I Just Love The Victorian Era!

I have loved dolls, history, and the Victorian Era since I was little and can credit my grandmother for that. As a young girl she gave me a Godey’s Fashion print for August 1870 from my great, great Aunt Flossie. I was captivated by the dresses and became hooked. I just love to research everything and anything about the Victorian Era. Their history, their etiquette, their fashion, their hopes, their desires.... I also love to design my own Victorian dolls wearing those beautiful dresses. I hope you enjoy my Victorian Dolls, Victorian Traditions,The Victorian Era, and Me blog.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The History of Faceless Dolls By Linda Walsh - Introduction, Parts I - Part XXIII and Conclusion - Updated February 2015


I have loved Victorian dolls since I was a little girl and can blame my grandmother for that. You see, as a young girl she gave me a Godey’s Fashion print for August 1870 that belonged to my great, great Aunt Flossie. From that moment on I was hooked. I was captivated by the beautiful dresses and wanted to create dolls wearing them.

Eventually I was able to design my own Victorian "Lady" dolls, like the one pictured on the left, who are all faceless. Now you might be wondering why they are faceless. It's because I wanted each to have its' own distinct personality.

My feeling is that faces overwhelm the dolls personality and have a greater impact on their personality. I wanted the clothing, clothes, hair, color scheme, etc. of the period to determine the personality of the doll.

As far as I am concerned "Beauty lies not only in what is seen, but what is imagined. I believe the essence of a dolls beauty should determine her personality."

You could compare this to the use of mannequins by museums. Most mannequins in museum dress & textile exhibits are either headless or have heads, but they are generally faceless. Or, they have the sculpted definition of facial features but they are not painted. The idea is to not distract from the beauty of the dress or textile piece on display. The same holds true for store window displays.

I have also been a history buff since I was a little girl and loved doing research for history projects all throughout my school years. I especially loved to research everything and anything about the Victorian Era. Their history, their etiquette, their fashion, their hopes, their desires.... In fact, sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era.

Designing handmade faceless dolls was not a novel idea as faceless dolls have been around for a long, long time. However, given my penchant for history I, of course, was curious about the history of faceless dolls. So, back in 2006 I decided to do a little research on the history of faceless dolls and wrote a research article for my Linda's Blog that I subsequently updated in 2009.

I figured that there had to be a history of handmade faceless dolls out there or, at least, some cultures and norms. Believe it or not but there wasn't a lot of information back in 2006 on the web on either the history of faceless dolls or cultures and norms that started such a tradition. There was a little more when I updated my research in 2009.

There was some information on two of the most popular and widely known faceless dolls - Amish dolls and corn husk dolls. And there was the legend surrounding Raggedy Ann and "faceless" dolls.

In doing my research, what I was pleasantly surprised with was the application of "faceless" dolls for so many current charities or organizations. More on that a little later.

I was hoping that now, in 2015, things would have changed a little and there would be more information on their history. I'm happy to report that there is a lot more now and that over the last few years there is a growing trend towards creating faceless dolls in all sorts of doll mediums - which thrills me to no end.

Part of the new trend has to do with creating eco-friendly and nature dolls and part has to do with allowing children to use their imagination more. It also has to do with comforting children facing tough medical situations. Without a face the dolls can be happy or sad, they can be laughing or crying - in essence, they can mimic the emotions of the child holding them. Putting a face on the doll defines the emotion of the doll with the child - which may or may not be comforting.

So, I decided to update my history of faceless dolls research article and include new research as well as some of the new trends. I hope you enjoy it.


I also created a History Of Faceless Dolls .PDF.  If you would like to download my History Of Faceless Dolls .PDF please click here or on the picture below.

Copyright © 2004-2015- All Rights Reserved - Written by By Linda Walsh

I think you all know that I, personally, love faceless dolls. Victorians, primitives, colonial, prairie dolls, rag dolls, or country style dolls. It doesn't matter. I love them all.

In fact, I created a video to reflect my feelings about faceless dolls which is: "Beauty lies not only in what is seen, but what is imagined. I believe the essence of a dolls faceless beauty should determine her personality."

