Life & Style

Cute and cuddly woollen dolls by ace Chennai knitter are cherished companions

Sharada Ganapathy pays a lot of attention to creating woollen dolls from scratch. Photo: Special Arrangement/THE HINDU  

When the lockdown left 78-year-old homemaker Sharada Ganapathy from Chennai with an abundance of leisure time, she decided to knit dolls instead of spending it watching movies or plays, as was the norm for her. Sharada decided to take up doll-making after seeing her friend make small figurines for golu display and reading a book on the craft two years ago.

Sharada learned knitting in Mithapur, Gujarat, where she was based for over 30 years with her husband who was an engineer. “Most of the ladies in our [housing] quarters used to get together to knit woollen wear for the winters which were severe in Gujarat. It was a useful skill because it wasn’t easy to find readymade winter clothes in those days,” she says. After the couple shifted to Chennai in 2000, the knitting needles she had saved from her Gujarat days came in handy. “This craft is actually easy for those who know how to knit sweaters,” says Sharada.

She sources her yarns (synthetic wool blends like acrylic and cashmilon) online and prefers to wind two together for a more sturdy doll. “As I gift most of my dolls to young children, they should be able to withstand constant handling, which is why having a double-strength yarn is necessary. I stuff the body with nylon filling so that the doll can be washed often,” she says.

Sharada has created over 60 woollen dolls of various shapes and sizes in the past two years with at least 20 dolls made during lockdown. Several of them have found a place in her golu collection at her home in Nandanam. “Starting a new doll is very exciting. In fact, if I’m left undisturbed, I can finish knitting and assembling a medium-sized doll overnight. I get thrilled to introduce my newest doll to my family early in the morning,” she laughs, over the phone.The toys are suitable both for infants and slightly older children, and have a detailed wardrobe. “Some patterns require the head and limbs to be made separately. Knitting various accessories can be time-consuming.”

A woollen doll knitted by Sharada Ganapathy. Photo: Special Arrangement/THE HINDU

A woollen doll knitted by Sharada Ganapathy. Photo: Special Arrangement/THE HINDU  

While a palm-held toy can be made in one or two days, the bigger dolls require up to a week. “Getting the facial features right is essential to giving life to a doll, so I need to concentrate on that part first,” she adds. Many of her dolls have also travelled abroad with members of her extended family where they have been appreciated for their detailing. “My sister’s grandson is very thrilled with the stuffed monkey I gifted him. He always brings it on all our video calls and shows how he ‘feeds’ and plays with him. I also gifted some knitted festive accessories to my niece in the United States,” says Sharada.

Knitting dolls can be a source of employment for many women and Sharada says she is willing to help anyone learn the basics. “I hope to sell some dolls and perhaps undertake small orders for birthdays and festive décor items in the coming months, but at a scale that I can manage without too much pressure,” says Sharada.

Sharada can be reached on 9840443341.

A selection of dolls knitted by Sharada Ganapathy recently. Photo: Special Arrangement/THE HINDU

A selection of dolls knitted by Sharada Ganapathy recently. Photo: Special Arrangement/THE HINDU  

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 10:47:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/cute-woollen-dolls-keep-veteran-knitter-busy-in-chennai/article33402513.ece

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