Category Archives: Dolls

Back to basics

Getting back to basics includes expressing gratitude, so let’s start there. I’m grateful for my new juicer, for walks with the dog, especially when K comes along. I’m grateful for hands that still work well enough to be able to make myself a new dog-walk-bag (i.e. one actually commodious enough for treats, poop bags, phone, and masks).

I’m grateful I know what an Oxford comma is, that bleach works on dirty toilets, that I now have chargers in four critical spots in the house.

Also for the gratitude file: the tiny health thing that had me worried even though I pretty thoroughly tamped the worry down, turned out to be 100% nothing. Whew! I was flying high yesterday.

I’m grateful for friends that care about me enough to say: take a news break, Dee, even if I have yet to really manage that.

Besides noting gratitude, historically another basic blog task has been to record progress on projects.

My studio is cleaner and neater than it’s been in forever! How nice is that? Still awful but progress is progress. Also, I’ve been sewing a fair amount without comment here.

For instance, this doll came off The Shelf of Unfinished Creatures last week. I’m calling her the Patron Chicken-Saint of Delayed Success. Maybe just Chicken of Trust would do?

As I wrapped her pipe cleaner arms in fabric, began her wings, and gave her an elegant black lace slip, I toyed with the idea of trusting the timing of things (see note about waiting, above). What if things really do happen when they’re supposed to?

Can you spot the Oxford comma in the paragraph above? I know Liz and Deb will, in any case. Speaking of Deb, the wings will be made of Georgian Magic and I’m pretty sure the polka dot fabric for the arms came from Tina. More gratitude.

Lastly, isn’t it nice to have neighbors with a sense of humor?

Off to the ballet?

Not heading out to the the ballet (who is?), this little arts-enthusiast is off to Connecticut.

I can tell I underpriced her because I’m having trouble letting her go. She’s one of my favorites.

A big gardening day here today. I was supposed to help a friend with her foundation beds earlier, but neither vehicle will start.

Note to self: once charged, be sure to drive each vehicle once a week!

Walking over at the school the other day, two things made me pause. The first was ANOTHER dead bird.

The other was the height of a tree, which I sourced, fund-raised to purchase, and planted back in the day. It was four feet high back then. If you squint you can see the dead robin on the sidewalk where the path turns.

It’s too close to the building. A newbie mistake. Still, it’s lovely.

I thought it was a Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, but now I’m not sure.

Mice-making tutorial

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‘Tis the season for merry mice! Here’s how to make a four to five inch high mouse that will add a festive note to any tabletop or tree.

Supplies:

  • Felt or other cloth
  • Pipe cleaners for arms
  • Waxed linen for whiskers
  • Buttons or beads for eyes
  • Stuffing and small gravel
  • Scraps of cloth for clothing
  • Glue

Notes on materials:

You could make these critters out of any fabric at all — calico, for instance, or old socks. I use acrylic felt because I have a ton on hand from my days of craft fair booth-making. If you can afford it use wool felt, but fair warning, it’s pricey.

Also, I use pipe cleaners for arms because I like them to be bendable, but you could stuff the jacket arms instead.

Tools:

  • Turning tool (chopstick or knitting needle);
  • Doll making needle (not necessary but nice);
  • Wire cutters (if using pipe cleaners)
  • Seam ripper or awl for poking holes (not shown).

I’ll often start by making batches of components.

For the ears, cut outer layer out of black felt and inner out of pink (slightly smaller than the black). Sometimes I glue the pink on black. Other times, I skip the glue and rely on stitching.

Curved ears for mice. Pointy ears for cats. Drapey ovals for dogs.

If you don’t know this trick, you will be eternally grateful to me once learning it: for tough-to-open screw tops, wind a rubber band around the top and try again. Voila!


Once glue has dried, fold and stitch base tightly closed. This needs to be stiff enough to insert into the small holes that you’ll be poking in the head.

Make some heads. I don’t use a pattern but the shape is easy enough. Just be sure to create a long neck because it will need to be inserted into the body (longer than my diagram). Back stitch at tip of nose for strength. Clip seam at tip before turning.

Cut oval bases to size. They don’t have to match.

To make the body, sew up sides and then secure an oval base. It could not be easier. Only two tricks and one suggestion here:

  • Keep NECK OPENING WIDE for ease of reversing to right sides after base attached. You can always take a tuck or two later but (especially if using thick wool), too small an opening makes reversing to right sides impossible.
  • When sewing the base on, be sure to place the TAIL ON THE INSIDE and snake it up the inside. This way, when you turn it right-side-out, the tail comes out of where you want it. I usually center the tail between the base’s two side seams.
  • Lastly, make oval much larger than necessary so that precision is not required when attaching to the body.

Next, add features to the head.

Using an awl or another sharp implement, poke ear holes in the head and insert ears. Stitch, going back and forth between ears or down through the neck rather than sewing one ear first, then the other. It’s much easier. Don’t worry if your holes are too big. Felt is very forgiving.

I haven’t decided whether it’s more efficient to stuff the head first or not. Probably easier to stuff, then insert ears. Certainly by the time you’re attaching eyes, you want the head stuffed.

Attach teeny buttons or seed beads for eyes, again stitching side to side. You can also stitch the eyes.

