Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Christmas Gifts: Cloth Dolls


Do you ever finish a project and then straight away look for the flaws? I always do. It's a really horrible trait, and not something I do to other people, but when it's my own work I immediately search for the imperfections. The bit that could have been neater, straighter, better. And once I've found it I can see nothing else. 

It gets you no-where, thinking like that. 

If you look closely, you'll see that the left arm on both dolls does not sit as neatly as the right. It should have been tucked in more before I stitched over it. But do you know, I honestly don't care, and I don't think the recipients of these dolls will either. I made them for my nieces, Jennifer and Eleanor, aged five and three. They won't notice and I hope they will like their Christmas presents and just play with these dolls and drag them around everywhere and take them to bed, getting them dirty in the process and they'll end up in the washing machine a few times, as all well-loved toys inevitably do.


No, I am proud of these. I am proud of my careful machine stitching around the hair and hairband, something I wouldn't have been able to do a few months ago. I'm proud of how I made the seams on the leggings and shoes line up so neatly. I love the colours and patterns and their sweet smiling faces and the way they feel when you hold them - soft, but heavy too, as rag dolls should. 

I wanted to make them essentially the same, but different, to avoid competition and squabbles. Sisters eye up what the other has and look for advantages and differences - I should know, I am one of three girls. Both girls are brown-eyed red-heads, and so the dolls are too. 


I used acrylic crafting felt for the hair, hairbands, leggings and shoes. The arms, legs and face are made from some plain off-white cotton fabric I bought in Ikea, and for the bodies I used scraps of Liberty print in Betsy D and Betsy J, a pattern I adore and come back to again and again. I buy small amounts and use it very sparingly. 



The pattern is written by Laura Hunter and is from an old copy of Mollie Makes. (That subscription just keeps paying for itself!) You'll find it in issue 14, and I thought it a really good pattern to work from; clearly written and easy to follow, plus the dolls are not too small which helps avoid horribly fiddly turning-the-legs-the-right-way-out moments. Laid out flat they look like this and measure 43 cm or 17 inches from head to toe. They look a bit like they're in a morgue in this photo, don't they, laid out flat on a white sheet. They just need a tag on their toes.



I finished these dolls last week, but have been waiting for a good day to photograph them. The light seems to be either too gloomy or searingly bright, neither of which is very helpful. Annie wrote recently about the difficultly of taking photographs during the winter months, in particular the lack of daylight, and the challenges it brings. Some things - like food - just don't look so good when photographed in electric light, but I want to continue to share my life and creative endeavours (both the edible and non-edible sort!) here in this space and, for me, that means photos as well as words. So I'll just have to continue to improve my photography skills. I like a challenge.


Thank you for sharing all your Christmas traditions with me. What a great response! It seems the trend in North America is to begin the festive decorating around Thanksgiving, whereas here most of us decorate the tree mid-December.  I think there is something really romantic and traditional about putting up the tree on Christmas Eve, as people used to do, and keeping it there until 12th Night. But my own children would never stand for that, and I know that I want to enjoy the period before Christmas as much as the time after, and so I'll put mine up a couple of weeks before the big day and take it down on New Years Day, which always seems a nice way to mark the end of festivities and the start of a fresh new year.

54 comments:

Swallow Barn said...

those dolls are amazing, you are right to be proud!

A little bit Country said...

I love them, you have done such a great job xo

Colette said...

These dolls are the cutest, I love everything about them, the hair colour is gorgeous!
I too look for flaws in my work, but never on other peoples. What you may see as a flaw is handmade charm to me. I think I need to remember that when I make things! x

Ali said...

Oh they are so cute - I'm so impatient making things instead of taking my time I rush and spoil things or think oh that will do :-( I need to learn to slow down x

Jennifer said...

I know exactly what you mean about noticing all the flaws. I do the same thing and I even have to bite my tongue so I don't point them out to the recipient. Really, the self-esteem just pours forth over here...your dolls are beautiful and I really like that you made them to look like your nieces because I think those are the best dolls. I really want to get one of those American Girl dolls that you can design to look like the child you're giving them to and I've been so annoyed that they have exactly one combination of blond hair and green eyes, like my daughter has. How is this possible? I didn't think it was an unusual combination. I think your nieces will really love their dolls and I can't see how even a moment of rivalry could be sparked (but I have two sisters myself...). :)

Hannapat said...

Yes I'm just the same always looking at the flaws, I suppose it's the nature of the beast always wanting to make it better. I love these gorgeous dolls and you should be very proud as you are going to have very happy nieces. Gorgeous work Gillian xoxo

Vintage Sheet Addict said...

They are fantastic, lucky, lucky girls! :) x

Caroline South said...

