A Journey for Miss Ruby, Chapter Three: Four Lovely Lighthouses


Miss Ruby at Portland Headlight Lighthouse, Cape Elizabeth, Maine on July 5th, 2018

The hotel room had a soft bed with lots of pillows for resting on. Everyone woke up in time to have a delicious and nourishing breakfast, including custom-made omelets made by Max, the professional omelet chef. Most of Ruby’s family appreciated coffee to start the morning, but Ruby declined.


Ruby liked the stack of soft pillows, too.

This would be a full day of touring, including visiting three lighthouses in Portland, and a schooner cruise! The first thing that Ruby noticed along the seacoast was the wild beach roses. Unlike the cultivated roses in Portland Oregon, the petals of these roses grew in a single layer around the flower. They were bright and beautiful with the sun on them.


Beach roses at Portland Lighthouse

A little way down the path, though, the roses were all but forgotten as the most iconic lighthouse in the world came into view!


Such a clear, sunny, day, the sailboats don’t need the light right now.

Portland Head Light was first lit on January 10, 1791. It is taller now than it was then, and no longer burns whale oil as did the original 16 lamps in its tower. Ruby had to look up and up and up to see the top.

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Miss Jennie enjoyed walking all around the lighthouse park just as much as Ruby did.


Miss Jennie at Portland Headlight, July 5, 2018

After looking at seaglass earrings and a whale shaped mirror in the gift shop, it was just a short drive to the next lighthouse, the Springlight.


Spring Point Ledge Light in South Portland Maine, constructed in 1897


This is what the breakwater looks like with the gaps between the stones. (Photo by Dave Stewart)

Spring Point Ledge Light in South Portland Maine, constructed in 1897, is listed on the national register of historic places. It is called a sparkplug lighthouse because it’s structure rests on a concrete or metal caisson. People can walk out to it on the breakwater made up of very large stones with big gaps between them. Ruby decided to just look from the shore.


Portland Breakwater Lighthouse with Corinthian columns

The third lighthouse that Ruby visited that morning was the Portland Breakwater Lighthouse, which is also called The Buglight. Built in 1875 of curved cast iron plates, it is decorated with six Corinthian columns. Its design was inspired by the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens, Greece.

Ruby was quiet and thoughtful in the van after visiting these lighthouses and learning about their history. Before leaving Maine on saturday, she visited one more lighthouse with Miss Jennie.


The Cape Neddick Light or the “Nubble” at York, Maine

Driving south to return to Connecticut was more summertime splendor as they meandered past Old Orchard Beach and Wells Beach. The sun was beginning its late descent in the summer sky as they pulled into the lot at Cape Neddick. They felt fortunate to find a parking spot. The nearby ice cream shop was just as popular as the lighthouse on this day! Cape Neddick Light, also known as the “Nubble,” was built in 1879 at York, Maine, and is still in use today. It is on an island which can be reached by boat or by cable car.


Miss Ruby’s artwork of “Portland Headlight” by Kris Kristiansen

Lighthouses, as Ruby learned, have a very important purpose to protect ships by warning them to stay far enough away from the coastline, which can be dangerous for them. She would have much to contemplate and share with the other dolls when she returned home. Yet the adventures of this vacation Thursday were just beginning, for Ruby had booked passage on The Wendameen, a 1912 schooner with tall masts and sails!

To be continued . . .

Blake Henry Lighthouse Keeper nantucket museum

Blake Henry, Lighthouse Keeper. Nantucket Museum


A Journey for Miss Ruby, Chapter Two: Independence Day at Ogunquit, Maine



Miss Ruby at Perkins Cove, Maine

At the airport, Ruby was excited to see the jet planes from the big airport windows. She watched as the plane she would board was fueled with a long hose and had luggage loaded. Once on the plane, she asked for a window seat so that she could see all that was happening.


During the hours of the flight, Ruby asked Miss Jennie about where they were going and what they would do there. She thought it was rather funny that they were leaving Portland Oregon on the West Coast, then would be at Portland Maine on the East Coast. Miss Jennie told her a story about the founding of Portland Oregon, which was named in 1845: One man (Asa Lovejoy) who founded this new town was from Boston Massachusetts, and the other founder (Francis Pettygrove) was from Portland Maine. Each man wanted to name the new town after his home town. They flipped a coin to decide, and “Portland” was the winning name. So, Portland Oregon is named after Portland Maine.


