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Ginny, Barbie, American Girl: Influences Through the Generations

My dear crochet friend, Dee Stanziano ( started a lively chat this week about her experience with her "Barbie" doll and how "she" was the inspiration for many creative hours of crocheting for Dee. BJ responded passionately about how she is "anti-Barbie" as a feminist who worked hard to climb up the ladder of success. BJ doesn't like the Marisol dressed in crochet, 2005 image projected by Barbie about women.

As a feminst mom myself, I didn't allow my girls to have Barbie's. I even refused to get caught up in that 80's marketing ploy for the "Cabbage Patch" dolls. I refused to stand in line and pay that kind of money. To this day, my girls tease me about how they were traumatized by not having an "official" Cabbage Patch Kid. (I bought the plastic heads and made the bodies myself!)Finally, I did break down and give in and buy them each a Cabbage Patch baby, but by then there were no lines to stand in!

I grew up in the fifties and my doll was the "Ginny" Doll. To this day, I still remember so clearly the Christmas I received her along with a complete wardrobe sewn by my grandmother, Myrtle. I suppose I was 8 or 9, but even then I sensed something very very special about this gift. Scraps from dresses my mother had made for me were used for Ginny's clothes, so we had matching outfits. My grandma was ahead of her time, wasn't she?

Me wearing the dress my mom made which also provided fabric for Ginny's dress
Ginny's Matching Dress
I still have everything I got that Christmas: Ginny's carrying case, all her clothes and of course, Ginny herself! At one point, when I was an adult, I replaced her hair and bought her a new "wig." I know some many years later they came out with a new version of Ginny and I bought one. I have the box in the basement; what has happened with the doll?

My girls had baby dolls, porcelain dolls, "Strawberry Shortcake", and lovely (and expensive) stuffed dolls from craft fairs, but it was always me who enjoyed dolls more than they did. In 2005 I bought my own American Girl Doll, the "American Girl Today" version which is supposed to look like me. I love her and boy, was I thrilled when a catalog came and I found that she has accessories that are crocheted! As I was chatting with Dee today, I checked on her in the guest room and good thing I did! She was stifling in her poncho from the winter and looks so much "cooler" in her cargo pants and baby blue t-shirt that matches her eyes!

I also discovered an article from Associated Press I had kept and it has some interesting things to say:" In buying dolls, parents must decide what message they want their children to get from their toys. Girls used to have one doll on whom they projected any kind of fantasy. Now there is a doll for almost every mood or personality that the little girl might imagine," says independent toy consultant Chris Byrne.

Patricia Farrell, a psychologist says the choice of a doll will tell you what the little girl's aspirations are, how she is being pushed by her family. Sociolgists stress how important a role dolls play in shaping a girl's values. Patricia Leavy, a sociology porfessor, 'Dolls are part of one's identity.'While observers are heartened that more dolls are multicultural-a big contrast to Barbie, who dominate fashion dolls for 40 years-its still hard for dolls that don't fit the American ideal to be accepted."

This is a pattern I designed for me and my doll, "Spring Fling plus Bonus Doll Scarf." and is available for purchase at my Ravelry store.

Spring Fling modeled by Bethany Kinsler

American Girl dresses some of their dolls in crochet and that's a great thing! Maybe we should start a letter writing campaign to get them to include crochet in the stories that come with the dolls. They are historical and surely there could be a mention of crochetsomewhere back in history. Will an Irish doll be coming out soon? Dee had her daughter, Mini-Dee, do some research and she found that crosstitch or needlepoint is mentioned already along with sewing. Equal opportunity is needed for crochet, as always.

Marisol dressed in crochet, 2005

Kit dressed in crochet, 2004

Another dear crochet friend, Noreen Crone Findlay is the consumate doll person. She lives, breathes and sleeps dolls and has written many wonderful books on how to make them. What I love about Noreen is she combines the best of both-hooks and dolls- and makes crochet hook dolls! She gifted me a very special one which I named "Prin" (short for Pincess) and sometimes she travels with me. She is a member of the little mutual admiration society Noreen and I started, "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Hook." I'm bringing her to Buffalo, so maybe you'll get to meet her.Prin in the Dominican Republic with Gwen, April 2008
Currently my dear artist friend who uses crochet in her art, Bonnie Meltzer has an exhibit in Portland, OR called "Clothing Chronicles: Biography in Very Mixed Media." In this new body of work she ponders our connections to clothes. To see photos of the works and read more, go to

Oh, and now that I am going to be a GRANDMOTHER, you can bet that whichever it is-boy or girl-it will be sure to have lots of dolls!! We're so excited about our FIRST
grandchild brought to us by Nicole and Jeff around November 29, 2009!


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