Pharaby, all 16 inches of her, is finally dressed. And contrary to my original intentions, this may be her only outfit! No Pharaby, it’s not you, it’s me.
Since I haven’t posted our progress on the gown and final accessories, I decided to say it with (mostly) pictures. For the gown, I’d purchased a red and white cotton that proved not to be colorfast. Guess who has a cute little pink spotted ironing board cover now? However, I’m so in love with the fabric that I’d choose it again. It reminds me of the dress on the Dudmaston doll, seen here.
With the gown and petticoat finished, I moved on to her apron. I wanted to use some original 1770s patterns for the embroidery. However … with my limited fancywork repertoire, I had to choose REALLY SIMPLE designs that could be done in a couple different stitches. Like chainstitch. Buttonhole. Running.
Next came her handkerchief (or fichu, or half-handkerchief). I didn’t do any lace or embroidery on it, since she planned to wear it tucked in. It’s made of the same lovely muslin as her apron. It’s different from her sleeve ruffles, which were salvaged from an antique piece. The older stuff just can’t be matched today, although this came pretty close!
Last of all were the shoes. I hadn’t a clue how to do them and I’m afraid it shows. This time I didn’t even bother reading or watching tutorials. I just jumped in with both…hands. Pharaby’s poor little feet are only an inch and a half long, and unique. I don’t mean compared to other doll feet, I mean compared to each other. So I made paper ones for patterns, and then used silk scraps and lined them with linen. They’re green because that’s what I had, and I happen to adore green shoes. They’re bound with blue ribbon because the only ribbon wide enough was some left from her cap!
So Pharaby’s finished, for now anyway. She’s very dear to me, after this long adventure. And she’ll always be a reminder of my father’s love of fun – and love for me.
Actually, that should be “Pharaby Sets Her Cap Aside” – for now, anyway. I haven’t completely neglected Pharaby all these months, but sometimes remembering to take photos, and then remembering where I saved them, delay my writing about her wardrobe’s progress.
This project also took longer than I thought it would. It was hard figuring out what I wanted her to wear. Most surviving Queen Anne dolls just have little bits of lace and silk gathered and stuck atop their heads, or if they’re wearing more constructed caps, the photos don’t show sufficient details for me to copy. And sometimes the surviving headwear is not original to the doll, being so obviously 19th century that even I can tell!
In the end I decided on this style, because it was easy to make a pattern and I’m familiar with the sewing techniques. The cap is formed from a simple half circle gathered at the base of the neck and the crown and trimmed with plain frills.
I did experience one of those aha moments when attaching the headpiece/band/brim to the crown. It was easy to “set in” the little gathers on the top thanks to the fact that the band was double. It worked just the same way as setting a gathered sleeve into a cuff! Maybe that’s why they so often had double brims?
My attempt at narrow hems was a flop, at least compared to what 18th century women could do. But I did manage a very nice tiny eyelet for the back drawstring. It would have been nicer if I’d also remembered to put in the strings and tack them in place before I hemmed the casing down! Did you know that you can thread a large needle and retro-fit a string into a casing?
Perhaps you’ve noticed none of these pictures show Pharaby wearing the cap? That’s due to my inadequacies as a perruquier. Every time I place something on her wig and then remove it, a few mo-hairs (groan) come loose from the carefully arranged style. In order to keep it all together until her final dressing, I had to limit the try-on’s. Pharaby won’t be modeling her cap for a while, so I let a wineglass serve as a mannequin – and then serve to celebrate one more project done!
It’s been a while since I added anything to Pharaby’s wardrobe, and with heaps of projects competing for my time I decided to tackle the quickest thing: a busk for her stays. Perhaps that might keep her happy until I have a little more leisure? I figured I could take a damaged “bone” from my stash, trim it to fit, and etch her initial. No problem.
Ha! I think the Spirits of Whales Past saw to it that I paid for my callousness towards history and nature. If you are extremely sensitive to the sacredness either, you may want to skip this post. If your curiosity exceeds your delicacy, here is the process in photos.
