Ningyo: An Overview of Japanese Dolls, Part 3


Author’s Kimekome ningyo, made on Okinawa in 1986 with the help of my Sensei

Display Dolls

To quote Alan Scott Pate, “In many countries dolls are closely associated with children and playtime.  In contrast, a significant part of Japan’s doll culture involves dolls made specifically for adults and designed for display rather than for play.”

B 22 Saga Ningyo mother with child side view 18th c.

Saga Ningyo mother with child side view 18th century. (Image from

Saga-ningyo, the most refined aesthetics of Edo ningyo: Saga-ningyo are the rarest and most sought after antique dolls in Japan, rarely represented in foreign collections.  The base is carved wood with the head, and often the hands, formed separately. Clothing is formed with a sophisticated technique of applying lacquered colors.

B 22 X Antique large Doji Ningyo, Photo credit Alan Pate

Antique large Doji Ningyo (Image from

Many styles of Saga-ningyo were created; however, the most sought after are the “doji” style of a kneeling boy acolyte often holding an animal such as a dog or a bird.


Gosho-ningyo (Palace Dolls), A Celebration of Youth: Gosho-ningyo are closely associated with the imperial culture of the 18th century. They were gifts that conveyed auspicious wishes within the imperial family, and to visitors in recognition of tributes to the emperor.

B 23 Japanese Kofuku-no-inori gosho ningyo c. 1820 Edo

Japanese Kofuku-no-inori gosho ningyo c. 1820 Edo

The Gosho dolls are noted for representing rotund boy children, often wearing a haragake bib, and often in parody of popular culture. Their format of one-third proportions and white spherical elements echoes Buddhist ideals. Gosho-ningyo are made of clay or wood or composition covered with gofun (oyster-shell paste).


B 25 Iki Ningyo fisherman attacked by kappa water demon

Iki Ningyo: Fisherman attacked by kappa water demon

Iki-ningyo:  Literally “living dolls.” In the Edo era they were used by various traveling performers and at temple fairs. Their realism and the content of the display were often violent and shocking.

B 26 Isho ningyo modern depicting early 20th c. by Yuki Atae

Isho ningyo: Modern, depicting early 20th c. by Yuki Atae

Or, in modern examples, they may portray common life of an earlier time.


B 27 Kimekome ningyo

Kimekome doll showing the paolownia base, and the completed doll

Kimekome: This is a traditional method for crafting dolls starting with a base carved of Paolownia wood. The garments are made by gluing padded fabric to the base and tucking it into the seams cut in the wood. Hina and Musha ningyo can be made of Kimekome, and kits are available for crafters to complete.


Kimekome doll completed by the author on Okinawa, 1985.


B 28 Isho ningyo two geisha musicians pre 1900

Isho ningyo: Two geisha musicians, pre 1900

Isho-ningyo: Fashion Dolls and Popular Culture of the Edo period. “Isho” means fashion or clothing. Usually standing, these dolls are mounted on a lacquered base. They depict every imaginable topic from kimono fashion, to hit plays on the Kabuki stage, Seven Gods of Good Fortune, and they overlap with musha ningyo, warriors from the past (as seen in Part 1 of Ningyo).

B 29 Traveler to Kyoto Costume Doll Circa Edo Period

Traveler to Kyoto Costume Doll, Circa Edo Period

Textiles are the main focus for isho-ningyo, and Japan’s weaving technology in silk brocades, silk and cotton velvets, gauze, hemp, and satin, can be found in the costumes of these dolls. Alan Pate’s latest article in Doll News, Summer 2019, focuses on this doll form. He aptly notes, “[Isho-ningyo] represent a uniquely Japanese form of doll–one infused with all the beauty and mastery of refined doll art, but additionally layered in history, lore and social values. They are fabulous windows to a long-ago world, but one that comes to life again when one gazes at the lustrous white gofun faces, admires the rich silken brocades, and ponders reflectively the stories they tell.”


B 30 Kokeshi


Kokeshi Cylindrical Wooden Dolls, or “Poppy-seed Child”:  These primitive style lathe turned wooden dolls originated in the cold north of Japan in the hot-springs area of Tohoku, and were made as souvenirs. They could also be used as offerings to gods, possibly depicting children who have died.


