I find the dentist stressful under the best of situations, and recently had a more-stressful-than-normal visit. I tried to help my mind go to a “happy place,” like a favorite hiking spot, but strangely enough, where it went was…lazy daisy stitches. Yep, that’s a weird, random thing, especially for someone that doesn’t do a whole lot of hand embroidery, but as strange as it was, seeing the needle pulling thread through the fabric and forming each little flower petal in my mind was completely absorbing and I could ignore everything else.
I came home and started a project, based on a 1930s Patsy dress, and this morning, when our school district announced a two-week closure, I sat down and focused on nothing but lazy daisies and French knots and finished it.
If you are stressed right now, maybe this will help you too.
Go find a scrap of white/solid-color fabric in your stash and a few yards of embroidery floss and get started embroidering this collar. Make sure to leave enough extra fabric around the design to cut out the collar later – maybe about 4″ all around measuring from the center of the biggest flower. We’ll make the rest of the dress (to fit 18” dolls) and there will be a more complete post next week!
You might remember from the poll a couple of months ago that
I had a ton of ideas for the sew-along this year and asked for your input but
was going to leave it a surprise. Time
for the big reveal! You had lots of good
suggestions, but one person suggested Shirley Temple dolls. I sort of left that at the back of my mind,
because the dolls are vintage, were made in lots of sizes, and can be hard to
find. One point of the SSA is for lots
of people to participate, so it didn’t seem possible.
Some of the things
that really stuck out from the comments were that you wanted boy stuff, but
also lots of other sizes, and Sasha came up often. I had some majorly ambitious plans for that,
but as you might guess, it can take weeks-months to plan, draft, sew, take
pictures, and pattern-ify everything for a major multi-week sewing series like
the SSA. As I was starting this process,
my stepfather had a heart attack, and instead of drafting and sewing, I spent
spring break worrying and then driving home to be with my family. After that, my mom decided to move to
Colorado, so then instead of sewing, my amazing husband and I have been
spending all our weekends and after-work hours for the last month looking for a
place for her to live, then fixing up said place. The next step that we’re currently in is to
get everything downsized, then packed up and moved across the country.
There are times you need a break from all of life’s stresses
and and just want to sew something that’s not too difficult but still gives you
a nice sense of accomplishment of a completed project when you’re done. I thought I could handle resizing, but not
drafting from scratch, and looking at my new Natterer Starlette doll something
clicked into place…“starlet”…movie star…SHIRLEY!
My model is a Natterer Starlette, and I sized everything for
her, but it will also fit Sasha and
other slim 16” dolls, with some shortening of skirt hems if
desired. Most things (although maybe not
this week’s) should resize easily by copying at 77% for 13”-14” dolls like Hearts
for Hearts. Just like last year, I’ll
leave each pattern up for free download for a day and after that it will be
available on etsy in both slim and AG sizes.
A major change this year:
In the past, the SSA has been “finish-it-post-a-pic-a-week” and then if you complete everything you get an additional pattern emailed. Things are different this year for a couple of reasons. The first is, my husband reminded me that as participation grows from year to year (yay!) the least fun part of the SSA for me has become emailing and re-explaining over and over how to upload pix, dealing with mis-typed email addresses, people missing deadlines, asking for extensions, etc. The other issue that’s pretty major is that we always used Flickr in the past. They have changed their policy recently and now you’re only allowed a limited number of photos on a free account, so people may not want to upload there anymore. You definitely CAN (here’s the link: https://www.flickr.com/groups/2825314@N20/ ) or you can post on Instagram, which my niece claims she’ll help me figure out, and tag it with #jenwrenne.
How popular were the Shirley dolls?
In the 1936 Sears catalog, she was called “The World’s Most
Popular Doll” based on a claim that almost 1/3 of the dolls sold in the US the
previous year were Shirley Temples. I’d
be very curious to find out what her sales were in the rest of the world –
probably not nearly that high but “World’s Most Popular” makes for good
advertising, even if that claim is a little outrageous. 😉
The first Sears ad for her seems to have been in 1935, where
she was advertised as the “Only Original Shirley Temple” and the same doll was
sold in 4 sizes – 13”, 16”, 18” and 20”.
That’s unusual today, but was common from the early days of bisque dolls
with composition bodies through about the 1950s, for example, Toni dolls were
made in P90-P93 sizes, with the bigger ones being more expensive. Shirley’s price was quite high at $2.89 for
the 13” size and $5.79 for the 20”. As a
comparison, some other composition dolls of about 12-14” in that same catalog
started in price from about $0.25 and a 24” composition doll with a human hair
wig on the same page as Shirley was just $1.98.
Estimates around the internet vary, but the average yearly wage at that
time might have been around $1600, which I divided up by 260 work days/year to
give an average daily wage of $6.15. You
could further divide that by 8 hours into about $0.77 an hour. So, using that math the largest Shirley cost
maybe 7.5 hours of work for the average person.
What made Shirley so popular?
Mass advertising didn’t really come into its own until TVs
invaded every American living room and convinced children to beg their parents
for specific toys. But I’ll speculate on
a few things that may have made Shirley dolls so popular. First was the novelty of movies. In a world where we can instantly stream
hundreds of thousands of movies on our phones/devices anytime, it’s hard to
imagine what movies were like in the 1930s.
