Monday, October 10, 2016

From shoebox to roombox

I love shoeboxes; I save them all!  Though I haven't actually done anything with them (same with those round oatmeal containers).  So it seemed  time to do something with one of them :-)

Trying one on for size, it looked like a good fit for a tiny cloth doll.  Jane Noelle is six inches tall, and fits very nicely inside a shoebox for a pair of walking shoes.  And it looks like a Celestial Seasonings tea box will make a nice wardrobe.

All of the printed papers were scavenged from the internet and printed on card stock on my printer.  The picture on the wall is a painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) that was reduced to fit a 2"x3" wooden plaque.

The outside of the box is papered as well as the inside; using a mix of paintings that I liked for the outside.  Jane has a couple of comfy upholstered chairs that were very easy to make: there is a picture tutorial on flickr here.

The rug is a crocheted doily, and her knitting needles are a pair of toothpicks.  She's making a garter stitch scarf :-)

The quilt in the hoop and the thread caddy are both Gail Wilson kits I made a long time ago, and little wood findings make up the tables.

Jane has a small wardrobe made from vintage hankies.  The sundress at the upper left and the nightgown at the lower right are made essentially the same way.  Two squares are sewn up the side seam, leaving the upper 1 1/4 " unsewn.  Hem the unsewn part back, then fold over 3/8" at the top edge on both side to create a casing.  Thread a piece of ribbon (silk ribbon works best) through the casing and gather up the neck edge.  Her arms fit through the opening left on both sides.

I cut the nightgown on the corner for the front, as this hankie had such a pretty edgeing on one corner.  For the sundress, make four rows of gathering stitches 1/8" apart below the casing on both the front and the back and pull up to gather the bodice (this is called shirring).  The neck edge is gathered up with the ribbon same as the nightgown.

Upper right are simple smallclothes made from a linen hankie, and lower left is a pinafore cut from a pretty corner portion of another hankie.  All of these vintage, slightly flawed hankies came from LinsAntiques on Etsy.

I'm sure your tiny dolls would love a home of their own!

Happy Stitching :-)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Prairie Flowers bloom again

Seven years ago, I created a cloth doll pattern I called Prairie Flowers, which is available here on the blog (look down the left sidebar for the doll and her clothing pattern).

That was the last time I made cloth dolls.  Sitting at the sewing machine for hours on end gave me a backache, and crochet and knit dolls consumed all my interest...until Joyce introduced me to Ann Wood's Tiny Rag Doll.  Hand sew a cloth doll?  I was told you should never do this.  But, at least at this small scale, it works just fine.  In fact, in small corners and curves you have much more control over the sewing if you do it by hand.

So how about making a diminutive version of the Prairie Flower doll?  How about a Pocket Prairie Flower :-)  So I reduced the pattern by 50% (simply a printer selection before printing out the pattern) and here she is!  The difference in instructions for this doll vs. her larger sister is that I made stiff templates for the doll body pattern pieces, instead of making freezer paper templates.  Trace around your stiff pattern pieces to create the sewing lines, then cut out the pieces adding a seam allowance as you cut out.

If you want to make her the same wardrobe as the original doll, I would reduce the pattern by 50%, then trace your pattern onto fabric on the sewing line, not the cutting line.  Cut out, leaving some margin for the seam allowance, and hand sew along the sewing line.  At least, that is what I intend to do.

Don't be put off by the shape of her head.  I tend to like dolls with slightly oversize heads, and this doll is no exception.  I like a lot of forehead, and also like to place the eyes of the doll at the midpoint of the head.  This gives a more childlike look to the doll, which is what I prefer.

Her hair is a wig cap with braids, made from Knit Picks Palette, a fingering weight yarn, and a size 1 steel crochet hook.  I embroidered shoes on her feet, just for fun.

She likes the bed I made for the Ann Wood dolls, but fortunately for all of them, she cannot wear their clothing :-)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Making Cloth Dolls

I am still in the throws of this delightful little cloth rag doll.  These two are my fourth and fifth dolls from Ann Wood's Tiny Rag Doll pattern.  She is also now offering the pattern as a written booklet, in addition to the PDF format.

There are some tricks I've learned over the years (largely from Gail Wilson) for making cloth dolls, that apply to any size.

