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.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part X - Twig, Pine Cone, Willow and Nature Craft Dolls


Dolls can be made out of just about anything, like twigs, reeds, pine cones, rocks, etc. When supplies and funds are limited parents and children will use their imagination to create playthings out of just about anything that is available. Even pine needles.

According to the Nature Dolls chapter of The Complete Photo Guide To Doll Making book by Nancy Hoerner, Barbara Matthiessen, and Rick Petersen - Page 55, "Probably the most primitive dolls were made of twigs and a scrap of fabric or whatever was around."

The picture to the left is a twig doll from the Anatomy Of A Doll: The Fabric Sculptor's Handbook By Susanna Oroyan.  In the discussion under elemental forms we learn the following, "Almost every society and culture has a history of using elemental materials - commonly stone, wood, clay, wax, hide, or bone, depending on the location - to make dolls.....None of these forms require instructions or patterns because they are usually created by assembling an assortment of materials, moving them around, noting the suggested form, and combining the materials to accentuate the form."

"It is interesting to theorize which came first - the form or the idea for the form. Did the shape of the twig suggest the figure or a person, or did the maker decide on the person figure, pick up a handy twig, and make it?"

If you would to see or read more of this discussion please click here.

According to The Information Please Girls' Almanac By Alice Siegel - Page 146 and 147, "Most Pioneer dolls were small, between 3 and 10 inches high. A typical doll had a twig or pine cone body.  A child doll had a chestnut head; an adult doll had a hickory head. Acorns, pecans, and walnuts were also used to make these dolls. They were made by women and children who traveled to and settled in the wilderness that became the United States, before there were stores that sold dolls."

If you would like to see or read more of this article please click here.

In the Missouri School Journal, Volume 37 From 1920 under the dolls category we learn about twig dolls.  Here is what they had to say, "Twig dolls are grotesque.  Take a twig which can be trimmed so as to leave two brances for arms and two for legs.  The irregular shapes will suggest the type of costume, i.e. - an old man, a clown, a jolly fat boy, etc.  Cut head, hands and feet from paper making each double.  Glue together on the appropriate ends of the twig.  Make the clothes from either cloth or paper."

If you would like to see or read more of this article please click here.

On the Craftside Blog there is a blog post with the picture shown to the right of a faceless twig doll and a tutorial showing how to make one. The blog post is entitled, This tutorial on how to make a twig doll is from the new book The Complete Photo Guide to Doll Making and it is a review of The Complete Photo Guide to Doll Making book By Barbara Matthiessen, Nancy Hoerner, and Rick Petersen.

On the page is the following summary, "With hairs of roots and arms of twigs, this doll is simple enough for a child to make.  Transforming such crude materials into a plaything or art object hints at the many other wonders nature inspires.  You'll never look at twigs the same again."

If you would like to read her post please click here.  If you would like to preview this book please click here.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part VIIII - Handkerchief and Pillowcase Dolls


During pioneer times when supplies and items were scarce mothers used whatever they had at hand to make dolls for their children.  This included handkerchiefs and pillowcases.

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts created a wonderful .PDF tutorial on making Folk Art dolls.  The .PDF includes an introduction into "Doll Making As A Folk Art Tradition" and tutorials on making 4 different types of Folk Art dolls.

Included in this tutorial is a section on Page 3 on How-To Make Pioneer Handkerchief Doll, like the doll in the picture to the right.

According to the .PDF, "During pioneer times (and at other times when supplies were scarce) dolls were made from handkerchiefs for little girls.  These handkerchief dolls were called "prayer dolls. They were carried to church and did not make noise if dropped.  Some mothers would put sugar cubes or candy in the head of the handkerchief doll for a youngster to suck on to keep the child quiet during the long church service.  Other names for the handkerchief doll are, "church doll", "church babies","pew doll", and "pew babies."

The Hankie Dolls page of the Folk Dolls chapter of The Complete Photo Guide To Doll Making book by Nancy Hoerner, Barbara Matthiessen, and Rick Petersen has a tutorial on making a faceless hankie doll on pages 82-85 that shows how easy it is to make a simple faceless hankie doll.

According to The Complete Photo Guide To Doll Making book  - Page82, "Hankie dolls were also called church dolls or pew dolls because they were first made for children to play with during church services.  The idea was that if the doll was dropped, it wouldn't make any noise."

