Half Penny Dolls have been around for many generations. They were probably named for the inexpensive nature of the materials used to make them: pieces of thread, wool, and twine.
Half Penny Dolls are not to be confused with Penny Dolls, which are wood-carved dolls, also known as Peg Dolls or Dutch Dolls.
Half Penny Dolls are made by folding the wire into a body shape, then wrapping the limbs with string. The body is wrapped with wool or fabric. A head is made from a ball of wool or a wooden bead.
It is possible that the Half Penny doll was born when a mother busy with spinning or weaving and who needed a distraction for a fussy baby, grabbed a few bits of wool and made a small toy out of it. Dolls became very popular with girls because they were simple enough for kids to make on their own and provided hours of entertainment right in the process of making and dressing the dolls.
In 2003, Salley Mayvor reintroduced Half Penny Dolls to the world with her book Felt Wee Folk (C&T Publishing). In her book, she Salley demonstrates making dolls with pipe cleaners and dressing them with silk flower petals, wool felt and acorn hats.
We recently held a doll making workshop at a family reunion. Several nieces, sisters, cousins and aunts, ages seven to fifty, spent the day making half-penny dolls. With some pipe cleaners, fabric scraps, wooden beads and crochet cotton, we had a complete doll factory in the dining room. The imagination blossomed when the little girls drew the designs for their dolls and the adults helped them bring those designs to life. In addition to little dolls for memories, memories were created that day.
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