Doll clothing was made from fabric scraps left over from the family sewing basket. The clothes would have reflected the clothes of people during the time the dolls were made, including underwear, petticoats, long dress, pinafore, apron and bonnet. Doll shoes and stockings might have been sewn or painted on.
Other early finds include 1st Century Peruvian dolls made from woven materials and 6th Century Coptic dolls made from brightly coloured wools. They were not always used as toys, but also as religious or fertility symbols.
During the SEVENTEENTH and EARLY EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES, a wave of people emigrating across the Atlantic swept from Europe to America. Successive groups of Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, Scots, Irish, Dutch, Swedes and many others attempted to transplant their habits and traditions to the new world.
Inevitably, however, forces such as the geographic conditions peculiar to America, the interaction of the varied national groups on one another, caused significant changes, creating a character that was distinctly American.
Cloth dolls made by these COLONIAL AMERICANS are mentioned in diaries, property lists and literature of the time. They must have been treasured items, indeed. Early Colonial dolls are also known as Primitives or Pioneer dolls. In Europe during this time, rag dolls were made for doll houses, as playthings and as adornments for needle cases, made from rolled fabric with faces drawn on.
There had already been the invention of the Flying Shuttle in 1733 by John Kay (1704-c1780) from Bury, and the Spinning Jenny by James Hargreaves (c1720-1778).
In 1765, Massachusetts, USA, Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin to harvest the cotton crop, and tremendously increased cotton production in the Deep South, helping to revive a badly lagging economy. Suddenly cotton began to rival the tobacco industry's profits.
The AMERICAN CIVIL WAR, however, coincided with the after-effects of this period of over-production in the late 1850s. Consequently, exported supplies of raw cotton from the southern states of the USA to England slowed down considerably. This resulted in mass unemployment, poverty and starvation in the north of England, affecting many towns within Lancashire including Preston and Burnley. This British Cotton Famine, or Cotton Panic, was one of the bleakest periods in the history of the Lancashire Cotton Industry and lasted four years.
The knock-on effect of this poverty and unemployment was that the mill-owners were unable to sell all the cloth they had made and began stockpiling it, until eventually, one by one, the Lancashire mills began to close down.This may explain, in part, why the craft of cloth doll making became more popular in American, North America and Australia than in Great Britain.
cloth doll makers throughout history also include Izannah Walker,
(1840s) who made cloth dolls with a primitive, folk
arts look. Izannah Walker patented her dolls in 1873 and these dolls are very
much in demand by collectors.
In Europe the cloth doll was being produced by the Lenci Doll company. Steiff and Lenci, began to experiment with stockinet and felt which was hot-pressed over a mould.
In the early 1920's Norah Wellings (Chad Valley designer) used velvet for her souvenir and commercial character dolls.
As a result of the invention of the sewing machine and magazine pattern printing, home made rag dolls gained greater popularity in the NINETEENTH CENTURY.
From about the 1850's, commercially produced rag dolls where the dolls were printed on cloth or had their features hand painted in oils became popular.
Flat panel/printed dolls were first sold in sheet form in the EARLY 2Oth CENTURY and were of the outline/pancake style.
Examples may be seen at Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood, London
<Doll bought from Bethnal Green Museum 1968 as a flat printed piece of cloth, cut out, sewn and unfortunately filled with foam chips!
To be continued...