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MASTER CLASS ON MAKING THE MOTANKA

“Motanka” means that everything is wound or spun, and therefore needles are not necessary. Mrs. Kateryna explains, however, that while embroidery may have gone into decorating elements of the figurine, the doll itself has no seams. “An old belief states that one can sew up both good and evil thoughts. It’s one of the reasons the doll should never be touched with a needle,” the Master reveals.

Today, we will learn making a simple version of the ancient tradition, which means our doll will have no decorations, like embroidery, braids or wreathes. Taking a look at the table before us, there is little in the way of materials: various pieces of fabric, two spools of coloured thread, and…the hands of the master. We almost don’t believe that these simple items are going to somehow create a doll. Nevertheless, we start.

THE HEAD

The first stage involves making the head. For this, we take a piece of natural fabric (approximately15x30cm), such as linen or hemp (or, according to tradition, any scrap of fabric you might have in your house), and fold three times. The width of the folded fabric should be approximately 5cm. Roll this tightly, so that the head itself will have a solid look and feel to it.

 

• Once this is finished, take another piece of white fabric (also 25x25cm) and cover the “head”. The finished product should resemble a lollipop wrapper, which we fasten by winding thread around the “neck”. “This is basic motanka technique – the ends of the thread need not even be tied,” explains Mrs Kateryna, “as the construction is quite solid.” With the head fastened, we are ready to move on to its decoration.

 

• As a tradition, the motanka doll has no face.

Instead, threads are crisscrossed over one another. Our Ukrainian ancestors believed that it was this symbol that protected the house, as well as the doll’s owner. Today, the cross remains. However, designers endeavour to embellish the ancient symbol by including additional colours and patterns.

Mrs Kateryna has chosen two different coloured threads, ivory and blue. Beginning with the ivory, we wind it around and across the head so that a nice cross appears in just the middle of the face. Mrs Kateryna says the combination of colours is up to the one making the doll. Ours has a beautiful ivory and blue combination.

 

THE BODY

• With the head complete, we move on to the arms. Here, we take another piece of fabric, approximately 14cm wide and 30cm long. Rolling the fabric tightly, thread is wound around the middle of the roll to the edges to keep its form. Fixing the arms to the body, thread is then wound round the neck.

• Moving on, the body is made of several layers of fabric of different colours. For the inner layer, we take a piece of white cloth, 20cm wide and as long as you like. You can opt for a wider piece of material, just remember – the wider the fabric, the thicker the body. With the material in place, the thread is brought out again, and wound round the midsection to keep it fastened.

• Approaching an almost complete motanka doll, a few more layers of material are added to the body to give it a nice, thick feeling. For our doll, we alternate between a solid green fabric, fixing it with thread, and a patterned piece of material (smaller in size – 10x15cm), which makes it look like the doll is wearing an apron. Once all pieces are in place, thread is wound around the middle once more, holding all of the pieces of material tightly together, at which point a pretty bow ties it all together.

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