Quilty Pleasures – Dolls Houses – Anne Kelly

With artist, author and tutor Anne Kelly


I have always held a fascination for dolls houses and the miniature world they represent. I had the opportunity to include one ‘Folk Dollshouse’ in an exhibition ‘Folk Tales’ first seen at the National Needlework Archive in Berkshire in the summer of 2017. I found the house at a charity shop near home. It was pink – not sure why toy makers are obsessed with pink for girl-targeted toys but it was!

I covered it pages from a natural history book to create a good base to work on. Then I used brocante sourced from a market in France to decorate the exterior. The piece also features in my third book ‘Textile Folk Art’. When I was researching the book I visited the V and A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green in London. Rachel Whiteread had created a wonderful installation ‘Place’ with her collection of dollshouses, which is also in the book.

When I was invited to have a solo gallery at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Olympia in London Olympia in March 2018, the house was included in the exhibition and very well received. I reprised the exhibition at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show in November 2018 and made a new house ‘Tudor Dolls House’ for the show. It was bigger, rougher and more unwieldy that the first house. It was filthy when I found it in a junk shop and needed a lot of cleaning and TLC before I started to work on it. I wanted to retain the hand drawn bricks on it and the lovely Tudor style windows at the front. I worked around the frame with larger pieces of linen and covered the back and roof in maps. Some ribbon and buttons were used to finish piece. Inside it is covered from pages of a vintage natural history school book.

My most recent house was a chance bargain in another used furniture shop near me. I fell in love with the roof, which is a true labour of love! It is made up of plywood tiles individually cut and fixed on to the frame. Inside there were traces of the previous owner and a booklet from the sixties about dolls houses and Dolls house furniture. A real find! I called it ‘Stamp House’ and used some postage stamps that I had collected for many years to decorate the roof. Vintage tea towel and ribbon are used outside.

Inside, I used some sample woven pieces that were inside the house to decorate the floors and cover it. The piece has not been shown yet but watch this space ! Other artists and textile artists who have used or made references to dolls houses include Caren Garfen and Yinka Shonibare.

Anne Kelly is an artist, author and tutor exhibiting, writing and teaching in the UK and internationally.
Her two solo and one co-written book from Batsford Press have been popular and reprinted – see the review of ‘Textile Folk Art’ on this site by Ailish Henderson.


BOOK REVIEW | Star Trek Cross Stitch

Anne Kelly

UK based textile artist Anne Kelly is an award-winning artist, author and tutor. Her multi-layered and densely stitched textiles have been described as ‘small worlds’. Trained in Canada and at Goldsmiths College in London, she creates wall hangings and objects using a mixture of mixed media collage and hand and machine embroidery. Her inspirations are taken from travel, memory, nature and folk art. Anne tutors and teaches fine art and textiles to a variety of groups in the UK and abroad. and is a member of the Embroiderers Guild UK, the Crafts Council Directory and the Society for Embroidered Work. She also exhibits and curates group exhibitions nationally and internationally. Her four books for Batsford are widely collected and studied by students of all ages around the world.

Recent Posts