28 January 2015

The Doll Maker's Gift

My Great-grandma Maggie was an artist.

Scouring local dime stores, she found cast off and forgotten dolls. 

Back at her home, she carefully bathed them and combed their hair. She sewed clothing for them, dressed and loved and treasured them. 

I was mesmerized by her efforts. Dolls lined her shelves and couches, occupied knick-knack cabinets, and held places of honor in special chairs and on beds. 

I didn't inherit Grandma's skill for sewing so, growing up, I never made clothing for my own small collection of dolls. 

And I didn't possess Grandma's patience — painstaking effort that required hours upon hours to skillfully restore neglected dolls to their original beauty. 

But about ten years ago I began to draw dolls. 

Paper dolls. 

I loved giving them different hairstyles and creating paper clothing for them. Some of my dolls were even published in a workbook for children. And some were published on the Internet by a company that sold clip art. 

Making paper dolls was also a hobby I pursued now and again over the years, making them for family members and friends. 

Earlier this year, I decided I wanted to take things a step further and form Hearts and Hands Dolls. A nonprofit organization that would make soft sculpt dolls for elderly shut-ins and abused children. My wonderful seamstresses sewed dozens and dozens and dozens of dolls. 

We delivered them to nursing homes and care centers. 

There were lots of smiles, and lots of tears of joy for all involved. 

We even made Hope/Nicole Dolls for a little girl with leukemia and sold them to help defray some of her medical costs.

But then life caught up with me and I realized I couldn't keep up with the demand for all those who needed dolls —  and all the wonderful women who wanted to have a hand in sewing and stuffing them. 

While I am still involved with the soft sculpt dolls, I've had to scale back. I've had a few discussions with manufacturers who may be able to one day help make and distribute them.

In the meantime, I've kept creating my paper dolls. 

Wanting to celebrate the strength and diversity of women across America, and provide kids a way to learn state facts, I created a line of American dolls — one from each state. I've given them names and lots of cute clothes. 

I've given them teddy bears that can be posed and other friends such as state birds and, as in the case of Aurora, the doll representing Alaska, sled dogs that can be posed as well.

My dream is to find manufacturers who can offer complete doll sets that will include all the articulated figures and separate, unique carrying cases. As I work toward that dream, I keep thinking of Grandma Maggie and drawing new dolls that I hope she'd love as much as her own. 

Read the complete story about my Grandma Maggie here


  1. What lovely paper dolls, and your interesting story behind them.

  2. Sincere thanks, Sharalyn!