Just what exactly is so special about a handmade doll?

Why buy a handmade doll? Handmade dolls are more expensive and harder to find than mass produced dolls. Yet, they have a growing loyal following. Why is that?

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As a maker of handmade dolls, I felt too close to the subject to answer. So I asked a few buyers, not just of my dolls, but of all kinds of handmade dolls. And I asked one of my favorite doll-makers--Jenny Marshall of Little Jenny Wren. I was sure she would have thought a bit about this, and she had.

The reason that I heard the most is how the dolls feel (not their emotions) but the tactile qualities. Handmade dolls can be made from all sorts of materials: cotton, wool, linen, muslin, yarn. They can be sewn or knitted. All of those materials are nice to touch. One mother said she heard about handmade dolls from others in her cloth diaper group, but could not understand why these other moms would pay $200 for a doll. So she decided to find out for herself and ordered a handmade doll. She said when she first held the doll, she understood.

“There was no going back to store bought dolls from that point on and I can see many more finding a home with us in the future"

Jenny Marshall: To me the feel of the doll is as important as the look of the doll and I feel the body reacts more tenderly and gently to the textures and warmth of natural fibres, there is a softening response, a need to care for the doll. 

If you have not held a handmade doll, then you have not experienced the feeling.

Handmade Doll tea party

Some handmade doll owners collect all kinds of dolls, handmade and mass-produced;  they are doll-lovers and appreciate all kinds of dolls. But there are many who are not keen on mass produced dolls. They value the uniqueness that is part of the handmade doll experience. They have the opportunity to create a doll that speaks to them, because the dolls are made one at a time, buyers can customize a doll. Hair, skin color, size and clothing can all be specified.

Because the doll took so many hours to make there won’t be many like it. Like those who hunt and collect works by a specific artist, when you find what you like, it is coveted. You cannot buy as many as you want. Handmade dolls are procured. Although with the internet, handmade dolls are easier to find.

One mom, with five girls described how hard it used to be to find handmade dolls,

"I've always bought my girls unique dolls, I hate the mass produced dolls. Years ago when my older girls were little, handmade dolls were very hard to find and the only ones they had were knitted dolls. I'm loving now that with my youngest, there’s all the gorgeous handmade dolls that are out there."

For some, buying handmade is part of supporting those who make them for a living, or the use of natural materials, or both. The purchase of the doll fits into a larger philosophy or world-view. One mother said, “I buy handmade because they are made with natural materials more often and are made with love by one person who is often a mother who is able to stay home with her family by making handmade to support their income."

Another mom said, " I don't buy too many toys for my children, usually waiting for special occasions and I always chose quality over quantity. I want to teach my children the importance of buying responsibly."

Others appreciate the relationship with the maker and the back-story. Doll-lovers can match themselves with doll-makers. A win-win for those who love to create and for those who love dolls. Doll-makers love to create dolls that they know will be cherished and doll-lovers love dolls that they played a role in making it special.

As Jenny Marshall so perfectly put it, “The fact also that the doll has taken so many hours to make and during that process has been touched so often by the maker, touched carefully so as not to roughen the doll, but touched and handled lovingly and you can feel that love and care when you hold the doll. Children feel it and adults too,” 

Doll Tea Party