1.   Wool roving is a marvelous stuffing material!  It comes in long 'ropes' of long staple fiber wool.  You cut a length of it, then peel off what you want to use.  It stuffs into the doll smoothly, and has the added advantage of giving your doll a warmth that polyester fiberfill just doesn't do.  Hold the doll in your hand, and she will warm to you :-)

It is more expensive than polyfill, but for these small dolls, a little goes a long way.

2.  The right stuffing tool can make all the difference, especially if you are using wool roving:

Along with the wool roving, I purchased this stuffing tool from Gail Wilson's website:

Gail's stuffing tool

On this page you can also find the wool roving, and a lot of other tools to help in your cloth doll making.

3.  Dampen your unstuffed doll before you start to stuff her.  This is particularly helpful when stuffing the body of the doll with a single head/torso configuration.  A lot of times, a doll like this will end up with neck creases as you go from stuffing the head to stuffing the neck and shoulders.  Spray your doll with water, not to saturate but to dampen, then begin filling up the head with your wool roving.  By dampening the cloth, it stretches slightly, and also 'grabs' the filling a bit.  You can pack the doll tighter, and you will notice no neck creases with this method.

This is my doll, dampened and ready to stuff

Miriam and Jean Marie are the latest additions to my growing Tiny Rag Doll family!

Happy Stitching!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Additional Outfits for your Ann Wood cloth doll

If you have fallen in love with Ann Wood's Tiny Rag Doll, then you may want to make her a more extensive wardrobe.  Here, Joyce and I will share a couple of patterns to increase your wardrobe choices.

First up is a simple, one piece nightgown.  Joyce found the pattern for free here, and reduced it and tested it to fit the Tiny Rag Doll.  Joyce's version uses only one layer of fabric, to reduce bulk at this tiny scale.   For my nightgown, I used the lines on the pattern as sewing lines, not cutting lines.  This pattern can be made into a dress, embroidered, embellished, shortened for a shirt, and on and on.

Finish the neckline with tiny overcast stitches, turn and sew, or make a small facing.  I used the facing method, which just meant that I made another pattern piece of the neckline only, and sewed it to the neckline with the right sides together.  Clip the curves and turn to the wrong side.

Simple Nightgown.

You can also modify Ann's camisole and pantaloons pattern to create rompers or overalls for your doll.

I modified Ann's camisole pattern to have a curved neckline, but you can do this with the cami pattern as written.  You can use the camisole for the bodice of rompers, overalls, or a pretty sundress:

And here are the instructions for these modifications:

Sewing Rompers for Ann Wood Tiny Rag Doll

If you like, you can modify Ann's dress pattern to also make a shirt.  Simply shorten the length of the dress, and eliminate the 'flare' of the dress below the sleeve area.  Here the shirt is paired with overalls, for a sweet country look:

You can also add a skirt to the shirt and create a full skirted dress.  No picture yet of this, but as you can see, an extensive and simple wardrobe can be made for your Ann Wood Tiny Rag Doll!

Happy Stitching!

Monday, September 12, 2016


Observing the 15th anniversary of 9/11/2001.  Field of Flags sponsored by the Exchange Club of Muncie Indiana.  1000 flags under a sky of blue, remembering innocents who died, first responders who gave all they had, some their lives, and all who have served our country.  "Greater love has no one than this:  to lay down one's life for one's friends;" John 15:13 NIV.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Just as iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen the minds of each other.

Rachel, sewn by my friend Joyce, from the pattern by Ann Wood

The title of this post is from one of my favorite verses from the Bible:  Proverbs 27:17.  This version is from the Contemporary English Version (CEV) published first in 1995.  The simplicity and truth of this statement informs most of my creativity.  

For example, the lovely cloth doll above was created by my friend Joyce, from the Ann Wood pattern Tiny Rag Doll.  This charming little doll is only five inches tall, and entirely stitched by hand.  Joyce made all of her sewn clothing, even though she says she cannot sew!  All of the clothing is removable,  and her hair is a simple crochet wig cap you can find here.

It has been ages since I've made a cloth doll, but looking at Joyce's work, I had to make this dear little doll myself.

It takes so little fabric to make the doll and all of her outfits.  I tucked it all into a Michael's memory box.  

