Wanted: Craft Coach

Is there such a thing? Kind of like a life coach...someone who could come and sit with me in my sewing space and help me prioritize and focus and work more effectively.

Because really, I think I have ADD or something when it comes to "my creativity" (not sure how to word that?). I have so many projects all in various stages of completion and yet I'll often sit with my morning coffee, admiring others' projects, or some new idea will come to me as I'm shuttling my kids around town, and then I'll think I have to make THAT...NOW!!!

Many times, I'll go rummage through my supplies and find what's needed. Or I'll spend my spare minutes that day driving around, buying the necessary yarn/fabric/supplies. Some of the time, I'll even trace and cut patterns or cast on stitches. I'll work for a day or two...and then I'll see or think of something else I HAVE TO MAKE (and the project I was working on gets cast aside) and it all starts again.

Okay, and some of the time, I actually finish a project or two. But seriously, I need to stop this and just finish many of the projects I have already started.

For instance, this weekend, this is one of my distractions. Not at all what I intended to work on, but something I just have make right now!. And now that this "one-piece wonder" :) is almost done, I've already started on my second one.

But I have another big doll that still needs hair! And doll clothes that need to be sewn! And those Valentine's PJs that are cut, but still need to be serged! Argh. I need an intervention.


Meet Goldilocks

I love looking through flickr sets or scrolling back to the beginning of someone's blog and watching their creative-style really develop. Part of me wishes I had started this blog a few years back for that reason.

So, while I have a couple dolls that are *almost* done, I thought I could post about a few past dolls that I've made. This was a key one. A topsy-turvy Goldilocks doll.

I started this doll during the Summer of 2008. And she started out as a regular doll for my youngest. I used a vintage pattern for her head/torso and arms. I believe the pattern was either an Alice Brooks or Laura Wheeler one. But after I sewed/stuffed the head and body, I just did not like it. The torso was so TINY and the head was so BIG. The limbs were supposed to be button jointed, and maybe it all would have looked fine when done, but I scrapped the project for a few months.

Eventually I decided to use the head for practice and went ahead and hand-embroidered the facial features. It was my first time doing embroidery like this.

And at the time, I was really happy with the results (I've gotten more critical these days :-P). I hated not doing something with her, so I somehow came to the decision to make a topsy-turvy doll. The tiny torso would be hidden this way.

While I do own a vintage pattern for a cloth Goldilocks/Three Bears topsy-turvy (the very pattern my mom used to make one when I was little), I went ahead and tried to do this on my own. And I learned a few things about making dolls like this.

For example - the reason the arms on topsy-turvy dolls are so little is because they get in the way otherwise when you flip the doll over. Of course, I didn't realize that until afterward. Look at how long I made the bears' arms! They are hard to stuff under Goldilocks's dress. And their head is too huge!!! But because Goldilocks had such a big head, I thought the bears' head should be bigger :).

It took me two attempts to get Goldilocks's dress right. And while I usually only use wool stuffing for my dolls and toys, I did have to use a bit of polyfil for the bears' head so that it wouldn't be so heavy and dense. I think I used bamboo, too, I can't remember.

I made up the design for the bears' head and then used one of those Carol's Zoo patterns for Baby Bear.

Okay, and this is one of my favorite parts of this doll - Papa Bear's overalls (which you can only see part of here...he's sitting in a canvas bucket for the picture). The overalls are made out of a pair of my husband's old jeans. I ripped off one of the back pockets and used that, too. It's not just Mama Bear's job to carry Baby around!

Anyways, the reason this doll was so important was because it really started me on my journey into making my own dolls. The toys we've always chosen for our kids have been those made of natural fibers - wood, cotton, wool, etc. We are big fans of Waldorf toys. I've even made some Waldorf dolls for my girls. And while I love Waldorf dolls, I realized that I could make dolls that are just as "natural" in content, but different...still wholesome. I can use 100% organic fabrics for doll bodies, clean-carded wool to stuff them, and natural fibers for their hair. And even more, I love making their faces (the primary thing that really sets them apart from Waldorf dolls). I told my husband that hand-sewing their facial expressions feels like drawing with a needle and thread.

After toying with a few other vintage patterns, I started to draft my own design, redrawing lines/curves numerous times. I love the "baseball" style head construction, but I am not a fan of button-joints myself. The doll pattern that I've been working on for over a year has the baseball-style head, but with a more traditional rag-doll style body. There are still kinks I'm working out, but the design gets a little better each time I make one.


In bloom

While much of the country continues to enjoy its snow and winter-like weather, it feels like nothing but Spring around here. Our neighborhood trees are covered with blossoms. Pink and white trees everywhere! Quite beautiful. And actually, I think their appearance has peaked; we're starting to see more and more tiny flowers dusting the ground and little purple or green leaves sprouting on branches.

