Meet the Dolls 2 – The Clog Maker


My second doll is Frank the clog maker.

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He’s connected to Walkleys clog shop in Mythramoyd, West Yorkshire www.clogs.co.uk

Walkleys is a true must visit place if you’re ever in the area, but if not, they deliver. Imagine having an amazing pair of shoes made just for your feet for the cost of a pair of trainers. But having a pair of locally made shoes from the Craftsmen and women at Walkleys is perhaps one of the highlights of this project, the doll is named after Frank Walkley who started the company in 1946. Yes, I am a big fan!

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Frank has a crocheted flat cap, another Yorkshire must have accessory (for the Yorkshire working man, not the women or gentrified hipster! – personal opinion!)

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I managed to carve some small clogs for the dolls feet and well, not perfectly, but the fit, managed to make a functioning shoe. He’s also holding his next clog in progress.

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Meet the dolls 1 – The Fisherman


You’ve seen pictures of him already but let me officially introduce you to William, the fisherman.

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As with all my dolls in my uni project he’s made from all locally sourced materials. He’s 99% wool (a wee bit of Alpaca and a pipe cleaner). He’s filled with British lambswool and a pipe cleaner (made in Huddersfield, 30mins from my home, but I picked it up on my home from Uni, so technically carbon footprint is as low as it can be.

The pattern for the doll is the My Little Crochet Doll pattern that I wrote some time ago and is available on both Etsy and Ravelry. I searched worldwide for a 100% wool in flesh tones, but couldn’t find any, so I had to dye my own. I used a small dye manufacturer a little less local (Sheffield), about a 45min drive away.

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The yarn is Cheviot, a Northern sheep with hard wearing but mid softness, not scratchy, but will stand up to whatever a child puts dolls through. The wool is from British sheep but is spun in Huddersfield.

All the white, greys and brown clothing on the dolls is using a commercial yarn, Illustrious, by West Yorkshire Spinners, I used this to show off wools variety of natural shades. Each doll also has a dyed wool item of clothing.

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William has a blue traditional Gansey and a matching cable hat.  The gansey includes the tradition underarm gusset and a pattern based around the Scarborough and Whitby ganseys.

He is linked to the Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre, a small museum near the seafront in Scarborough but is an amazingly friendly place to visit, They even have a Scarborough Gansey on display and several examples of gansey stitches.

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The camaraderie of crafting


I’m in Birmingham, a place I’ve only ever passed through (well, okay a very short stay here as a baby). I’m here because tomorrow morning I’m running a workshop on electronics in textiles. 

After a sleep in my hotel room to catch up on several disturbed nights, due to my new neighbours dog trying to settle in back home, I come down to the hotel lobby, it’s almost 7pm, I expect most guests will be in their rooms, out at a theatre or restaurant, but no! The lobby has two sofas, both filled with people, to my right is a small bar area with around 20 more people gathering around tables. 

I find an empty table that seats four and take a seat, then as I do whenever I’m seated I pull out my knitting and… well.. I knit.

Within minutes I’m joined by Barbara, there seems nothing strange about our meeting, I don’t need to ask her name. Barbara is one of the hardworking volunteers at the knitting and crochet archive. We chat for a few minutes before she excuses herself and goes to other tables to chat. 

I turn around and see an older woman sitting just outside of a table group. I ask her to join me even though I’ve never met her. She sits for a moment then says she’s left something in her room and goes off to get it, leaving her bag next to me – a stranger.

By this point the number of people gathering in the lounge has grown to around 30 and growing. Nothing seems odd, no one is looking out of place. People who’ve never met are chatting and sharing almost instantly… and yet, it seems to be the most natural thing in the world.


Of course, I’m at the national Knitting and Crochet guild conference, we’re all knitters and crocheters. 

Yesterday I was at an interview, I was talking about crafting as a business and explaining the benefits of crafting in groups. It’s sometimes hard to put into words the instant friendships that can be created through something so simple as a craft group. 