Please CLICK HERE or on the video below if you would like to view my "Linda's Faceless Beauties" video.


Why do I love the faceless doll so much?

Because I think by being "faceless' the doll can be anything you want him or her to be. You create the dolls personality to be exactly what you imagine it to be. Their personality, therefore, reflects your creativity and your feelings.

And, as we've seen from the above mentioned articles the application can be heartwarming, meaningful and beautiful.

In researching doing the research to update my History of Faceless Dolls article I was thrilled to see that there are hundreds of artists and crafters who are now creating various types of "faceless" dolls in all different medium. I couldn't be happier to see all these wonderful new applications for faceless dolls. I'm hoping you all will agree.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part XXIII - Faceless Dolls For Charity and Conclusion


In doing my research on faceless dolls I was delighted to run across some websites concerning the application of "faceless" dolls in charity today and why they were chosen or made "faceless."

Back in 2006 one of those articles was about "faceless" dolls of Gloria Larocque. She has created 100 or more "faceless" dolls based upon the Iroquois legend that warns young girls about the dangers of vanity.

However, according to the article her purpose is different. Her dolls represent Canada's murdered aboriginal women, a group made faceless not by vanity but by neglect. Her project has helped draw attention to the plight of the murdered aboriginal women.

According to Gloria:"The dolls will act as a centre-piece for educating children about traditional Aboriginal culture, maintaining cultural integrity through a contemporary setting. As a teaching tool kit, the idea will be to plant seeds of survival skills concepts such as choice, strength, education, cultural connection and knowledge of self.

The kit will contain a doll in the same fashion as an Aboriginal Angel Doll, and will be presented as an “elder”. The doll will be known as Kookum RETA (grandmother rejuvenate, educate, traditional, acceptance) of the Aboriginal people from Turtle Island. The power of the elder teaching the young is a traditional aboriginal teaching method."


In 2010 the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) contacted Gloria Larocque to explore the possibility of creating a similar project as hers that, "would carry forward the visual representation of strong and beautiful Aboriginal women who have become ‘faceless’ victims of crime. This collaboration resulted in NWAC’s Faceless Doll Project. The dolls created through this new project will be used to create a traveling art exhibit in memory of the more than 600 missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada. NWAC’s Faceless Doll Project was launched in March 2012 and Community Engagement Workshops were held across the country (funded by the Status of Women Canada). Community members were invited to come and hear the Faceless Doll story and create their very own doll for inclusion in this
commemorative art project. All workshop materials were provided."

The NWAC created a Building On The Legacy Of The NWAC Faceless Doll Project: Create Your Own Faceless Dolls .PDF concerning this initiative and containing information for workshops for groups to create faceless paper dolls in tribute and solidarity of the 600 missing and murdered Aboriginal women. If you would like to see and read the Building On The Legacy Of The NWAC Faceless Doll Project: Create Your Own Faceless Dolls  .PDF please click here.

There was also an article by Brenda Tobias on the Cornell University website concerning Hurricane Katrina and something the alumni did to help the children affected by Hurricane Katrina. A group of 100 alumni got together to sew "faceless" dolls for the children. Doll decorating kits and coloring books were assembled and sent to the children to comfort them.

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part XXII- A Very Famous Faceless Doll


Raggedy Ann meets Raggedy Andy for the first time; illustrated by Johnny Gruelle

As far as Raggedy Ann is concerned, one of the legends surrounding her creation is that a little girl was rummaging around her Grandmother's attic and finds a faceless, battered old doll. She brings the doll into her fathers art studio and tells him all about finding it in the attic. He looks at his daughter and the faceless doll and decides to draw a whimsical face on it and then tells her to see if her Grandmother would sew two button eyes on. And so Raggedy Ann was born.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part XXI - Books To Help You Create Your Own Faceless Dolls


One of the greatest things about creating art dolls is they can be made out of any media and be an expression of whatever the artist or maker wishes to convey. Sometimes the art doll is funky, wild, out of this world, happy, sad, or just plain "out there!"

