Hazel Katerina Meets Miss Mie

Apologies to my faithful followers for being so long without posting. My current more-than-full-time job, along with caring for my elderly mother, leaves little time and energy for sewing and writing. I have had a post in the works now for many months on the topic of hand-sewing for dolls. It is on hold until I get my hand-sewing project finished.

In the meantime, I would like to show you Hazel Katkin’s amazing journey to Nebraska, and her unexpected visit with Miss Mie, one of the fabulous Japanese Ambassador dolls who came to America in 1927, and who now lives at Morrill Hall in Lincoln, Nebraska. Hazel is a 12 inch BJD made by Connie Lowe. She accompanied me on my trip to take my mom to visit her sisters. Hazel had bundles of fun, but the highlight (aside from getting the four sisters together after 15 years!) was getting to spend time with Miss Mie, who was, unexpected to us, on display!

University of Nebraska Lincoln Campus

Ice cream made at the U of N dairy store.

The story of the Japanese Friendship or Ambassador Dolls is amazing. The many photos that I took of this exhibit will go a long way for showing the story.

This is a miniature tea set that belongs to Miss Mie.

The artistry of creating these elegant dolls is evident in every part of their construction, including their face sculpting and painting, their elaborate furisode kimono, and their dainty accessories.

Hazel Katerina had an amazing summer holiday traveling to Nebraska. She was so pleased to visit with Miss Mie, and is happy to share this visit with you. May your summer hold happy surprises.

Stella Julianna’s Summer and the Imaginary Friend

Stella Julianna was thrilled with her new feed sack border print dress, and with her car trip in July over the Coastal Range mountains in Oregon, where she enjoyed wild daisies, foxgloves, and plenty of sunshine.

Summer had been a fun time for Stella Julianna. Even though she didn’t get to fly on a plane like Miss Ruby did a few years ago, she did get to go on some car trips with Mamma Jennie.

When they arrived at Oceanside Beach, she played in the sand and let the waves wash over her feet all the day . . .
. . . until the salty sea breeze and the shushing sound of the waves on the sand made her sleepy. She slept in the car all the way home.
Then, at the end of summer, she went camping at Ohanapecosh near Mt. Rainier. The trees were lovely, fragrant and green. Not one bear visited their campsite, and she wasn’t at all scared of sleeping in the tent with Mamma there.
Stella Julianna likes to read.

After the summer, things became quiet at home. Stella Julianna liked reading, but sometimes she got lonely in the doll’s room in her home with Mamma. All of the antique dolls that lived there too were nice and friendly, but they just weren’t as young and vigorous as she was. Miss Ruby liked to play with Little Davie on their chair, or to stitch her sampler. It was especially lonely now that there were no more summer trips in the car, and Mamma Jennie was away at her new job all day with the hazelnuts. Stella Julianna pretended that she had a friend to run and play with like Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny, or like Raggedy Ann and Andy. Her imaginary friend was smaller than her, and she had red pigtails and freckles. Sometimes she got such a determined look on her face that dimples appeared in her cheeks.

What could be in here?

One day, a mysterious box arrived on the doorstep. Mamma Jennie brought it in and set it on the bed. Stella Julianna was curious and excited. There seemed to be a magical tingling about the box.

It’s like a bedroll in here.

The box was opened and sparkles seemed to drift upward into the air . . .

Ooohhh–A little girl!

And just look who emerged from her long travel slumber in the bedroll–

It’s my imaginary friend! She’s real!
This giraffe is for you, Little Hazel. I got a giraffe when I first came to live here.

Little Hazel woke up and climbed out of her travel berth. She said, “Hello. I’m Hazel Katerina, and I’ve come from our creator mother in the Carolinas to live with you and keep you company.

Hazel Katerina looked all around the doll’s room which would be her new home. Then she looked at Stella Julianna and smiled with her big dimples. “You can call me Hazel Katkin, if you want to.”
Wanna play? Where’s your giraffe?
Stella Julianna knew with certainty that she would not be lonely that Autumn with her real imaginary friend, Hazel Katkin, there with her.

In fact, the very next day, when Mamma Jennie brought in the plants for the cold winter months ahead, Stella Julianna and Hazel Katkin went tree climbing on the dragon tree.

Serendipity was in the air along with the magical sparkles. Hazel was named by her creator mother, Connie Lowe. Just before she came to live with Mamma Jennie, Jennie started a new job which is focused on Oregon hazelnuts!

Hazel’s calling card

With this kind of magic and serendipity in the Autumn air, who knows what might happen by Yule time!

Hazelnuts in their bonnets in the Autumn
Hazel catkins appear on trees in late winter. This lovely image is by Ian Grainger.