Perkins Cove looking out to sea

The plane landed in Connecticut late at night, and Ruby was glad to find a bed ready for her at Uncle David and Aunt Lynn’s house. When she woke up the next morning, it was Independence Day! That day they drove in the Salsa Red Pearl van to Ogunquit Maine and Perkins Cove. The cove was beautiful with many pristine boats, and a drawbridge to let the boats in and out of the bay.


The open drawbridge at Perkins cove with sun setting behind it (Photo by Dave Stewart)


Miss Ruby on The Marginal Way, Perkins Cove

After looking in some of the shops at seashell art, mugs with lobsters and mermaids on them, and sweatshirts in pretty colors that were way too big for Ruby, they walked on The Marginal Way along the Atlantic Ocean. Ruby took a rest to contemplate the beautiful landscape around her while she waited for twilight. Then, the fireworks took Ruby’s breath away!

Fireworks as seen from The Marginal Way

Fireworks from The Marginal Way, Ogunquit, Maine (borrowed image)

When all was quiet again and all the people walked back along The Marginal Way to their cars, Ruby and her family left, too. They drove to Portland, Maine where they had a very late dinner, and had a snuggly bed waiting for them in a hotel there. It had been a most satisfying day. Time for a good sleep in preparation for more fun on the morrow.

. . . To be continued

Pictorial Map Perkins Cove




A Journey for Miss Ruby, Chapter One: Preparations


“Hooray!” Ruby shouted, and clapped her hands. She was going on a journey! And this was to be a very special journey, all the way from the Pacific Northwest where she lives, to Connecticut in New England, which is the land of her birth. She tried on so many outfits deciding what to pack, that she hurt her arm and had to have stitches! She was a brave girl. It didn’t hurt much and all was well again.


Miss Ruby is a great girl now, almost five years old. Her friend, Miss Jennie, has helped her find many pretty dresses, bonnets, and coats that are her size. She couldn’t take them all! She is packing play dresses for the beach, pretty dresses for outings and visiting, bonnets to protect her from summer sun, and of course a teddy bear, a rag doll, and a book for long hours travelling. She is a little nervous about riding in an airplane, and has lots of questions. “Did you ride in an airplane when you were five?” she asks Miss Jennie. “Not a jet plane,” Jennie replies, “But my Daddy did take me flying in a little two-seater plane when I was six. Our car below, and the people, looked like toys from up in the air!”


Then, one morning, it was time to go. Ruby put on her travel coat, shawl, and straw hat. She said goodbye to all the dolls in her room who would stay behind. Then, rag doll and suitcase in hand, she was on her way!

This story that Miss Ruby would like to share with you about her travels this summer will come in chapters. She appreciates your patience in waiting for the “serial” chapters because Miss Jennie is not taking a computer along. May you enjoy summer adventures of your own until Miss Ruby adds more chapters to her story.


This is an antique family photo taken by my grandmother in 1926. The man is my grandfather, who I never met because he died when my father was young. The little boy is my father.


The Heart of the Tree: A Wooden Doll Luncheon with Rosalie Whyel


This doll dates to 1690 (yes, that is three and a quarter centuries old–quite old for a doll!) and is one of only two glass-eyed dolls known to exist from this period. This Queen Ann wooden doll was on display at this luncheon event. Though she was purchased by Rosalie Whyel without her original dress, providence, and the corroboration of three parties with seperate agendas, worked to reunite her with her original dress.

Wooden dolls are some of the oldest known dolls in history. On April 4th, I was fortunate to have attended The Heart of the Tree, a luncheon with program by Rosalie Whyel celebrating early Queen Ann dolls and wooden dolls of all ages. This lovely event was hosted by the Eugene Oregon Doll Club at Shadow Hills Country Club.

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The photo of this ancient Roman wooden doll is found in the book, DK Smithsonian History Year by Year. A date is not given for the doll’s age in this source; however, further research reveals that it dates to the second century AD.

A Doll Club special luncheon event is a delightful way to spend an afternoon! There were so many intriguing aspects of this event, from the tables set with doll delights that transformed to favors, the delicious food, fabulous displays of wooden dolls of all kinds, the interesting program by Ms. Whyel, the sales tables, the company and companionship of so many others who appreciate dolls, and finally, the raffles for the “Helpers,” dolls and items that were donated, then won and taken home by their new owners. With high regards, I share photos and impressions of my attendance of this Doll Luncheon.


