The Doll Design Process – Felt Character Dolls

It’s funny to look back on how things came about isn’t it? I really love pop culture and have been working on a doll design that I could replicate the general look and feel, but change up enough to make any particular person I wanted – and I think I have done it! But first let’s take a trip down memory lane…

There are the first few dolls I made, based on the Gingermelon Best Friends pattern, Mimi Kirchner free felt doll pattern on Purl Bee,  pattern and the Black Apple free rag doll pattern on Matha Stewart.

Dolls - first doll comparison 29 January 2016

It was exciting times, with my hands busy sewing and my Pinterest account getting alarmingly high with inspiration pins. I did experiments in how long it takes to hand sew a doll and tried a lot of Gingermelon and Noialand designs. From there I kind of combined the two styles of smaller felt dolls and the larger ragdoll pattern which became my next doll incarnation – a David Bowie Doll. His minimal design meant it was for someone to identify the character but without too much detail.

David Bowie - Life on Mars?

Given my limited sewing skills/impatience I wanted to keep using felt, but looked at making the doll a little longer, more human shaped. You can see below the different head styles and calculations I was doing to get the right look and feel.

Developing Designs - Mr Darcy spread 3 April 2015

The one you can see in the middle is pretty much the prototype I went with but added some seam allowance so I could sew it with the sewing machine – hand sewing was way too much bustamychops for me! And this is the final outcome –

TADA!!!!

Developing Designs - Mr Darcy felt 25 June 2015

How have you gone with creating your own unique design?

Weekend Project: Mr Woodland Fox

Despite my previous observations on the time it takes to hand sew felt toys, I really love sewing them, especially ones from Ginger Melons beautiful designs. My most recent pattern purchase has been the woodland creatures and I was very excited to give Mr Woodland Fox a go!

THE PROJECT

Making Mr Fox was a little quicker to make due to machine sewing the body. It also called for Fray Check for the eyes and being me, I hadn’t read the pattern when I first got it and was a 1.5 round trip away from getting any… so what is a girl to do? Improvise with.. superglue!! Well, it worked for the most part, although some parts were veeeery hard to punch the needle through! ( I have since added fray check to my inventory).

Making a mess in the making... and doesn't the face from the back look creepy!?!!

Making a mess in the making… and doesn’t the face from the back look creepy!?!!

There is a little bit of machine sewing which sliiiiighly makes things faster. It is probably because this is my fourth or fifth Ginger Melon pattern, but the progress of this one felt more streamlined and more enjoyable since I was not stressing about time or understanding what I am to do.

The bits and pieces of Mr Fox.

The bits and pieces of Mr Fox all in a row.

THE OUTCOME

Okaaaaaay, so I think Mr Fox is the CUTEST THING EVER! I really love his angled head and I think the colours I chose really offset each other well. I really love him! I think when I get the chance I will do a batch sew up of some more – what’s the group name for foxes?

I shall have a skulk of foxes! 😀

Gah! Cuteness overload!

Gah! Cuteness overload!

What animal do you love to make?

~ Emily

Soft Sculpture Bird: Rainbow Crow

Atfer I finished my Reginald entry, I decided to try another pattern from Abby Glassenberg’s ‘The Artful Bird’ from which I had previously made the soft sculpture swan. I am leaning towards making more lifelike birds in the future, so I chose the Crow pattern to get me started

THE PROJECT

I have a bit of black felt in my stash, but since this was only my first attempt, I wasn’t keen on using up the good felt until I got it right. I have quite a bit of coloured felt scraps, so I googled ‘colored crow’ on the off chance something might pop up and to inspire me and came across this beautiful story of a Native Indian legend of the Rainbow Crow.

You can read the full story beautifully told here, but in essence the story goes…

“The story of the Rainbow Crow is a Lenape legend, symbolizing the value of selflessness and service. After a long period of cold weather, the animals of the community become worried. They decide to send a messenger to the Great Sky Spirit to ask for relief.

The Rainbow Crow, the most beautifully feathered bird, offers to make the arduous journey. He travels safely, and is rewarded by the Great Spirit with the gift of fire. He carries the gift in his beak back to his people, but he is not the same bird upon his return. The fire has scorched his plumage black, with only hints of his previous color, and his voice has been made rough and hoarse by the smoke.

His sacrifice is commemorated through his iridescent feather that hint of his previous color that reflect when sun light strikes them and the fact that he is never hunted and will always remain free.’        – Wikipedia

For some reason I didn’t take too many ‘work-in-progess’ pictures, but here you can see how it came together.

The multi-coloured detail of the Rainbow Crow.

The multi-coloured detail of the Rainbow Crow.

THE OUTCOME

I love how colourful and bright it turned out, but felt was much harder to work with than I imagined and even the better quality felt pilled a bit. The embroidery was all off the cuff, so some of it is just a big mess! But I suppose that is the point of a first go, to figure it all out – I just have trouble letting go on the expectation that it should all come out perfectly. :/

But overall I am happy with this little fella!

