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.

Quilty Pleasures - Dolls Houses - Anne Kelly

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.

Quilty Pleasures - Dolls Houses - Anne Kelly

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.

Quilty Pleasures - Dolls Houses - Anne Kelly

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.


Quilty Pleasures - Dolls Houses - Anne Kelly

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