Dolly Spa Days & A Problem

So I’ll start with the good news and get progressively worse. Rosie’s been unsettling me, because the wig just wasn’t right for her, and I thought perhaps the whole doll was wrong. Maybe the MG mold isn’t right for her. Back when I had the 20% off coupon remember, I bought a #61 to steal the hair for her, and finally got around to putting it on her.


She now looks exactly how I wanted her to look. I had been debating giving her slightly darker hair because in the story she has more of an auburn-brown color, but hot damn I love the way this girl looks. Pretty but fiesty.

Another thing I did was start tightening limbs. I completely restrung Kit, and it’s the first time I’ve actually restrung anyway. It went ok. Stressful until I figured out what I was doing. Now I’m not totally thrilled with how tight I got her, but considering her arms and legs were falling off, it’s definitely an improvement. I need to order more supplies because at least Ellen and Nellie have some work they need done too, and I’m guessing I’ll get better at it as I go. I’d hate to have to restring everyone constantly, but if it takes some trial and error to get it perfect, it’s not that big of a hassle.  So that’s the medium news.

And now the bad news. I found an eyeless #38 head on eBay not too long ago for like $12 and immediately snatched it up, thinking of poor Ellen’s repainted face. Yes, she was my first custom, and was clearly done by someone who does not know what they’re doing. In person she’s always been very cute but he face paint doesn’t photograph well. I was super excited by this find and figured it would be a painless swap.

First, the head arrived and some marks were more noticeable than I’d seen in the pictures, though the seller did mention the marks. But none of it was too bad. $12, remember

But I got the new eyes in and you can probably see the problem.The eye sockets have been so stretched out by whatever the first owner did that the eyes won’t sit properly in them. Too much white shows around the iris, giving her a weird spacy look.

I’m trying to live with it, I really am. Change is always hard, so I’m trying to give myself some time to get used to it and maybe it won’t bother me so much. But every time I look at her, it feels like my cutie munchkin girl has turned into a zombie. And when I’m also debating renaming her, it just feels like too much. I’ve tried everything to get the eyes to sit in the sockets better, but they just won’t go any lower without the metal showing. I may give it one more try and then a few days… and I guess if I can’t live with it, I either put her eyes back in the old head or try some swapping with that #61. I’ve been debating giving Ellen green eyes anyway since Rosie has brown eyes too… but then I’d need to paint new freckles, and that doll has the skinnier face when I’m so used to Ellen having a cute round face. GAH, I’m just so angry about this head. 😦


Merry Christmas from the family

In chronological, meandering order with some modern girl bookends:

Tinuviel, Evelyn, Delaney, Kaya, Rosie, Felicity, Vivienne, Caroline, Josefina, Ellen, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha, Nellie, Rebecca, Kit, Molly, Emily, Nina, Maryellen, Melody, Ivy, Kanani, Flora, Lenore on the right, and Margo on the left!

I wasn’t going to do a full family photo, especially because I’m about to get a new girl (yikes) and because I’ve hit the point where full family photos feel… I don’t know, sort of braggy? Or they at least leave me feeling a little bit overwhelmed with how big my collection has gotten I think 20 dolls was the point to me where I went holy cow, I’ve got a lot of dolls. As you’ll see, I’ve made some changes, tucked some dolls away (sorry, Peter!) There will always be dolls I love and want, but I think after I get the new goty, new dolls are going to have to wait for a good long while. I am very, very fortunate to have added so many girls to my family and yes, I’ve been collecting for a long time (I got Samantha 21 years ago!) I think I’m at a good point to sit back and enjoy all the beautiful girls I have!

Photographing this year was pretty difficult as it’s been raining all week so what little light I usually have was even worse than usual, and my phone camera was doing a poor job.

And of course one of my trusty sidekicks helped oversee the photoshoot, made sure everyone was looking where they were supposed to, stitched up any wardrobe malfunctions…

Preparation… yowsa.

A break from doll clothes 

I was needing a bit of a break from sewing doll clothes but still wanted to be crafty. So I’ve been knitting, which I’ll post soon, but I also sewed some other things. I’d made a knitting needle case and felt like doing some more simple things so: viola, a Christmas duvet cover or blanket and some pillows.

The duvet cover is thick enough it could be it’s own blanket but I do want to make a dolly duvet that I can change out the covers on. The pillows are the exact shade of fabric my grandmother’s pillows are and are even extra long. Obviously I’ll need to make some pillowcases to go with them too! 

Happy birthday, Ellen!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’d like to dedicate some special time to each doll around their birthday to make sure no one is getting left out, and because in general I want to do more individual doll stuff but also find it a bit overwhelming.

In theory, great. In practice, much tougher when you have a full time job and a baby. Ellen’s birthday came up first, and while I would have really liked to take her out to some historic Boston landmark since she’s my historic Boston girl, it just didn’t happen because her birthday fell on a rainy Thursday and I didn’t plan ahead to do it last weekend. 😡 Oops! An additional excuse for this lackluster photoshoot is that there really isn’t anywhere good at my house to shoot. My backyard is tiny and surrounded by neighbors and chain link fence, and inside my apartment is crowded with poor lighting. It’s the whole reason I got the lightbox, and now I’m realizing that long term it’d make sense to get some more backgrounds.