After the Bath: Dressing the Little Bathing Dolls

Bathing Beauties: Four Baderkinder or Frozen Charlottes/Charlies enjoy their bubbles. The tallest doll in the tub is 6 inches.

A most endearing type of antique china doll are those known as Frozen Charlottes or Frozen Charlies. These dolls, which are all stationary or “frozen,” range in size from less than an inch to 16 inches or more. Some dealers will list a doll with moveable arms, usually wired, as a frozen; however, this type is not truly a frozen doll, but an all-bisque (as they tend to be bisque, and not china) if they have moveable wired-on arms. Another variable is the country of origin for these dolls. The older antiques were made in Germany, and there are vintage frozen dolls that were made in Japan. The dolls from the respective countries of origin have their own distinctive “look.”

This 3 ½” 1930’s “Made in Japan” doll is missing her arms which would be attached with wires. Because she had moveable arms, she is not technically a “Frozen Charlotte,” but rather an all-bisque.

German bathing children were made from circa 1850 to circa 1920, and were quite popular during the Victorian era. Most of the German factories that made china doll parts, including A. W. Fr Kister, Kestner, Conta & Boehme, Alt Beck & Gottschalk, Hertwig, and possibly Kloster Veilsdorf, also made the frozen dolls, which they termed “baderkinder,” or bathing children. Some of the dolls are quite recognizable for their factory of origin by their face painting, and some, especially those made later, are poorly painted and cannot be identified. It is possible that Simon & Halbig, more noted for bisque dolls, also made small frozen dolls. The frozen dolls can have bare feet or molded shoes and painted garters, arms raised or to the sides, and they sometimes have an aperture in their head to hold perfume, or a slit to be a coin bank. Some have molded features in their hair such as a colored band or ribbon, or a bonnet. Most are nude, and there are some rare ones with molded gowns, or molded swim trunks for Charlies.

One factory well known for making beautiful china bathing dolls is not among our factories listed for making china doll parts. Goebel made some bisque dolls, and they are known for their large boy bathing dolls with irises painted with spokes around the pupil. These dolls can be all white, white body with flesh tinted head, or all flesh tinted.

This 16 inch Frozen Charlie made by Goebel has a flesh tinted head and a white body. (Pinterest Photo)

The name “Frozen Charlotte” has a rather macabre origin. This name for these dolls originates from American folklore of the early 1840’s with a legend entitled “Fair Charlotte,” and the Poem by Seba Smith, “A Corpse Going to a Ball.” These tell of a young lady called Charlotte who refused to wrap up warmly to go on a sleigh ride in January to a ball because she did not want to cover up her pretty dress. When she arrived at the ball with her fiance, he found her frozen to death. This story was meant to be a cautionary tale against vanity, and it is unclear whether it is based on a true event.

These antique frozen dolls from Joy Harrington’s collection range in size from 2 inches to 7 inches. They may not be vain about their quaint antique clothing, but their humble loveliness has pulled my heartstrings! (Photo above and two below courtesy of Joy Harrington.)

Many of the bathing dolls are glazed on their front sides and have an unglazed backside or derriere with a small hole. This allows them to float front side up and to drain water after the bath. Of coarse these small-to-tiny dolls are fun to dress, too. It is more rare to find these dolls in attractive clothing of the 19th century. Usually they are found nude, in naive child made attire of the early 20th century, and often with broken limbs. Intact dolls with good face painting and original clothing are truly a delight!

Joy Harrington’s little dolls embody older hairstyles, high quality face painting, and endearing clothing.
More of Joy’s little frozen dolls show how 19th century cotton print dresses, and tiny trousers on the boys, can enhance these irresistible child dolls.

I first fell in love with Frozen Charlotte dolls after seeing Penny Hadfield’s article in Antique Doll Collector magazine, September 2015. This was the first time that I had seen the little frozen dolls in such fine quality and unusual variations. I loved the little vignettes she set up with mini tubs and wash basins.

Penny Hadfield’s 2015 article presents a collection of high quality German frozen china dolls.

Though she has some Frozen Charlottes in antique clothing as well, it wasn’t until seeing photos of Joy’s dressed frozen dolls that I decided to try dressing some of my Charlottes and Charlies. Many had been in a little bathtub for a long time, yet they had not wrinkled!

A few of my Frozen Charlottes came in antique clothing, and a few were in rather naive child-made clothing.

These two Frozen Charlottes in my collection are wearing their original antique clothing. The 5¼ inch doll on the left is dressed in blue silk with black lace trim. She has a covered wagon hairstyle, and appears to be made by Kister. The 4¼ inch doll on the left is dressed in cotton batiste with lace. She is wearing her original Victorian woven human hair commemorative cross. Her hairstyle is flat top. She may have been made by Conta & Boehme based on her eye painting with hooded pupils, but her features are too vague to be sure.
This 3½ inch doll with side parted hair, and the 2 inch covered wagon doll came dressed.

