Forgotten Dolls

the hobby of doll collecting

Collecting antique and reproduction dolls

Collecting antique and reproduction dolls Although perhaps harder to find than in previous years, both antique dolls and antique reproduction dolls are still popular with doll collectors.

French bisque and porcelain fashion dolls, whether antique or reproduction, are generally considered to have a higher value than the German or Japanese dolls of similar vintage.

Antique cloth dolls (sometimes termed "rag dolls") in good condition are highly desirable to collectors. The value of course decreases with the amount of damage to the doll, but no collector expects to find a mint condition antique cloth doll due to the nature of the material.

Antique Jumeau SFBJ French Bleuette dolls

La Semaine de Suzette Bleuette

Bleuette, produced by the Société Française de Fabrication de Bébés et Jouets (SFBJ), was the mascot of the French magazine La Semaine de Suzette ("Suzette's Week") by Gautier-Languereau from 1905 to 1960. The original version of the Bleuette doll was a premium for subscribers to the magazine. The doll proved so popular that the first run of dolls was sold out before all the magazine subscription orders were filled.

The earliest Bleuette head molds were bisque, while later ones during World War II and later are of composition. The final Bleuette dolls created in the late 1950s had hard plastic heads. Some of the markings seen on Bleuette's head include SFBJ 301, SFBJ 60, UNIS France 301, and UNIS France 60. Most of the Bleuette heads can be distinguished by the open mouth with four teeth.

Bleuette is on a fully jointed composition body. Until 1933 she was 27cm tall; due to changes in the manufacturing process her height was then increased to 29cm. Bodies are usually marked "2" on the torso and "1" on the soles of the feet.

Note: Many dolls with these marks were produced, and not all of them are Bleuette dolls.

Many issues of the long-running magazine featured patterns young Suzettes could use to sew clothing for Bleuette, totaling over 1000 patterns over the life of the magazine!

Today collectors enjoy displaying both antique Bleuette dolls and the many modern reproductions created by talented artists.

Stands for Bleuette dolls

If you intend to display your Bleuette in a standing position, you will probably need a doll stand for her.

I find that the #2101 Kaiser brand stands are a good fit for a "standard" (10" to 11") Bleuette body.

Profiles of my Bleuette reproductions

  Name: Adelaide.
Model: reproduction SBFJ 301 Bleuette doll.
Medium: bisque head, standard compo Bleuette body.
Skin tone: normal.
Eyes: blue glass eyes.
Hair: France poupees wig WD-480 mohair dark brown.
Markings: signed on back of neck by artist, no paperwork.

Notes: Created by Carol Hanson, 2006.

  Name: Margaux.
Model: reproduction Bleuette doll.
Medium: resin.
Skin tone: normal.
Eyes: Glasaugen 10mm glass eyes in Blau.
Hair: sz 6/7 France poupees wig WD-481 mohair ash blonde.
Markings: unmarked, no paperwork.

Notes: Cast in resin by Ruby Red Galleria, circa 2009 original version with headcap.

  Name: Sophie.
Model: reproduction Bleuette doll.
Medium: bisque head, standard compo Bleuette body.
Skin tone: normal.
Eyes: hazel glass.
Hair: sz 6/7 blonde mohair wig.
Markings: unmarked, no paperwork.

Notes: Created by Donna Larsen.

Further reading

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Bleuette patterns

Antique Izannah Walker dolls

Izannah Walker (25 September 1817 to 1888) of Bristol, Rhode Island was one of the earliest known female dollmakers in America. Her cloth dolls were all handmade by herself and her sisters, and each individual doll possesses a distinct and recognizable style. They are three-dimensional works of art in a similar style to that of contemporary portraits. Izannah applied for, and received, a patent for her unique doll design in 1873 although her earliest dolls appear to pre-date the patent by some thirty-odd years.

Izannah's doll making process

Izannah began by forming the head and shoulders by applying glue to cotton fabric. This shoulderhead form was pressed into a mold until it hardened. Ears were appliquéd to the head to add dimension. At this point, another layer of glue was applied and allowed to dry. Then, Izannah painted the doll's head, often in a portrait-style likeness, before sewing and attaching the torso and limbs. Elbows and knees were properly jointed before painting the limbs to match the head. A fabric 'second skin' would be sewn over the torso to conceal the jointing.

As an entirely hand-sewn work of art, each finished doll was as unique as its original owner. She and her sisters are said to have produced over 3000 dolls during their careers, although very few have survived to the present day in any recognizable condition.

Distinguishing characteristics of Izannah's dolls

Izannah Walker dolls can be recognized by their stockinette-covered painted heads with either wisps of hair or curls surrounding the face. All of the dolls have applied ears, and their hands have both thumbs and stitched fingers. Many of them have painted boots. Those that do not have painted boots instead have bare feet with stitched toes. The sizes of these dolls range from 15 to 24 inches tall.

