By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Northborough resident Bobbie Atherton will be the first to agree that you are never too old to play with dolls. For over 60 years she has been creating them by hand with patterns and sewing beautiful clothing for them to wear.
Growing up in rural New Hampshire, Atherton recalls having no electricity or plumbing. With a trestle sewing machine, her mother used to make dolls for her and her sister Kathleen. In fact, she still has a few of them saved among her collection. Her mother showed her dolls at craft fairs until the age of 85.
“We used to do the Northborough Junior Woman’s Club Craft Fair together,” Atherton said. “There is such an appeal to doll making. It’s so creative and there are many components that go into the finished creation. I really love it.”
Atherton is a member of the Textile Tarts, a club comprised of doll-makers that meets the second Saturday of each month. There are currently about 30 members who travel from Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maine; there is even one member, Althea Church, listed from Oxford, Miss. She was the original editor of the newsletter.
“We used to meet at members’ homes and do a potluck dinner. It metamorphasized over time,” Atherton said.
In addition to making dolls, the Textile Tarts create art figures and teddy bears. They share resources and support one another. They publish a newsletter, “The Textile Tart Tattler,” five times per year. They also bring in doll artists a couple of times each year for a two-day seminar.
The Textile Tarts also give back to the community and participate in one charity event each year. They are involved with Toys for Tots out of Billerica through an organization known as the Twirls, who are sponsored by the United National Sewing Guild.
“We make clothes for the dolls,” Atherton explained. “We also make baby dolls for the Alzheimer’s unit in the nursing home here in Northborough. People with that disease respond very positively to these dolls.”
Initially, the newsletter was published monthly. About six or seven years ago, taking advantage of technology, the members of the Textile Tarts decided to publish online.
The group meets each month at the Northborough Library except for their annual meeting, which is at a member’s home. At holiday time they also meet at a member’s home with a festive celebration, potluck meal and a handmade ornament exchange.
“For me, this is a very satisfying hobby,” Atherton said. “There’s such an appeal to doll making. I have the first doll that I ever made. Her name is Hitty and she is a character from a book that I read when I was 10. The book was titled, ‘Hitty, Her First Hundred Years.’ It won the Caldecott Award in 1929. It was a book about dolls. I have never stopped playing with them.”