Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pioneer Rag Dolls

Christen and Elise's Rag Dolls
"But Laura was the happiest of all.  Laura had a rag doll.  She was a beautiful doll.  She had a face of white cloth with black button eyes.  A black pencil had made her eyebrows, and her cheeks and her mouth were red with the ink made from pokeberries.  Her hair was black yarn that had been knit and raveled, so that it was curly.  She had little red flannel stockings and little black cloth gaiters for shoes, and her dress was pretty pink and blue calico."

When we were studying about pioneers in our homeschool, we checked out so many books from the various local libraries.  I found one book (unfortunately I didn't keep the source), that had crafts for kids.  I remember the cover of the book had the cutest plates made from woven bread dough clay colorfully painted with flowers also made from the bread dough clay.  Inside were the instructions to make these dolls.  The girls were able to make the bowls and they did a great job, but I had to help them make the dolls.

I was in the process of taking pictures of their dolls for this post when Elise fondly reminisced how I had let the girls design their own dolls.  They chose the hair color and eye color.  Christen added a shawl from the scrap bag and fastened it with a pin from her Grandma Rosie.  I designed the little dresses myself keeping them very simple with tiny pin tucks at the neck.

My 15 yr. old son saw these dolls yesterday and rudely proclaimed them ugly :(  I said they were of a "primitive design" and were supposed to look like this!  In fact I followed the picture in the book freehand exactly as shown.  I've always thought they were very sweet and similar to Laura's doll, Charlotte, as described in Little House in the Big Woods, Chapter 4.  (I just remembered that my mom made a bunch of these simple rag dolls for a Relief Society fund raiser when I was a little girl)!

Basically, draw a doll figure on packaging paper or freezer paper, then cut out fabric.  (The pattern includes the head and the body, separately).  You stuff the head through the neck opening of the head, and the body through the neck opening of the body.  Once stuffed, sew head and neck together with a whip stitch.  (I used a 1/2 inch seam).  A knitting needle helped to push the stuffing into the arms and legs, etc. (Becoming Martha has a great rag doll tutorial that would work just as well probably!)

I used yarn in the desired color looping it around about a foot-wide piece of cardboard until it was enough to make a wig.  I carefully slipped the yarn off of the cardboard and used the sewing machine to make a seam down the middle of the yarn.  Fabric glue is applied to the head to keep the hair onto the doll's head. I used fabric paints to carefully paint a face (lightly sketch it out in pencil first).

I made the dress slightly bigger than the doll's pattern and sewed it together basically the same as the doll's but leaving the bottom of the dress and sleeves open and hemming neck, arms, and sleeves.  Even for a novice sewer like me, it was fairly quick and easy and the girls and I were happy with the results since they looked very much like the picture in the book.

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