Cre­at­ing dolls from bits of cloth and bound­less pa­tience

Each doll cre­ated by Yarmouth County woman presents its own per­son­al­ity


When it came right down to it, the de­ci­sion wasn’t a hard one to make in Grade 7.

“It was ei­ther Latin or home ec,” said Yarmouth County res­i­dent Donna Boudreau.

Sixty years later, she’s still sewing. What she’s work­ing on now, how­ever, has a lot more ap­peal than hem­ming pants or re­pair­ing a tear.

For the past two decades, Boudreau has been cre­at­ing beau­ti­fully ac­ces­sorized, fash­ion­con­scious dolls.

Some of them are what she refers to as mem­ory dolls, made with scraps of ma­te­rial that are sup­plied to her by some­one who wants a doll wear­ing an out­fit made from a loved one’s cloth­ing.

“This one girl was very close to her grand­mother, so I used the grand­mother’s pa­ja­mas to make the body of the doll and bits from her grand­mother’s favourite sweater to go over it,” said Boudreau.

She then slipped the grand­mother’s wed­ding band onto the doll’s wrist as a bracelet and sewed the hand on.

“That wed­ding band will be for­ever at­tached to this doll’s hand,” she said.

When the girl was born, her grand­fa­ther gave her a foot an­klet so Boudreau turned that into a neck­lace on the doll.

What adds to each doll’s per­son­al­ity is its in­di­vid­u­ally sewn face, which is first stuffed with fi­bre-fill, painted, then needles­culpted with a long nee­dle to cre­ate the nose and eyes.

The hair is typ­i­cally sheep’s wool, which Boudreau dyes, some­times us­ing the most un­usual source, in­clud­ing Kool Aid.

“I like it as fussy look­ing hair, not neat and tidy,” she said.

The colour co-or­di­na­tion is com­mend­able, as are the metic­u­lous de­tails.

Clarissa the Mer­maid has a tiny gold star for her belly­but­ton and a fresh-wa­ter pearl ring on one fin­ger.

One of the rea­sons Boudreau spends such time to cre­ate the de­tail on her dolls is for the ther­apy ben­e­fit.

She says when she was first di­ag­nosed with MS she had a very hard time with her hand, drop­ping things and spilling glasses of wa­ter, etc.

“I thought, ‘I’m not go­ing to let this get to me.’ Some­times I strug­gle with nee­dle-sculpt­ing or even turn­ing the (doll’s) hands. I have to sew around and cut in be­tween and then turn the hand in­side out. It takes pa­tience and a tiny, tiny lit­tle stitch,” she said.

Oc­ca­sion­ally she’ll sit look­ing at a doll and re­al­ize it needs one more lit­tle touch.

For in­stance, some lace and a feather ac­cent on a hat, or a few pieces of yarn cro­cheted for a shoe top­ping.

“It helps to take your mind off stuff and it’s helped my dex­ter­ity. It’s a case of if you don’t use it you lose it,” she said.

The mem­ory dolls cially re­ward­ing.

When one woman re­ceived a doll wear­ing an out­fit made from her mother’s old caf­tan, she called Boudreau.

“She was in tears and said you’ve turned this horrible caf­tan, some­thing that I hated, into some­thing that I can now look at and say, ‘ My mother. It’s a gift from my mother,’ even though I made it,” she said. are espe-

Donna Boudreau with one of her hand-sewn dolls.

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