I must admit, I’ve long held a fondness for rag dolls. As a young girl, I read Winifred Foley’s heartwarming The Child in the Forest, an autobiographical account of her childhood growing up in the Forest of Dean in the 1920s, surrounded by beauty and love, but with the pangs of hunger and fear of death never far away. The episode I remember most vividly is Winifred being given a rag doll her mother made her for Christmas. At first she is horrified by its hideous appearance (if I remember correctly it was made rather crudely from an old stocking), but soon she grows to love the doll and is distraught when she forgets it outside in the rain. I was inseparable from my own doll as a child, and this tragic incident certainly struck a chord. Foley’s autobiographical accounts have most recently been published in the volume Full Hearts and Empty Bellies – I can’t recommend it highly enough. You can read an excerpt here. Rag dolls seem to have come back into fashion lately, with books such as the delightful Kiki and Coco in Paris featuring a girl’s adventures with her doll. These dolls are far removed from Winifred’s home made affair (and have the prices to match!), but they are certainly beautiful, and I do believe in the value of exposing children to unique, handcrafted toys. I found these rag dolls on Etsy  (one of which is pictured above) which I think are lovely and slightly more within budget. Or, of course, you could have a go at making your own! – Miranda