I was ready to start making doll clothes before I’d even finished my doll. I’ve been drawing their clothes for the last couple of years and going to fabric stores & picking out fabrics & trims. Basically endlessly geeking out.
Concept art of Posy Rabbit’s clothing. She wears a Biba inspired outfit. As you know from this post- I love Biba.
Working on the slopers in Photosop. If you haven’t seen “Moon” starring Sam Rockwell and directed by Duncan Jones (David Bowie’s son), then you need to.
Posy is a patient model during the fitting
Drafted & sewn tiny shoe prototype along with a sketch of Posy’s teddy or camiknickers
Well, tomorrow I have to get the apartment ready for out Wednesday night get together. I have a full day of cleaning, grocery shopping, & baking peanut butter cookies scheduled. Then, Mikael’s parents are coming up for a visit. They’ll be here Thursday which means I won’t have any time to work on the final versions of her dress, teddy, and shoes. She has a caplet too, but the drafting on that is obviously very, very fast and easy.
I have a couple of blog posts I’d like to work on about my favorite illustrated books that remind me of summer, as well as a post about Biba fashion. Hopefully I’ll get to them along with the Sherlock t-shirt I’m working on.
If you want to see my wip in a more timely manner, I’m on Instagram.
The Complete Book of Dollmaking by Pamela Peake. It’s a really simple introduction I picked up years ago at Half Price Books in Berkeley. It’s a great book for beginners who just want to make a cloth doll to get their feet wet while perusing other doll styles.
It gives a basic overview of different kinds of dolls, but if you want to really make something complicated, I’d pick up books specializing in just that particular kind of doll making.
This basic cloth doll has a separate head and a simple body.
My initial dolls used this basic idea- separate head & center seamed legs. It was a good learning experience.
This doll has a shaped bust that I tried out, but ended up rejecting. I did like this head shape more though & it introduced me to the idea of placing a stick to strengthen the neck. The pattern itself is missing a leg piece, but it would be easy enough to draft.
This felt doll is very cool. With a little tweaking you could get a really beautiful looking doll reminiscent of Dare Wright’s, Edith from the “Lonely Doll” series of books. In the future, I’d like to experiment with making my own felt masks. I haven’t yet though so I can’t say if this system works.
The book comes with patterns you can photocopy & enlarge.
Storybook Toys by Jill Hamor is awesome. Half of it is dolls & the other half is stuffed animals. It’s for an intermediate/advanced audience. Beginners beware.
Most of the dolls have “baseball heads.” See the seaming? Like a baseball. They were super popular in the 50s & 60s. Understandably, Jill doesn’t want you to use her patterns to make dolls to sell, but you can find similar vintage patterns online that are in the public domain & use them. I toyed with using the baseball head as the basis for my lady dolls, but the style is much better suited to children’s dolls, especially if you’re crafty and want to make a kid an American Girl’s style doll without the hefty price tag.
She makes the most beautiful yarn hair I’ve ever seen. It’s labor intensive, but turns out beautifully.
One of the first dolls in the book is a flat pancake doll to get you started. She’s really cute.
Some of the patterns are both in the book pages- to be traced or photocopied-
While others are on a pull out sheet in the back.
More Felt Friends from Japan by Naomi Tabatha. Nearly all of the items are felt animals, but there are a couple of awesome dolls.
Some of the patterns are inside the book, waiting to be traced, while others are inside the dust jacket, also needing to be traced.
Miss Kitty & her amazing wardrobe made me buy the book. Everything is made of felt, so hemming is pretty much nonexistent. It’s a great place to get the feel for constructing tiny doll clothes.
I LOVE Japanese pose dolls, so this was a big selling point. The dolls are anchored to their bases. There are simple instructions for wiring them that is way, way easier than what I’ve seen in other books. I wired a few of my prototypes, but the extra time and expense wasn’t worth it. Maybe if I ever convert one of my bookcases into a doll house then I might make posable dolls.
There were a lot of other books I found at the library. But they mostly focused on making cloth art dolls that didn’t appeal to me.
That’s about it. I’ve been working on Posy Rabbit’s tiny wardrobe. I love sewing tiny clothes!
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!
