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She’s a real doll(maker)

By on March 27, 2021 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments
Bobbie Tremblay has made close to 200 dolls… and gives a lot of them away to friends and children.

Life’s a doll-icious time for Bobbie Tremblay

By Sebastian Moraga

From grief came inspiration. And from inspiration came wonder… and hundreds of treasured keepsakes and gifts.

When her parents and her aunt died, seven and eight years ago respectively, Bobbie Tremblay says she could not bear to part with some of the things they owned. 

“They had buttons, and zippers and ribbons and material and I just brought them home and they sat for a year or two,” she said. 

Once she retired, the box proved a blessing, as Bobbie, from East Wenatchee, took the contents of the box and began adding them to her dolls, handmade cloth toys that she first made for her family on a whim, three years ago when she decided she needed something to fill her hours as a newly-minted retiree.

“I just thought they had really pretty ribbons and lace,” she said. “I had been using my aunt’s stuff and then I found that pattern, I thought, ‘I’m gonna make that Raggedy Ann.”

Bobbie bought a pattern for a Raggedy Ann doll when she was first married, and finally finished the doll in 2018. She prefers older-style dolls, and uses material that she has sitting around in boxes.

The first doll took a while.

“I always wanted to, but I was always too busy,” she says. “I bought my first pattern when I was first married, carried it around all over the country and I never did anything with it.”

The doll was a Raggedy Ann. Bobbie  got married in 1970, and started and finished the doll in 2018.

A piano player and clarinet player who also liked to crochet, Bobbie began shelving her hobbies one at a time, as the passage of time coupled with osteoarthritis started playing unkind tricks with her hands and their dexterity. Doll-making came to the rescue, since hand-stitching comes coupled with machine work and embroidery, and it’s not so taxing. 

“A little doll face, I can still do,” she says. She can do a lot more than that, with a tally so far of close to 200 dolls made. She gives a lot of them away to friends and to children of her three grown children’s friends. Some she sells on eBay and at Wenatchee’s Ye Olde Bookshoppe, but most end up as gifts, or as quiet, permanent houseguests. 

The dolls are a hit with her lone grandchild, a 7-year-old named Max, who likes to play with the dolls when he comes to visit Grandma. Bobbie’s three children have informed her that there are no more grandkids forthcoming, so it’s a point of pride for Bobbie that Max digs the dolls she makes.

As evidenced by her first doll, (the first Raggedy Ann appeared in the year 1915), Bobbie prefers older dolls. The patterns for such dolls are harder to figure out, turning the hobby into a bit more of a challenge.

Another challenge is figuring out what material she’s using. Since a lot of it is used and/or recycled and/or from her parents’ boxes, sometimes Bobbie has to tell people she has no idea what the doll is made of. 

“I’ve never bought new fabric,” she said. “Most of the fabric is stuff that I had in boxes, sitting around.” 

Since she still uses the materials she has at home, making the dolls does not prove to be too large a financial challenge. The only thing Bobbie says she has to buy a lot of is the stuffing material for the doll. She uses Poly-Fil, which markets for about $26 for a 10-lb bag. 

When she first started, she never imagined she would end up selling her dolls. She never imagined that her husband, Paul, would ever get so involved as to say that a certain doll, a clown, was the best she had ever made and could not be sold.

From the start, Paul has been a patient and staunch supporter of Bobbie’s hobby, especially at the beginning, when Bobbie could barely contain her excitement at her finished creation.

“My poor husband. (I would be like) ‘Look! Look! Look what I did!’ (and he would say) ‘Oh, good job, good job.’”

At first, as the dolls piled up, the idea was to donate the dolls to hospitals but they don’t like to take in homemade toys due to sterilization concerns. That’s when the idea of switching to eBay and the bookstore came in. The hobby is slowly becoming a cottage industry, with a small group of devoted fans of her creations who are not shy about giving feedback.

“One lady said, ‘I really want that one but I don’t like the face you put on it.’ I said, ‘no problem,’ and took the face off since it’s all embroidery, and stitched on a new one.” Sometimes the whole head comes off, replaced by a new one, just so she has something new to look at. 

For Easter, she makes rabbits, for the bookstore she has made book-themed dolls, and for Halloween she makes witches. 

Not bad for a hobby that took nearly 50 years in getting started. 

“Better late than never,” she said.

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