Handmade raggy primitive dolls




Nothing like sewing and knitting, some down-home ‘domestic’ crafting for that salt of the earth feel so easily lost in la la land lawya land where the work of my hands gets pushed into the background of my mind.

Knitting and sewing yesterday I felt like putting the kettle on the stove, reaching for the teapot, getting down the tea-cups and pouring out the tea.  Ah, the olden days of the cuppa in front of the wood stove …. growing up in rural Australia.







It was cold, grey and overcast, a true autumn day and a day for me to be inside doing homey things including sharing these little cuties.


Two primitive black dolls made of cloth (rag dolls) a few years ago when I was taking some time away from  law. Nothing spectacular, just simple primitive raggedy dolls, their bodies made from heavily aged, stained and coloured calico (muslin) for the rustic finish. Their gathered dresses and aprons, also made of cotton, are trimmed with lace and finished in drab stains and hues for the worn and aged look.




I soft scuptured the pudgy little faces mainly around the lips, nose and eyebrows.

The eyes are hand painted and further detailed with ink pen. The hair is made by attaching lengths of crinkled yarn to the head to which I have added a tattered bow.

I applied a little blush to the girl’s cheeks and lips as you see.





I try always to use recycled fabrics and lace where possible and will not use synthetics unless there is absolutely nothing else suitable. Likewise, I use cotton thread in my sewing. To use polyester thread for sewing would be like committing a mortal sin!



Soft sculptured chubby little toes of these barefoot beauties.




Of course, these days, it’s generally synthetic stuffing (polyester usually) for cloth doll bodies including teddy bears. I have and will use sheeps wool, left over wool yarn and kapok if I can find it as well as cotton stuffing and wadding including cut up and torn rags as found in old dolls and teddies along with straw, saw dust and wood chips. Rag and saw dust stuffed dolls and bears do indeed come out with a heavier, lumpier body and always feel and look more authentically vintage.




Holding hands like twins, sisters, best friends or cousins?

The dollies measures about 38-40cm/15-16″ more or less from top of their head to the tip of their big toe when held up (not sitting). Because their little bottoms are boxed and weighted, they sit easily with bare feet dangling. Based on a design by Dirty Crow Inn they are truly endearing sitting on a shelf, a chair, the window-ledge, a heap of books or wherever you want.

Indeed, I enjoy using cloth in making dolls especially in the primitive early style, a genre of handmade art I touched on earlier here and here and where I talked about Krystal Norton’s article ‘Why? What is Primitive Anyway?‘ a good place to start learning about this style of art.

The primitive art genre encompasses a folk art and naive simplicity in cloth rendition. The primitive artist’s goal is to replicate dolls of early days, of the depression eras when life and art was less sophisticated and money was short. People lacked skills and supplies and ‘made-do’ with what was available. Basically they were frugal utilitarians.

Early primitive style dolls, bears and so forth can be very simple, very rustic, grubby, even ugly, but always warming to the heart as evidence of times past.

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