So in the end, this is a very simple and unimpressive photoshoot. But that combined with her new purple dress and photos yesterday, and me doing some writing on her story (which I won’t post here because it’s work on her grown up story, not her child story), I don’t think it’s such a bad birthday for her.


A little bit more about Ellen then, some of which will be recap. Mary Ellen Templin (TOTAL COINCIDENCE that AG later released a Maryellen…grrr) was born in 1830 near Galway, Ireland, the youngest of a large family (three elder brothers and two elder sisters) of tenant farmers. Mary Ellen knew little of life before famine hit Ireland, though she considered her early childhood warm and loving and happy. The famine years brought great difficulty as her family fought to survive against starvation, exposure, and disease after losing their land. Finally, after several family deaths and unsure how much longer the famine would continue, the remaining members of Ellen’s family began to flee Ireland through various means. Ellen’s mother and grandma managed to get her into an adoption program in Boston, off to be the new daughter of Catherine and Matthew McLeskey in 1849.

Irish nightclothes in an old chemise of mama’s and with grandma’s broach

Catherine, the daughter of local Boston politicians, and Matthew, a businessman and entrepreneur who’s done well for himself. They have two grown sons and always wanted a daughter but have accepted there won’t be another baby in their future. Their view of Ellen’s Irishness is complicated. They take her to Protestant church and change her name to Ellen Catherine McLeskey and at first want her to completely forget her previous life in Ireland. Over time they all come to better terms, and eventually Ellen finds her way to balance the poor Irish farmgirl of her past and the wealthy Boston doll she is now.

Until she gets older and tragedy strikes again but that’s a later story. 🙂

Ellen’s Easter dress was a way overzealous early sewing project. Notice the Catholic cross, another valuable heirloom from Ireland.

Ellen’s personality is shy with streaks of daring bravery. A lot of her shyness stems from uncertainty about her new life and her place in the Boston world, as she’s very aware though not usually ashamed of her differences –her wild hair, her freckles, her accent. She develops a love of reading and wishes to travel the world, an idea put into her head by Gabriel, her brother’s best friend back in Ireland who turns up in Boston after stowing away on a ship. She’s naturally polite and orderly and strives to do well but finds her voice as she grows and will question the status quo when she sees injustice. She is overall optimistic, something even the famine didn’t destroy in her, and kind-hearted and very, very fond of hot cocoa.

ellen5When all I’d done was rewig her and wasn’t sure about her time period yet. Yikes, that pale face!

In terms of the doll, so much of her is in homage to my family, as I’ve got Irish on both sides. Her names are all family names, and even her brown eyes-red hair combo (rather than the more common red hair with blue eyes) is after my mom’s and grandpa’s coloring. I’ve been fascinated by the Irish potato famine since I was a little girl, and upon moving to Boston grew to appreciate too the city’s history in the 1840s and 1850s, so of course the first custom I ever did would be a doll exploring those things.

I hadn’t realized until right now that actually Ellen is one of my older dolls in general. That Kirsten isn’t with me anymore, so other than my childhood dolls (Sam, Kit, Josefina), Felicity is the only one in my collection older than Ellen!

Ellen is much prettier in person than she usually photographs. She was my first little ragamufin custom doll, and there’s still some work that needs to be done on her (her eyelids need repainting and her legs are LOOOOOSE.) I’ve never been totally satisfied with her face paint and yet somehow it suits her. I’ve had great fun making and collecting pieces for her wardrobe, which spans really the late 1830s to the mid 1850s. In Ireland she would have worn mostly hand-me-downs and the quality would have deteriorated during the famine, whereas in Boston she’s at the very front of the fashion curve since her family has money, has always wanted a daughter to spoil, and they live in a harbor city so near Europe. Her hair does have a side part, which was not the fashion then. But her hair is wild and unruly, a key trait in her story, and it makes sense to me that trying to part it in the middle as was the fashion just didn’t go well.


For her birthday, I photographed Ellen with her Papa’s fiddle and potatos, but in her pretty red birthday dress (which is Cecile’s fancy dress and one of my favorite dresses American Girl ever released). Though fiddling would not be considered appropriate for a woman in Ellen’s time, her father had taught her to play and so she was given his fiddle to take with her after he passed away.


As for the potatoes, it was not the blight and famine alone that caused such a catastrophe in Ireland in the 1840s, but a much larger problem with how England viewed and treated Ireland, and how the country was structured as a tenant system. Actually a great deal of potatos were grown during the famine, some say enough to have staved off the famine for most of those years. However, the potatoes not affected by blight were shipped off to England and there was not enough money in Ireland to buy their own crop back.

New school dress but no lips yet!

