Tag Archives: dolls

We find old book and doll friends.

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When Kate was here last month she did a lot of plowing through her childhood stuff — Well, to be truthful, that doesn’t really describe what happened. She lovingly looked through boxes of books and toys she’d collected in her first 18 years, and household items like linen napkins and unP1100683used potholders that had been passed down to her from her grandmother. She had in mind the usual sorting categories of Keep, Give, and Toss.

With her wedding fast approaching, it blessed me that she took the time to enjoy the task. She hasn’t lived in our house for many years, but she was remembering what she said was a very rich childhood, surrounded with so many books which she always knew were part of the household because they had some value. This made the finding of a book worth reading much more likely than if she looked in a bookstore or library.

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Of course I find my children fascinating, and this peek into Kate’s memories interested me because it revealed that the development of her love for books and reading had an aspect I hadn’t even thought about. I was also pleased because it was a part of a success story. (I’m thankful that my kids don’t tell me about all the failings that I can’t change at this point.)P1100674

Kate used to collect dual-language dictionaries, even for languages she didn’t plan to study anytime soon, like this Japanese one above. And she had an assortment of dolls, most of which she has now bestowed on me to do with what I like.

I’ve been trying to figure out why grown women often like dolls and play with them, in adultish ways of course. Is it because we miss our children who have grown up? I find it hard to turn down a doll who needs a home, the way some people can’t say no to cats or dogs. I have a drawer full of dolls that I want to make new clothes for or mend in some way, and a suitcase full of really old broken dolls that belonged to our mothers and which I am even now gathering the will power and good sense to get rid of.

But I am quite thrilled to suddenly have so many new doll children who still have a lot of life in them. Before I decide how to distribute them, which ones to let the grandchildren play with, etc., I had to do something about the stink they had acquired by sitting in a plastic container for years.

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I set them out in the hot sun for a couple of days, and that did the trick. Maybe they didn’t even need the sunshine; perhaps the fresh air would have been enough therapy. But the ones with faces look happy enough to get the full outdoor experience.

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I used to love to read the Raggedy Ann and Andy stories to my children. Probably getting to know the personalities of the storybook dolls and following their secret adventures has contributed to my feelings about dolls generally. I can imagine that Kate’s dolls, over the years that they were ignored in that corner of the house, were sneaking out of their box and into the book boxes nearby to have fun improving their little minds. It sounds like something my children would do.

Lavender Baby goes home.

Back in August I posted this picture of yummy fabric I had bought to use sewing the Waldorf doll I wanted to give to granddaughter Ivy for her first birthday at the end of September.

I managed to do it! As it was my first time assembling this kind of head and body and sewing a face, I decided to make two dolls so as to get extra practice. I was so glad I did, because very quickly it became obvious that two very different little dollie girls were taking shape.

It wasn’t just that one had brown hair and one had yellow. The expressions on their faces and even the shape of the heads gave them different personalities.

I knew early on that I liked the brown-haired dollie much better than her blond friend. The blonde  — I hate to say it — looked like the neighborhood girl no one wants to play with.

Why was that? My friend Myriah agreed that she wasn’t very likeable, but she thought I should try to fix her. So when I was up at the cabin in early September I tried to brighten her up a bit.

Both her eyes and her mouth were problematic. I guess I had learned how hard it is to make short and precise stitches in such a way that they form at least vaguely even features, when the instructions are to use only two stitches per feature. The mouth looked pinched, and the eyes squinty.

Before

Not only the position of the features and the meagerness of them were unappealing, but the color was lacking. The eyes were pale blue, the mouth pale pink, and as I had already sewn a light color of hair on her head, the total effect was washed out.

On a rainy afternoon up there in the mountains I set to work, and added bright aqua embroidery thread to her eyes, and darker pink to her mouth. After just a couple more stitches in these more intense tones, her disposition and her IQ improved dramatically.

After

Her jaw is still a bit too prominent, shall we say, but maybe that will not be too bad when she gets her hood on. I’m just happy that she is calmer and more agreeable. I still haven’t finished Blondie, because I knew I wanted to give the sweeter baby to Ivy.

The thrill of seeing the two dollies come almost to life was not something I expected. Immediately I had the urge to start forming a new creature right away, just to find out what sort of character he or she might turn out be. Other things have taken my attention and prevented me, but my materials are at the ready whenever I find the block of time to take the next first step.

In the meantime, I finished the brown-haired lass up with a lavender suit, and posed her all over the house and yard in hopes of getting some good pictures to show you.

I was surprised at how much Bag there is to a Baggy Doll. The drawings in the book from which I got the pattern somehow don’t convey the pillow-like quality of the doll’s body, a shape they say toddlers love.

