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Topic: SCA toddler dolls  (Read 4393 times)
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« on: December 28, 2012 03:12:24 AM »

I used to organize a gift exchange for the kids in our local S.C.A. group every December.  I always tried to have a couple of "just in case" gifts set back, so if a kid didn't show up the one (s)he was supposed to give to wouldn't be disappointed.  The last year I did that, I made these dolls. 

I wanted them to be suitable for the widest possible age range, so I made them to "toddler doll" standards--small enough for a small child to comfortably carry, with no easily-detached parts that constituted a choking or strangulation hazard.  To make them appropriate for use at S.C.A. events, I avoided obviously modern materials and visible machine stitches.  The only rag doll from a pre-modern setting of which I could find a photo dated to between the 1st and 5th century C.E., and the only simple doll clothes to somewhere between the 7th and 9th.  I wanted to make playthings better suited to the (much later) theme of the event, so I kept in mind the characteristics of those pieces and the art and clothing of the later period, and made something new that I thought was reasonably plausible.

The outer fabrics are all linen.  The stuffing is mostly raw wool roving, though I rolled up some linen scraps to strengthen the necks and keep them from flopping.  Linen is much harder to dye than wool or silk, so it's unlikely that medieval doll makers would have the kinds of rich, saturated colors in linen that I used.  But the dolls were made from scraps left over from our garb, and I could never afford enough tropical-weight wool in pretty colors to clothe my family effectively, so I compromised by using period colors and period fibers and just accepting that the two probably weren't available together before the advent of acid dyes.  All the embroidery was done with wool or silk, and the construction stitches with flaxen thread.  (It's not linen 'til it's woven into fabric.)

The faces are very closely based on some I saw drawn in 13th- or 14th-century manuscripts.  (I don't now remember which ones.)  I knew that if a medieval woman were going to embroider a face, she would very likely use a similar style, as the stitchers of faces I saw in, for instance, 14th-century Opus Angelicanum pieces did so.  I thought about giving him wavy Opus-Anglicanum hair, but I was running out of time so he's bald. 

Both dolls are wearing pretty standard four-gore tunics, though his gores only go to his waist and her side gores go all the way up to her armpits.  I didn't bother with underarm gores, since their arms don't really raise anyway (no joints).  His has a strip of long-armed cross-stitches near the bottom of each sleeve and is closely whip-stitched around the neck in the same color.  He wears it belted with a braid of embroidery thread.  Hers has applied bands of contrasting linen (selvedge leftovers) at neck, cuffs, and hem.  She wears it loose.

She has a wimple and veil of white linen (the former integrated with her head for simplicity's sake, the latter attached with a couple of stitches at the sides of her neck).  Her skin (like his) is unbleached linen, so the wimple is visible as such.

The colors are truer in the main photo, above. I had trouble getting a close-up that didn't wash out the distinction between bleached and unbleached linen; it's less subtle in person.

He has a a simplified hood with a line of decorative back-stitching along the hem.  He's "wearing" hosen made by the simple expedient of using blue linen to make his legs.

You can see how I used buttonhole stitching to secure the edges of my fabric everywhere I hand sewed.  That linen frayed.
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2012 04:51:36 AM »

I like them!

« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2012 04:53:08 AM »

Truly amazing.  Your handwork is incredible. Thank you for mentioning the organization and expanding my knowledge of the past.  
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« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2012 05:50:33 AM »

Your dolls and attention to detail are fabulous!

I'm former SCA (active for almost 20 yrs before Life moved me into other interests) and a local Shire used to make dolls in the likeness of the areas Peers as fundraisers. They were hilarious!

Thank you for sharing your creations. Smiley
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« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2012 12:39:18 PM »

Oh my. Did you do any patterning while you were making these. Our Barony is always looking for period toys to make to donate to the Queens chest. As the A&S minister I try and share kits with the group to help them make toys to this end. These are fine examples of exactly the type of things that are perfect.

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« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2012 12:44:23 PM »

I have also been forced by this to create another category in my pintrest of "SCA non Garb"

« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2012 04:18:11 PM »

Did you do any patterning while you were making these.

I didn't make patterns.  But I can describe the process.