"The dolls have been made in various ways and we will show you two different ways.  Similar dolls were made from lacy women's hankies and given to a newborn baby girl with the intention that she would later carry it as her bridal hankie."

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part VIII - American Primitive, Prairie, Pioneer, Wagon Train, Appalachian and Folk Art Rag Dolls


In the book "Cloth Dolls From Ancient To Modern" by Linda Edward in Chapter 1 - Page 7 there is a wonderful illustration of a "faceless" 3rd century Roman rag doll made of linen, courtesy of Eric Edward, NVA.

In Chapter 3 - Page 20 of the "Cloth Dolls From Ancient To Modern" by Linda Edward there is a wonderful picture of a "faceless" Amish Doll from the late 20Th century and the Pennsylvania Dutch area.

If you'd like to read my "The Book Review Corner" blog review of "Cloth Dolls From Ancient To Modern please CLICK HERE.

According to Wikipedia.com, "A rag doll is a children's toy. It is a cloth figure, a doll traditionally home-made from (and stuffed with) spare scraps of material. They are one of the most ancient children's toys in existence; the British Museum has a Roman rag doll, found in a child's grave dating from the 1st-5th century AD.  " Amish dolls are a type of traditional American rag dolls which originated as children's toys among the Old Order Amish people. The best-known type have no facial features. Today, many rag dolls are commercially produced to simulate the features of the original home-made dolls, such as simple features, soft cloth bodies, and patchwork clothing."

The doll in the picture to the right is the Roman Rag Doll at The British Museum mentioned in the Wikipedia.com article. According to the museum it is a linen rag doll, filled with rags and papyrus, from the Roman, 1st-5th century AD, that was made in Egypt. If you would like to read more about this doll please click here.

As far as American rag dolls are concerned it doesn't matter if you call them primitive rag dolls, Appalachian dolls, prairie dolls, prayer dolls, wagon train dolls, or folk art dolls they're all basically cloth rag dolls and Americans have been making them since colonial times 1630 - 1762.

There are many different styles of primitive rag dolls.  Some are faceless, some have button eyes, some have hand embroidered or painted on simple faces, some have stitched fingers and toes, some have round heads while others have flat heads. Most are made from rags or scraps of cotton, calico or unbleached or stained muslin fabric and stuffed with fabric scraps, straw, or sawdust.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part VII - Goddess and Spirit Dolls


I have been wanting to create some "goddess dolls" also known as spirit dolls, healing dolls, or mixed media art dolls for awhile and posted about this in an article on my Linda's Blog entitled "My Goddess Doll Adventure So Far!"

I also did some research on them which I posted about in my article on my Linda's Blog entitled A Little More Information on Making Goddess, Spirit and Healing Dolls Of Your Own

What I discovered was that "goddess dolls" or spirit, healing, mixed media art dolls have also been associated with voodoo dolls, pagan rituals, and witchcraft. But, they all relate to "the goddess" and "goddess traditions."

Some "goddess dolls" have been used for good purposes and some used, well, not for good purposes. They have been seen in various cultures all over the world, and in various religions - in various different forms and mediums. It seems that they are as old as time itself and traditional in almost every culture.

Some of the "goddess dolls and spirit dolls" that I have seen are either faceless (which is fine with me) or have cloth faces, clay faces, have sun or moon faces, even beaded faces. Some of the face shapes are round or oval, some are square, and some are triangles. Some of the faces are made of clay, some of cloth and some are even made of beads.

Whatever the face is the dolls are meant to share your hopes, dreams, and listen to your fears. They provide comfort and solace in your time of need. They provide you with the strength you need to face the challengers in your life and empower you to succeed. To release your own "inner goddess." They are lovingly made and given out of heartfelt love from one human being to another. They offer nothing more than love, compassion, understanding, and peace.

In creating the goddess or spirit doll into a physical form you are allowing the spirit to work with you, help you, guide you, and bond with you.

If you would like to make a faceless spirit doll, like the one shown in the picture to the left, Silver RavenWolf, who has written over 21 books on witchcraft, Wicca, angels and magick has a How To Make A Spirit Doll — The Journey of Magickal Design tutorial on her Silver RavenWolf blog.