Author’s kokeshi with okappa hairstyle in the made-for-tourist tradition. Purchased in Japan c. 1989.

Kokeshi are a popular souvenir for tourists to Japan, with the export dolls often having an added okappa hairstyle.


Author’s toy kokeshi,  purchased second-hand in Tokyo, c. 1989

B 31 Kamo Ningyo trio mid 1800's

Kamo Ningyo trio mid 1800’s

Kamo-ningyo: Most likely originating in the mid-18th century, these are small (about 3″) wooden dolls inspired by the daily life in Kyoto. They have applied textiles and minimalist facial features. While little known to the outside world, they are one of the most collected of early dolls in Japan.


B 32 Hakata

Hakata-ningyo:  These are clay figures which blur the lines between doll and sculpture. Known for depicting elegant women, they are made exclusively on the southern island of Kyushu and centered in the town of Fukuoka, where the clay is easily available.

A 6 1985 2 July 14 Fukuoka Japan Hakata doll factory

Hakata-ningyo at the factory in Fukuoka, awaiting display in the showroom.  Note the unpainted male figures in the left background.  Photo by author, 1985

A 5 Hakata Factory brochure inside

Brochure from the Hakata Factory in Fukuoka Japan, 1985.  Again, male figures dominate.

Part 4 of Ningyo: An Overview of Japanese Dolls will continue with Dolls for Entertainment and Play, and with the Bibliography and For More Information.





Ningyo: An Overview of Japanese Dolls, Part 2

Antique 1900 photo Japanese boy and girl with Hina Matsuri display and Ichimasho doll

Notice the ichimatsu dolls on the right side by the boy in this circa 1900 photograph.

Ritual, Guardian, and Festival Ningyo

Hina-ningyo for Hina Matsuri (Girl’s Day or Peach Blossom Festival): Hina-ningyo, depicting the imperial court, are probably the best known to Westerners of all Japanese dolls. Hina Matsuri, celebrated on March 3rd, had its origin in the Heian Period (794-1192). It is a traditional custom to display ceremonial dolls on tiers of shelves covered with scarlet carpet. This is an auspicious day for purification, and parents celebrate their daughters’ happiness, growth, and good health.


Dairi-bina (Imperial Couple) and Court Ladies from author’s Hina Matsuri Display. The Imperial Couple are about 3 1/2″ tall.

In the years 1000-1600, there is intermittent evidence that paper dolls were made to play with or to give as gifts on the third day of the third month, the festival associated with nagashi-bina purification rituals.

By the 17th century, the dolls were probably being made professionally using rich cloth instead of paper, with complex heads, but by the end of that century, commoners also made the dolls so that their daughters could celebrate the third day of the third month with doll play.


Author’s Hinakazari (Hina Matsuri Display), purchased, already vintage, in Japan in 1989 and recently brought home from Connecticut to Oregon City.

Modern families often buy a new dairi-bina, or “imperial couple,” pair when the first daughter is born, adding to the display each year, while others pass down hinakazari (Hina display sets) from one generation to the next. In the past, it was common for new brides to take their set with them when they married. Many old  hinakazari still remain and hold importance to broader society as cultural treasures.

B 10 Tachi-bina pair Kyoto National Museum

Tachi-bina pair Kyoto National Museum

Tachi-bina (Standing Hina for Hina Matsuri): Tachi-bina can be made of paper at home. They are considered to be the earliest form of the dairi-bina displayed on Hina Matsuri. They represent a man (large, with outstretched protective arms) and a woman (smaller, armless), and are thought to echo the contrasting shapes of the amagatsu and hoko doll (shown below).  When made of paper or inexpensive materials, these ningyo are appropriate for the nagashi-bina purification ceremony, (also below) which is the ancestor of Hina Matsuri, in which dolls are touched or rubbed to absorb one’s sins, and then thrown into a river.  A single doll, used as a kind of proxy for the person being purified, is used for this ceremony in the Tale of Genji, (10th century classic Japanese literature) but modern nagashi-bina usually use pairs of dolls.

