When I was designing the pattern for the Keepsake Dolls I made several body prototypes before deciding which I would use. So I ended up with a few ghostly nobodies in my craft drawer.

I decided to give them each a personality which was significant in my own life. Thus "Grandma" came into being.

Grandma - in Memory

Grandmother's dead bird hatGrandma wearing her bird hat

Grandma came from a different world - one in which Queen Victoria was on the throne and Jack the Ripper roamed London’s streets. She always referred to coaches as charabancs and when she went out wore a black hat embellished with a taxidermied blackbird - as was fashionable in her day.

As mentioned elsewhere, it was Grandma who taught me how to knit and to sew by hand at first and later on her trusty Singer sewing machine. This was operated by turning the handle and made a very distinctive clanking sound as it sewed.

It's in the clothes

For me, the memory of Grandma is defined by her everyday clothes almost like a uniform.

She was in her sixties when I was born. She always claimed to have been a beauty in her youth and some of my mother's old photos show her in smart silk suits and the like.

But in her later years, once she was a grandmother, her day-to-day wear consisted of a knitted skirt and matching cardigan. She had two sets, one in wear and the other in the wash. These outfits she knitted herself. 

I vividly recall that, after she had been dieting on doctor’s orders, her two-piece outfits had become too large so she unpicked them one by one. She wound the wool into hanks and washed it. When it was dry I had to hold it on my outstretched arms whilst she rewound it into balls. She then proceeded to re-knit both outfits.

Lace jabot and broochdoll's replica lace jabot and brooch

I was amazed that she had the patience to do this as her skirt had some six hundred stitches. It was knitted on a circular needle and the wool was the equivalent of 4ply so it didn't knit up quickly. As it grew it became heavier and heavier to hold - yet she completed each within a week or so.

In the neckline of her cardigans she always wore a lace jabot into which she pinned a diamond and sapphire brooch. A gift from one of her several gentleman friends in the days when she was a barmaid in her father’s East End pub next door to a music hall. 

Grandma's little quirks

It's a person's little quirks that make them most memorable and lovable. Grandma had several. 

She was a smoker. When I was a child most adults smoked. But in Grandma's case this is perhaps a bit of an overstatement. What she actually did was put a cigarette between her lips and light it. Often then she would doze off. My sister and I watched, entranced, as the ash at the end of the burning fag grew ever longer until it dropped onto her chest. This usually woke her up whereupon she hastily brushed the residue off her now-scorched lace jabot with much tut tutting. 

She used to play "Run rabbit run" with my sister and I - also with our cousins when she went to stay with them from time to time. When I explain to young people these days what this entailed they just don't get it.

The game consisted of Grandma sitting in her arm chair with the poker in her hand. My sister and I would then crawl around the armchair on all fours while we all sang the music hall song: "Run rabbit run..." Whenever we passed the front of the armchair Grandma would try and "hit" us with the poker. To prevent that happening we had to crawl fast.

Of course we couldn't really crawl fast enough but Grandma used to pretend we did and even if we didn't make it, she never actually hit us, merely touched our backs with the poker to indicate we'd been caught.

(If you are curious about this song you can hear it here)

A third quirk concerned a chair. This stood in her bedroom. She had owned this chair all her adult life. It had a sprung seat pad, wooden arms and a caned, Bergère style back. Every few years she would bring out a tin of varnish and refresh the wooden frame. 

My Keepsake Grandma Doll

Keepsake doll as GrandmaMy Grandma Doll

So here she is - my Grandma - in her hand knitted suit, lace jabot, diamond and sapphire brooch, bloomers (not visible on this occasion) and her fur-trimmed slippers. Fittingly she is photographed sitting on her much-varnished chair which I still cherish.

If there’s someone special whose memory you would like to honour with a Keepsake Doll please get in touch.

Show someone special you care with a handmade gift

Other Making and Me Pages:

  1. Ooak Gifts
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  3. About Me & Making
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  5. Grandma