The handstitching aspect of making this doll gives the dollmaker much more control of the tiny seams and corners, and the stitching itself is a relaxing pasttime.  You are making a doll just like your foremothers made for their children in past centuries.  And as you stitch, think that before the advent of the sewing machine, all clothing was made the same way.

So here is Charlotte, inspired by my friend Joyce, from start to finish.  Thank you, Joyce, for leading the way :-)

Charlotte, stitched by me from the pattern by Ann Wood

Both Joyce and I highly recommend this pattern.  It is well written and all of the steps are copiously photographed.  You will create an heirloom doll of  your own, or one for a special child.

Happy sewing!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Wee Wooden Dolls

It is amazing the places that inspiration can take you!  I've fallen down the rabbit hole of wooden dolls, starting with Penny the clothespeg doll.  She lead on to carving a Hitty from Judy Brown's well constructed kit and blank.

But I wanted to be able to make a wooden doll, one with joints, without using someone else's blank, and with materials I can easily get my hands on.  Something a bit more than a clothespeg, but a lot less than carving from a huge block of wood.  I don't have a scroll saw, so the doll would have to be small, and preferably made from materials I can get locally (read that as Michael's).

This image shows all the tools and materials used to make this wee wooden doll.
1.  A carving glove (thank you, Jenny!) for the hand holding the work, and a thumb guard for the hand holding the knife to keep you safe.
2.  Two knives: a Warren whittling knife recommended by Judy Brown (and that came in her Hitty kit), and an Exacto whittling knife with a straight blade.
3. A leather strop to keep the blades sharp
4. A Pin vise for hand drilling 5/16" holes for the jointing
5. A 1"x0.75"x2" block of basswood.  This came in a bag of blocks from Michael's.  This is the body.
6. Two clothespegs.  The prongs of the pegs will make the arms, the head of the peg will make the legs.
7. A 25mm (about 1") wood bead for the head.  Make sure there is a hole in the bottom of the bead.  I thought 20mm would work, but the head looked too small.
8: 3/16" dowel to peg the head to the body.  The only time I needed a power drill was to drill the hole in the top of the neck for pegging the head.
9. 320 grit sand paper backed with duct tape.
10. Waxed linen cord to joint the arms and legs.  You could use 20 gauge wire, or 1/8" dowel rods instead.  If using the dowel rods you will probably need to use a power drill to drill the jointing holes.  And if you use the dowel, the legs and arms will move together.

I drew a rough sketch of the doll I wanted to make.  This drawing shows her to be about four inches tall, and uses a hip jointing technique used for many Hitty dolls.  It is easy to carve, and allows the doll to sit very nicely.  

To carve the body, copy the body front and side patterns onto card stock and trace the image  onto the bassword.  Make sure the side profiles face in the same direction on both sides of the basswood.

Drill the holes for the arm jointing now.  Drill the holes for the leg jointing after you've cut out the hip area.

Make a stop cut all round the front, sides, and back along your pattern lines.  Make a stop cut at the waistline as well.  I used a small saw to cut out the hip joint area.  Drill the holes for the hip joints.

Whittle out everything that isn't the body, stropping your knife frequently to keep it sharp.  

I also sand it every once and a while with 320 grit sandpaper.  I back the sandpaper with duct tape and cut it into small strips.

I cut out the pattern for the arms and traced it onto the flat side of the clothespegs, then made a stop cut all around the arm, and one at the wrist.  Drill the hole for the arm jointing before carving the arm.

Whittle the arms to shape.  If you are daring (I wasn't) try making indentations for fingers.

For the legs, I didn't trace the pattern on the peg.  I did make a stop cut at the knee on the front, and drilled the holes for the hip joint, then carved the leg, and also carved a shoe out of the knob at the end of the peg.

Both the arms and the legs turned out a bit plumper than my pattern, but I think they looked better this way.

A look at all the carved pieces against the pattern.  If necessary, drill out the hole in the wood bead so the dowel rod will fit, but it should fit snug, both in the bead and in the body.  

Glue the bead to the dowel, then glue the dowel into the body.  The bead head should 1) rest against the neck, and 2) the grain should be up and down on the bead if you want to carve eye sockets.

