Where The Doll Thing Originated

Over the past, I don't know, weeks, I guess, I showed you a few dolls I made. 

First was this one:


And then this one:


And, finally, this one:


And now I'm working on another one - well, two, actually.  No, thre-  no, I guess it's really four.  Plus a stuffed animal (for Alex – he's fed up with all the girl things and demanded something for himself.)  But I can't show you these yet.  YET.  I will.  Later.  Soon.  At least soon for two of them.

Anyway.  I never had any urge or desire (that I remember) to make dolls.  But when I first started going through all my packed-away stuff, knowing that I wanted to make SOMETHING…I came across this little one:


She's about 7 inches in length.  Yellow yarn hair.  Bright red sweater.  And, that's right, no pants.  Or undergarments.  But hey, she's a doll.  She doesn't have to follow any rules.

My grandmother made her.  My mom's mom.  Her name was Emma Jane, and I am named after her, in a diagonal sort of way – Jayne instead of Jane, and no Emma in sight.  I'm also named after my paternal grandmother, kind of.  Her maiden name is my middle name.  If I'd been a firstborn son, I'd have been named after the grandfathers.  But I wasn't, so I'm not.  And this doll conversation probably wouldn't be taking place if I'd been a boy. 

But anyway.

My grandmother made this simple little doll, and knitted or crocheted the sweater, too.  (And Lynne – look, she's got a face!)


That's right.  My grandmother wasn't Amish.  She put faces on her dolls.  And look at the neck.  No wonder the doll looks a bit cranky.  There's thread wrapped around her throat, choking a neck into place.  You WILL have a neck, missy.  Don't GIVE me that look!

I don't remember how old I was when she made this, though "very young" comes to mind.  

And then I went digging through my pine and cedar chest, where I store some of my stuff from childhood, and I rescued this girl:


Her name is Emmy.  She's about oh…..18" long.  (I'm too lazy to go get a tape measure.)  And my grandmother made her, too.  You can see some similarities between her and the doll with the red sweater.  (That's her name:  The Doll With The Red Sweater.)  The blue eyes.  Shock of yellow yarn hair.   Slightly dingy look from too much love.

I love the fabric my grandmother used for the dress – a thin flannel with patterns of cherries on it.  I actually have some of this fabric somewhere.  I've used bits of it in various projects, but I can't use ALL of it up because I…well, I can't.  And that's that.

Emmy, as you can see, also has a face.  Here's a closer look:


My grandmother was very creative, very artistic.  She sketched in pencil, charcoal, colored pencil, and those cray-pas oily pastel crayons that I remember using in school.  She painted in watercolor, acrylic and oil.  She sewed, crocheted, knitted and made a few braided rugs.  I'm sure there was more.  She also played piano.

The doll's face is my grandmother's "face."  By that I mean that when she sketched – and when she was a little girl, she sketched whereEVER she could – usually, as they were poor, in the margins of the newspaper.  On scraps of paper.  And THIS is the style of face she drew.  There were, of course, differences in each, but still, there was a basic face style my grandmother had, and when I look at this doll's face, I see endless scraps of paper with similar faces.  You know.  Like you can recognize a Renoir face.  This is an Emma Jane face.


And that's it for my stroll down memory lane today. 

But I wanted to show you where I think this "doll thing" I've got going on right now probably originated. 

And now you know.

8 thoughts on “Where The Doll Thing Originated

  1. Your Grandma’s doll faces look almost the same as my Mom’s doll faces. Ask Julia what she thinks of the doll faces. My daughter once rejected one of my mom’s hand made dolls because she said the face was scary. I like your dolls with out faces. I think they look complete just as you show them here.

  2. I like my dolls without faces, too.  I can sort of see the face in my own mind, but I feel like if I try to draw or stitch that imagined face onto the fabric, whatever I affix there won’t be the same as the one in my mind, and that’s all I’ll be able to see – the incorrectness of it.  So I leave them blank.  My daughter (who isn’t bothered by the dolls my grandmother made – she likes them) used to ask when I was going to put faces on the dolls I’ve done, but she’s finally learned, I think, that that’s not going to happen.  I tell her to use her imagination for the faces.


  3. Oh,what a blast from our childhood!! I remember those sketches of Bubuza’s(sp??)She used to leave one on the chalkboard by the back kitchen door at your parents house.

  4. That’s right!  And it was “Bubaza.”  I should probably do a post explaining the naming of my grandmothers…not sure if I’ve ever done that.  I think my parents still have that chalkboard – there’s probably a sketch still on it!

  5. I thought I had left you a message on this thread, but it seems not..

    did you know these sideways glancing eyes are called googly or flirty eyes? They were really popular in dolls and toys from the 1920s and 30s through to the 1950s, I have had some really lovely flirty eyed pin dolls.

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