I was asked by Ann from Pattern Division to preview her Patty Doll pattern (above and not yet on her website), and I was delighted to accept as I could envisage my new granddaughter playing with it at some point.
I began with a scrap of bedsheet, left over from a dress I’m in the process of making, which I dyed with raspberry tea in an attempt to replicate a skin tone. Then I was faced with embroidering the face, which I find quite stressful as it’s easy to create a creepy face.
I chose to use threads from a bag of Japanese embroidery floss which I bought at the Fibres West garage sale. It is exquisite thread to use, and I was so grateful to have it.
I didn’t do the best job, but I decided to treat this doll as a bit of a practice run, so I didn’t worry too much. I gave her green eyes as I suspect my granddaughter will finish up with green eyes, as both her parents are green eyed, and I went with traditional colours for the nose, eyebrows and mouth.
This close up she looks a little wonky, but not too bad from a distance. There are some options offered which mean that it’s not necessary to embroider the face, printing it on instead. This is an excerpt from the instructions:
“There are two ways to make this doll. Traditional or print-and-sew. The traditional version is more customizable. The print-and-sew version is faster and easier. It is also possible to combine the two, for example, make a print and sew doll with fabric scrap wardrobe or a traditional doll with printed fabric clothes or coordinate some of the prints with your fabric scraps.”
I quite liked the way she came together. The back of her head is slightly gathered into the front, and the body is gathered onto her chest to create a realistic shape.
From the back, the legs are gathered into her waist, giving the impression that she actually has a bottom, which I really like.
I’ve made other rag dolls and they tend to have long thin arms and legs that end in points. This one has shaped hands and feet, with a useful strategy in the instructions for sewing round the shapes, although the feet on this doll didn’t quite work as planned.
I think I was so concerned about over stuffing that I under stuffed! She’s certainly soft and pliable but I think I could have put a bit more stuffing in her neck. I like to use eucalyptus fibre for stuffing – it is sustainable, hypo-allergenic and much healthier than poly fill. I usually use tiny scraps of thread and fabric, but I decided that fibre was a better way to go for this doll as it squashes down when the doll is being dressed.
The next job was to attach hair. I made a wig and hand stitched it on by hand. She had a slightly Elizabeth I look, and I considered a fringe, but a quick chat to Ann, the designer, convinced me to unpick it and reattach it further forward. Her forehead is possibly still a bit high, but I can live with it. I used alpaca wool for the hair, so it has a lovely soft feel.
There are some patterns for clothes included with the doll pattern, and this is the dress and trousers. The dress has one pattern piece and I made both items from a vintage sheet. I’m not sure I got the neck of the dress right, but I fudged it. Neither item is especially easy to get on and off, so I’ll be interested to see how a small child manages things.
I wondered if I could make her sit nicely if I sewed a couple of groin creases.
It did work but it takes effort.
Whilst she can sit she’s now too bendy to stand!
There is even a pattern for shoes, so I found a scrap of really thin leather, and tied them on with crochet cotton. No sewing required for these!
I began to think about making her some jeans and before I knew where I was I had hacked the trousers into a little pair of dungarees. I simply extended the front of the trousers and shaped the top into a bib.
I fashioned a scrap of the shoe leather into a heart decoration for the front, which I hand stitched on. I made a pair of straps which I stitched to the back and crossed them over. Of course, after the event I thought that I should have put pockets on the back. Duh!
I was then faced with how to secure them at the front. I didn’t want to risk buttons or poppas/snaps, but I found some of that commercial poppa tape in my stash (left over from my own babies), so I sewed that on.
It’s a bit bulky and untidy as I folded the edges of the tape in, and I immediately planned on unpicking it and sorting something else out.
I’ve also made the included skirt pattern and tee shirt. The only pattern I haven’t tried is the messenger bag, which is a knitted tube, done on a small circular knitting machine. I thought I might sew one from leather.
I was able to produce the skirt and tee shirt within a few minutes, but I am finding the neckline a bit tricky to finish neatly. I tried a blanket stitch on the machine for this tee shirt, but I think in future I will be hand sewing the necklines. Since taking this photo I have tucked the neckline under and caught it down, it was just too untidy for me to put up with.
I made the tee shirt a little wider than the pattern and quite like the oversized look, and it goes so well with her overalls.
I tried the blue dress my mother knitted for one of my dolls, which would be more than sixty years old now. I’m happy to report that it fits her perfectly, so her wardrobe is growing! I might have to rummage around and see if there are any other small dolls clothes tucked away.
I’m now planning to make her a zero waste tee shirt and a winter track suit, and then I’ll wait and see if I can garner any interest in making more clothes from any child in my orbit! I also plan to make another doll as they are always better in pairs!
After I had finished the dungarees I thought that I could have used velcro to secure the straps – so I unpicked the snap tape and sewed on some hot pink velcro I bought in New York. It works much better, looks a bit tidier and I can adjust the straps depending on what she has on underneath. I deliberately left that little bit of pink peeking out so you could see how well it goes with my topstitching. The topstitching has suffered somewhat from being unpicked several times, but I decided that it didn’t matter!
I thought I’d better get on with the preview part of my brief. The doll itself is a fairly easy sew, but, because of the shaping, it’s a bit more interesting in its design compared with others I’ve made, The clothes are very simple, which is a clever strategy – a small child would be able to sew a few seams and have a garment. There are no fastenings and many of the hems are simply pinked. These are the sort of clothes we all sewed for our dolls as children, and several people have told me that their first makes were either the dolls themselves, or their clothes.
There is plenty of opportunity for embellishment too.
I added a bit of ricrac to the hem of her dress, and some vintage lace round the neck. I am visualising a bit of embroidery on something and also the use of some vintage linen, like table napkins or even handkerchiefs. The doll comes with patterns for a dress, top (same pattern, just shorter), pants, skirt, shoes and messenger bag. How easy would it be to add a cape or coat, knit her a little jumper, and what about a hat?
The bottom line is that I have really enjoyed this little foray into doll making and am wondering why I enjoy making her clothes when I haven’t been able to push myself to make many for my Luna Lapin, or any for poor Hugo the hound! All fabrics and notions used for this make are from my stash and they are either scraps or repurposed. It’s such a nice way to use up all those tiny bits of things that I can’t bring myself to throw away.
The last thing for me to do was to set up a little tea party. I got out my tea sets, and afternoon tea was enjoyed by all. Luna is dressed by @Marythimble and the kangaroo was made for me by @Morrissews, both of whom can be found on Instagram.
I have had so much fun with this doll and am very grateful to Ann for giving me the chance to bring her into my life.
Just a quick note about my main image: I thought I’d make Patty look like a farmer, and as we’ve had a Pose with a Chicken moment over on Instagram, (thanks to Liz Haywood), I thought I’d use the chickens that my mother made to put in the garden of one of her dolls houses. One of them even has a piece of straw stuck to it!