B 11 Hoko and Amagatsu pair

Hoko and Amagatsu pair

Hoko and Amagatsu (Talismanic forms to protect infants): The use of katashiro, or substitutes, in spiritual practice as stand-ins to take on the brunt of a person’s sins or misfortune played a role in the creation of hoko or crawling baby dolls. This is a guardian doll type, made by sewing a rectangle of cloth in such a way as to form four limbs, all of which point in the same direction. Hoko dolls have round stuffed heads, sometimes with long hair attached. They were traditionally given to pregnant women to protect the mother and unborn child. The dolls could be made for both boys and girls and were given to babies either at birth, or on special days shortly after birth. Boys’ dolls would be given up and “consecrated” at a shrine when boys turned fifteen, while girls would give up their dolls at marriage. Traditionally, hoko dolls were made of silk and human hair, and stuffed with cotton. Tiny hoko dolls remain a popular craft.

Amagatsu, or Heavenly Child doll, is mentioned in the Tale of Genji as a guardian doll for newborns, kept at all times with the child. The reference is thought to be to a cross-shaped figure, made by fixing wooden or bamboo rods in a T-shape to form a body and arms, with a cloth-covered head attached. The doll functioned as a kind of twin to the child, meant to distract evil spirits (meaning diseases) from its living counterpart. It would be burned when the child came of age.

B 12 Nagashi Bina

Nagashi Bina

Nagashi-bina is an event that involves dispelling impurities and misfortunes by floating dolls away on water. In earlier days this rite took place all over Japan, but the practice has died out in most areas. Only in Tottori City and Mochigase-cho in Tottori Prefecture does nagashi-bina survive today.

B 13 Nagashi-bina Festival in Mochigase-cho

Nagashi-bina Festival in Mochigase-cho

In this rite, dry straw is woven into a boat, which carries a pair of male and female dolls to be cast adrift in the river.

B 14 Koinobori Japanese Carp Wind Banner

Koi nobori

Musha-ningyo for Gogatsu no sekku or Tango no sekku, Boys’ Day: Boys’ Day (the fifth day of the fifth month) has a more complicated status than Hina Matsuri and does not require a doll display. The most important festive item is a banner or windsock in the shape of a carp (koi nobori), which is flown from a pole near the home; one fish is raised for each boy child. The carp is equated with virility because of the strength with which it swims upstream.

B 15 Musha-ningyo Warrior Dolls

Musha-ningyo Warrior Dolls

However, there are many dolls available to displayed on this day: Soldiers and great generals, legendary rulers, spiritual guides, and boy heroes with outrageous activities.

B 17 Daruma one eye painted

Daruma with one eye painted

Daruma dolls represent the Buddhist saint Daruma or Bodhidharma, who according to legend brought Zen enlightenment, and tea, to China and Japan. Legend has it that Daruma sat for years meditating, during which time his arms and legs atrophied, as well as his eyelids.

B 18 Daruma Vintage Gold-White Doll Japan

Daruma, Vintage Gold-White Doll, Japan

These Japanese dolls are paper-maché roly-polys which one buys with blank eyes so as to paint them in as one accomplishes some task (the first eye when one has formulated the goal, the second eye when it is achieved).

B 19 Daruma Burning

Daruma burning

Afterwards, Daruma are typically burned in a special ceremony. This custom may have originated as a thank-offering to the god for good Spring and Fall harvests; if he did not send a good harvest, he would remain blind or one-eyed. These dolls still perform a significant cultural function, and are purchased particularly at New Year’s, to assist in making resolutions.

B 20 Hagoita


Hagoita is not really a doll, but the padded images on it belong to the construction method of oshie-ningyo, or “padded-painting dolls.” Hagoita, like Daruma, are associated with the New Year. They are richly decorated game paddles, traditionally given as new year’s gifts to girls. The  game of hanetsuki is played with a feathered  large seed for a shuttlecock and a pair of hagoita. One side is painted, but the other side of the paddle is usually decorated with elaborate padded cloth faces of geisha or kabuki actors. As with Daruma, the old year’s paddles are supposed to be burned at the end of the year.

