Nell Bennett's sewing table is covered in pins, scissors, and scraps of fabric, a rather unassuming set of supplies seen in many houses, but with these she creates extraordinary dolls that bring happiness to many children.
Bennett got started making dolls three years ago when she heard at a church meeting about other women who made them.
“Katherine (Tubbs) introduced me to it, and I got into it and it took me over completely,” she said.
eighty-five to 90 percent of the fabric she uses is donated, and she makes the pattens herself. She has progressed over time and now makes many types of dolls, but still remembers those first days. The original pattern hangs on her sewing room window, and she still has the first doll she ever made.
She sells her dolls to raise money for Operation Christmas Child, a ministry that sends shoeboxes full of gifts to poverty stricken children around the world and also makes dolls to go in the boxes.
Bennett makes dolls of many kinds. Some of the most popular are her cloth dolls that each come with a unique outfit. She also makes these same dolls with outfits of sports and school teams.
Other kinds of dolls she makes include sock dolls, ballerina dolls and topsy-turvy dolls. These are two dolls in one. There is a doll on one side, and when you flip it over there is a doll on the other. Separate outfits for the dolls are also available. She makes drawstring purses and marble bags as well, but her dolls remain the most sought after item.
What makes her dolls special is that no two look the same. Each has its own look and outfit. Some have dresses that say “Jesus Loves Me,” some are adorned in patriotic colors, and some even have tutus.
“It's not like buying a doll off the shelf, and there are 15 more just like it,” she said. “They are all unique.”
She said that this is something many of her customers look for. They want dolls their children can relate to. Many want her to make dolls that look like their children.
She takes special orders, and her customers have given her some interesting commissions.
“I had a member of our church come to me with a wedding dress and wanted me to make bride doll's out of it,” she said.
Her ideas come from friends and commissions. A friend showed her a topsy-turvy doll, which got her started making those. Bride dolls are her newest idea.
“Someone I know bought a bride's doll to sit in front of the wedding cake, so I made a pattern and have begun to make those,” she said.
Making the dolls, finding new ideas and bringing happiness to many children, Bennett feels as though she's found her niche.
“The preacher said in a sermon once that everyone has a purpose, and I firmly believe this is mine,” she said.
Bennett will have a booth at May Madness this year for those who would like to take a peek. For more info and to make special orders call 318-680-2546.