They are amazing dolls, you've done so well! I love their sweet faces and the pretty fabrics you've used.
I know what you mean about trying to take photos - I struggle to get light enough indoor photos when its sunny let alone in the winter! xx

Debs said...

They are adorable!! well done. I am sure your nieces will be thrilled to have such a gifted and talented aunt!! I almost wish I was 5 again and had an auntie Gillian.xx

CJ said...

They're brilliant, clever you, and lucky nieces.

CJ said...

They're fantastic. Clever you, and lucky nieces!

Marion Ogden said...

The dolls are beautiful! I especially love the Liberty fabrics for the dresses and the dainty headbands. You've done a wonderful job and I'm sure your neices will love them!

Julie said...

Beautiful, beautiful dolls Gillian! I'm sure these will be well loved. Lucky nieces!

Kate Eastwood said...

They're lovely - and you absolutely shouldn't be so hard on yourself - I would never have noticed !
A really beautiful, very special present.
Kate x

Penny said...

Beautiful dolls made with love will never have any flaws exposed Gillian. Your nieces are going t love them and I love that you have made them similar but different perfect for no sibling squabbling. I think their pretty eyelashes give them such character, you should be proud of your gorgeous hand making talent, your family are going to feel very loved by you this Christmas xox Penny

ellen said...

I do believe that these wee ones will be loved and loved and loved. I think that you did a spectacular job...and the "loving on them" will only make them more precious. Well Done!

Leanne said...

Little dolls with red hair. That rocks any day of the week. They are so cool, a bit sixties in their style. I love that. Clever girl.

Leanne xx

Joanne Retzler said...

Those little girls will love those dolls! They are adorable! Nice job! xxoo. JO

Annie @ knitsofacto said...

I see nothing for you to find fault with here, they are beautiful and will be much loved I'm sure. In fact I reckon that your neice's family history will in future include 'The Christmas Auntie Gillian (or are you Auntie Gill?) gave us the dolls' :D

Amy at love made my home said...

I genuinely cannot see any flaws Gillian, all I see are two absolutely beautiful dolls, that I am sure your nieces will love! I see only one problem - Bella will want one too! xx

Cheryl mylittlepieceofengland said...

They are beautiful, really something to be treasured. I'm definitely a harsh critic on myself and it stops me doing things sometimes, silly I know! I can't see flaws in your dolls, they're gorgeous :) xx

Coal Valley View said...

They are absolutely gorgeous Gillian. Perfectly imperfect. I love them and the girls will too, for sure! As for Christmas traditions, we usually start decorating 1 December and everything has to be packed away before 1 January - nice to have a fresh start for the New Year :-) xx

Anna-Marie Field said...

Hi Gillian, They are absolutely gorgeous!!! And really they look far too happy for a toe tag!!!! I think the little imperfections that only you know about is what really makes handmade goodies so special!!! Nothing is suppose to be perfect!!! Well done and they will be much loved, I am sure!!! Have a happy week!!!
Love
AMarie

CJ said...

Oops, thought I'd lost the first comment, so I did it again. I don't think you can have too many compliments though!

Jacqui Galloway said...

Your nieces are soooo lucky to be recipients of these fabulous dolls. Jacqui xx

Gillian said...

Auntie Gilly. :-)

FunkySteph said...

I have seen them on IG and I find them beautiful! Your nieces are lucky and I am sure they will love them very much!

FunkySteph said...

And I thought I let a comment on your previous post, but it seems not. We start decorating the house a bit beginning of December as here, in Luxembourg, we celebrate Saint Nicolas which is December 6th and public schools are off. Children also receive gifts and the tradition in the country is that toys are brought by St Nicolas, they receive little or no gift on Xmas. We keep our tradition of presents on Xmas eve, but St Nicolas also bring a little something which is more of a book or small gifts. The tradition also says that if children were not nice, they will receive a stick instead of gifts...
We usually put our Xmas tree between two weeks and a week before Xmas and keep it until January 6th. In the early days of December, I usually take a day off from work and bake all day "bredele" which are traditional (from East of France) Xmas cookies. It is a very important day for me as it usually sets me in the Xmas mood...
Have a lovely day.

Thomasina Tittlemouse said...

These are so lovely Gillian! They will undoubtedly be loved to bits! Not literally but figuratively! You are an auntie in a million! E x

Chrissie said...

Absolutely gorgeous, *flawless* dolls! They are real treasures, and the sewing is amazing! Well done you!!! Chrissie x

forgetmenots blue said...

Lovely dolls there so cute I still have the head one made I must finish it. Got to love Molly makes. Your doll certainly look flawless to me! Great choice of colours and fabrics xx

sustainablemum said...

