Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thinking About Period (Costumed) Dolls

My mini-Viking
Tonight, I ran across an interesting tutorial for making dolls from cloth. The author based her technique upon a Roman doll found in Egypt, dated 1st-5th century CE, that is now in the British Museum.

Now why should I care about cloth dolls? Because they can be used as models for historic costume, as Heather Rose Jones did here on her "Dig that Doll!" page, featuring dolls dressed in little replicas of costumes from different archaeological sites ranging from the prehistoric to the medieval. My friend pearl dug up these pictures of a doll modeling the costume of the woman from Eura, Finland, c. 1000 CE. Here's a page with pictures of dolls in Viking costume, by a museum in Iceland.

Speaking of dolls in Viking costume, I have my own cloth Viking doll. I bought her at a science-fiction convention, of all places, about 20 years ago, and I've been improving her costume bit by bit ever since. The body, hair, face and dress were done by the woman I bought her from, but the jewelry (the brooches are 18k gold post earrings; the armbands are a pair of silver earrings, somewhat tarnished), belt (a snippet from an old belt of mine) ,and shoes (hand sewn from real leather!) are my additions. Finding the doll tutorial is making me think about whether it would be useful/entertaining for me to make in doll form some of the costumes I've been planning to make for myself, such as my Vendel or Byzantine outfits. It would be quicker than a Cathy-size costume, of course, but more difficult, because cloth made for people clothing is usually too stiff to drape well on the size-scale of a doll's body. But it's something to think about, while work and vacation plans conspire to keep me away from costuming.

On Sunday, I head off to spend two weeks in Michigan, visiting friends and attending Polaris Fellowship of Weapons Study's Summer Weapons Retreat. I don't expect to work on any of my costuming projects, and I probably will blog very little, if at all. I'll return about July 24, hopefully full of renewed vigor and costuming zeal.


  1. Sorry for the random comment. I have been carrefully reading your journal for monthes now, and that's the first time I comment, and only to say something not totally on topic...
    I thought you might like this link :
    That's the journal of someone who makes historical costume felt dolls that are absolutely cute.

    I've made a few 12th century costumed dolls myself (to be used by *real* children) but never had time to look for genuine sources about the matter. But now, I may feel like I want to...

  2. Hi, bérangère. Thanks for stopping by.

    It would be much more interesting to look into sources about historical dolls. My vague recollection from the last time I tried that is that before about 200 years ago, there aren't a lot of surviving dolls and thus not a lot of information. But that doesn't mean it isn't worth trying.

    You're right about deriana's LJ--the dolls there are so cute!