(If you expected the Lucy Locket quote on this one, maybe I succeeded in surprising you?)
There are so many images available online that it was hard to choose a model for her pocket. I finally settled on “the look” of a sweet little doll version in the online Pockets collection at the VAD. (Click the link and then search for “doll´s pocket Nottingham.”) It resembled a couple of others, also worked in yellow thread, that were made for women rather than dolls. And it only required a backstitch!
The design I used was loosely based on an 1770s pattern from The Lady’s Magazine. I scanned the original pattern and scaled it down to Pharaby-size. Then I raided a stash of old 1890s embroidery silks. I tried using the thread as it came from the skein, but it was way too thick – using only one ply made it almost small enough. And I can tell you that it did NOT work like the illustration on the wrapper!
As you can see from the remaining yellow fuzz, it was a struggle. But once that was done, it was pretty simple to cut out the front and back, then bind them with some matching yellow silk.
To finish the pocket, I added narrow tapes on the ends. Yes, one MORE thing to go around her waist. But now she has a place to carry her handkerchief – when I make her one.
Oh! And while she was showing off her pocket, I took a picture of her wearing her marked shift. I neglected to do that in the last post, and she let me hear about it.
“The art of marking was brought to perfection many years ago, and if our great grandmothers could but see the meagre attempts made by us now-a-days, I fancy they would have some contempt for the system by which our needlework abilities are tested.”
– A. K. Smith, 1892
They would certainly have some contempt for how long it took me to mark Pharaby’s shift, regardless of the quality of my work! I should have tended to this little essential when I first made it, but better late than never. We can’t have her single shift getting lost in the laundry, can we?
First I had to do some practice stitching. Sampler collectors and makers would laugh at how astonished – and intimidated – I am by the miniscule cross-stitches made during the past 200 years. You can see from this little baby shirt (last quarter 19th C) how blithely they marked countless linens. I’m guessing at the “blithely” part, but since I have many shirts from this baby, somebody was doing a lot of marking!
Making it to Pharaby’s scale would be impossible, since barely matching ordinary period work would be the best I could hope for.
I used a pretty little c1900 linen collar to experiment on (damaged – I wouldn’t inflict my needle on it otherwise), as you can see in the picture.
Since the threads in linen are not all exactly the same size, my stitches over two threads looked a bit messy. I tried sewing over four (too big) or over however many made a perfect square (too awkward). By this time I was just about ready to use ink, like the collar owner! But hey, I’m all about plain sewing, right?
A lot of trial and error showed that to be small enough, I’d have to work over two threads, no matter how lumpy my letters looked. I found that just like many projects, things that look pretty awful as I’m working, look a little better when I’m done. Or maybe I’m just cross-eyed by then!
It’s fun how a search for one thing can lead to other quirky discoveries. That’s what happened when I looked for information on stockings for Pharaby. Who knew that clocked stockings were the subject of a racy little song in 1902? (Will F. Denny, on archive.org)
I’m sure ornamented stockings were worth a peep in the 18th century as well!And did you know that wearing silk stockings could be hazardous to your health? At least during a thunderstorm.
According to the Scots Magazine in 1773, a lady in Switzerland nearly suffered a shocking fate:
Her disease, like all others which the doctors can make nothing of, was decided to be a nervous one; but it was afterwards discovered to be owing to her wearing silk stockings, and wires in her cap. How little do our ladies imagine, when they surround their heads with wire, the most powerful of all conductors, and at the same time wear stockings, shoes, and gowns, of silk, one of the most powerful repellents, that they prepare their bodies in the same manner, and according to the same principles, as electricians prepare their Conductors for attracting the fire of lightning.