The tables were set with a placemat of paper dolls featuring a German wooden doll. Also visible in the center are the wooden artist’s models wearing white shifts.


The table centerpiece main attraction was a fully clothed wooden artist’s doll wearing an 18th c. style dress and a cap. Our place settings included a pattern for the dress so that we can complete the toilet for our own dolls. One lucky guest at each table took home the clothed model and her screen.

We were encouraged to bring wooden dolls from our collections for the display tables. I brought three displays, which really included five wooden dolls. The variety of wooden dolls was tremendous!


My wooden doll displays in preparation for transport to the luncheon.



What a rare delight to own, or even to view in person, an antique Queen Ann doll. Even reproduction dolls are lovely.

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This antique wooden doll was not at the luncheon, rather, she was offered for sale by Valerie Fogel at the January 2018 Portland Crossroads Doll Show.



Grodnertal dolls, also known as peg wooden and penny wooden, were made in the area of Germany. This one has intricately painted hair.


This antique lady’s shoe filled with peg woodens and pearls is irresistable!

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Adorable peg wooden dolls are still being made today.



The wooden dolls made in Springfield Vermont, including those by Joel Ellis, are intriguing. I intend to eventually add at least one to my collection.



The variety of Schoenhut dolls was grand! My girl on the far right seems a little shy in this large grouping. She is holding a small glass jar that contains a tiny 3/4″ vintage peg wooden doll.


Peddler dolls never fail to delight, and an Ettrennes presentation Hotte basket is a treasure indeed! Ettrennes is the French New Year when children were presented with wonderful gifts in the most beautiful presentations. The Hotte basket is just such a presentation item in a peddler style full of charming miniature toys. This one, in my collection, is 19th c. I placed it in a display case to secure the little items. It was brought to our attention during Ms. Whyel’s presentation at the luncheon. She included a slide of a Hotte basket with just peg wooden dolls in it. This Hotte basket was “hotly” photographed at this event!

Hotte Etrennes Gift Theriault's auction photo - Copy

The Theriaults auction photo of my basket shows the details so well, including the two penny wooden dolls at the top, one with a tuck comb.


This Appalachian doll, also in my collection, was carved by the famed Polly Page in Tennessee. This doll is known as “Aunt Jenny,” which of course further endears her to me. She is circa mid 19th century.


Japanese Kokeshi ningyo also made an appearance on the display tables.

Almost as exciting as the display tables were the sales tables.


Rosalie Whyel’s table held many delights. She had available a DVD tour of her now closed Museum of Doll Art that is a much mourned wonder previously located in Belleview Washington. Also available were copies of her book, The Heart of the Tree, and a beautiful selection of high quality dolls.


I was so surprised to see this astoundingly rare china doll, which is featured in her book, The Rose Unfolds, on Ms. Whyel’s table! This doll’s maker has not been identified at this time. She dates to 1850 and is quite different from the Thuringian china dolls; however, she is also unlike those china dolls known from Danish or Italian porcelain factories. What an enchantment to have the opportunity to see her in person! Of course, even though she is for sale, this is a doll for which I cannot entertain even the dream of owning.


My dear friend and accomplished doll saleswoman, Teri, was enjoying herself. Her antique cage doll, on the back left side of the table, had already sold early in the day. Her partner’s Schoenhut dolls and toy piano took center stage here.


Thanks to the creations of Susan Dunham, and a doll artist for whom I did not catch a name, I do now own these two sweet reproduction bisque dolls. Susan made the 7″ Simon Halbig mignonette, and the other doll with the molded bonnet is a Baby Stuart. They will both eventually get new clothing.


Of course I bought raffle tickets for the “Helpers.” I ended up with twice as many tickets as I thought I had purchased. For some items, I put many tickets in their bag because I really wanted them. For other items, I dropped one ticket in the bag to use up my surplus. These are my raffle wins. For each item here, save one, I placed one ticket in the bag, and all of these came home with me! My daughter, who is collectiong vintage toys and likes glamour, does appreciate the sparkly red dress doll.


