These days – when I’m not teaching – or eating – or sleeping …..
I’m in a doll making frenzy. I tend to make most of my dolls as special orders for people but once a year I participate in an art sale at my friend’s Kale House B&B. Cori and her mom, Bonnie, started this fall art sale about 6 years ago; I can’t believe it’s been that long! I was flattered to be invited to participate and while it is a hassle to get a bunch of dolls ready, I’m glad for a little holiday money. I can usually sell anything that is left over at some point over the next year.
My first challenge is to find the socks. You wouldn’t think there would be such a turn over of brands in toddler socks! Every year I visit my standard haunts – Kmart, Wal-Mart, Fred Meyer’s, Target – on the lookout for the perfect doll sock. I need white socks, with a cuff and a heel, and enough cotton that they will dye. Every year I find myself buying a new brand of socks; this year’s winners came from Kmart – pack of 10 socks for $6.99!
I’ve tried different ways of dying the socks but tea works the best – unless I’m trying to make a batch of darker skinned dolls – then I really need Rit dye. So I buy a box of cheap tea and load it into boiling water, dump in socks that have been carefully opened up and flattened so they don’t get lines down the center of their faces.
After drying them in the dryer, I turn them inside out and do the stitching – one sock becomes a body, another sock becomes 3 arms – ten pairs of socks make 12 dolls.
My least favorite part of the whole process is the stuffing and sewing them up. When they are done, I fold them in half and tie their arms together to get them so they will sit when they are done.
I make clothes from felt and fabric, sometimes knitting little sweaters, vests and hats. I used to use feathers for the hair, now I use sheep’s wool in the form of roving. It is very hard to find a realistic black, (it always looks navy blue,) so most of my dolls have brown, gray or reddish and blond hair.
I don’t put faces on them – everyone asks me why – but when they don’t have faces, they take on whatever emotion you want to pose them into.
The most amazing thing about my journey dolls is that they actually go on journeys! Recipients of my dolls or their friends tell me where my dolls have been. I have heard from owners who have traveled the world, sometimes sitting the doll on the plane seat, sometimes tucking it away in the suitcase – but traveling never-the-less. Some of my dolls have been with a patient for every chemo treatment, and up and down the halls of retirement centers. They have been to various colleges across the US; one pair in wedding garb accompanied a recently married couple to their new home. My mom has one sitting on a wooden sailboat model in my parent’s living room, ready to sail off the fireplace mantle.
I’ve been making my dolls for almost 12 years now. They began as a project to honor some friends of mine who were going through transitions. Their popularity spread by word of mouth and since I still enjoy making them, I keep at it. They have definitely morphed over the years – the biggest changes happening in their size and their boots – they’ve gotten smaller and I make soles on the boots now.
Stitching the soles is tedious, but they are charming.
I try to remember the fun stuff about my dolls as I find myself spending hours in my arm chair hunched over their little bodies, furiously stitching around their little jackets by hand. This year’s bunch seems to be especially full of fall color.