Hi there! Between one thing and another it has been a full last several months, and I’m having a hard time believing that it’s really May! The girls are all excited because May means summer is coming, which of course means outdoor picnics galore! It’s been a long time since I’ve written a doll review, and it isn’t because I don’t have several special girls that I’d like to share–I do! It’s just that sometimes in reviewing first things have to come first, and there is one review I’ve been needing to write since the 25th of last December. Today, at last, I’d like to introduce you to someone very very special… one of my very favorite girls… an extra-special dear doll-friend who joined our family last Christmastime. Without further ado, please meet Holly!
Holly is the most special Christmas gift I think I’ve ever been given–even including that first Pleasant Company American Girl doll, Molly, who in a way started it all, given to me by my grandmother when I was a girl. It all goes back to my love of yarn hair (which I suppose might be traced to the Cabbage Patch doll I had when I was little). Yarn hair, rag dolls, embroidered eyes and mouths, handmade doll clothes… these things are the stuff of happy doll dreams, dreams of a simpler time when toys were few and precious and all the more dear because of their handmade uniqueness. You might think it odd that after collecting high-quality, expensive play dolls for a number of years, I would still yearn for a handmade rag doll. Yet for years that’s just what I’ve longed for. I’ve even wondered about learning how to make a doll myself, but doubted my beginner-level sewing skills. I once saw a handmade rag-doll-style mermaid with the most incredibly gorgeous aqua (or was it lavender? or both??) mohair yarn hair at a craft show, and I’ve regretted ever since that I didn’t buy her when I had the chance! (I’ve never seen another like her, even on Etsy, though I still hope to one day). And once I saw a beautiful handmade doll sewn out of handwoven fabrics by South American women (I don’t remember the country) at the Global Exchange store in Berkeley–another doll I’ve since regretted not buying! So I have this soft spot for what I call “cloth dolls,” and for many years now I’ve longed for one of my own.
Well, the long and the short of it is that hubbies are wonderful. My husband, knowing of this yearning, thought of me one day when a coworker brought a gorgeous handmade Waldorf-style doll into the office early last fall to share with her colleagues. This doll (with purple yarn hair!!!!!) was made using simple, natural materials, including alpaca fiber from her own alpacas. Well, naturally, my husband, being the tuned-in-to-special-things kind of person he is, was enthusiastic about this doll… and somehow, without even specifically having to commission her wonderfully creative doll-maker, Cindy, it was understood that she would make a doll for me as a surprise for Christmas! (All without telling me! How does he do it??? We don’t even keep secrets well!). All autumn long, Cindy would tell him how the doll was advancing, asking what color hair I’d like best (!!!) and sharing the latest progress–without me knowing a whisper of the matter (which is the real wonder of it).
You want to know something else? For a long time I’ve wanted to name a doll Holly, especially one who came at Christmastime. Yet not one of my dolls has ever claimed the name Holly (and you can’t force these things).
Well, you know what happened. Christmas afternoon I was presented with a large, but surprisingly light-feeling, doll-shaped box. I opened it to discover my first-ever, one-and-only, gorgeously handmade, red-yarn-haired cloth doll, named, that’s right… Holly! Without even asking my husband if there was a special name in mind, Cindy had already named this dear creation Holly. Needless to say, this dear, heartfelt gift brought many tears and much gratitude and wonder and made a special day even more wonderful.
She has such a peaceful, meditative, kind expression; so thoughtful, as if she’s pondering interesting, poetic thoughts. It just won me over instantly. I soon discovered that, like me, Holly loves to color!
She’s actually very creative and inquisitive and thoughtful–the perfect companion for a writer and artist. In fact, I decided Holly is more than a doll; she’s a muse.
So today I’m going to share in detail Holly’s wonderfulness with you! This isn’t a proper review, exactly, since this is a one-of-a-kind handmade doll who certainly isn’t available anywhere else (and isn’t going anywhere!). But perhaps you will be inspired to seek out a handmade cloth doll of your own, or even to learn how to make one yourself! Please go and peek at Cindy’s wonderful website Lulu Magoo and Friends to find out more about these special doll-friends!
To start with, let’s take a look at Holly’s complete ensemble, as she arrived:
Holly stands approximately 16 inches tall. She arrived all dressed up for a holiday celebration! I would like to emphasize the fact that every single part of her arrival outfit (except her tights, which you can’t really see) is handmade by Cindy–right down to her fancy dancing shoes. The first thing I noticed, after oohing and ahhing (and sobbing) over her adorable face and her brilliantly red yarn hair, was her little handmade purse and shawl.
Her purse features sparkly, fancy black yarn and an adorable heart-shaped button…
… which secures the flap! Yes, Holly really can tuck a hankie or a piece of holiday candy into that purse!
Her fancy shawl matches her purse:
I think the purse and shawl are knitted (not crocheted, but I’m not an expert). In my beginning-knitter mentality, it seems incredible that Cindy can just sit down and knit up from scratch the finishing touches for Holly’s arrival outfit! Cindy clearly understands it’s the details that make an outfit.
