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!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What a clothespeg can do

My growing family of Clothespeg dolls needed a place to live, and some furniture!  The room box is a wine crate that I purchased from this Etsy seller:

The Crate People

The crate was advertised as 13" x 11" by 8" deep.  It actually measured 7" deep, but still works fine.   They have a tremendous selection of crates.  The one I bought is actually nicely finished inside; not rough at all.  It could be painted or stained, or simply sealed with varnish (not a bad idea).

But of course, a roombox needs furniture, and all of the furniture in this box was made with clothespegs and wooden plaques.  If you cannot find plaques the right size, balsa or basswood sheets are very easy to cut and readily available at your local craft store.

The Bed:

The bed was made with a single plaque 6 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide; four flat clothespegs, and  four popsicle sticks.

Cut one leg off of each flat clothespeg, and make sure the distance from the head of the peg to the point you cut off is the same distance on each peg, and nice and flat.  The plaque will rest on this 'ledge' , and the remaining leg of the peg will be the posters for a nice, four poster bed.

Use the popsicle sticks to make the headboard (three sticks cut to size) and the footboard (one stick cut to size).  Glue the plaque to the clothespegs, let dry, then glue the popsicle sticks to the head posters and the foot posters.  After all is dry, stain or paint your bed, then antique it if you like with antiquing medium, or make a very light wash with burnt umber paint and a lot of water (thank you for this tip, Jenny!)

The mattress is a piece of Warm&Natural cotton batting, folded in thirds and sewn together on the back side, then quilted with French knots.

The Table:

The table is made with the same size plaque as was used for the bed, two spring clip clothespins, and four popsicle sticks.

Separate the spring clips so you have four table legs.  For a Hitty size table (good for dolls 5 to 6 1/2 inches tall) cut 1/2 inch off of the slender end of the table legs; make sure your four legs are the same length.  This also makes gluing the legs to the table supports more stable.

Cut two of the popsicle sticks so the are about 1/4" from each short edge of the table top (about 2" long), and glue two legs to each of these.  After these assemblies are dry, glue them to the short ends of the table top, then glue the long popsicle stick to the table leg and the bottom of the table on either side.  Let this sit upside down until dry.

Paint or stain your table, then antique or not.

The Chairs:

Each chair is made with four flat clothespegs, one 2" by 3" plaque, cut in half (one plaque will make two chair seats), and one popsicle stick.

Cut both legs off of two of the clothespegs for the front legs, and one leg off of the other two pegs for the back legs and the back vertical supports.  Cut the plaque in half so that you have two seats that are 2" x 1/1/2 ";  glue the front legs to the bottom of the chair seat.  Let this dry a bit, then glue the plaque into the back legs, letting the 'ledge' created when you cut off one leg hold the back of the seat.

Let this dry, then cut one popsicle stick to make two slats for the back of the chair and glue in place to the back of the vertical supports.   This chair could be made into a bench with a longer seat; it could also have an upholstered seat by putting a bit of batting on the seat then pulling fabric around this and gluing to the underside of the chair seat.

Paint or stain as desired, and antique or not.  You now have a full suite of furniture for your doll.

Occasional tables can be made with wood bobbins and wood scraps; a pegboard could be made with a popsicle stick and a 3/16" dowel rod.   Cut the dowel into 3/8" lengths and glue into holes drilled in the popsicle stick.

The wall quilt and the bed quilts are from some Gail Wilson projects I did several years ago.  The tea set on the table is a set of charms from Michael's, but I had to borrow a tea pot :-)  The rug was made by a dear friend several years ago, and the jug, basin, and chamber pot are bits of pottery I had about.

I plan to add a peg rack for hanging clothes, and maybe a tiny cross stitch sampler.  But for now, Ruby PegHitty and Daisy PegHitty are quite happy to take tea :-)

A couple of other Peg's found a place to explore in my fairy garden...

