Most of us of a certain age remember playing with paper dolls. While simple in concept, they often represented a more complex insight into the time and history of their creation. My grandmother had several sets of paper dolls that had belonged to my mother and that my sisters and I played with often. These included First Ladies, each with dresses appropriate to their time, Gone with the Wind, made in the image of the stars of the movie, and a set that included a variety of children of both genders and various ages that seemed like a family but that were somewhat disparate in appearance. It was also at my grandmother’s house where I spent quite a lot of time cutting out Betsy McCall paper dolls that were printed monthly in McCall’s Magazine (a women’s magazine that was popular throughout the 20th century but that has since ceased publication). And over 30 years ago one of my sons had Curious George paper dolls that included two Georges and 50 outfits!
Considering their popularity, it isn’t surprising that paper dolls have also been the subject of quilts. Several years ago my sister made my mother a quilt based on this pattern (Plumples, Paper Doll Memories) that included redwork embroidery as well as traditional piecing.
I’ve also made a paper doll themed quilt, this one based on fabric that featured dolls and their clothes.
Paper dolls now seem a bit anachronistic and my granddaughters certainly seem drawn to other pursuits, even some that involve paper manipulation like origami. A couple of years ago I found a few sets of paper dolls at a yard sale, and my oldest granddaughter enjoys “playing” with them to the extent that she watches me or her grandfather cut them out and dress them as she comments on the process and attire!
It’s tough to compete with digital games and three-dimensional toys that require real manipulation, but at least for now I’m confident that other blankets cannot usurp the staying power of a lovingly made quilt, whether it’s based on paper dolls or Pokémon.