I did put many tickets in the bag for this vintage carved wooden doll. She is from the Netherlands, carved in 1981. I am now researching and planning a dress for her. I’m sure that you will see it on this site when it is completed! (Oh, no! more projects than I can keep up with!)

Thank you for joining me on this little tour of a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon at a Doll Club Luncheon. May all enthusiasts of “Dolls as Art” have the opportunity to attend such an event.

1750s Francis Cotes English Painter 1726 to 1770 Lady Ann Fitzpatrick - Copy

1750’s. Francis Cotes, English. Lady Ann Fitzpatrick.   Before the mid 19th century, wooden dolls were hand carved, often as a sideline by cabinet makers, or joiners. They were expensive, and available only to the wealthy, as represented in this painting. After the lathe was invented, the peg wooden dolls became readily available, affordable, and inevitably, of much poorer quality.

Kling to Simple Delights: The Restoration of a Kling China Doll


Author’s restored and dressed King shoulder-head doll

One of the most delightful simple pleasures for me is the creative act of restoring and dressing a dilapidated antique doll, and then basking in her new countenance. This is the story of the re-creation of Jasper Anne, a little Kling shoulder-head doll.

Mary Krombholz, the definitive authority on Thuringian porcelain factories that made china dolls, tells us that “The C.F. Kling & Co. porcelain factory made porcelain products in the Thuringian [Germany] town of Ohrdruf from its founding in 1834 until the early 1950s.” The production of dolls by this firm probably began in the 1850s with bald head glazed porcelain dolls. “From the simple bald heads made in the 1850s, the Kling factory artists designed a group of shoulder heads with elaborately decorated hairstyles and shoulderplates that are unequalled in modeling and facial painting.”


Page 206, 207 from Mary Krombholz’ book, A Pictorial Reference Guide for German Chinas, illustrates the two Kling dolls in my collection on the lower right.

By the late 1860’s Kling was making Parian shoulder heads that were worthy of display in any fine Victorian home; however, the dolls were intended as toys for children. (Note, a Parian doll is not from Paris, rather is so named because the porcelain is very white like Paris clay. The porcelain on Parian dolls is not glazed, as it is for china dolls.) Kling continued to develop the style of their shoulder heads, following current fashion, and by the 1880s they were making black and blonde haired Kinderkopf, or child dolls, as modeled in these two dolls in my collection. Kling also made bisque dolls (unglazed flesh colored porcelain) with glass eyes, yet the facial painting is consistent through all of these doll variations.


I currently have two Kling china dolls in my collection. They portray the Kling painting style of almond shaped eyes with large round irises. The lips are heart shaped on top, but unlike Hertwig dolls, the lower lip is a half-circle rather than an elongated oval, and has an accent line the same color as the lip paint.

My little Jasper Anne, the black haired Kling, started out as two parts. The factory made body, that had seen much play and child-made repairs, was found at the very end of a Portland Doll Show, hidden in a box on the floor, years ago. I liked its folky charm, and purchased it for next-to-nothing. I purchased the shoulder-head on eBay several years later, as I sought to add a Kling doll to my collection. The face has firing “pepper spots” which look like uneven freckles. I thought the doll would be a boy, and I named him Jasper.


Kling china with pepper spots. Author’s collection


The doll parts in process of restoration. The right leg has been re-covered in muslin to stop the sawdust leakage.


Eventually I realized that this shoulder-head and body needed to go together. The body had no arms and was leaking sawdust at the child-made repairs on the legs, and through the original dark brown, coarsly woven, fabric of the lower legs. It took me another year to find the appropriate arms to complete the body. I gently removed the old repairs which were made with wool yarn and bits of homespun fabric, then re-covered the original brown lower legs with muslin. I re-incorporated the dark yarn and homespun fabric in the repair to keep its authenticity. After making muslin upper arms and filling them with sawdust, I attached them across the shoulders, and then put the shoulder-head on the body, sewing it in place under the shoulder tabs.


The back of the restored body showing the wool yarn and homespun fabric from the original child-made repairs. Jasper Anne is wearing her new felt boots in this photo.

Next came designing the costume. I wanted it to retain the “play doll” flavor, and to have a pastoral charm. I chose a piece of fine antique knitted lace to edge the petticoat, which is attached to a bodice rather than a waistband. I did not make drawers since the body incorporates lace at the bottom of the upper legs, as seen in the above photo. I added burgundy ribbon beading in the lace of the petticoat to match the dress. The lace on the petticoat makes it a little too fine for play, but what a lovely effect, and after all it is protected with her pinafore.


