Christmas · sewing · This and That

Rag Dolls and More Memories of My Mother

As I mentioned previously my mom sewed. She sewed and crocheted and knitted and did all kinds of handcrafts. She was very creative and did not have idle hands. She even made her own wedding dress out of white eyelet, and being the practical woman that she was she took it all apart afterwards, and reused the fabric to make herself a dress that could be worn every day rather than only on her wedding day.

Marge and Lee on their wedding day, July 19, 1947

My mother was a “child of the Depression” as she often labeled herself, (how often did she say that??) and she wasn’t about to waste all this fabric on a dress that wouldn’t be worn again. I wish I had a picture of the dress she made from her wedding gown but to my knowledge no picture was ever taken of it. The few scraps she had left over she gave to me years later in the hopes that I would do something special with it.

The Christmas after she gave me the fabric, nearly 20 years ago, I made little “rag doll” angels about 10″ high for my mom and sisters using that wedding dress eyelet for the pinafore and wings of the dolls. I attached a hanging loop so it could be hung on the tree as an ornament but my mom kept her angel sitting on a little chair all year long. There wasn’t enough fabric left over to make one for myself, unfortunately, but I knew at some point I would inherit the one I made for her. The little bits and pieces left over from the rag doll angels I later used to make some button Christmas ornament angels for my 3 daughters. I used up every inch of that fabric! When my mom went into the nursing home 3 years before she died I brought the angel to my house and now she sits on a little chair on a shelf in my living room.

 

The pinafore and wings are made from the eyelet from my mother’s wedding dress that she made in 1947.

 

Back view

While my mom crocheted and knitted, what she loved to do the best was sew. In her younger days she sewed many of her own clothes. She sewed dresses for my sisters and me, curtains, and all sorts of decorating crafts for the home, including little 9 patch heart wall hangings, but what I especially remember are the rag dolls that she made.

When I was about 12 or 13 my mom made me a rag doll, reminiscent of a Raggedy Ann. I was too old to actually play with the doll but that didn’t matter. Who doesn’t love a rag doll? She can sit on your bed or in a little chair and keep you company. She is so cheery with her constant smile.

I still have that doll. She sits on top of my dresser, on a little red rocker my mom found at a thrift store or garage sale years ago. She’s so worn and faded. The stuffing is showing through in places, especially her feet, and she’s balding. Poor thing! I hot glued some of her yarn hair back onto her head a number of years ago and it’s held up pretty well. Her body was beginning to split in several places and she needed some “surgery” to put her right. Good thing I have some medical training in my background! I stitched her up almost as good as new although she does have a little scar. Her dress needs some repair too. If you look closely you will see a little hole in the bodice. Long ago she lost her head scarf but she continues to smile through all the ravages of old age.

My mother made a number of these dolls. She even went so far as to make new pattern pieces out of inner facing so they would stand up to being pinned and cut over and over again. She did that with a number of patterns and I’ve copied her idea and done the same with several patterns I have used repeatedly.

Both of my sisters have one of these peasant dolls. For my brother she made a clown doll. The pattern had options for either a peasant doll or clown doll in two different sizes, 15″ and 24″. My mother made the smaller size.  The pattern, Simplicity 6257, is long out of print but it can still be found online through ebay.  I also found it online at Your Pattern Shop.

Unlike the patterns I had lost in my fabric cabinet which I wrote about here, the pattern for this rag doll has never been misplaced. I will never forget the sad day when my mom and dad brought over her sewing machine, sewing box, thread, accessories, and patterns and asked me if I wanted all of it. I was surprised. Why would she be parting with all of this when she enjoys sewing as much as she does? While my mom was forgetful and dementia was beginning to take its toll on her, the full impact of her illness had not yet dawned on us back then. We were only beginning to understand what was happening to her. But both of us knew that day that she would never again handcraft a gift for someone she loved! It took me awhile to process that thought.

I’m not sure exactly how many rag dolls my mom made out of that pattern. I have a vague memory of her making one and possibly more that she donated to charity to be raffled off. She made one for each of my daughters and one each for two of my granddaughters. I always thought it would be nice if I could carry on where she left off and make the dolls for the rest of my granddaughters. That would mean making another 6 dolls…so far. Hopefully someday!

In addition to the peasant doll she also made Amish dolls, little rag dolls, about 6″ tall with simple dresses and black bonnets and of course, no faces. I’m pretty sure all of her granddaughters were given one of those.

She received such pleasure from the making and giving of gifts. The words, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive” certainly rang true for her.

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