Ladies may laugh at all this, but it is too serious a matter to be made a joke of. A very amiable lady, a Mrs Douglas of Kelso, had nearly lost her life by one of those caps mounted on wire. She was standing at an open window during a thunder-storm: the lightning was attracted by the wire, and the cap was burnt to ashes. Happily her hair was in its natural state, without powder, pomatum, or pins, and prevented the fire from being conducted to her head.
A good strong head of hair, if it is kept perfectly clean, and dry, is probably one of the best preservatives against the fire of lightning. But so soon as it is stuffed full of powder and pomatum, and bound together with pins, its repellent force is lost, and it becomes a conductor.
Hmm… personally (and modern-tastefully) I find the “loaded” hairstyle more repellent!
But I digress.Pharaby most certainly wanted stockings, and I wanted to make them. Well, I wanted her to have them. To be honest, I was at a loss for how to make stockings, so first I spent some time searching for ready-made.
What would fit her? Her limbs are not exactly the same size and shape (well neither are mine), and her feet are shaped to stand flat on the ground. Or table. So off-the-rack doll stockings, unless I was willing to accept nylon tubes, were not an option.
I decided I’d have to make them after all. Knitting was out of the question since I don’t know how. The stockings would have to be cut and sewn. Pondering a source for slightly-aged stretchy silk one day, I experienced a flash of brilliant resourcefulness. Gloves! With silk lining! Ebay! I found a worn vintage pair that were just right and managed to extricate the lining from the leather.
Next I found and adapted a pattern on this lovely site and practiced fitting it, using an old t-shirt so I wouldn’t waste the silk. That took a while, but once I settled on the size, I had another idea. Why not embroider clocks on her stockings? My brilliant ideas are often followed by some real flops, and so this one proved. I made three attempts to embroider a half-inch design on thin stretchy silk. It looked horrible, no matter what thread or stitch I tried. There would be no clocks this time.
Fortunately Pharaby didn’t know I was even trying, so she suffered no disappointment; she was pleased to have any stockings at all. They may be her only pair. We have a lot of thunderstorms.
Pharaby has been following me with a reproachful gaze for a few weeks now. I promised her a petticoat (an “under” petticoat) and I’ve been awfully slow in making one.
I finally got around to it this past week. It was pretty simple really, just a length of ribbed linen stitched up the side and pleated into a band. Making the pleats match was the hardest part. No, wait – finding a band to fit the doll “scale” was the hardest part!
I only had a small assortment of cotton and linen tapes to choose from. None was the exact size and weave I wanted, but, well, that’s how it is with dolls and costuming. You have to compromise!
So now she’s got a petticoat. The next question is, does she wear it over, or under, the bum roll? We’ve tried it both ways and are hoping for some expert advice. But what really concerns me is the direction we’re headed: exactly how many ties, bands and layers of gathering can the female form support at the equatorial line?
I’m not sure how I got distracted and neglected to let Pharaby show off her new sleeve ruffles, but we shall make amends. Here they are!
From that same stash of unsold ebay scraps I selected a pretty little bit of muslin. Now I admit I’ve handled a lot of fine muslin and can usually tell when it’s wearing Sizing of the Ages. But this piece had me stumped. It was originally an unfinished embroidery project with a homemade pattern marked in blue ink, a typical edging design, and I’m pretty certain it was mid-19th century. But washing – a lot – didn’t affect the nice bounce at all. So we got the effect of nicely starched ruffles without any stickiness.
Fortunately, it was also forgiving. I managed to whip the edges with no problem, but one little ruffle had to be attached three times before I was satisfied with the linen band.
So now Pharaby has some fluffy ruffles. By the way, it was a family joke that my aunt named every pet she had Fluffy Ruffles. A little googling showed me why!
Fluffy was born in 1906, the creation of artist Wes Morgan, and featured in stories with verse by Carolyn Wells. Pretty, stylish, and spunky, she became a heroine of her era and the next few decades (that’s longevity for a fad!) saw her as a paper doll, a book, in music, on the stage, and yes, her catchy name was shared with crochet patterns and flower hybrids – and pets.