On Wednesday I started a new knitting and crochet group in my local area, seven of us turned up with more people sitting on the sidelines watching. We talked, laughed and consoled while at the same time learning a new, valuable skill. As we meet regularly we’ll find out more about each other, our similarities and differences, we might find we disagree on religion or politics, but we’ll still meet, still share and still look at each other as friends.

This camaraderie is something I’ve been trying to put into words, with much difficulty. On Friday I sat in front of a panel of 10 business people and tried to get across why a social enterprise based on offering affordable and free craft groups was important. It’s hard to describe, but as I sit here in this lobby, with strangers I consider friends I’m realising this isn’t something that can be put into words.

I have friends who belong to a church which celebrates community, I stayed there recently in their community home. If it weren’t for the church my friend and I perhaps would never have met. Her accent often reveals a very privileged background but she met me when I was begging on the streets of London (a very long time ago) and we’ve been friends ever since. Her church often talks about the walls that come down through the church. Rich and poor, old and young… 

Her church experience though isn’t often shown in other churches. I go to a church that I consider friendly, very friendly in fact, but the camaraderie isn’t there. In two years of attending I feel I’ve made one good friend who’s close enough to know me and I her. Two years and still there’s a sense that the majority of people wouldn’t feel safe leaving their bag with me to return to their hotel room. 

It hit home recently when I was down to my last bit of money. I was still a week away from getting any money and I was owed money from the university. I had some food in the cupboard, but not enough to make a meal out of unless that meal was pasta, fish fingers and custard.

My gas and electricity were both down to their last pound and a recent leg ulcer has left me in agony. I was in pain and couldn’t even afford a packet of paracetamol.

Yet, as I sat there, trying to think of a way to get help, going through my list of friends who would console me, there was only one name from church that I could go to. Out of all the 50-60 people at church, there was 1 in two years that had developed a relationship with me enough to be there in my hour of need. That, my friends, is not real church.

It’s a shame, that the crafting community is doing what the churches seem unable to do, but it’s something that is very powerful. 

I see it in the quilting project, where young students begin talking openly about mental health and the effect exam pressure is having on their health. I see it on a Wednesday night when my fellow knitter, Helen, fills her car with folk so no one has to walk home alone, even though it means driving right across town and back again. I saw it on Wednesday as I listened to people begin the process of getting to know each other and I see it here in the hotel lobby.

I’ve been hearing it recently in stories of hospitals taking on a resident knitter to encourage parents to knit whilst their child is in hospital, I’ve heard nurses mention how powerful a neo-natal knitting group has been, and even my friend Helen has shown it by taking her spinning wheel to our hospital.

Where once the church used to be, crafting is coming. 

The Romance of Pattern Writing


I came across a funny little story recently in the book “No Idle Hands – The social history of American knitting” by Anne L. Macdonald.

The story tells of a well known bag maker from New England back in the 18th Century. Matilda Emerson, who had a bit of a thing for her widowed parson.

Matilda decided the way to snag the vicar was to become best friends with his sister (and housekeeper). She did this by offering one of her treasured knitted bag patterns to the sister in hopes of getting in with the family. The pattern was for a mourning bag, complete with willow tree, grave and urn images.

Well, it turns out Matilda wasn’t the only lady with eyes for the vicar. Her romantic rival, Ann Green, got wind of the situation and managed to get hold of the pattern. She changed some of the pencilled chart markings, enough not to be noticed, but to result in the bag turning into a bit of a mess.

Back then, patterns were highly guarded secrets so sharing the pattern with the ministers sister was a big deal. But when the sister realised the pattern she had was a dud she was annoyed. She went to Matilda and told her off for withholding the pattern. Then she went and told her minister/brother the whole sorry tale.

Eventually Ann’s puritan conscience make her confess what she had done, but it was too late. The minister had met a woman from another town and married her making both women lose out on their man.

If there was a moral to this story it might be to keep your patterns to yourself. 

It shows that for centuries we have considered questions of how open we should be about patterns and craft techniques. Matilda made her living from her knitted bags and was well-known and well-paid. Disclosing the pattern to one of her bags would open her up to copies being made and her livlihood being diminished.

