Michigan Doll

So I’ve had this desire to create a doll for a few months now. I wanted her to be kind of plain, but beautiful in her plainness. I wanted thick yarn hair. For her clothes I wanted to be able to change outfits, the first ensemble is a pair of pantalettes, petticoat (19th century underwear) and a simple dress with echoes of the late 1830’s.

First stop was the sketchbook, to rough out the idea.

Doll Pattern Sketch Main
rough sketch for the dolls.

I imported that sketch into Illustrator, and used it to make a pattern for the torso/head, arms and legs. It took three pages to print out the pattern. The final doll ended being just shy of 18″ from head to toe.

Once I had my pattern, I laid out the fabric for the body. I used just a plain homespun-y cotton I had on hand. I plan on using a lovely nice soft flannel for future dolls.

Tracing pattern
Tracing pattern
time to cut out the pieces!
time to cut out the pieces!
Holiday 2012_010
ready to sew!

Once I had all the pieces cut it was time to sew it all together. The arms were by far the hardest. The little thumb was tricky to sew on the machine. I did the arms first, stuffed them and sewed the elbow and wrist joints flat. Then I sewed and stuffed the head on the torso, fitted the arms in (kind of like you would do for sleeves) and stitched down the sides. I left the bottom open while I sewed and stuffed the legs, then stuck those in and sewed them in and the torso shut. I used the sewing machine for all of this, though it was a little tricky in some places, it probably would have been easier to do parts of it by hand….

Holiday 2012_018This is the complete body form! Notice the pink felt heart? That was hand-stitched with love 😉

Now to add hair! I wasn’t sure exactly how to go about this, I looked at a few pictures online of other yarn doll hair. (They weren’t much help) I didn’t take pictures of the process of this, but basically I sewed a row of longish loops for the bangs, then flipped and did three rows or really long loops for the main hair. I used a frankenstein’d backstitch. After much messing and fussing I stumbled across this beautiful knot for the hair, the it’s basically a sideways inside-out french twist… I tacked down the bangs and edges of the hair so it wouldn’t move. I also played with a few different braid options.

hair sewn down
hair sewn down
December 2012_009
final hair-do. I added an orange yarn headband.

I did not take many pictures during the clothing making process either, I was rather absorbed in it. I did create some basic paper patterns for the pantalettes and petticoat,

First Doll_002

First Doll_004

First Doll_032
Scandalous! A lady would never show her underwear, but she agreed to do it so you could get the effect of the layers of clothing.

Then it was on to the dress! I used the petticoat pattern for the skirt, and added two extra panels to make it fuller. I wanted the skirt and top and accessories to be independent of one another. Most little girls like to mix and match outfits. 😉

Here’s the final product!

First Doll_031
I made a fashionable shawl out of a pretty green patterned cotton.
First Doll_033
The blanket she’s laying on is a hand-crocheted bedspread that belonged to my Great Grandmother.

First Doll_034

So this is Eleanor, she is the first of what I hope to be many dolls inspired by history, lore, and life. In my head I envision these lovely hand-made dolls, that reflect the heritage of the Great Lakes and Michigan. (or whatever tickles my fancy!) What do you think? Would you buy one for your little girl? (or for yourself?)

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8 thoughts on “Michigan Doll

    1. The “Frankenstein’d backstitch” means I ended up with a very untidy, uneven, sort of haphazard stitch. Though, now that I know what I’m doing, next time around it will be a lovely uniform backstitch!

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