All of these dolls except for two are German frozen dolls, or baderkinder. They are picking out antique fabric and trim for their new clothes.
This tiny 5 inch Japanese ichimatsu doll is obviously not a Frozen Charlie. He is wrapped only in his signature paper, and is missing part of his left arm. I love his Taisho era boy’s hairstyle, and his open mouth.

The little ichimatsu doll pictured above has a place in this post for two reasons: First, he is a 19th century doll that was made for the Japanese market, as opposed to the many Japanese bisque dolls that were made for export, as was the all-bisque doll pictured above. Second, I purchased him with no clothing, so I needed to make him a wee kimono. This project of making tiny doll clothing was the perfect time to clothe him.

This tiny yukata (summer cotton kimono), made from a scrap of a worn out vintage yukata, turned out rather well. The obi is made of vintage cotton seam binding.
Here he is with three other small ichimatsu who are dressed in their original kimono. The doll in the back left is wearing a white silk apron in the Japanese style for children of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

And here are my Frozen Dolls after their bath with new clothing made from antique fabric. Beyond the yukata above, I made four dress variations, and the trousers and shirt. Everything is sewn by hand in this tiny size. While the clothing is fairly simple, the tricky part is fitting around limbs that are partly adhered to the body, and fitting for size in this tiny scale. What a creative challenge for those 19th century girls learning to sew for their dolls!

The largest Charlie is modeling his fabric choice, but the costume is not yet sewn. These dolls range in size from 8 inches to 2 inches.
The red dress and the trousers and shirt were made by me of antique fabric. The blue silk dress and the white batiste dress are original to the antique dolls.
The wee crochet dress is one that I purchased along with others at a doll show. It fit this Charlotte perfectly. I clothed the three other dolls here.
The doll on the left in the striped dress is really a Charlie with the Dagmar hairstyle. His dress is removeable so I can put it on another doll and make him boy’s clothes in the future. The doll in yellow is not painted. She was dug up from the factory dumping grounds in Germany. The little girl in purple is in her original child-made dress. The girl in pink has a rare Lydia hairstyle. The doll on the right is a rare one with a molded dress.

Dressing these little dolls was such a fun project for me because I was able to create with, and display on my dolls, some little bits of mostly reclaimed quilt scrap antique 19th century cotton fabrics that had been not very visible in a box.

What a cozy room for these little dolls, and a good use for some of my 1:12 scale furniture that has been stored away.

Bathing dolls, or Frozen Charlottes, are such a fun variation of china dolls to collect, display, and play with. When they are not dressed in antique fabric, or handled only by the china, they are sturdy to handle and move around. Their small size allows for collecting many that take up a small amount of space. With patience and the willingness to pay more for them, some beautiful old and well painted examples can occasionally be found on the market.

The smallest doll can offer infinite delight.

Wishing you joy and delight in your dolls.

Thanks to Joy Harrington for posting photos on FB of her antique dressed frozen dolls so that I could admire them, and study and copy the little fashions.

A Legacy of Lydia: Defining and Admiring a Rare China Hairstyle

Two reproduction Lydia china dolls, and one antique, from the author’s collection.

Recently on this blog, I explored the realm of Covered Wagon china dolls and their similar predecessors. Lydia, one of the very earliest china doll hairstyles, predates the Covered Wagon style by five to ten years.

First, it is important to realize that the German factories that originally made the glazed porcelain, or “china” dolls that we so admire as antiques now, did not name the dolls that they made. It was the early collectors of these dolls, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who gave names to the doll hairstyles as a way of having a vocabulary with which to speak about the dolls with other collectors.

As we saw in my page, “History of China Dolls,” these dolls first began to be mass produced in relatively small numbers in the 1840’s. Another hairstyle that was common during this very early era of china dolls was the bun hairstyle in several variations by the different manufacturers. One china hairstyle that is so rare that I have only seen a photo of it twice is the spaniel ears style. This style combines a cluster of long curls around the face and a bun in back. Spaniel ears was more common on the so-called milliner’s model papier mache dolls that pre-dated the chinas.

This doll from my collection, made by A. W. Fr. Kister, has waved hair covering her ears and a braided bun in back. Circa 1845.
This very early and rare brown haired china lady with spaniel ears hairstyle has long curls in front of her ears and a bun in back. She was sold on Ruby Lane long ago.

The Lydia hairstyle indicates long sausage curls all around the head and reaching the shoulders This hairstyle was popular for older girls and young ladies during the mid-1800’s. The dolls with this hairstyle were being produced from about 1845. They were definitely produced by A. W. Fr. Kister, and probably by Kestner & Co. and by Conta & Boehme as well.

