Archive for the ‘Dolls’ Category

More Patsy

compopatsyThis lovely compo Patsy shows off her her typical coloring and costuming.  She’s not mine but I wish she were!

As promised, here are some Patsy dresses I made from very old patterns.  Here is my Patsy Joan in her onesie:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was standard underwear for little girls of the ‘twenties and ‘thirties.  Here are the dress and bonnet that go with the onesie:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI made the dress from lavender voile.  It is trimmed with lace I bought when we visited an Amish town in Iowa, Trep.

oldHere is an image of a vintage pattern–McCall’s 1918, dated 1932–which places its publication smack dab in the middle of Patsy’s period of popularity.  The cover announces that the envelope contains a”Patsy Doll Outfit,” as though we couldn’t tell for whom it was intended from the rosebud mouth and short red hair on the dolls in the illustration.  The back cover of the pattern proudly claims that it was printed by means of a trademarked process called “PrintoGravure.”  Does anyone know what that was?

I may have modeled Patsy Joan’s dress on the blue one in the upper right (it’s been awhile), and if so I added a square yoke and longer sleeves.  However, I don’t have sufficient imagination to invent that hat, so I suspect I actually used pattern pieces from a book collection called Sewing for Twentieth-Century Dolls, which is a treasure trove of patterns for older dolls.  The onesie is definitely derived from the pattern depicted here, though.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere Patsy Joan models a cotton dress and bloomers made from a Simplicity pattern (number 1901) originally published in 1930.  Simplicity reissued the pattern in 2007, no doubt to cash in on Patsy’s renewed popularity after Robert Tonner purchased Effanbee’s catalog in 2002.

simpHere is an image of the vintage pattern, which I used to make Patsy Joan’s dress.  I had an awful time getting the thing to hang right–as you can see the yoke and the center pleat are all one piece, which complicates things if the pattern doesn’t fit just right.  So if I make this again (yeah, sure) I’ll use the newer issue of the pattern.  I was interested to note that while the vintage pattern had to be purchased in a single size, the contemporary one comes in three sizes.  Has Simplicity softened up over the years?  Nah, probably not.

And here is my favorite dress for Patsy Joan:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABecause the fabric is so busy you can’t see the princess lines very well.  So here is an image of the vintage pattern:

dubarryHere you can see the lovely princess-style cut of this dress.  I haven’t dug around enough to determine a date for this pattern.  Given the curly blonde hair, I suspect it was made for the Shirley Temple doll, which was very popular during the 1930s.   This is the only DuBarry pattern I own, although I’ve found some others on the intertubes–for example the company issued this pattern sized for little girls  as well.  As you may be able to see, their patterns were also sold in Britain.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of depression-era toys.  If not, thanks for hanging in!









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a7f8a93ab4afc2d88f0ae41dadf03a91This photo from Theriault’s shows a group of Patsy dolls from the early twentieth-century, complete with original clothes and shoes.

Patsy first appeared in 1928, manufactured by a company called “Effanbee” (its name was derived from the last initials of its founders, Bernard Fleischaker and Hugo Baum).  She was designed by Bernard Lipfert, who also designed the very popular Shirley Temple and Toni dolls.  Early on, Patsy dolls  were made of a substance called “composition” which was bits of wood and other stuff glued together and coated, then painted.  Composition was thought at the time to be indestructible, which turned out not to be the case–much to the chagrin of contemporary collectors.  That’s why an auction house as prestigious (and pricey) as Theriault’s is showing these apparently perfect specimens.

As you can see, Patsy was manufactured in many different sizes, from the large Patsy Lou (22 inches) to the tiny Patsyette (9 inches).  Patsy was designed to represent a three-year-old girl of the ‘twenties and ‘thirties.  The white version was always shown with short red painted hair, although later on the company made wigged versions.   The rosebud mouth is typical of the period.  Her dresses were usually made from voile or other light cottons, in keeping with the styles of the time.  The tiny embroidered ruffles on the pink dress represent the care that was taken with Patsy’s clothing.

Baum died in 1940, and the company fell on hard times during the war years.  It was sold in 1946, and various other owners marketed Patsy dolls under the Effanbee name throughout the century.  After the war, plastic and vinyl became available and replaced composition as the favored medium for dolls, including Patsy.  Robert Tonner, an extremely successful doll designer, bought Effanbee in 2002, thus rescuing it from financial trouble.  Luckily, he loved Patsy enough to reintroduce her to collectors, and that’s how I discovered her.

