Dolly Varden

A comment in an earlier blog about demure crinoline-and-bonnet women has inspired this blog. Rummaging through the collection, produced numerous examples of linen featuring women’s faces completely covered by bonnets.

Dolly Varden in orange

Example of a Dolly Varden on a linen piece

In her book Thrift to Fantasy, Rosemary McLeod devotes a chapter to Dolly Varden and refers to other names such as Sunbonnet Sue or the Crinoline Lady.  The ‘Dolly Varden’ name originates from the Charles Dicken’s novel, Barnaby Rudge.  The common image of Dolly Varden features her in profile wearing a large bonnet tied with a ribbon.  Rosemary suggests that apart from stylist reasons, it is much easier to embrodier an image of a bonnet rather than dealing with tricky facial features.

Dolly Varden and tree

Detail taken from a tablecloth

Detail from a table-cloth which features the same design in each of the corners. Here Dolly is seen tending to a tree.

Dolly Varden

Dolly Varden in front of her house

A tea cosy cover features Dolly in her garden with a house in the background.  There is also a hint of hair poking though her bonnet.  The of dream of home ownership extended towards gardens and we see idealized images of perfectly maintained gardens. Dolly is externally youthful and in these pieces, women’s lives as seen as playful rather than grimly real.

Dolly Varden

Detail of Dolly watering her garden

In this design Dolly is actually seen watering her gardening, looking after the ever-popular gladiolli blooms.

Dolly Varden

Part of an unfinished apron design

Part of an unfinished apron showing Dolly again in action with a watering can.

Dolly Varden

Examples from a set of Dolly Varden pieces

Set of Dolly Varden pieces including tray cloths, an egg cup holder and two mystery pieces.  All pieces are beautifully done with tattering around the borders but I have no idea the purpose of the two smaller items. Any clues are welcomed!

Dolly Varden

A faceless Dolly Varden

And finally, one of my favourites items where traces of blonde hair are spotted but the bonnet dominates the head, almost looking like a headless character in a horror film.

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