This early Victorian lady wears the Lydia hairstyle. Her dress style indicates late 1840’s to early 1850’s.
This antique Lydia doll sold long ago on Ruby Lane. She may have been made by Conta & Boehme.
This gorgeous child-like antique Lydia doll with brown eyes was sold by Skinner Auctions in 2002 for $7638!

The Lydia china dolls are some of the most rare, being some of the earliest chinas when production was still low compared to that after the 1860’s. By the early 1850’s, the Sophia Smith style was being produced. This style was similar to Lydia, but with shorter ringlets that ended in a ledge above the shoulder. By the mid-1850’s, the covered wagon hairstyle, which had plain ringlets curving into the shape of the head, came into production and were more plentiful than the earlier styles. Finally, by the 1860’s, another hairstyle (not to be confused with the covered wagon), the flat top became the “plain and plentiful” china doll hairstyle.

This back view of a Sophia Smith hairstyle shows the definitive ledge of the bottom of the ringlets which is shorter than the Lydia style.
This covered wagon hairstyle doll from my collection shows how the ringlets curve with the shape of the head without the under-cut ledge.
This china shoulder-head from my collection is a flat top, and has short curls higher up on the face, which a covered wagon doll does not have.

Given that the antique Lydia dolls are so rare to find, and VERY expensive when one does run across them, the reproductions that are somewhat more readily on the market can be rather attractive. I have two reproduction Lydias in my collection now that I am rather happy with.

The doll on the left is incised NMC 1975. She is 16 1/2 inches tall, has dark brown leather arms and cloth feet, brown eyes, and a delicate face. Her complexion is white. The doll on the right is incised 1 Rossi ’81. She is 15 1/2 inches tall, has cupped china hands, flat soled china boots, and grey eyes with a stronger countenance to her face. She is pink tinted. She came dressed in a frilly purple satin dress, and I re-dressed her to my preferred antique cotton.
The two larger reproduction shoulder-heads both have a defined bust. The brown satin late 1840’s style dress on the doll on the left is so pretty and well made especially for this doll that I will not change it–exquisite! My antique Lydia is one of the oldest of this style on a wooden body. She is 9 1/2″ tall with flat red shoes, and the fingers of her right hand form a closed circle. She has been without clothing for a long time, and is glorious in her doll collector pin-up worthy nudity. (I do have a wardrobe planned for her of antique fabric.)
The A. W. Fr. Kister Lydia doll in my collection has her china shoulder-head pegged to her wooden body. Her face has a different shape from the two reproduction dolls above, and her shoulder-plate does not have as defined a bust.
This little Frozen Charlotte china doll in my collection has a Lydia hairstyle.

Lydia hairstyle china dolls are some of the oldest, most beautiful, most sought after, and most expensive of all antique china dolls. They are in the price range of thousands of US dollars. Luckily, there are some nicely made and painted professionally made reproduction Lydia dolls available. When found, they can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of an antique Lydia. When well made and nicely dressed, they blend right in with an antique collection.

A young girl from circa 1850 has a Lydia hairstyle and holds her doll.

Stella Julianna and the Herbal Apothecary

Essential oils come in different size bottles. When they are rare and expensive, a smaller bottle is often available.

Miss Jennie had been using essential oils and natural products for oh, so many years. And when she started working at a natural product farm with a gazillion different essential oils, she brought some home and made interesting and wonderful items. Of course Stella Julianna wanted to make something too!

Do I have everything?–a jar of bath salt, a dish of shea butter, a wooden box of calendula petals, a bowl of beeswax pastilles, and a bottle for almond oil.

“What does apoth-the-cary mean?,” she asked Miss Jennie. She learned that a modern apothecary is a supply of essential oils, herbs, waxes, butters, and other natural ingredients, and their organization and storage place. She thought that the colored glass jars, bottles, and crockery were very pretty.

Stella Julianna enjoyed being in the kitchen, and she was glad that there was one just her size.

Stella Julianna thought of all the wonderful things she could make with healing and sweet scented essential oils. She could make bath salts with herbs, shower melts, lip and cheek stain, lotion, hand and lip balm, whipped body butter, soap . . . She decided to make hand and lip balm with shea butter.

The Marklin stove is just what Stella Julianna needs to melt her butters and beeswax.

She needed to gently melt the ingredients to blend the butters and wax. Water in the pot under a glass cup holding the ingredients simmered gently to slowly melt them. Don’t forget to check the water level so it doesn’t simmer dry!

So many scents to choose–one essential oil, or a blend? Almond oil or apricot oil?

Now to choose the scent for the balm. Stella Julianna liked so many of the fragrances. She could use lavender and rosemary, or peppermint, or lemon, or frankincense and sandalwood, or . . . In the end, she chose cinnamon orange, and added a few drops of each to the melted wax. Now to work quickly and carefully, and get the balm into the mold before it firms up.