B 21 Okiagari Koboshi Pair

Okiagari Koboshi

Okiagari Koboshi can be translated as “priest who gets back up.” They are considered a lucky symbol of resilience. Traditional Japanese roly-poly toys date back as far as the14th century.

. . .

In Part 3 of this presentation on ningyo, Dolls for Display will be on focus.

Antique photo A Maiko with Hina Matsuri Dolls 1890s (2)

A Maiko (apprentice geisha) with large Hina Matsuri Dolls, 1890’s





Ningyo: An Overview of Japanese Dolls, Part 1

Japanese girl in kimono with Ichimatsu ningyo 1920

It is no wonder that Japan and its culture appear mysterious and exotic to Americans.  For over 220 years, the foreign policy of the Tokugawa Shogunate (the last feudal military government) barred nearly all foreigners from entering Japan, and the common people of Japan were barred from leaving the country. In 1853, American ships commanded by Matthew Perry forced the opening of Japan to American and Western trade.

Commodore Perry Dolls brought from Japan in 1852

Japanese dolls (three fold or Mitsuori) given as gifts to Commodore Perry in Japan, 1853

From the first trade negotiations, Perry brought back a pair of Japanese mitsuori dolls. However, a Japanese play doll had already made its way to Germany, perhaps by a Dutch trader in 1851, resulting in the German style of doll known as Motschmann or Taufling.

German Taufling papier mache circa 1851

German papier mache taufling, circa 1851

Japanese dolls, or Ningyo, have influenced western dolls since at least 1851, and perhaps earlier, as the thread doll form (keue saiku) were among the first ningyo introduced in the US in 1799 by American ships from Salem Massachusetts contracted to fulfill Dutch treaty obligations during the French Revolution period.

Thomas Nast Santa Claus with taufling-ichimatsu

Thomas Nast (German-born American) Santa Claus with taufling/ichimatsu doll.  Printed in  Harper’s Weekly 1881

Ningyo have fascinated Victorian Europe, and have continued to be mesmerizing souvenirs in America since more frequent contact with Japan after WWII. In order to understand the place of ningyo within Japanese culture, however, it is necessary to understand more about the culture of Japan.


Shinto is the native religion of Japan, though Buddhism, Taoism, and Christianity are widely practiced there now, as well. Shinto involves nature worship, meaning that natural phenomenon such as sun, wind, trees, mountains, and water are considered as divinities. Torii, the traditional Japanese gates, are so popular in Japan’s culture that they have come to be known in the western part of the world as one of the characterizing features of Japan. The Torii is a gateway that signals the transition from the profane to the sacred, and is usually located at the entrance to Shinto, as well as to Buddhist, shrines, though it is also used to mark an area believed to have a deep spiritual meaning.

Tanabata Star Festival

Tanabata Star Festival

There are five sacred or holy days in the Shinto tradition. These auspicious days are January 1 (New Year), March 3 (Hina Matsuri or Girl’s Day), May 5 (Tango no Sekku or Boy’s Day), July 7 (Tanabata or Star Festival), and September 9 (Choyo or Chrysanthemum Festival).

Shinto is also animistic, meaning to see life in what we consider to be lifeless things. Dolls, therefore, have a deeply ritualistic meaning in Japan because of their ability to be surrogate human beings. “Ningyo” means human form, while “doll” is typically defined as a small human figure used as a child’s toy.


Dogu    The earliest recognizable dolls in Japan are prehistoric clay dogu figures, as old as 12000 BCE.

As ritual objects, ningyo are used as spirit vessels and votives for deities, as references to a particular person, child, infant, or unborn child, and can confuse malevolent forces, thus protecting children from danger and disease. Because of their sacred nature, ningyo are not merely disposed of; rather, they are given funerals at the end of their function with ceremonies concluding with burning the dolls or floating them away on water. (as we shall see . . .)

Just as western dolls are categorized in time periods usually corresponding to British ruling monarchs, ningyo are dated by Japanese imperial periods. In regard to antique ningyo, we are most concerned with Edo period through Showa period.

