I have two notebooks dedicated to doll ideas. My doll ideas have gone through an evolution from when I first started. Years ago, I wanted to do something with the 25-27cm Volks Dollfie bodies. They came in a range of skin colors, height, and bust size (recently discontinued). But, I knew with my schedule that it was going to be a while before I was able to tackle another craft like doll customization.
Flash forward a few years and while pinning away on Pinterest I came across this little beauty:
There was so much to love! The sweet little expression! The tiny detailed clothes! The utterly beautiful hair from wool roving! And, she was made of cloth. I’d seen and owned cloth dolls when I was a child, but none as sophisticated as this. I was instantly drawn to the idea of combining two things I love: dolls and sewing. How hard could it be? (famous last words)
I mulled over which dolls I really loved and of course Blythe was in the top 5. She’s very popular in Japan and if you’re lucky enough to have a Kinokuniya Bookstore near you you can find issues of “Dollybird” Magazine with clothing patterns and customization tips for her.
They’re so cute! But I don’t make big head art, so after a few tries making dolls with oversized heads I realized that they weren’t going to make me happy. They are just too far from my own aesthetic, which is more mid century, 60s and 70s.
I started focusing on dolls that were closer to my artistic style~
Barbies from the late 60s to early 70s are my favorites (pre Superstar face mold). Characters such as Barbie, Francie, Casey, Julia, Stacey, & Christie. You used to be able to buy Barbie & her friends as blonde, brunette, or redhead- even as different shades of each. And characters like Francie, her mod cousine from England had brown eyes and a straighter body to reflect the Carnaby Street Twiggy look. I love me some side eye!
Les Petites Mains makes these lovely cloth dolls with wool roving hair. Her color palette is so dreamy.
The amazing Nadya Sheremet. Look at the face on this doll! The face embroidery is so fine and I love that the hair is made from embroidery floss.
Delphine Manivet This was a lovely little doll made for flower girls, but is no longer available. I flipped for this doll. I loved everything about it. The simple face, and the slim arms.
The mighty Momoko. Momoko is a Japanese doll who stands 27cm. She features the side eye that I go crazy for as well as the most beautiful clothes.
Japanese dolls in particular seem to be addicted to giving the side eye. I think what I love the most about this is that the expression is ambiguous from different angles.
And of course cloth dolls based on the doll patterns of Edith Flack Ackley–
It was the Ackley dolls and patterns that crystallized a few things for me like the neck construction. I also borrowed her foot construction as well:
Before that I had the typical cloth doll legs with the seams running down the middle. I’m too embarrassed to show you them bc they make me so unhappy!
Next I’ll post about some of the books and tutorials I used. I had never made a doll before and definitely needed help. The most frustrating part is that you don’t know how good your pattern is until the very end. You have to draft, transfer, sew, cut, and stuff before you can see the flaws. That’s why my house is littered with past dolls, half stuffed and then I had to stop bc suddenly there was a huge problem staring me in the face. Whew! I’m so glad to be done! Now I get to move on to the infinitely more fun part of designing clothes!