Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wednesday Craft Group - baby's first doll tutorial

Today my friend Helen came to share with us how to make a sweet little first doll for a baby from a recycled woollen garment.
Helen moved to Australia from New Zealand at the beginning of this year and she brought with her some lovely ideas from the craft group at the Steiner school her daughters attended there. This little doll is not new, rather it is in a classic 'Steiner' style ~ simple, natural fibres and no facial features; what makes it a little different is its lavender 'heart'. We added a small sprinkle of dried lavender flowers wrapped in fleece when we stuffed the bodies to soothe the wee ones off to sleep.
Helen also explained that when she was taught to make these little dolls they made them with the inside outside. The reason was because it had been worn by another turing it inside out gave it a new side.

Helen didn't mind at all when I asked if it was ok to share today's session in the blog sphere; so I took pictures as we went. They are a bit dodgy tho because I only had my phone camera on me.

Everything I write from now on is a bit, shall we say 'organic' ~ there isn't really a pattern or a size; there is a general shape tho! here goes:
The picture above shows the shape you need, the (very rough) dimensions of this piece were 13" by 5" and curve your corners.

Next make a head. To do that get some fleece and starting small, wind up a tight ball shape until it is the size you need; keep in mind that babies have big heads ~ the proportions are 1/3 head 2/3 body. These dolls are more like 1/4 head 3/4 body...but they are in sleeping bags!

Now stitch up your side seams ~ right sides together. You could do this on a machine or by hand using either running stitch or back stitch. Fold it in half lengthwise and starting on one folded edge side, stitch down and around the curve ~ REMEMBER you want to leave a hole in the centre bottom big enough to get your head through so don't keep going all the way round! Start back at the other folded edge and come back down and round the curve leaving a gap.
Ok now you put your head in. You will need a length of linen or other strong thread ready to tie off your head. Turn your fabric right way out and fold in in half to find the exact centre on the top edge (not the curved bottom edge with the opening) put in a pin vertically at that point and then push your balled up head fleece through the opening and up to the pin. The pin will hold the ball securish while you pull and stretch the fabric down around it. You are aiming for a neat ball with as few wrinkles as you can manage. Holding the stretched head in one hand wrap your linen thread tightly around the 'neck' of the ball to secure the shape. I wrap three times and knot three times, but whatever works for you.

Once you have done that you will have a couple of linen threads hanging loose. Thread them into a needle and pull them through into the inside of the doll to hide them.

Ok. if you would like to add a lavender heart here is how. Pull off a longish piece of fleece and lay it across your palm, then add another across the opposite way (so you have a cross or X) pinch up some dried lavender flowers and sprinkle them into the centre of the cross and then carefully wrap first one side, then the other and keep repeating the process til you have a neat little bundle - give it a squeeze to release the heady fragrance.
Stuff the doll so that it is cuddly and has plenty of give, not firm, and put in your little 'heart' before you blind stitch up the bottom edge.
Next you want to pull in the edges to make it have arms; to do that hold it up and push the sides in with your fingers til you like the look and it is even. Mark the points your fingers were with a couple of pins.

Now how you do the next bit depends on if you want a centre bow or not. For a very small baby you might prefer not to have any dangly bits of thread they can get their fingers hooked in, so whatever you prefer.
for no bow ~ thread your needed with strong thread, you might like to double it, come up from below your pin and do a couple of small backstitches to secure it then push your needle all the way through and out at your other pin point ~ pull taught ~ turn your needle around and go back through and out the first side ~ pull taught ~ backstitch and knot to secure then push your needle back though the middle and out, snip the thread close to the doll body.
To make a bow: put the needle in just to the right of centre leaving a tail long enough to tie into a bow, then push the needle through to the left side, turn it around and push it back coming out to one side of the centre back. make a smallish stitch, say half an inch, across the back and then go back in and come out on the other side seam. Go in once more and come out to the left of the centre front ~ pull taught. You might need someone to help you hold the strings secure while you double knot and double bow.
Ok now you just add a hat - you can do this in whatever style you like utilising whichever bit of the garment works. For a long pointy hat, measure around the head to get the length of the flat edgen and try this triangular shape ~ 
The hat below was made with part of a turtle neck jumper. The two above were from the sleeve cuffs.
Sew it up, stitch it on and you are done.


Val said...

How clever :0)
Some of the best ideas have a simplicity about them don't they

Linda said...

How beautiful! I need to make some of these for my girls for Christmas:)
Thank you Shannon

Cheryl said...

So beautiful and so simple in their making. I'm going to add this to my list. Thank you for sharing.

WonderWhyGal said...

Very nice...really makes me want to finish the bunny I started ages ago uses a knitted square I made. I'm awful at the sewing and stitching part.

Zue said...

What a wonderful idea and how beautiful. I bet they are lovely and soft to hold!
Thanks for the tutorial, I may give it a try.
Best wishes
Sue xx

Mummyzilla said...

Hi, I linked to your tutorial. You can find my post here. http://mummyzilla.blogspot.com/2011/07/baby-dolls.html
I loved making these little babies, and my girls adore them as well.

S said...

So glad you gave it a go Mummyzilla - they look beautiful.

Happy Whimsical Hearts said...

Thanks so much for sharing this post, I gave it a go - you can check them out here :-) http://happywhimsicalhearts.blogspot.com/2011/11/baby-waldorf-dolls.html

Kelly Innes said...

I love it: what a fabulous simple idea.

BD said...

I think my litle baby would love one of these dolls :)

Sarah said...

Found your tutorial on Pinterest & I'll be making some this weekend for the children in my child care program as well as my own sweet nursling. Thank you!