Stoneleigh Dolls

Sunday, 29 January 2012

'Ch-ch-ch-ch- changes'...

I finally fixed Jemima's wonky face. She now actually looks like she belongs with the other dolls. I unpicked her eyes, took off her head and restuffed it, sewed her head back on and then repositioned her eyes.

I also gave her a new blue dress to make her feel better about her makeover...
So here is the garden photo shoot to show off her new look.

I think she looks soooo much better... don't you?

Monday, 23 January 2012

'I am a Pirate King'...

Oh, better far to live and die
Under the brave black flag I fly,
Than play a sanctimonious part,
With a pirate head and a pirate heart.
Away to the cheating world go you,
Where pirates all are well-to-do;
But I’ll be true to the song I sing,
And live and die a Pirate King.

For I am a Pirate King!
And it is, it is a glorious thing
To be a Pirate King!

I just loved Anthony Warlow's Jack Sparrow influenced version of the 'Pirate King' in Pirates of Penzance. He's such a good mimic. His Frank Spencer impersonation makes me laugh so much!

Ok... now on to the knitted dolls...

During my extensive research on knitted doll making, I purchased the book 'Knitted Pirates, Princesses, Witches, Wizards and Fairies' By Annette Hefford. I LOVED the pirate in this book so I decided I would attempt to make a version of him but using the same basic doll pattern as I had for the previous two dolls (from 'Babes in the Wool' by Fiona McDonald). I did this mainly because I really wanted my dolls to be able to mix and match clothes and all look like they are from the same 'family' of dolls... and because I wasn't too fussed on the basic doll design that comes with the book.

So first things first... make the doll. I accomplished that part in about three days... worked out how to modify the shirt, pants and boots to fit my doll, made the headscarf as per the pattern (just on bigger needles). I also decided that Jack would have cool grey eyes instead of brown. I don't know why really except for that fact that I think grey eyes are sexy... and Jack Sparrow should be sexy yes?

Five days later I was at this stage...

MONTHS later... I am still at that stage... hehe. Did I mention I am a huge procrastinator and easily distracted onto other projects? Anyway... at this point I was getting inspired to make a gypsy princess doll so before I finished the clothes I started making my fourth doll.

MONTHS later... I am still not finished the primary pirate outfit for my Jack Sparrow doll, I have finished my fourth, fifth and sixth dolls plus a whole bunch of outfits for all of them and my collection now looks something like this...

You would think that somewhere in that pile of work I would find the time to finish a tricorn hat, a frockcoat, sword and a couple of belts yes?

This is my new mission... finish Jack Sparrow's original pirate outfit! (I am pleased to report that since starting this entry I have finished his sword... I have also knitted up half a pair of cargo pants, a pleated skirt and a sweater dress. HAHAHA! Alright I am hopeless I admit).

I hope by my next entry I will be able to say that I have beaten my procrastination and have actually finished this doll.

Until next time...

Monday, 9 January 2012

'That Redhead Gal'...

My doll projects mostly start with some kind of inspiration sparked by a particular yarn. My second doll was the first project inspired this way. The burnt orange yarn I used for her hair was calling out to me to be made into doll hair.

Meet Ren...

This effort is a vast improvement on my first doll... however it was mostly dumb luck that the face proportions ended up looking this good!

When it comes time to do the face for my version of this doll, I have one piece of tight knitting (the face front piece), it's not stuffed yet or sewn up... and all it wants to do is curl up on me! That makes sewing the face on the way I do with tiny little stitches... quite difficult. I don't want to steam it flat because that tends to take all the 'give' out of the piece... doesn't end well when you want to stuff something reasonably firm.

The only two things I took away from the first doll in regards to the face is that the eyes needed to be lower and the face needed to be stuffed firmer. It was just luck that the eye angles and positioning ended up the way they did. I am extremely grateful for that though because this doll became my template for the rest of them.

Ren was complete... but naked. I looked at her trying to get a feel for what kind of clothes she should wear and decided she needed a pair of 70's style red flare pants... maybe with an embroidered pattern around the lower leg.

So began my first lesson in 'making it up as you go'. I sat down with a notepad, red wool and needles and began, writing down what I was doing as I went. I finished the pants, pinned them together and sort of tried them on. They fit pretty well and I was pleased... this is where the story gets a bit interesting...

I had just been reading up on steamblocking. It was a new concept for me. I decided that I would give it a try on the red flares and see if it made the knitting look better the way it said it did in all the literature.

