Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hello, Dolly

My reputation as an ass-kicking, macho all-American he-man precedes me; so I need not explain how excited I was to find myself with a legitimate work-related reason to buy a late Victorian porcelain shoulder head doll.

This is Ethel.

Ethel

I found her ignominiously tumbled into a heap of plastic action figures and cheap jewelry on a table at the Kane County Fairgrounds. She was filthy but intact (I know the feeling) and marked with a ridiculously low price, which I whittled away to a shockingly low price.

Ethel is a "Pet Name" doll, manufactured by the German firm Hertwig. The Pet Name line was created in 1895 specifically for export to the United States, presumably because then as now American children were considered too unimaginative to do anything so taxing as name their own dolls.

As you can see, she's minus her original body, which likely was sewn from cloth printed in American flags or the letters of the alphabet. After studying a bunch of photographs of extant period pieces, I cut up an old cotton bed sheet and fashioned a new one. It came out tolerably well, I think, given that the sewing machine and I are still getting acquainted. All that's left is to embroider her fingers and stitch the whole assembly to her shoulders.

Before I do that, though, Ethel has asked leave to present her very striking signature series of tableaux vivants, "Impressions of Famous Women."

Mary, Queen of Scots:



Marie Antoinette:

Ethel

Anne Boleyn:

Ethel

And she says this one is either Ann Coulter or Jan Brewer:

Ethel

(Don't blame me. Ethel's politics are her own business.)

105 comments:

MIB said...

LOVE this--both the sincere beginning and the puckish conclusion.

Kenneth said...

Ooh, don't let those rosy cheeks mislead you! Ethel clearly means business.

Elaine said...

You are the greatest :)

harriet said...

I definitely shouldn't be reading you at work. People are looking at me really wondering what's going on. I'm practically rolling on the floor laughing. Thank you for finding Ethel. She's great.

knittergran said...

You have a strange, strange mind---and I LOVE it!!!

Terry said...

Wonderful rescue! Can't wait to see how you doll her up... and her impressions are spot-on. Not only distinguished, but talented, too!

That fed-up-looking expression on her face must be her camouflage from an uncaring world. Maybe you'll suddenly notice one day that she's smiling...

JelliDonut said...

I'm sure the last one is Ann Coulter. It looks just like the photo on the dust jacket of her latest book.

Corvi said...

Oh, Franklin, how I love you. Thanks for the belly laugh!

Alwen said...

I can hardly wait for Ethel and Dolores to get into a little dust-up.

Mel said...

Brava! Her impressions are spot on!

SusieQ100 said...

I do hope Dolores won't be jealous!

Caryn said...

I have to strongly agree that the last one is Ann Coulter-doing her best impersonation of Sarah Palin.

MBirn said...

So, um, Franklin, posts about headless dolls are all very droll and so forth. But, do you actually KNIT anything any more? We have seen any evidence of that in this blog for a LONG while.

Just saying...

Rox said...

The last one made me laugh out loud, but I'm pretty fond of Anne Boleyn's 'ead tucked underneath 'er arm.

kmkat said...

This one had me spitting coffee! You owe me a new keyboard (I'd like the wired Mac one, please.) Also, Ethel is the PERFECT name for her.

Laura said...

Franklin, you've cheered me up no end!

Thank you.

Patti said...

Ethel is great! and now I know all about "pet name" dolls which I had never heard of before! and she does great impersonations!

Lester's Mama said...

She looks amazingly like my Great Aunt Ethel who was born in 1896. Same stern expression and waved hair. Of course, Aunt Ethel's cheeks were never so rosy - "only strumpets use rouge"....a direct quote from the old dear.

lulubelle said...

My alter ego wishes it had your sense of humor. Thank you, once again, for making me laugh so hard at work that I had to clamp my hand over my mouth so that my co-workers wouldn't hear me laughing. They did hear me as I hit the floor, though... By the way, Ethel's Ann Coulter imitation is spot-on!

Christine said...

