Colin sports velveteen leggings and carries a cotton sack filled with aromatic Maine balsam.
In Norse folklore, there are creatures called Nisse, elusive elf-like beings who dwell in the woodlands and lend unseen but helpful hands to people who live there. At Christmas time, Norwegians offer small gifts of affection and recognition to the elves to ensure their continued kindness.
That’s the kind of folk story the Solli sisters, Marie and Anne, grew up hearing from their Norwegian father. Their mother, a home economics teacher, immersed them in the world of sewing. So it seems natural that when they grew up, the sisters would combine their love of folklore with their love of stitchery and create The Folklore Doll Company in York, Maine. “We wanted to make characters like the ones in the tales,” says Marie Solli.
Every one of the hand-stitched, 14-inch dolls the sisters make has a name, a pair of bright eyes, and carries some item that befits his woodland surroundings—an old-fashioned canteen, a rucksack, a sling of firewood, a sack of Maine balsam.
The sisters create special holiday outfits for the figures. Some purchasers display their dolls only at Christmas, others collect them as the outfits and accessories change. The Sollis’ goal is to make heirloom-quality figures that people can treasure. “We get a lot of people who bought one and now continue to buy them as a family tradition,” Solli says.
The sisters have also made witches and trolls. At first they were giving the dolls away to friends and family, but then they took a few to a local craft gallery. The dolls sold so briskly that the gallery owner immediately ordered dozens more.
The dolls are more than cute characters: They’re also earth-friendly. The Sollis first used wool fibers for the hair and beards but they became concerned about the treatment of herd animals, so they switched to flax and imported hemp, woven organic fibers and organic cotton.
“We want them to be as eco-friendly as possible,” Solli says.