Marcia Strykowski

Port Clyde Fishermen Dolls

sewing-clipartFrom previous posts, you might remember my treasured connection to Port Clyde. Well, I figured it was time to share a little more about this special fishing village on the Maine coast. There is a sewing circle there which has been going strong for over fifty years (and maybe a lot longer!). fishermen-dollsThe group started out as the Port Clyde Baptist Sewing Circle, but now they are open to all and are simply called the Port Clyde Sewing Circle. My grandmother was a member back in the early years and president of the club for most of that time. This friendly group of women spent their free time hand-stitching quilts and various stuffed toys. Then, in 1977, the first fisherman doll was created after one of their members saw a similar idea in a magazine. These pictures–one above and two more below–show some of the dolls as displayed in the museum at the Marshall Point lighthouse.fishermen-dolls-2fishermen-dolls-3A few years later, along came the fisherman’s wife, a sturdy woman usually sporting a rolling pin. Everything is done by hand. Some members of the group excel in knitting sweaters and caps, others sew dresses and aprons, and still others provide facial features or lifelike hair Even those who don’t feel particularly skilled in crafts are valued, especially if they know how to stuff the filling in! fishermen-dolls-on-2In the early days the dolls could be bought for $8. But now these felt dolls, most standing about 13” – 14” tall with no two looking alike, can cost as much as $70, with lines going out the door at the annual fair that is put on to raise money for charitable causes. Baked goods and other crafts are also available for purchase, but it’s the limited dolls that create the mad dash to be first in line. Below is a picture of my sister’s dolls (The man is one of the earliest dolls, crafted around 1977-78; he met his wife years later). fisherman-dolls-bj-smallThere are new character types each year (along with the old favorites) including an artist doll who sports a beret. Although these unique works of art are now owned by collectors worldwide, the only place the dolls can be purchased is at the annual fair and no two dolls look alike. Here is my lovely couple, circa 1980. fishermen-dolls-m-smallerAnd a back view (notice the lace trim and hair clip). Under all their fine garments you’ll find an authentication label stitched onto the dolls’ backs.
fisherman-back-2fisherman-label-smallFor pictures of my grandmother’s sewing box (over 100 years old) and a few of her little creations, please click and scroll to the bottom of this post.

And here’s a new little lady late to the party. Thanks to my sister for sharing this one I missed, so pretty in her soft mohair sweater!fisherman-c-copy

55 Comments

  1. These are amazing! I love that no two are the same.

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  2. MIchele

    What a wonderful idea and tribute to the area! I hope this group keeps going for decades to come. Thanks for telling us about these wonderful dolls.

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    • I love that the income from the dolls is all used for charities. If you google images, there are several pictures showing a wider variety of them. Glad you enjoyed, Michele!

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  3. Oh! These dolls are incredible! I live near the river Clyde….except its in Scotland, not US, ha!

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    • 🙂 Maybe you can start up fishermen dolls in your own area. I should have added in my post, there are women fishermen and lobstermen dolls now, too. Keeping up with the times!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Joyce Teal

    Lovely dolls! While I love to do all sorts of needlework, I have never had the patience to make dolls. Too many finiky pieces! So glad you kept yours all these years.

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    • I’m glad I kept them, too. Almost couldn’t find them recently, but now I’ve got them stored in a good place (my grandmother’s hope chest!).

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  5. Anonymous

    These are simply gorgeous dolls. I’m curious as to what the men dolls are holding.

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    • Hi, some of the men dolls have a buoy in one hand. Their fishnet sack has a lobster and a fish inside. 🙂

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  6. The fisherman with mermaid in tow made me smile, and I love the fisherman’s wife. I also adore the hair and hair clip on your doll and the little bit of lace showing under her skirt. They are all so pretty, have you never been tempted to make one?

    Since first reading your Jan 2016 post, I have indeed started collecting sewing patterns! You are a bad influence on me Marcia, or maybe a good one.

    I keep meaning to say I do try to ‘like’ your post, but I don’t have a WordPress site, and when I click on your like button, I’m asked to sign in or register. I did try to register, but then it wants me to create a blog, so I’m a bit stuck.

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    • I have that same problem, I can’t ‘like’ any blogs other than WordPress and when I comment on blogs like yours, my profile picture doesn’t show (even though it’s supposed to be compatible with all). Not sure how to get around any of that. It’s too bad they aren’t connected better without so many hoops to jump through in order to comment.
      I’ve never made a fisherman doll, but I suppose if I lived much closer to where the PC group meets, I’d love to participate. I did make one complicated doll many years ago. She’s about 2′ tall with a soft sculpted face and wears a bonnet and matching dress. Nice to hear from you, Barbara!

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  7. I love those dolls. What personality. They’re real collectibles. 😀

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  8. Anonymous

    Another lovely blog. At a time when I am reading less and less of the incessant rhetoric coming into my inbox, I find I enjoy your posts more and more.

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    • Thanks, what a nice thing to say. 🙂 You’re my second anonymous commenter today, different locations, I hope the WordPress comment form is working okay…There should be a place on it to put your name. Either way, thanks for stopping by!

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  9. I absolutely love dolls and have quite a large collection. These are stunning!

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  10. The dolls are marvelous, made more so by your explanation of them.

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  11. These dolls are just wonderful! 🙂 Thanks for sharing them with all of us. I doubt I’ll ever get to Maine to purchase a set, but they’re super cool!