I always look forward to your new postings, but today's was even better than usual. I, too, vote for Ann Coulter for the last pic, although it was close. And, does the head turned backward for Mary indicate some suspicion that she may have been a witch as well as bloody inconvenient?

Steph said...

Oh Ann Coulter, if only we Canadians had been wise enough to send you packing when you arrived at our border. Surely you couldn't have had your papers in order.

Linda said...

Wuv u, Fwankwin.
I tip my proverbial hat to your mirthful creativity. Oh, and I love your killer bargaining skills, too.

Bonnita said...

I love your humor Franklin. You crack me up!

Anonymous said...

So that's what Ann Coulter looks like before her head is all the way up her arse!
Penny

WonderMike said...

If it were truly Ann Coulter, you wouldn't be able to see the head.

Ursa said...

When I laughed out loud at Ethel's poses, my 6-year-old son asked me what was so funny. I haven't told him yet about severing one's head from one's body as a form of punishment, so thought it best to distract him with chocolate.

Wonderful as always!
(I can hear your voice as I read this, as it's just like how you would read for "Cast On". That illustrious podcast is how I came to hear of you!)

debsnm said...

You made me cry, I laughed so hard at the last picture. I think it more closely resembles Ann Coulter, but that's just me.

ali said...

Franklin, If I get fired at my job (I'm the HR person) for ROFLMAO, I'm coming to Chicago to visit Delores. Prepare yourself.

This was the funniest one yet.

Cadi said...

I'm looking forward to the fancy outfit you'll knit her.

Experimental Knitter said...

The last photo is definitely anyone who votes GOP this November.

la takahashi said...

Okay, That was very funny! LOL :O)

gma said...

Thanks for the chuckle - I needed that.

A few Halloweens ago, a little girl, about 5, was dressed up as Marie Antoinette -- with sneakers (a la Sophia Coppola) and with a red line drawn in make-up across her neck.

Yeah, I live in a town with a lot of academics and long-lived grad students ...

Can Ethel also get Glenn Beck?

Knitting Out Loud said...

You are a funny guy.

Anonymous said...

You are so funny and Ethel's expression is priceless.

Redford Phyl said...

Once again, you've made my day!

Stickfantomen said...

So heartbreaking and so morbid and still, I can't stop laughing... You're good!

dclulu said...

Bwahahaha!

Nicola said...

Tea just came out my nose. Love it.

LabRat said...

God, I miss the Kane County Flea Market. I lived in Aurora for 15 years before moving to Minnesota. I need to get back again sometime soon. Ethel is a great find!

Marji said...

NICE job on the body construction.

It's clearly Ann Coulter.

Anita said...

Excellent work as always Franklin!

Sharon said...

Best laugh I've had in a while! Thanks, I needed that.

anne marie in philly said...

OMFG...every time I think you cannot possibly top your last blog entry, YOU DO!

don't forget to include sarah "you betcha" palin under that last photo!

Sioux B said...

Ann Coulter. Definitely.

Anonymous said...

Franklin, I dare say Ann, and when you attack Sarah,(because most surely you cannot resist) will be flattered with the attention.

They will be pleased to know they "gotcha"!

Abbeysmum said...

there is an "ad" on tv and the punchline is "NOT happy Jan !" or maybe the face conveys the old Queen Victoria,s line," We are not amused"

Jenny said...

Love it. Thanks for the good laugh!

Kristen said...

Oh my god. Once again you remind me of why, if I were a man, I would so marry you! (You know, if we lived somewhere where they'd let me marry you.)

Anonymous said...

LOL at the tags, as ever.

LOL filthy but intact.

Yer killin me.
Kay

Jenn said...

Love it!!!!!!

(formerly) no-blog-rachel said...

Oh Franklin, I love you. SO freakin hilarious!

... said...

She looks a little to cheerful to "be" ann, but definitely has her head in the right place. I thought ann was cross-eyed.

tismeinaz said...

love it love it love it :-) The only thing is that Ethel is much prettier than either Ann or Jan.

Paula said...

