A glimpse of my world can be seen by perusing my Pinterest boards. I think you will especially like the ones I have set up that show images of antique Izannah Walker dolls, antique children’s photos for clothing references, my reproduction Izannahs and other antique dolls and toys!
Update, Charlcie has found her new home just in time for Christmas!
My first copy of the new Prims Winter 2013 issue arrived yesterday. Charlcie and Savannah couldn’t wait to open it and read all about themselves! The magazine is scheduled to be in stores on January 1st. Susie Belle has already moved to her new home in Virginia. Savannah is sold and on lay-away, so I get the pleasure of her company for a bit longer. Charlcie is very happy that her sisters have such wonderful new homes and hopes that she will find one of her own very soon!
To read more about Charlcie, or to purchase her for your very own please visit my website Paula Walton’s A Sweet Remembrance. If you would like to buy her and place her on lay-away call me at 860-355-5709 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I am always happy to answer any questions you may have about my dolls and provide additional photographs. CHARLCIE IS NOW SOLD. THANK YOU FOR LOOKING. CALL ME OR EMAIL IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PLACE AN ORDER FOR A CUSTOM MADE DOLL.
My copy of Antique Doll Collector’s November issue came today. If you don’t subscribe, you need to order a copy of this magazine right away! There is an article in it about Kelly Harpster’s collection. She owns 20 antique Izannah Walker dolls!!! She also has some amazing one of a kind home made cloth dolls and a lovely group of early Alabama Babies. Plus her house looks just fabulous. One of the photos shows some of her dolls in an unbelievably spectacular smoke grained cupboard… If you love Izannahs you will want to read this article and see all of the photos.
As you might suspect, I have never met an antique painted cloth doll that I didn’t love. This is especially true for Ella Gauntt Smith’s Alabama Indestructible Babies. They are lovely toys, just the right size and weight to cuddle in a young girl’s arms.
Ella Smith was an art teacher who created her Alabama Babies to be sturdy, unbreakable play things in an age of fragile and easily broken dolls. She was an interesting and enterprising woman, with a fascinating biography.
Early in 2007 I was asked by Doll Crafter and Costuming magazine to write a three part article about Alabama Babies, that included full instructions and patterns for making a reproduction doll. The series appeared in the March, April and May 2007 issues of the magazine.
The following is an excerpt from the March article. I’m running it here especially for Martha, one of my Izannah class members, who is also keenly interested in Alabama Babies and for anyone else who loves them as I do.
Making An Alabama Indestructible Doll
by Paula Walton
Level of Difficulty: High
Alabama Indestructible Dolls were made by Ella Smith and a small group of women employees in Roanoke, Alabama from 1905 until 1932. In 1904, Mrs. Smith traveled to St. Louis, Missouri to show her dolls at the St. Louis Exposition. Her dolls won a first place classification at the Exposition, and the following year on March 31, 1905, she filed an application for her first doll patent. Her patent number 800,333 was granted on September 26, 1905. Mrs. Smith went on to obtain a number of additional patents for improvements and changes to the design of her dolls.
This is the first in a series of three articles that will give you patterns and instructions for making a 22-inch tall Alabama Indestructible doll in the style of Ella Smith’s earliest dolls. The following is Miss Ella’s (as she was commonly known) description of her dolls as printed in one of her catalogs in her own words:
“My dolls are all made of the best white goods – no dyes used, as they rot the goods and cause the dolls to wear out sooner. They are all carefully Hand-made. Hand-painted with pure oil paints and can be washed like children. There is no glue or paste used in them. They are stuffed with cotton and sewed with the best thread. No cheap stuff used in the make- up of these dolls. They do not break from being dropped or thrown about. They have been tested by five years’ use. When they are worn and need new hands or feet or painting again, they may be sent back here to the shop and made to look like a new doll for a small sum. Our dolls may be provided with glass eyes, but we prefer the painted eyes – they look like life, and then there is no possible chance of a child to pick the fabric from around the eyes. If we were to use glass eyes we would have to cut the fabric from over the eyes and that would leave a new edge, and when the dolls faces were washed the edges would become rough and ugly around the eyes: and the glass eyes are only a shell and so very easily broken. These dolls are just what the people want if they are looking for something good and substantial, and every child is so glad to get one of these dolls. They look so much like a baby when dressed in long or short clothes, and when the dear little girl drops one of these dolls she don’t have to cry her little heart out because dolly has a broken head. She can just pick her up and go on happy and gay, because these dolls do not break from being dropped. Any one of these dolls may be provided with a wig, but most all people like the painted heads – they look so neat – and the wigs become tangled after a while; but they may be taken off and the heads painted the same as the others. These dolls are painted to represent all races of people. We mean to try to please all people as near as we can. We want our dolls to give perfect satisfaction.”