Periods of Japanese History

*  Early Japan (until 710)                                            *  Edo Period (1603-1868)

*  Nara and Heian Periods (710-1192)                      *  Meiji Period (1868-1912)

*  Kamakura Period (1192-1333)                                *  Taisho Period (1912-1926)

*  Muromachi Period (1338-1573)                              *  Showa Period (1926-1989)

*  Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1573-1603)                *  Heisei Period (1989-present)

Categories of Ningyo

Japanese dolls can be categorized by the materials they are made from, such as cloth, wood, clay, or paper. However, it is much more enlightening to get to know ningyo within their place and purpose in Japanese culture. Therefore, we shall explore the dolls as Ritual, Guardian, and Festival Ningyo; Display or Appreciation Ningyo; and Play and Entertainment Ningyo, though these categories are also not clear cut. For example, the Ambassador or Friendship dolls are ichimatsu ningyo; however, they are obviously not play dolls. Rather, they carry a significant ritual purpose as ambassadors of goodwill, and they are intended for display. Likewise, kokeshi originated as souvenir dolls for display, yet they also have ritual significance, and some kokeshi seem intended as play dolls, as we see with the mini wobble headed dolls from my collection.


Author’s collection of miniature play kokeshi ningyo. The tallest doll is 4″.

In the next post, Part 2 of Ningyo: An Overview of Japanese Dolls, we will explore the first category listed above–Ritual, Guardian, and Festival Ningyo. (Bibliography will be listed at the end of Part 4.)


Ningyo: The Significance of Japanese Dolls


Early this month, I had the honor of presenting a program at the 2019 Mensa Annual Gathering in Phoenix, Arizona. This was an especially exciting event for me! Not only was it my first time to attend a Mensa Annual Gathering, or any event of this caliber, it was also my first time to stand up with a microphone in front of an audience to present! It was definitely a thrilling and gratifying experience. (And sometime I will make it to a UFDC {United Federation of Dolls Clubs} National Convention!)


My presentation was headed by an account of my experience living in Japan and seeking for a particular type of doll, as portrayed in my blog post, Beyond Oceans and Decades: In Search of Ningyo. The main body of the presentation was based on a program that I gave for my doll club, Antique Doll Study Club of Oregon, last summer.


Though the dinner-time audience was not a large one, the presentation was well received, and several attendees followed me to the Hospitality room, when we had to vacate the presentation room for the next program, so that they could view the dolls and reference books further and speak with me more.



One whole suitcase of dolls and books came with me for the display. They certainly added to the interest of the topic.


Now that the tension and excitement of this event are behind me, I am looking forward to sharing this program, Ningyo: An Overview of Japanese Dolls, Their Significance in Japanese Culture and History, and Their Influence on the Development of Western Dolls, with you. In the coming days, I will share this intriguing aspect of doll culture and history here, in several chapters of blog posts. Thank you for your interest and attention! Arigato gozaimasu!

Japanese girl in kimono with Ichimatsu ningyo 1920

Stella Julianna Comes Home


Ever since Stella Julianna could remember, she wanted to live on the West Coast by the ocean. When her Artist Mother, Connie Lowe, had her all ready, Julianna was excited that she was going to live with her new mother, Miss Jennie. Miss Connie helped her pick out just the right 1930’s dress with a cotton boll print, Mary Jane shoes, a soft pink coat, and her Steiff duck to keep her company on her travels.


Stella Julianna travelled all the way from east of the Mississippi River all by herself! She was snug in her “box berth” wrapped in a soft cotton quilt. She mostly slept, and the trip lasted only a few days.


She was a little bit startled when she emerged from her slumber and found herself in her new home.


She came out cautiously, keeping her duck companion close, and looked all around. There were so many lady dolls around! Stella Julianna hoped that they would be kind and friendly, and not boss her around since she was just a young girl.


Miss Jennie reached for her and reassured her that all the dolls were well behaved, though some were a little spirited sometimes. She said that Stella Julianna would fit right in, and that they would have lots of fun playing and making new clothes.


And then Julianna spotted a baby giraffe who was new in the home, too, from FAO  Schwartz. She reached over to comfort the shy creature. “Can he be my special pet?” she asked Miss Jennie. Then she knew that she was going to be very happy in her new home!