This reminds me of a fractured fairy tale. All too funny. Well done@

Cathy said...

Franklin, I just want you to know that I posted a link to today's blog on my Facebook page and SEVERAL of my non-knitting friends picked it up and re-posted because we all agree it is brilliant! (But then, I tend to always think your posts are brilliant.) Love to Dolores!

lincannon said...

Love what you found

chellebelle said...

Oh my Holy Crap... you are so twisted.. I so love you!

Sharon said...

I haven't laughed this much in a fair bit. Thank you, Ethel and Franklin.

j_jo said...

As an Arizona resident, I must put in a vote for Jan!

Seanna Lea said...

This is terrific! I'm not familiar with Jan Brewer, so I'm betting it is Ann Coulter.

Julie Schuler said...

What a great find!

Gail (nosenabook) said...

Welcome, Ethel.

LizzieK8 said...

Bwahahahahahahahahaha!

P.S. Ethel is very pretty!

lisagoodwin said...

I love that flea market. Did you notice the spinning wheels? I think I saw about 5 old skein winders too.

Suzan said...

I agree with Caryn.
Y'know, Ethel is going to team up with Dolores and then you & Harry are so screwed.....

Lynn said...

My mother and her sister shared a doll named Edith. She might be Ethel's second-cousin. When Edith was bequested to me (she has since been passed onto my niece), she came with only a cape and a beret. She apparently had a hard life with my mother and aunt. I made clothes for her, including handknit silk stockings. Have fun dressing Ethel! I had a great time figuring out just what Edith should be wearing with her cape and hat.

janlewis13 said...

I am pretty sure that last photo is Sarah Palin . . . thanks for the LOL.

Emm said...

Two killer posts in a row. You're the best.

I'm sure you realize that Ethel needs a lace shawl knit out of cobweb weight cashmere.

amy said...

LOL.

That's an interesting find. Did you recognize right away what she was meant to be used for? I would have had no idea.

So she gets firmly sewn to the body that you made, with the 4 holes? And then you can knit or sew clothes for her?

Knitterotica said...

Despite explaining that she does not possess the correct accessories to make a marriage work with you, my 17yo daughter insists that you and she are to wed when she has grown. I must admit the thought of you as my son-in-law has much appeal, especially after that photo essay. How do you feel about kosher food and Mimosas for Christmas brunch?

Emily said...

Oh, I love it that you're having so much FUN!

Beth Vincelette said...

The name "Ethel" only means one thing to me: Lucille Ball's sidekick. Oddly enough, your new addition does, kind of, if I squint my eyes very hard, resemble what I think Ms. Vance looked like as a younger woman.

Sherrill said...

I really need to excuse myself to the restroom before reading your posts...get any funnier and I may laugh so hard I...you get the picture.

Halcyon Days said...

laughed so hard at the last bit I snorted my root beer!

Anonymous, too said...

I, too, thought of Mrs. Mertz when I saw Ethel. Be careful if Fred, Lucy, or Ricky show up.

Being so old school, the last picture made me think of Phyllis Schlafly, Ann's intellectual fairy godmonster.

seashells said...

LOL! Whatever price you paid, for me it is worth it! Love Ethel's performance art.

Honnay said...

When are you going to start looking for a bigger place in a better neighborhood? Ethel looks as though she is accustomed to certain standard of living and a certain regard, and she is presently "not amused". Perhaps she can be temporarily mollified by a new wardrobe (and a new corpus), but I suspect she is going to initially attempt to treat you as just one of her minions.

I'm looking forward to enjoying the fireworks!

Honnay (and Mammy the Lambie) from Cincinnati

Suzanne said...

And I thought your Niebling post was the best ever. You just keep outdoing yourownself. Great stuff!

yarndork said...

Ethel? I think she looks more like a Jeanette or a Pearl.

Jane said...

Ethel is very acrobatic! Thank goodness you saved her from her rather "low" associates on the sale table :-)

Monica said...

