If you are looking for a fun cloth doll project to make with kids over the holidays, I have a great one for you. Check out my article about Common Linen Dolls on pages 67-69 in the Christmas 2009 issue of Early American Life magazine. The article comes with patterns and instructions as well as a bit of history concerning these pocket sized dolls.
The dolls first appeared in print in The American Girl’s Book written by Eliza Leslie, published in 1831 (numerous reprintings followed). The American Girl’s Book is a wonderful collection of games, amusements and projects for girls. If you ever have your chance to get your hands on a copy, hold on hard and fast! I wanted one for many years before my husband was finally able to locate a copy for me (the internet is a wonderful thing – and so are the many used and collectible book sellers that religiously post up their inventories).
I’ve made these dolls with kids many, many times and they absolutely love them. In September we held a Colonial Family Day at the museum with lots of demonstrations and hands on activities. Making Common Linen Dolls was by far the most popular station. That’s saying a lot when some of the other choices were churning ice cream (and eating it), stuffing scarecrows, dipping beeswax candles and bobbing for apples.
My poor volunteers that were helping the kids make dolls were totally overwhelmed. The room they were in was so crowded you could barely walk through it. Little girls with a needle and thread in their hands were bent over linen everywhere you looked.
Due to space considerations, Early American Life edited and condensed my instructions. That’s a very common occurrence when magazines print how- to craft articles. Any of you who have one of my patterns know that when it comes to instructions, I am a firm believer in the more the merrier! 🙂 If you buy the magazine and want to make the dolls, but feel you need additional help, just contact me and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.