Jess Hutch.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

toys by the yard

The other day I was thinking about that fabric you used to be able to buy with dolls pre-printed on it - you would just cut them out and sew around the edges, et voila, you have a doll. Since that's more or less what I'm doing with the silkscreened dolls I'm working on (more on that later), I thought it'd be fun to see some vintage examples. I did a short search on eBay, which of course led to some "buy it now"s and bids, and here's the result. I was so excited to find a book, called Playthings by the Yard, written by Frances Walker and Margaret Whitton and published by the Hadley Printing Co. in 1973. Unfortunately, all the photos are in black and white, but it's a great resource anyway!

Apparently, this type of doll was first offered for sale in 1886. Most of the early ones seem to be pretty realistic images of animals, dolls, Santa Claus, people of the world. I'd love to see one sewn up and stuffed - I wonder how many still exist? In the 20s and 30s, and even into the 50s, lots of companies offered these printed panels as premiums (send in 10 cents and 3 box tops, etc). This Oxol doll from 1931 is one of those - Oxol seems to have been a type of cleaner. I love how graphic and bold this doll is! I'd give anything to see it in color - the book says she was printed in red, black and blue. There are also some Kellogg's dolls, and ones depicting various comic strip characters.

Many of my favorites, of course, are from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. At the same time I bought the book, I bid on this piece of fabric with an incredibly 70s blonde doll printed on it (it's copyrighted 1974). This is really almost too 70s for me, but I love the colorful ginghaminess of it, and of course the blonde curly 'do (similar to Tracy, don't you think? Except without the 'stache?). I remember having a few toys made from pre-printed fabric when I was a kid in the 70s and 80s, including a strawberry pillow that (I think) my grandma made for me.

From what I can tell, this type of fabric pre-printed with dolls and toys is still available, or was until recently. Fred Flare offers a wonderful pre-printed dachshund toy that I'd love to get. The glorious legacy of toys by the yard carries on... beautiful, isn't it?

17 Comments:

At 4:23 PM , Anonymous mimi K said...

Way back in the early 70's , I had a friend who was WAY cooler then me- she made herself a mini skirt out of some of this preprinted doll fabric. It was amazing!
Lots of these dolls show up on ebay- even the really old ones. The panels are very collectible. The images are often very graphic, with all the pieces and the directions printed on the fabric. People frame them. My favorites have always been the Plamer Cox Brownies.

 
At 5:23 PM , Blogger gleek said...

i was just thinking about this too the other day! i had a toy bunny that i loved the fluff out of that my mom made me from a pre-printed fabric like this. i still think about that toy all the time.

 
At 5:28 PM , Blogger gleek said...

p.s. what search term did you use on ebay to find these?

 
At 9:16 AM , Blogger bunny said...

I have one of these dolls down in my fabric stash. I can take a picture of it if you like. I would even swap it. That book looks great, and fun to flip through.

 
At 9:20 AM , Blogger Sasha said...

Very cool, I remember picking out the fabric at the store and making these dolls when I was a kid. Have you ever thought about designing some and printing them out with Bubble Jet Set?

 
At 10:07 AM , Blogger little purl one said...

These are fantastic - I really like the big cockeral on the front of the book too. I had a funky hippo like this - it had funky dungarees and was called Hippo Mippo. What I remember most about it was the cottony feel against my cheek. Somehow much nicer than too much fluff and fur - especially in the summer. He had funky white toe-nails too - and in a true hippo style he was licking his lips... Hippos do that all the time, I find.

 
At 10:09 AM , Blogger Kristin said...

When i was a little kid my mom bought me and my sister a yard of "toys by the yard" and it was so great. We spent so much time cutting out our favorites, a doll for my sister and a "tin" soldier for me, hand sewing and then stuffing them. I still have mine, it brings back such good memories. I know that I have seen strips of this kind of fabric at the salvation army and garage sales.

 
At 12:50 PM , Blogger fillyjonk said...