Well... hmmm... no one made it clear, in any of the things I'd read, just how much bigger the piece ended up being after steaming and stretching into place (exactly the way it showed in the video I watched). I spent forever trying to stretch the two pieces to the same size (literally had to do it 5 or 6 times before they looked similar) and sewed them red flares now came up to Ren's armpits and had lengthened an inch on each leg and could no longer be worn as they were originally intended. So I put them aside for the moment and decided to knit something else.

Eventually the (formerly) red flared pants manifested in my mind as something I could turn into a pair of overalls or similar. So I dug them out of their hiding place, embroidered some quick flowers to match the buttons I had picked out, knitted some quick straps with a button hole and sewed them on...


Amazingly enough... these coveralls ended up being a great fit. Now all I had to do was knit a little top to go with them and some sort of shoes and Ren was good to go.

In the meantime, however, while the red 'flares' were hidden away from view pretending to be a failure, I had been knitting other clothes for Ren.

I had some cool looking camouflage coloured wool that looked like it would make a good jacket so I followed the jacket pattern in Fiona's book and made one. I also put my mind to designing and making some kind of boots that looked like chunky boots and gave some foot definition to the doll. So I had a cool jacket and boots... not the sort of things that would go with a pair of bright red coveralls with pink flowers. I figured the top I was making for the coveralls could double as something that would work under the jacket, so I picked green. Then I made a simple dark red skirt.


I still haven't made a pair of shoes especially for the red coverall outfit, but the boots do fine for now since the pant leg is so wide.

Ren plus two outfits was now complete... for now. By this time I was starting to get inspired to make the next doll... I'll tell you about that soon.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

'Wanna be Startin' Somethin'...

Going back about eight months now... I had the urge to knit (quite an interesting development since I hadn't actually done any knitting since my childhood... er... 25 years ago). I had no yarn, no equipment, no patterns... so typical me I went nuts and raided craft shops galore, creating a huge mountain of yarn and anything else that I thought would be useful.

Now the question was, 'What would I knit?'

I love dolls. Always have always will. As a child I had (still have) the biggest barbie doll collection ever. I was meticulous with them, nothing was ever broken or lost and my collection just grew and grew. The other thing I always wanted as a child was a rag doll. One with a big wardrobe that I could dress up every day. I never actually had one of these... but when I was eight I tried to make one. I drew up a pattern on some material and enlisted my Dad to sew it all together (my Dad was extremely handy with a sewing machine having been in the clothing manufacturing industry since he left school). It wasn't the best looking doll in the world but the process of making it and attempting to make clothes for it was really fun.

So... what would I knit? I had zero interest in knitting jumpers and hats so I decided I would make the dolls I always wanted as a kid. All sorts of dolls... I could start a hobby and be a dollmaker! My imagination ran away with the possibilities. I decided I could sew rag dolls too and maybe down the track get into sculpting dolls. I wanted to get started instantly! Of course the next thing to do was buy every book I could find on the subject. I bought dollmaking books, doll wardrobe books, knitting patterns and anything else I could find. I googled everything I could think of and spent hours and hours reading and getting ideas. Once my brain was full I was ready to start. I hadn't yet bought a sewing machine so I decided that I would start with knitted dolls.

I discovered something... I LOVE knitting dolls. I am still yet to make a sewn doll even though the sewing machine has been sitting in its box for a while... lol.

My favourite doll pattern is the last one from Fiona McDonald's 'Babes in the Wool' book. These dolls looked gorgeous in the book. I decided to use the basic pattern but I already had ideas for how I wanted to do the faces. I was creating dolls that I would have wanted to play with when I was a child so I decided I needed a sewn on face instead of paint and glue.

I thought my first effort wasn't all that bad... at the time. I named her Jemima (seemed like a fitting name for my first soft doll). Looking back on it the face proportions are all wrong and my stuffing effort was woeful! I made some clothes from the book and sat back and looked at my first effort.

(It is worth noting that this doll is currently being remade. She was my first so I need to keep her... but she looks all wrong next to the others)

There was no way I was going to stop there so I made some more clothes from the book...

By this stage I was hooked. I decided I would try to design something myself and came up with this dress.

There is a lot I would change about this dress now that I have spent 8 months designing knitted clothes for these dolls... but at the time I thought this was pretty good.

At this point I was ready to make my second doll. I had some burnt orange yarn that was calling me to turn it into doll hair. So began the next project... but more about that later...