Meet Susan

Susan portrait

The 1960s little girl

I was given Susan in the early 1960s when I was a very little girl.  Black dolls were popular then (I also had a golliwog) and many little girls had one.  My mother bought her for me because she said she had such a pretty face, and she chose well for me, because Susan was always my favourite doll.  She has no manufacturer’s mark other than ‘Made in England’ stamped on her back, and until recently I didn’t know which company made her.  But in June 2014 I made contact with a blogger who had what looked like the same doll on her website.  She confirmed that my Susan was made by Pedigree, a company that often didn’t trademark their dolls. So the mystery has been solved.

Susan he looks like a little girl just out of the toddler stage, and has dimples and beautifully modelled fingers and toes. I can’t remember anything about the clothes she originally came in.  Maybe they wore out early on, because for as long as I can remember she had only the little nylon dress and panties that Mum knitted for her.  Or perhaps she was supplied undressed, ready for a loving and creative mother to dress for her lucky daughter.

Time passes and little girls grow out of playing with dolls.  Many of my toys were given away, but there was no way I would get rid of Susan.  She was tucked away safely in a cupboard along with two other precious childhood toys.

She stayed in storage for more than forty years, until early in 2013 when I was clearing out my under-stairs cupboard and opened up the storage box where she had lain for so long.  I picked her up and saw how her little dress was dusty and grimy from long storage, and I felt that the time had come to smarten her up a bit.  It was a dark and dismal winter, and this would make a good project for the winter evenings.

So I hand-washed her clothes and gave her a bath, and she began looking better.  But even with cleaner clothes she still looked forlorn, barefoot and needing more t.l.c.  She had lost her shoes and socks years ago, and her little dress was showing its age.  Definitely time for a new wardrobe: a knitted dress and coat, maybe, and surely I could get some shoes and socks for her?

But Susan is a little girl doll from 1960 or thereabouts.  She’s not the same shape as modern dolls.  How could I get patterns for clothes which would fit her?  What size shoes would she need and where on earth would I find them?  I knew nothing about sizing dolls, and with no children of my own and no little girls in the family, I’d not had any reason to stay in touch with the world of dolls and doll’s clothes.

The Internet, of course, came to my rescue.  I immediately found the wonderful Vintage Knitting Lady’s website with her excellent collection of vintage patterns, which has a good range of knitting patterns for doll’s clothes from the 1930s onwards.  I learned from this and other sites that you size dolls by height: Susan proved to be 16” tall, and there were quite a few patterns from the 50s, 60s and 70s that would fit her.

Shoes proved to be more problematic.  I couldn’t find any source for the little flat plastic Cinderella shoes that I remember her having, and in any case, I wanted something more special than plastic for her.   After some intense searching on Ebay.com I managed to find some vintage Mary Janes that would be about the right size, if she wore socks.  I also found some wonderful boots from Rosie’s Doll Clothes in Australia.

So full of enthusiasm for my new project, I ordered shoes and socks for her from Australia and the USA, bought some wool, and started knitting.  Susan’s clothing season is Autumn, and rich warm browns, greens, ambers, creams and petrol blues suit her wonderfully well, so I picked my wools from these colours.

Susan: vital statistics

  • 16″ little girl doll
  • 5 swivel joints
  • Amber sleepy eyes
  • Black rooted hair
  • Season: Autumn
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