The little girl who loved dolls – A dolls house and paper dolls


When I was a small girl I used to go and spend a few weeks during the school holidays with my grandparents. They were a very interesting pair who tried their hands at a lot of different and interesting enterprises. During the spring school holiday of my eighth year, I went for a visit to Granny Joan and Granddad Jack. At this particular point in time they were working as caretakers at a yacht club at the Vaal Dam. One of their duties was to run the tuck-shop that served the visitors who were enjoying the swimming pool facilities. I thought this was absolutely great as it meant that I got to help out with serving at the counter and also to enjoy lots of free ice-creams.

I can recall quite clearly Granddad Jack coming to fetch me in his old beige hatchback car. Granddad Jack could be quite grumpy but he liked me. We stopped at a garage shop during the two-hour car journey and he bought me a packet of wine gum sweets. I always remember this kindness as we didn’t get a lot of sweets.

Granny and Granddad’s house at the yacht club was very nice. They had a door stopper shaped like a frog and a long sausage dog that was pushed up against the gap under the door to keep out the wind. I could sit quietly and amuse myself for hours playing with the frog and the dog. They also had two lovely cats, Tom Cat, a very fat ginger cat, and Ash, a very pretty grey cat. We didn’t have any animals at home so I really enjoyed having the cats to play with. I have always loved cats.

My Granny Joan was very artistic. She used to paint watercolours and sometimes oil paintings of flowers in pots. My parents still have some of her paintings. One day, about three days into my stay, Granny Joan offered to help me make paper dolls. She drew the dolls onto stiff paper and cut them using a sharp pair of scissors. She drew on faces using coloured pencils and helped me to make hair for the dolls from small bits of left over knitting wool. She also showed me how to make all sorts of dresses and other clothes for the dolls out of bits of coloured paper. We had to cut out little tags to fold over or around the paper dolls shoulders, waists and legs so that the clothes would stay on the dolls.

My granny also helped me to make a dolls house for the paper dolls. We made the house out of a tomato crate. At that time these crates were made from wooden slates, with a shorter slate across the middle of the container. I made windows from squares of white paper which I pasted to the walls of the house. I made curtains for the house out of small pieces of scrap material which I cut out with granny’s pinking shears. I also made all sorts of furniture. I made a chest of drawers by stacking four match boxes one on top of the other and gluing them together. I used small buttons for the handles of the drawers. I made beds from plastic margarine tubs. I turned the margarine tubs upside down and cut out the sides to make bed legs. I then cut the legs down so that the bedsteads were not too high. I made bed clothes and even knitted some small blankets and crochet some tiny rugs. My Mom had been teaching me how to knit but I was not very good at it, it is still not something I am very accomplished at although my sewing is impeccable. My granny even helped me to make a Christmas tree for the doll’s house from a small branch of a pine tree. She gave me some cotton wool which I draped over the tree as snow.

I was thrilled with my tomato box house and paper dolls and they kept me entertained for a large part of my stay. I took them home with me at the end of the holiday. Catherine was most admiring of my house so I made one for her. We spent many a delightful hour playing with those houses which just goes to show you how imaginative children can be and how much pleasure they can derive from really simple things.

Robbie and Michael Cheadle are the co-authors of the Sir Chocolate Book series


84 thoughts on “The little girl who loved dolls – A dolls house and paper dolls

    1. It doesn’t surprise me, Sue, that you were a creative and imaginative child. It reflects in you lovely poetry and writing. I have been thinking about my childhood a bit lately. The world has changed so much and I feel my children’s childhood pales in comparison to mine even though they have so much more than I had.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree, Robbie, though they will probably look back with just the same thought in years to come. The wold moves and our normalities move with it. As long as children are allowed to know wonder at the world and learn to explore themselves and their imaginations, childhood will always be a time to remember.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. Listen, you would never be vain. It’s not you. I love your posts cos they do strike a chord–I have still got a shoe box of paper dolls in the cupboard. –and I do admire what you do. Hel I can’t roll a piece of play doh xxxx

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  1. That sounds so lovely and imaginative, Robbie. I used to love playing with paper dolls. You created something special with the doll house, and how wonderful that you shared that experience with your granny. I loved the days of simple toys and simple joys 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It is a really cute design. I have a cookie cutter for this house which makes it really easy to make and assemble. I then decorate it any way I want to. This gingerbread is really tasty. We were eating cut offs from the gingerbread castle in the office today.

