Saturday, November 2, 2013

Still alive

I can tell you I was suprised when I saw my last post was from July 28th!  Yikes.  Time flies doesn't begin to cover it!  A lot has happened since my last post.  I will detail some of it below.

Just for the sake of those who look at this blog but never bother to follow the links, this is where I work and what I do most days April through October. 

The house is the Johnston Farmhouse, which is the focal point of the Johnston Farm & Indian Agency where I work.  On a typical day I wear 14 pounds of clothing, a corset, and spend 5 to 8 hours telling people and school kids about the past.  (Yes, that's me looking like Whistler's mother!)  Needless to say, during these months I get little doll work done, though I do continue to work as time permits. 

As of October 1st, with the exception of our Christmas event, I am laid off from the historic site until the weather breaks and it begins to warm up in late March, early April.  That means I have time for doll work - and doll sales.  That's another thing that's been going on since I posted last - I opened a Ruby Lane shop where I sell items that come through our consignment shop, including a good many dolls.  Check it out when you have time and tell others to do the same if you like what you see.  You can find it here:  Also be sure to check out Carla Thompson's shop Oldeclectics, , she's a sweetie and has the most marvelous dolls from low to high end.  I'll be detailing my most recent acquisition from her below. 

The consignment shop is another 'happening' for me over the last few months.  Our shop is located in downtown Troy, OH.  We started off with two joined buildings, added another, and just recently added a third location.  Each has its own specialty from antique to vintage to collectible consignment items.  The Ruby Lane shop is an outreach of David Fair on the Square.  Check itall out at or 

Life, of course, continues as well with care for my elderly mother and watching my 10 year old granddaughter.  One more photo and then on to the dolls.  This is Leah this year at the Renaissance Festival as a Medieval fairy.  Gotta brag!

I have been attempting for the last 5 years or so to build a collection of dolls that details app. 100 years of doll history.  I do talks on dolls and that is the focus - the changes in both childhood and dolls from app. 1830 to 1930.  Ony type of doll I wanted but had not been able to afford was a milliner's model.  Thanks to Carla Thompson, I finally have one!  Of course, buying this doll has started me on a roll - need to get her cleaned up and dressed and find out if the term 'milliner's model' is accurate or one of those lovely doll 'fables'. 

The idea behind a Milliner's model is that it was a tiny doll carried by a person who made or sold clothing in the early to mid-1800s and used to display tiny fashions on.  This is what I was told years ago when I began working with dolls and what most people believe.  According to Dorothy Coleman who wrote one of the 'Bibles' on dolls, this is not true.  She says the term was applied to them by a woman who was writing and article and needed a name and so she made 'Milliner's Model' up.  The proper term, Ms. Coleman states, is a varnished head.  She also states - quite properly - that the proper term is garrish and not very flattering and due to this she doubts 'Milliner's model' will ever go away.  As one who believes these things have some sort of real beginning (like unicorns and dragons) I intend to keep hunting to see if I can find any evidence that these little beauties were ever used to display clothing to prospective buyers. 

My little woman reminded me very much of Mrs. Johnston, the wife of the man whose house I work in.  Rachel was a lovely mannered woman born and bred in Philadelphia, PA.  In her wedding portrait she sports a short trendy 'do'.  Though my Milliners has a bun in the back, I still think she bears a remarkable resemblance to Rachel Johnston. 


 First thing I did when I received the doll was give her a careful judicious 'bath'.  For her age - and a lady never tells, but she has to be approaching 180 at the very least - she is in remarkable shape.  The leather cleaned well and is supple.  The arms and legs, which are wood, still retain much of their original plaster and paint, and her head is pretty much intact.  You can see the small cracks and she has a spot missing on the back. 




The challenge with a doll of this nature when it comes to repair is how much or how little to do.  A friend asked me if I was going to fill in on her legs and arms and I said probably not.  At 200 we need to allow her a few blemishes!  I will probably do a little bit to secure the one place on her body where the sawdust is leaking out, and maybe fill the cracks on the plate  bit, but otherwise, I will not do much.  In MHO, there's nothing worse than a lovely old doll that has been made to look brand new.   

I think these doll evoke the era so well.  You can see determination, but also a sweetness and gentleness.  I am starting to work on her dress and I intend to mimick Mrs. Johnston's as closely as my meager sewing skills will allow.  I will post photos as the work progresses.

Next time I post I hope to have some updates on some of the dolls I have shown over the last so many months - I will finally have time to work on them!  Yippee!!