Thursday, April 17, 2008

Primitive Things

Miss Estelle
Several years ago, my mom and I got into making primitive dolls. We didn't have to buy much to get started in our little venture. My mom had previously worked in a fabric store where she'd spent her entire week's paycheck on fabric each week. We had quite a stockpile of it left at our disposal.
We more or less worked in an assembly line style. We'd prepare enough fabric for several dolls bodies at one time, tea staining muslin for the bodies, as well as whatever fabric we used for their clothing. Next, we'd cut out the bodies, arms, and legs. Though we had some patterns, we mostly drew the body part templates freehand. There was no need for perfection! After that, we'd sew them, leaving openings for stuffing, then we'd stuff them.
The assembling part was all rather dull. The work got interesting when we'd begin choosing their clothing. They really came alive when we hand stitched on their faces. Each doll seemed to take on it's own personality. Some seemed exuberantly happy. Some appeared shy. Some looked worn out and old. We never had a preconceived idea of how any doll was going to look before we began stitching it. All had a uniqueness that appealed to us.
When making primitive dolls, the idea is for the doll and her clothing to look as if she's been around for a long time, and received alot of love in that time. They conjure up images of a time when life was simpler, but much harder. Dolls didn't come off the shelf of a mass market discount store. They were crafted lovingly by a mother's hands from the scraps she could spare from her sewing basket. The little girls themselves even made their own dolls.
I liken sewing primitive dolls to felting, in knitting. You don't need great skills to do either. When you knit something and felt it, the felting hides any flaws you may have had in your knitting. By the same token, making primitive dolls doesn't require great sewing skills. That's a good thing, since I don't possess them. ;-)
We had alot of fun making those dolls, and we sold several on eBay, as well as some to friends. After awhile, my dad began to have health problems; plus I was having an awful time with carpal tunnel syndrome. Our doll making fell by the wayside. My dad has since died; and my mom has remarried and movied three hours away from here. I've since had surgery for my CTS, but dollmaking isn't the same without my mom working beside me.
Miss Estelle is the only doll I have made by myself. We'd sold the ones we made together. I decided to keep her as a token remembrance of the fun days my mom and I had, as well as the memory of my dad being there in the background, often offering to go get us a bite to eat, or scrounging us up some old rusty wire from the garage (a staple in primitives). Simple everyday moments that aren't appreciated at the time as being anything extraordinary, and yet when they are no longer within reach, save in your memory, seem grandoise.
Though I love reading stories of the life of Pioneers, I wouldn't want to go back and live in that time. I'm pretty spoiled to my modern conveniences. It is a romantic notion, though, and I do like to dream up stories of what life must have been like in the home where Miss Estelle first began her journey.

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Amy, A Redeemed Sheep said...

My mom would love your doll! I love that her legs are made with ticking. When I was younger, my mom wallpapered my room in a ticking print. :o)

Wool Winder said...

I enjoyed this post very much. It's the everyday experiences that make the best memories.

MSM said...

I love this doll ( and I enjoy your recollections); wish I could make something like this for Charlotte. . . .

By the way, what'd you think of American Idol last night? Are you surprised by this latest elimination?


My Heart For Him (Jesus) said...

oh Renna, I SO know what you are talking about... I remember many times my mom and I would work on projects together, my fondest memory is working on MY wedding dress together... :)

I have made a 'rag doll' for dd it was her constant companion and dd nearly had a meltdown when it was in lost luggage one time, we got her back. Now she sits like a queen on the top shelf surveying dd's teen years. I made MANY of those dolls for dd's friends. Each one looked like the girl receiving it, it was a very prized gift :)

perhaps you will take up a new type of doll/sewing project to refresh and make new memories.


Cora from Nelia's Primitive Place said...

I LOVE Estelle! Just so sweet, and so full of wonderful memories! I, too, hold on to things that represent "stages" in my life. They tell a story for me.
I love the saying, "God gives us memories, so that we might have roses in December!" Estelle is one of those things!

Thanks for visiting my blog today!
I appreciate your comment, too!


kellyds said...

Such a unique doll! Those are the kind that feel like they hug back when you give 'em a squeeze.

Farm Chick Paula said...

Oh, Renna- I love Miss Estelle. She has so much character!

Amy said...

Very cool!

Tipper said...

What a sweet post!