Saturday, December 5, 2015


Vintage 1960 advent calendar

[This is a continuation of my advent series, Sadie’s Christmas Doll, wherein Ina makes a rag doll.]

Today was the big day – the day that Ina would begin sewing the doll. Jack helped her position the treadle sewing machine closer to the big dining room window. Morning fog had dissipated and the sun was shining brightly. Now she would have enough light to sew. 
First effort -- misshapen doll
With great control, Ina slowly guided the muslin under the needle, being careful to leave an opening in the doll’s side for stuffing. She trimmed seams, clipped curves, and turned the doll right side out. The very limited instructions recommended rolled cotton to stuff the doll, so Ina began to stuff using what little she had on hand. (If you’re old enough, I’m sure you remember the box of rolled cotton -- the navy blue box with the orange logo – that your mother kept in the bathroom cupboard.) But alas! Something was wrong with the doll. Her legs were short and her arms were funny and her neck was way too wide. Ina felt tears of frustration begin to well in her eyes.

Shirley Dobson, c. 1928
Just then the front door opened and Shirley breezed in. “What’s wrong, Mama,” she asked, seeing Ina’s crestfallen face. Ina explained right from the beginning – Ethel, Ernest, and Sadie were coming for Christmas and she had decided to make a rag doll for Sadie. Now there was a problem with the doll-in-progress.

“It can’t be that bad, Mama. I’ll make us some tea and we’ll look it over.”

Ina's Christmas cup and saucer
During the cold months, hot water was always simmering on the wood stove in the farmhouse kitchen. Shirley quickly made tea in the little brown pot and poured a cup for each of them.

“Now then,” said Shirley, “let’s look at this pattern.” Shirley had taken "home ec" classes in high school and was more experienced than her mother in the use of patterns. Presently she said, “Here’s the problem, Mama. You need to sew deeply here and here and here. Mark these points with pencil dots and sew right to them. I think you should start over. Do you have more muslin?”

Ina hated to be wasteful, but yes, she had more muslin. She could see that Shirley was right, and she wanted the doll to be the best she could do for little Sadie.

Ina re-cut the doll and marked those important points. As she sewed, she carefully stitched to each dot. When she finished stitching, she again clipped the curves, trimmed the seams, AND cut to each dot. Then, when she turned the doll, she looked just right.

It was getting late. Stuffing would have to wait. The doll and the boxes of cotton Shirley brought from town were put aside for another day. KW

1 comment:

Chris said...

I do remember those boxes of rolled cotton. It stuck in wounds! And the tape to hold it, white and sticky, would leave goo on the skin when taken off that was almost impossible to remove without taking the skin with it! Sure am thankful for bandaides...