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. I also love to design Victorian dolls. I hope you enjoy my Victorian Dolls, Victorian Traditions,The Victorian Era, and Me blog.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Innu Tea Doll


In researching my article on "faceless" dolls I came across a type of doll that I had never heard of before who has a fascinating history. The dolls are called "Innu Tea Dolls" and were made by the Innu people from Nitassinan (Quebec and Labrador) Canada. The Innu have been making dolls for a very long time.

According to history the Innu people were always on the move. As such, space to carry items was always at a premium. When the Innu people traveled to their hunting grounds everyone had to carry their fair share, including the children. Innu women would sew the dolls and stuff them with tea. The tea dolls were intended to be carried by the children and would hold two or three pounds of loose tea. When the main supply of tea ran out, the dolls were opened and the tea inside was shared. The dolls would then be stuffed with caribou moss to retain their shape and then given to the children as toys.

The illustration at the top of this article is of an Innu Tea Doll that was given to the Smithsonian Institute by Lucien M. Turner in the early 1880's. According to the Innu.ca website he obtained some of the Innu Tea Dolls from the Innu people who came out of the Hudson Bay Company post to trade. The Innu of Labrador are the last known hunter/nomadic people of North America.

I hope to visit the Smithsonian one of these days. That is, when I'm not crafting or sewing. When I do I'll be sure to look for the Innu Tea Doll.


Friday, April 14, 2006

Happy Easter

Easter - the end of the winter and the beginning of spring. What a wonderful time of the year. When I think of Easter I think of Easter outfits, Easter baskets, church services, and Easter lilies.

My favorite, of course, is Victorian Easter dresses. Second to that is the Easter lily. I can remember coming home each Easter from church with an Easter Lily. I loved them then and I love them now. In fact, I have a garden filled with them along with tiger lilies, daffodils, tulips and day lilies.

The reason my garden is filled with them is because each Easter my Mother brings one to me . After the blooms are gone I plant it in my garden. That way, every year I get to marvel at the sheer beauty and delicacy of its blooms. They are magnificent.

The lily is a symbol of purity because of its whiteness and very delicate form. It symbolizes innocence. It's called the Easter lily because the flowers bloom in early Spring, around Easter. The white lily, or Bermuda trumpet, was brought to the United States from Bermuda in 1880 by Mrs. Thomas P. Sargent of Philadelphia, Pa. It has become the mainstay of Easter floral arrangements and church decorations.

If you have an Easter lily or have been given one make sure that you plant it in your garden. That way you'll see it bloom time and time again. So, each year you can't help but marvel at its magnificence.

We hope everyone has a very Happy Easter.

Graphics - Courtesy of Becky at www.primsandstems.com

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"In Your Easter Bonnet, With All The Frills Upon It....."

If you are a baby boomer, like I am, then you probably have many fond memories associated with dressing up in your finest attire (hopefully, new clothes) for Easter Day. I know that I do.

On of my favorite Easter Day pictures is the one to the left. The picture is of my mother, father, older brother, younger sister and younger brother just before going to church on Easter Day. I was taking the picture.

You might be wondering why it's one of my favorites. Well, just look at my older brother's smile - or grimace might be a better description.

And, then, of course there's my mother's hat. It was this big, white, floral, lace, ribbon concoction. Oh, sorry, mom. I meant hat. It was lovely... WINK! WINK!

Every time I look at this picture and my mother's hat I can't help but think about the words from Irving Berlin's 1948 song "Easter Parade."

"In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it
You'll be the grandest gal in the Easter parade.
I'll be all in Glover, and when they look us over
We'll be the proudest couple in the Easter parade."

If you're a reader of my Linda's Blog then you know that I just love historical traditions. So, of course this got me to thinking about the tradition of Easter clothes and the Easter parade. Where and when did this all begin? Where did the wearing of new clothes come from?

Early Christians believed the week before Easter was a good time to be baptized and called it "White Week." They dressed in new white robes, which they wore during the entire Easter week to symbolize their rebirth and new life. People who had been baptized previously wore new clothes on Easter to symbolize they shared in this rebirth and new life.

Subsequently, Europeans came to believe that a new piece of clothing on Easter Sunday would bring good luck. Old or used garments would bring a year of misfortune. So new clothes became a symbol of Easter. It's unbelievable how many traditions we still have based upon superstition.

It wasn't until the Middle Ages that people in their new clothes began to take walks after their Easter service. This eventually evolved into the tradition of Easter Parades, of which New York's 5Th Avenue is probably the most famous.

