The Making of Dolls


Recently, I learned that my paternal grandmother was a maker of dolls. She sewed one for my eldest sister as well as these two for my twin cousins and perhaps others as well. By the time my brother and I came along--the youngest of the grandchildren--her doll making days must have passed. I did have a handmade doll crafted by a local woman, but not one made by grandma. I have a bit of a reputation in my family for being a lover of "old things," and so my aunt offered the twin dolls to me when my cousins decided that they no longer wanted them and I jumped at the prospect.

Steve would describe them as "creepy," but I like to call them "rustic" (to be fair, Steve's grandmother made porcelain dolls and the room where he slept when he went to visit was lined with shelf upon shelf of blank doll heads--this may be enough to turn any person off of all dolls). They are stained and played with and show all the signs of being well-loved. They're the size of small children, so they're a little big for Silas in the near future, but I'm looking forward to the day when I get to share them with him and talk about my memories of the woman who made them and the cousins who played with them.

The fact that we have been making dolls for our children since before recorded history is fascinating to me. I imagine the delight shown by a young Egyptian girl in 2000 BCE when she was given a small human form made of clay to play with to be similar to the delight shown by the recipients of these little people of cloth. I'm sure that delight has something to do with our motivation to create them. That they have been such consistent and durable playthings signals to me that there is something developmentally important about the creative play children do with dolls, although I'm also sure we'll never quite know what that importance is. I don't think it's necessary that we do.

I remember sitting alone in my room and cutting up my dad's old t-shirts to hand stitch miniature dolls for my dollhouse. I remember feeling incredibly proud that I had made something--something recognizable--something useful to me--and I got so much joy out of playing with them. I'm hoping to sew Silas a Waldorf doll for his first birthday, but even more importantly than that, I hope to sit him on my lap so that he can be part of the process and feel that pride and joy for himself--of making the characters to act out his imagination.

6 comments:

  1. Um, I'm in the scary category, but I think they're cool nonetheless!:) My grandma has a scary doll that we would hide in the closet!

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  2. What a wonderful teasure! Making dolls is on my to-learn list.

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  3. I had some handmade Raggady Ann and Andy dolls.... I think they were given away long ago, but I wish that I still had them...

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  4. The dolls are lovely.I inherited my mother's old doll and I cleaned her up and knitted her an outfit.....Oh and I gave her a wig because she was bald :)

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  5. I have the same reputation amongst my family and friends, which has garnered me several treasures I'm happy to have!
    My mom made Cabbage Patch dolls for me and my sister -- back when you bought the heads and sewed the bodies. I'd like to make Waldorf dolls for my girls, too. I just got Growing Up Sew Liberated and there is a very detailed pattern in it, which I think I'll try.

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  6. I like these dolls, how neat that your grandma made them, I would like to make a doll so this is just the excuse I need to buy the Growing up sew liberated if it has a pattern.

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