This head exemplifies not just stitched eyes, but a short cut for when you’ve run out of ears: put a kerchief on. Or a Santa hat!

Cut small lengths of waxed linen, fold, and stitch in place for whiskers. Again, sew side to side. In a pinch, you can use embroidery floss. I usually have to trim the whiskers down after sewing them onto the nose.

Next, embroider nose and mouth, using a contrasting warm-colored floss. You can do this after the head is attached as long as you’re clever about hiding your knot.

Next, stuff the bodies. I buy pea-sized gravel and rinse it for the bottom of the body to give it ballast. If yours are meant to hang, you can use poly-stuffing only.

To make arms, take a pipe cleaner and make a loop at center, twist once around the loop for strength, then stretch arms out and stitch to the body at the loop. Cut arms to size.

This is my way of making arms and a hanging loop simultaneously, but you could use a straight piece of pipe cleaner and attach a thread as hanging loop instead. Also, you could make your arms integral to the jacket and skip the pipe cleaner altogether.

Making clothing and accessories is the fun part. This year, I’m crocheting wreaths and making teeny quilts. Doll making aisles at craft stores are a gold mine of miniature items — wreaths, garden tools, rolling pins — you name it. Good for customizing your mouse as a gift when time is short.

 

Polar fleece is great because it doesn’t fray and more, because I have a bin left over from when I taught third graders mitten and hat-making. (Note: the above mouse’s jacket is secured by straight pins. When I get a second, I’ll replace them with buttons, but I don’t have to, really. Be mindful of recipient. A child might be better with buttons).

Making felt critter clothing offers so many opportunities to reclaim cuffs, sleeves and portions of sweaters gone by! A whole post dedicated to the garbing of mice will follow.

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By the way, to say the obvious, these are SEWN FELT mice, not NEEDLE FELTED MICE.

For darling examples of felted mice, see pix from Instagram, here: MollyDollyNatural.

I plan to learn needle felting someday. It looks like so much fun, doesn’t it?

Vibrations

A Short Tale of Transformation

I was taking a selfie to illustrate the kind of snarky talk siblings sometimes share. Moments earlier I put on the pants that my sister says ‘make me look like white trash’. Then I donned a shirt the same color as the one that inspired her to say recently, “We’ve gotta get you out of dirt colors.” As I dressed, there was nasty self satisfaction and full authorship of my own oppositional nature.

I continued this unpleasantness (really) by taking a picture to illustrate the outfit. And something happened. A halo of sparkles appeared in the background around a recently finished felt critter. Just look at those sparkles! They’re inexplicable, though given the mirrors, windows, and other reflective surfaces nearby, probably not miraculous. Nevertheless, the sight of them did something to me. They changed my mind. Isn’t that a little miraculous, the effortless shift from brute rehash to wonder at the nature of light?

I was reminded of a podcast about a researcher from MIT who was able to record his voice with high powered video off of a BAG of POTATO chips. No surprise (but total surprise) — it’s all about vibrations. (And by the way, all you have to do is google “MIT” and “potato chips” and you’ll find the story — which is another kind of miracle, one made no less spectacular by our taking such things for granted these days).

Using a blurry picture of Miss Mousy and the app PRIMSA, I fooled around to get a sense of her vibrations.She’s rather divine, don’t you think? She’s going to the ballet! She wears a tulle skirt in solidarity with the dancers, revealing an attitude of celebratory participation. You won’t find a hint of bitter defeat about our Miss Mousy, even though at one time she wanted to be a ballerina herself. More than anything in the world, in fact.Look at her polka dot pocketbook! Her anticipatory smile!

Look at her long legs — all the better for being unnaturalistic and sourced from New Hampshire woods.

So yeah, I’m wearing unflattering  jeans and a shirt my sister might condemn in irrational terms, but how comfortable I am! It’s a day I’ve claimed for myself! I’ve cracked one puzzle and another awaits. And do you want to hear the big decision of the day: what shall I make for lunch? Homemade mushroom soup or chicken salad with pecans, shallots, and dried cranberries?

Thank you for the cheer alert, Miss Mousy! What a sweet reminder! She’d never preach, but if she did, she might say something like: focus on polka dots and stripes, my friend — they make you smile.

Critters listening to the news



It was in the 20’s when I walked Finn this morning. I went back for my hat. I’m tired of the cold. And, I’m just tired. Slept ten hours last night and could barely get out of bed. Not feeling great.

These critters cheer me though. Some are waiting for collaboration for wooden legs (the windowsill crowd). Some are just waiting for me (chicken in the studio). The most recent one (at bottom) is raggier than usual and might signal a trend.

Is she a dog? Is she a mouse? Believe it or not, for a while, she looked like an elk. Whatever she is, have no fear — her hearing is sharp! She’s been catching the news and how could she not, pinned to a board 15 feet from the TV screen? I like to imagine this morning that she is cocking her ear to Adam Schiff. Maybe she’s whispering, “Did you say ‘not circumstantial’? Did I hear you say ‘direct’ — as in direct evidence of collusion?”

If her little legs weren’t indigo dyed strips of loosely hanging vintage organza, she might do a little happy dance.