Handmade Raggedy Ann & Andy dolls are part of the Farmhouse Fair tradition – pictured are doll makers Dianne Durgan and Penny Gates.
Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com
I love you.
Nearly a century has passed since Raggedy Ann came on the scene and for close to half that time, Penny Gates & company have been making Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy Dolls for the Farmhouse Fair in Ellington, Connecticut. Sponsored by the Women’s Fellowship and hosted by the Ellington Congregational Church, the 55th Farmhouse Fair was held November 4 and 5.
From a faceless rag doll packed away then forgotten in an attic, the now iconic Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls were born. According to online sources, legend has it that while rummaging through his mother’ s attic, American artist Johnny Gruelle found an old rag doll his mother had made for his sister. Gruelle is said to have thought the doll would make a good story. A face with a triangle nose was drawn on the doll and red yarn hair was added. Created in 1915, Raggedy Ann debuted to the public three years later through the “Raggedy Ann Stories”. In 1920, her brother was introduced in the “Raggedy Andy Stories”.
“We have a crew and we do it together. I cut out the dolls and embroider their faces then give them to the girls to sew,” said Gates, who was joined at the fair by Dianne Durgan, a fellow doll maker.
Raggedy Ann doll clothes.
The dolls come back for their crowning glory – to have their yarn hair put on. No longer however, do the women make all Raggedy Anns and Andys redheads. Instead, the dolls reflect diversity in the country’s population. What has remained the same is the words “I Love You” sewn inside a heart on each doll. The women also make and sell separate outfits for the fashionista Raggedy Ann who desires a change of clothes.
“Last year we sold nine,” said Gates, noting the Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls are not as popular as they once were.
Nonetheless, it seems too soon to count out the rag dolls with the famous faces. A comeback for such an American classic may be just around the corner.
Another Farmhouse Fair tradition is “Cookies in a Can”, noted Marcia who was manning the cookie table. One parishioner is a former baker and donates dozens of shortbread cookies – those jellied filled cookies are so delicious! The rest of the tasty cookies are also made by parishioners and tend to sell out quickly, said Marcia. As for the can part of “Cookies In A Can” – used coffee cans are donated to be cleaned, sterilized, decorated with Christmas wrapping paper, then filled on the spot by choice. It’s an all volunteer effort.
“I just put out the call,” said Marcia.
Outdoors, a pleasant man directed parking in the church lot, and a friendly greeter handed out programs at the back door entrance. Spread out on three levels of the beautiful Congregational Church in quaint Ellington Center, in the basement level was the Social Room where Raggedy Ann and Andy and the cookies were located. As well, other baked goods were for sale there, the Farmhouse Fair Cafe was in full swing and an accordion player shared holiday tunes.
Fabulous Fibers & Knits
The Quilt Cupboard
Meanwhile, first floor church classrooms were transformed into spaces for the fair’s Fabulous Fibers & Knits, The Quilt Cupboard, Celebrate the Seasons, Wild & Tame and the Kid’s Korner. On the second floor was The Doll Corner and the Eclectic Boutique. All three levels were accessible by elevator.
Ellington Congregational Church 72 Main Street, Ellington, Ct
http://www.eccucc.org or by phone 860-871-6606