Thursday, December 3, 2015


The day dawned bright, and Ina was grateful. A bright December day had a character all its own, as if to foretell the promise of Christmas Day. But practically speaking, Ina needed a few well-lit hours to copy the pattern for Sadie’s doll.

Vintage wrapping paper
She spent the morning doing her chores. This was upstairs cleaning day, so she dusted all surfaces in the bedrooms and dust mopped the floor. But once the lunch dishes were washed, dried, and put away, Ina sat down at the dining room table and set to work measuring a 10- by 14-inch grid on the back of a used piece of wrapping paper. Making a grid was a standard method for copying a pattern, and it was beyond Ina’s contemplation that in the future a granddaughter might enlarge the pattern by means of a machine.

Once the grid was finished, Ina carefully sketched the doll onto it according to the pattern. The doll was flat – all in one piece, the back same as the front. As she took shape on paper, Ina chuckled in spite of herself, startling Jack who was once again napping in front of the fireplace. She imagined that Jack was Santa, resting up for his Christmas journey, while she, Mrs. Claus, was making a doll for a good little girl.

This doll belonged to Ina's daughter.
It’s always darkest before the dawn, they say, but Ina also knew that the sun seems to glow brightest just before dusk. As she finished the pattern, she saw that she would have enough daylight to check her box of fabric scraps. Ina kept her “stash” of mostly scraps and rags in a cardboard box in the “cubby hole” under the stairs. She pulled the box out and sorted through it until she found what she wanted – a remnant of muslin. She also took note of the fact that there wasn’t much in the way of other scraps to make clothes for the doll, but she’d worry about that another day.

Now daylight was fast fading and Ina set fabric and pattern on her sewing machine for the next day and went about her evening routine.
[I believe this doll pattern has been attributed to Ruth Wyeth Spears and was originally published in newspapers about 1940. My copy came from Dolls: 7 Projects for Rag Dolls and Clothes published by Amy Barickman. Another helpful reference was Dolls to Make for Fun and Profit by Edith Flack Ackley, 1938.]


Chris said...

So glad we don't have to make patterns this way any more! I have done it that way, though. (And how old does that make me?!?)

Hallie said...

Do you really have a wrapping paper pattern or is that part of the story?

Kathy said...

I am the granddaughter that used a machine to enlarge the pattern, so my pattern is copy paper. But I think Ina might well have drawn the grid on the back of a used piece of wrapping paper.

Chris, I know how old it makes you. About 1960 I made three cloth baby dolls for my nieces (Becky, Polly, and Keri), from a pattern that appeared in Woman's Day, I think. The doll and her clothes were shown on small grids, so I copied and enlarged those by drawing the grid. There was no other way to enlarge a pattern that I know of until copy machines were generally available.

I would rather have made a baby doll, but I wanted the doll to be the sort that my grandmother would have made in the '30s.