A Little Tribute to Pearl 2023

My nan, Pearl was born on 30th November 1906. She was one of the influential women in my life when I was growing up who constantly encouraged me to be creative. Each year I share something she made that I still have or something she taught me to do.

For my very first tribute to her back in 2013 I shared with you a rag doll called Emily that my nan had made for me one Christmas, along with a rather fetching photo of me holding the doll when she was brand new. You can read more about her here.

10 years on that doll is no more I’m afraid. She has been so well loved that she has disintegrated. What a way to go, eh?

Her fabric body has fallen apart beyond repair, the fabric has literally crumbled away in several places, including her lovely face. Lots of hugs and cuddles over the years are responsible. I loved her for many years, then she stayed at my family home with my mum for a long time for all the grandchildren to play with, then finally she became a special favourite of one of my nieces. Most of the clothes have also fallen apart but the dress remains and so this year I thought I could show you a little more of that.

My grandma Pearl was a prolific and accomplished crafter but she was quick and occasionally a tiny bit slapdash in her approach. She liked speedy results and loved a short cut. She wouldn’t have minded me saying this, she said it herself often. So with this in mind I find it fascinating that this doll dress is such a mix of quick fixes and meticulous detail.

For example, look at the sleeves. The sleeve head is remarkably neat when you consider how tiny that sleeve is! (That sleeve is 10cm or 4” in circumference) The sleeves have been finished at the cuff by hand, I guess there was no way to get that narrow tube under the sewing machine.

The bodice has lovely lace, ribbon and very neat pin tucks.

You can see here my nan used interfacing to give the dress a built in petticoat. Emily did have extra removable petticoats too, you can see a little of them in the previous post from 2013 too. The top of the interfacing though is not especially level, a nod to my nan’s speedy approach.

On close inspection I can see she used white, blue and beige sewing thread in the making of this dress. Changing the thread constantly to match when it wasn’t strictly necessary was definitely not something Pearl was interested in, she also was a big believer in using what you have to hand. I think that’s something I’ve inherited from her.

The back bodice is secured with hooks and eyes, I remember finding them quite fiddly when I was really little.

And just look how the colour has faded on the front of the dress, compared to the back. That’s because Emily was often sitting up nicely on my bed with the sunlight shining in on her. Probably another reason why some of the other fabric has dissolved over time.

I’m not at all sorry that my old rag doll Emily is no more. A toy that is still in good condition after 45+ years is probably a toy that has not been loved or played with very much. I am pleased that I took a few photos of her 10 years ago.

So today I’m remembering Pearl, my grandma who not only taught me how to do lots of very specific craft skills and techniques but also instilled in me a “why buy when you can make it” mentality. Plus she made me several beautiful things over the years, including the lovely late Emily and her fabulous dress.


You can read more of the annual tributes to Pearl, my other grandma Ellen and my mum here: their stories.