After an embarrassingly long development, my dolls are almost done. Posy the Rabbit is roughly 12″ tall, not counting her ears. I made her 12″ to fit into 1/6 scale furniture, in case I wanted to stick her in a Barbie sized apartment. For something so simple, these dolls took forever. It was a constant process of paring them down. I actually don’t like overly realistic dolls, which is why I like Barbies from the 60s & early 70s better than modern ones.
That sword I’m using to sew with is a doll needle. It’s 5″ long.
Tucking and sewing the rabbit ears.
Just like in my paintings, her extremities are also blushed.
And here she is next to her original sketch, which also shows her costume that I’m making. I’m having a lot of fun making early 70s inspired clothes for her. I love Biba and Ossie Clark so I want to explore that very lovely and romantic look.
After a year of futzing around, I finally got my doll pattern exactly the way I want it.
Pascale, Rose, Silvia, and Martine will be fitting together soon. My other dolls need some 60s dollybird company.
And WOW! Instagram just really does NOT want to show up. What’s with that?
Thanksgiving was delightful and now we’re gearing up for Christmas. We keep things very low key and try to focus on enjoying just hanging out. It’s cold up here in Northern California- not Mid West cold, but when you can see your breath, it’s cold.
I’m mostly recovered from the “mini flu” and sinus infection and slowly getting back into working. I’ve reached a pretty good place with my dolls, pattern wise, and now I’m painting their little faces.
I’m really excited to start their tiny clothes! I’ve had their clothes sketched out for ages and it’ll be delightful to actually see them put together.
A few years ago I decided to make some jointed paper dolls. Unfortunately, after they were finished my printer decided to die, so I never posted them. But, gearing up for some painting has made me realize that, since I usually post digital work, no one is familiar with what my paintings look like. I use a stippling/ small dash method. Not a big surprise, but I like Wyeth’s beautiful tempuras combined with the flatness of medieval manuscripts. So here they are:
I LOVED doing this project. I LOVE Agatha Christie and became quite infatuated with the archetypes peppering her work (that’s a kind way to say that complex characterization was not considered her strong point). I read nothing but Christie for almost two years. HERE is the link to some of my Christie books. I’m particularly attracted to their lurid covers. I love mysteries and since it’s Autumn, it’s the perfect weather for magic, mystery, and beautiful colors. These were, not surprisingly originally painted in the Fall. They are all gouache on Acrylic paper.
The Spinsterly Sleuth (obviously Ms. Marple) with her gardening gloves, spade, birdwatching glasses, embroidered knitting bag, a book to track clues, a cup of (hopefully poisonless) tea, and a scrap of burned paper (most likely a clue). In case you’re wondering, I have a very similar skirt and the exact same shoes.
The Clever Vicar is genial and well liked. He’s known to take an active interest in his parishioners and always has time for a hard luck case and a shoulder to cry on. So who was that letter written by and how did his letter opener get so… bloody?
The Dark Horse is the Vicar’s wife. She loves venturing into the forest alone to collect flower specimens and store them in her vasculum. However, her bloody pruning shears and burned envelopes seem more than a little suspicious. HERE I am working on the “Dark Horse.”
The Good Sport is the envy of every man for both his talent at tennis and his beautiful wife. He never loses his cool, on the court or off, but then, what are those stains on his sleeve and racket? With so many questions to answer, no wonder he needs a scotch on the rocks. HERE I’m working on the “Good Sport.”
The It Girl- that chimeric creature both sporty and a bombshell (The lovechild of Katherine Hepburn and Gene Tierney). Highly competitive, with a wicked temper (usually where he husband is concerned), she longs to be taken seriously at golf and escape the shadow of her more famous husband. No wonder she claims to have had one too many martinis and can’t remember how her golf club could have possibly gotten so bloody.
I have sketches for more, but I’ll probably convert them into illustrations. The next set will be “English Seaside Murder.”
My doll making progress so far:
learning to paint on fabric & experimenting with faces. Whoops! found out the dry time is about an hour, otherwise there’s lots of bleeding.
A while ago Elsa posted about dolls which started me thing about making dolls- again. Years ago I became infatuated with volks dolls, especially the 1/6th scale. But adding yet another projects to drawing, painting, and sewing seemed pretty over whelming. But after Elsa’s post, I reconsidered making dolls and perhaps making them out of cloth. When I was a child, my favorite doll was my Bradley pose doll, who I still have. I started searching for tutorials on how to make something similar and found some great resources and inspiration~
This is from the Varie Doll book- Japanese, untranslated.