Holly’s shoes are very appropriate for a fancy occasion, and put me in mind of the dancing slippers of the twelve dancing princesses (you know, the ones that got worn out each night?):
Holly’s holiday dress features a pretty red rosette…
… and a black waistband. It is made out of ruby-red velour, and has a pretty overskirt of see-through material (my camera has trouble with all this red).
Holly isn’t shy among friends, and I’d like to share the adorable cloth-body construction I found underneath her dress, since it is an important part of what makes her so dear. (Family legend has it that as a child, the first thing I did when I was given a new doll was undress it. I remember that I just wanted to know how the dolls were made and how their clothing worked. So you see, I haven’t changed much :).
Underneath her dress, Holly was wearing a pair of handmade bloomers and black tights (the only part of her outfit that wasn’t made by hand). Here she is, modeling her bloomers (and hoping for a tan?):
I squealed when I discovered she has a little red heart printed on her left side (reminiscent of Raggedy Ann)!
I love Holly’s squidgy little body, especially her satisfyingly shaped arms–and hands!–and legs. Holly is sewn from a sturdy, creamy cotton knit fabric, and stuffed with wool. The hand-sewn contours and stuffing give her a life-like dimension.
I think I am extra fond of her arms and hands. They have so much life!
I love the seams running down her legs!
Her feet are a simple “L” at the end of her legs:
I just love her simple rag-doll style construction! She can sit on her own, as well as stand if she’s supported from behind (that hair is heavy!).
Speaking of behinds, I couldn’t help delighting in Holly’s! (You’re all friends, right?)
And speaking of heads, it’s time to take a closer look at Holly’s wonderful head of hair. Holly came with her gorgeous yarn hair braided in a beautiful, lady-like style perfect for a fancy occasion, complete with a sprig of holly tied in back!
I adore this hair-style, and waited a long time (and not till I had taken lots of pictures) to change it.
Holly’s hair is incredibly long and luxurious! Cindy wanted to be sure that I had plenty of hair to play with! She has so much, in fact, that in some poses it can pull her down! Yarn is heavy stuff!
Holly’s hair is a mixture of two different 100% wool yarns that Cindy purchased at a local craft store, ingeniously sewn/tied onto a hand-knitted wig cap. A line of sturdy stitching gives her a central part. Often Cindy will use her own handspun alpaca yarn for her doll’s wigs, but in this case she needed a variety of bright reds! I absolutely love all the rich tones of red, ruby and berry that make up her mane. Holly is easily the reddest-haired doll in my collection!
Another very special feature of Holly’s wig are the little curls that frame her face–two on each side. (How did Cindy curl the yarn??? Inquiring minds want to know!).
But best of all, or I should say the culmination of all, is Holly’s exquisite little face.
Simple… expressive… imaginative… delicate… poignant… pensive… heart warming…
… Charming… photogenic… adorable… loveable… heirloom…. Words really don’t do her justice.
Holly even has delicate, hand-painted freckles. I just love everything about her face.
She reminds me strongly of a children’s book illustration, especially the drawings of Joan Walsh Anglund. This connection to children’s books makes her all the more precious to me.
It’s really not surprising that Holly gets along swimmingly with my other dolls, especially my teddy bears.
Her soft, simple appearance harmonizes with their heirloom appeal.
Like all my dolls, she loves picnics (indoors or out) and tea parties (somehow she always seems to get ahold of the plate of cookies).
It is so much fun to take pictures of Holly–she’s naturally artistic and so pleasing to the eye and camera. She and Thomas, another Christmastime treasure, seem to get along especially well (maybe it’s because Holly is so calm and Thomas is so mischievous).
I feel like I haven’t even begun to really play with Holly yet. At first I was very careful of her, because she’s the first cloth doll I’ve ever had, and I’m used to durable vinyl. But I’m beginning to realize that part of the charm of a cloth doll is that she gradually takes on a bit of the person who loves her, her home and family. Play dolls are not meant to remain in “perfect” condition. Accordingly, I’ve rearranged her hair into what the English call “bunches” (pig tails), and tried her in some of my doll outfits. I was so excited to discover that she can fit both American Girl doll and Bitty Baby/Bitty Twin sized outfits, though the only one I have a picture of so far is Serena’s Poinsettia dress:
Her waistline is actually very similar to a standard 18 inch doll (and slimmer than Serena, my Bitty Twin doll). The main differences are that she is two inches shorter (so hemlines tend to droop a bit low on her), her head is much larger, her chest is a bit thinner, and her arms, especially her hands, are thicker, requiring larger or stretchy cuffs on sleeves. Most importantly though, I have discovered that Holly doesn’t like commercially made doll clothes–they just don’t look right on her. She will only be happy wearing handmade doll clothes. Holly says her favorite colors are deep marine blue, forest green, and red (of course). I think she would also look charming in yellow and pink, and she’s wearing a light blue dress right now, which looks adorable. Holly’s biggest wish? To have a summer sailor-style middy dress!
For now I have a few dresses from the Dollies’ Dressmaker that fit her, and I will probably be able to find others on Etsy. But what I’d really love to do is begin to make dresses and knit sweaters for her myself. As a handmade creation, the product of one wonderful woman’s talent and loving, creative spirit, Holly just inspires creativity. What better gift could there be?
Happy beginning-of-May from all our hearts here at A Doll’s Picnic!