Fabric of Memory, Lee Mingwei, 2006

Sally, the Sasha Doll made by Jemima's Mum, 1960

Submitted by Jemima Pyne, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Memories and Associations
I remember playing with my favourite doll Sally and these lovely clothes which my Mum made for her. I remember that I had clothes made by Mum in the same fabric. I've still got Sally and she and these clothes live in boxes on top of my wardrobe. Re-discovering them, as I do from time to time, I'm transported straight back to the garden in Montalt Road and wheeling my dolls pram up round the grass. I remember life then as lots of making, doing and growing. My Mum made me clothes and cooked proper homemade meals, bubble and squeak, apricot crumbles and even ice-cream. We grew vegetables and picked peaches, pears and apples from in the garden. My Mum still makes things, she's always got a making project on the go. Most recently she made some scarecrows to sit at the bottom on my sister's drive in Norfolk to raise money for UNICEF. They were a troop of circus clowns with a circus dog and they won best scarecrows in the village. She's already planning next years display!
Making and Giving
As a small child, Jemima, could engage in absorbing play of her own devising, for long periods while her older sister was at school and I dealt with her younger brother and household chores. She drew instinctively and with great clarity from an early age. From observing this and her play, I believed she had a developed aesthetic sensitivity. She had a great sense of fun but also a mature self-contained quality.

Our limited family budget did not allow for lots of toys and play materials, but every December, her father and I went to Abbatts toyshop in Wimpole Street to buy the years’ supply to be given at Christmas. This was when I saw the Sasha doll which so exactly matched Jemima. With its fine sculptured features, it was unlike any other doll I had seen. It was woefully expensive and really beyond our budget but so perfect a present for Jemima that it had to be afforded.

Of its original outfit, I remember only the shoes and socks and a rust coloured coat. Christmas came and Jemima named the doll Sally and was entranced with her. They seemed to be a matched pair and I set to work to make a wardrobe of clothes for Sally for Jemima’s birthday in February.

I used pieces of fabrics leftover from clothes I had made Jemima or from clothes that she had grown out of. I remember that her father and I would sit right in front of the fire in the evening in the time before central heating. He would read The Times and I stitched my thoughts and dreams into these small clothes, satisfying my need to make things and to give expression to the love I had for this small daughter

The plaid wool skirt has the sophistication of a bodice to avoid the braces or straps that always held up skirts of small girls. I had learnt to edge fine materials in shell stitch while in primary school, which is an extraordinary thought. This ensemble was completed with a pale, toning turquoise cable knit jumper.

I remember the fabric of the pyjamas in that vivid way that textiles can lodge in your memory and I think this was a small remnant I had bought to make something for either of the girls but which I think was hijacked for Sally. The accompanying dressing gown was made from a clumsy bed jacket which an elderly aunt had made for Jemima but which she had only ever worn with a cardboard crown, in her dressing up games.
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