Deression era girl barefoot with schoolbook and lunchpail

Connie Lowe, who is an antique doll collector and doll artist, created Stella, a 20″ BJD (ball jointed doll) in the image of children in Depression Era America. I fell in love with Stella because, though she is not antique, she has such a wonderful persona of a child from a bygone era. Being a new doll, and a BJD, she has such potential for posing, play, and dressing creatively in period appropriate outfits. I am so glad that Stella Julianna is here with me now. Thank you Connie!



Giving Thanks: Food for Thought, and Thought for Food


My china ladies have prepared their home for a festive occaision.

Are you cooking in or dining out for Thanksgiving? This question is loaded with more than gravy and cranberry sauce! Our national holiday of Thanksgiving is traditionally a day of feasting and community with extended family. (Yes, I am purposely ignoring the televised sports aspect.) Ideally, there are sufficient family members who contribute and share in the preparation for the festivities. These days, though, more and more restaurants offer catered dinners for the day and are open for dining in. A good thing? Maybe.

I am a strong believer in the essential goodness of food prepared at home, and of the community building aspect of sharing food and conversation around the dinner table. However, my reality does not always live up to my beliefs. I am a single “head of household” with two jobs. The two family members who live with me are not willing or able to prepare meals. The third family member with whom I often share holidays chooses not to cook. This usually leaves me in a position of wearing myself out as the sole planner and preparer of the festivities and not able to enjoy the gathering, or of choosing restaurant dining with its attendant foibles. Why is restaurant dining a less desirable meal? Here are some deeper thoughts on this issue.


Hazel offers cream of celery soup made with homemade chicken bone broth.

Deng Ming-Dao says in 365 Tao: Daily Meditations:

In cultures where personal contacts are more meaningful and closeness to the earth is a way of life, it is no surprise that people are interested in a complete relationship with their food. They buy it or raise it, they harvest it, they clean it, and they cook it–all before they eat it in gratitude. They don’t become sentimental over their food–practicality is to understand that we kill to survive–but they do give thanks for what has died to sustain them.

Today we have a very incomplete relationship with our food. We don’t see where something grows, we eat foods out of season, we buy prepared foods made by someone we don’t even know. There is a great power in knowing your food, knowing where it came from, preparing it with your own hands. This food, whether vegetable or animal, died for us. The least we can do is partake of it thoroughly and with respect.

Nowadays it is quite common for people to feel isolated. They lament not having friends, not having genuine experiences, not having a sense of who they are. If even the food that we eat and the way that we eat is lacking in wholeness, then how will we feel completion in the rest of our lives? (Tao #277)

Thanksgiving Vintage Family

At least one of my sons has a differing opinion. He believes that with the work-away-from-home structure of our modern lives, it makes more sense for food preparation to be centrally prepared in large quantities for purchase, rather than for individuals or small families to have to spend time in food preparation on a daily basis. This plan frees the limited time we have around work for other activities. (Lucky for him, his wife has a job in a natural foods store that includes a generous deli department. This connection adds an element of locality to their prepared food purchases.) And all three of my sons have a preferred other activity–playing board games! As they proclaim, sharing in playing games builds community, as does sharing a meal.

Victorian Parlour-Games

Deng Ming-Dao continues his thought on food and place with Tao # 320:

Why were people of old so integrated with their surroundings?  Because the objects that they used, the food that they ate, and the activities that they engaged in were straight from their surroundings. They used sticks made from [native wood] as eating implements. They used vines to make baskets. They used gourds as vessels. For food, they grew plants, domesticated animals, and caught fish and game. Their social structure was built around the cycles of the sun, moon, and stars. Newborn babies were washed with waters of the nearest stream. The dead were buried in the same earth that provided sustenance.

Now our food is imported from distant places and elaborately processed. We have no idea where objects we purchase come from, thinking that their presence and convenience is all that is necessary. We have means of transport that can bring us to places faster than our minds can adjust. We abuse our wealth and use it to insulate ourselves from our surroundings.

That’s why being of modest means is not necessarily bad. When one is poor, one is forced to use what is at hand. . . . The closer we can be to the earth and to nature, the more integrated with life we shall be.