I made personal size balms in seashell shapes. Mmm! They smell so good, and are soft on my skin.

Stella Julianna was so proud of what she had made. The seashell balms were pretty, useful, healing, and smelled soooo good! She imagined what it would be like to be a green witch and live in a cottage by the edge of the woods. Of course, her cottage with the herbal apothecary in it would have a view of a mountain and lavender fields. Then she could wear a pointed hat like her best friend, Hazel. The kitchen clean-up was so quick that she barely had time to think about the next recipe to make.

Mt. Hood floats above lavender fields, as seen from the Oregon Lavender Farm near Oregon City in June.

Little girls love to feel useful and help in the kitchen, as in this 1930’s farmhouse kitchen.

Project in Blue Velvet: Restoring an Antique Doll’s Dress

When I buy a doll, it usually entails a project, whether or not I intended to take on more. This is because I am inclined to go for the much played-with and loved dolls, and the inexpensive variety, rather than the more expensive and elusive all-original and never-played-with genre. Such was the case with Indigo, who was a bit of an inadvertent purchase and turned out all for the good.

Indigo’s pre-purchase photo shows the extreme sun fading of her originally deep cornflower blue velvet dress.

Alt, Beck, and Gottschalk (ABG) made two types of teen or young lady dolls with fancy curl hairstyles in the 1870’s and 1880’s. The names that collectors have attributed to these hairstyles are Curly Top and Spill Curl. They were both available in Cafe au Lait or Black color. (Cafe au Lait is a darker blonde than is usually found on antique china dolls, so it is a desirable variation.) I already had Willow Rhaine in Cafe au Lait Curly Top, and Alicia Amber in Cafe au Lait Spill Curl hairstyles.

Willow Rhaine has a lovely plump-cheeked face with ABG’s signature “V” dip in her lip painting, and a fabulous cafe au lait Curly Top hairstyle.
Alicia Amber has the Spill Curl hairstyle in cafe au lait with a black painted headband molded in her hair.

The reason that I bid on this black hair Spill Curl doll is that she was priced low because of her broken and repaired shoulder-plate, and because I didn’t have a black haired variation. Honestly, I didn’t expect to win this auction, and I promptly forgot about my eBay bid, as I found some exciting offerings to consider on Ruby Lane. Therefore, I was surprised when the “You Won This Auction” email showed up in my box. And home she came, faded dress and all.

Alicia Amber and Indigo are both ABG dolls with Spill Curl hairstyles. They have slightly different expessions in their face painting.
Indigo’s lovely velvet dress is just too faded to remain attractive. Notice her adorable sky blue boots with black tassels!

Indigo’s two piece dress is actually quite lovely with a fitted bodice, cuffs on the sleeves, cream lace, jeweled buttons, and hand cross-stitched medallions around the hem of the skirt. I wanted to preserve this dress that was obviously well-made for this doll. I first tried turning the skirt back-to-front, which helped some, since the back was not faded as much, but it didn’t help enough. I talked with a fellow doll collector and seamstress friend about my dilemma, and I asked her opinion about attempting to dye the costume. She recommended using a sponge to dab dye onto the dry dress to avoid the dye bleeding onto the embroidered medallions and lace.

Starting the dye process. I placed a small amount of powdered dye in my glass cup, and added about a third of a cup of hot water, as per the dye instructions. I used a cotton square to dab dye onto the garment.

It took awhile to get this project started since I could not find blue dye in any stores in my area in the Fall or early Winter of 2020. I finally found a dye with the color name of “denim.” I estimate that the project would have taken about a week to complete, allowing time for the fabric to dry as I worked around the skirt and sleeves. However, having started a new job, I only worked on it on weekends, and so it took a month to complete.

I used a cotton swab for the delicate process of dying around the cross-stitch medallions.
Look at the difference in the color! The “denim” dye is not an exact match to the original deep cornflower, yet it is a vast improvement to the gray faded velvet.
Beginning to dye the bodice. Again, there is a vast improvement in the color of the garment.

When I was satisfied with the color all around, I let the garment dry completely. The fabric was stiff in places from the wetting. I used a small fabric brush on the skirt and bodice, which took away any crustiness, softened the velvet, and raised the pile.

Indigo is quite pleased with her restored velvet dress. The cross-stitch medallions show much better now, too.

Although the color is not an exact match, this lovely and unusual china doll now has her tailor-made indigo dress restored to elegance, deserving of her name and prominently setting off the beauty of her unusual hairstyle. I did not over-dye the areas of fabric that retained the cornflower blue color, so the coloring is a bit “patchy,” almost like blue-on-blue tie dye. The presentation of the doll is now admirable.