Silver RavenWolf used the same pattern with a little variation to create three goddess dolls: Mama Magick, Mama Fortune and Mama Transformation. Both Mama Magick and Mama Fortune - Mama Transformation is faceless.

According to Silver RavenWolf, "Mama Transformation has no face, as the face of transformation belongs to her eventual owner."

If you would like to see and read more of Silver RavenWolf's spirit tutorial please click here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part VI - Japanese Sarubobo Dolls


In Japan "Sarubobo" dolls like the picture on the right from Wikipedia.com are human shaped "faceless" dolls, red in color and of various shapes and sizes.

They are traditionally made by Grandmothers for their grandchildren. It is thought that the sarubobo doll was originally made by grandmothers who wanted to entertain small children cooped up inside during heavy snow falls in the Hida region in the winter.

It is also thought that originally there wasn't enough money for the children of farmers to buy toys so the mothers made the dolls as a toy for their children to play with.

They are also given to daughters as good luck charms for a good marriage, easy delivery and healthy children, and a happy home.

They have no faces so the owner can imagine it and the "Sarubobo" can reflect the owner's feelings. When the owner is sad the doll is sad - when the owner is happy the doll is happy.  The doll can sympathize with the owners feelings.

There is an article on the Contented Traveler website about The Sarubobo or Faceless Dolls of Japan by Paula McInerney where she talks about first seeing the sarobobo dolls, like those shown in the picture to the left, on a visit to Takayama in the Gifa prefecture.

According to Paula, "These faceless dolls have a cultural and historical significance to the Japanese people of this area."

According to her article there are different colors for sarubobo dolls - each with a different significance:

The red sarubobo is for luck in marriage, fertility and childbirth. The blue sarubobo is for luck in work. The pink sarubobo is for luck in love. The green sarubobo is for luck in health. The yellow sarubobo is for luck in money. The black sarubobo is to remove bad luck.

The original sarubobo was a red faceless amulet, resembling a monkey which was supposed to bring good luck to the receiver.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part V - Russian Folk Rag Dolls


There are several "faceless" dolls in ancient Russian history. Most were made of fabric and cloth and were made rag dolls for children to play with. The dresses and costumes were always brightly colored and sometimes embroidered with various symbols. According to old Slavic superstition it was believed that if the doll remained faceless that the doll would be viewed as an inanimate object and therefore could not be possessed by evil spirits. Thus, the doll was deemed harmless and children could safely play with the doll without worry that harm might befall them.

In Russian peasant families young girls were encouraged to make dolls and play with them as teaching aides for being mothers. Plus, creating the dolls provided them with some of the sewing, knitting, and weaving skills they would need.

Also, in ancient Russian tradition a "faceless" bride and groom sewn together were given as a wedding gift with the hopes of preserving wealth and health to the newlywed's home.

On the Ecologia Youth Trust website you can see pictures of the faceless Prosperity Angels, faceless Swimmer Dolls, and faceless Traditional rag dolls the children of Kitezh Children’s Community in Russia make and sell with the proceeds going to help support the children of their community.

The Russia-IC.com website has a wonderful article on Traditional Russian Folk Dolls like the faceless amulet doll pictured to the right.

In Russia folk dolls played a big part in conveying sacred values and beliefs to new generations.  The folk dolls fell into three basic categories: amulet, playing, and ritual dolls.

Amulet dolls were faceless because in olden times they believed that the absence of a face showed that the doll was an inanimate thing and could not be accessed by evil spirits. The doll dresses were always clothed in bright-colors and embroidered with magic symbols.

If you would like to read more of the article about the various kinds of  Traditional Russian Folk dolls please click here.

On the Crafts For Kids Blog by Kalyani there is a wonderful How To Make Russian Dolls tutorial showing how to make the faceless rag doll shown in the picture to the left.

According to Kalyani, "Our ancestors gave such dolls to each other, wishing to be always young, charming and attractive. They were the guardians of youth and beauty!"

"Traditional rag-doll has no face, it is white, blank.  So evil spirits could not settle in these dolls. It is safe for children and can bring only joy, health and prosperity. Doll in ancient times was considered a talisman, it protected the owner or the house from harm and misfortune and evil spirits. It helped to heal, to find the husband, helped during travelling, birth. Each doll has its own value and it is incredibly important to do it with love, with clean and bright thoughts, with an open heart. It’s a miracle of rags, which, by the way, was not cut with a knife, just was torn with hands, without needles. And the doll was born with its own character and a great value."

