Saturday 14 March 2015

Calico dolls made with my mum over thirty years ago

When we were small, my Mum used to make handmade dolls. Back in the early 1980s, way before online selling was born, she would sell her dolls to a local shop in town. It was a way to make a little bit of income alongside being a busy stay-at-home Mum to two small children. On the eve of Mother's Day, I want to share some photos of these lovely dolls & also share the dolls my Mum would help me make. I think these early memories of watching my Mum sew instilled in me a love all things creative.
handmade calico dolls made with my mum over thirty years ago
I remember my Mum would often have the sewing machine out on the dining room table when we were little. The whirr of the machine was a familiar sound in our house. Some of my earliest memories are of my Mum letting me sit next to her & press the foot pedal whilst she guided the fabric through.
My Mum used to make two types of fabric dolls. One type was a larger calico doll with brown wool hair, carefully styled into two thick plaits on each side of the doll's head. They wore beautiful dresses with many layers of petticoats underneath, all handmade by my Mum. She also made smaller dolls with close-cropped hair. They all wore various different styles of dress. The pictures featured here are of the smaller doll wearing a ballet outfit.
handmade calico ballet doll with gingham dress
handmade calico ballet doll with gingham dress
Sewn in calico and with hand knitted jumpers and pretty gingham dresses, as a small child, I used to covet these dolls. I didn't really understand how complicated the work was, when I look at them now, I see how much effort went into every detail of each doll. The doll featured here has a little wrap-over cardigan carefully knitted by my Mum, she wears a dress sewn in soft cotton fabric, her tiny little felt ballet shoes are tied up with pink ribbon. There's even a tiny pair of lace-trimmed bloomers under the dress.
handmade calico ballet doll with gingham dress

handmade calico ballet doll with gingham dress
When I watched my Mum make these dolls, all I wanted was to get my hands on them, but they weren't intended for me, they needed to be sold in the shop. I must've worn my Mum down with pleading because she eventually gave me one of the ballet dolls. Handmade over three decades ago, she's holding up well.
Like most children, I was curious about how things are constructed and I wanted to imitate my Mum. So, as I got a bit older, probably around the ago of six or seven, my Mum would let me have some calico, wool, felt and fabric and I would try and copy the dolls she made. I have kept two of my attempts. I think I must've had quite a bit of help with both of these, my sewing skills were still developing, but I enjoyed having a go.
handmade calico doll made by me in 1980s with my mother
handmade calico doll made by me in 1980s with my mother
handmade calico doll made in 1980s with my mother
All these dolls are over thirty years old now. I think the ballet doll has stood the test of time & this design would still be popular with girls today. Some designs are timeless, little girls always like cloth dolls. I kept my own attempts at doll-making for sentimental reasons, in fact, it's a miracle I still have them because I've moved homes quite a few times. My early memories of watching my Mum sew almost definitely sowed the seeds of creativity in my I'm not going to part with them any time soon.
This Mother's Day will be tinged with sadness because my Mum will not have her own Mother around for the first time in her life. My Granny passed away a few weeks ago. She was also a very skilled seamstress and her love of sewing was passed onto my Mum, who in turn, passed it onto me. These dolls represent the way skills can be handed down through the generations, and I think it is important to keep that tradition alive. My daughter watches me sew and has already declared she wants to be a 'Maker' when she grows up...which sounds good to me.
So, I think this Mother's Day if you do one thing, try and make something together...make a den, make a meal, make a mess...make memories.
I'm linking up with Brilliant Blog Posts and My Best Post of the Week #MBPW over on Britmums.


DaffodilAngel said...

What lovely dolls. And a super story. Sorry to read about your grannie.

Unknown said...

What beautiful dolls and so lovely that you still have them, I hope they get passed on to generations to come. But I can be sentimental like that :)


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