When making art dolls nothing is more fun than mixed media art dolls. There are no boundaries and no limits where they are concerned - including "faceless" mixed media art dolls.

Sarah Lawrence is a contemporary textile artist who exhibits her creations all over the world and has written several books. One of her books, Art Dolls - 20 To Make contains the directions for making 20 of her art dolls, 7 of which are "faceless" and would be fun to make.

The 7 faceless dolls include: Jumping Jack who is a wooden bead doll, Timelines which is a textile figure doll, Statuesque and Painted Lady which are four-sided paper dolls, Angelica and Angel Choir who are wooden doll peg painted angels, Wired  Woman which is a bended wire doll, Heart Of Glass which is the beaded doll shown in the picture to the left, Man Of Dreams and Woman of Soul which are four-sided paper dolls, and Button Up which is a wood bead and button doll. Templates, if required, are included in the book but would need to be re-sized as they are shown at 67% of their size.

If you would like to see pictures of some of these dolls please click here for the Amazon.com page and then click on the book image to look inside.

You can also see pictures of Jumping Jack, Timelines, Statuesque - Painted Lady, Angelica - Angel Choir, and Heart Of Glass here.

I love angels and all the beauty, goodness, and protection they represent and especially love, guardian angels whose job it is to protect you, groups of people, even the world.

For artists and crafters angels take all sorts of shapes and sizes and can be made out of just about any medium.  That's why you find folk art angels, primitive angels, mixed media angels, Victorian angels, paper angels, woodcraft angels. glass angels, fabric angels, beaded angels, metal angels and so much more.  Angels may have faces or even be faceless - which, of course, I love.

In doing my research for this article I found a wonderful Making Angels -Ornaments, and Dolls By Hand - Step-by-Step Instructions for 47 projects by Holly Harrison.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part XX - Other Faceless Doll Art


Karen Meacham, is a prekindergarten teacher at an independent school who, according to her, " is someone who loves creating natural toys and loves children." She makes the most adorable faceless (Waldorf inspired) wood carved art dolls (like the doll shown in the picture to the bottom right), carved wooden peg dolls (like the doll shown in the pictures below), and needle felted art dolls (like the Geisha doll shown in the picture to the right).

According to the Karen Meacham Designs Faceless Soft-Felted Toys article by Lynda Heines in the Evansville Courier & Press from Oct. 2, 2011, " Karen Meacham designs her faceless soft-felted toys to encourage children to use their imaginations."

"Inspired by the Waldorf approach to education, which encourages children to use their imagination, Meacham's creations allow children to act out their own scenarios and decide for themselves the emotions of the dolls. And they are made of all natural materials."

Her Little Acorns Blog by Karen Meacham blog is filled with posts about her life, her family, her natural classroom and being a teacher, and includes some tutorials showing how she made some of her dolls.

She has a couple charming posts and/or tutorials on her blog concerning the needle felted playscape she made and all the wooden peg people she carved and painted for this.

For her playscape according to Karen, "My original idea was to create a little scene in which small figures could interact in a variety of ways and in a variety of places. I also wanted to create a "location" to which children could add their own personal touches such as housewares, furniture, animals, gardening tools or different garden crops, or a fishing rod."

If you would like to see and read her Felted Playscape: Part I tutorial and post please click here.

Tutorial on Carving Peg People: Mother Earth and her Root Children (Felted Playscape: Part II) is a charming post and tutorial about carving the Mother Earth and her children that she wanted for her playscape.

According to Karen, "I am not a stranger to peg people.  I love using them in the classroom.  We use them for a "first day of school" project. The children paint and decorate one to represent themselves. They are then strung on a string and hung on hooks outside each center area......"

"But to give peg people a little extra personality, a little extra zing if you will, they might need a wee bit more than paint.  Shaping peg people (as I have discovered after creating 10 of them) gives them a little more personality.  Children have marvelous imaginations and certainly do not require the level of detail I have given my creations, but I enjoy making them.  Plus in the past, our students did seem to especially enjoy playing with toys they knew I had created with our class in mind."

