Sunday, March 13, 2016


I recently shopped at Jo-Ann Fabrics where I picked up some wide eyelet trim for doll clothes. Two associates worked behind the cutting counter. As I stood there, one asked me what I was making. (They ask everybody.)

“Oh, I make doll clothes,” I said. And then suffering a twinge of guilt for saying something that wasn’t quite true, I added, “Well, I think I do.”

Both staff members burst into laughter. “Everyone here does that,” said one. “Do we do it – or do we just think we do?” It was reassuring to hear that others have trouble translating the goods into actual finished products. I left the store feeling a little better about myself, and that’s why I go there.

Even though I thought I was mentally in a good place to make progress with my sewing during the winter months, actual accomplishment has been disappointing. I made a list of unfinished projects (called “UFOs” by crafters) and held myself to the resolve that I mustn’t start anything new until I’ve finished some things. Disciplined approach aside, it hasn’t made me happy. Some days I actually fear that I will never sew again. I'll just continue to go through life collecting inspiration.

Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t just cut my losses when I get into a project that doesn’t work for me. Inspiration has a lot to do with the ability to follow a project from inception to completion, and perhaps something just isn’t right. For example, about five years ago I had just finished the cutting process for a vintage doll when the realization swept over me that it wasn’t the right project for the intended recipient. It was like a pin pricked my balloon. It remains in storage today. It’s on my UFO list, but maybe it shouldn’t be.

Or, there’s that big shirt I cut out. At the time I was flying on the wings of someone else’s inspiration. However, just the thought of making buttonholes was enough to bring the whole thing to a standstill. I should really finish it, though. I could use it. It’s on my UFO list.

Ruth's doll
I just can't relate . . .
Both my mother and her mother left unfinished projects. Perhaps it’s an inherited tendency. My mother told me that I was not to feel obligated to finish her UFOs. However, before she left us, she would say plaintively, “I didn’t finish the dress for Ruth’s doll," an heirloom from my dad's family. I reassured her that I would take care of it. 

Ruth's doll & smaller friend
Oh, I’m taking care of it all right! “Dress Ruth’s doll” is on my UFO list. But there’s a problem here. Mother loved “antique dolls,” the kind with china heads and leather bodies. She researched and made beautiful period dresses using heirloom sewing techniques. It’s not within the scope of my interest -- and maybe not my ability -- to do that. I prefer to make cute clothes for dolls that little girls play with. Do you think it would be okay if I just made Ruth’s doll a nightgown? (Maybe it would be okay if I found this beautiful doll a new home.)

A beautiful patchwork doll quilt
In the box with Ruth’s doll is another that Mother came by. She’s wrapped in this wonderful old patchwork doll quilt now in a state of deterioration. Note the beautiful embellishment on this quilt. Today for the first time I noticed that one piece is stamped with the words “Fred Kauffmann, The American Tailor, Fall and Winter, Chicago, 1898-1899.” Researching Fred Kauffmann online, I found a series of newspaper and magazine ads for this clothier. KW


Chris said...

Fear not. You will sew again! I've ignored my machines for months on end, but then one day I feel the call and I'm back. Didn't you make button holes on your embroidered pillow? Our machines make fabulous automatic bottonholes.

Kathy said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Chris. Oh yes, the machine makes lovely buttonholes, but I always have to review the process and mark placement on the shirt and just thinking about it is a "buffalo. Many of my projects were stored at the farmhouse many years ago. Now that I have the shed, I'll bring them back and sort through them.

Chris said...

That doll quilt is amazing! There must be some way to keep it together. Maybe take the binding and backing off and iron on a light weight stabilizer and then put it back together? Or maybe, just admire the photo and call it good. :-)

Ruth's doll is lovely! (The other, not so much...) I once upon a time (probably about 15 years ago) was "encouraged" by a doll's owner to make a dress. I found the box with the doll a year or so ago. No word over the years from the owner and I don't even know where she is now. The doll went bye bye with no regrets on my part. Of course, no family was involved and the doll was not a lovely one (although she was nice) like yours.

Kathy said...

Several of the quilt pieces are in tatters (shreds). I don't know if one could substitute new pieces. You know what Jesus said about that. It's a lovely example of a hand-embroidered quilt. I did what I always do -- put it back in the box.

I suspect Mother put new wigs on both those dolls. Neither doll is in great condition. Ruth's doll has composite arms and her fingers are broken. And her eyes don't work. Hmmmm.

There are dolls -- and there are dolls. A doll was once left with Mother -- actually an adorable mid-century baby doll. I thought it would have been nice for her to make a pretty dress for that baby, but Mother gave it a flat NO!

And I know someone else who loves expensive beautifully dressed porcelain French reproduction dolls. That's not my thing either. She was as surprised to discover that I like a doll I can handle as I was to discover that she only likes to look at them.