Yes, Pharaby insisted on having this article in her wardrobe, the euphoniously termed BUM ROLL. The “cork bum” was subject to ridicule at the time, but goodness knows ridicule and fashion have always been comfortable together. Magazines of the day enjoyed satirizing high style:
“Nature appears to have been but a kind of bungler, We mortals are obliged to alter every piece of her works, before it can be fit to be seen…
And after all this being done, a Lady was supposed to be quite finished—
No such thing—
What was wanting?
What was wanting ? Blockhead! Don’t thee know?
A BUM was wanting !!
A BUM ! —
Mercy on us ! Who would have thought Nature could have made such a mistake as to create Ladies without bums.
Nothing is more certain. —
Bum-shops are opened in many parts of Westminster for the sale of cork bums, and report says they go swimmingly on.
Tall ladies, and short ladies — fat ladies and lean ladies, must have bums —
And this is what they call getting up behind.
So that in fact, a fashionable female, if she lay on her face, or creep on all fours, would exactly resemble a camel with a hunch in the middle of the back….
Let it be recorded, that in the auspicious year 1785, BUMS FOR LADIES, were made, cleaned, and repaired, so as far to exceed nature in size, or convenience.
When researching this little artifice, I was intrigued by the references to cork. Farthingales, panniers, etc. had been around for ages and were effective in supporting heavy skirts. So why cork, and what did they look like? I found a website that provided the most amazingly extensive research on the subject of skirt supports ever — with excellent images. And another site by a brilliant costumer who experimented with using cork blocks for the same purpose.
But I couldn’t find any images of extant cork “bums” to go by. So would Pharaby be happy with wool stuffing? Or would she insist on cork?
You know the answer. The next question being, what kind of cork? The advantage, like the disadvantage, of dressing dolls is the scale. I could use a cork coaster to try carving a shape and then covering it, but the tiny size required was more than I wanted to tackle.
What if I used cork “crumbs”? One period satire implied that cork pieces were used: “Money for your old corks.”Ergo, they were cut, shaved, crumbled, etc., and used like stuffing. Well ok, maybe not. Maybe “corks” was short for “cork bums” and they wanted them for resale or recycling. I’m speculating in an attempt to defend my choice. Whatever, we went with cork granules.
Now, my husband makes wonderful wine (as a hobby — woohoo!) so why not crumble some corks we already have? Or chop up that trivet? Cheap, easy, and immediate, so of course I didn’t do it that way. My life is pretty tame and I was craving a touch of the exotic, so Pharaby and I sent for a package of cork from Portugal. I figured I could use the leftovers later for stuffing some vintage toys, to give them that authentic lumpy look.
I drew a pattern (and used the first attempt, I’ll have you know). I found some grubby pink glazed cotton which I’d unsucessfully, thank goodness, tried to sell on ebay. And then I stitched and stuffed and added ties.
Let it be recorded that in the auspicious year 2014, Pharaby’s figure was enhanced.
And she did need it. Most wooden dolls arenot noted for their shapely behinds.
It’s been a whale, er, a while, since Pharaby had an update in her wardrobe. Stays were next on the list since no 18th century female would be caught dead without them. I dreaded it though, not only because I’m not a staymaker, but because Pharaby is so feisty and I feared she would not be very accommodating.
I was right.
It wasn’t hard finding some period glazed linen, and stitching was tedious but not difficult. The challenge was making a pattern and making it fit. Hooboy. I have no talent for patterns to begin with, and Pharaby was utterly unyielding. Her curves would not give an inch. I must have drawn two dozen versions before we came to terms. I think she herself came close to desperation, because late one night I caught her reaching for the seam ripper when she thought I wasn’t looking.