The popularity of Izannah Walker's dolls

In recent years, the obvious beauty of Izannah's dolls has attracted quite a following. Fortunately, there are several artists who offer either a kit to make an Izannah-style doll (with varying degrees of accuracy) or a completed reproduction doll. Fortunately the completed artist-made replicas are signed by the artist to distinguish them from the genuine antique article.

Profiles of my Izannah Walker reproductions

  Name: Juliannah.
Model: reproduction Izannah Walker doll, 18" size.
Medium: cloth.
Skin tone: normal.
Eyes: brown (painted).
Hair: brown (painted w/ long curls at back).
Markings: signed on back of shoulderplate by artist, no paperwork.

Notes: Created by Jane Clark Stryker, #33, 1983.

  Name: Mariah.
Model: reproduction Izannah Walker doll, 14" size.
Medium: cloth.
Skin tone: normal.
Eyes: brown (painted).
Hair: brown (painted, wispy).
Markings: signed on back by artist, no paperwork.

Notes: Created by Inez Brasch, 2006.

  Name: Suzannah.
Model: reproduction Izannah Walker doll, 22" size.
Medium: cloth.
Skin tone: normal.
Eyes: brown (painted).
Hair: brown (painted w/ long curls at sides).
Markings: signed on back of shoulderplate by artist, no paperwork.

Notes: Created by Shari Lutz, no date.

Further reading

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Miss Columbia dolls

The Columbian Dolls were made in 1891 in Oswego, NY by Emma and Marietta Adams. They are a type of rag doll were made in several sizes, with 15-inches and 21-inches being the most commonly seen. Marietta did all the sewing while Emma painted the faces in oil paints.

The term "Columbian Doll" derives from the dolls being shown at the 1893 World's Fair (aka the 'Columbian Expedition') in Chicago. The dolls received a Diploma of Merit at the Exposition. After that time, one of the dolls became a true 'travel doll' who spent three years traveling the world to benefit popular children's charities. A travel log of her journey was recorded at each stop of her world tour. This doll presently resides at the Wenham Museum in Wenham, MA. Her travel log remains with her to this day.

Distinguishing characteristics of Columbian Dolls

Columbian Dolls are crafted entirely of cloth in one of two body types. The smaller dolls generally have a baby-type body with bent limbs, while the larger dolls have straight child-type limbs.

All the dolls have needle-sculpted fingers and toes, portrait-style oil-painted faces and hair, and stitched shoulder- and hip-joints.

Miss Columbia herself wore a simple dress, pinafore, and tricolor (red, white, and blue) striped sash to represent America. Other Columbian dolls may have a plain dress (girls) or a sailor suit (boys).

The popularity of Columbian Dolls

The beauty of the original Columbian Dolls has begun to attract a following in the doll collecting community. There are several artists who offer patterns to make an Columbian-style doll (with varying degrees of accuracy), or an occasional signed artist-made reproduction pops up for sale. Dolls made from these modern patterns will frequently be of a different size than the original, making them easily to distinguish from the genuine article.

Profile of my Columbian doll reproduction

  Name: Liberty.
Model: reproduction Miss Columbia doll.
Medium: cloth.
Skin tone: normal (painted).
Eyes: blue (painted).
Hair: blonde (painted).
Markings: signed by artist Connie Tognoli on back, undated.
Size: 10 inches.

Further reading

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Antique Japanese Sakura Bisque dolls

The Sakura Bisque (サクラビスク) dolls were created in Japan between 1910 and 1950. They have bisque heads with composition bodies. The rare larger ones have a nine-piece jointed body instead of a five-piece baby-type body. The larger dolls have glass sleep-eyes, hence the common name of "Sleeping Doll" (眠り人).

Most of those commonly found today are dressed in Western style wearing a bonnet and dress. Some have also been redressed in traditional Japanese fashion. There is also a series of boy-girl pairs dressed in Chinese style silk clothes. The smallest set of these at 3 1/2 inches tall is all-bisque, and the pair comes in a woven basket with a hinged lid.

Sakura bisque dolls Sakura bisque dolls

Further reading

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Going bananas about vintage and retro sock monkeys

Going bananas about vintage and retro sock monkeys What is a sock monkey?

A sock monkey is a stuffed doll made from a pair of socks. This doll is in the shape of a monkey. Who doesn't like sock monkeys? They are goofy, they are squeezable, they are huggable, and everyone just has to love them!

More importantly, there is something for everyone with sock monkeys. Older collectors can enjoy the original vintage and antique sock monkeys lovingly recovered from storage to be displayed proudly. Children can spend hours playing with the wide variety of retro sock monkeys being produced today.

sock monkeys Sock monkeys have provided over one hundred years of fun for young and old collectors alike, and they are still going strong with children today. That's impressive by any standards. The first sock monkeys were made during the Arts & Crafts movement in America in the early 1900s by enterprising women with spare socks, and soon they became a much-loved staple of children's nurseries everywhere.