After the Civil War Easter was known as the "Sunday of Joy." Women and girls who had worn dark colors of mourning during the war decided to start wearing the bright and wonderful colors of spring. Their hats were decorated with fresh flowers. If the fresh flowers weren't available then they would make flowers out of paper, fabric, ribbons, feathers, hairs, etc.

The Easter Parade in New York began in 1860 - the Victorian Era, of course. The elite of society would attend Easter Service at one of the churches along 5Th Avenue and then parade down 5Th Avenue afterwards to give every one a chance to view their new Easter hats and dresses. I would have loved to have seen that. Some of the dresses had to be absolutely gorgeous. And, of course, there were the hats.

The hats were elaborate and kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger with each passing year. Flowers, lace, bird's nests (that's something I definitely want in my hat), ribbons, etc. were all used to decorate the hats. The more elaborately decorated the hat, the better.

Of course, the first Easter bonnets were worn way before Easter was even celebrated. They weren't even bonnets at all. They were circles of wreaths of leaves and flowers and were worn atop the head to celebrate Spring. The round shape symbolized the sun and the life cycle.

In essence the Easter Parade along 5Th Avenue was the forerunner of what is known today as a "fashion show." Many seamstresses would bring their sketch pads with them to the Easter Parade so that they could go back and create knockoffs for their less wealthy clients.

Even as a child I loved Easter. Why? For me it had to do with my fascination for beautiful dresses. My mother would buy me the most beautiful little girl's dress for Easter. I'd have my hat or bonnet (of course), my black patent leather shoes, white lace socks (the tops had to be lace, of course), my white gloves (oh, yes I wore gloves), and my little purse. I don't remember what I carried in that purse. What possible needs did a little girl have. Maybe I kept my candy in there. In any event, as you can imagine I loved it.

The picture to the right is of my older brother and I on Easter Sunday. Just look at my dress. I actually remember that dress. The front bodice had the most beautiful smocking and there were several layers of tulle underneath to keep the skirt puffed out. If you've never worn a dress with tulle you can't imagine how itchy it was. If you look closely my hat was a headband adorned with flowers and I think I was carrying a lollipop. Maybe that's what I kept in my purse. My brother, of course, was all decked out in his finest too. We probably walked around our house for our Easter Parade.

Another fond memory I have of Easter attire is the first year I wore high heels. What a disaster that was. I never got the hand of it and still don't know how women wear them. I kept falling off the side of the high heels. For me, given that I'm a tall women, that was comical to say the least. So flats or shoes with wide heels became my shoes of choice.

As with many wonderful traditions, new Easter outfits are a thing of the past. Some people do buy new clothes and some places have Easter parades as a lark. For me, I will always have the fond memories of my beautiful Easter dresses, and then there's my mothers hat. That hat! She could have had an eagles nest in it. Just kidding, Mom. It was lovely... WINK! WINK!

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Who Doesn't Love Bunnies?

Who doesn't love cute, cuddly bunnies. Crafters and doll makers certainly do. When a crafter thinks of Easter or Spring they generally think bunnies and eggs. They've become a staple of Easter and Spring.

Why? Because like many other items crafters can do so many things with them. They can be Victorian, Primitive, Country, even Shabby Chic. They can be made of fur, cloth, wood, metal, just about anything. They can be colorful or bleak. They can have clothes or no clothes. They can be cuddly or firm. They can be standing, sitting, even hopping. They can be toys, dolls, knick-knacks, graphics, cartoons, candy, signs, pictures, etc. Just about anything you can imagine. The sky's the limit.

So, where did all the fascination and tradition of bunnies being associated with Easter and Spring begin. As with a lot of our traditions bunnies (or really, hares) have their origins in pre-Christian or pagan folklore. They served as symbols of abundant new life in the Spring. It was decided that Easter would always be the first Sunday following a full moon. So, since the moon was used to determine the date for Easter and the hare was the Egyptian symbol for the moon, hares became associated with Easter. Hares are nocturnal like the moon and carry their young for a month before giving birth, which is like the changing moon with its monthly full moon. It was also believed that the hare always kept its eyes open, watching the moon.

According to some pagan folklore, the Easter bunny was originally a large bird belonging to the goddess Eostre. To entertain her children she magically changed her favorite pet bird into a hare, which immediately laid colorful and magical eggs. So, because the Easter bunny was really a bird at heart he continued to build a straw nest and fill it with eggs.