I guess another moral might be that no man is worth your livlihood, but that’s just cynical spinster me talking.

I remember hearing a similar secrecy to patterns from the Irish crochet families, who kept guests waiting on the doorstep until all traces of the crochet was hidden away. 

Even today, I have a friend who writes her patterns in code that only she understands in the fear that someone might get her notebook and be able to steal her pattern ideas.

I don’t know when things changed, and patterns stopped being passed solely through word of mouth and secrecy and began being published, perhaps as I read the book further I may find out.

As a child watching my mum and others knit it seemed to be a different situation where knitters bought patterns from huge folders in  yarn shops and the idea of writing your own pattern was unheard of. If you liked something a fellow knitter had made you asked for the pattern number and went out and bought your own copy.

Today though it seems the world is filled with people having a go at writing patterns, me included. Websites like Ravelry allow people to have a go at pattern writing and self-publishing without the need of a magazine editor or a yarn supplier taking their cut. Online shops like Etsy and Folksy let you set up business in the comfort of your own home and even the government seem to be noticing the trend in micro businesses. 

This is a great time to try your hand at self employment or pattern writing and I’ve noticed a couple of books recently published not on pattern designing, but on how to write down the pattern. This might have come about from a frustration from knitters and crocheters at the different styles of writing down your pattern. 

In my local knitting group, during a time when we seemed to hit numerous badly written patterns,  I considered doing my final uni project on knitting mistakes and the strange ways people write patterns down.

None of this even covers the question of whether you should charge for a pattern or give it away for free.

One thing is certain though, thanks to the online resources available, more and more people are trying their hand at writing their own patterns, and this is a great thing.

I wonder, as I attend several knitting/crochet groups on different styles and techniques, will the pattern writing trend move into knitting groups and we’ll soon attend a ‘how to write your first pattern’ event. 

Will we eventually see a pattern writing weekend or a write in public day.

I wonder, if Matilda was around today, would she have got her man? Would the outcome be different?

I imagine the pattern would be on Ravelry at a small cost and the Parsons sister would have already downloaded it and kept a hard copy, free from meddling love rivals. I expect though, the outcome would still be the same, because I suspect the Parson already had his eye on the woman he married.

The moral here might actually be, a fancy bag won’t get your man if he’s looking the other way.

My Little Crochet Dolls Video Tutorials


Here is the full set of video tutorials for the My Little Crochet Dolls:

  1. Starting the head

2. Changing Colour

3. Adding Safety Eyes

4. Stuffing the head

5. Making the lower legs

6. Making the Ears and Nose

7. Upper legs and body

8. Making the arms

9. Sewing on the head

10. Painting the face

11. Adding the Iris

12. Adding the Pupil

13. Adding the Twinkle

14. Adding hair

15. Finishing the hair

 

Hope you enjoy them.

The New Improved Crochet Doll


If you’ve bought the My Little Crochet Doll pattern from me, hopefully you’ve made your doll and are happy with the result.

Over the years of making dolls I’ve come up with a few ideas and ways of making dolls better and better. Most recently I’ve been working on updating the pattern, changing a couple of tiny mistakes, cleaning up the hairline of the doll and as new techniques have come about I’ve added them into the doll.

The difference between the first and last dolls are clear to see.

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My first doll had a bit of a basin haircut and a pasty skin, his neck was prone to flopping about, but like Bagpuss, we loved him.

Since then I’ve been busy dyeing wool, sourcing as much of the doll as possible from as local a source as possible.

I’ve sourced Bluefaced Leicester fleece from British flocks, washed, carded, cleaned, spun in a Yorkshire mill.

Dyed with a dye manufactured in Sheffield and hand dyed in my kitchen in Leeds.

The lambswool stuffing comes from British sheep.

The pipe cleaners in the arms comes from a Huddersfield textile mill thats been going since 1893.

The buttons come from a small manufacturer in York.

