Saturday, January 2, 2010

Barbie & Me

Now that 2009 has drawn to a close I was reading a few articles about what happened during the year. I don't know how I missed it but 2009 was the 50th anniversary of the Barbie doll.

I hate to admit it but I'm the same age as Barbie, and although I'd like to say I've had as much fun as she has over the last few decades if I did I'd be lying. I don't know how she keeps looking so fresh and up-to-date. Her hair isn't graying, nothing's sagging and she still has that trim little waist. She's as bonnie and beautiful as always, whilst I've had to gray, sag, and expand. There's something not quite fair about that . . .

Anyway, while I was absorbing Barbie's, (and my own), aging status. it occurred to me that it had been quite a while since I've had any interaction with Barbie and friends. Since my only child is a boy any toy aisle with pink in it hasn't been a part of my life for years. Not to mention my friends have mostly boys, and my nieces, my last chance for Barbie buying, are all 15 years and older. Yep, it's been a while since there's been a Barbie at my house.

Now, I wasn't a huge Barbie doll girl. I had a few, of course, but I don't think I got my first one until I was about 7 years old. In those days Barbies weren't intended for little girls. Their bodies were hard and it wasn't easy trying to dress those stiff limbs. My friends always seemed to have better Barbies than me, and more interesting accessories.

I remember playing with the old cardboard Barbie houses. Now, those were pretty dated by the time I played with them, (late sixties). it was hard to get the dolls to sit in the cardboard chairs, (as their legs didn't bend at all), but we could make them walk around and dance to those snazzy "Lettermen" albums. They could lie down really well but being kids we couldn't figure out why if one was a swinging teenager one would ever lie down at all. I mean we didn't want to go to bed and certainly when we were popular teenagers with cardboard furniture and "Lettermen" albums, heck, we wouldn't go to bed at all.

My best friend had the early sixties house pictured above. I thought it was simply the best thing ever but it never occurred to me to want one for myself. It must be the way I was raised because I rarely remember being jealous of other people's stuff, I just figured that they had what they had and I had what I had and as long as we were having a good time and sharing, who cared? Besides my friend was an only child and while she was playing with all of her toys I was getting harassed by my brothers. I think she was more jealous of me.

There was another girl in our neighborhood who had the fancier later version of the cardboard Barbie house. Her's had several rooms and a TV set that you could change the pictures on. I didn't play with her a whole lot although her mother really tried to make friends out of us. Her brother was one of my brother's friends so I think she harbored hope that we'd hit it off. Not! She was one of the most annoying girls I'd ever known and absolutely no fun to play with. She had cool stuff but she didn't want to share so playing at her house consisted of watching her play with her stuff. I'd rather be harassed by my brothers.

I remember having a Barbie, a Skipper, a Midge, and no Ken until I was about 10. He was a talking Ken. Which is kind of an odd thing when you think about it, I mean, what did he really have to say? I think he mostly asked Barbie out on dates, but other than that I can't recall anything interesting. Besides he didn't talk for long because he had one of those rings with the string coming out of his back and those never worked very well. I can still picture my friends pulling the string in mid-play, struggling to pull his shirt down in the back and trying not to get their fingers trapped by the ring and the string.


I think we gave up on him fairly soon. Frankly, he wasn't very interesting. Barbie and Midge were so over him and frankly, we were too. It was like that Seinfeld episode when they were writing the "Jerry" show and they didn't know what Elaine's character would say . . . that was us! We had no idea what Ken would say and when his string and ring broke, well, what little thrill we'd felt about him was gone . . .

Now, you might be asking, what does Barbie have to do with a quilting blog? Well, frankly a lot in my case. Most of us that are into sewing started somewhere and that was usually making Barbie clothes. I learned how to sew trying to make Barbie look good. Doll clothes aren't easy to make, but I was always on the lookout for simple patterns and accessories I could make myself. The picture at the top of the blog is from McCall's Needlework and Crafts Magazine. I remember it from when I was a child because my grandmother gave me some of her old copies and I spent hours trying to reproduce the pictures and following the patterns.

One year my grandmother gave me one of the best Christmas gifts I remember. It was a large box with a bunch of Barbie clothes she'd made for me, and tons of scraps of different fabrics and trims, with needle and thread to make even more. I think that was a turning point for me. It gave me the materials and inspiration just when I needed it.

Success built on success and with my Mom's support and encouragement I've had 50 years of making art and having fun.

Thanks Mom, Grandma, and Barbie!

Happy Stitching!


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