Thursday, April 20, 2017


Kathy & Mary with Toni, 2015
In October 2015, my P.E.O. sister Mary gave me her mid-century 14-inch Toni doll (Ideal P-90). These dolls were named for the “Toni Home Permanent” and came with a “permanent solution” so that little girls could perm the doll’s hair. Unfortunately, the solution was sugar water, with the result that we find surviving Toni dolls today with ruined hair. Mary's Toni suffered the same plight. Mary said her mother was so mad at her for perming Toni's hair, but I say the manufacturer set her up. Mary loved the doll, a special Christmas gift from her parents when she was ten, but today her daughters and granddaughters couldn’t see beyond the matted hair. So, that’s why her Toni came to live at my house. When she gave me the doll, Mary commented that she was anxious to see what I would do with her.

Well, initially I restrung the doll (tough work and she’s still loosey-goosey) and bought her a new wig. The wig made her beautiful again, but at that I got stopped – until recently when I decided I wanted the doll to have a “party dress” and attend our Chapter BL P.E.O. 50th birthday party. 

The great thing about the Toni doll is that she was popular in her day and many patterns to sew for her were published. Now in the public domain, those patterns are still available today from private collectors in various formats. Thinking to maximize options, I bought a CD collection of various patterns from which I selected and printed a dress from vintage Butterick pattern 7973. Somehow I had vague misgivings which I didn’t confront. 

Chris made the same basic dress for Betsy
Through discussion with my friend Chris, who is sewing for her 14-inch Betsy McCall, I was reminded to check my fat quarter collection where I found a reproduction “feed sack” print with balloons. I deemed it perfect and set out to make the dress.

Cut, cut, stitch, stitch, gather, gather, baste. Several days went by when I didn’t sew for whatever reason. On Monday, the day before the party, I vowed that I would finish that little dress. Then the time came for a fitting.

Oh no! The dress was too big for Toni – falling off her shoulders. “Take it easy,” I said to myself; “don’t throw anything.” Mike was napping on the sofa in my sewing studio, so I quietly turned off the sewing machine, the iron, and the light, and left the room. Keeping calm, I soon realized what had happened. The patterns on CD were copied unprofessionally and did not provide a scale on the page. And that was the vague question in my mind as I printed the pattern: was the scale correct?

Kathy & Toni head to the party
But – still thinking calmly, I realized all was not lost. The skirt was fine, and I still had enough fabric to re-cut the bodice. This time I used an updated pattern from the same envelope (Butterick 7973) available through a doll clothes designer I follow (here). I was still sewing away Tuesday morning (the day of the birthday luncheon), but I finished the dress. Toni and I were only a little late to the party. 

Mary was delighted to see her doll in a new dress. My plan had been to also make panties and slip, but that didn’t happen in time for the party. No one noticed – or if they did, they politely didn’t say. KW


Chris said...

Your dress turned out perfectly! And I love the party hat. Sounds like your experience matched mine on the first dress I made using a JenneWren pattern. We're honing our skills!

Kathy said...

I agree -- we're honing skills. We both kept our heads and solved our problems.

I crocheted the hat but probably could have done as well modifying a part hat from the Dollar Tree. The yarn caused her hair to pull a bit, a situation I try to avoid.