Last weekend a friend and reader of my blog who has taken some of my online classes wrote to me asking for some ideas for healing dolls. She recently suffered a loss in her family - the second in so many months. She had been looking for ideas for healing dolls that might help her to deal with her grief but hadn't found any suggestions that were inspiring her.
I remembered that a family friend, Fran had told me her idea to make a doll in remembrance of her daughter Renee. Fran was going to make a doll kneeling and holding in her hands a paper swan that Renee had made and that Fran had found amongst her belongings. I thought at the time that a doll made to look like Renee and holding her swan was such a lovely way to remember someone special.
I think the idea of making a cloth person is such a therapeutic act. I've heard of people using doll making to work through grief, depression or illness. I personally use doll making as my everyday piece of joy, but this question really started me thinking about dolls for healing and the many ways in which a little cloth body could be used to heal human bodies or human souls. Here's a few ideas, some are ideas that could be added to any doll pattern, others are patterns that I've come across that I think would be great for healing. Some are not free patterns, while others are. If you are in need of healing I hope you find inspiration here.
- a doll holding a treasured object from that person, like Fran's idea with the doll holding Renee's paper swan.
- slip a treasured object from that person or a rock/shell etc with the person’s name written on it, inside the stuffing of a doll – you’ll know it is there, but no one else will. If you are using the doll for illness or healing yourself, you could write a positive word or saying on the object before stuffing it on the doll. You could also use a healing stone, crystal or stuff the doll with soothing herbs.
- embroider the loved one’s name on the doll’s chest at the heart, just as you’ll carry their memory in your heart. My Aunt Linda once made me a doll with a heart embroidered on the doll's chest with my name written in it. I don't think she intended the doll to be therapeutic really, but I used to trace that heart with my finger and it always made me feel special. Again, if you are using the doll for personal healing, embroider your name or positive sayings anywhere on the doll's body.
- make the doll’s clothing out of scraps of the loved ones clothes
- Betts Vidal has a gorgeous doll called ‘Paper Wishes’ it has all sorts of tiny tags all over her that you could write little words of remembrance on or positive sayings, and the stand you can decorate with photos/tickets stubs etc. Betts does not have that doll on her website but maybe you could contact Betts via the website about it. I have this pattern myself, but have not yet had the chance to make it. I always thought it would make a great doll for commemorating someone. However, Betts intended it for making wishes - you write your wishes on the tags. I can think of anything more positive and healing than that.
- Barbara Willis has a gorgeous doll called Memory Box which she teaches as a class. The doll’s dress is like a mini-cupboard filled with objects. This would be great way to collect little objects reminding you of a loved one. Contact Barbara about having her come to teach in your area or for your doll club.
- Christine Shively has a doll called Treasure Keeper where you could store little memorabilia to remember your loved ones. Buy that pattern here.
- A good many healing dolls are in the goddess doll model. Here is a free healing Goddess doll from Marcia Acker-Missal. For some more free goddess doll patterns, click here to see an old post where I shared several links.
- Goddess dolls in particular are an excellent surface for beading. I adore Robin Atkins book One Bead at a Time. The book is short and sweet and talks more about bead embroidery as therapy rather than focusing on technique. Beading is slow and if you 'just do it' and work improvisationally, you'll discover amazing things about yourself. Here is a free goddess doll pattern from Jill Maas that makes a great surface for beading as I did with it.
- Hands are often very symbolic with various gestures carrying different meanings. Here is a free cloth hand pattern and a guide to symbolic and positive hand gestures.
I found this entire blog about healing dolls by Barb Kobe, check it out here for more ideas.
Have you ever used a doll for healing? Do you have any great ideas to share? Please do. I think there are people out there who would appreciate hearing about your experiences and are in need of some inspiration and healing thoughts.