VISIT MT WEBSITE WWW.ASWEETREMEMBRANCE.COM TO PURCHASE MY ALABAMA BABY REPRODUCTION DOLL MAKING CLASS BY MAIL.
Up until now I haven’t sold individual patterns for my Alabama Babies. To start with, just after the articles were published, I didn’t want to infringe or compete with the Doll Crafter and Costuming articles, even though the magazine only had limited rights to the articles and patterns and I retained the copy rights. Later I hesitated to make the patterns available because the dolls and the pattern pieces are large enough that they require printing on oversize paper, which makes producing the patterns more difficult and expensive.
However I began to rethink selling copies of this pattern after I advised Martha to look for back issues containing the articles. I’ve done a little checking around and it doesn’t look like it is easy to find these issues. In the intervening years Doll Crafter and Costuming has ceased publication. A quick look on eBay showed other Doll Crafter and Costuming issues (but not March, April or May 2007) for sale from $9.99 each. Another issue is that the patterns included in the April 2007 and May 2007 issues of Doll Crafter and Costuming were printed at 50%.
So I have updated and revised my original instructions to include an option for making bare feet, as well as the iconic painted shoes that Alabama Babies are so well know for. I’ve added more than twice as many color how-to photos to the step by step guide and had full size pattern pieces printed (so you won’t have to go to the trouble and expense of making enlargements).
Full support and unlimited questions and answers are included with this 30 page tutorial, as they are with all of my patterns and classes. Making a reproduction Alabama Baby is easier than making a reproduction Izannah Walker doll, but it is still a complex and challenging undertaking, so it’s nice to know that you will have some help along the way if you need it:) I have also started a class member only Ning site, with bonus materials, extra photos and the opportunity for you to interact and “converse” with other class members.
Read More About Alabama Babies
The Alabama Baby Indestructible Doll 1899-1932 by Bonnie Gamble Ballinger
Freeman’s Dolls For Collectors – Encyclopedia American Dolls by Ruth S. Freeman
American Rag Dolls – Straight From The Heart by Estelle Patino
A Celebration of American Dolls From The Collections Of The Strong Museum by Dorothy A. McGonagle
A short Alabama Baby love story: As a romantic footnote to this posting I have to add that my husband, Brian, gave me my first Alabama Baby as a Christmas gift. I was so utterly captivated by that original doll that he searched for others, which he presented to me on subsequent Christmases and birthdays, interspersing them with several Martha Chase dolls. Just another reason why Alabama Babies are dear to my heart 🙂
I’ve always been rather fond of rick rack. It reminds me of my childhood. The dress I wore to my first day of kindergarten was trimmed with white rick rack and I remember seeing it on countless aprons and kitchen curtains during my youth.
In truth, rick rack or waved braid, as it was first known, has been in existence far longer than I have. 🙂 I haven’t been able to track down an exact date yet, but it was certainly available when this papier-mache milliner’s model was made in the 1830’s.
The waved braid on the dress above is an exact color match to the dress fabric. Both the braid and fabric are cotton and I am speculating that they were dyed to match. The dress is original to the doll. Three rows of waved braid circle the skirt and the bodice is adorned with a lavish combination of braid and knotting.
By 1882, when the following paragraph from The Dictionary of Needlework was published, waved braid was certainly common place and was being used to trim children’s clothing. It’s not a far leap from children’s garments to doll clothes, which explains why waved braid is often seen on doll clothing from this era.
