I am 83 this month. I was 23 when I first began to make bodies for old china heads, ordering the arms and legs at first from Kimport. They were ceramic but not porcelain. Gradually I found better parts from mailing lists and advertisements in Hobbies magazine. I used the same patterns for my original cloth dolls as I did for replacement bodies on old doll heads. In my forties and fifties I could really turn out batches of them, drawing off many torsos and stitching and turning them to replenish my parts box as needed. Then I could reach for several and try them to a doll head and stuff as I used them
I developed the patterns in a huge number of sizes, some thin ones and some fuller ones. Then came a long stretch when I made almost zero dolls after having made and or restored several hundred.
I was 74 when the house burned, 75 before I set about to try to restore some and make fresh bodies for some and rebuild a doll collection, never to have the prizes I once had, as our shop was gone after the fire and we did not make the long buying trips to New England. Jack and I both wondered if I still could sew the doll bodies. Hands are different as well as minds. Things change. Many things I used to do I no longer can although I try! I found I could really turn them out again, with the spur of all those repainted papier mache heads, their bodies gone. For several months I made about one a week while we were in a rental house watching for a house we could move into. These were great big dolls. Then they needed clothing! Ugh I do not like to dress them. Never found it easy at all and less than ever now. One reason I like the really big ones is that they can wear antique clothing in a child’s size.
A large number of projects and parts are still part of my collection as I am winding it down. Now I have pulled all the bodiless heads from drawers and boxes and want to see if I can get some back to being dolls and not just parts with their pitiful lost expressions looking up at me. Friend Linda came today and set up my little featherweight and oiled it for me and it sews! Not with pep and vigor, but with a lovely stitch.
Tonight a small parian doll is sitting propped up on my bathroom counter to dry the glue holding her head on her new body. I think tomorrow will bring another small one to completion. I will picture them here on this same post soon. Once I have them back to being whole they have a doll's existence again, and someone sometime will see to dressing them. I have not had a machine set up to sew in at least two years now. I am pleased to have it. Thankfully some things I have not lost the knack for. e
I believe all three of these small heads date in the 1850's.