Cool! Ethel looks like in need of one gorgeous and festive laceknitted dress :)

Donna said...

Alas, Ethel is NOT amused....

Teresa in Virginia said...

Ann Coulter, my friend, definitely Ann Coulter for the third one.

Marushka C. said...

Too funny -- the post was great and so are the comments. I think it's the first time I've ever read all the way through 83 comments to one post, and it was totally worth it.

Bonnita said...

Kane County Fairgrounds? Damn, that rings a bell deep down in my memory. At sometime I was there when I was much younger. I was there for a fair, it had to be 45 years ago. Now I'll have to call my mother and ask. This is just going to drive me nuts! Thanks alot Franklin! ;o)

m.k. said...

Quite a find! It's so funny to see how the same mold can yield very different facial expressions depending on paint and wear. This Ethel, for example, is certainly not a perky, chipper flibbertigibbet either (there is something world-weary and a bit wistful in her expression, I think). Your Ethel - your Ethel on the other hand. Back when I worked in natural foods, I would have flagged her as a customer seeking psyllium husk and/or senna tea.

Cathy said...

laughing out loud --- LOVE your sense of humor

Abbie said...

Awesome find!

Linda said...

You are really dreadful and I had to laugh aloud at the top of my voice!

diane said...

I don't think the head is far enough up the ass for that last one to be Ann.

Karen said...

Holy crap Franklin! That was hilarious. Somewhere in the mass of bookshelves in my house I have a copy of Zero Mostel's Book of Villains. It's all photos of him in a really sloppy suit with a bunch of props doing different villains and it makes me cry laughing every time. This totally reminded me of it.

Ann Coulter--hahahahahahahahahaha.

Anonymous said...

I always look forward to reading your blog....you make me snicker to myself and look to see if anyone is watching!

Shay said...

Don't be silly, Ethel. It's obviously Pamela Gellar.

Marseille said...

FYI, as someone who collects/studies antique dolls, you did a good job on the body.

I have 'Esther' (who has a body and dress) and 'Bertha' (who is still a disembodied head).

:)

Anonymous said...

I live in AZ. The last one HAS to be Jan Brewer. LOL

Anonymous said...

Franklin you clever, clever man. Can we rename her Ann Coulter and use it's voodoo properties? hehehe

TigerWillow Cortes said...

Franklin, I have one of these dolls in original condition, with a shiny brocade dress, satin petticoat and pantaloons. She has porcelain feet too with dainty little dance flats. I should take pix, huh?

Jane said...

Easiest way to connect her head to her body is to thread pieces of twill tape or ribbon through the holes in the shoulderplate and then sew the tapes down to the body.

Kathleen said...

I've gotten into dolls this summer after seeing an awesome exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum - a china head doll with a custom-made wardrobe including some wee knits. Ethel is adorable, and I'm totally impressed with your sewing up her body.

Cindy G said...

Dear Mr. Habit.

Thank you. I have not literally Laughed Out Loud in front of the computer screen for a long time.

This post changed that.

Thank you.

Shelley said...

Oh, Franklin, I was just catching up with your posts. You are too funny! Ann Coulter really put the icing on the cake but I noticed that only one person got the Ann Boleyn reference. (Must have been too subtle...) Love Ya!

Deborah said...

Your Ethel looks a lot like my Megan. Megan's body is stuffed with straw and attached to her head!

AutobotDen said...

Very nice. Further proof that a gem can be found amongst what others call 'junk'. Also, loved the pictures at the end. X3

Diana said...

Your story about wanting a doll and not being able to get one nearly made me CRY. :(

I'm SO glad you found Ethel, and that you're going to give her the kind of home she DESERVES, and the kind of home you've ALWAYS wanted to give a doll. What a gorgeous tale! And take a picture of you snuggling her once she's "all done up", willya?

TheOneAndOnly said...

LMAO----here i am, wondering where the rest of this beautiful project is. Clicked on the link to check out how you did her body...and bam! Head on ass!! that is RICH!! whew...okay, i think i'm done. LOL