“We Must Have All the Fun We Can Together”

She’s 15 inches long, stuffed with clean white cotton, and sewn together with a thousand tears. Or…let’s be truthful here…a thousand expletives. I was like Ralphie in A Christmas Story: I have since heard of people under extreme duress speaking in strange tongues. I became conscious that a steady torrent of obscenities and swearing of all kinds was pouring out of me as I screamed.

A few months ago, I returned home from Redding with my copy of Johnny Gruelle’s Raggedy Ann Stories.

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Written in 1918, Gruelle created an instant classic about a little girl and a rag doll with a candy heart. Raggedy was based on a doll he found in his mother’s attic, and the little girl was based on his own daughter Marcella. The stories have that simple and slow style like the Oz books, and the original illustrations are vintagey perfection.

Johnny Gruelle Raggedy Ann Flying With the Kite

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Although the stories are out of her age range, Fern immediately fell in love, with one chapter read every day. She also became enamored of my 1972 Knickerbocker Raggedy Ann doll, with a face stained with hot chocolate and hair rubbed down to the nubbins. Since Fern was terribly sad whenever it was time to put my doll away, I asked her if she would like mommy to make a Raggedy for her very own. Her face turned into sunshine and she began to ask for it at every reading.

And I began to rue the day.

I assume the tension for all artists is between the vision and the manifestation. Part of the satisfaction comes from the result being a close replica of that inner sight. With crafting, sometimes I hit near the mark, the realized version coming into life in a way that delights. And then, there’s those other times.

I wanted Fern’s dolly to look very similar to my own, as well as close to the book illustrations as possible. I began to look online for a pattern, and quickly discovered that there weren’t any, or at least not any that were authentic. Or not scary and ugly.

Also, it seems “primitive” dolls are all the rage. Somebody tell me why.

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When I came across this version by a famous french dollmaker (I can’t find the link now, sorry), the ante was upped. This was perfection, exactly what I wanted for Fern. Maybe I would just buy one instead.

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That idea was nipped in the bud when I saw the $800 price tag.

So I used my own Raggedy to create a pattern.

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Just like in the making of Freya’s dolly, I had planned to document the whole process and even include my own brilliant tutorial and pattern, since there seems to be a need for one. And then things like this happened.

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A thousand cheers to Molly who offered moral support just when I needed it.

If it could go wrong, it did during this project. At one point, I worked on her for 6 hours straight, and at the end of that time had only finished 1 1/2 legs. Fern wondered what the heck I was doing and why was this secret mission from Santa turning Mama into a crazy lady. I kept the faith, and sewed on her hair all the way down to Encinitas (10 hours), where we would spend the holiday with my folks. I embroidered…and then ripped out and embroidered and ripped out and started crying and stabbing couch cushions with my needle….all the way up to 11pm on Christmas Eve. I let go of perfection, I let go of my vision, I let of everything except for my determination to keep my promise to my daughter. Mommy will make you your very own Raggedy Ann doll.

Christmas Eve we placed all the gifts under the tree and topped it with the disaster My Magnum Opus.

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Despite redoing them 8,000 times, her arms won’t hang right. My stitches are erratic, the dress fits wonky and her face will not win any awards of craftsmanship. But when Fern woke up on Christmas morning, the first thing she did was look at the tree. It took her under 30 seconds to locate the dolly, and she stood frozen as she whispered, Is that my Raggedy Ann?

We took her down and Fern hugged her close. There was no scrutiny or examination. There was only acceptance…this was her dolly. Her very own. And Raggedy instantly became just what I hoped she would…Fern’s new best friend.

I tried to get a picture of Fern with Miss Ann this morning, but she wasn’t having it. But Raggedy was gracious and agreed to a photo-op.

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My 2011 swap partner, Kim, also sent along a generous surprise for Fern. A waldorf dolly, who Fern immediately recognized as “her baby”.

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Hey Macaroni Heather, recognize that wall hanging? I never gave you a proper thank you, but this scene welcomes in every day for us.