A happy and well-dressed doll is a joy to behold.
This fashion image from an 1870’s Godey’s Ladies Book features an elegant lady with a hairstyle in the “curly Top” style, just like the china doll of that name.

Do Sit Down: A Sheraton Sofa for the Dolls’ Rooms

If you watch or read Jane Austen novels, then you know that when a guest enters a home for a “call,” the hostess politely requests, “Do sit down.” If you are calling upon a well-to-do family, you may be shown into a parlour or drawing room with stylish furnishings. Perhaps the room will have a neoclassical sofa in the Sheraton style.

An illustration of a full size Thomas Sheraton neoclassical sofa.
An antique full size Sheraton sofa.

Thomas Sheraton lived in England through his lifetime from 1751 to 1806. He designed furniture in the neoclassical style, which was based on the revival of Greek and Roman Aesthetics, and relied on mathematical harmony and unadorned geometry. Sheraton’s furniture was a refreshing change from the ornate and elaborate styles that were popular before. His style was lighter and more elegant even than other neoclassical styles such as Hepplewhite and Chippendale. Sheraton furniture is known for its rectilinear form, exposed wooden framework, and thin legs, giving the piece a visually lighter feel. His furniture may have had a French influence.

An antique Chippendale sofa, though of a neoclassical style, is heavier in appearance, and more ornate than a Sheraton sofa.

Although Sheraton never became wealthy from his innovative furniture design, it is today considered to be a great achievement for England’s golden age of furniture. In 1791, he began publication of a four volume set of books entitled The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Drawing-Book. These books were well received and expanded the designs he presented across England, and then to the United States, where they were adopted by furniture makers Duncan Phyfe, Samuel McIntire, and John and Thomas Seymour as part of the American Federal style.

An antique Federal Style Duncan Phyfe sofa shows the Sheraton influence.

While my antique china dolls enjoy their doll’s house rooms which are furnished with some graceful and practical doll sized furniture and accessories (and some improvisations), there are some definite lacks in their furnishings. They have been shopping for a number of years for a corner cabinet, a desk with bookshelves, and a sofa. This year, lo and behold, they found the perfect sofa!

The dolls’ Sheraton sofa is 20 inches long.

This sofa is a vintage replica of the elegant Sheraton style neoclassical sofa that was widely popular in England from 1790 to 1820. What a fortunate find! It fits perfectly in size and antique styling for the doll’s house, and being of such elegant style, it brings a bit of sophistication to the otherwise provincial charm of their abode.

In this shallow-depth townhouse, the kitchen is on the lowest level with the parlour above. The ladies’ bedroom is in a separate wing. The third level holds a nursery with Quimper or Breton furnishings, and Trudy patiently instructs the little “golden girl” trio in their sampler stitching. The attic is where many more of the china dolls gather.

Several years ago, the dolls came into possession of a nice tall “townhouse” for their home, moving on from their previous tabletop dwelling. Their bed is just too wide to fit, so their bedroom is in a different “wing.” I am quite fond of the kitchen, which graduated from being a keeping room with the addition of the Marklin cooking stove a few years ago. The ladies are delighted with their collections of antique Staffordshire doll size dishes.

The china ladies are fond of spending time in the kitchen with the Marklin stove on the left. Ellen is watching the pots, while Moira has turned away to see what has caught Paloma’s attention. The drop-leaf table is set with the Lavender Leaf dishes, while the step-back cupboard holds more Staffordshire in green Dimity and a variety of blue transfer-ware.
Measure twice, cut once.

The first stage of redecorating the parlour was to empty it of all of its furnishings, then to add the new carpet that coordinates with the Sheraton sofa. In this case, the carpet is a piece of emerald green cotton velvet upholstery fabric that I had on hand (originally destined for Renn fair costuming).

The parlour redecorating is complete! Karen stands behind the Schoenhut piano to welcome guests with, “Do sit down.” Willow Rhaine is already seated, browsing the gem size photo album, while little Lizzy reaches over the sofa for her tiny frozen Charlotte Lydia doll. The emerald carpet is in place with a lamp mat rug before the sofa, and a window has been added to the west wall. The bookcase near the window is a WWII wooden ammo box with wooden push-pins and heavy cardboard added for shelves. The little books and the 1810 Staffordshire teapot fit nicely, while more Staffordshire is displayed on top.

The portraits are reproductions of antiques. The glass is curved, so camera glare is unavoidable. Aren’t they sweet?

Best of all, the portraits of the three boys have finally made it up on the back wall! I didn’t want to put pin holes in the wall, and I was able to hang the portraits on silk ribbons which fasten with pins in the crease where the shelf joins. The oldest boy, Jonathan, is a midshipman in the Royal Navy. His mother is so grateful that he came through the Trafalgar action unscathed. The two younger boys, Alexander and Jeremiah, are still in curls with ruffles on their collars, and are too young to go for sailors.