I pinked the edges of some fleecy fabric to make the first layer of “wrapping,” and then put her in a final layer of blue flannel that could also serve as a doll blanket in the future if the children get into the business of playing house and wrapping up dolls or stuffed animals.

They might not…they are outdoorsy kids whose own mother never cared much for dolls. But the dolly whom I now call Lavender Baby won’t mind if she sits on the sidelines or in a corner of the crib. Her hood and all her wool stuffing will keep her warm, and she lives in a house full of love and joy, to which she has already contributed just by being her happy and cuddly self.

Little Ivy didn’t waste any time getting familiar with her new doll and flopped her around contentedly.

I’ll tell you about the stars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The stars made the biggest impression on me, this time at the mountain cabin by the lake, but not in the usual way.

Normally what strikes me at such a high elevation is the brightness, how the Milky Way is huge and obvious, and how even my weak eyes can see the Pleiades. But last week the moon stole the show with its competing lumens. I’ll have more to say about the stars later.

Just below the place that was too steep for my timidity…
Tall and Short climb Gumdrop.

We had friends with us whom I’ll call Tall and Short. They are good sports and happy campers, very resourceful and cheerful when challenges arise. I will only tell you about the most fun challenge, of climbing Gumdrop Dome. I failed to surmount it for the third year in a row, and after I gave up I walked around the base to meet the others coming down the other side.

Of course I found a new plant on my walk, something that looks like a fern and a succulent at the same time, and was growing against a granite boulder, its “fronds” about as tall as my forefinger. I marked it with cairns above and below so that when my camera was returned to me I would be able to find this best of the specimens again.

I have no idea what it is, or how to start researching it. And I need to spend time on other things now, like making small dolls.

Seemingly tiny real people descend Gumdrop.

I took along on the trip my doll project that has been in the works for years without a single doll being born. (More than three years ago what slowed me down was stuffing-wool so dirty I couldn’t bear to tell its story, but that excuse is long expired.)

And while sitting on the cabin deck in the warm afternoons I completed three tiny dollies! I’ll post more photos of them when I have a bigger family to show. But it was a breakthrough that added to my contentment with a vacation that tried to scream “too short!”

More pleasant hours were spent paddling around the lake with my husband, while Mr. Tall fished and Mrs. Short sat on a rock nearby and knitted sweaters for her expected first grandchild.

Gumdrop Dome from the lake

Many rocks are exposed that we normally prefer not to see. It was a year of little snow in the Sierras, so the lake is down. But it’s fun to drive out into the dry lake bed a ways and park in the midst of granite drama, as in the photo at top.

We can’t imagine that there is another Sierra lake that has so many granite domes and peaks encircling it. As we floated on the lake I studied the variously shaped rocks and tried to come up with names for them. Only one is named on the official maps, but I think they all are deserving.

This picture shows at least four hitherto unnamed domes. The one on the left I want to call Glad Peak, because Mr. Glad and Soldier climbed it one time. In the center of the photo are two domes side-by-side, whom I am calling He and She. Between those in this view is a peninsula that is in a normal year called Ant Island, and which we like to paddle to and around. But not this time….

It doesn’t matter if the snow pack was light, or if some trees have died, the sky is unchanged. But on the first night up there I completely forgot to go outside to greet the stars. The next day we all talked about how we must view them together that second night — but the sun sets so late, and half of our party was in bed before the other half of us remembered again. Then I forgot and put on my nightgown, and then remembered again. Almost dutifully I opened the slider, pulled the door shut behind me… and immediately felt myself in Deep Heaven, what C.S. Lewis wanted to name what we coldly term Space.

The stars crowded me, pressing their quietness down. I was alone, standing on the deck barefoot with the cool night air on my legs, but barely noticing the slight discomfort, because of the great company of beings so close — just me and them being familar, and me wondering. It would have been rude to leave after only a quick glance, and besides, they were telling me something.

I walked slowly around in the dark, annoyed by the light from the lamp inside, which I tried to keep behind me. Not a human sound could be heard, not even an animal sound. It was the kind of quietness that is roaring — but with what? I couldn’t pin down what it was, so I stood and listened. The host of heaven with weighty silence conveyed the presence of The Holy, and it was almost too exhilarating, that close to bedtime.

Eventually I had to go inside and climb under the covers. But my exciting encounter with the stars changed me in this way: Years ago I did make solitary mountain retreats here at the cabin, for several days at a time, but I haven’t felt up to doing that again. Now that the feeling has been revived in me, of being alone and at the same time the opposite of lonely, I am hungry for more of it, I want long days and nights of it, and I plan to return in September. I think those stars are angels.