Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Santos China Doll Tutorial

Do you love Santos dolls as much as I do?  Every since scoring my first reproduction Santos doll a few years ago (see her transformation here), I've been on the hunt for more.  But they are expensive - even many of the reproductions.  Not long ago, I happened across an upper body of a china doll on Ebay.  The wheels started turning...and I got the idea to use her for a homemade Santos cage doll.  I wanted it to be an easy project and it was!  (of course, after some missteps which I learned from along the way)
Here is my finished doll....and a tutorial for you!!!

Crown creation by talented Amy

This is the vintage china doll piece I found on Ebay:

She was a curious find - someone had sewn her upper body to a circle of cardboard.  Perhaps this person originally had a similar project in mind?
I got the idea to attach this cardboard base to a 'cage' in order to create my own Santos cage doll.
I decided to mimic the base that is on the Santos cage doll I already owned, formed of simple hollow circles.  What better choice to use for this than wood embroidery hoops?  I bought two sets of hoops large enough to hold my doll.  The top hoop is 5" diameter and the bottom hoop is 8" diameter.  I also bought a 7" diameter flat wood circle.  These all came from AC Moore craft store.
As you can see in the following photo, I chose to remove the outer circle (with the tightening screw) from the large hoop.  I left the outer circle on the smaller embroidery hoop for added stability on the top (plus I knew the screw wouldn't be seen in the back).

First I glued the flat wood circle evenly onto the smaller embroidery hoop (sorry, didn't take a photo of that).  You can choose to do this now, or wait until after you've attached your slats to the hoops.

Next I needed wood slats for the 'cage'.  I bought three 24" x 1/2" wood slats, also at the craft store.  I sawed each in half to be lengths of 12".  (You may find these in lengths of 12" at the store.  I bought them longer, not knowing how tall I wanted my cage just yet).  Sand the sawed edges for smoothness.

Here's where I made my first 'misstep'.  I attempted to glue these slats to each embroidery hoop, evenly spacing them around both the large and small hoops.  The glue didn't hold well and the structure was a bit wonky.  So....brads to the rescue!  These are 5/8" long brads I found at the scrapbooking section of the craft store:

I drilled 6 small holes evenly spaced around each embroidery hoop, and the top and bottom of each wood slat.  Then I fastened each brad through both the wood slat and the hoop.  Here is the finished wood structure, which is much more stable:

Next I painted the whole wood structure a creamy white (except the top of the circle, which I knew would be covered).
Here is a closeup of the china doll as she was attached to the cardboard.  Since I found my doll this way, I didn't have to do anything here.  But if you find or already have a china doll (or parts), you can have fun with re-structuring her.  This would be a great way to recycle an old doll whose legs have detached.  Simply sew on the cloth body to a sturdy cardboard circle.

I trimmed my doll's cardboard circle to exactly fit my flat wood circle on the top of the cage structure.  Next, I wrapped a circle of muslin fabric around the cardboard.  I simply placed the doll on top of the fabric and gathered it up around her bodice, gluing it in place.  Then I glued the bottom of the doll to my wood circle on the cage:

So here she is, assembled and in her simple state.  I placed her against my dining room wall with a stenciled crown above, giving her an aura of royalty:

Okay friends, here comes the fun part - fancying her up!  I wanted her to have the option of wearing a gathered white tulle skirt when she feels like it (she'll let me know).  I gathered up soft crushed tulle on my sewing machine, measuring the height of the cage and about 2-3 times the length of her waistline:

I simply set the skirt around her waist:

This china doll needed a bit of 'fancy' up top, so I decided to add ruffles to her neck and elbows (where the fabric seam met the porcelain arms).  I had some white crepe paper lying around, which I stained with tea and crinkled up to look aged:

I measured out various lengths of the crepe paper - two pieces at 3 times the length around her elbow and one piece 3 times the length around her neck.  I folded each piece in half lengthwise:

Next I gathered up a loose seam down the center of each piece on the sewing machine:

I carefully gathered the crepe paper by pulling gently on the threads at each end.  The resulting gathered piece is shown:

I gently tied each of these gathered crepe paper pieces around the elbows and neck of my doll, using the loose threads to tie with.  You could also hot-glue these pieces in place, but I know this may be a seasonal look for my doll (she'll demand a change of outfits in the future, I'm sure):

Voila!  She's done (for now).  Here's my Santos china doll, wearing a regal crown made by the talented Amy of Vintage Marketplace.

And here she is again, with a simpler look sans skirt:

I do hope this tutorial inspired you to go out and make one for yourself.
Be creative - we're never too old to play with dolls.  I'm already dreaming up ideas for her Christmas attire - miniature bells, a banner for her hands to hold, some sparkle...such fun!

If I find more of these dolls, I'll be sure to make some for my Etsy shop!

Sharing with:
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Debra@CommonGround said...

oh she's just beautiful!! what a wonderful idea for this lovely doll!

Unknown said...

girl..you blew me away here! she's lovely and how VERY clever of you. i adore this project and the outcome! swoon....(are you catching me susan??)

Junkchiccottage said...

I just love this. She is gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

Stunning santos doll Susan!!!

June said...

She is a beauty Susan. What a great tutorial! I love, love, love her hat.
I have been enjoying you lovely fall decorating. You do everything so perfectly.
sending hugs...

steve said...

Hi i must say that she is very beautiful and you have made great creativity beautiful doll with nice tutorials.

DIN 7 | DIN 6325

Victoria said...

Ohhhhhh she's gorgeous Susan! I actually prefer her over the regular Santos dolls, she's so feminine! You're so talented to even think of this!

Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions said...

This is great, Susan! Your doll turned out beautifully. How very creative of you to think of making her into a Santos. What a great project to give a try! I'm pinning this for future use! : )

It's me said...

Wowwww !! that is great !!!...love from me...x !

Rhonda said...

I just adore clever ladies and you are one clever lady! Amazing project and how sweet you shared it with us. xo Rhonda

Kerryanne @ Shabby Art Boutique said...

She is delightful Susan.
Kerry xx

Unknown said...

she turned out lovely Susan!
xo, Rosemary

Nancy said...

She is Gorgeous! I just Love these dolls, and how thoughtful she will have a change of clothes. Thanks for sharing the tutorial!!

Huggs, Nancy

Julia @ Vintage with Laces said...

What a lovely lady. She turned out just beautiful, Susan. xo, Julia

shabbyfufu said...

Oh I love this idea! Even though I have a couple of the repro Santos I've always wanted to make one for myself, and this looks not too difficult to tackle!

Ju said...

Olá Susan,
Bonecas de porcelana são sempre lindas, encantadoras.
E gostei muito da ideia e do tutorial para o suporte! Vou tentar fazer para as minhas Tildas!
Beijinhos do Brasil

Curtains in My Tree said...

how interesting and I couldn't create that
my santos will have to not have a cage
your is beautiful

Marcella Paliekara said...

I have been making Santos dolls tool and they are always so full of surprises as one has to find creative ways to make the cages. i love the way you used hoops. Your doll is beautiful and what a generous and wonderful tutorial. Thank you so much.

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