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For My Dolly

Volume XIX, Issue Three | September 2020

Years ago, when I realized I didn’t have space for all the quilts I wanted to collect, I turned to doll quilts. I could store dozens of doll quilts in the space required for one or two of their full-size counterparts. Moreover, while it takes an entire wall to display a regular quilt, you can pin any number of dolly quilts in the same space. And while quilts are, well, quilts, doll quilts can be turned into pillows and other decorative items. Not to mention, doll quilts are far less expensive.

But practicality aside, I love doll quilts. I love their quirks and their uniqueness. Bedquilts can be perfect. Doll quilts never are, or at least, I never saw one that was. They are almost always worn. Dolls are so hard on their bedding. They are loved and prized by little girls, and I learned to love and prize them, too.

I grew up with one my grandmother made for my older sister. It’s a simple four-patch made with doll-size squares. Both of my sisters and I used it to keep our dolls warm. Some years ago, I gave it to the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, and it’s on the dedication page of The Quilt That Walked to Golden. My grandmother’s talent didn’t pass down to me. I tried making a quilt for my doll when I was eight or nine and sewed it to my dress.

I’m not an expert on doll quilts, but I did learn something about them over the years. There seem to be two kinds. Some are made from squares left over from full-size quilts. Two or four of those squares comprise the entire doll quilt. The others—the ones I like best—are miniaturized quilt patterns. You wonder if mothers out there made full-size quilts for their daughters, then replicated the design in doll size. Crazy quilts were the most common, done in cotton or wool or silks. One of mine has a tobacco-pouch frog in the center. But almost any design was utilized. One doll quilt is two large pieces of fabric with a Chinese design. A red-and-yellow quilt is Indiana Amish. One tiny pink-and-white quilt was machine-stitched. I didn’t think it was anything special but discovered later that the unique machine stitch dated it to about 1840.