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Saturday, June 04, 2011

Kids Craft: Hand-made Cloth Dolls

I don't remember playing with dolls as much when I was little, but Ana has liked it a lot since toddlerhood. Making up stories, puppeteering them, talking in their voices back and forth... all by herself usually as neither Oggie nor I play it to her satisfaction, so we are banned.

Anyway, the wool roving fairy dolls are a lot of fun, but, the world of imaginary friends are not restricted to fairies. There are princesses, ballerinas, and girls who are friends with princesses and fairies, of course.

What is a princess?, I ask often, to check. "They live in castles, silly Mama! Their daddies are the king and their mommies are the queens." What do they do? "Some play with friends. Some work in the garden. Some sleep when a witch puts a spell on them. Some work by the fireplace and go to Prince's ball. Some make beautiful music. Some ride horses..."

I have been wary of the damsel-in-distress, hapless-beauty-rescued-by-prince kind of image for princesses. At the same time, I do not believe in tipping the scale way over to the other side and forcing these beings to assume a role they are uncomfortable with, ill-equipped for, and unable to execute. Fairytales have their own charm.

Sparkles and pink and crowns and capes are very much part of growing up and I would not deny that to my girl who loves all things girly. I remember fondly to this day using my dad's towel as a cape over my long nightgown, wearing glitter paper crown, and a tree-branch scepter, pretending to grace the entire garden with my presence when I was little.

After a long list of books on unconventional princesses including classic Paperbag Princess (Munsch), Princess Grace (Hoffman), and many wonderful folktales from around the world, I am not too paranoid about shielding Ana from princesses and overcompensating for adult prejudices.

Grace & courtesy, good manners/etiquette, gentle kindness are qualities all - including princesses - can have. And by now, it seems like Ana has assimilated the fact that princesses are just people too.

Fairies, now they are another story altogether.

I am rambling... I shouldn't get started on a tangential topic in the middle of a short post about Cloth Dolls!

Anyway, I was making a few quick dolls from fabric scraps a while back as Enid was expecting some new friends visiting her from around the world. Enid was going to host tea parties and picnics during their visit. And possibly even throw a birthday party, although we don't know yet whose birthday it will be.

"What are you doing?", and "Can I help you do that?" usually pop up when she spies me doing arts/crafts at home. So, we sat down and made a few cloth dolls together. Showed her my template - for head+body, arms, and legs, two pieces of each cut out and sewn together then stuffed with scrap fabric to make the appropriate body part. She helped with the stuffing - especially the big one. Then sewing them all together to complete the doll figure.

Then, she did a 2-dimensional felt doll - cutting and sewing the parts on her own. No stuffing.

Anyway, the hair was the best part of all the dolls. Nevermind their thick unshapely limbs and Gumby-like stature. Scrap yarn gets used up and Ana is happy with uniquely colored hair for her dolls.

It doesn't stop there, naturally. They need clothes to wear. Ana "sews" paper clothes for them using tape. And I make a few from fabric scraps again.

They also need furniture. Shoe boxes become living quarters; mini metal toys from India furnish the house.

I like that rather than asking for pre-made doll houses straight from the store (I have nothing against them, as long as they are recyclable and don't cost a whole month's budgeted expenditure), she was willing to make-do with what she can craft with some help. These are certainly not fancy and stylish, but, as long as she likes them and takes pride in making them, it'll do just fine. Of course, I could put in a bit more effort and make it rather fancy for her, but, I am overbooked as it is...

Not that she doesn't have manufactured standard dolls from the store, she has quite a few of those, of course. But, nice that she doesn't discriminate much between hand-made dolls and store-bought ones. So far.

Once a week or so, on the way home from school, she declares, "Mama, I haven't played with my dolls for many days now. When I get home, I am going to play with them in my room." Of course, she adds, "I don't want Oggie to bother me. You could play with him so he won't come looking for me."

Well, Summer Break is almost here. Not sure what we'll do this summer. Ana will be entering First grade come Fall. That will bring its own challenges... my thoughts are beginning to wander again, I'd better quit now.

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