I didn’t really play with dolls much as a child. Sure, I had dolls, plenty of them. I found the most joy making things for my sister’s dolls. I remember sitting with my Nana, going through a special box of clothing she had made for my mother and aunt’s dolls when they were children. I loved the different fabrics, colors, and textures. I used to spend hours making “clothing” for my sister and cousin’s dolls from scraps of beautiful fabric in Nana’s basement as the other girls played nearby. First, I sewed them by hand, and as I got a little older, Nana taught me how to use her giant, avocado green dinosaur of a sewing machine. My first efforts were a sight to behold….all “original” and could only be worn once, as I frequently had to sew them onto the dolls to get them to fit right!
When my first daughter was little, I did what most parents do, I got her a doll. The doll was cute to look at, but the plastic smell just about overpowered me, and I worried about what it might do to my precious little girl. So, I started looking for something less toxic for her to play with. I had no idea how little there was out there to choose from. My husband shared my frustration, and suggested that I try making something myself. The little light bulb went on over my head. Where to start? Then I found out I was pregnant with our second daughter, so everything else went on to the back burner while I enjoyed the trials of pregnancy and life at home with a small child.
When it was time for our oldest to start school, I knew I wanted to start her out with something different. I found a Waldorf School in Georgia; however, it was not practical for our family as it was too far for me to drive two times a day with a new baby (we happily wound up at a Montessori School that we will be forever grateful for). However, I was very intrigued with their philosophies about letting the child learn naturally, and surrounding the child with natural materials to learn and play with. The first time I saw a Waldorf doll, I was hooked. I knew this is what I wanted to make for my girls.
“What is a Waldorf style doll?” That is a question I get a lot these days. To put it quite simply, a Waldorf doll is a simple doll. They help put the imagination back in to playtime. A Waldorf style doll is a breath of fresh air. I only use natural materials for my dolls. I like organic, pill resistant cotton tricot for the skin, it is soft to touch. I use pure, carded eco-wool for the stuffing. The sheep are treated kindly; they live on fields where pesticides are not used. The dolls have a wonderful natural smell and will warm up as they are held, loved, and played with. The best ones have the simplest faces. A child can look at the doll and decide for themselves if the doll is feeling happy or sad, grumpy or silly, and so on. This encourages a child to bond with the doll, and it will become a special friend that is played with and treasured.
I started Apple Tree House so that I could offer environmentally unique and special dolls. I put a lot of love, thought and time into each one. My goal is to make each doll with her own look, to stay away from the cookie cutter mentality. The yarns I use for the hair really inspire the personality of the doll. I go a little bit nuts over the yarns for the hair. I use high quality yarns that you don’t usually find on dolls. Some of my favorite yarns come from other Etsy sellers. I think it is so important to put some thought into what we give to our children to play with, for so many reasons. We live in a time when mass produced plastic toys (that may contain toxic chemicals) can be easily purchased in large quantity at huge, noisy, brightly lit chain toy stores. Toys that take a lot of batteries to perform one function that the child quickly gets bored with. Where’s the fun in that? Apple Tree House dolls are made to go on adventure, to be played with and enjoyed.