Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Bit Of History About Cloth Dolls

Cloth DollsMartha Checkett
History of Cloth Dolls
Through out the years, children have played with a variety of "dolls". They were made from every imaginable substance including wood, clay, corn cobs, plaster, and a wide range of other materials including cloth. The focus here will be on the dolls that are made from various types of cloth, fiber or fabric. Many of the dolls designed and manufactured in France, Germany and other European countries in the 1800's were not actually intended as play dolls. Their china, glass or wax heads and bodies could not withstand a child's constant attention. These fancy dolls were carefully preserved and revered by their owners. Many remain in collections today. However, it was the all cloth doll that was tucked under an arm or hauled around by one leg and loved until they became "real" as described by the Skin Horse in the story of the Velveteen Rabbit.
A cloth doll consists of a fabric skin and stuffing. Facial features are embroidered or painted on with ink or stained with natural dyes, or in some cases, in primitive cloth dolls there may be no face at all. Early dolls, were made from animal skin, corn shucks, cotton fabric and other soft materials. Stuffing might have been straw, leaves, feathers, fabric scraps, left-over thread and yarn or cotton batting.
The pattern or design of the early cloth doll was very primitive and crude, usually consisting of two identically shaped body pieces. The front and the back were exactly alike before hair, facial features, and clothing were applied. Today this simple type of doll is called a Pancake Doll which describes the flat construction. Sometimes, arms and legs were added to a head/body torso. This is still considered a "pancake doll" as it describes the head and face.
Clothing was made from fabric scraps left from sewing for the family. These early dolls might also have been dressed in leaves or other naturally found material. Most dolls were made for little girls, and resembled their owners. Boy dolls were rare. The doll's clothes, in early American times, would have been similar to what was worn by women and little girls in those days including under garments, petticoats, a long dress and probably a pinafore, apron and a bonnet. Doll shoes and stockings might have been sewn or painted on.
A doll was a precious possession to a little girl in early America. It probably accompanied her everywhere she went, especially to bed. Little girls may have had just one doll during her childhood and it was often her only companion until she went to school. Soft cuddly cloth dolls were faithful friends, good listeners, confidants, bedtime companions, and tea party guests for many children in the past and still are considered important to children today.