Eggs were dyed and eaten during the Spring festivals in ancient Egypt, Greece, Persia, and Rome and were given as gifts to celebrate the coming of Spring. In all cultures the egg symbolizes the beginning of life or the universe. The early Christians didn't feel that the pagan custom of coloring eggs was harmful so they kept that pagan tradition and applied it to their own festivities. Some speculate that missionaries or Knights of the Crusades were responsible for bringing the coloring of eggs westward.

The earliest known reference to a modern Easter Bunny appears in German writings in 16th century Germany. In medieval times eggs were traditionally given at Easter to the servants. The first edible Easter bunnies were made in Germany during the early 1800's and were made of pastry and sugar.

In the 18Th century, German settlers brought the Easter Bunny tradition to America. The white Easter Bunny was called "Oschter Haws" or "Osterhase" and brought gifts of chocolate candy to good children. The children believed that if they were good the "Oschter Haws" would lay colorful eggs for them in a nest the children had built, which was usually a hat or bonnet that was placed in a secluded place like the barn or the garden.

Placing the hats or bonnets in secluded places eventually lead to the Easter Hunts. On Easter morning the children of the house would join together in a search for the eggs that the Easter Bunny had hidden while they were asleep.

By the 19Th century the Easter Hare became the Easter Rabbit. Plastic Easter eggs made their debut in the early 1960's with more than 1 million plastic eggs being purchased each year for Easter. American families would later change the tradition of the nest into using baskets and giving chocolate as well as money. And, today, we know how commercial all of this has become. Easter baskets are no longer just filled with candy eggs. It's amazing how a simple tradition has become such a commercial affair.

In any event, now you know why bunnies are associated with Easter and Spring. I suspect that crafters will continue with their love affair with bunnies for a long time to come. They're just so versatile. Besides, how can you not love a bunny? They're just so cute, so cuddly, so fuzzy, so warm, so....

Oh, here comes Peter Cottontail!
Hopping down the bunny trail,
Hippity hoppity, Happy Easter Day!"


Graphic courtesy of Becky at www.primsandstems.com

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The History Of Faceless Dolls

If you're a reader of my Linda's Blog then you know that I just LOVE research. In thinking about my recent post on my Victorian "faceless" dolls I started to wonder exactly what the history of faceless dolls was. So, of course I had to find out.

I figured that there had to be a history of faceless dolls or, at least, some cultures and norms. Believe it or not but there isn't a lot of information on either the history of faceless dolls or cultures and norms that started such a tradition.

There is some information on two of the most popular and widely known faceless dolls - Amish dolls and Corn husk dolls. And there is the legend surrounding Raggedy Ann and "faceless" dolls. I was also surprised that there wasn't more information on "faceless" dolls throughout history. I thought for sure that they had to have been around for a long, long time.

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.

Probably the oldest legend has to do with "faceless" Corn husk dolls. Some say they are the oldest form of doll known in America. The corn husk doll shown to the right is a picture of a corn husk doll that is in the USU Museum of Anthropology.

According to Iroquois legend the Iroquois people had three sisters - corn, beans, and squash or the "sustainers of life." The corn spirit wanted to do something extra for her people so the Creator allowed her to create a beautiful doll from her husks which was to roam the earth and bring brotherhood and contentment to the Iroquois nation. The doll went from village to village playing with the children. Everywhere she went everyone would tell her how beautiful she was.

One day this very, very beautiful doll went into the woods and saw herself in a pool of water. She saw how very, very beautiful she was and this caused her to become very vain and naughty. Kind of sounds like my "Celia" doll, doesn't it? Anyway, the dolls vanity and attitude did not sit well with the people or the Creator. The Creator warned her that this was not the right kind of behavior. She paid attention for a while (as all dolls do) but caught sight of herself in a pool of water again and thought to herself how beautiful indeed she was.

Suddenly out of the sky came a giant screeching owl that snatched her reflection right out of the water. When she looked again at the poll of water she saw nothing. This was her punishment. She would have no face and would roam the earth forever looking for something to redeem herself. Iroquois mothers passed the legend and "faceless" corn husk dolls down to their children to remind them that vanity is a bad thing and that they are not better than anyone else.

The Amish have strong religious beliefs which influence their daily lives. Their dress is plain and simple and so are the dolls they make for their children. According to the Amish tradition, the Bible says that you are not supposed to make anything that is in the image or likeness of a male or female. For that reason the dolls are "faceless."

