Several weeks ago, a pair of injured veterans of childhood past came to my attention — two 25-inch Raggedy Andy dolls made in the 1970s with love and attention to detail by a grandmother for her grandchildren. The dolls were dressed in the traditional one-piece short pants and shirt outfit, and each one had an abundant sup-ply of loopy orange yarn hair.
One Raggedy Andy was missing a foot. His other foot was in shreds. The second Raggedy Andy also had serious deterioration of the feet. Yet, despite the condition of their feet, the trusting, sweet, embroidered smiles on the dolls’ faces never wavered. And I knew without looking that each doll had the words “I love you” embroidered in a heart on his chest.
The dolls’ wounds were the result of what I call “fabric failure,” a condition that sprang up of its own volition after nearly 40 years of existence — sort of like bunions or fallen arches, I suppose. Perhaps it had something to do with the quality — or lack of it — of the dye in the black fabric or maybe the fabric was not sturdy enough to stand up to the stuffing pressing against it all those years. Or maybe it was simply the gods of time taking joy in wreaking havoc with the work of human hands.
When the dolls’ “mom” asked me whether I could fix the injured feet, I assured her that I could. Of course, I hadn’t yet seen the dolls and had no knowledge of the extent of the damage. But I had made more than a few Raggedy Anns and Andys in my day, which gave me insight into the intricacies and mysteries of their construction. The doll’s feet had seams at the ankle — no difficult task to snip the threads and detach the feet.
The dolls arrived at my house in a very large green paper shopping bag. Also in the bag was a length of black cotton twill material the doll’s “mom” included for use as replacement feet.
It occurred to me, when I took my first look at the dolls, that somewhere in my trove of sewing patterns I had the very pattern from which those two Raggedy Andys had been made. A quick look and sure enough, there it was, a McCall’s pattern, with the date, 1970, printed on it — and with all the pieces for three different size dolls still in the envelope, including a 25-inch one.
Soon, I was cutting out four pairs of doll feet and stitching them together on my sewing machine.
I removed the three remaining damaged feet and began the process of attaching the four new feet. I stuffed the new feet with the fluffy material that had filled the old feet. Using blind stitching, I sewed by hand the new feet to the old legs.
As I worked on the Raggedy Andys I thought of the two 12-inch ones I had made in the 1970s for my two sons. My older son requested that his Raggedy be made entirely of blue fabrics, including the body and hair. My younger son wanted his Raggedy to be dressed in pajamas to match his own, and with yellow hair to ap-proximate his hair color.
In later years I made other Raggedy Anns and Andys as new members of the family were born. I now am behind by three — I want to make one for little Millie, one for baby Carter, born Jan. 31, and one for the granddaughter of a dear friend.
Mending the feet of the two Raggedy Andys reminded me all over again of the timeless appeal of the dolls, and how easily grandmothers are moved to stitch so much love into them.
The Blue Hill Public Library Thursday night knitters will hold a “yarn swap” 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 4. The public is invited to bring unwanted yarn to trade for something new, meet local knitters and have fun. Participants are encouraged to bring their projects and get inspiration from other knitters. For more information, call the library at 374-5515. The event is free.
Learn how to knit at a workshop sponsored by the Pine Kneedlers Knitting Guild set for Saturday, March 6, at The Charles Inn in Bangor. The event is free to guild members, $15 others. Call Cheryl Zeh at 943-6909 for more information.