Buzzings from a quilter who bumbles her way through life!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Topsy-Turvy World

At an estate sale last weekend, I found this little treasure. I love dolls, and handmade dolls are even more special in my eyes than "store bought"! This little vintage gal could easily be older than I am and was very well made. The thing that is special about her is that she has two personalities.

 She is a type of "dolly conjoined twin" called a "topsy-turvy doll". 

 Here you can see that if you flip her over you will find her other half.
 There are a couple of theories about how these interesting dolls originated. It is known that they were first seen before the mid 1800's. These were the days of slavery, when white plantation babies were cared for by black slave women. 
One theory is that these dolls allowed little slave girls to practice caring for babies of different races, just like their mamas did.
Another theory is that little black slave girls were not allowed to have a white baby doll and this toy allowed them to flip their baby over to the "legal" side when being watched.
(There are probably more theories out there, but these are the two that are hotly debated.) 
I would love to know who first came up with this idea. Wasn't she clever!!! Perhaps she just wanted her daughter to have a fun and interesting toy!
There have been many variations of this concept over the years. When I was little, there was a popular Little Red Riding Hood with Grandma at the other end. If you flipped Grandma's bonnet over, the wolf's face was behind it.
Another idea was the sleeping baby on one end and the awake baby on the other.
A quick Google search will yield many variations.
In the meantime, I will enjoy owning this piece of Americana. I'll think of the busy fingers sewing away for someone they loved dearly. I am inspired to make my own version now. 
Watch for it! I've already started!


  1. I've seen the Red Riding Hood version, and the sleeping/happy baby version. I've never seen the white/black version before. Interesting theories.

  2. Interesting history! She is a treasure.

  3. Oh Linda I love your doll you are rescuing. My Grandma actually made these Topsy-Turvy dolls with the white vs black faces. I sadly do not have one of hers but I think I may have her pattern. I am looking forward to seeing your version dear. Creative Americana Bliss...

  4. Oh, what a treasure to find. I had the Red Riding Hood set (my gr.grans) and even my kids got to enjoy them. My daughter has them now to share with her children.

  5. I live in western Canada and I have a doll almost identical to yours! I bought it at a garage sale many years ago and i treasure it.

  6. That's a very interesting story. I actually have a similar doll that I picked up as a souvenir in the Bahamas. I thought it was a very clever idea, two dolls in one.

  7. I remember those dolls from my childhood. I think I had one. What's funny is that I was thinking about them just the other day....they just popped into my mind from out of the blue. How random is that?

  8. Lucky you to find her! I used to sell these dolls at craft fairs back in the 80s. I made one for my daughter when she was small and it was such a big hit that I sold quite a few of them. Little girls absolutely love them.
    xx, Carol

  9. I found a book with a pattern for this type of doll it has one end with a dress and the other with a night gown. I made it for one of my granddaughters this spring it was a difficult pattern to follow my side seams where the nighty and dress came together was not as nice of finish as I would have liked. There were other things that I could have sewn incorrectly because the pattern did not give clear directions but I was lucky and didn't have to I sew. I also bought new lace and the size called for was difficult to find and expensive......while making the lace parts I was wishing I had just dug into my old bits and pieces and had just made do
    I thought it was such a cute idea my granddaughter has not mentioned this doll but she talks about her American Girl doll she and her friends "do" American Girl dolls together so unless I make her friends the same doll that one is odd doll out I think

  10. I remember playing with one of these at my grandmothers house!

  11. OH! I have that pattern somewhere in my pattern stash. Fun!


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