Sunday, May 6, 2012

Carina: A Lenci Doll of the 1920's

Carina is a reproduction of a 1920's molded felt doll, made by the Italian firm of Lenci.  The Lenci company was begun in Turin, Italy in 1919 by Elena Konig Scavini, whose nickname was Lenci.  Lenci dolls are made of felt, with pressed felt faces that were usually then oil painted.  The dolls became very popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  In 1939, Madame Lenci sold her company to her director, Garella.  Many of the dolls made by Lenci represented children, some made with pouty faces.  Usually, the eyes were glancing to the side, which has become known on the American market as “flirty eyes.”  Other dolls made by Lenci represented adults, some representing historic or living people, others representing a variety of nationalities.
Feltpro ( sells a kit for making a reproduction Lenci doll.  The picture at the left is from their website, and shows two of their reproduction Lenci dolls.  The bodies are made of felt that is sewn together and stuffed.  The arms and legs are jointed, and the head swivels.  The face is made of pressed felt, which is sewn to the head back and the whole is stuffed.  The face is then painted and a wig applied.
The photo at the left is the Lenci that I made from a Feltpro kit.  (This picture was taken with my old, on-its-last-legs camera.)  Making the doll was definitely a learning experience!  As can be seen in the photo, my Lenci turned out to be quite a bit plumper in the midsection that the photo from the Feltpro website.  When they say to stuff the doll firmly, I stuff firmly!

At the left is a sketch of a doll from the 1927 Lenci catalog, whose outfit I chose to replicate.  This outfit, as many of the Lenci doll clothing, was made from felt.  The plaid skirt fabric was made by piecing together felt squares and rectangles.  I tried to find felt thin enough to piece together, but was unsuccessful.  In addition, my doll, standing at 15 inches tall, is considerably shorter than the original Lenci dolls, and that may have been a factor.  So I decided to use cotton velveteen, which was as close to looking like felt as I could get and still be able to use the same construction techniques as in the original clothing.
 Here is my finished Lenci reproduction.  The white and magenta velveteens are from Farmhouse Fabrics.  The skirt is pieced together from squares of white velveteen and bands of magenta, and then navy blue soutache is stitched on top to make the plaid fabric.  It looks as if the vertical bands of magenta get narrower toward the top, but they do not.  The effect is due to the skirt being gathered onto the bodice, which pulls in the tops of those vertical bands.  The collar and sleeve cuffs are made from the white velveteen, and the blue bow at the neckline is made from the soutache. The shoes are modeled after those made for the original Lenci dolls.  They are made from the same magenta velveteen as the dress.  The ribbon ties for the shoes and for the bonnet are hand-dyed silk ribbons.  The bonnet is modeled after those worn by many Lenci dolls.  The doll in the sketch that I replicated did not have a bonnet, but my doll’s hair was a bit unruly and I thought a bonnet would help.
Here is a close-up of my Lenci reproduction’s face.  I named her Carina.  Cara means “dear” or “beloved” in Italian; Carina thus means “little dear.”  I do think that this doll is a little dear, so the name fits.

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