Ivy Peg (in the ivy dress), and Lily Peg, with the bunny, spending time in the fairy garden;  I hope you enjoy the day as much as they are :-)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Many Clothespeg Friends

This last week I've spent making five sweet dolls from clothespegs.  The basic instructions for this doll are here:

How Penny is made

And you can make a doll exactly like this, which is what I did with the first one I made...Nettie Peg Hitty.

With a carving knife, and a little time, I modified my next dolls to have more slender ankles and wrists, and more rounded shoulders and hips.

From the left, body peg, arm peg, leg peg, doll parts

I removed some material from the neck area and the hip area of the body peg; whittled away some of the area around the wrist peg and rounded the top of the shoulder, and did the same with the ankle and hip of the leg peg.

After this, the parts were well sanded with 320 grit sandpaper.  Here's a tip...apply duck tape to the back of the sanding paper; it will last a LOT longer!  A nice guy at Michael's gave me this tip :-)

Painting the face is always a challenge for me.  I resort to toothpicks as much as possible, though the eyebrow and top of the eye really need to be done with a very, very fine brush.  Below are the steps I use to draw, and then paint, the face:

To draw a face on the bead, start with a sharp pencil, like a mechanical pencil.  Place two dots where you want the eyes to be.  I like my faces to occupy the lower half of the head, so I placed my two dots just about the mid point of the bead.

Draw two U shapes under the dots, then an arching line over the U.  Place the eyebrows over the eyes, then place a dot where you want the mouth to be, and finally, two very tiny points for the nose.  Now you have the face drawn on your bead.

The first thing to paint is the eye color.  For this, take a round toothpick and snip the end off of it, as you can see in the first two pictures above.  Dip the tip into your eye color paint, then carefully dab the paint color into the entire area of the U shape of the eye (these dolls don't have eye whites...just my preference).

Next, use a new toothpick,  cut the end off of it, and dip it into your mouth color, load a little more paint onto this pick, then place a dot of paint where you marked for the mouth.  You can leave it just like this, which gives a sort of astonished or quizzical look to your doll, or you can take the sharp tip of another toothpick and pull the paint at the side, which is what I did to make the mouth above.  You can pull the paint up slightly, to give a grin, or down slightly, to make her more pensive.

With a new toothpick, dip very lightly into brown paint and dot the two points for the nostrils.

And finally, take your very fine brush (and in my case, my courage) and dip it very, very lightly into black paint and paint the curve of the top of the eye, and the eyebrow.

After the eye color has dried (and make sure it is dry...acrylics take about an hour), with another toothpick, dip the tip into black paint and paint in the pupil, leaving the eye color surrounding the side and bottom. 

Blush the dolls cheeks by putting a bit of blush color paint on a paper towel.  Dip a dry brush into the paint just at the tip, then scrub this on the paper towel until the brush has very little paint on it.  Rub this round the cheeks until you have them blushed to your satisfaction.  If you need more paint,  just dip the brush in and scrub most of it off on the paper towel.

After the pupil paint has dried, add the eye light with white paint and the tip of another toothpick.  And now you're done!

I carved and sanded and painted my dolls over the course of a week.  The last doll I made, which is Hitty size, I decided try some antiquing medium.  To apply, make sure all of the paint on the parts is very dry.  Leave them for 24 hours before applying the medium.  Use a brush barely loaded with the medium, and brush it all over one part, then wipe the medium off.  It leaves a patina on the doll parts that make them look older and somewhat used.  I was afraid of using too much, so it may be hard to tell from the pictures:

Both of these dolls were painted with identical flesh paint and white socks.   The one on the left was antiqued, the one on the right was not.  You can see the effect best on the sock in the middle picture.

And finally, a comparison between the first Peg Hitty I made, and the last one, which was finished up this morning:

The doll on the left in the large image is the latest doll, the one on the right the first one I made.  You can see that the neck area is more slender, as are the ankles.  The shoulders and hips are more rounded, and the inside arm area has the clothespeg whittled down a bit more.

In the images the side, the right hand doll is the more recent one; these are closer pictures of the shoulders, wrists, and ankles.

Now, all they need is some hair!