A woman who does not know how to sew is as deficient in her education as a man who cannot write.
Eliza Farrar, The Young Lady’s Friend, 1837

Doll in polka dot dress, US, early 20th century
Mixed fabrics, string

Doll with pink pocket, US, ca. 1870-90 
Mixed fabrics, leather, glass

Doll with feed sack body, 
US, late 19th century 
Mixed fabrics, leather

The doll’s body is made from an early advertising feed sack.  

Doll with striped cape, 
US, ca. 1890-1905 
Mixed fabrics

This doll’s striped cape and matching petticoat hidden beneath her dress were probably made from a Southern workman’s blanket.

Doll with clasped hands, 
US, ca. 1870-90 
Mixed fabrics, wax 

This doll’s elegant silk dress appears to have been made from the sleeve of a woman’s garment from the 1870s.

Doll in feed sack dress, 
possibly Indiana, 1900-25 
Mixed fabrics, paint

A resourceful doll maker made the doll’s dress from a feed sack, positioning the Farm Bureau Co-op logo to evoke an apron.

Isabelle Greathouse (1856-1938) 
Coconut-head dolls, 
Butler County, Kentucky, ca. 1900-30 
Mixed fabrics, coconut shell

Black doll maker Isabelle Greathouse took advantage of the natural contours of coconut shells to create expressive faces.

All Dolled Up  

Take a good look at the individual dolls. Use of materials, style choices, and creative flourishes reveal tantalizing clues about their anonymous makers. Yet easy answers about age and origin can be elusive due to frequent mending, patching, and re-dressing by their makers and subsequent owners.

Eliza Leslie (1787-1858) , 
The American Girl's Book: or, Occupation for Play Hours. 
New York, 1863. Courtesy, Library of Congress

The American Girl’s Book, a compendium of games and crafts first published in 1831, offered instructions for making simple cloth dolls using tightly rolled linen or muslin. The book, directed to white children, suggested sewing a family of dolls, together with a Black servant attired in a checked apron and white cap.

I wanted to feel that if something were to survive as an artifact—25, 50, or 100 years from now—it would be beautifully crafted and a reflection of its maker's skill and pride. 
Cozbi Cabrera, doll maker, 2008.

Watch artisan Cozbi Cabrera as she crafts cloth dolls by hand. 
Each one is unique and exquisitely detailed.

Race Play