After the glue has dried, carve the bead head if you like.  I wanted a profile sort of like a Waldorf doll, so all I did was carve an indentation for the eye sockets, and a very small mouth carving.

After all of the pieces are carved to your satisfaction, seal the wood with a matte varnish.  I bought mine at Michael's; I think it was the Folk Art brand.  Matte will not give you a glossy finish, which I like.  Here the pieces are drying; paper clips run through the jointing holes work very nicely for hanging the pieces to dry.

After the first coat of varnish, I sanded the pieces lightly, then gave them another coat.  After this coat is dry, paint the face, and socks and shoes if you like.  Let all of this dry at least 24 hours, then add another coat of varnish.

You can add an antiquing medium to your work if you like.  I think it gives the doll a warmer look.  Again, the antiquing medium I bought was from Michael's.  I applied it with a soft cotton cloth (cut up undies), then wiped it off immediately.  Enough remains to tint the doll a warmer brown.  Let this dry for 24 hours, buff, and now you are ready to joint the doll.

I used a waxed linen cord from my macrame jewelry days (geez, at least 30 years) to joint the doll.   Tie an overhand knot three times in one end of the cord, thread through the limb, body, limb, then tie another overhand knot as tight against the opposite limb as you can.  There will be a bit of give, so the limbs will move freely, and she won't stand on her own real well.  But, she sits very nicely :-)

I made three different wigs for this doll: On the left from a fingering weight mohair/linen yarn with a size 7 steel hook.  Middle is Knit Picks Palette with the same hook, and on the right Laceweight mohair with the same hook (it took more stitches to make the cap than the other two).

I decided to go with the close curls of the laceweight mohair, and thus Linden Grace was born.   Linden Grace, named for the Linden tree which gave her her body.  With the waxed linen jointing she doesn't stand real well, but she does sit very nicely :-)

I have another doll in the works, just to prove to myself that making the first one was not a fluke!  

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Crochet Unmentionables for Virginia

Not wanting to be long in borrowed unmentionables, Virginia was happy that I crocheted her a camisole, pantaloons, and a pretty petticoat of her own.  These are crocheted with size 10 crochet cotton (I used Knit Picks Curio, which is a very good value and a nicely soft mercerized cotton), and a size 7 hook.

Hitty Virginia's Unmentionables

Her next wardrobe items will be a cozy nightgown and a day dress with a fabric skirt.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Out of my comfort zone

After making several clothespeg dolls, which are great fun (and there are many more in my future), I got an itch to try something different.  There are dollmaking techniques that seem far beyond my ability:  making a porcelain doll from scratch, carving a doll from wood, creating a resin BJD with all the joints.  Some of these techniques require a financial investment that is simply beyond me, especially to find out it isn't something I want to pursue.

But carving a doll from wood; what do you need?  Some wood to carve, some carving knives, and hopefully some help from those who know how to do this.  Enter Judy Brown's 'No Excuses' Hitty carving kit.  It contained the blank (on the left looking a bit like a robot from the 1950's), the knives (Warren whittling interchangeable knives), and that all important ingredient, instructions!

My kit arrived last Tuesday, and for the rest of the week in the afternoons, and some on Sunday, I've been whittling away to make a presentable Hitty.  If you are unfamiliar with this remarkable doll and her adventures, you can find some of her history here:

Hitty from Wikipedia

Judy Brown's Hitty

Other Hitty Resources

The original Hitty

Hittygirls yahoo group

I was inspired by one of my Flickr friends, Lorraine, watching her turn a blank into a sweet little doll, and I knew I had to give this a try.  Thank you, Lorraine!

This is Virginia, named for Judy Brown's home state and one of my favorite Aunts.  At this point, she has been carved, sealed, and painted, but not antiqued or fully assemble.   The pins are in place to make sure of the fit.

Unfortunately the light in my work room was not the same on the two days I took these pictures.  On the left she has not been antiqued; on the right she has.

Here she is, finished and antiqued, and wearing some borrowed unmentionables from my Gail Wilson Hitty, made several years ago.

Having never carved a doll before, I'm amazed to have gotten this far :-)  As with any first doll, there are things that can be improved; her arms should be more slender and her shoulders less broad.  Same for her hips.  But, I am pleased, and she is very dear to me.

Now to make her some clothing of her very own!