Thursday, May 26, 2011

A leather-Headed Doll

This is Bess, the Innkeeper's daughter from The Highwayman  She stands about 15"  high. I made the head about ten years ago, and couldn't bear to part with it. 

Probably a wise move, as I can now say with confidence that these formed leather doll heads are stable. The humidity  and heat of Arkansas doesn't seem to bother them any more than the chill and central heating of England. The colours stay true, the head holds its shape and the hair stays in place. Of course, if you crush the head, it will buckle and dent, but I'm hoping people treat their dolls with more love than that. Bess was tough enough to travel backwards and forwards tossed into my luggage.

 Seen here with my thumb, to show scale. Bess's shift is made to a traditional pattern, found here.  Chemise . It's make from a cheap and slubby cotton, to look homespun.

Patterns like this are one of the reasons I love the interweb. It's not just a series of tubes. People discover and develop ideas and share them freely. Remember when this wasn't around? I mean, I love libraries, but they never had more than one decent doll-making book and they would have some wonderful books on period costume but not much in the way of resources on how to make the clothes.  It wasn't because people weren't as smart; it's because they were working in isolation with research limited to whatever book were available. See how much better it is when we all share?

Uh, enough of that.

Anyway, her shift was as authentic as I could make it and her 18th century corset was made using the extraordinary Custom Corset Generator . When it says custom, it really means custom. You can make a corset for yourself, your hubby, or your Barbie.  I added top-stitching to imitate boning channels which made the corset stiff enough to shape Bess's figure once it was laced up the back. Her heavy black skirt was a faded piece of silk noil. It's not a fabric I was familiar with, but silk noil has just the right weight and drape to look like woven wool on a doll. It frays like buggery, but that's a price I'm prepared to pay.

She has real human hair. Yes, I know the idea makes some people shudder. My sister-in-law braided and styled it for me, as I'm a cack-handed hair dresser. She needs some silk red ribbons for the love knots and then she's complete. It only took ten years.


  1. The leather and hair makes for great textures, but the human hair element does make me cringe a little.

    Thanks for the link to that corset generator, I'm tempted to try it.

  2. Rhisanna, I'm interested in how you made a head with no seams visible...or is this the second skin that is made of leather? Do tell....

    I've done faces with second skins over.....a LOT of work..... and not very easy to do without getting wrinkles and then trying to smooth and make them undetectable....... arrghhhh!


Thank you all for the wonderful and supportive things you say! I'm thrilled to read them and I reply to each one.