An old friend recently asked me if I'd make clothespin dolls of her daughters' favorite book characters, characters that were too unusual to be available as mass-market children's dolls. Thinking that for two girls under the age of four the requests were bound to be something simple, fun and girly, I said sure.
So imagine my surprise when she named the desired figures: Abraham Lincoln, Jesus, St. Peter, and "some sort of Spider Lady (Halloweeny, not like Spider Man)."
These are some unusual little girls! Little girls who clearly have some books about historical and religious figures in the house. Also, I'm told, little girls who love snakes and insects, and think kittens and bunnies are "icky." I love this. And as it turned out, the challenges of making their chosen figures recognizable was more interesting than any pink-and-purple fairy princess doll.
Here is Honest Abe, posed against a sort of prairie woodland backdrop. His top hat is made of electrical tape, as is his iconic bow tie.
I don't know about you, but I never formed much of a concept of St. Peter or what he should look like, not even with 16 years of Catholic schooling. Luckily, my two-year-old client had the answers. She felt he should have a halo, a long red garment, and a fish net.
The halo is a gold paillette from the craft store. I glued the heck out of that thing so it will hopefully withstand the test of toddler fingers. I really love the way the fishnet turned out - I just sort of made up a crochet stitch (I know very little about crochet), and then stitched on several felt fish. The backdrop is from a calendar of Scottish landscapes, but it reminded me of those Biblical pictures from the '70s. The photo even has that 3-D postcard image quality - what is that called? When you shift the angle of the card and the image moves?
Here is Abe again, this time posed with Jesus. I felt a little ... blasphemous? ... making a Jesus doll. False idols, or something. Also, his beard looks more like he's been eating chocolate than like a beard. He is wearing the blue sash because my friend's four-year-old thought he should have one, "like Miss America." There he is, Mr. Jesus ... And I think somehow it does distinguish him as special from the rest of the gown-wearing, long-haired, chocolate-eating masses. Jesus and Abe are pictured here in heaven ... or maybe Antarctica.
This one's my favorite: Spider Lady! I hope she doesn't frighten her two-year-old owner. But hey, she asked for it!
The embroidered spider web on her dress is inspired by a similar one my mom made on my Halloween witch's costume when I was three. The story goes that the morning of Halloween, when presented with the costume I had begged for and my mother had slaved over, I cried and cried, and said I didn't want to be a scary witch - I wanted to be a fairy princess! So apparently I, too, flirted with a snakes-and-spiders phase. Though as it turned out, I was still more of a pink-and-purple girl at heart.