Most vintage sock monkeys found today were made from the 1950s onward, with the majority being from the 1970s. While it is a shame to think about the disintegration of poor defenseless sock monkeys from age and wear, many older sock monkeys simply did not hold up well to years of being loved. Socks are not meant to be in-use for such a long time, causing the poor things to wear out.

sock monkeys The very best kind of sock monkey is a handmade sock monkey -- especially one made just for you. It's easy to sew your own sock monkey from a pattern. With a little shopping around, you should have no trouble finding the sock monkey pattern that is just right for the particular sock monkey design you would like to make.

A brief history of sock monkey stuffed dolls

Traditional sock monkeys are always made with the original Nelson Red Heel Socks. The distinctive red-mouthed sock monkey was created in the 1930s from Nelson Knitting Company's red-heeled socks by inventive homemakers. By the 1950s, the company began to provide a sock monkey pattern with every pair of these socks.

sock monkeys Since that time and with the inclusion of those freebie patterns with socks, the sock monkey has been elevated to an art form with wildly patterned socks being used in addition to the traditional red-heeled socks. You can even make tiny sock monkeys from baby socks! The humble sock monkey has become a pop culture icon featured on T-shirts, keychains, and fabric.

In addition, from 2005 to 2016 the town of Rockford, Illinois had held a Sock Monkey Festival celebrating the birthplace of the red-heeled "sock monkey" socks. Sadly, they no longer seem to be hosting the event.

Matryoshka -- Russian nesting dolls

matryoshka russian nesting dolls

Matryoshka dolls are sets of hollow dolls typically made of linden wood which have been specially designed with a wood turning tool to nest one inside another. They are cut in half at the waist with the intent to be opened. The word 'matryoshka' derives from the Latin mater, meaning 'mother'.

Modern matryoshka designs can include animals, Soviet leaders, fairy tale figures, and pop culture icons.

History of Russian nesting dolls

The original set of matryoshka art dolls was originally created in Russia in 1890 by Sergei Maliutin and Vasiliy Zvezdochkin, who were inspired by traditional Japanese kokeshi dolls. The outermost figure is usually that of a woman in traditional Russian garb. Each successive doll is smaller than its predecessor. The innermost doll is a baby that cannot be opened. The original matryoshka dolls were presented at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900 and won a medal.

Tip: You can tell you have a full set if you have both the outermost doll, which can be identified by the "lip" around the bottom of the doll, and the baby which cannot be opened.

Types of matryoshka nesting dolls

semenov matryoshka russian nesting dolls
  The Semenov matryoshka dolls are made in a traditional style which is painted in aniline dyes. The apron is the focal point: there will be a large asymmetrical flower bouquet featuring a rose and violets. Three colours are used for these dolls: red, yellow, and green (typically a red headscarf with yellow dress and green detailing, or a yellow headscarf with red dress and green detailing). There is a spiral design on the headscarf of the dolls.  
sergiev matryoshka russian nesting dolls
  Those matryohska dolls produced in Sergiev-Posad are far more modern in appearance than those elsewhere. Many have detailed face-painting and bodies. The designs are not restricted to the traditional floral apron. It is not unusual to find matryoshka dolls from this region decorated with domed churches, snow scenes, and fairytale paintings.  
tver matryoshka russian nesting dolls
  Tver (Kalinin) matryoshka are distinctive in that they are feature a wood-burned design on the raw wood. The darker woodburn tones enhance the detailing of their clothing. The colours used are very bright with non-stylized apron designs, and there is a lot of gold leaf detailing.  
viatka matryoshka russian nesting dolls
  The Viatka (Kirov) matryohska dolls have rounded child-like facial features. They are painted in simple bright colours with a stylized floral design on the apron. The designs of this style have clean lines.
  Polkhovsky Maidan matryoshka russian nesting dolls   The matryoshka from Polkhovsky Maidan are quite stylized, often having spiral curls for hair. Their outfits tend toward yellow tones with some reds and greens used, and a floral pattern on the apron. These are very traditional matryoshka.

Further reading

Paint Your Own Nesting Dolls Paint Your Own Nesting Dolls by Carmen Barros (Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, 2010): A guide to designing and painting your own set of matryoshka dolls. Included are patterns for some basic designs, materials list for each project, and detailed how-to instructions. Start with a blank set of matryoshka dolls. Once you have the dolls, it's just a matter of painting a design on them. There are twelve patterns, and it would be easy to adjust designs for your own imagined images of the dolls.   A Collector's Guide to Nesting Dolls A Collector's Guide to Nesting Dolls: Histories, Identification, Values by Michele Lyons Lefkovitz (Books Americana, 1989): Older book, but still a useful guide to the various styles of matryoshka from each region. Includes both b&w photos and a small section of colour plates. If you collect matryoshka, it's a must-have collector's guide.

These books can be difficult to find since many are out of print. Some great places to buy used books online include:

Sand Collecting Network