Here is my collection, ineptly photographed as usual:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs you can see, there is a Patsyette, wearing one of the outfits that came with her in a tiny hatbox.  She is flanked by 16-inch Patsy Joan, who also wears a purchased dress (the matching coat is behind her).  The 13-inch Patsy seems always to have been collectors’ favorite, and I’m showing her in her bathing suit so you can see the chubby body that Lipfert sculpted for her.  My current favorite, though, is 18-inch Patsy Ann, wearing a school outfit designed by Tonner.  She represents my memory of my late sister, who was named Patricia Ann and who was born in 1930.  Pat loved dolls–it was she who introduced me to collecting.

I’ve made some clothing from vintage patterns for these dolls.  Pics to come in a subsequent post.




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Historical Girl II

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt last, here is Addy modeling a Civil War era dress designed for a young girl.

Addy is an American Girl doll who is meant to represent this era–she and her mother are depicted as escaped slaves.  While the designers of this doll make a few gestures toward reality–such as giving Addy a tote bag made simply of a large cloth–they tend to overlook the conditions in which a freed or escaped African-American family would most likely have existed during or after the Civil War.  Hence Addy has an extensive and lovely wardrobe that rivals those of the other American Girls.  Despite the anachronism (or perhaps because of it) she remains one of the most popular dolls in the line.

The commercial pattern from which the dress is made also includes a period-appropriate jacket and bonnet:


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI like the fit and back detail featured in this pattern.  I made the jacket and bonnet out of scraps of velveteen left over from a jacket I made for myself way back in the day.  (Can’t believe now I ever had the time or enthusiasm enough to complete such projects).

Photography, OTOH, is not one of my strong suits.  It’s not even a weak suit.


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Historical Girls

I’ve been thinking about my sister over the past couple of months since she passed away.  It was she who introduced me to doll collecting, and it was she, way back in the day, who, along with my mother, taught me to sew.  So I guess that’s why my interest in these pastimes has regenerated lately.

When I looked at my fabric stash I realized that it was so large I’d never get around to using all of those pieces.  So I parted with something over half of them.  The folks at Goodwill seemed pleased to take quarter, half, and single-yard pieces–perhaps quilters shop there?

Anyhow here are two of my recent efforts, made from stuff that survived the culling.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is an American Girl, one of a popular series of play dolls.  The dress is based on a commercial pattern, although the hat and shoes belong to another AG, Felicity (more on her in a moment).

During the eighteenth-century an outfit like this would be worn only by wealthier women and girls and would probably be made of silk.  I used ordinary fabrics available at JoAnns and the like, so the outfit isn’t historically kosher.  This is especially true of the trim, which I chose chiefly to use it up.  Despite the anachronistic fabrics and trim, I think it turned out well.

The pattern includes a bustle helper, the effect of which can be seen in this picture:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bustle is essentially a tube made of cotton, filled with batting, and tied with a ribbon around the waist.  A bit of the voluminous petticoat is also visible here.  To be appropriate for the time, she should also be wearing pantaloons, a chemise, and a corset.

And here is Felicity wearing my version of a pattern from MHD Designs:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI liked the fabric for this pioneer look, because most women living on the frontier made their clothes from cotton salvaged from other sources–flour sacks and so on.  Once I got the thing put together I realized that that the pattern was a little too busy for a doll.  Sigh.  Anyhow the outfit shows off some of the details that Magalie Dawson, the designer, likes to include in her work–tucks, ruffles and bows.  Once I finished the sun bonnet, I realized that it was quite large, but then I guess that was the point.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe model for the pioneer costume is Felicity, the first ever American Girl.  I’ve owned her for a long time.   The people who  created her–Pleasant Company–have since sold the franchise to Mattel, and of course AG afficianados think the product has not prospered under the new ownership.  At any rate, Felicity was designed to represent the eighteenth-century, and the company offered a suite of lovely clothes with stomachers, lace caps, panniers–the works.  She has long been retired, and so she is now quite valuable, especially if she is accompanied by some of the company’s original clothing, as my doll is.  I saw one being offered on E-bay for six hundred dollars!

I’m working on two more outfits–a girl’s dress from the Civil War, and a gown from the Regency period.  I hope to finish those sometime soon, but events keep intervening.  The windows in my house are being repaired–they’ve leaked ever since I moved in, and I’ve had them caulked at least twice.  This time my man Steve suggested that the exterior above every window, plus the tops of the parapets, be coated with latex, so it’s taking awhile.  He may be right–we got a brief gullywasher last night (hooray!) and there were no leaks.