Well, between tracing and taping and heavy use of aluminum foil, we made it. The next part was finding appropriate boning. My first thought was to use old whalebone, but the idea of cutting them to fit was rather daunting. And Pharaby feels strongly about whaling – see above. I experimented with plastic ties (too soft), wooden skewers (too hard), cardboard (too bendy), and even some perfectly shaped plastic applicators I found in a cosmetic box (too thick). I decided on reeds, and Pharaby and I spent considerable time shaving them to size. I think she rather enjoyed that part, but I can tell you I had to get new blades for my Exacto knife before we were finished!
Eleventy weeks later, they were done. All but the lacing holes. It looked so simple to do and there were plenty of nice images available to help. But if I thought pattern making was a chore, figuring out the spacing for spiral lacing required three afternoons. Gee, the back of the stays is only 3 inches, how hard could that be? For me? Ha.
Persistence pays, however, and she is now laced in her stays. I’ve sewn a little pocket inside the lining so I can make her a busk. And I think, despite her protests, it may be made of baleen. She’s now ready for the next garment: I expect it will be a petticoat.
P.S. I did add buttonholes to the shift cuffs, so she could wear pink silk ties. Have you ever tried sewing buttonholes to fit within 1/8 of an inch? I recommend a nice Pinot Blanc.
P.P.S. If you haven’t read ye etymology of “Ye Olde,” you might enjoy it.
Shiftless no more! Pharaby can compost the fig leaves now.
To make her shift, I used some fine old linen with a silky feel, and I scaled a pattern in Costume Close-Up (is there anyone who doesn’t use that pattern?). Then I proceeded to sew up the gores, body, and neckline. When it came to the sleeves, though, I was perplexed. What was typical, plain or gathered? I reeeeally wanted to do gathered.
Not being an eighteenth-century-fashionista, I pulled out costume books and scoured the internet for guidance (see this awesome study). Most of the images of extant shifts I found – there were a few exceptions – had sleeves without gathers at the armscye, or shoulder. But period art seems to imply that shifts did have them; otherwise, how so fluffy? That means that 1) I didn’t look in the right places, 2) I couldn’t see details and misinterpreted the pictures, 3) they didn’t survive as often, or 4) some dates were wrong. Maybe all four, plus some more reasons I haven’t thought of yet. Oh well.
However! I found two or three images of exquisite little shifts on early wooden dolls in museums, and those had sleeves that were gathered at the armscye. I think. Anyway, I love setting in gathers and it’s my toy, so that’s what I did.
Now another dilemma. To stitch or not to stitch, that was the question. I was so accustomed to seeing the stitching (now called backstitching) on the wristbands of men’s shirts, that her little cuffs looked as bare as she did. But, duh for me, I’d already set in the gathers. Could I do it, post hoc stitching? Why not – if there’s a harder way, I’ll find it. You don’t see any close-up photos of the cuffs here, do you? Ha.
Next came the binders, those reinforcing strips that are a standard feature in men’s shirts. I can only guess how common they were in women’s shifts, because they don’t usually show in photos, nor are they noted in descriptions. But I’ve long speculated that originally binders were there just for “setting in” gathers – support for a stress area was just a bonus. So in they went.
Now the question you’ve been too polite to ask: did it fit? Pharaby said it would do. She’s not fussy. Any doll destined to wear fashions spanning a century or so – at the same time – can’t afford to be.
Oh, but she does expect me to mark her shift and add ties for her cuffs. She hasn’t decided about frills.
It occurred to me this morning that I left out something in my last post. I forgot to mention the delay between doll wiggery, and doll wardrobe.
My dear, long-suffering husband! I like to modestly claim that he owes his great patience to me. I not only set the example myself, but I make it a point to try his, regularly.
Pharaby was all ready to dress, except for attaching the arms. I knew if I made that simple little hammer tap through the layers of linen and reinforcing leather, I’d mess it up. So I wanted him to do it. I made the request, a time or two, and waited. And waited.
After a couple weeks I thought it was time for another delicate reminder. I know he is very fond of dangerous metal things that make loud noises. So I tried a new approach, thinking it would have particular appeal, especially if spoken with a charming southern drawl.
