Thursday, January 31, 2013

Art Doll Quarterly-Topsy-Turvy Challenge

Topsy-Turvy Challenge Results!
The February edition of Art Doll Quarterly
is out.  This traditional black and 
white topsy-turvy doll was chosen for the
 Topsy-Turvy Challenge, along with several
 other doll makers from the MAIDA doll group.
Congratulations to everyone!
She is all cloth, stuffed with cedar shavings
and hand sewn.  Reproduction 1800's print
fabric, antique buttons, wool hair & embroidered
 faces.  Each doll is about 15 1/2 inches to the
 bottom of the dress.
The origin of this historical, uniquely
American doll are a

Topsy-Turvy doll

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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A Topsy-Turvy doll is a double-ended doll, typically featuring two opposing characters. They are traditionally American cloth folk dolls which fuse a white girl child with a black girl child at the hips. Later dolls were sometimes a white girl child with a black mammy figure. Precise facts about their origins are rare, but as late as the 1950s, "Topsy and Eva" dolls were marketed by Sears, Montgomery Ward, and The Babyland Rag company (aka Bruckner).[1]

Meaning and use

As objects of material culture, Topsy-Turvy dolls have provoked a great amount of interpretive controversy. Karen Sanchez-Eppler suspects that Harriet Beecher Stowe's Topsy in Uncle Tom's Cabin may have taken her name from the dolls, making for a "poignant and somewhat disturbing pairing with little Eva".[2]
Doll collector Wendy Lavitt writes, "It has recently been suggested that these dolls were often made for Black children who desired a forbidden white doll (a baby like the ones their mothers cared for); they would flip the doll to the black side when an overseer passed them at play."[3] Alice Taylor echoes this idea. “Scholars and doll enthusiasts continue to speculate about their original purpose and how children would have used them. The dolls likely were produced for slave children and perhaps as 'maid dolls' for white children. The issue of how children played with these dolls remains hotly debated”.[4]
Kimberly Wallace-Sanders addresses the controversial question of the possible meanings and uses behind the doll's design in her social history of the image and myth of the Southern mammy figure. She writes:
African American slave women may have given dolls like these to their daughters as a preparation for a possibility of a life devoted to nurturing two babies: one black and one white. Topsy-turvy dolls are designed for children to play with one baby at a time, and this accurately reflects the division of caregiving that African American women encountered, having to care for white children during the day and their own children at night. These handmade dolls are important, creative expressions of those otherwise silent women we know only as "mammy."[5]
Wallace-Sanders also disagrees with the "forbidden white doll" theory, arguing that the idea of a secret doll that would be forbidden to own makes Black mothers seem extremely irresponsible.[6]

Collections and museums

Many Topsy-Turvy style dolls can be found in the Hatch Collection of Black Cloth Dolls.[7] Another in a red checked apron, "called a double ender because of the two opposite heads", is on view at the Philadelphia Doll Museum and on their website.[8]


  1. ^ “Historical Folk Toys: Topsy-Turvy Doll Kit”,, accessed 3/28/2010.
  2. ^ Sanchez-Eppler, Karen. Touching Liberty: Abolition, Feminism, and the Politics of the Body, Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1997.
  3. ^ Lavitt, Wendy. American Folk Dolls, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982.
  4. ^ Taylor, Alice . “Dolls”, World of a Slave: Encyclopedia of the Material Life of Slaves in the United States, Volume 1: A-I, Ed., Martha B Katz-Hyman and Kym S. Rice, Santa Barbara: Greenwood, 2011.
  5. ^ Wallace-Sanders, Kimberly. Mammy: A century of race, gender, and southern memory, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008. Page 35.
  6. ^ Wallace-Sanders, page 33.
  7. ^ "The Hatch Collection of Black Cloth Dolls",
  8. ^ “Philadelphia Doll Museum: Virtual Tour”,

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Aletha Mae's Ozark Quilt

To me, this is the perfect example of 
an Ozark Mountain quilt.
  This quilt was made by my
mother, Aletha Mae, when she was
77 years old and given to me to be USED.
Yes, a quilt is a pretty thing, but around here
it's for keeping you warm, a picnic at
 the creek or a pallet for a sleeping baby.
This photo of my Mother, Aletha Mae, (right)
and her sister Virginia Lou was taken in front
of the Cedar Creek School, Taney County. 
 One teacher, one room, wood heat and an
 outhouse.  Mother says it had a well and all
the children drank from the same dipper. 
When Mother (front row center) 
started school, she was the only first
 grader, so she was bumped up to the second
 grade.  All the little boys are wearing
 coveralls....still popular around here!  

It's sewn completely by hand.
 Every block is a different color 
 and made from scraps.
I asked my Mother what the pattern
is called, she said  "Oh, just a pretty one."
Does anyone know?

My Mother was raised in a two-room
log cabin with a dirt floor. She carried water
 from a spring, learned to cook on a wood stove,
 did homework by the light from an oil
lamp, and used an outdoor privy.  As the
 depression ravaged the country, most folks
 around here didn't even notice.  
The back of this quilt is a bed sheet,
 not a new 500 count Egyptian cotton,
 but a well worn sheet.
Frugality was a way of life for
Ozark Mountain folks. 
Growing up one of my chores was to 
wash, dry and fold the aluminum foil, as
it was used several times.  Same goes
for the margarine tubs and plastic bags!
(I must admit aluminum foil was
 much heavier years ago!)
My Grandma Ethyl is coolin' me
 off in the river, yes, she's fully dressed
 and wearing her bonnet.  You don't need a
swimsuit to take a dip in the crik, we
call it Ozark air-conditioning.  I'm
 sure there's a pretty quilt on the bank.
Look closely... notice how short the
pieces in the bottom row are.  Those
scraps were a bit small, but used
anyway.  Mother says, "Make do with
what you have." 
This quilt has never seen a ruler
or rotary cutter. 
 Mother talks about the the quilting bees
and the "fine" quilts the old timers made, and
apologized for her uneven large stitches.
She doesn't realize it, but she's one of the
 last "old timers" of a truly simple life and
  bygone era.  Her quilt might not win
 first place in a big city quilt show, but to
 me it's an "extra fine" Ozark quilt.
It's my treasure and don't tell Mama,
but it's NEVER used!

Aletha Mae is 81 years old and
still works on her quilt blocks
when her health permits.  
Happy Birthday Mama!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bodies and Fabrics

I have spent the last month organizing,
and in general getting use to my new life as
a retired person.  Yee Haw!
Hopefully, I will now have the time for my ever
 growing list of things to do, as
well as finish some projects. 
 I have spent my evenings stitching and
stuffing body parts.
Some with cedar shavings,
Some with wool.
 I've been on the hunt for fabric. 
I am very pleased with these
 reproduction yarn dyed woven fabrics.  
I have some new home spun cottons.
 Reproduction 1800"s cotton prints in browns,
blacks & blues,
greens (some icky) & chrome yellows,
and of course reds.  I fear I will have
lots of trouble aging these wonderful
period colors.
I found a few tiny antique calico buttons and
yards of delicate old store stock cotton laces. 
 Just the right size for a dolly. 
I found 2 tiny antique silk frogs closures
(I see a couple of dolly capes)
and this vintage embroidered Swiss rick rack 
that I have no idea what I will do with it, but it
 was too pretty to pass up.  In the 1800's this 
trim was called wave braid and was quite popular.
I am ready to start some clothing!