In any case there is a lot of sanding of damaged window sills going on, so I have to schedule sewing sessions in between visits from the workpeople.  Please stay tuned for more costumes.


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What’s Wrong With This Picture?

cropped-bg-dolls1Took me a second, too.

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Introducing Cissy

Madame Alexander’s Cissy was the first fashion doll–meaning she has a woman’s shape down to her high-heel shoe-wearing feet.  The first Cissy went on the market in 1955, five years before Barbie appeared.  When my twelve-year-old self saw one on a shelf at Miller and Paine’s department store  in Lincoln, Nebraska, my mother could barely pry me away.   I’m sure I left grubby fingerprints on the glass that protected her.

My dad said I was too old for dolls.  But mom was wiser than he in this;   she went back to the store and bought a Cissy to give me for Christmas.   I have since found out that the doll cost $25 dollars, which was a lot of money for my folks in 1955.

This Cissy belongs to another collector, but she is wearing the same dress mine wore, minus the taffeta petticoat that made it stand out, as any dress from the ‘fifties should.   Mine also wore a straw hat trimmed with net and flowers, and the dress had a blue taffeta bolero fastened with a neat small bow.  The shoes and hose on the pictured doll appear to be original, as are her the fake pearl necklace and earrings.

I learned to sew when I was nine or ten–my mother was born during an era when all young ladies mastered the needle arts at a young age, and she taught me and my sisters the same.   And so I used this doll as a manniquin, learning to fit and make my own patterns.

After my parents died, my Cissy emigrated to my sister’s daughter Judy, because I was still in college and had no place to store anything.  Judy learned to sew with her as well.   In 1990 I began collecting dolls, and my sister, who also collects, generously returned my old Cissy to me, along with the remnants of her beautiful clothes.   She is full of pinholes, put there by two young girls fitting clothes on her, and her wig is a mess. But I still love her.  I’ve replaced her wig and made new things for her, which you will see as soon as I get some pictures taken.

Meanwhile, in 1996 the Alexander company issued a new Cissy, now called “modern”  to distinguish her from the vintage dolls.  I have several of these dolls, including a number one, called “Ebony and Ivory” for the beautiful houndstooth suit she wears.

As you can see, modern Cissy is sexier and sassier than the vintage dolls (perhaps because Madame Alexander passed away in 1990 and younger people were at the company’s helm in 1996).  Modern Cissy is made of vinyl, rather than hard plastic, and she bends at the waist as well as at the knees as vintage Cissy did.  Her face was redesigned, but the design and fabric in the clothing is still of the highest quality, as is true of all Alexander dolls.

This is Barcelona Cissy from 1998.  She is part of a series celebrating European cities.  You can see more Cissy photographs at vintagedollcollector.com, which is where I got these.

Back in a couple of days with photos of Cissy wearing some of my home work.

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What a Doll

Ooh, so doll designers are getting in on the action figure market.  Seems like a really smart move to me.  I see action figures cropping up all over the place.  I saw a great YouTube video skit wherein action figures from Lost come across action figures from Pirates of the Caribbean.  At one point Kate shouts, “Jack!” and Jack Shephard and Jack Sparrow both turn around.  I read somewhere that the Japanese gaming industry is all over action figures and that Western game companies are behind the curve and missing a big source of revenue.  Action figs for the latest FF game, released last week, are up for sale now on Amazon.

This is Snow.

I noticed in the intro screen to Oblivion what a strong resemblance the warrior dude has to Sean Bean (whose voice you’ve assured me I’ll hear later on, Doc).  Now I could go for that action figure!

Hard to say what this Boromir’s like – the pic’s too small.

Some movies have had ’em for awhile of course – the Spiderman/Batman/GI Joe ilk.  And some movies/stars have had designer dolls for awhile too, come to think of it – Rhett and Scarlett and Gene.  I find I’m with you Doc, in liking these 3d renditions a lot if they’re well done, and being put off by them if they’re not.  The improvements in doll tech, as with just about every other kind of tech, are making for some amazing likenesses.  I wonder how much of a collectible field this will turn out to be?  Some of the high end figurines seem pretty high priced to begin with – as with the Sephiroth statuette I mentioned awhile back.  I think there are real possibilities for some future keepers.  How about political action-figures?  You can bet the RW’ers would snap up Reagan action-figures.  And I’d seriously consider an Obama action figure myself – say Obama playing basketball?  Or Obama on the beach in Hawaii?

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