They, are beautiful, delightful and totally individual and I cannot see the flaws you pointed out! I am sure they will be much loved and played with by your lucky nieces.

Helene said...

You should be proud, these are so gorgeous, I love them!! I love the hair colour, I love the eyes and I love the beautiful Liberty dresses.. well done!
I know what you mean about looking for the flaws though, I'm exactly the same!! Hoping no one will notice them at the fair tonight!!

Christina said...

I love those dolls Gillian, they are beautiful.

I am a perfectionist, too, although I have been trying to be less critical of myself lately. Not very successfully I should say: just yesterday when working on the second sleeve of my knitted jumper and whilst counting the decreases I needed to make based on the first sleeve, I noticed that they were not regularly spaced. I am so annoyed, I really am. I then spent the rest of the evening resisting the urge to frog both sleeves and start anew. Because (of course) the finished sleeve looks just fine. But the temptation remains.

S said...

I'm terrible for picking holes in whatever I make and have been trying to just keep going anyway - it's paralysing otherwise and I'd end up with nothing done at all!
Your dolls are lovely and handmade quirkiness is far nicer than production-line perfection.
Sarah x

Jacqueline said...

They really are cute and they look perfect to me!

Mereknits said...

You are being way toooo hard on yourself, these dolls are adorable. When you make things they are not supposed to be perfect, they are made with love and that is the most important thing. Well don,
Meredith

the linen cloud said...

Your dolls are beautiful ... they will be well loved ... but I know what you mean about seeking out flaws ... I do it too but I must learn to stop ... and photographs here are nigh on impossible too ... I must try harder ... Bee xx

Helen - sittinginthekitchensink said...

These are so lovely! Their arm quirks will probably just make them better for cuddling :) I know what you mean though - it's very easy to finish something and feel dissatisfied, even though others would look at it and just see loveliness (as we have all done for your dolls!) Be pleased and proud and happy with them - you'll make two girls very pleased I'm sure! xx

Sol said...

They are lovely. Will you be making and selling any in the new year? if you are I would love 3 please

Susan Smith said...

That first paragraph is me down to a T. Critical of my own work, but encourage others not matter what it looks like. I'm a Virgo and it seems to be a trait that comes with that star sign. I've learnt (though only recently), it is the enjoyment of doing something and the bigger picture of the finished product that matters and that you had a go. The dolls are so cute and they will be loved for a long time. Keep doing and take care.

katie said...

These are fantastic, I want them for myself let alone my daughter. They are brilliant, wonder if I can still get Mollie Makes on the ipad... thanks for sharing x

Julie said...

You always put things so eloquently. I always have to point out all the imperfections before anyone else can - witness my post yesterday about my new quilt. It's a very annoying habit and one that is hard to break. Though my excuse is that I'm helping others to learn from my mistakes! xx

Charmaine said...

they are so beautiful, I'm sure they will be much loved! x

Kate-Em said...

These dolls are fabulous, gorgeous dress fabric and I like their little hair bands. You are right to make them similar to avoid arguments. I understand the imperfection thing but it is true that it is only you who will notice. I am saying that having re-knitted half the front of a jacket tonight as there was a tiny mistake but I knew it was there and couldn't let it go!

Julia said...

The dolls are so adorable, and I know your nieces will love them! I would love one of these for my little Charlotte! You really are so talented and should be so very proud of yourself.

Lisa said...

You should be proud Gillian, they are a triumph. I wish them many washes in the machine to show how loved they are! Your nieces will be thrilled.
Lisa x

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A Little Blue Dragonfly said...

These are adorable! I love them! I know EXACTLY how you feel about looking for your imperfections. Me, too. But, really these are so sweet and so well done! Your nieces are going to be over the moon excited!

Samantha Roberts said...

Your dolls are so cute and look perfect to me. I've made these and my little girl just loves hers (it's called Nipper - don't ask) I'm sure your nieces will love their gifts too. sam xx

Ladybird Diaries said...

Both dolls are just gorgeous! They look perfect to me. I am sure they will be very well loved by your nieces. Such lovely, thoughtful gifts made with love.
Marianne x

my little red suitcase said...

gorgeous dolls, I love their head bands and dresses, really lovely! Heather x

mags said...

Love them! And you know none of us can see the flaw. I remember these in mollie makes and they are such a good choice. I remember reading that Japanese artisans will deliberately add a flaw because only god is allowed to be perfect! Xx

Gillian said...

Hi Sol. Thank you. No, I wont be selling any as the design is not mine to sell. But the designer, Laura Hunter, does have an etsy shop.
http://www.etsy.com/people/rovingovine

Gillian x