Jasper Anne in her new petticoat with antique knitted lace. She is just shy of 9″ tall.

The dress is made of burgundy linen with a cotton calico pinafore. Sewing techniques included machine and hand stitching.


The linen bodice is lined with the calico print. Setting the sleeve in the armhole was a careful proceedure, and it was hand-sewn in place. The length of the finished sleeve is just 3″.


The dark burgundy linen dress works well with Jasper Anne’s bright face painting. The bobbin lace (I think) on her cuffs echos the petticoat lace and is set off by the dark dress, which has two “growth tucks” above the hem.


The pinafore was based on an antique style which had red embroidery worked on white fabric. I hand-drafted the pattern based on the photo of the antique pinafore, and hand stitched all the way around to finish the edges.


Next came a bonnet in a Kate Greenway style to coordinate with the dress and pinafore. I used a little antique Staffordshire dish as a template for the circle of the bonnet crown.


Finally, to complete the outdoor ensemble, Jasper Anne needed boots for her muslin feet. Again, I hand drafted the shape for the wool felt boots. Her feet are stub shaped, so no sole was needed.


The boots have glass bead buttons, and the bonnet ties with a silk ribbon.


All of the garments fasten with metal snaps, and glass and mother of pearl buttons were added to finish the outfit.


Jasper Anne is completely clothed and ready to play on the prairie or walk to town.

From conception to finished doll, this project took me close to two years, including much wait time between finding parts, gathering materials, and the calling of life’s necessities. Jasper Anne is another example of how a lovely antique doll can be restored and created from inexpensive parts to become a true simple delight.


Krombholz, Mary Gorham. A Pictorial Reference Guide for German Chinas, 2009.


Antique photo English curly blonde girl with lowbrow china doll

A doll to be played with.



Beyond Oceans and Decades: In Search of Ningyo


Author’s collection of ichimatsu ningyo

The pursuit of a doll can lead to quite a journey sometimes, in search of the doll itself, and of knowledge about the doll. A journey of this sort can take decades, and can encompass talismans that aid in finding that which is sought. This is the story of one seeker’s journey.

In 1984 I had the unique opportunity to move from Indiana to Okinawa as my husband graduated and accepted a teaching position with University of Maryland Asian Division. Another life-changing event occurred in the Spring of 1985 when, after three years of impaired fertility, I birthed my first son. Just five weeks later, in late June, the three of us embarked on a cultural tour of Japan with a U of M study tour. At this point, I didn’t think that life could get much better!


1985 7 July 19 Himeji Shinkansen Station Jonathan Jennie

Himeji Shinkansen Station, July 1985

The tour did include a visit to a doll factory, the Hakata ningyo factory in Fukuoka. While I found this visit interesting, I was not too excited about these dolls which, though beautiful, are stationary and all in one piece, more like figurines.

1985 3 July 14 Fukuoka Japan Hakata doll factory 1

Hakata ningyo ready to be placed into the salesroom

While it was relatively seamless for me to tote my young baby around and enjoy the tour (breastfeeding, of course!), it was necessary for me to spend a little extra time with him in our room each evening. On one of these evenings (as I found out the next morning), some of the other tour group members visited a nearby antique shop. One young woman had found an antique boy doll at the shop and was toting it around in her arms, as I toted my baby. I must say, I had more than a little envy that I did not have the opportunity to have found that doll! Yet, I consoled myself with my real little boy for whom I had waited so long.

1985 9 July 21 Ryoanji Kyoto Jennie Jonathan

Ryoanji, Kyoto, July 1985

After this tour, back on Okinawa, I was able to take a kimekome doll making class. These dolls, similar to the Hakata dolls, are stationary dolls to be admired rather than to be play dolls. I worked on several dolls in the evenings, in the seemingly few minutes that my son slept. This way, along with in-class time, I was able to complete several dolls for myself and for gifts. I also bought several more of the kits, which I still have, still in kit form.


A kimekome ningyo that I made as a gift for my mother-in-law. After her death, it came back to me, and now belongs to my daughter.


I am proud to have made this detailed kimekome geisha with the help of my sensei.

