Grandmother’s Doll

For Christmas I decided to give my mother a doll. Dolls are traditional Christmas presents for little girls in our family, and I reasoned that (1) she hadn’t had a doll for Christmas for many years, and (2) this wasn’t just any doll. This one belonged to her mother as a little girl. The pieces (indeed, the limbs were not all attached) were given to me in a box for me to try to do something with a couple years ago. There being a doll hospital only a few miles from our house, I decided this was the year. I would have her restored by the doll hospital and then I would dress her.


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Dirty, limbs held on with regular elastic courtesy of moi, crazing, worn toes and fingers. Actually in pretty good shape. (*see bottom of post about the wig)

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Poor baby has cataracts.

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1932 Effanbee Mary Lee doll

After restoration by the doll hospital…

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They restrung her limbs, reglazed her body, worked some magic on her eyes, and patched her irreplaceable wig. Fingers and toes were not repaired because we wanted to preserve some of the original feel.

Beginning the dressing process. Panicking slightly.

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Making the crinoline. The fabric and net were some of the only new materials used.

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Chemise finished. Made from a 1900-era slip, too fragile to be preserved. Top lace (and all additional lace pictured) from my grandmother’s stash.

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Dressed in crinoline and chemise. (Shoes, socks and pantalettes from the doll hospital.)

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Beginning the dress.

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Still trying desperately to figure out the dress. Left it to the next day.

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Reluctantly abandoned the pointed basque.

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Most of dress complete; back fastening not yet done.

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Lots of lacy layers!

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The delicate fabric for the dress came from a vintage baby dress, a family heirloom. Too fragile to be preserved any other way.

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Beginning the bonnet.

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Sewing the ruffle on the inside edge of the bonnet.

And the finished product…

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Notice the clear eyes!! These are the originals. The restoration process is something magical.

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Not everything was able to be perfect. Like the alignment of the back placket which looks worse because of the waist part of the stand. Oh well.

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Ready to wrap for shipping. I used tissue and a few miles of bubble wrap.

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What an angel. I wish my grandmother could see her too.

*The doll restorer explained about her wig. Her original hair style was short and curly, exactly as you see it. In other words, no one gave her a bad haircut. However, on the back right side there was a sizeable bald spot where the hair had been rubbed off the scalp. I wasn’t going to have the wig replaced but as it turned out, that would have been impossible anyway. It is caracul, which is lamb’s skin including the short, very curly, light brown wool. Since the curl begins to leave as soon as the lamb is born, this was apparently often made from fetal lamb wool. (gulp) However, the magician restorer hated to leave her with a bald spot so she hunted through some discarded pieces of caracul in her stash and finally found one in which the middle of the fiber matched the color of this doll’s wig. She trimmed off the outer bit, then snipped out the center of the fiber, using tweezers to glue each bit of hair over the bald spot. Can you imagine???

15 thoughts on “Grandmother’s Doll

  1. Words can’t describe my emotions. The has been in several places since opening her. I’ve done this so that I can see her whenever i pass through the room It;s a beautiful bright day here so the light coming in all the windows really shows the doll’s beauty. thank you over and over. i have no talent at all for the things you so, and very little patience as well. Love Mom

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful and a joy to behold. Just think how your Mother must have held her as she grew up and now a daily joy for you to behold . Thank you Meg for your inspiration and skill ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿค—

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Vintage clothing shopping | Praying With My Feet

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