In some Amish homes even "faceless" dolls were forbidden. Instead of a doll the children were given a piece of wood wrapped in a blanket. Since very few toys were allowed in an Amish household, boys and girls both played with the dolls. Both boy and girl dolls were made.

If you were to examine an old Amish doll you might see 4 or 5 layers of cloth on the head or the body. If the doll became too dirty, ripped or worn then it was covered with a new piece of material.

Most Amish women have been making dolls ( faceless and with faces) for their children for generations. This tradition has become a cottage industry for the Amish community. The picture top and left is of a popular "faceless" Amish boy and girl doll.

Over 20 years ago I bought a similar set of "faceless" Amish dolls. My dolls had on burgundy and black outfits but, pretty much, looked like the picture. I would have included a picture of my two "faceless" Amish dolls in this article but I can't remember where they are right now. They're here somewhere.

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.

In doing my research on faceless dolls I was delighted to run across some websites concerning the application of "faceless" dolls today and why they were chosen or made "faceless." One of the websites concerned the Children With Aids Project (CWA) which was created by Joy and Jim Jenkins. CWA offers a variety of services to children infected or affected by AIDS. One of these services is giving "faceless" dolls to the children infected or affected by Aids. Why did they decide to make and sell "faceless" dolls. Because AIDS is a "faceless" disease. According to their CWA website, by buying one of the dolls you can support their mission to recruit families to provide loving, caring permanent homes for the HIV infected, affected and orphaned children.

Another article about "faceless" dolls concerned the 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. According to the article her purpose, however, 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.

On the Girl Scouts of South Jersey Pines (GSSJP) website there was an article about a Girl Scout who made and donated 32 faceless dolls to the Pediatrics Department of the Salem Memorial Hospital to help ease the children's fears of being in the hospital. The dolls were made out of muslin with bright striped and tye-dyed polar fleece t-shorts. The faces were left blank. Attached to each doll was a piece of paper that told the child to "give the doll a face to make it their own."

And, finally, there was 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.

I think you all know that I, personally, love faceless dolls. Victorians, primitives, country style. It doesn't matter. I love them all. Why do I love the faceless doll so much? Because I think be being "faceless' the doll can be anything you want him or her to be. You create the dolls personality to be exactly what you want it to be. And, as we've seen from the above mentioned articles the application can be heartwarming, meaningful and beautiful.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day, tomorrow, to all the "young at heart" lovers of the world. I said "young at heart" so that no one would feel left out. Young, old, single, married, anyone with a pulse!

I actually think Valentine's Day is really for all the young lovers of the world who somehow feel like they have to show the person they love just how much they love them. And, I think it's become way too commercial. I just don't like being told I have to openly express my feelings towards the people I love on a certain day or buy them expensive gifts because someone has decided that we should.

For my husband and I, we prefer to think of every day that we have each other as Valentine's Day. Unconditional love, compliments, hugs, lingering kisses, thank-you's, "I Love You's!" for no reason, gentle caresses, smiles when you least expect it, words of encouragement, unexpected presents, help with the chores, impish looks, laughing with each other, loving glances, finishing each other's sentences, holding hands, counting on each other, loyalty, that glint in the eyes when you look at each other, and tender looks each and every day are a thousands times more meaningful than a card or a present or an elaborate holiday on Valentine's Day. That's us. Some of you may disagree.

When I was a child Valentine's Day was exciting because they always made it seem like a special event in school. You had to buy your little box of Valentine's and make one out for everyone in your class. Special ones had to be saved for special people like "Mommy" and "Daddy" and the rest of your family. You had to have your little candy hearts with the sayings and one went in with every Valentine's Day card. Sometimes special people got two. Then, we'd hand them out in school and you'd count how many you got. The "most popular" kids always got the most.

I never really thought too much about that until one year when there was a young girl in my class who was not well liked. That year she only got a few. Yes, one was from me as my Mother's rule was that everyone in the class gets one or no one gets one. From that day on it hit me that a public display like that could be very, very hurtful for some children. I had never thought about that before. I did that day. And, the effect has never left me. I can still see her crushed face and big, tearful eyes. Forty-five years later I don't remember her name but I remember her face and how devastated she was. If it had that effect on me I can't imagine what effect it had on her.

Maybe that has something to do with my attitude towards Valentine's Day. In any event, given that I love research - and readers of my Linda's Blog know that I do - I thought I'd do a little research on the history of Valentine's Day.