Okay, as much as I would like to return to rural 1840, I know that is unrealistic and that I have romantisized expectations of the time. So, is eating at a restaurant for Thanksgiving a bad thing? I think that like being poor in the passage above, we have to make use of what is at hand. I have made the best choice I can for a location for an enjoyable family dinner. I hope the wait is not so long, it is not too noisy, and I will mourn the lack of leftovers to provide additional meals. I will graciously thank the growers, producers, cooks, servers, and others involved in providing the meal for my family. I will greet others who I do not know as they partake of this holiday feast at the same location. I will appreciate the disorientingly fast transportation for reuniting far-flung family members. Perhaps my family will re-convene after our meal at one of our apartments for games. We will admire and appreciate the upgraded game pieces that were artistically handmade by one of our group. Perhaps we will even contemplate who manufactured the forks we take our delicious bites from, and where the plates originated.

Jonathan's game painted by Kendra

Game upgrade painting and photo by Kendra Jackson

My gratitude goes to you, my readers and followers, for making my blog–my creative outlet–a successful one. May you enjoy food that satisfies your body and soul, and may you benefit from community with those you hold dear as well as benefitting unknown people in need of community.


My doll’s house Thanksgiving table. We know where the dishes came from!

Ming-Dao, Deng. 365 Tao: Daily Meditations: 1992, Harper Collins, New York.

Vintage Victorian Thanksgiving


Going Dutch: Dressing a Vintage Wooden Doll

DSC03606 (2)

Last spring I was fortunate to attend a Luncheon in Junction City Oregon with a presentation on wooden dolls. This luncheon had quite a large selection of “Helpers,” or dolls and related items for raffle. Attendees could purchase raffle tickets and place their tickets in the bag next to items they hoped to win.


The “Helpers” that I won at the Wooden Doll Luncheon

Almost embarassingly, I won several items for which I had placed only one ticket in the bag! However, I did win one doll for whom I had placed half a dozen tickets–a hand carved wooden doll from Europe.


This 12 3/4″ doll is marked on the back in ink with the artist’s initials and the date, 2001. She is reputed to have been bought by Barb Hilliker, the Bleuette doll expert and author, while on a trip to Europe. She was donated as a “helper” by Annie Roupe. It does amaze me the experiences my dolls have had before they come to live with me!



This doll has marvelous carved details in her face, hair, hands, and even a carved chemise neckline. As with many of the dolls who come my way, she came with no clothes. Her upper arms are made of coarse muslin fabric, and are not stuffed.

Since she is a girl of the Netherlands, I wanted to dress her appropriately. I am not too familiar with traditional Dutch costume beyond the wooden shoes and the cap with pointed ends, so research was needed. I found these images that inspired my doll’s costume:

Dutch girl and Daschund

Traditional Netherlands girl costume 1910s

Dutch girl w wooden doll Nico Jungmann 1872 - 1935 Dutch

Young Dutch girl w basket of fish Edmond Louyot 1861 - 1920

My Dutch girl now has doll-sized greeting cards that I made with these images to carry with her so that she can reminisce about her origins.


The costume that I made consists of six pieces of clothing, mostly made from small fabric remnants. The drawers and slip are of unbleached muslin. No blouse with sleeves was needed because the doll’s arms are made of muslin. Therefore, I made a sleeveless full slip rather than a petticoat. The skirt is lightweight denim. The bright red bodice is lined with the striped fabric that makes the top part of the apron. The stripes and patches on the apron are similar to those in two of the vintage images above. In one image above, the young girl has a lace apron, and she is holding a doll. She is dressed for indoors, and appears to be wealthy. My doll is a working girl and carries a basket with a (Japanese) clay fish, similar to the last vintage image. However, she does have lace on her bonnet, which is made from an antique fabric remnant that had the lace on it already.


For me, making this Dutch costume for an almost vintage hand carved doll was something different from making a 19th century dress for a German doll. It may not be completely authentic, yet I am quite happy with the regional quality that it evokes. And this fine, hard working young lady can be proud to stand on display fully clothed in the Dutch fashion.

Dutch school, 17th century from Christies

This Dutch kindje is certainly nobility with her rich dress and delicate poppet.