Maud Humphrey

Maud Humphrey

Monday, June 16, 2014

Engel Puppen Dolls

The latest craze in the doll world seems to be collecting "ball-jointed" dolls.  These are dolls that generally have joints in all the regular places, along with extra joints in the places that most run-of-the-mill dolls don't have, such as the knees, elbows, wrists, ankles, etc.  These joints allow the dolls to be posed in more natural, human-type positions.  Well, I have multi-jointed dolls in my collection that were made long before these types of dolls became popular.  Let me introduce a couple of them, made by the Engel Puppen doll company of Germany:
The little Bavarian boy is named "Bernard", and he was a limited edition.  I'm not sure what the little girl was originally called, but she has the "Dorothea" face mold, so perhaps that is also her name.  These dolls stand about 17" tall and have full vinyl, articulated bodies.
Bernard has sleeping, brown eyes and a lovely, blond wig made of high-quality Kanekalon.
Dorothea has sleeping brown eyes, also, and a gorgeous wig styled in snail braids.  I am tempted to take her braids down sometime, but the style is just so cute that I haven't done it yet.
Bernard is dressed like a dapper little fellow.
Dorothea has a sweet, German style dress and lace trimmed bloomers.  These are nicely sewn outfits made from quality fabrics.  They have snap closures instead Velcro.
I undressed Bernard so you could see the body construction.  Both dolls have the same style body.  As you can see, he has hinged joints at both his elbows and knees.  His ankles and wrists have rotating joints, and he can swivel at two different places in his torso.  Amazing!
He can sit just like a little human, crossing his legs and ankles.
He looks a little funny from behind, since his legs are attached more at the front of his body.
Both dolls are marked "Engel-Puppe" in raised letters on the back of their necks.  These particular jointed dolls are a very small part of what the Engel Puppen Doll company currently offers.  Most of their dolls have soft, cloth bodies with vinyl limbs.  You can view the current Engel Puppen catalog here:    The website has a detailed account of the company's history, if you want to know more.  They are not sold in the US, but I managed to get Bernard from Ebay and Dorothea at a local doll show for about a tenth of what they cost brand new!
An interesting fact about Engel Puppen is that it is the oldest doll factory still making dolls in Germany--over 100 years!  Another interesting side note:  Both Disneyland and Disneyworld used to sell Engel Puppen dolls in Geppetto's Toy shop.  You could even have a doll customized with the wig and outfit of your choice!  I remember seeing these dolls when I visited Disneyland as a little girl, but the price tag of over $100 may as well have been a million--there was no way I could have ever afforded one.  But, oh, did I love to go look at them!  I wish I could go back in time and tell my little 8-year-old self that someday I would own not only one, but TWO of these precious dolls.
I really like these two.  They fit in nicely with my other 18" type dolls, but their full-vinyl bodies and multi jointing make them a little different.  If you ever come across one for a decent price, I'd recommend buying it.  They are beautiful dolls, made with the high-quality standards for which German dolls are known.
And by the way, in case you're wondering, "Engel Puppen" translated from German means "Angel Dolls".    Appropriate, I think, since their faces strike me as very sweet and angelic.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Martha Chase Dolls

At my last doll club meeting, we studied the antique dolls made by Martha Chase.  Here is the group of Chases that is owned by various members of our club:
Aren't they sweet?  Martha Chase was an entrepreneurial woman of the late 1800's who decided that little girls needed a doll that was not only unbreakable, but also washable.  She designed and patented a cloth doll with a molded, cloth face with the features painted in oils.  Her first dolls were made in 1889, and the company continued to make dolls all the way into the 1970's.  Of course, the later dolls were made of materials other than cloth, and did not have the appeal of the earlier dolls, so I won't be talking about those.
My little Chase is on the left.
There's something so appealing about their sweet expressions.  So many of the dolls on toy store shelves today have cartoon features or vacant stares--the doll manufactures of today could learn a thing or two from these old beauties, I think.
Besides my own, this little cutie in pink is my very favorite.  She is owned by my good friend Louise, and comes in the smaller, desirable, 12" size.  Isn't she just the cutest?  The smallest size made was 8", but I think it must be very rare since nobody in my club has ever seen one.  I recently saw a very large one on Ebay that stood 29" tall.
My little cutie stands 16" tall, but she is mostly content to sit in the lap of a larger doll.  Her brown eyes are a little more rare (more Chase dolls were made with blue eyes).  Early Chase dolls are jointed at the hips, knees, shoulders, and elbows, making them very poseable.  They usually have a body stamp identifying them, but many times, as in the case of my doll, it has worn off.  However, there is no mistaking a Chase doll once you recognize them.
My large, French, papier mache doll is content to babysit my little Chase.  She does a good job, making sure baby doesn't tumble off the dresser!
I love so many of the old cloth, wax, and papier mache dolls.  In this day and age where everything is mass produced with cheap materials, they represent such a neat part of history and the women who made them with their own hands.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Wedding Sewing