From what I understand from the historychannel.com and Wikipedia.com the roots of Valentine's Day can be traced back to a Catholic Feast Day, in honor of Saint Valentine. As with so many other traditions it started with a pagan tradition. For 800 years before Valentine's Day was established the Romans had practiced a pagan celebration in mid-February commemorating young men's rites of passage to the god Lupercus.

During the festival the names of women were placed in an urn. The city's bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and then become paired for the year with that woman. Guys today might think that was pretty good deal. There were no strings attached but, the matches often ended in marriage. So, Pope Gelasius declared February 14Th, St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. However, the Roman pagan "lottery" system was deemed unchristian and outlawed by the Church. Instead of the names of young women, the box would contain the names of saints. Oh, boy. Can't you see the guys all lining up for that? Both men and women could draw from the box. The idea was to try and emulate the saint who's name they drew during the rest of the year. Needless to say the young Roman men weren't happy with this change. So, the Church decided that instead of Lupercus they needed a more suitable saint of love to take his place. Enter Antonio Banderas or, for me, Brad Pitt!

As the legend goes Valentine was a priest who served during the 3rd century in Rome. At the time, Rome was ruled by Emperor Claudius II. He was a ruthless ruler who involved Rome and its citizens in many bloody and unpopular wars. Emperor Claudius II was having a problem recruiting married men to his army and decided that all the single men made better soldiers than the men who were married and had families. So, he decided to outlaw marriage for young men. Can you imagine someone trying to do that today? In any event, Valentine thought that this was unfair and decided to defy the emperor and perform marriages in secret for young lovers. Of course, when Valentine was discovered he was put to death. He was stoned to death and then beheaded. He suffered martyrdom on the 14Th of February about 270 A.D.

Another legend has it that Valentine, while he was being imprisoned by Emperor Claudius II, sent the first "Valentine" greeting himself while he was in prison. It's believed he fell in love with the blind daughter of his jailer who visited him often. Valentines great love for her and his faith managed to miraculously heal her from her blindness before he was executed. Before his death he wrote her a letter and signed it "From Your Valentine."

After the lottery was banned Roman men still sought the affection of women (what a surprise). So, it became a tradition for the men to give the women they admired handwritten messages of love and affection containing Valentine's name.

The first Valentine card was sent in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Maybe there's something to being imprisoned that causes men to write valentines!

Valentine's Day didn't get imported into the U.S. until the 19Th century and was brought by British settlers. Most of the valentines back then were hand written. The 1st mass produced valentines were on embossed paper and were sold around 1847 by Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts. Her father had a stationary store and she loved an English valentine she had received so she decided to create her own. She made her elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons, and colorful pictures known as "scrap." Kind of sounds like today's version of scrapbooking. The picture to the right is a Valentine's Day postcard, circa 1910.

During the second half of the 20Th century the giving of all manner of gifts was included with the valentines. Starting in the 1980's the diamond industry began to promote Valentine's Day as a day to give fine jewelry. What a surprise. And, if you'd like a statistic to support how commercial it's become - how about the fact that 1 BILLION valentine cards are sent each year. That makes Valentine's Day the second largest card sending holiday of the year. In comparison 2.6 billion cards are sent at Christmas. And, this may surprise you, 85 present of all valentines are purchased by women. Are they buying them for themselves I wonder? Hmm.... It started out with men giving them to women. Now is it women giving to men? If not men, then who?

So, is it too commercial? You do the math. One billion cards - that's a huge $$$$ making industry just in cards. Is it any wonder that the florists, the diamond industry, the restaurants, the hotel chains, etc. have all joined in. They want a piece of the action, too. Now, Valentines Day is not complete without the card, the flowers, the jewelry, the restaurant, and the romantic getaway. No wonder I think it's way too commercial.

So, for all of you who are in love with the idea of Valentine's Day I wish you a "Happy Valentine's Day!" For those of you who are still young at heart I leave you with a few Valentine's Day riddles:

What did the stamp say to the envelope? Stick with me and we'll go places.

What happens when you fall in love with a French chef? You get buttered up.

Knock, knock. Who's there? Justin. Justin who? Justin time! Here's your valentine.

Knock, knock. Who's there? Oscar. Oscar who? Oscar if she likes me!

and, finally - What did the boy elephant say to the girl elephant on Valentine's Day? I love you a ton! I think I'll go tell my husband that one.

Happy Valentine's Day from Linda graphic above - Courtesy of Snowdreamz.com