Don't you just love this collection of quirky and whimsical early cloth animals? All but the cat on the left on the top shelf and the dog on wheels are either Amish or Mennonite made. Most of these are late 19th or early 20th century and were found in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It's become extremely difficult to find good early animals, as most that we are see are mid to late 20th century.
These gentle and beloved creatures were made by mothers for their children for special occasions. We find them as varied in construction and detail as the fabrics they are made out of. Some are rather primitive, while others reflect the skill of the seamstresses that crafted them. We find them in all sorts of condition. I tend to like things that are near pristine, but the much-loved and tired horse, as well as the dog with the blown leg sitting next to him on the top shelf could not be passed by. They are reflections of the affections of their owners, passed through time for us to see and feel. By the way, the dog's blown leg reveals its fabulous indigo calico stuffing....... Treasure spilling forth from the simple plaything of a child!
There was an excellent exhibit a few years back at the Lancaster Quilt & Textile Museum called Gentle Companions: A Collection of Amish & Mennonite Stuffed Animals. It was curated by Anne Lewis and Stella Rubin. I had the privilege to be a part of the research by being used as a consultant/resource. It was a fabulous exhibit which helped to further elevate them to the status of legitimate folk art by allowing people to view them in a different and more scholarly way. I wish that there would have been a catalogue published, or it would have gone on to another museum, but it did not.
Most of the animals above have been sold save one or two. I collect them, and offer some for sale. I make it a point to offer and collect only the early ones as they are the most elusive. I am forever on the hunt, and feel like a child when such a prize is found.
They are a stellar example of the work of the humble needlewoman, who found time in her busy day to sit and craft a whimsical being...a creation that was borne out of her imagination and the rag bag.