I began with the faces.  As I said, I don't remember which manuscripts I took them from; Codex Palatinus Germanicus 848 and the bas de page illustrations from Manuscript Bodleian 264 would be good places to start, if you don't have your own favorites to work from.  I chose faces I liked, downloaded the pages they were on, and used photo manipulation software to crop them out, turn them greyscale, and increase contrast 'til I had something like a line drawing.  I printed that out, then used a lightbox to trace a crisp, clean copy onto typing paper, making any little adjustments I fancied along the way.  

When I was sure I had it exactly the way I wanted it, I used the lightbox again with a fine-tipped laundry-safe marker to trace the face directly onto the unbleached linen.  (Except for my using a lightbox instead of a sunny window and a modern pen instead of a quill and ink, that's a very period transfer method, by the way; lots of medieval pieces have ink lines running under the stitching, so I wasn't worried about anything "showing through".)  Then I chain-stitched over the lines, satin-stitched the colored part of the eyes, and cut around the whole in a "face shape", leaving a seam allowance.

The back of the head and the neck are, collectively, just a long, skinny, rectangle.  I determined the size thus:

  • long side: perimeter of the face + twice the length of the neck + a couple of inches (give or take. . that part needn't be precise)
  • short side: desired circumference of the neck + two seam allowances

His was the same unbleached linen I used for the face; hers was white linen (for the wimple).

I folded the rectangle in half, short sides together, and sewed down one side from the fold to the bottom.  Then I lined up the center of the other long side with the center of the the forehead and stitched them together all the way around the face (right sides together, of course.)  From where the edges of the rectangle met under the chin down to the bottom I stitched it together, forming a tube.  Then I turned the whole thing right-side-out, stuffed the head, and stuck a tight roll of linen scraps into the neck.

I ended up with a slight conehead effect; if you don't like that, you could round off the back of the head where the rectangle is folded.  I wouldn't bother to cut it, just run a line of stitches in the shape you want and let the excess fabric stay inside the doll.

The body is two more rectangles, stitched together along their short sides with a gap left in the middle for the neck to stick through.  

The arms are one long continuous rectangle.  I folded it in half, long sides together, and stitched down each short side and across the long one from each end almost to the middle, leaving a gap for turning and stuffing.  I turned it, and stuffed each end for the length I wanted to be arm.  

Each leg is two rectangles, longer than I wanted the legs to be by about three-quarters of an inch (plus seam allowances).  I stitched each pair together down one long side, across one short side, and back up the other long side.  Then I turned them, and stuffed them for the length I wanted to be leg.  Hers were unbleached linen, and his were blue (for hosen).

I arranged the body right sides out, positioned the arms as I wanted them--about an eighth of an inch below the body seam--and basted them in place.  Then I stuck the neck down through the neck hole, folded the body pieces up out of the way, and stitched the bottom of the neck very securely to the middle of the arms piece.  (No two-year-old is pulling an arm or head off one of these dolls.)  I folded the body pieces back down and whip-stitched the neck to the neck-hole, all the way around.  I used flaxen thread, 'cause I knew it'd show, and the smallest stitches I could manage.

I basted the legs to one body piece, in their proper position.  Then I turned the body pieces right-sides-together, with the head, arms, and legs between them, and stitched them together from the existing seam down, leaving a gap (big enough to admit the head) on one side.  I took care that the arms and legs were stitched in right where the stuffing ended, so there was no space for the stuffing to shift later or get lumpy.

The excess length at the top of each leg I folded down about three times and then stitched to itself and the seam allowance it'd been basted to.  (No two-year-old is pulling a leg off, either.)

I carefully turned the doll right-side-out, stuffed the body cavity, and then closed the gap with a ladder stitch.

The clothes didn't require any innovation.  The tunics I essentially made the way I made the ones my family wore, though I left off the armpit gussets and simplified the necklines.  The veil was just a rectangle of linen, sewn directly to the doll's neck on either side, and the hood was another rectangle, slightly larger than the one I used to make the doll's head, with triangular gores set in to the front and back to make it flare at the base of the neck.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2012 04:22:10 PM by Athterath » THIS ROCKS   Logged
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