I had a bunch of these when I was a kid! (in the 1970s). The one I remember best - probably both because he was my favorite and I still have him - was a giraffe that I called George.

I also had a red cat, and a blue bear, and I think, a pink rabbit. And I had a Green Giant and a Tony The Tiger that my mom sent boxtops or UPC codes or something away for. They came in the mail. There were a lot of those kind of flat advertising toys in the 1970s and earlier. When I was in high school I amassed a sizable collection of them from flea markets and such. The collection is still at my parents' house; I should pack it up some time and move it to where I live now and put it on display.

You can still find a few of these type of toys, sometimes, in the craft or fabric stores, usually around Christmas. Some of them are more elaborate now than just flat toys, with gussets and such.

About 10 years ago Daisy Kingdom came out with several very beautiful "floral" themed dolls in this series. I had to buy and make up the poinsettia one for a Christmas decoration.

But I have to admit I still really love the plainer, flatter, 1970s style toys.

 
At 2:28 PM , Anonymous JanetinPortland said...

Wow! I've been thinking about this too and looking on the internet for doll panels. I found cute fabric yardage with panels of printed girls, animals, etc., on E-Quilter. You could cut these out and trace them on another fabric to make a back. Also, Daisy Kingdom, used to print a lot of doll and animal panels. Sadly, their storefront closed a couple of years ago, but I think they're still designing kids patterns and fabrics. You probably know about Louise Eliott Designs. She's Australian and designs really great pre-printed panels for animals and dolls. I don't have any of these patterns, but I have pictures and find myself longing to embroider simple doll shapes. Also, I have an old Dober book called "Decorative Stuffed Toys for the Needleworker" by Winsome Douglass. I bought it at Powell's Books. It has really great patterns and embellishment for dolls. I would be happy to "loan" this to you, if you would like to look at it. Anyway, I'm looking forward to your new pattern ideas and wish you the very best.

 
At 3:11 PM , Anonymous Julia said...

I was a flower girl for my dad's cousin in about 1983 and as a present from the bride and groom I got a whole set of Strawberry Shortcake dolls like this. They were awesome. I'll have to check with my mom if she still has them...

 
At 8:22 AM , Anonymous kelly said...

these are super fun! i still find a lot of the panels when i'm thrifting, but they're usually more modern and for christmas - stuffed santas, reindeer, etc. if i find any great ones, i'll send them your way!

 
At 10:58 AM , Blogger Dr. Rochelle said...

When I was 10 or so (1978) I made a Holly Hobbie doll. Remember her? I made it on my mini-sewing machine, which was more of a toy than a sewing machine. Those toys by the yard were great. I always wanted the Christmas ones. I never knew that they started so early, I would love to see more from the 20s and 30s.

 
At 11:17 AM , Blogger Alison said...

I remember those! Haha! Yes, the Holly Hobbie doll... You reminded me of a project that I've been wanting to try for a long time! Thanks!

 
At 11:03 AM , Blogger Rhainnon said...

http://cgi.ebay.com/Art-Fabric-Mills-Life-size-doll-1900-Uncut_W0QQitemZ190008350158QQihZ009QQcategoryZ4623QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

 
At 8:56 AM , Blogger BarbMc said...

Where can I find pre-printed fabric that has doll clothes printed on it. I used to have a piece of printed fabric that had Barbie Doll clothes on it.

 
At 7:41 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made a doll simular to the one you have pictured except it had a separate dress and hat for my daughter (copyright 1976). She wore out three of them, and slept with it until she left home to get married.She just had her daughter born 10/13/07 and I would love to find one like it for her. Any ideas?

 
At 4:22 PM , Blogger Bodacious Babe said...

I am looking for a red cat pillow pattern, easy sew style. They also make a blue teddy bear. This was in the '70s. If you know where I could locate this, pls let me know. babsy1946@verizon.net thx

 

Post a Comment

<< Home