Doll Making

22 Sep 2011


As a dollmaker I am solely responsible for every part of my dolls.
My mum does knit the knickers for some of my dolls but every other part is from my hand.

A doll starts as an idea and a longing to see that idea become a reality.

My dolls start life as a piece of cotton tricot, a fabric that is a double sided knit fabric.
 By that I mean both sides of the fabric are the same, like the right side of t shirt fabric.
 I have yet to find an Australian company that makes this fabric in the right weight so I buy my fabric from Europe.
 It comes in a variety of shades and I do find a little difference in the stretch between the shades.

My patterns have developed over the years, firstly based on a generic doll pattern, I progressed through a chubby style of doll to a very slim doll to the shape of my dolls today.
 My dolls are quite petite compared to some but it's a size and shape that suits me and is reminiscent of some of the dolls from my own childhood. 

My dolls are stuffed with Australian sheep wool that I buy mainly from NSW.
I haven't been able to buy any locally unless I buy a fleece and wash and card it myself and I must admit I have been too lazy to do this.
I buy wool as roving , so in long slivers like untwisted yarn but obviously much much thicker.
 I use a different wool for the legs and arms, this time not processed into roving and with a high loft so the finished limb is smoother.

The dolls are put together with a combination of machine sewing and hand sewing and I aim to make my hand stitching as small, neat and accurate as possible because that pleases me.

Once the dolls are together I embroider the face and make the wig.
Many doll makers crochet the base cap for the wig but I knit mine, I am not great at crochet but I can knit just about anything.
Some of my doll wigs are made using a loop stitch so that the hair and the base cap are one, some of the wigs have the hair knotted on to them, some are a combination of the two methods and some are a  carefully knitted mohair cap that can then be brushed a little to reveal a sweet wispy  hairstyle.
 Very occasionally I sew the hair on in layers. It really depends what kind of look I am going for.


The face is sometimes embroidered before the hair goes on and sometimes afterwards for no particular reason.

My dolls are dressed in either sewn or knitted clothes or a combination of both.
Each doll has hand knitted knickers, the 12" and 16" are made by Mum, to my pattern.
 The other sizes are made by me.
I have a huge collection of vintage doll patterns and some of them fit my dolls very well, most need to be altered to fit or just serve as inspiration and I do love the artwork on the old patterns.
 I have certain dress styles that are favourites and I have used over and over, there are some that I improvised for a particular doll and didn't keep notes or patterns and have never been able to reproduce, argh!

Most of the knitwear is from my own patterns and mostly made up as I go along to suit each doll.
I do have some vintage dolly knitting patterns but so far I haven't knitted any of them, one day I will make up an outfit for Debbie and Sue , my old dolls from my childhood.

I get my fabrics from lots of places, from my impressive stash that is a result of having sewn my own clothes since I was a teenager, occasionally I score a vintage piece of fabric from my elderly aunt who has been sewing clothes since the late 40s, I buy from local fabric and patchwork stores and from stores on Etsy.
 My yarns are also from my stash, from local stores and online, the yarns for the hair are often from Europe but also from my local yarn store.

I do love these hand made dolls.
Well I love all sorts of dolls but mostly those that can be played with.
 Until late last year I had only ever seen two Waldorf dolls in real life, the one made  locally that we gave to Kate when she was 2 and the one I saw at my first dollmaking class, oh and a variety of Mama made dolls.

Since the end of last year I have collected 7 or 8 dolls from  international makers and I have really enjoyed seeing other people's work and holding other people's work.
 It would be easy to become a collector except for the cost and that some maker's dolls are very hard to get. Still it is lovely to look and to admire the dolls on Flickr.


6 Responses to “Doll Making”

  1. I found that little glimpse into your dolly making really interesting Jenny. Thanks for sharing. Not being a sewing person I have little idea of the process so it was very enlightening for me. I'd love to watch you stuff your doll and see how the pieces of sewn fabric become the 3 dimensional doll.

    cheers Kate

  2. It is so interesting to read how we all work so different, and at the same time, in some sort of unison.
    I think that is not the careful preparation that goes into your dolls what comes through as special Jenny, is something within you that makes each one of your dolls so heart-warming. Of course that the fact that you are so careful when creating them is what gives them such high quality, but there is a unique aspect to your creations. I love them.
    While I would love to collect dolls as well, life's demands are not cooperating at the moment. Perhaps in my old age I can have an ongoing collection of wonderfully made dolls too, wish me luck!

  3. When you pour your heart & soul into something, it becomes a part of you. So with every doll, you give of yourself and it is truly a treasure.

  4. I too found your dolly making process interesting. The little brown-eyed girl with brown locks looks like my little one. So sweet! I think it's the combination of techniques that you use on your dolls that makes them my favorite. Their size and petiteness is what does it for me :) I make handbags (mostly military but other things also) and love it but since I've had my little girl, I've dabbled in making rag dolls. I like making them but I like making handbags more. I think mostly because I don't have to hand stitch so much... and get into those tiny little places - lol. Your dolls are just so lovely and have inspired me to try new things with my rag dolls. I did buy a kit to attempt my first Waldorf doll. And, I've had it for over a month now and have not started it yet.. mostly because I'm nervous. I have done a lot of research and bought the Kinder Doll book which I've read cover to cover twice. When I get caught up on my purse orders, I'm going to attempt to make one for my little girl for Christmas :) I'll attach my website if you'd like to see my stuff. Thanks so much Jenny, I just adore your dolls and your blog!

  5. As someone who has sewed all my life I can appreciate the effort that you put into your dolls. They are lovely and well made and your careful attention to detail really makes them shine. Their little faces are so sweet and have a quality that makes them very special:)

  6. Jenny I have printed this to enjoy over lunch, thank you.


Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I don't always have time to reply but I do read every message you leave.