Opal has joined Willow Rhaine on the new Sheraton sofa, cuddled up to look at photographs, and perhaps to ask for a book to be read. They may listen to the intricate old-fashioned sounding melodies on the piano music box.

All is cozy in the doll’s house with the new parlour. Would you like to leave your calling card? (No mask is required in this home, as it is pre-pandemic until 1918.) Do sit down.

This late 19th century girl is sitting on a sofa with her flat top china doll. Is it a Sheraton sofa? –A distinct possibility.

Covered Wagons: Prairie Schooners and China Doll Hairstyles

A rare and early Kestner Covered Wagon china doll has pink tinted skin, brown eyes, painted lower lashes, and feathered eyebrows. Notice that her eyes remain white, though her skin tone is pink.

Most of the first settlers who came to the west coast of America arrived in covered wagons, beginning in the 1840’s. By 1871, railroads were open to California and Oregon, and migrants could travel more easily by rail than by wagon. The wagons left indelible marks in our imaginations, on the landscape, on the endurance and stamina of the migrants, and as a legacy. Part of that legacy was widespread negative repercussions for our country’s indigenous populations. One legacy that poignantly remains in a more positive light is the china doll with the hairstyle referred to as Covered Wagon.

The Prairie Schooner, America's Classic Covered Wagon
A covered wagon for westward migration deemed a “prairie schooner” because it appeared to be sailing across the waving prairie grasses.

The German factories that made the china dolls with molded hair, that we collectors adore as antiques today, did not give the dolls or their hairstyles names. Rather, it was the early collectors, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who attached descriptive names to the different styles of dolls in order to have a working vocabulary when referring to them with other collectors or historians. The Covered Wagon doll was so named because the simple hairstyle of the doll was one that became popular in the 1850’s as one easy to maintain while travelling by wagon.

This 9 1/2″ Kister Lydia hairstyle doll is a rare example on a wooden body, circa 1845.
This larger doll by Conta & Boehme has longer hair than many Sophia Smith dolls, but shorter than most Lydias. Her curls end in a ledge at her neck as is typical with the Sophia Smith style.

The advent of china doll shoulder heads for the open market was the mid 1840’s. The earliest china dolls had bun hairstyles modeled after current fashions including hair looped around the ears such as Queen Victoria’s wedding style, and spaniel ears which featured sausage curls over the ears and a bun in back. Starting about 1845, the “Lydia” hairstyle with center parted smooth hair on top and long sausage curl ringlets all around and dropping in length over the shoulders, was common for china dolls. Another similar style of about the same time is known as “Sophia Smith.” This style is like “Lydia,” except the ringlet curls are shorter at neck level, and end in an undercut ledge. The Lydia and Sophia Smith styles, as some of the oldest and rare china dolls, are scarce, expensive, and sought after by serious collectors.

This Kloster Veilsdorf doll with exposed ears, known as a Greiner type, is similar to a Covered Wagon hairstyle, yet not the same.

The first of the “plain and plentiful” china dolls was the Covered Wagon hairstyle that made its appearance in the early 1850’s. (The other styles referred to as “plain and plentiful” are the “flat top” and the “low brow” which come along later in the 19th century.) The Covered Wagon style is similar to Sophia Smith with center parted smooth hair on top and short curls around the head. The main difference is that the covered wagon curls conform to the shape of the head, tapering at the bottom, rather than having a distinct ledge as for the Sophia Smith. It appears that most of the Covered Wagon china dolls were made by Kestner & Co. and A.W.Fr Kister, while Kloster Veilsdorf made their unique variation with exposed ears known as “Greiner type.”


This beautiful Kestner Covered Wagon doll has clear blue eyes and deep red lips. She is dressed in her original black silk mourning dress which is badly shattered. She has always been a cabinet doll, never played with, as evidenced by her pristine painted hair with no rubs. Circa 1860-65.
Karen is an exceptional Kestner Covered Wagon doll with brilliant blue eyes and delicate lips. She is on a replacement body.
A very large Kister Covered Wagon shoulder-head, 7″ tall, has two-toned black and brown painted brows. The brow shape with her pursed lips give her a stern look. She is grouped with a wee dollhouse sized doll, a pink tint Kister, and a Kestner shoulder-head.
These two Kestner blue eyed Covered Wagon hairstyle china dolls, from the collection of Joy Harrington, have painted lower lashes and feathered brows, like the similar brown eyed doll shown at top and below. Mary Krombholz states in her books on identifying German china dolls that no other porcelain factory besides Kloster Veilsdorf painted china faces with eyelashes; yet she pictures a doll like these in her section on Kestner dolls, stating that it has painted lower lashes. There are, obviously, exceptions.
This beautiful rare Kestner Covered Wagon doll with brown eyes, soft leather arms, pointed cloth feet, period correct clothing, and red leather shoes dates to the 1850’s. She is 23″ tall.

