs and a shoulder head.   Although they are not charming to me, I have two of them just because I am interested in Tasha and also am a doll and toy collector.   Let us set these dolls aside from our consideration here.  
Tasha is known to have made a few dolls with her own hands as we have seen in her books. The most prominent of them is Emma Birdwhistle.  I believe Emma resembles Tasha herself with the almond eyes, long nose lovely cheekbones and  high arched brows.  The Tasha Tudor museum dates Emma Birdwhistle as circa 1985 – 1986.   Other creations include Thadeus Crane, and Captain Shakespeare made earlier and well documented.

She also made a doll, Daisy Brownthrush, for her Granddaughter, Jen Tudor Wyman.  Daisy is a young girl on a different scale from Emma Birdwhistle. 

I wonder if there are other dolls Tasha may have made or designed in her long life. Some collectors of all things Tasha have told me they know of no other dolls.  Yet I believe they could exist! To search for buried treasure one must first believe.  I have long believed there might have been more dolls made by Tasha Tudor than are yet documented and well known.  I have followed a few rabbit trails and come up with no bunnies.  This may be another one, so follow it here with me in that spirit.

Over a long life of producing things to sell, Tasha participated in a number of business ventures.  Mugs, aprons, cookie cutters and more were made and or designed by her.  In the 1980’s flyers came to me in the mail from one of the family enterprises offering the latest cards, prints and assorted other Tasha items to order by mail.  A few of these I saved as part of my Tasha memorabilia. Sadly they were lost in our house fire. I have asked a few friends and only one of them even remembers these mailings.  At one time there was an offer of a very expensive special order doll made by Tasha.  Some few of these may have been ordered.

NOTE:  I stand corrected here, a very knowledgeable and highly regarded friend has pointed out to me that the doll offered was said to have Tasha's own hand involved only in painting the faces.  The flyer states that Tasha has created the doll, but this means apparently that she has designed it.
Year 1990.

 At the time of Tasha’s passing, much biographical information was published on the internet, and I printed some of it for my scrapbooks about Tasha.  In re reading one of these, “Tudor. A New England Illustrator”   Wm. John Hare states “The Franklin Mint commissioned Tudor to design Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth in porcelain to commemorate The Little Women (1982)."   The Franklin Mint issued four figurines bearing Tasha’s name and advertised as designed by her. These four figurines were issued in 1982-84.   Thus it is established that Tasha had a contractual agreement with Franklin Mint and worked with them on at least this one project.  We know Tasha loved Alcott’s “Little Women” and had illustrated an issue of it years before.  

What would be more natural than for Tasha to design next four dolls representing the little women?    Franklin Mint issued four dolls not figurines in 1984 -1986 of the “Little Women” girls.  They do not bear Tasha’s name but the overwhelming majority of the mint’s dolls do not acknowledge a designer.   The advertisement I have seen for one of them does not say who designed them.   I own examples of all four and so can picture them here for you, but I would need permission to use pictures of Emma Birdwhistle, made 1985-1986 by the family estimate.  So for those of you who can, please turn to page 62 of the book  “Tasha Tudor’s Dollhouse”   and look at Emma Birdwhistle for yourself.  She is first of all a similar size to the Four Franklin Mint Little Women. Her high arched eyebrows and long nose and shape of her face with the lovely cheekbones are so like the four Franklin dolls which exactly bracket the date of Emma’s creation.  A few pages later is a good profile image of Emma seated at a table.   The most telling features to me are the almond shaped eyes of Emma and the four little women, eyes unlike other doll’s produced that year by the mint..  Looking at them as a group, the Franklin Mint ceramicists could surely have modeled from Tasha’s doll.  

Remembering Tasha’s strong interest in period clothing, the costumes for three of the dolls might have been acceptable to her while the almost gaudy bridal dress on Amy is painful to see.   But bringing to mind the frothy bridal dress of  Melissa for the doll's wedding covered by Life Magazine no less in 1955, the dress is not without some credibility.

So I look at the four sisters from the Franklin Mint and wonder. 

I wrote to my friend Helen,  "Emma of course looks like Tasha herself, looking at the lifetime of pictures in "Drawn from New England". I wonder if others think this?"  Helen replied  "I have heard forever that every doll maker reproduces her own face. Looking at some of mine I sort of hope that isn't true."  Helen said also  " Tasha was meticulous in her art (and in her life) and she loved what she loved, one of which was Little Women."