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And just like all Raggedy Ann’s, this one has a heart of gold.

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Imperfect, but true.

Happy New Year’s Eve all. We are all kinds of exhausted over here and will be ringing in 2013 with our housemates and some baked vegan mac and cheese. And wine. Probably lots of wine.

Big candy heart love to all of you. I’ve been missing you all during this holiday season, and can’t wait to catch up. xoxo

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16 thoughts on ““We Must Have All the Fun We Can Together”

  1. Your blood, sweat and tears (and expletives!) make her all the more special. You did an awesome job! Props to you for braving the machine, I can’t stand all the doo-hickies. I handsew everything or I would be cursing like a sailor. Happy New Year to you all!

  2. yo goodness. i am completely floored by your creation. and i laughed at your telling of it. i know those pains of attempting to bring a vision to life. you did it though. and you made something magic. i am starting to think that all the swear words we put into our creations are somehow powerfully helping to infuse the thing with even more magic for this life it will live.

    love seeing that wall hanging so much. it was so meant for you, my good friend.

    love you. i am not macaroni heather anymore, yo. i am wildlife heather. heh.

  3. Mary she’s perfect. That’s the sweetest gift ever, I swear. See the thing is that kids think their parents can make everything, it’s the magic of being a grown-up and for you to show that to Fern is so sweet. The kitchen you made for her, little Ann, all your love put together into family stories that echo trough the generations. “This is the play kitchen my mom made me.” My mother only ever grudgingly made stuff (she made stuff for a living) but oh it was so special to me when she did. Love you! Happy Merry!

  4. She’s beautiful, Mary! What a madre, for serious. Despite the imperfections you see, R. Ann will always be perfect for Fern, even as she gets older. I think that as an adult, the things our parents do and for us are *still* so special because they do them out of love. Not because they turn out flawlessly. Just the effort is enough. In fact, the effort means more.

    When you mentioned the story-Ann’s candy heart, the first thing I thought of was a mouse chewing through her little cotton chest to eat it.

    Happy New Year to you! May this year be one of love and laughter, and finding a home. And one where your tubes stay worm free.

    xoxoxo

  5. okay i don’t know if it’s the new year or the sleepy sweet presence of my own babe or hormones, or plain and simply the beautiful voice of your words, but there are tears absolutely rolling down my cheeks. i am floored by your creation, she is perfect and adorable and cuddly and wise. looks like fern got some very sweet new friends, such a lucky little girl indeed. and her immediate and wide open hearted acceptance of her new friend is what kills me most. just like the way we take our own babies into our arms, full of love and awe at the magic of creation. beautiful job mama, thanks for making my new year’s day this much sweeter.

  6. don’t you dare call that beauty a disaster! she is treasure, precious treasure i tell you! I’m away at the moment, we’ve been Island hopping, down South (still here actually)….when i get back home i need to catch up with the interesting scribblins going on these internet parts.

  7. She came out so great….that is a very special gift. I want to share with you a photo of the raggedy ann my mama made for me when i was little, but don’t know how to post a pic in this post. maybe i will just email you one……Happy to see Fern liked the babydoll πŸ™‚

  8. I can’t tell you how impressed I am, Mary! She is perfect in all of her imperfections and you’ve totally inspired me to make more things for my girlies…AND get some Raggedy Anne stories, I’ve never read them. I make things for other people’s kids regularly but I haven’t made my littles anything since the sock monkeys I made for their first Christmas…. which they have NEVER played with. I think now I’m sort of afraid of them not really being interested in the things I might make and having to have look at more sad neglected toys, that I poured so much love into, hanging around the house 😦 If I give them to other people, at least I don’t have to witness the rejection! … maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic..

    Anyway, my girls are suddenly really interested in unicorns (I have no idea how they even know what a unicorn is) and I’m going to attempt making some felt unicorns. Fingers crossed they at least appreciate my efforts!

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