“There are also waved cotton braids, used for trimming children’s dresses, which are sold by the gross, cut into lengths. The numbers are 11, 17, 21, 29, and 33. There are also waved worsted braids for children’s use, which are sold in knots of 4 or 5 yards each, and sold by the gross pieces. The numbers are 13, 17, and 21.”
In the 1880’s it was also popular to do crochet work using waved braid. Some fantastic laces can be created in this manner. I don’t crochet, but if you do and would like to read more about how to make this type of lace, follow this link.
No matter what name you call it by, waved braid, snake braid, corrugated braid, rick rack ( alternately ricrac, ric-rack or ric rac) is a very authentic choice for trimming historically accurate, mid-1800’s reproduction doll clothing.
Last month, when I went to the Harwinton (CT) Antiques and Design weekend, I happened across this fantastic portrait. At the time I had just spent several days painting scallop topped boots on what felt like an entire army of tiny feet and sewing yards and yards of gathered white ruffles and lace. Finding this painting felt like the hand of fate.
We’ve hung the portrait in our parlor, so that she over looks the wing-back chair and Sheraton sewing table, where I sit in the evenings to do my hand sewing. That way whenever my thread tangles, I have to rip out stitches, or just generally need a bit of encouragement, I can look up for inspiration. This tiny girl is a gentle guide to the look and feel of long past childhood, that I strive to convey in all of my dolls. I am so happy to have found her!
Last month, while in Kirkland, WA for a family wedding, I had the chance to visit the Rosalie Whyel Museum in neighboring Bellevue. Sadly the museum will be closing in a few months on March 1st, 2012.
If you can get to the museum before it closes, do so! The collection is wonderful. The highlights for me are the two Izannah Walker dolls, a lovely pre-patent doll dressed in red wool challis, with a trunkful of belongings and a tiny 13 inch patented doll with the molded shoulder-plate. The wooden dolls are also amazing, especially one 24 inch George II era English wooden from 1750-1760 with a large original wardrobe of superbly sewn garments.
Brian was quite a good sport about the length of time I spent in the gallery that houses both the Izannahs and woodens. About the time that I was performing a host of contortionist movements, in an effort to see the seams and hems of the clothing on the Izannahs and George II wooden, he laid down on a bench in the gallery for a brief nap. No, I’m not kidding 🙂 – it was a very slow day and we were the only visitors. Since he was occupied, if not terribly comfortable, I felt free to sketch and make notes to my hearts content.
The day following our museum tour we headed over to Rosie’s Too , which is a second, off site, collectible doll shop owned by the museum. I found a cute, tiny black bisque baby doll and an antique chemise just the right size for one of my Izannahs.
If you can’t visit in person, the museum sells a book entitled The Heart of the Tree, which chronicles their 2002 exhibit of the same name. It’s a lovely book and I didn’t mind paying the $49.95 cover price, but I do wish that it included the fantastic 24 inch 1750-1760 doll that I mentioned above. I had to make do with buying several postcards of her and her wardrobe. They also sell a small paperback souvenir book about the museum called Rosalie Whyel Museum of Doll Art Opening Our Doors to You for $11 or $12, which has a nice photo of their pre-patent Izannah. I did not buy their larger book “THE ROSE UNFOLDS”
RARITIES OF THE ROSALIE WHYEL MUSEUM OF DOLL ART Volume One. It wasn’t so much the $79.95 price tag as it was the size and weight of the book. I just couldn’t face dragging it around Washington, then on to California and finally back to Connecticut 🙂 I may have to break down and purchase it a some point, because it does have large lovely photographs of both of their Izannah Walker dolls.
You can also find photos of both the Rosalie Whyle Izannahs in the article “Izannah Walker – Godmother to Cloth Doll Makers” by Susan Hedrick, Soft Dolls & Animals, Summer 1998 and a photo of just their pre-patent Izannah in “Early American Stockinette Dolls: Part 1- Izannah Walker and Martha Chase Dolls” by Judy Beswick, The Cloth Doll, Fall 1998.
If you would like to read more about the museum there is a nice article on page 14 of the July 2011 issue of Antique Doll Collector.