You may have had a radio at home to listen to in your jammies, but
movies were something special – an exciting event you had to go to the theater
to experience. In addition to being
cute, Shirley was a talented little girl who also sang and danced! It’s interesting to note that a lot of the
movies cast her as a child suffering a somewhat sad plight, for example, an
orphan, but everything always finished well in the end. This probably helped evoke emotion in the audience, as they first felt
sympathy for the poor little orphan, then happiness when things went well for
her. I personally like movies with happy
endings, and for a nation suffering through the Great Depression, this kind of
movie would undoubtedly have raised peoples’ spirits.
Another contributor to the doll’s popularity was probably
catalogs. Sears and other companies’
catalogs were the closest thing to internet shopping sites of the day, and they
did their best to get those catalogs into as many homes as possible. That catalog might have had a prominent place
in a farm home, as my great aunt recalled from her 1920’s childhood. When her doll’s head got broken by being
stepped on by a cow, her mother “took down the catalog” and said they would
“send for a new one.” This shows “the
catalog” was a connection to all the material goods a family could need/want,
even if they were far from a store that could supply those goods. When I think that the same catalogs with
pictures of Shirley dolls were in millions of homes across the country, I don’t
doubt that little girls or maybe even their parents, came home from the movie
theater after seeing the latest Shirley Temple “picture” on the silver screen and
wanted to hold on to some of that magic themselves. What better way than reenacting your favorite
movie scenes with a doll?
Shirley’s popularity in the form of both dolls and movies
remained strong for decades, and during that time several pattern companies
produced patterns for Shirley dolls in many different sizes; if they didn’t
specifically mention Shirley, they might have some kind of text saying they fit
Doll trousseaux, or
complete sets of clothing, are not new; people have been creating them probably
for as long as they’ve had time and resources to create them for dolls. Patterns for complete doll wardrobes were
available from at least the Edwardian era on, and I love seeing what was
considered an important part of a doll’s trousseau in different time
periods! This particular one included:
Combinations (one-piece undies and slip)
Dirndl (jumper) and blouse
In this pattern set, there are some challenging elements to some of these garments that make them not quite “quick and easy.” I really enjoy vintage patterns, and although in come cases I’ve simplified the construction of these to bring them more in line with modern sewing techniques, it’s fun to see how details differed from era to era and experience that connection with the past by doing things in an authentic way. I’ll try to note the changes from the originals wherever it’s necessary. In the case of this week’s combinations, the original had a one-piece back with a slashed and hand-rolled hemmed opening, which I changed to a 2-piece for ease of construction.
Spring is my favorite season of the year! The birds singing, the snow melting, and colorful bulbs pushing up through last year’s leaves make it a magical time. It might even BE spring where you live, but where I live we apparently have a few more months to wait. And what better way to wait than sewing a dress your dolls can jump into as soon as those crocuses come up?
Maybe it’s because of the abundance of pastels in 1930s prints, but to me many 1930s styles seem “springy” and this dress, shown on a Maplelea Friend doll is no exception:
It’s based on a Bleuette dress from May, 1933, and has been resized to fit Maplelea/AG. What originally attracted me to it was the lovely cross stitch motifs, but it’s a nice, basic pattern that could work for a lot of modern outfits too!
Make it in T-shirt fabric, iron on a glittery motif and wear with leggings. Find a fabulous print and take it to the next level with ruffles/ribbon/rickrack. More ideas are in the pattern.
They are all very cute, but at $48, not exactly an impulse buy. Is there one you like enough to want to see it appear here as a pattern? Go check them out, then come back here and vote below for your fave. Stay tuned to find out the winner! (poll closes in a week)
It’s Spring! Which means a lovely free Spring pattern AND a new ebook full of Spring and Summer sewing fun!
Designs for this ebook were inspired by vintage pattern illustrations, and drafted to fit a large variety of vintage and modern dolls including (by request) American Girls! Fitting instructions are provided to help you adapt to different dolls, and separate sizes and are included for each dress to fit 16-18” dolls like: Sasha, Kidz n Cats,Patsy Ann, Patsy Joan, Effanbee American Child/Anne Shirley, Magic Attic, Journey girls, American Girls, etc.
These dresses can be made as modern or vintage/heirloom as you’d like. Choose batiste or linen with hand embroidery for an heirloom look, or (as shown below) they are lovely in cotton solids or reproduction 30’s quilting prints There are 7 multi-sized dress patterns as well as bloomers in the collection, and best of all they are mix and match friendly, so you can swap most collars and sleeves for a different look. Machine embroidery designs are also available (in .pes format only) Just put a note to seller in your order and I will include them with the book for free! All 7 dress patterns, in multiple sizes plus bloomers are $25 (which is a really good deal!) but if you are a blog subscriber you can get it for 20% off until the end of March. Subscribe to the blog and use the coupon code blog20 during your etsy checkout. You can get the ebook here
When you’ve made them all and have lots of scraps, your dolls can have a quilting bee!
Pattern for the (easier than you think!) Dresden plate quilt coming next month…
One of my favorites in this collection is the one Kit is wearing on the left,
based on a Bleuette dress from 1936. The original was suggested to be made in yellow wool, but I chose to use the buttons as a focal point, and make it reminiscent of one of my favorite childhood outfits (made with love by mom!).
And to get your dolls ready for Easter, help them dye “eggs” (buy wooden or papier mache ones and paint them) and get some small-size chocolate bunnies to tuck in their baskets. THERE’S A PATTERN HERE to make little bunny or chick puppets you see above to tuck in the baskets as well. If you don’t celebrate Easter, shorten the ears to make them teddy bear puppets!