The proof lies somewhere in records of the Mint itself, if these still exist and can be accessed.   So that is my rabbit trail.  Bunnies anywhere?

 Go look at Emma Birdwhistle if you have the book .  Please do read the very interesting comments below.  e
Keep the comments coming, here is a scan of the flyer sent to us by Jane, see her comments below. Thank you Jane!  I do not see the size of the doll but she seems small in her lovely presentation band box. Daisy is priced at $1900.
 If I wanted to enjoy a similar doll I would be very happy to redress Franklin Mint's Jo above shown in Red Velvet.  The hair can stand more than a little taming. Jo is readily and inexpensively found on ebay and etsy.  I think she would like to have a corgi don't you?  e      Click any picture to see it larger.
Look at the face of Miss Daisy Belle!  Surely they are family!   

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Gabriel, Newburyport Weathervane Hooked Rug Angel

Cynthia Norwood has hooked my rug design Newburyport.  I am thrilled to see her color choices and great feeling of movement and life in the rug. The wonderful Weathervane spun and flew for many years in Newburyport, Massachusetts.  The original old silhouette angel which was made in 1840 by Gould and Hazlett of Charlestown, MA, for the Universalist Church, was later mounted on the People's Methodist Church. This Gabriel had its portrait painted in 1937 by Lucille Chabot, under the auspices of the WPA Federal Art Project for the Index of American Design. Then, over a century later, the US Postal Service chose that artwork for their popular 1965 Christmas stamp.  The vane now has a beautiful worn patina which translates to the lovely surface on Cynthia's rug, just as I hoped it might, and I especially like her treatment of the open book.

In Cynthia's own words:

Newburyport was a fun rug to hook as a fundraiser for the 2015 ATHA Biennial to be held in San Antonio in September. The design lends itself to the use of multiple fabrics in each field or area. The funds raised help offset the expenses of hosting the rug hooking event in our region. The event is held every two years in a different section of the United States and that area is responsible for making sure the event comes out in the black ink. So we have fundraisers.
If you are interested in making a donation for a chance on this rug, contact Cynthia at canorw@aol.com for more information.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Boy Doll Named Benjamin James Pendergast

 I am thrilled with my little boy doll!  He is adorable to me though many collectors would not touch such a far from perfect thing.   He is so unspoiled and such a dear little toy and has the note pinned to his clothing giving the name of the doll and the name of the little boy he belonged to: Eugene S. Patton, with a date 1877.  Precious, wear and all. Honest and untouched.  He is an example of a doll in as found condition that I treasure, (in contrast to the rough Greiner head shown in a different post). To know a bit of his history adds even more interest.  He was bought at an estate sale in Maine by the dealer I purchased him from. If any reader knows more of what may be his family history please contact me.

The doll is made of wax over a papier mache base, but most of his wax is gone now, and on his cheeks the painted finish under the wax is worn.   And with all of that he has a serious crack down the side of his head.  Condition is so important in doll collecting.  For me on this item, the clothing and the general presentation offset that.
His black glass eyes have a sparkle of life.  He stands 21 inches tall. He wears a boy's black velvet skirted suit over a shirt, petticoat and pantalets. 

Welcome Benjamin to my doll family!   E



Varnish on Papier Mache dolls belongs there.

On 19th century records in Germany, papier mache doll heads were referred to as varnished heads generically.  The varnish is right to be on them. Often it darkens with age and accumulates a little dirt and wear which we call patina and that is right to be there also.    By no means do I advocate removing the original varnish on paper mache doll heads, it destroys the character we want to see on them.  And on the early ones the cheek color is in the varnish too.

All of that said and not withstanding, sometimes it is done as part of a restoration. In the case of the doll head here, what we had was not original varnish but a dark smeary mess put on I guess to even out or conceal considerable wear and a bit of damage.  Someone before me had rubbed off part of it on the face.   I bought this large Greiner head because of its size, condition never mind.  The size 12's are not readily found.  I have had a few size 13's.   So here is the doll and here is how I cleaned the varnish.  Be aware that more finish may come off than you want, in this case I lost a few eyelashes on one eye. 