We are now down to just five little chickies left in the nest since son #3 got married a few weeks ago.
Adorable couple, right?
It is strange not having him home anymore, even though at the end, between work and seeing his beloved, we really weren't seeing him that much anyway.  You spend so many years raising your kids, worrying about where they are and what they're doing every second they're out of your sight, and then--it's over.  Your parenting job with them is done.    Your heart bursts with pride seeing them get married, but it's bittersweet, because you know your life will be different now. 
We are delighted to add another, lovely, daughter-in-law into our family.  She is a jewel.
So, before I start crying because I'm spending way too much time going down memory lane and thinking about my baby boy who's now a married man, I will show you the projects I managed to sew for the wedding.
First up: a frothy, lacy dress for a certain five-year-old who had the very important job of  "flower girl" in her older brother's wedding:

The pattern for this dress was my old stand-by, Mcalls 5793. 
I fell in love with a beaded, lace fabric at JoAnn's that only cost $29.99 per yard, and knew right away it would be perfect for her dress.  I only needed 1 1/2 yards for the overlay, but still!  I NEVER spend that much on fabric.  It was on sale for 20% off  in the weeks leading up to the wedding, but I was hoping to get it even cheaper.  So I waited.  And waited.  Every time I ran into JoAnn's, I nervously checked the bridal department to see if it was still there.  What if someone bought it before me?  Finally, about two weeks before the wedding, it dropped to 30% off.  I would have liked to use my 40% off coupon, but JoAnn's won't let you use a coupon off the original price if the item is currently on sale, and I just couldn't risk waiting any longer, so I bought it. 
The lining fabric is a cream colored cotton sateen.  The dress turned out beautifully, just like I imagined it.  The sash, however, not so much.  But wait a moment-- I didn't make the sash!  It was provided by the seamstress who made all the bridesmaids' dresses.  The bridesmaids' dresses were beautiful, but the sash?  I'm not sure what the seamstress was thinking.  It was very narrow, with a seam directly up the middle, and about twice as long as it should have been.  To make it work, I had to wrap it around my daughter's waist two times.  Because it was made from a pretty silk chiffon, it drooped limply and didn't look at all like a bow should look on a little girl's dress.  I wasn't happy.  So I set out to replace it, but wouldn't you know it--the color is very obscure, kind of a cross between robin's egg blue and sea foam green--and I scoured every fabric store within a 20 mile radius, trying to find a close match in a stiffer fabric. No luck.   I resigned myself to just making do, even though the sash wouldn't lay nicely right around my daughter's waist since we had to wrap it twice.  'Sigh'.
The day before the wedding, I decided to stop by my favorite fabric store, one more time, even though I'd already checked there earlier and had come up empty handed.  And what to my weary eyes did appear?  A gorgeous, crisp taffeta in the EXACT color I was looking for, just a shade darker!  I couldn't believe my good fortune.  Had it been there all along and I had just missed it?  Or had it come in since the last time I had checked?  It didn't matter, because it was here now, and it matched, and that's all that mattered!  I was so ecstatic all the way home, but my bubble quickly burst when both my husband and older daughter pointed out that it wasn't the same color at all.
WHAT?   "Of course it is!" I protested.   "No", they both said, "it's a shade darker than the original sash.  "But it doesn't matter!" I cried.  "It's in the same color family, it'll work just fine".  But no one believed me.  And then, of course, I started to doubt myself.  But I took the fabric up to my sewing room and made the sash anyway, just like I had planned.  And then, because I couldn't stop with just a plain sash, I embellished the front with ribbon roses from my sewing stash.  Roses that were in the exact shades of creams and corals that the bride had chosen.  And guess what?  It turned out even better than I had hoped.  The bow was crisp and huge and held it's shape, just like a bow should on a little flower girl's dress.  And the silk roses added the sweetest pops of color.  I thought it looked splendid.  But what would my picky family members think?
They LOVED it!  They took back all their earlier statements about it not matching closely enough.  They remarked how much more beautiful it was than the original sash, and how the old one couldn't even begin to compare to the new one I had made.  I basked in the compliments.  And I learned once again not to doubt myself and my inner voice!
My second sewing project for the wedding...a new dress for me!
This is the Martha Pullen "Mary Morgan" dress pattern which I've used several times before.  It is champagne colored lace over a blush pink crepe satin, both purchased from JoAnn.  It went together quickly, and it fits me perfectly.  I am pleased.
The Mother/Son Dance
  I chose the song, "Sunrise Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof, because that is one of the songs that was sung at my wedding, almost 28 years ago.  Memories.
And here's the whole family now!  My oldest daughter was a bridesmaid, my two, older sons were groomsmen, and Sophia, of course, was the flower girl.  Looking at this picture, I realized that my oldest son's fiancĂ©e did not make it into the photo.  Now how did that happen?
So here is a photo of them:
They have tentatively set their wedding date for May of next year.  Another lovely, daughter-in-law.  I am blessed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Michael Miller Baby Quilt and Bibs