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  12. mirkabreen

    So wonderfully individuated, these creatures are like good literary characters. You give me yet another reason to want to visit Maine again.

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    • Nice observation, these folks would make good characters in a story. Maine’s a special place for sure!

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  13. Marcia! Your pair of dolls are treasures. Have you ever thought about writing a story about them -perhaps expanding this post into a story with photos of the dolls (characters in the story) as illustrations-maybe photoshopped into scenes of Port Clyde? Just a thought… I loved making illustrated stories with my dolls for some doll groups I was active in a few years ago. Your Clyde Port dolls have a story- behind the story you (and the dolls!) could create. Love this post. So heartening to see unique creations with a history that continues to evolve.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Funny, two comments at once about the dolls as literary characters. Interesting idea to show them bopping around the Port in book form, oh the stories they could tell. Thanks for commenting, Colleen!

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  14. Fabulous! I think I’ll sport a rolling pin when I grow up. What treasures these dolls are. Thanks, Marcia!

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    • Ha, I think if I made a little doll of you, I’d stick a paintbrush in your hand. But, yes, maybe we can move onto rolling pins if and when we grow up. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I just love these dolls. What a great fundraising idea. Yours are perfect!

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  16. Amazing that no two dolls are exactly the same, and I bet that is a big part of their appeal. How wonderful that they are collected all around the world. How kind that the sales go to charity. Thanks for sharing!

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  17. What a lovely post of stunning dolls! Thanks for sharing, Marcia! 🙂

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  18. Hi Marcia– these little dolls are totally charming. How great that you sister has that sweet pair. Love the idea of a sewing group that goes on over the years. My grandmother was in a church quilting group that made quilts for weddings and babies at the church. One of my favorite photos of her is sitting at the quilting frame. thanks for the chance to see this little historic treasure. Love your posts Marcia! take care…. xox

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    • That must be such a special photograph of your grandmother. In hindsight, I love all the everyday ‘action’ pictures that show individual personalities, so much better than those with a group lined up for a special occasion. Quilt-making with a circle of crafters has always struck me as a fun activity. The dolls my sister and I have are from the time when they first introduced the fisherman’s wife. So glad we held on to them. Thanks, Rhonda! xo

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      • They’re a treasure– fun to learn about them… Happy weekend Marcia! xo

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  19. Bette Norton

    I so enjoyed your post on the fishermen dolls. I have visited Port Clyde many times and I own two of the fishermen dolls. I was talking to one of the locals up there, and sometimes the sewing circle would make the dolls to look like one of the townspeople. Great fun! This hard working small group of women work all year on these dolls. Like you mentioned there are lines outside of the church the day of the fair. They all go within the first half hour of the sale. The sale is held I believe on a Wednesday of the week of the Lobster Festival in Rockland, Maine every year! I guess I never grew up because I still love dolls and teddy bears and I have quite a few! Thank you for your delightful post on a cold snowy day! 🙂

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    • How fun it would be if one of the dolls looked like someone you knew (or you yourself!). Thanks for adding more to this post with your firsthand experience! 🙂

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  20. Ashley

    I love these dolls, they are adorable! One more reason for me to get to Maine!!

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  21. Terry

    I am President of the Port Clyde Baptist Church Sewing Circle. We meet the 1st & 3rd Tuesday of the month. I have been a part of the circle for 15 plus years. They become your children as you start creating their character. The Fisherman child was born in time for the 2016 Sale, the first Wednesday in August, each year. This was so fun to read. A friend forwarded to me. Thank you so much for mentioning us. Ours can be pretty mischievous, a book would be fun. Terry Bomba

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Terry, so happy to hear from you! I can imagine how you must become quite attached to these wonderful dolls as you bring them to ‘life.’ And now you say there’s a fisherman child? How cute! 🙂 I’ll be keeping my eye out to see what these new dolls look like. Thanks for letting us know your meeting and sale days. Hopefully my next visit to Port Clyde will be during that time. Thanks for adding to the post, so wonderful to hear your viewpoint, not only as President, but as a long time circle member. Keep stitching!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Anonymous

    Oh wow Marcia – these dolls are amazing. What a real treat to get to see them up close. Your grandma and mine would have certainly been good friends because she also loved to sew. So glad you shared. Have a great weekend.

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    • So glad you enjoyed the post. If you see this response, give me a holler and I’ll add your name. I’d love to know who you are! 🙂

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  23. The dolls are adorable. It’s amazing how the Port Clyde Sewing Circle has existed for so many years. It’s members sound like a very special group.

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    • I’m just getting a chance to moderate my comments now and the president of the sewing circle has joined us. I should have asked her if she knows how long the circle has been in existence… Thanks for stopping by, Sheryl!

      Liked by 1 person

  24. claudinegueh

    Goodness, I didn’t know you sew dolls, too, Marcia. So many skills you have! I love the colour and print combinations on the costumes. Well done, both you and your sister!

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    • Although I did make a couple of different-styled dolls long ago, my hand wasn’t in any of these. My grandmother helped make the dolls she gave to my sister and I many years ago–a treasured gift. The Port Clyde Sewing Circle does a great job with these each year. Hope all is well with you!

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  25. So much creativity!!!

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  26. These dolls are so beautiful. The time and effort that must go into creating each one…wow. I’m not even a doll person and I found myself falling in love with each one as I read down the page.

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    • Aren’t they amazing? So many fine details give them each their own little personality. Nice to hear from you, Tracy!

      Liked by 1 person

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