Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Paper dolls

After the day's work was done, Ma sometimes cut paper dolls for them.  She cut the dolls out of stiff white paper, and drew the faces with a pencil.  Then from bits of colored paper she cut dresses and hats, ribbons and laces, so that Laura and Mary could dress their dolls beautifully.

-Little House in the Big Woods, chapter 2

I got lucky with the very first craft; my work is already done for me.  When I was nine or ten I checked out a book from the school library about making dolls, and on one page there was a template to trace to make paper dolls.  I traced the templates carefully onto printer paper, and ended up with four dolls with comically misshapen limbs and odd proportions, because printer paper is not an ideal tracing medium if you're not using a lightbox.  I cut around the dolls, pasted them to cardstock, and cut them out again.

The original blond daughter met with an unfortunate accident, and was later replaced by the adopted redhead here, and then the family adopted a baby from China

If you're good at drawing people, you can skip most of these steps and draw the dolls right onto cardstock and cut them out, as Ma did.  Using an X-acto knife is neater and won't cause the edges to curl, but scissors work just fine, too, and can be wielded by children, if yours are of age to be handling them.

I made the wardrobes for my dolls out of more printer paper, tracing the basic outline right around the dolls and adding details and tabs with a pen, and then coloring them in with crayons.  For a different look more along the lines of what Ma made, you could cut the clothes out of construction paper or patterned scrapbook paper (just don't forget the tabs).

This is seriously only half of the clothes. I was very productive.

 I used to study catalogs and the ads from the newspaper to find outfits to copy.  The mother's wardrobe in particular is very K-Mart and JC Penny of the 90's, though much more fitted (it's easier to keep the clothes on that way).  My parents were impressed by the pains I took to copy every detail; my goal was to have a set as varied and exact as the expensive storebought paper dolls that I coveted.*

If you really don't trust your drawing or tracing skills, there are many printables available for free online.

Pioneer Dress-up Doll

Nellie, wearing much the same expression as the Little House character of the same name, has a wardrobe suited to style Laura wore in her teens when her family was finally settled in De Smet.

Wee Wonderfuls has a very cute, more modern doll

These don't have interchangeable clothing, but I love Gingermelon's designs.

*I did eventually obtain a few storebought sets; the American Girl Kirsten set and the Little House in the Big Woods, and the Dover collection of Medieval Costumes, all of which are still available online if you really want to cheat - but you'll still have to cut them out yourself!

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