  Covered wagon china dolls are some of the oldest antique dolls that are still readily available to collectors, often at a reasonable price. A fair number of them can be found with the rarer brown eyes. They carry that quintessential primitive charm, evoking the stamina, endurance, and spirit of those American pioneer women who braved the adventure of crossing this wide continent to its westernmost regions to forge a new home.

(All dolls shown are from the author’s collection unless otherwise noted.)

This mid-19th century girl is holding a mid sized Covered Wagon china doll. The girl’s hairstyle is in short cork-screws with pointed ends, similar to the doll. Her gaze is defiant, as though she has already inherited that spirit of endurance.


The Makers: A New Page

Promised long ago, here, finally, is a brief description of the seven prominent German porcelain factories that produced china doll shoulder-heads, china doll parts, and the Frozen Charlottes or full body porcelain bathing dolls.

To view this new page, just click on the link in the column on the Left.

A pink tint Kestner china doll

Coming up next will be an exciting post on covered wagon china dolls. See you soon with this story!

Rolled Cloth Dolls: An Early American Amusement

Cloth dolls have long been known to be the perennial favorites of children through the centuries. Never deeming to boast the beauty and artistry of early manufactured dolls made of wood, papier mache, china, wax, or bisque, they are nevertheless soft, comforting, and companionable to the young child. Eliza Leslie in American Girl’s Book 1831 says, “Linen dolls, when large and properly made, generally afford more pleasure to little children than those of wax, wood or composition [meaning papier mache], as they can be handled and played with freely.”

Even more prosaic are Lina Beard and Adelia Belle Beard in The Original Girl’s Handy Book, first published in 1887:

No such beautiful dolls as delight the hearts of the children of to-day ever peeped forth from the Christmas-stockings of our grandmothers or great-grandmothers when they were little girls. In those times there were not, as there are now, thousands of people doing nothing but making toys for entertainment and pleasure of the little ones, and the motherly little hearts were fain to content themselves with lavishing unlimited affection and care upon a rag, wooden, or corn-husk baby, made and dressed at home. Since then almost every child tired of, and surfeited with handsome and expensive toys, has been glad at times to get grandma to make for her a real old-fashioned dollie which might be hugged in rapturous moments of affection without fear of dislocating some of its numerous joints, or putting out of order its speaking or crying apparatus; and might in times of forgetfulness be dropped on the floor and suffer no injury thereby.

Perhaps you have a child or grandchild who would benefit from a soft doll of huggable proportions. Or perhaps you would like to add a bit of Early American whimsy to your doll collection or home.

Here are my steps for making these dolls:

Gather cotton or linen materials for making a 5″ or 8″ doll. The cotton fabric can be a fabric width of 45″ or so, and may need an insert of soft fabric, such as old flannel, to make the doll full enough. Fold and press under 1/4″ on the top edge for gathering the top of the doll’s head. The arm strips are about 3″ and 2″ for the two sizes of doll.
Roll the body fabric, keeping the top edge even. You may fold the fabric in half before rolling. Leave the outside edge longer, as the fabric will bunch a bit in the roll.
Remember to wax your thread before sewing. This helps it to pull through the fabric smoothly, and avoids tangles.
Sew the seam half way down the body from the head to the waist. Gather and sew the top of the head tightly. Wrap the waist tightly with a thread and tie off. I could not get my dolls to spread much from the waist down.
The dress is just a tube with a seam in back, hemmed, and the neck gathered in. You can sew the dress by machine or by hand. I sewed my dolls all by hand. Here are the even cartridge pleats going into the dress neckline.
The arms are rolled and the side seam sewn; then the end is tucked in and sewn shut for the hand. The arm is sewn into the gathered sleeve at the top, then sewn over the dress without making an armhole.
I drew a cheerful pencil face on my 8″ doll. I gave her a simple one-piece bonnet and a pinafore apron that is tacked on at breast and waist.
The 5″ doll does not have a face or a bonnet.
The antique doll on the left is circa late 19th to early 20th century. She has a faded pencil drawn face. Her arms are sewn to her body, her dress has real sleeves that fit over her arms, and it is removable, but sewn together in back.
The antique doll has split and sewn legs. She is made of a soft cotton waffle weave fabric with a muslin mask head. My doll is the roll all the way down. She has an antique collar half with tatting lace pinned on for a petticoat.

I hope that you will be brave and ambitious enough to make a rolled cloth doll or two of your own from the minimal instructions listed here and in The American Girl’s Book 1831. Or perhaps you can find a copy of Early American Life containing Paula Walton’s more detailed instructions. This simple doll of rustic charm is well worth the effort!