I never forgot the little antique boy ningyo that I saw in the arms of another, and continued to watch for one of my own. In 1987 we moved to the Tokyo area, and I had another son. Even though there was a doll district in Tokyo, I never made it there. Overall, dolls were not a big priority in my life at that time, and my presumption was that the dolls I would find there would be new rather than antique, and more of the stationary type I had already seen, like those above, or like the wooden kokeshi which are also commonly given as gifts.


Kokeshi ningyo are regional dolls from Tohoku in northern Japan. Those shown here are of the made-for-tourists variety. These dolls have the kappa hairstyle (defined below). Author’s collection


Here is a selection of small kokeshi that were made for the Japanese market. I found them at the weekly Salvation Army sale. They all have wobble heads. The tallest pointed hair kokeshi is 4″ while the tiny pair is a mere 3/4″. Notice the fabric-wrapped bun hairstyle on the mid-sized girls, and the shaved hair with hair tufts by the ears on the boys. This is Meiji era, or late 19th, early 20th c. and is earlier than the ichimatsu dolls shown below.

I did find some interesting second-hand shopping while I lived in Tokyo, including a weekly Salvation Army sale. One time I watched a worker unpack a whimsical small scale kimekome set of Dolls Day Hina Matsuri dolls in muted colors. As soon as she unpacked it, I bought it and she had to immediately pack it up again! (This set is still in Connecticut, so I cannot show you photos at this time.)

Japan Hina Matsuri display

Hina Matsuri, or Dolls Day festival on March 3rd, displays a replica of the court, and is perhaps the most well- known of Japanese dolls.

My life in Tokyo continued to include travel, in which I delighted. In 1989 I visited Nagoya and went to the famous Nagoya Temple Market. At one of the stalls there, I found a girl doll with moveable limbs and real hair. I didn’t know what kind of doll she was (a Bunraku puppet doll, I speculated, but there were no strings). I bought her.

1989 8 March Nagoya Temple flea market 2 Jennie Jonathan

Shopping at the Nagoya Temple Market in 1989. I am on the left with my first son.

The doll was not in the best condition, and I set out to restore her, even though I had no idea how. She smelled of moth balls and the crinkled satin-like fabric that connected her hard parts was deteriorating. Her right arm was hanging by a thread, showing the cotton batting stuffing inside. She was also missing her obi (the belt around the waist of the kimomo). I decided to hand wash her kimono in cold water, and realized that was a mistake! The fabrics began to bleed! I removed them from the water and spread them to dry, but the beautiful floral design on the dark blue kimono was permanenty damaged by my ignorance about how to restore the doll. I did patch the fabric on her arms, then admitted temporary defeat and packed her away in a wicker basket. Luckily, I had the foresight to buy a pink girl’s soft obi to replace the deteriorated one my doll had, and a vintage narrow obi as a substitute for the missing one.


This is the doll as she came out of her basket when I brought her home to Oregon from Connecticut in 2014.

This ningyo hibernated in her basket on her trip moving to the United States, in Washington for ten years, then in Connecticut where she was initially left behind, and finally came home to Oregon in 2014.

Now a lot has happened, any way you look at it, since I brought this ningyo out of Japan in 1991. At that time, I could not identify the type of doll she is, I did not know about her materials or construction, and I did not even know how to dress her or tie an obi. Over twenty-five years of internet innovation and doll research have made it possible for this sweet Ichimatsu ningyo to come out of hibernation and “breathe” again!


The doll parts in partially restored condition as I had left her since 1989. The wooden box on the lower right is her squeaker that is now in her tummy. It still works by compressing the front and back together.

The first “talisman” that I found with exciting clues about the nature of my doll was Antique Doll Collector magazine, October 2015, which offered an article on “Japanese Ningyo.” Finally, I was able to identify my doll as an ichimatsu ningyo with gofun (crushed oyster shell) covered parts. Thank goodness I didn’t try to clean her face, or it would have disolved! Other magazine articles, most notably by Japanese doll and antiques expert Alan Scott Pate, followed. Books on Japanese dolls, written for English speakers, which didn’t exist 25 years ago, and internet sources on kimono and tying an obi, are my next talismans, and have given me the confidence to finish restoring my ningyo.


The water damaged kimono and other parts of the doll’s original clothing, including the little pink soft obi that is faded and shredded.


