Raggedy Ann


I sent a handmade doll off in the mail last week, her face all embroidered, but for the button eyes.

I never use button eyes for children.

This one is for a Raggedy Ann loving adult.  A sister who is a patient listener, encourager, and it’s her birthday.

Note to self: Gold metallic rick-rack has to be hand sewn, because it jams the sewing machine!

A 20” doll is my choice of the “perfect size for hugging”.

The first Raggedy Ann I made was for my youngest daughter, now in her last year of college. Since then I have about worn the pattern out, making several dolls for Grands.



Recently I had the directions laminated to keep from falling apart, and used interfacing to cut new pattern pieces. The brown tissue was in pieces, taped together, and fragile.



Ann may be raggedy but she is anything but fragile! She represents all the little girls in the world who are fragile at times, but mostly brave.

Raggedy Ann is very playful.


Have you heard the history of the doll?

True facts are: Johnny Gruelle, born in Illinois, was the son of a landscape and portrait artist. He was himself a cartoonist, writing up political cartoons for the New York Herald. Eventually he and his family settled in Indianapolis, Indiana.

One of his dear friends was the poet, James Whitcomb Riley. Riley had a poem named The Raggedy Man. He also had a poem named Orphant Annie.

As you can see, this is where Gruelle mixed and matched Riley’s poem titles for the doll. If you check Riley on Google you can see an old video of Riley reading his own poems. I was shocked to hear that parts of one poem I remembered from childhood.


It’s here that the tale is confused. Either Johnny or his daughter Marcella found an old rag doll with no face in Grandmother’s attic. Some say that Johnny found the doll and painted a face on it when Marcella was just born. Others say that Marcella found it. What matters most is that once Johnny painted the face on the doll and Marcella began to play and interact with the doll, that’s when the stories began to take shape.




One of my earliest creations.

The sad part of the story is that at 13 years old, Marcella was given (without parental permission), a smallpox vaccination at school. It is not known for sure if it was the vaccine, or an infection from the vaccine that took Marcella’s life. Since that time though, it has been used in the anti-vaccination movement as reminder of the dangers.

Marcella actually died the same month Raggedy Ann’s patent was given to her father Johnny Gruelle.

Gruelle continued to write many stories about Raggedy Ann, and her brother Raggedy Andy for many years, and I’m sure it kept Marcella’s memory alive.

Don’t you just want to go hug a doll?






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