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

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Baubles, Bangles and Beads.

Fredericksburg is full of interesting people who DO things! There are weavers and writers and potters and dancers and musicians of all kinds and of course hundreds of painters.   My friend Linda designs jewelry, she makes the neatest pieces.    I like to visit there and see what she has completed lately.

See Linda's jewelry on Etsy:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/PrairieRoseRanchwear?ref=l2-shopheader-name 

I bought the big piece of Amber on beads that Linda has cleverly joined with crochet.

The oversized Nickel would be fun to wear.

 Linda will string the Virgin of Guadalupe pendant on these pretty beads of fire agate for me. The pendant looks to have been made of an old Coin, we can still see UN PESO on the back.

A sister of the Donald has a necklace of Linda's.   Linda says if she gets to be the official White House Jeweler, she wants her studio to be in the closet next to Lincoln's bedroom.  e

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Mending old leather doll arms

 Can you see her ring in the picture below?

The pictures do not show much difference, but I have lightened the lip color and pulled in the lip line, corrected the hair line, slightly lightened the eyebrows and touched up the hair a bit with less than solid dark black. Overall there is a softer look.    The dolls are redressed and are quite pretty. I am watching for a matching shoe for the lost one.

There is quite a stash of leather here for me to choose from, and at first I considered how to add patches to the torn leather arms on these antique twin dolls.  I did not like the look of the added patches, so I decided to place some strips of leather inside the arms as I stitched them back together, hoping to reinforce them that way.   The leather was so fragile it came apart in layers in my hands if I attempted to sew with small neat stitches.   Therefore the stitches are about a quarter inch wide catching 1/8th inch of leather on each side of the new seams.   The thread matches well in color and the creases and flaws in the leather make the new stitching less prominent.  There were also mends long before mine.

I did not find it easy to sew through all that new leather under the old so by the time I was on the last of the four arms, I switched to using pieces of sturdy old brown twill inside and was able to neatly sew through the fabric as I sewed the leather, making a stronger mend. I am very pleased to have the worn old leather arms rather than new replacements.  At first look I did not think I could save them.

While I sewed on one arm, the other was protected, wrapped close and pinned in a beautiful linen tea towel gifted to me by Mary W. 

Brown fabric inside the leather arm

Here is a mystery. I have said the clothing is identical, and it almost is, but one twin was wearing a chemise that was markedly too small for her. It was torn and poorly mended where someone had forced it on the doll. I can't see how it ever went on her as it is not big enough to clear either the large seat or the large shoulders.  It seems as if it could only have been put on when the head was not on the body?  See how tight it is when I try to get it up on the shoulder plate?   The other doll's chemise is quite proper. All six pieces of underwear are of the same fabric, with the same almost invisible stitches and perfect French seams and tiny hems.  I have pictured them here, one on top the other.  The only way to get it off without tearing it all to pieces was to cut it, which I did after some consideration right up the center back. I will hem that opening to use it for a smaller doll.  So that twin now has a borrowed one from a great wax Alice who is fussing about that.

On each doll there is a little ring on the index finger of her left hand. I don't think I have had this before. 

This weekend I have to shift back into painting mode as my art classes start back on Monday after a two week hiatus. I am painting with an outstanding group!  All the dolls must quiet down and stay in the background as I work on paintings instead. I hope to sew a few little doll clothes along, but generally I can ride only one horse at a time. 
         Some friends may remember when country decorating was at its zenith I painted and sold over 250 primitive children's pictures in imitation of early American portraits .  I think I would like to paint portraits of some of my dolls. Maybe these will happen in the future.  I have so many interests I wonder how anyone ever gets bored!    e

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

Friday, July 1, 2016

Yes I still collect.

I change a few things and think perhaps I am downsizing a bit, and then I fall under the spell of other charming stuff.    Lately I have bought among other things, 4 pieces of simple American redware, sticking with the forms and glazes that are familiar to me from the years and years of buying trips with Jackie.  I have also bought back from a friend a doll bed of Izannah size which I owned a long time ago. I hope to make a quilt for it from a log cabin piece I have.  Here is the little bed. The tiny china head doll Patience is holding was a gift from friend Linda.

Today was one of those magical green summer days with a breeze and sweet to be out in at least in the shade.   I went with a friend to a living estate sale in Comfort Texas.  It has been the home of a great collector and is such a lovely property.

There were rooms and rooms of collectables. Some of the most striking things to see were the old doll houses and room boxes, it was all I could do to leave them and they were  reasonably priced.  See a few below.

My large bear, Elvis who has been with me a while, is holding a Steiff deer I bought for Cheryl. The deer is about 11 inches tall.

I added two small baskets for my dolls.

I bought an easel and a bit of other stuff but it is always bringing home an antique doll that makes me happiest.
I could not resist the little so called Mad Alice, an English split head wax who has lost her hair. I will make her a dress out of earliest calico and place her in a cupboard near some old leather books.  These little dolls are just one generation later than the English Wooden Queen Ann dolls and the family resemblance is plain. 

And the twins,  the twins, how could I leave them?  They are clearly originally twin dolls and have grown old together. I believe they date in the 1850's  The dolls have been repaired and sadly repainted to a fresh new look which I may be able to temper somewhat. The hand stitched bodies are alike and the torn leather arms are there.  I can retain them and shore them up some. The clothes are identical and all hand stitched of course.  The perfect cartridge pleats are so dear.  I have some precious laundry to do now.  Each doll is 28 inches tall.  One old shoe is missing.  When they are ready to invite friends in to tea I will show them to you again.   

I have decided the doll’s pink dresses are too important and too fragile to wash them.   They date from the 1850’s and are light weight pink cotton print.   Without the twin dresses the doll’s impact would be lost.    I will wash unders which are sturdier cotton.   I plan to go today to Cheryl’s house to use her softened water to wash doll clothes.  I want to make a grouping with one of Jack’s doll size tea tables and two chairs and these dolls.  I am looking to buy a nice Staffordshire tea set. If you have such to sell let me hear from you. I have Alerton's Little May in brown, but those are 1880.    No place to put it all!    This may be the thing that breaks the rule and lets toys into the living room, I have banned them in the past except at Christmas time.    joneill816@austin.rr.com 

( Miss Edyth promised to get rid of my eye liner. )

Here is a similar doll of about the same size and age already in the doll family here.  This doll has a nice complexion I believe to be all original and untouched but very little is left of lip color and eye brows and cheek color. 
The child's dress dates to the 1830's and is from the Velma Driscol collection. It fits nicely without alteration, but the waist of the doll is smaller than it shows to be. Note the beautiful shape of the sleeves.

For comparison also here is a doll offered on ebay lately.  A similar doll  with much restoration as per description,  and clothes not as charming I would think.  This one has a lot of her original finish which the twins do not.  e

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