Wow, what a bad blogger I've been.  If anybody is still reading this, I'd be very surprised, since I haven't done a very good job at all with posting!  But here I am, once again, with no excuses other than life is busy.  And crazy.  And wonderful.  I will never be a blogger that updates every day, and I just need to accept that.  But here I am again anyway, with a little proof that I have been sewing, amidst marrying off son #3 last month:
A Baby Boy Quilt

Every time I finish a quilt, I always marvel at the pattern, and how all the colors blend together, yet contrast, so nicely.  I've had this Michael Miller "Cowpokes" fabric in my stash for years, and when I was invited to the baby shower for my best friend's new grandbaby, I decided it was about time that I use it.  The pattern is my own design.  The finished quilt measures about 36" x 48".
The nine-patch squares measure 6" x 6", while the center square is 12" x 12".  Those little cowboys are just so darn cute, I didn't want to chop up the scene by making all the squares smaller.  So I designed the quilt around a larger, center square. 
The back was pieced together with flannel pieces from my stash.  In fact, EVERY SINGLE PIECE of fabric in this quilt came from my stash...even the batting!  I was so proud of myself for using what I had on hand. 
And because I still had fabric left over, and the quilt just wasn't enough, I also made this:
And this:
Aren't they just the cutest little bibs you ever saw?  Yes, they will get stained and spit up on and look dingy sooner than later, but for right now, I just have to admire their cuteness.  To make these, I took a well-worn, stained, spit-upon, dingy bib from the bottom of my kitchen drawer (why it's still there I don't know, because my youngest is now five and stopped wearing bibs long ago) and used it as a pattern.  The fronts are pieced together, and the back is a solid piece of fabric made from the contrast fabric.  I edged them with piping, and they fasten with Velcro.  There is an inner layer of cotton batting.  I'm so pleased with how they turned out.  I almost like them more than the quilt.  Almost.  When my husband saw them, he wondered why I had never made any for our own children.  I stared at him blankly because honestly, I didn't know.  They certainly were easy enough.  But maybe I was always too focused on the bigger projects, like quilts and crib sets, smocked dresses and heirloom rompers.  It never even occurred to me to make bibs.  But now that I have, I definitely think they will become my new favorite for baby shower gifts.  Along with a quilt, of course.  Because every baby deserves a pretty quilt.