Rainbow Crow

Rainbow Crow

NOTE TO SELF

1. Work on the legs. This ones a a little bit wobbly and a bit short too I think (the tail hits the ground and scrunches up a bit)

2. I did a half embroidery on once side, and a full head of embroidery on the other. I think the full head is a little too much, so need to hold back and think about it more next time before starting. And maybe actually learn some embroidery techniques instead of just winging it!

3. The felt still pilled a bit which I do not like. Too much handling I think, so might try a different material next time like linen.

4. While I like this bird, I am disappointed in the amount of detail I could achieve. There is so many fine, intricate patterns on feathers that really make them so fascinating and I didn’t achieve that with the Rainbow Crow.

But over all, it was fun to make a bird that stood on its own. And to have another go at gussets! (making more sense – yay!) And I love the story behind it, which gives him more value than just his looks 😛

 

Do you get inspired by legends and fairy tales?

Making a Reggie: My softie competition entry – David Bowie!

If you have been following my instagram you will have seen that over the past few weeks I have been making a ‘Reggie’ – a doll to submit to the first ever Reginald Award for softie portraits. I have been soooooooooo excited about this competition and been racking my brain trying to decide who I could choose to do a portrait of.

If you read this previous post, you would already know about my love of David Bowie 🙂 But it wasn’t until last year when I watched the documentary David Bowie: Five Years in the Making of an Icon that my interest was sparked in discovering all the colourful and unusual personas he created through out his career.

THE PROJECT

The softie for the Reginald Award had to be created from an original pattern so I decided to start my foray into softie designing with a very simple outline shape and add the character details to the key features. David Bowie has had some very complex costumes in his time (!), but I decided to keep it simple and chose David as he appeared in the music clip to ‘Life On Mars?’.

From concept to completion - David Bowie softie

From concept to completion – David Bowie softie

Because of the chunky human form I had chosen, I decided to go with a more interpretive way of presenting his features, especially since the video is so blown out you can’t see much detail anyway!

You might be wondering where the nose is...I have officially decided I don't do noses - they never look right!

You might be wondering where the nose is…I have officially decided I don’t do noses – they never look right!

THE OUTCOME

Overall I am pretty happy with the way he turned out!! I love the face especially, but I can see there are a lot of areas for improvement. I think he jacket isn’t long enough and some of the seams I sewed in blanket stitch would probably have been better in applique or back stitch.

David Bowie - Life on Mars?

David Bowie – Life on Mars?

IN CONCLUSION

Making a Reggie has been so much fun! I am thinking I miiiiiiight be able to squeeze in another go before the deadline and make something even better to submit instead… but I know my procrastination level, so no promises there!

Are you making a Reggie too? Tell me how you came up with you design!

Sewing Time Experiment: Gretel Felt Doll

It is in my nature to underestimate the time it takes to do things, hence our family tradition of always being late ಠ_ಠ (I am working on improving that!) So when I sit down to create, I always think I will be done much sooner than it ends up being in reality.

THE PROJECT

Given this, I decided to find out how much time I actually spend on a project, to give me some hard data to work with. I had downloaded Ginger Melon’s Hansel & Gretel pattern over Christmas, got the timer on my iphone ready and started cutting and sewing!

GingerMelon Gretel doll

I took the time to make sure her stitches were neat and I am really happy with how nearly she turned out.

THE OUTCOME

So, just to get to body complete (from cutting out pieces to attaching all body parts) it took me a total of

….drum roll please….

FIVE HOURS and FORTY THREE MINUTES

WHAT THE WHA??!?!? Holy crapola Batman, that is sooooooooo long!!! Admittedly it was a new pattern, although the technique is similar to several others I have made, and I spent the time to make sure she was finished properly, but that is waaaaaaaay longer than expected!

Breakdown
Cutting felt: 38 mins
Sewing head and features: 1hr 48mins
Sewing arms and legs: 2hrs 2mins
Putting body together: 1hr 15mins

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to keep up the timer for the clothing, but I estimate in total Gretel has taken me at least 4.5 hours for the clothing, so a grand total of 10 hours to make her come to life.

All the finer details of her pretty dress

All the finer details of her pretty dress

NOTE TO SELF

1. Cost effectiveness: just to pay my time at $10 per hour would make her cost over $100, not to mention costs of the materials or any profit!

2. I did really enjoy creating her and seeing her finish come up so evenly. I will attempt Hansel when I have some more skin coloured felt, but I think handsewing these dolls will be for fun only :/

Gretski all done and dressed up

Gretski all done and dressed up

Very interesting findings and a lot of food for thought came for making of Miss Gretel, got a lot to think about in the direction I want to head with my softie creations.

Have you had a project that took longer than you expected?

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