The first dolls I made were from patterns and sewing books. I was not confident enough to design. There was Samantha, an old fashioned quilted doll, calico animals in frames, stuffed animals, Christmas tree ornaments and the standard, Raggedy Ann and Andy. I made one for each of my three daughters. William, our oldest grandson celebrating ten today still treasures his Andy. His boy has been washed and dried several times and still loves William back. Here we are at the first outdoor fair. My father is in the photo, proudly watching his first granddaughter, Kate, pick and choose her favorite mommy product. Very discriminating, she chose dolls! That bench still displays our girls and goes to fairs.
Those first Raggedys are pictured on our home steps in Bronxville, NY, 42 years ago when my love for making dolls began. I'm not sure who owns those sweethearts today. It was before I registered and signed my dolls. And the Raggedy is not mine - they belong to Johnny Gruelle View image whose original copyright drawing was given to me by sweet husband back in the 1970's.
Fortunately, dolls became my mainstay, and to be honest, Raggedy was my inspiration for perfection. The construction especially catapulted my ability to design jointed bodies; embroidered faces were essential; and attention to wigging was paramount. One of my most heartfelt sales was to the Xerox salesman who serviced the equipment at the Jesuit seminary, Woodstock College, where I worked before children. He was about to become engaged and asked me to make him a Raggedy to which he could pin the engagement ring. I wonder if they are still married because Raggedy lives on.
Recently a young woman visited. She told me the story about how her Raggedy disappeared, I think, in a fire. On her visit to the Vermont Country Store she found one with button eyes, another with embroidered eyes -- $60, made in China. No thank you. She found her way to us and picked the hair color and the dress fabric. Turkey stitched hair took 3.25 hours. Conservatively, the clothing was made in five hours. The hand embroidered face and heart are done to perfection. She's $155, two feet tall, guaranteed for life, washable and oh so lovable! A benchmark, indeed.
Johnny Gruelle's Raggedy inspired me to be a doll maker. It is a beautiful simple design. But I think he might be impressed to meet my one-hundred person family, each uniquely one of her/his own and like Raggedy, to endure forever.