My mother always told me I had “a bad case of The Wants” whenever I found something that I just had to have – something usually beyond my means. Well, I’ve been grown up (sort of) for a long time now, but I can still get a bad case of The Wants. There are a few cures.
1. Get the means (mildly difficult to sometimes impossible)
2. Wait it out (The Wants are often fickle and fade away)
3. Make it myself (may provide many hours of hilarity at my own expense)
This time, my want was a Queen Anne wooden doll, and I decided on option #3. I researched dolls in books and on the internet. I saved pictures, read descriptions, watched YouTube videos, ILL’ed references. I didn’t want a cloth, clay, or resin version, I wanted real wood.
Want would’ve been my master, if it weren’t for my father. His hobby is woodcarving. He’s been retired for many years and mostly carves birds and decoys. But he was willing to try this for me. Hooray!
I revere authenticity in historical crafts, but for this doll I had my own vision, not to mention my own skill limitations. Therefore she would be more like what I wanted in a toy than a replica of an antique. And besides, when you award yourself a disclaimer like that, you’re free to mess with chronology, styles, materials, and measuring up to the experts! No guilt! Yay!
I was very excited when he finished, and ready to start my share of sanding, painting, and assembling. It’s taken a lot of time and trial and error. That’s where the hilarity has come in. Funny how the ends of paper clips make a perfect pattern for eyebrows. And if you dot the eyebrows really fast without thinking, they’re much more even. But … what to do about hair?
Did you know there isn’t much (free) information available on how to make wigs for wooden dolls? No? Well, there isn’t. So I painted her hair, figured I’d hide it with a cap anyway. Unfortunately, that left her looking like she was recovering from a virulent fever.
A wig would have to be attempted, using the little info I could gather and my own ingenuity. I decided to make it removable in case it was a total disaster, so that meant a wig cap. I found a scrap of antique linen dress lining to use, but I could have saved the scrap, since after the cap was finished you couldn’t tell it was anything special. Oh, well. You can see, left, how I protected her paint job.
The linen would have to be slathered with glue, so more protection was in order. Keep in mind I was making this up as I went along. I still didn’t know how I’d make goat fur look like people hair, especially dressed for the 18th century.
YouTube to the rescue! There are some generous dollmakers out there who are also very tech savvy. I found one who showed how to glue the little locks and then attach them.
So I ordered the wool. It came in a lovely loooong skein, woohoo! Plenty here to allow for mistakes! That set the stage for the first one, because I cut into the skein, a good 6 inches or so, and began to separate it into little clusters. Duh!
What was I thinking? Goats grow hair three feet long? Yeah, right. You see them tripping all over the pasture, tossing their heads like little Rapunzels as they graze.
Perhaps you can imagine my dismay as I combed the first tiny strands and watched over half the wool pull away. I realized then that 1) I’d better not donate my brain to science, and 2) I’d need every inch of that mohair.
After two days of playing Psyche gathering wool and peeling hairy glue off my fingers, face, and furniture, I never wanted to see a goat again. But the fun really started when I got to the top of the wig cap and couldn’t decide how to style it. When I was a girl my dolls had awesome wardrobes, but their hair was pathetic. I relied heavily on rubberbands.
In the end, I decided to leave some long in back, and poof the rest up on top of her head. (What that will mean when I come to making a cap is yet to be seen.)
So. I got the wig finished and styled. A nice braid hanging down in the back and the crown piled high, with a few strands hanging loose – just to make sure she had that modern Hollywood version of an 18th century hairstyle. But I wasn’t completely satisfied. The strands were all straight and wispy, no curl. I’ve got curly hair myself that I’m always trying to straighten, but I love curls on everyone else. So how to curl wool in tiny ringlets?
Why, you make your own curling iron, of course. Take an ice pick, clamp it in your flat iron for a minute, then veeeery carefully wrap a wisp around it. Hold it till you think you smell something burning, and voilà! You’re done!