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The History Of Handmade Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part IV - Dominican Republic Dolls


In the Dominican Republic ceramic "faceless" dolls (Limé Dolls or Nativity Figures) like those shown in the picture on the right from the GoDominicanRepublic.com website are handcrafted of clay or ceramic and dressed in bright, colorful traditional clothing.

These dolls were originally created in 1981 by Liliana Mera Limé and depict all different sorts of Dominican country life. Some hold flowers, some carry baskets on their heads, some carry pots, etc.

Legend has it that the dolls are "faceless" because the Dominicans are a very diverse and mixed population (i.e. 75) of the population is mixed of Spanish, French, Indian, and African heritage) and it's impossible to create a doll with a face representing all Dominican women as no one knows for sure what one would look like as the population is so mixed. So, the doll is "faceless" as a symbol of an all-inclusive culture and to remind everyone that differences in color and appearance are meaningless.

The Dominican Creations website has a page on Dominican Faceless Red Clay and Porcelanicron dolls like the one pictured on the left that are very popular with tourists and which they also sell on their website. They come in various sizes and colors and are sculptured from red clay or porcelanicron. They are handmade and hand painted by artisans from the town of Higuerito, Moca located in the Espaillat region of the Dominican Republic .

Another legend of the Dominican Republican is the "faceless" dolls are handcrafted of glazed terra cotta and represent women selling produce door to door. They were vendors for the various cities and towns and were called "Machantas" which means merchant. They are "faceless" to this day to represent all the housewives who bought their produce for years.



The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part III - Marafona Dolls of Portugal



Portugal has a history of faceless dolls, like those shown in the picture to the left, which are known as marafona dolls dressed in traditional outfits which are used as part of the Festival of the Crosses celebration in Monsanto, Portugal.

In the 2nd century B.C. the local population of Monsanto fought against the Roman occupation. When the villagers ability to resist was at the end and they were out of food they threw a cow with its stomach full of their provisions of wheat from the Castle of Monsanto ramparts to fool the Romans into thinking they still had supplies and could continue resisting the Roman occupation.  The trick worked and the Romans lifted their siege of Monsanto.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part II - Amish Dolls


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" like those depicted in the picture of the "Amish Doll Patterns By Jan Steffy Mast" book to the left.

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.

On the Welcome To Lancaster County website you'll find traditional Amish dolls, like those shown in the picture to the right, sold in Lancaster Country, Pennsylvania.

According to their website, "These unique dolls tend to be rag dolls with the unusual characteristic being that they are not depicted with a face."

"It is not known for sure why these Amish toys are faceless. The most commonly accepted explanation is that the Amish religion prohibits Amish people from being photographed for fear that doing so would encourage vanity and other frowned upon behavior."

"The dolls are always depicted with traditional Amish clothing. Amish children never have the option of dressing their dolls in exotic and colorful dresses, outfits, and bathing suits as is common with mainstream children dolls such as Barbie."

"Likewise, depicting these traditional Amish crafts sans face, discourages individuality over the common good of the Amish community."

"Contrary to this theory that the Amish religion is the cause for the dolls to be faceless, there have been found Amish dolls with faces sewn on or drawn on. These dolls date as far back as the early 1900s. Although the origin of the faceless rag doll may never be known for sure, they remain today associated with the culture of the Amish people."

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 right 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.

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015- Introduction and Part 1 - Corn Husk Dolls and Native American Indian Faceless Dolls


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.

Part 1 -  Corn Husk Dolls and Native American Indian Faceless Dolls

Probably the oldest legend has to do with "faceless" corn husk dolls. Some say they are the oldest form of doll known in America and have been around for more than a thousand years. The corn husk doll shown to the right is a picture of a corn husk doll that is in the USU Museum of Anthropology.

Shown below is the information from the Utah State University website back in 2006:

Object ID: 98.01.189
Cultural Affiliation:North American Pioneer Child’s Doll
Date of Manufacture: 1800 to mid-1900 (Pioneer Settlement 2004)
Place of Manufacture: Pioneer homesteads and farms in North America

This doll functioned as a child’s toy.