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part XVIIII - The Ruth E. Aten World Doll Collection: Americas


The Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University is, according to their website, " a leading center for the worldwide study of vernacular arts, and of the historical, cultural and social contexts in which these arts are embedded. The home to two closely aligned disciplines with a deep shared history at IU, the department has a distinguished history and a bright future in the areas of research, teaching, public outreach and community service."

One of the items in their collection is The Ruth E. Aten World Doll Collection: Americas.  It is a collection of dolls from Latin America, the Carribean, Central America, North America and South America.

Most of the dolls in her collection have faces, but there were several that didn't. It is an incedible collection to see.  If you would like to view The Ruth E. Aten World Doll Collection: Americas collection pleaser click here.

Here's a few of the faceless dolls from her doll collection with some of the information on each doll:

NAmer41. U.S.A. Colonial Clothespin Doll

6” Small doll made of clothespins and dressed in colonial attire with a calico print dress, bonnet and white rickrack trim apron.

Making dolls out of clothespins was a popular early form of doll making.

Given by Ruth Aten. 1999

NAmer40. Eagle, Alaska, U.S.A.. Alaskan Mother and Baby 

8” Handmade stuffed doll of mother and baby, flowered cotton outfit with fur trim, sculptured head with beaded eyes.

Tag: “This symbol is your guarantee that this is a genuine article, made in Alaska, handcrafted by an Alaska resident artist or craftsman.

Doll was made by Sharon Hamilton, a resident of Eagle, Alaska. Eagle is a small isolated village in Alaska where they survive the winters by growing and gathering food from the land.

As a resident said, “Here we prefer eating bears that lived in the woods and ate berries to bears that ate fish from a stream or river. Bears that live on berries are sweeter and not fishy tasting; they’re pre-marinated.”

Purchased by Ruth Aten in Eagle, Alaska. 2005

Friday, March 6, 2015

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part XVIII - Faceless Dolls From Carole's World Costume Doll Collection


I have been a collector of dolls my entire life and love looking at other doll collections. In updating my faceless doll article I found several websites with information on and pictures of the dolls in their world collections.

The largest collection of world dolls I found was Carole's from World Costume Doll. She has been collecting dolls since 1957 and has information on and pictures of the 1900 dolls in her collection. The dolls are all part of Carole's private collection and not for sale.

Most of the dolls in her collection have faces, but there were several that didn't. It is an incredible collection to see.  If you would like to view her World Costume Doll collection please click here.

Here's a few of the faceless dolls from her world doll collection with some of the information on each doll:

Zulu Matron Doll

Continent: Africa
Region: Southern Africa
Country: South Africa
Year: C.1980
Type: Tribal
Material: Cardboard
Id: Africa - South Africa - 001

If you would like to read more about what Carole had to say about this doll please click here.

BOTSWANA - Tribal doll

Continent: Africa
Region: Southern Africa
Country: Botswana
Year: C.1960
Type: Tribal
Material: Rag and cloth
Id: Africa - Botswana - 002

If you would like to read more about what Carole had to say about this doll please click here.

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part XVII - Faceless Dolls of Francoise Bosteels


In doing my research for faceless dolls I was thrilled to find Francoise Bosteels, Iconic Dolls, Sacred Art blog with her amazing faceless art dolls of India, like those shown in the pictures to the left and right.

According to her blog she was trained as a nurse and joined the Sisters of the Divine Savior in France. She went to India in 1974 to work with the village people in the South Tamil Nadu villages, which is where her inspiration for her beautiful faceless dolls developed.

Her faceless dolls are just astonishing.  In looking at them you can feel the beauty of the doll and the complex life of the village people and their stories that she is trying to convey.

Her blog contains a "Process" page which describes and shows how she creates her art dolls and how, in particular, she created the art doll shown in the picture on the left.

According to her "Process" page, "The materials I use are ordinary: a variety of colourful cloth called feutre; raphia (strong paper ribbons); pipe-cleaners; cotton balls for heads; wool; thread and discarded bobbins; banana and coconut fibre; palm leaves; bamboo; pieces of wood; small boxes and similar throw-away items. Gold and silver threads make a variety of jewellery. Sometimes I make use of small ready-made toys or art pieces such as a sewing machine or a harp. Tiny props used to create an environment have a story on their own. Thread and gum hold the figure together."