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  2. Lovely post, Robbie! Reminded me of my growing up days with my artistic Mom. She not only made paperdolls (which I still love) for us, she inspired me to draw and make my own. At the age of 14 I was still drawing paperdolls and designing clothes. Wonderful memories for me… Thanks for sharing yours! xo

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Bette. I have been quite amazed, by the comments on this post, how many people enjoyed paper dolls and how this post invoked lovely childhood memories in so many people. It is wonderful that you designed your own clothes!

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    1. I never really thought about the effect of my own trips down memory lane on readers which I wrote these little tales. They do seem to have the effect of bringing back peoples own memories and I love that. I am so glad you enjoyed this, Debby.

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  3. It sounds lovely, Robbie. I must confess to being a disaster with any craft projects (I can crochet but that’s about it and have always managed to glue myself to everything I try to work with) but it sounds like a very enjoyable activity and it goes to show one can entertain oneself with very little. 🙂

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  4. This post brings back such fond memories. We used to make a stage for our hand puppets out of orange crates. We also made dolls out of paper-mache. We used to put on plays in the backyard and charge five cents for admission and gave each child a cup of lemonade and popcorn. Imagination is the most wonderful thing a child can have. I loved this post. Thanks for the memories. xo

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  5. I was given a metal doll house one Christmas (which I never really liked), but I spent many happy hours putting together boxes in various configurations to “remodel” it. 🙂 I can’t recall even once playing with the dolls that were supposed to occupy that house, however.

    When I was quite small a woman’s magazine (McCalls) always printed one page toward the back with Betsy McCall – a little girl designed to be cut out and affixed to cardboard, along with that month’s dresses with those little tabs. I remember my mother carefully cutting them out for me.

    When I was even younger, she also made paper dolls out of the Campbell Soup Kids (from advertising pages) in the same manner. Since my brother and I were quite close when we young and the Campbell Kids were a boy and a girl, I used to make up stories about them, pretending that “Ricky” and I were living those imaginary adventures (name in quotes because he hasn’t used it since probably the second grade!)

    I also had The Lennon Sisters paper doll book – there was a time when those books were quite popular – pages and pages of clothes for paper dolls (the dolls perhaps cut out of the cover?)

    I haven’t revisited those memories in DECADES! With Mother’s Day on Sunday, your timing couldn’t be better!

    If I had followed the trajectory I was set upon in my childhood, however, I’d probably be an architect or designer today. 🙂 You honed your skills and changed medium.

    Charming post, Robbie – and very cute house. Now I want Hansel, Gretel and the witch – lol.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Madelyn, you are definitely a very imaginative and industrious person. So nice that your Mom took the time to cut out those paper dolls for you. I had three younger sisters so I usually cut out paper dolls for them [smile]. I am delighted that this post brought back happy family memories for you. Hansel and Gretel are not currently on the cards [but it is a good thought] but you will be seeing Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross this coming Tuesday. Have a wonderful weekend. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, Robbie. I had one sister and 3 brothers (all younger, all of us close in age), and our family moved OFTEN. My mom was slammed, since my dad was rarely home and running the home, packing/unpacking, etc. fell on her shoulders (along with childcare). So my memories of when she had time to play with me are precious.

        I’m looking forward to what’s coming. Hope you are enjoying your weekend.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks Madelyn. Shame your poor, Mom. Five children is a lot to cope with on your own. We were four girls and we also moved frequently. I went to fourteen different schools which is why I think I have learned to be a good mixer with people. I had a great day teaching 10 kids how to make fondant bees and racing cars out of boudoir biscuits. We had so much fun! I hope your weekend is equally enjoyable but maybe a bit less taxing [smile].


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