Of course, there was more to it than even that. I could write a whole series on the  Irish potato famine and the religious and political factors that went into it, creating one of the largest diasporas in history and one that had a great impact on the development of the United States and Australia both. If you’re interested in reading more about it yourself, Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850 by Susan Campbell Bartoletti is one of my absolute favorite references.

IMG_9776Caroling with Josefina

Happy birthday, Ellen!


Ellen’s Purple Dress

As promised, I have photographed the redone Marie-Grace’s meet dress. And I have to say, I like it even better on! However… it does not work with the crinoline. I think it’s extremely lame for American Girl to release undergarments that don’t actually fit the clothing, and I wish now I’d photographed wihout it. Uh well, too late.


Look how wonky that crinoline made the too-tight skirt!!


The white background looks terrible, but oddly enough, Ellen looks better in these photographs than I think she’s ever looked. She’s a pretty doll in person, but doesn’t tend to photograph well.

Ellen’s birthday is coming up TOMORROW, and I’ve decided that one way to make sure my dolls don’t get lost with there being so many of them is to give each some special focus around their birthday. Originally I’d thought “Oh, I’ll go do big photoshoots with each one!” but I have a baby and a full time job so that’s just not realistic. But I can certainly do something to celebrate each one.

So these pretty portraits are part one of Ellen’s birthday celebration, with her actual birthday post tomorrow!

School Photos 2016

My apartment has TERRIBLE lighting. You’ll have noticed almost all my doll photos are taken in the same place, which is actually in the entryway against a wall where we sort of get a little light in the late morning. If it’s sunny. And the actual lights in the apartment are harsh and yellow. So I decided to investigate a lightbox kit and it turns out they aren’t so expensive! $30 for a box, several colored backdrops, and two lights! And what better way to start familiarizing myself with it than doing class photos? I’ve been meaning to more standardize my “Crew” page for a while.


It’s been several years since I’ve done individual portraits of all the dolls. I’ve done a group shot more recently, but there’s been turnover since then. For a number of reasons though, the group isn’t likely to expand any time soon (it’s highly likely I’ll be bringing GOTY 2017 home but that’s about it). We’re trying to save up for a house! Also, taking these pictures really cemented with me how HUGE my collection is. My collection has grown VERY rapidly in the past few years, and I think it’ll be good to just enjoy what I’ve got for a while. (Yes, I have said this all before. But I mean it this time! More importantly, I want a house!!)


Anyway, on to the photos. Some of the girls definitely presented a challenge. Clothing had a big impact on how the dolls photographed; I discovered this when I changed Ellen’s and Ivy’s clothing and found the lighting worked much better for them. Some dolls gave me a perfect photo from shot one, while others I’d take a dozen and finally just have to settle.


You’ll also notice breaking news. Elizabeth is gone; I spent my whole vacation thinking she just wasn’t right. Instead she’s now Pippa, my English Regency girl! And the modern girls who weren’t SUPPOSED to stay have names and let’s face it aren’t going anyway.

Now without further ado (and then off to redo the crew page!)

I also decorated the dollhouse for Halloween… I’ve put most dollhouse work on hold just because space is at such a premium right now since all the girls have to fit. My dollhouse is a big part of my real house daydreams, when I’ll be able to expand and the girls will all have a lot more room! But recent dollhouse questions made me realize I hadn’t photographed it in a while either, so here’s where it is right now… pretty crowded!


Of course Kaya, not pictured, is on her shelf where she gets all the elbow room she wants.

My one regret with these pictures is that I decided to use my phone instead of my big camera. I thought “well, my phone photos usually look great, and they’re plenty for a blog.” However especially the group photo wound up pretty grainy when you start reformatting. Uh well. Next time. Maybe Christmas? We’ll see!

And thus concludes the doll portraits! All in a day’s (ok 2 days) work! Now to reorganize the crew page. Gotta love organized formatting!!!

Ellen’s Yellow & Green Dress

I bought this fabric ages ago and have been saving it because I absolutely love it and wanted to make something special with it. I’d intended it for Tinu but lucky Ellen stole it away when I stumbled across the Heritage 1850s Summer In Blue Dress pattern, especially since I still have about 99 yards of that green woven fabric that needs to get used up.

What can I say? The pattern was easy to follow, although I messed up the lining like I ALWAYS do because I didn’t read ahead, and I didn’t encase the seams on the skirt ruffles because I’m lazy and was tired of sewing with the green fabric. I actually ran out of the pretty yellow and green one and so the underskirt is green, but I might have done that on purpose anyway!


Did I mention there are ruffles? Lots of them. I’m glad gathering has gotten easier over time because boy is it the #1 thing to do in doll clothes.

IMG_5714Ok, I’ve got nothing more to say for once. This was one of the least eventful things I’ve ever made. I didn’t notice until just now that I didn’t make a colored sash. I might hunt down some green ribbon at a later date; I’m sure not using the green fabric to make it!


It’s a very fitted bodice on my fatty PC doll!


My dog Nellie wanted to be in on the fun. Watson was actually sitting pressed against my back as well. Heaven forbid I do anything without them!