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part XVI - Mixed Media Faceless Dolls


Faceless dolls have become very popular in mixed media creations over the last dew years.  Part of the reason is that your creation can be made out of just about anything. It can also be watercolor art, painted canvas art, collage and decoupage art, rubber stamped or stenciled art and conveying whatever it is you wish to convey.  It can also empower individuals with finding an inner voice, developing confidence, and expressing who they are individually.

Christy Tomlinson is a self-taught very talented mixed media artist, who as she says, "who isn't afraid to get my hands messy and let my heart be open" and the creator of the "She Art workshops." She has traveled all over the world teaching her mixed media art workshops and teaching online.

In her workshop she teaches how to create her mixed media "she art" canvas and collage faceless girls.

Here is what Christy said about why her girls are faceless, "Week 3 we will finish off by going even more in depth to creating facial details. Not just a "blank" face anymore. SO many times people ask my why I don't put faces on my girls. Is it because I don't know how to or I don't like to or what? And the answer is always the same."

"The reason I don't often times.. or MOST times put faces on my girls is because when there is no face, the observer of the art is left to determine the mood, the soul of the girl. Sometimes just by adding even shading in certain places or adding details down her neck, or in her hair..tell more about her, than a set of eyes do.. staring at you from the canvas."

"So I usually leave the girls faceless, so that whoever is enjoying her, can decide for themselves what she is trying to say.. the story she has to tell. HOWEVER.. there are times that I think there is a definite story to be told."

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part XV - Yarn Dolls


Children have been making yarn dolls since the Colonial times which is why many museums across the counting use yarn doll making as part of their children's activities programs.

For example the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center included yarn doll making in the Saturdays At The Museum program.  ription for the program was as follows:

Join us on Saturday, September 8 from 1 - 3 pm for Second Saturdays at the Museum! Your child is invited to learn about the Civil War and Civil War era dolls while they make a yarn doll and a journal about the doll's story. We will talk about the Museum's guests, two Civil War era dolls on temporary loan from the Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia, and what the War meant to the children who experienced it. Children are invited to bring their own dolls to share, discuss, and journal about during the activity. The Civil War era dolls will be on display in the Museum's permanent gallery, Fredericksburg At War, from September 3, 2012 through March 3, 2013.

The Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House has a Puppets, Dolls & Plays program that teaches how to make yarn dolls.  Their description is as follows:

Did you know that making puppets and dolls is an art that was a very popular pastime in the Victorian age? Learn about the toys and games of Louisa, Anna, Elizabeth, and May and about the dolls they made.  Girls will make their own yarn dolls and take them on a tour of Orchard House! They will also make a puppet and use it to dramatize a story from our "Puppet Theatre."

The Missippi Department of Archives and History created an Antebellum Tree - Yarn Dolls .PDF showing hown to make yarn doll ornaments.

According to the Missippi Department of Archives and History"Christmas trees in Antebellum America were commonly placed on a table in the parlor, the most formal room in the house, following the fashion set by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. As commercially produced ornaments were not widely available, children and adults alike often made their own. Small gifts were often hung on the tree. Cookies, dried and preserved fruits, and gilded nuts made fashionable and tasty decorations. Yarn dolls, cornshuck dolls, snowflakes, and other cut paper ornaments decorated the tree. The tree was “lit” with candles in special holders that clipped to the branches. "

Yarn dolls are very popular for children's activities so there are a lot of tutorials out there showing you how to make them.  Generally, they are faceless, but I've seen some tutorials that give the dolls simple eyes.

The Wikihow.com website has a How to Make a Colonial Girl Yarn Doll tutorial showing how to make the simple faceless yarn doll shown in the picture to the left.

According to the tutorial, "Back in colonial times, kids couldn't buy toys. Kids had to use materials like yarn to make toys. One of these toys were colonial yarn dolls. Today you will learn to make a girl colonial yarn doll."

