Kenai senior makes doll clothes for special cause

Inside the Kenai Senior Center, atop a table is a doll with an impressive wardrobe. Every one of her 22 outfits is hand-sewn by Fran Kilfoyle, a member of the center.


The doll has several summer and winter outfits, seasonal pajamas and dresses. Kilfoyle used Velcro instead of buttons to make it easier for little hands to dress the doll. She also knitted matching hats and a purse and purchased coordinating shoes for all of the outfits she created.

The 18-inch doll and its wardrobe will be raffled off the morning of Dec. 23 during the center’s Breakfast with Santa event.

“I feel like I am making some little girl very happy,” Kilfoyle said. “This year I decided I was going to make a little Alaskan girl.”

There is a fur jacket, an Alaskan Native Kuspuk, ice-skating outfits and even a Kenai Cheerleading outfit. She even added a fishing outfit to the mix.

“That is what a little Alaskan girl would wear,” she said. “Ya gotta have jeans, a flannel shirt and a red hat (for fishing).”

Kilfoyle started making her own doll clothes at an early age by wrapping dolls in cloth and fastening them with safety pins. When she was nine-years-old, her mom allowed her to start sewing on a treadle sewing machine.

The love of making clothes has followed her throughout her life.

Aside from doll clothes, she also has made clothing for herself and her children; including matching outfits for her twins when they were young. She also made doll clothing for three daughter’s and five granddaughter’s dolls.

While she never was a fan of making clothes for Barbie dolls, when one of her granddaughters received an American Girl doll, she was inspired by the size of the dolls frame.

“I thought, ‘now this is one I can work with,’” she said. While the doll Kilfoyle purchases and dresses is not a highly priced doll, the clothing she makes would fit any standard 18-inch doll.

Once her daughters and granddaughters stopped playing with dolls, Kilfoyle kept making the clothing for her own doll, which she displays in her Kenai home and regularly dresses in outfits she makes. But she said she felt the need to make the clothes for a purpose.

In 2011, Kilfoyle approached the center’s Senior Connection group, which holds several yearly fundraisers for various project, including Meals on Wheels. She donated an 18-inch doll and a large wardrobe to raffle off during the holiday season.

The first year ticket sales reached just short of $1,000. Kilfoyle said she was happy for the money raised but thought the raffle was a one-time event.

Early the next year Bill Osborn, vice president of the Senior Connection, encouraged her to make another doll wardrobe for the raffle. Last year more than $1,400 was raised by the sales of tickets for Kilfoyle’s doll and wardrobe.

Osborn said this year’s ticket sales have already exceeded that amount. He attributes the funds raised to the effort Kilfoyle has put into to the prize.

“She is well dressed,” he said. “I’ll put it that way.”

Kilfoyle makes the outfits at home throughout the year.

“I do it in spurts,” she said. “I already have an outfit for next year’s doll.”

During the weeks leading up to the raffle, Osborn and Kilfoyle set up at table to display the doll and her wardrobe at Kenai’s Safeway and IGA stores.