"It takes ages to finish a quilt you're not working on!"

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Dolly Varden has universal appeal!

I wonder how many of you know what I mean by Dolly Varden? Most of the ahem - "older" ladies would know! There was a lively discussion on the Collectables Message board of eBay.com.au recently on the subject. Somebody asked if anyone else had ever heard of crinoline ladies being called Dolly Varden, and there were around 50 replies after a week or so. Some people hadn't heard the term at all, and others asked their Mums and Grandmums about it, and came back with some details. One person claimed that the difference between a Dolly Varden and a Crinoline Lady was that you never see the face on a D.V. design...that one had me tossed! Today I visited an elderly friend - a Japanese lady who I visit once a month. She used to do tapestry when she was younger and has some beautiful works on her walls. I often take some of my stitching to show her, and last month one of them happened to be something with the crinoline lady. She expressed great interest in it and when I said I had quite a collection of them (understatement of the year), she indicated she would love to see them. So I took along half a dozen aprons and about 20 doilies. She was really delighted, and spent a long time over each item, examining the stitching and commenting on the colours. You wouldn't think those designs would hold much appeal for someone from an Asian background, but again, I love many kinds of Asian art and craft work, so I guess it is the same principle.


Chloe said...


I am resorting to Jennifer Iaacs "The Gentle Arts" a lot.

Page 23 "The most pervasive symbol of the woman in the garden is Dolly Varden, Sunbonnet Sue or the Crinoline Lady". And the one example pictured of a Dolly Varden item shows what I would call a Sunbonnet Sue (ie short and dumpy) child/woman, leading a "Scottie Dog".

Maybe, just maybe they taken their name from their designer/the named series?????

It does not show a face. Maybe Dolly Vardens never did, but not showing a face does not make it a Dolly Varden.

Well, I know what I mean.

Gina E. said...

Thanks Linda! I am looking forward to getting hold of that book! I am going to the libary tomorrow so I might see if they have it, although I do search through the craft books at Eltham and don't remember seeing it there previously. But then again, I wasn't looking for it, was I?

Pam Kellogg said...

Here in the US, these ladies are usually referred to as either Bonnet Ladies or Crinoline Ladies. I've never heard the term "Dolly Varden".

Sunbonnet Sue is a specific style of a Bonnet Lady. Would love to learn more about Dolly Varden!


Chloe said...

Aided by a strong cup of coffee I have gone out onto the net, and find she originated as a character in the Charles Dickins novel "Barnaby Rudge", is better known as a fish, rock band etc etc. But mainly as a more garish version of the Crinoloine Lady.

I have a few links, and it is a bit long for a reply here, so the whole lot is over on my blog at


Sharon said...

Oh Gina - what have you started... You - who wasn't too sure about this blogging thing...

Gina E. said...