10 Country: Betty's Handcrafted Love - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

10 Country: Betty's Handcrafted Love

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August 5, 2008

Tifton - Time ignores some childhood memories, keeping them as bright-eyed and as fresh as the day they were created.

"They are very special to me," says Lindsey Wynn, the proud owner of the second pair of Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls made by her grandmother, Betty Hopkins. "Every time I see them I think of her."

What happened to the first set of dolls, since Lindsey has the second set?  An accident happened.  Lindsey's older cousin received the first set, but during a move, they were mistakenly thrown out in moving boxes. 

It happened 30 years ago, but to the cousin, it's as if the raw disappointment happened yesterday. The cousin's mother, who wishes to remain anonymous, says she's suffered for 30 years because of her accident.

Lindsey's dolls sit patiently below a window, with bright blue eyes and big smiles in her childhood bedroom. She walks directly to them and gently shakes each one to style their hair. Nothing else seems to exist to Lindsey except those two dolls.

"They're made with love and so much attention to detail," says Lindsey, but with a condition.

"I don't think mama ever let me play with them," says Lindsey.

But, the grandmother who made them, Betty Hopkins, played with a special doll as she grew up, and started making the Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy Dolls just for her eight granddaughters, such as Lindsey.

"I found a pattern in a magazine," says Betty, a McCall's pattern brought in 1970 that she keeps close-by. "It's kind of thin, now."

After making eight pairs, she took several years off until one of her daughters asked her if she'd make a pair for a co-worker. Betty agreed. She continues to make them.

"I've made about 500," says Betty, and with obvious pride, and adds that she's never had a customer complain about her handiwork. She sells them nationwide, but gives some away.

"If I see a child that needs one, I'll give them a doll," says Betty who enjoys doing things for other people.

What makes her dolls so special since many stores have them for sale?

Start with the faces; the big blue eyes, the eye brows, the big smiles.

"I embroider everyone," says Betty who estimates that it takes about an hour-and a-half to create each face.

Why such a big, delightful smile?

"You don't want a sour-looking doll," says Betty.

She hand sews the front two rows of red hair, made of yarn, and says that part of the hairline is what makes the popular dolls so distinctive.

"I take just as much effort with this doll as I do with the first one I ever made," says Betty, as she sews the body of a doll that will probably become a Christmas gift.

She makes the bodies on her sewing machine, then stuffs with cotton and dresses them.

"I always put on dark clothes. It brings out their facial features," says Betty.

One time, a customer wanted bright clothes. Betty warned that dark colors looked best, but the customer still wanted the non-traditional colors. She made the dolls anyway.  Sure enough, when she delivered them, the customer refused to take them because they didn't look like Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy. Clothes can make the dolls.

Betty makes more than Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls.  A bed near her sewing room looks like a group of dolls having a sleep over, all sitting on one bed. One pair looks like a bride and groom. Another one looks like a ballerina. A group sitting on top of a near-by storage cabinet looks as if it's watching the spend-the-night party.

"You know what? I have by original doll," says Betty. "I must have had it since I was 9 or 10."

What's the difference between a store-bought doll and a handcrafted one?

"Anybody can buy them; not everybody can make them," says Betty who has made as many as seven dolls in a week.

What about the granddaughter who had her Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls mistakenly thrown away long ago?

"I'm going to make her a replacement pair," says Betty.

It proves that material things can get thrown away, but not the memories that remain timeless.
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