Most of the trees are pink, much to my girls' delight.

To mark the occassion, the older girls and I made our annual cherry blossom branch last night. They had more fun with it this year (less frustration with the glue and tissue paper sticking to their fingers).

My oldest used a watercolor pencil to draw/paint a branch and covered that with a few blossoms as well.

And I made a wee blossom doll to add to the nature/seasonal shelf while watching American Idol. Of course, I had my youngest daughter's *help*. I can't begin to count the number of times I had to re-thread my needle :).

I'm not sure when Spring officially starts, but today was full of sunshine and warm temperatures. There are rumors that rain is on its way this weekend. Still, Spring appears to be just around the corner. At least it is for some of us :).



A few weeks back, I finally made a trip to Kinokuniya, a Japanese bookstore not far from here. After walking around the store a bit and I discovered a goldmine...a whole aisle of sewing books! Shelves and shelves - and of course, I couldn't read any of the titles!!! I had no idea how to even begin looking through these books. I spotted Girly Style Wardrobe, which I already own and LOVE, and dozens more books like that. It was actually overwhelming.

My younger two daughters were with me and, as if on cue, they started racing and yelling up and down the aisles. Ugh. I knew my time there was limited so I just started yanking books off the shelves and flipping through them as quickly as I could. I ended up just buying one book but plan to go back soon. Next time I will go ALONE :).

This is the book I bought (for cheaper than I could have on etsy). It's cute and I'm sure I'll try out this pattern at some point. Lots of cute doll clothes, too!

I love the hairstyle on the redhead below.

Lots of cute accessories and shoes, too.

There were several aisles full of cute Japanese notebooks, pens, bento supplies, you name it. The girls were falling apart by that point, so I just needed to pay and get out of there. I did manage to grab this little guy on the way to the cashier. He currently has a spot up on our seasonal/nature shelf. It is Year of the Tiger, after all.


Hope for Haiti

My oldest daughter and I just finished up this doll, who will eventually be sent off to Haiti as part of a larger effort coordinated by Sarah Hanson, of Dolly Donations. Sarah is partnering with The Abundant Ground Foundation to bring 181 handmade dolls to an orphanage in Haiti. Her website is exciting to follow, watching the dolls trickle in from around the globe :). She also has a great (free!) rag doll pattern, as well as tutorials on painting features and other doll-making techniques.

More information on the doll donation drive is available from the Abundant Ground Foundation here.

We decided to add a little pocket so her new owner can store a tiny treasure or two.

We'll be sending off Hope (what my daughter has named her) to The Abundant Ground Foundation tomorrow. My daughter is working on a little note to tuck in the pocket.

Thank you, Sarah, for organizing this effort! It was a cause we couldn't pass up.

ETA: This doll was made from the (free!) pattern designed by Emily Martin/Inside a Black Apple available here.


Valentine's Day

The girls and I have been busy working on Valentine's Day crafts. One more day and there are still a few projects left to complete.

So far, there has been a little hand-sewing (by my oldest daughter),

...a little hair clip for middle daughter, made from the rose barrette tutorial at The Purl Bee,

...a few little hair clips for youngest daughter's playgroup friends,

...some Valentine's-themed recycled crayons for preschool classmates (inspired by this post at thelongthread.com),

...and, a whole bunch of Valentine's (we made over 50!). Both older daughters chose to do the usual around here - watercolors in reds and purples on several sheets of watercolor paper. We then cut out heart-shapes and the girls have fun decorating with an assortment of stickers and doilies. Here is one before it is slathered in stickers :).

Back to work...


The Thimble People!?!?

How is that I've never heard of The Mary Frances Sewing Book: Adventures Among the Thimble People before? I'm amazed. To think that online stores that I buy from regularly (like A Child's Dream Come True), carry/carried the book and I've only recently stumbled upon this sweeet find. Where have I been?

And by stumble...I mean stumble. Several weeks ago, I purchased a page that was pulled from an old, original edition, 1913 children's sewing book. The etsy ad said that the sale included the pattern for the dress below. I had planned to crop and frame this page, though, now that I have it in my possession, I want to keep it intact (the page features a different dress below it and has the pattern, including tissue paper, adhered to the back). I think I'll just have a nice print made of it and frame that instead. How cute is this? (The colors are a bit off here.)

The seller also sent this page and the patterns for these pieces.

Anyways, after the etsy purchase, I decided to look into what this "1913 sewing book" was all about...and I fell in love :). I now own a new copy of the book and all the patterns (I had to buy the patterns separately). I've put the book aside for my oldest daughter's birthday in May, but I can't resist flipping through it almost every day. And I've already picked out the fabric to try out the Afternoon Dress above. I'm not waiting until May to make the dress, either.

I can't wait to read this book with my girls! These illustrations...the characters...the basic hand-sewing techniques covered.

Perfect and lovely.