Thursday, May 26, 2011

A leather-Headed Doll

This is Bess, the Innkeeper's daughter from The Highwayman  She stands about 15"  high. I made the head about ten years ago, and couldn't bear to part with it. 

Probably a wise move, as I can now say with confidence that these formed leather doll heads are stable. The humidity  and heat of Arkansas doesn't seem to bother them any more than the chill and central heating of England. The colours stay true, the head holds its shape and the hair stays in place. Of course, if you crush the head, it will buckle and dent, but I'm hoping people treat their dolls with more love than that. Bess was tough enough to travel backwards and forwards tossed into my luggage.

 Seen here with my thumb, to show scale. Bess's shift is made to a traditional pattern, found here.  Chemise . It's make from a cheap and slubby cotton, to look homespun.

Patterns like this are one of the reasons I love the interweb. It's not just a series of tubes. People discover and develop ideas and share them freely. Remember when this wasn't around? I mean, I love libraries, but they never had more than one decent doll-making book and they would have some wonderful books on period costume but not much in the way of resources on how to make the clothes.  It wasn't because people weren't as smart; it's because they were working in isolation with research limited to whatever book were available. See how much better it is when we all share?

Uh, enough of that.

Anyway, her shift was as authentic as I could make it and her 18th century corset was made using the extraordinary Custom Corset Generator . When it says custom, it really means custom. You can make a corset for yourself, your hubby, or your Barbie.  I added top-stitching to imitate boning channels which made the corset stiff enough to shape Bess's figure once it was laced up the back. Her heavy black skirt was a faded piece of silk noil. It's not a fabric I was familiar with, but silk noil has just the right weight and drape to look like woven wool on a doll. It frays like buggery, but that's a price I'm prepared to pay.

She has real human hair. Yes, I know the idea makes some people shudder. My sister-in-law braided and styled it for me, as I'm a cack-handed hair dresser. She needs some silk red ribbons for the love knots and then she's complete. It only took ten years.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Constructed Alice

This is a doll I made last year. Or was it the year before? Either way, I gave it to my youngest daughter. This is an Alice, younger than she is in the book, but asleep and dreaming all the same. I took this photo of her in my hand to show scale.

She's sculpted from polymer clay; head and shoulder, legs from the knee and arms from the elbow. The body is sewn from tea-stained cotton curtain lining, which I used to buy at John Lewis but can't find in the US. The fabric has a slight sheen and a lovely, soft warm surface. Thinned acrylic glaze is used to blush the soles of her feet, her hands and her face. As she's sleeping, I just needed some colour on her eyelid and on her lips. I'd intended to sew her head to her body, hence the holes in her chest, but in the end I glued it together.

The hair is from an old hair clip, washed and straightened with boiling water. There's a very user-friendly tutorial here Tips and tricks for Doll hair for cleaning, straightening and styling doll hair.

This is Sleeping Alice completed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Red haired rag doll sitting by the pots.

 Today's doll.

Maybe if I post a doll image a day I'll get something done? Here she is, in all her fabric glory. If you're offended by naked rag dolls, look away now. She has a arm/shoulder joint I'm trying out, that gives her more movement than either up-and-down or forward-and-back. It also gives her shoulders, which I'm hoping will look better under clothes than other joints. The little satin-stitched heart idea came from my research into Raggedy Anns, which have a red heart with 'I love you' on their chest.

She has a poseable hand, with the fingers stuffed with pipe-cleaners. It's better than most hands I've done, so I'm encouraged.

Today is my daughter's birthday, so, Happy Birthday Daisy!

I have some sweet daisy patterned fabric that might just fit this doll, too.

Sunday, May 8, 2011



Wow! I learned how to post pictures! These are examples of the dolls I make. The top two ladies are essentially the same construction, (sculpted head and limbs on a cloth body), but the one on the left is paperclay and the one on the right is polymer clay. They are about 8' high and they are both unfinished.  

Beneath them is a leather-headed doll on a cloth body and limbs. Yes, I know, 'a leather head' suggests unpleasant mental images of horror films and mad axemen wearing someone else's face. (Why do they always choose axes, I wonder?) However, the doll is a gentle creature, named Hazel and no axes were involved.

Below Hazel is a head-and-shoulders of another air dry clay doll. I was familiar with polymer clay, but was obliged to use paperclay because my oven died, halfway through a chicken chasseur.  It was a revelation!  (Not the chicken chasseur. I mean, it was tasty, but hardly an epiphany) Paperclay is a wonderful medium, lightweight, forgiving and blessedly devoid of moonies, dirt and other hazards of polymer clays. It paints beautifully, and has the saving grace of allowing you to completely repaint a head if you don't like your first effort. The brunette above is on her third face.

I ought to finish her, too.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Commision!

I have a possible commission! A Raggedy Ann! I'm thinking of charging a dollar an inch. Unconventional, I know, but I've never made one before. Charging for rag dolls by the inch might be the easiest way to go.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Dipping toes

I don't have anything particularly grand to say here. I like dolls and I like making them. I'm hoping to share methods and techniques, and generally wave my dolls at everyone in hope I can find some of them new homes. I'll be open to commissions and suggestions and gentle criticism.

I make rag dolls, and dolls with limbs and heads of polymer or paper clay. I make dolls with leather heads, which sounds exotic and gruesome but isn't, honest. As soon as I work out how, I'll post tutorials and patterns, although it's pretty outrageous of me to suggest I can add anything new to the huge and wonderful flotilla of dollmakers already gracing the web.

Wish me luck?