Friday 26 April 2024

Raggedy Magic


In 2009, I attempted to make my very first rag doll. Unbeknown to me at the time, the pattern I used had been inspired by a very special doll named 'Raggedy Ann', created by US author and illustrator Johnny Gruelle, over a hundred years ago.

I have always loved dolls and at the time I made my first rag doll, was particularly fascinated by 'homespun' dolls created from scraps of fabric in the home, stitched together by mothers and grandmothers, with love. These dolls, now known as 'prim' dolls, are an art form in their own right... but once they were just simple cloth dolls, cheaply made from old clothing and bed sheets, some with embroidered faces, others with no facial features at all... and given to young children to play with and learn from.

Raggedy Ann, a cloth doll with shoebutton eyes, was born from the sadness of daughter lost and inspired by one such early cloth doll, long forgotten in an attic, then rediscovered. She became the inspiration behind a delightful, happy-faced character doll, who featured in a series of stories written and illustrated by political cartoonist, illustrator and businessman of the era, Mr. Johnny Gruelle.

'Raggedy Ann' was patented On June 17th in 1915, when Gruelle applied for a trademark logo for the 'Raggedy Ann' name. The PF Volland Company then published Gruelle's Raggedy Ann Stories in 1918, the first in a series of books about Gruelle's Raggedy Ann rag doll character and her friends. Gruelle established a merchandising agreement with PF Volland Company, to begin manufacturing, selling and promoting a mass-produced version of his doll and the Raggedy Ann books and dolls became a huge success. At the time of Johnny Gruelle's death in 1938, his first Raggedy Ann book had sold more than three million copies. Subsequently, his iconic Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls and related memorabilia, have become sought after collectors' items... not to mention the inspiration behind many thousands of handmade, smiling red-haired, primitive style, cloth dolls!

I stumbled across a wonderful pattern for a knitted doll named 'Merrily Ann' whilst scrolling online recently. It is the the first knitting pattern I have seen that is designed in true tribute to the original Raggedy Ann doll. Naturally, I couldn't resist ordering a copy! I have spent several weeks knitting and sewing and enjoying the process of making this special doll. The pattern captures the essence of the Raggedy Ann character perfectly and I think knitting her adds a lovely fresh dimension to Johnny Gruelle's original cloth doll.

My Raggedy Ann style dolly, complete with antique shoebutton eyes, is to be a special birthday gift for my Granddaughter's sixth birthday in May. I will gift a copy of Johnny Gruelle's original stories to her too, as I love the notion of passing childhood magic from one generation to another!

If you would like to knit your own 'Merrily Ann' tribute doll, you can find Wendy's lovely pattern on the link below:

© 2011 Wendy Phillips copyrighted design.
Do not reproduce or distribute this pattern. 

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