The vintage orange adult narrow obi is at the top. Below is the padded cord that goes on top of the obi, then the doll’s faded soft obi. At the bottom is the new girl’s size soft obi that I bought while still in Japan.


The red fabric is an underskirt that goes on the doll before the kimono. The bottom shows the signature (of the doll’s artist) papers that are wrapped around the doll’s torso before she is dressed. I cannot read the kanji, so I don’t know her artist.


Here is my restored ningyo with new muslin fabric parts. The original pale green crinkled satin-type fabric is still on her arms.


My ningyo, restored and dressed. She is 20″ tall.

My ichimatsu ningyo is of the Showa era, or circa probably 1930’s. Her hairstyle is called kappa, meaning “cap” and is similar to western bobbed or pageboy hairstyles of the 1920’s and 30’s. Although she does not measure up to Alan Scott Pate’s “good” condition, I love her dearly because I found her, and I brought her back to life after all these years.


The boy ningyo. He is 14″ tall. Though Showa era, he may be later than the two girl dolls.

Although eBay has been around for many years, to my knowledge, it is much more recent that dealers in Japan have been offering items for sale internationally on eBay. There is a wide selection of ichimatsu and other ningyo now available to choose from. And choose, I did! I found a small boy doll who is at least similar to the one I saw in 1985–it has been so long, I can’t remember that doll’s details very clearly. And I brought one more girl, perhaps in the “better” category, and two babies into my family of ichimatsu ningyo.


My newest girl is also Showa era from the 1920’s or 30’s. She may be considered a “better” ningyo because of the quality of her kimono and facial detailing, and because her nails have indented detailing. She is 19″ tall.


These are gofun dollhouse size play dolls that come in a little basket with a lid. The okasan and otosan are 4″ tall. Author’s collection

The Japanese dolls or ningyo that I have shown you here are the ones that have touched my life the most, while I lived in Japan and afterward. There are many more types of ningyo, and ningyo feature prominently in many aspects of Japanese life, not just for children. I have shared my story with Japanese dolls here, yet I have not told you much about the history or characteristics of the dolls. Perhaps that will be another story . . .

For More Information:

Kaonis, Donna. “A Visit with the Herrings.” (Japanese Dolls) Antique Doll Collector, October 2015.

Kita, Terry. The Sun Shines For Us All: The Friendship Dolls From Japan. Valparaiso, IN: Valparaiso University, 2015.

Pate, Alan Scott. “Good, Better, Best: Evaluating Japanese Ichimatsu Dolls.” Antique Doll Collector, March 2017.

Pate, Alan Scott. Japanese Dolls: The Fascinating World of Ningyo. Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2008.

Pate, Alan Scott. Ningyo: The Art of the Japanese Doll. Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2005.

Stern, Itske and Anthony. “Wonderful Japanese Kokeshi Dolls.” Doll News, Winter 2015.


Japanese girl in kimono with Ichimatsu ningyo 1920

Japanese girl in kimono with kappa hairstyle and ichimatsu ningyo on her back, 1920




Knarls and Twists


My restored ningyo, found in Nagoya, 1989

Sometimes the knarls and twists of life just keep me from writing and sewing for the dolls. The past year has been full of twists, mostly good, that have kept me occupied away from my blog. It included a won trip to Hawaii, a move to a new apartment in a new city, a short trip to visit my son and his wife in St. Louis, and most recently, a 3 week bout of that awful flu.


My daughter and me on Hawaii, 2017

My apologies to my faithful followers for my inconsistent posting over the past year, and thank you to my new followers for your vote of confidence in my blog as a whole.

I have worked on a few doll projects over the year, and have taken some photos along the way. So now I am preparing a new blog post about a personal story and a long journey (literally and figuratively) to learning about Japanese dolls, or ningyo. I am hoping to have this post ready for you within the week–we’ll see if I can get some good photos in our near sunless Pacific Northwest climate at this time of year. Additionally, the Portland Crossroads Doll and Teddy Bear Show is tomorrow, so perhaps I will find a story there. Then, I have another doll restored and waiting to be dressed that I would like to share with you soon.


Doll restoration with a Kling shoulder head

I am offering my gratitude for all of your interest in my blog, and blessings for your health and prosperity in the coming year. Take joy in the beauty of antique dolls!  ~Jennie

Antique photo may 24 1927 Japanese dolls for American children

Ningyo being prepared to send to American children, 1927