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West Marin’s Accidental Doll Maker

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West Marin’s Accidental Doll Maker

Sarah Lonsdale October 17, 2012

Jess Brown began making her handmade rag dolls by accident, when her husband washed (and ergo shrinked) a bag of her cashmere sweaters destined for the dry cleaners. Her solution? Turn the remnants into personality-laden hand-stitched dolls with a special appeal (Martha Stewart is a fan).

Brown is neither a seamstress nor a designer by trade; she began her career as a school teacher in San Francisco, and it was only when her daughter Stella, now 14, was born that she made her first foray into sewing. Frustrated by the lack of appealing clothing, she created a six-piece line of clothing called Bluebird, featuring designs based on antique pinafores and bloomers. When Stella was still a toddler, the family decamped to Petaluma in an effort to live more simply, and Brown opened Maude, a brick and mortar shop where she sells her own clothing line as well as hand-selected, idiosyncratic pieces. For information, go to Jess Brown Design.

Photography by Mimi Giboin for Remodelista.

Above: Jess Brown wears a top from Jess Brown.

Above: Jess Brown's workshop, with straw baskets filled with fabrics for her Rag Dolls.

Above: The living room of the 1932 Petaluma home with the original stove; Jess collects Bauer and McCoy ceramics.

Above: A collection of paper lanterns.

Above: The kitchen wall features photographs of Jess's family.

Above L: Brown's ceramic finds are displayed in a kitchen cabinet. Above R: A patched linen curtain.

Above: Jesse salvaged the birch tree trunk from the yard.

Above: The steps lead to a split story attic area, where TIger, Jess's son, stores his Legos and toys.

Above: The bathroom features a cast iron tub and a salvaged wooden shelf for storage.

Above: The master bedroom.

Above: Stella's room recently renovated and noticeably devoid of any dolls.

Above; A tree house in the garden made by Jess's husband.

Read more of our 150 House Calls.

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