A few weeks ago at a baby shower, I met up with an “aunt” I hadn’t seen in quite some time (she is married to my dad’s cousin, but who keeps track of that stuff?). She is an artist and creative person herself, and so of course it was fun to talk about that sort of thing together. She was really interested in seeing some of the dolls I had made, and then in short order asked me if I could make a doll for her grandson. She had an old pair of overalls belonging to her husband’s father (my great uncle?), a farmer, and wanted me to make a “Swedish Farmer Doll.” Now as as soon as I heard that phrase, I immediately knew it was the perfect theme to do a whole group of dolls about. I knew it would be so special and very close to my background and so many of the stories I heard my dad, and aunts and uncles tell about growing up.
About 20 miles east of where I live is the little town where my dad and his seven brothers and sisters were raised. It’s funny, because I had the idea to make 8 dolls, four girls, and four boys, to be the Swedish Farmer dolls. Later I realized that the number chosen to be very ironic, since that was my Dad’s family- four boys and four girls. However, none of the dolls I made have any specific relation to a specific person- except for one- the girl with long white blond hair who is named for my grandmother. I imagine that this is what she looked like as a little girl. I don’t know what color grandma’s hair was when she was little, but when I knew her, this is what her hair looked like- long, silvery white, and always braided into a bun wrapped around her head.
My great grand parents immigrated from Sweden, and my grandparents raised their children on a farm. Now there are so many relatives in that area of eastern Colorado that my aunt told me you have to be careful what you say to anyone, since they are likely to be related. Many of the children, grand children, and great grandchildren continue to farm right around the very same spot they were raised. I thought of so many of the stories I heard growing up as I made these dolls, as well as all the memories made with my father’s side of the family.
Stories of my dad and three uncles who were so mischievous and loved to play tricks on people (one involved causing a cousin to drive a car through the barn)-my dad always having a dog running beside him on the farm- my aunt being terrified to collect the eggs every morning, because, “my how those hens would peck”- my tiny grandmother chopping the heads off the chickens with an ax- the children sneaking into the refrigerator to snack on pieces of pickled herring out of a jar, if you can imagine!- my father’s imaginary “speech impediment”, where he loved to fool people into thinking he couldn’t say the word “turtle” (“instead of saying “turtle” it always comes out ‘turt-le’!”).
Of course there are many more stories and I pondered them as I sewed the dolls. I thought out some items to go with some of the dolls. I made a little matching dolly for two of them, remembering how my aunt sewed her daughter’s favorite doll a huge wardrobe of clothing for Christmas one year. I made a pig, and gave it to a redheaded boy- red hair runs in the family- because something about a redheaded boy with a pig conjured up an image of all the naughty things those kids did growing up. 🙂
A basket of eggs with a chick…
And lots and lots of handmade details. At your wedding or baby shower, you are lucky belonging to this family- count on being given dozens of booties, hats, cross stitch wall hangings, blankets, sweaters and quilts, and toys. Maybe it’s where my love for creating originated from…
More dolls and photos will be up later on today or tomorrow morning. along with a few more knitted items. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this “sneak peek”, and reading the story behind these “Swedish Farmers.”
***The beautiful shawl Grace is wearing was knit by Amy- it won’t be for sale! 🙂 Also, she made all the doll clothing, as usual, including the wonderful little smocked dress. She took some of these photos, as well.***