If you would like to see and read the How to Make a Colonial Girl Yarn Doll tutorial please click here.

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part XIIII - Muslim Dolls


In 2009 after I published an update for my History of Faceless Dolls article I received an email from a mother who told me, "Muslims also have a tradition of faceless dolls."  I didn't know that and thanked her for telling me as well as telling her I would include this in my next update.

She directed me to several websites selling faceless cloth dolls for Muslim children.  They were as follows:

Aisha Dolls
The Islamic Establishment

From what I understand Islam forbids the depiction of facial features of any kind, including those on dolls.

The faceless cloth doll shown in the picture to the left is from The Islamic Establishment website.

Besides the faceless cloth dolls they also sells faceless knit bears.

The Aisha Dolls by Umm ‘AbdirRahmaan website sells two categories of faceless dolls;  Dolls 0+ for babies and children up to 3 and Dolls 3+ for children over 3 years of age.

The description for the Category 3+  dolls is as follows: Time for Play - Cater for Islamic Values 

Once the children grow they want more challenging toys. The ragdolls from Aisha Dolls all have removable clothes and woolen hair which invite the child to imaginative play. All dolls are faceless.

The faceless boy and girl dolls, Friends Asiyah and Bilal, shown in the picture to the right, are from the Dolls 3+ category of the Aisha Dolls website.

The description for the Category 0+ dolls is as follows:

Since babies always want to put everything in their mouth all our age 0+ dolls from Aisha Dolls webshop are made from 100% natural cotton. With Islamic clothing Aisha dolls 0+ cater for Islamic values from an early age. All 0+ dolls are faceless.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part XIII - Waldorfs


The last few decades have seen an increase in the popularity of Waldorf Dolls and all sorts of spin-offs of dolls similar in style.

According to Wikipedia.com, "A Waldorf doll (also called Steiner doll) is a form of doll used in Waldorf education. Made of wool and cotton, using techniques drawing on traditional European doll making, its appearance is intentionally simple in order to allow the child playing with it to improve or strengthen imagination and creativity. For instance, it has no facial expression. Its legs and arms are flexible, allowing natural postures."

The traditional Waldorf dolls are eco-friendly in that they are made of cotton interlocks knit fabric, stuffed with wool, with  hair of mohair or some other natural product. Some of the dolls are faceless, some very nearly faceless with just the sculpted outline of a face (i.e. eye indents and noses) or suggestions of a face.  Some have minimal features - like dots for eyes, and some have eyes, nose, and mouths.  In the latter, however, the dolls still have very simple facial expressions.

Waldorf dolls have minimal faces or are faceless in order to stimulate a child's imagination.  Children and babies, in particular, mimic the world around them.  If the doll is faceless or has just two simple eyes, or just the impression of a nose and mouth the child is able to imagine the emotion they want to assign to the doll.  If they're sad, they will imagine the doll with a sad face.  If  they're happy, they will imagine the doll with a happy face.

In 1919 the 1st Waldorf school, based on the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, was created in Stuttgart, Germany.  Rudolf Steiner was a big advocate of artistic expression and the use of a child's imagination.  Waldorf dolls are used in the education in the schools and homes of children all over the world.

The Knecht Ruprecht blog has a Waldorf Silk Cuddle Doll tutorial for making the precious faceless silk cuddle doll shown in the picture to the right.

According to the blog, "The Silk Snuggle Doll is probably the most simple but yet one of the most enchanting dolls I know. It can be made for or together with a baby or a small child coming alive though nurturing gestures stimulating creativity by drawing on the child’s imagination."

"This kind of Cloth Dolls has also been used since generation to calm and comfort young babies. If a Mama keeps this doll with her a little while the silk is absorbing familiar fragrances and comforting a baby wherever it is."

On the Best Years website you can see pictures of the most adorable knitted faceless Waldorf style Pebble Pixies like those shown in the picture to the left.

The dolls are crocheted out of cotton, machine washable, and suitable from birth.

If you would like to see more of the Pebble Pixies please click here.