Looking back through my life, I realize I’ve always been a collector. Maybe not in the “pristine packages, all originals, neatly stored in an expensive glass cabinet” sort of way, but in the “I love this thing and I want as much of it as humanly possible” way. I’ve collected Barbies (for play and for display), Barbie ornaments, Beanie Babies, Muppets, Sailor Moon merchandise… I actually still have all of these. They mostly live at my parents’ house, where I can access them if I want, but otherwise I don’t worry about them too much. Sometimes I think I should just cut the ties, let it all go, but then I get nostalgic and can’t bear to part with my precious collection.
Collecting is never just about the collection for me. It’s much more of an experience. I didn’t just collect Sailor Moon dolls and wands, I obsessively read Sailor Moon fan fiction, drew Sailor Moon fan art, dreamed of doing Sailor Moon cosplay, etc. Eventually time and money and waning interest caused me to set aside the collection, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still casually waiting for a Sailor Saturn doll to pop up on eBay in my price range.
I should have known a few short months ago when I was reintroduced to 18″ dolls that this wouldn’t be just a casual interest. My cousin’s family came to my parents’ house to swim, and his twelve-year-old daughter had one of her American Girl dolls with her. I had a fleeting fascination with the dolls when I was about her age; a coworker of my mother’s gave me a couple of catalogs and I was immediately swept up in the magic and excitement of these dolls’ worlds. The clothes, the accessories, the tiny food! It was all so fascinating! But the dolls were expensive and I was told it was out of the question, so as time went on I all but forgot about the world of American Girl. I acquired two 18″ dolls over the following years; a barely used Penney and Friends Jamie doll and a pre-stuffed Springfield Collection doll from a Jo Ann Fabrics. I was older at the time and didn’t play with these dolls much, so they ended up in the basement with everything else. But when I held that American Girl doll in my hands during the summer of 2015, a light bulb went on in my head. “I bet I could crochet accessories for these!”
I decided to find a used doll, comparable to AG but much less in price. I remembered the Springfield doll from years ago. She was in my parents’ basement and all of her hair and completely fallen out (after reading more about these dolls this seems to be fairly common with the older style dolls) plus she was completely not poseable. Still, she was the right size and I took her home to use as a model. I started researching inexpensive 18″ dolls. I found Our Generation, Madame Alexander, Journey Girls, the revamped Springfield Collection…I was intrigued. My mom bought me a used Our Generation doll whose hair I cleaned up and trimmed. I had my models, I could start crocheting! But…my Springfield doll still wasn’t poseable. She was still bald. I bought a plastic armature from eBay and inexpensive hair wefts to glue to her head. She underwent “surgery” to have the armature inserted; it didn’t fix the problems of poseability, but it was something. I glued the hair wefts to her head, giving her thick dark hair. I made a couple crochet pieces. I kept researching. There was so much variety when choosing an 18″ doll! The differing face molds among the brands was only one huge difference; each brand had its own body style. Not all the dolls could easily share clothes! Clearly I needed more models! If I could just find one from each brand, then I could be sure the things I made would fit everyone…right?
The next thing I knew I had fallen headfirst into doll collecting. Every thrift store trip I was hunting for dolls to restore. I scoured shopgoodwill.com and eBay for deals. My doll family grew exponentially. I couldn’t turn away from a deal! I rescued dolls who had stains, ratty hair, worn face paint and restored them to their former beauty. I even fixed up a few dolls for my cousins. It was undeniable: I was hooked.
At last count I have nearly twenty 18″ dolls. A few are all vinyl, some have stuffed fabric bodies. A few were bought new, most were bought used. Some needed a lot of work, some were in pristine condition. Some I intend to keep forever, some will eventually go to new homes. These dolls have become an incredible hobby; not only do I love finding and fixing dolls that are well-loved, I also love finding furniture and other pieces to repurpose. I crochet accessories for them. I am trying my hand at making clothes. I started sculpting doll food to sell in my shop. I’ve been planning a doll house in our spare bedroom for some time now. I have a secret doll pinterest board with over 300 pins.
The best thing about this hobby is knowing that I’m not alone. Even though there is a multitude of youngsters blogging and instagram-ing their dolls, there are quite a few adult collectors as well. Adults who write cool photo stories on their blogs. Adults who make youtube videos of their collections. Adults who are just as excited about their dolls as I am about mine.
I never really outgrew dolls; I just stopped playing with them because it was no longer “cool.” Life eventually got too busy and I forgot about the little things that used to bring me joy. Now that I’m a grown-up (at least, that’s what people tell me) I realized I can pursue these passions again! They say it’s never too late to have a happy childhood (or in my case, continue to have a happy childhood!). Maybe I’m obsessed, but that’s just the way I am. When something excites me, I throw myself into it full force. As Ron Swanson says,”Don’t half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”
I have so so so many doll projects I want to work on and I can’t wait to post about them!
Until next time, Renee