I’ve made a rag doll and I am totally besotted.
Sadly she’s not for me – she’s for a very special little newborn girl, who I hope will enjoy playing with her as much as I enjoyed making her. She is from the book by Jess Brown which was kindly lent to me by Carolyn, after I saw her beautiful doll.
In my defence, I wasn’t going to shamelessly copy Carolyn. I had already invested in some vintage doll making books as I had something particular in mind and had a strong feeling that this baby was going to be a girl.
When I heard that this baby was expected, I thought I would make it either a doll or a teddy as my most treasured possession is a teddy bear that my Mum made for me whilst she was expecting me.
I still have him, his name is Ted (I was such an original child), and I slept with him every night of my life until I got married (and even then I secreted him into the bed on occasion). He comforted me through my boarding school days and broken hearted moments.
You can see that he is threadbare and that his clothes, feet and hand pads (do teddies have feet and hands?) and eyes were replaced by my mother with regularity – I note the eyes – she clearly had no issues with choking hazards! All his limbs are jointed and he used to have a gorgeous growl.
My other treasured possession is a doll made for me by my Great Aunt Freda. She made both of my sisters and me a doll each, and this was the style of doll I was originally considering.
I have to say at this point that GA Freda was considerably more talented than me. She was the head designer at the Royal School of Needlework (where the lace for Kate Middleton’s wedding dress was made) and designed the embroidery on Queen Mary’s coronation robe, and luckily, I have a few of her pieces. The face on this doll is painted on and she used to have red shoes. I hadn’t realised they were missing until I took these photos. All of her clothes are original. My eldest sister had a doll dressed in green (said doll is currently MIA – we need to hunt for it), and my elder sister has one in blue.
This doll also has jointed limbs and if you’ll pardon my indelicacy, I thought I’d show you her underwear. Her original knickers complete with lacy trim. Cute huh?
OK, enough, back to my doll. I am so glad that I made this doll. I’ve been carrying her and her clothes around for more than a month, and I’m finally finished. I did vary the construction slightly. I didn’t like the raw edges suggested in the book for the body, so I sewed her bottom with right sides together before turning her right side out. She looked like she was doing a fancy yoga pose.
Here she is stuffed and ready to be “humanised”. You can see another doll in the background – she was a practice one, and was the model for all the clothes as I traversed the continent, so I wouldn’t make the real doll grubby.
The first thing I had to do was embroider her face and craft her some hair. Once I had done this she immediately took on a life of her own, complete with personality. She sat there, arms folded, tapping her foot, telling me to get on with dressing her and stop faffing about taking photos.
To say that I am pleased with this doll is an understatement. Her legs are the same length, but I managed to get a twist in the left leg when I was stuffing it. Her hair was just wool from my stash (my mother’s stash, actually), which I cut into lengths, machine stitched to hold it together, and hand stitched to her head and then deplyed/unplyed. I simply unwound the twist in the wool – I was going for Edwardian-era ringlets, what I got was 1980s dodgy perm, but no matter. I was going to give her a trim, but didn’t because this is the hair I would choose for myself if I had the right genes!
The gorgeous thing about this doll is that she has a wardrobe. The book has patterns for all kinds of clothes.
She’s dressed here for a bit of baking. I smocked the top of the apron to change it a little bit. I also changed the design of the dress slightly. It is supposed to have ties at the shoulders, but I put elasticated straps on as I thought the ties were too fiddly. The doll gets dressed from the bottom up, rather than over the head, so I made the body quite squishy so that little hands might be able to manage it (although I think Mum or Dad might have to help).
Cooking is complete, she whips off her apron and is now ready for coffee with friends or some gentle shopping.
I put ric-rac round the neck of the coat and used it for the tote strap. How cute is this outfit? It is predominantly red because that is the baby’s mother’s favourite colour. I hand stitched the front of the coat, and used my new vintage sewing machine to sew it up, but of course didn’t have red thread to hand, so it doesn’t look as good inside as I would like. I did consider unpicking it but I don’t have a good track record of unpicking knits.
As autumn is r
ound the corner here I made her an outfit for cooler weather. This time she has a knitted cape. I used some local wool that I had dyed with red ink sundew bulbs (and got a rather strange colour), knitted a 3/4 circle and used the thread ends to crochet a button and loop. I knitted the cape on our road trip and I had wanted it to double up as a skirt, but this girl’s waist is a tad wide, so it didn’t work. The hat is made from a bit of knitting tied with some red cotton.
She does have another little outfit – this time a predominantly red floral dress with matching bloomers/pantaloons/britches/knickers. The red hat is very cute but I can’t get it on over her hair, so it wasn’t added to the wardrobe.
The first outfit.
The book is designed for a novice sewer, I think. Most of the edges are left raw, but I didn’t like that much. I either hemmed or used binding, but the red coat and trousers are made from t-shirting, so I simply pinked their edges, although the front edges of the coat are turned under and hand embroidered. Every part of this doll and her wardrobe is from my stash. All the clothes are made from scraps, except the knitted cape and hat and all fabrics are 100% cotton or wool and organic where I could (the red knit, for example). I felt that the baby’s mother would appreciate my eco-friendly approach to this doll.
The baby was duly presented with her new doll (to my joy, it is her first doll), and a bit of discussion resulted in the name “Emmaline”. This may change of course, but the doll has a bit of a retro feel, so needs a retro name. I got permission to put up a couple of photos – here she is looking quite pleased with her new friend.
but now she’s a little bored
…and I’m not sure what this look is about, but clearly she’s a bit unsure about what’s going on with this new addition to the family!I do hope that the baby enjoys this doll. It won’t matter if she pulls her hair out or if the clothes fall apart. Everything is able to be remade and it is all washable. I am glad that she has a lovely new home, although I shall miss her!