Some people would have left this stuff on her and will feel I have over cleaned her.  That is absolutely a risk every time.  This is a value judgment, everyone has to work this out for themselves.
I gathered 70% alcohol from my bathroom, cotton balls and cotton swabs. Jack would have used denatured alcohol. I tested the procedure on the right side of this picture low on the doll's shoulder plate. See where it has lightened. Often a modern varnish will not come off with alcohol and I have to leave it.    Alcohol is flammable so the cotton mess is now out in my yard to dry  for a couple of days. We had one spontaneous combustion fire in a work shop and I never want another. I treat even a small amount of soiled material with respect. 
 She will get a few dots of gesso in the dents, and careful in painting with ceramcoat acrylic paint in Dresden flesh color. I will not touch her eyes or nostrils or mouth nor run all over her touching every little mark on her, but rather confine the tip of my brush to the damaged places only. As expected she has lost a bit of character from loss of accumulated soil in the indented places of her face, corners of her eyes and so on.  I miss that and also miss the slight sheen that would have been there on her original finish.  Lets hope she forgives me.  Again please do not do anything to a doll head with its original finish. This one had been coated over and roughly in painted, but thankfully not on her features.

 Her sisters will welcome her when she has a new body and clothing. She is a bit the largest, but not quite as much as the camera makes us think here. 
Above is another Greiner doll, with her original finish, showing a little dirt and a bit of wear and a nose ding, and I would not think of touching her.  e 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Antique Doll Apron Pattern.

In dressing Antique dolls an apron is a pretty accessory to add.  So many have been lost in time it is hard to realize the tiny aprons were ubiquitous among dolls of the nineteenth century.   I have a small collection of these little textiles and have drawn patterns for a few of the most appealing shapes.  My favorites are always the calico ones with bibs, but other styles are also represented in my dolls' clothing.  Simple can be good.

This girl is so much more interesting with the contrast of her simple white apron on the indigo dress.

Another apron shape less often seen is obviously for toddlers to keep food off the front of their clothes, So maybe this should be classed as a bib.  Here is a large doll wearing this style of apron and then a doll size one but flared instead of straight.

 This 29 inch doll by Andreas Voit wears a child's apron 13 inches long at center front.

You can see how to cut this shape and then narrowly hem all edges.

How lucky it is to find these great old calicos!

The doll size example is 8 inches at center front.

But the fancy shaped little bib tops are the cream of the collection.
This parian Alice is just 10 inches tall and her apron is edged in incredibly tiny Van Dyke points.  For today's stitcher I would recommend a small scale but heavy lace in ecru color. 

As small and rewarding projects sew some of these aprons for your dolls.  Detailed patterns for four of these shapier ones are given in my new  Antique Doll Apron Pattern. Also included are two simpler shaped tab apron patterns with full instructions.

Edyth O'Neill's Antique Doll Apron Pattern, historically referenced, will soon be available to purchase as a downloadable pdf  from my Granddaughter's Etsy shop.  That link will be posted here.  Thank you for your interest, Edyth O'Neill

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Projects, hearts heads and ??eggs?

How do all of these go together?  It has been almost ten years since our house fire. It has been a hard and full ten years, with three moves, much to restore and pack and unpack and downsize and my sweet husband was fighting a battle he could not win.  Jack wove fresh seats in 20 chairs, and I restored a great many dolls. We redid two houses lightly during that time. We managed some very good times in among all of that.  

The garage of my present house holds anything but my old lady minivan, Vanessa.  Instead there are rows of high shelves piled high with boxes and boxes in front of boxes holding yarn or bits of leather and scraps of old coverlets and dozens of things I think I might get to or work on again.  There are skeins of flax (old ones) for doll hair in case I ever make a queen Ann style doll. You get the idea. I am still in a way trying to find my way back to the page where I was when it all fell apart.  Some projects long waiting do get resurrected a bit at a time or discarded to never never land.

I had wanted to make some heart shaped pin cushions for Valentine's day last month. The makings did not come to hand. Today I decided to get the old hen out for Easter, she always sits on the kitchen table or a sideboard. Once she was surrounded by a nice clutch of hand painted eggs to which I added a few every spring or so. I painted them mostly in Quimper designs. All were smoked badly and thrown away except two large ones inside the hen covered dish itself.  Barb Carroll has a couple I gave her long back, she loves that pottery.  I have not painted another in ten years!  Now seems like the right time to remedy that so I went digging  in the cold garage for a long time and gave up, then had one more go at it and wow! there was the box marked eggs and hearts!  How did that happen to be combined? But more exciting for me was a box marked wig heads!  I thought they were long lost!  instead here they are , two nice large reproduction ones ready for me to repaint as I like. I am thrilled to find them after years of thinking them lost.   How does anyone ever get bored?  E, who is in a happy messy house right now.

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