I’m close to my goal of producing a doll made entirely of local products and perhaps in the future made entirely of natural materials.

The latest doll has a much better hairstyle and a painted face, his neck features a little secret that keeps the neck strong enough for the head to not wobble.Screen Shot 2016-09-28 at 15.50.44.png

All in all, the hours spent making and making dolls (and bears) have been well and truly worth while.

So what’s next?

I’ve just finished a series of video tutorials, made in my usual home made style. They’re available on YouTube and the first one starts here:

The Videos take you right through the pattern (you still need to buy the pattern though) and show you all the little techniques I use to make my dolls.

I’ve made some kits for painting the faces and some little packs of the toggle buttons because I only know one other shop that sells them.

The updated pattern should be available very soon then… Wow, what will I do once the doll is finished?

If you want to see the dolls in person I will be at the Pudsey Doll and Bear fair on the 8th October, at Pudsey Civic Hall.

And at some point in the future I will be doing a little workshop at the Leeds branch meeting of the Knitting and Crochet Guild on doll and bear techniques.

 

 

Face Painting Kits


Some time ago I decided I wasn’t happy with my dolls having plain plastic dots for eyes. I tried painting onto the safety eyes, but the paint peeled off too easily.

The problem with crochet eyes is that the stitches don’t line up squarely as they do in knitting, so counting stitches doesn’t work either.

IMG_1548.JPGAfter a lot of thinking and planning I came up with a really easy was of painting crochet faces. I even threw out the paint brush for a dotting tool which allows paint to be put on the crochet more evenly and precisely.

Screen Shot 2016-09-19 at 12.46.07.pngThis doll you’ve seen many times I expect, she has blue eyes and sparkly pink lips.

 

 

 

 

 

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This doll has blue eyes and a more natural lip colour.

His eyes are slightly closer together, which changes his face altogether.

 

 

 

 

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And this last fellow has green eyes and freckles. His eyes are painted looking to the side.

 

Three different faces from the same (very) easy technique.

 

 

And I’ve finally put together a kit with instructions so you can also paint the faces of your dolls.

The kits are already available in my Etsy shop.

And for those who prefer to watch videos, one will be available very soon.

So here, without further ado, my face painting kit…

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Updating the doll – EPY week 4


This week has been very productive. I’ve been contacting yarn suppliers and mills, spent a whole weekend dyeing wool, applied for a grant to do some market research and finally am near the point of having a finished product.

Well, I say a finished product, but…

I want to re-create the idea of the knitted/crochet doll. Normally made from scraps of yarn, under stuffed and often rather sad looking.

There’s a lot of parents at the moment, choosing handmade dolls over the plastic commercial ones. I’ve also come across a growing number of mothers wanting to make their own dolls for their children. I still have my handmade Cinderella doll from when a was very young, she’s in need of a little repair here and there, but she’s lasted far longer than any of the commercial dolls I had (and I had a lot of dolls).

There is something magical about having a doll specially made just for you, and something magical about a mother making the doll for her own child, whether the child is male or female.

These days we are also aware of the benefits of natural materials, the benefits of supporting local people and keeping out carbon footprint as low as possible.

This is where my plan gets exciting. Can I make a doll using local supplies and natural materials?

So here are two dolls…
The doll on the right is made from Acrylic yarn, spun in Turkey I think, filled with polyester, clothing is made from cotton and acrylic yarns.

The doll on the left is my newest doll, still waiting for some clothes to be finished.

The doll is made from Bluefaced Leicester wool, from UK sheep and spun in Yorkshire. I couldn’t source any light flesh coloured pure wool, hence the weekend spent in my kitchen dyeing wool. He is filled with British Lambswool.

All of his clothes are 100% wool, and even the pipe cleaners in his arms come from a small local factory in Huddersfield.

But why go to all that trouble for a pure wool doll?

Well…

  1. Wool is naturally flame resistant, it’s harder to ignite than many common textile fibres. Even if you hold a flame to the wool it doesn’t melt. Not that you were planning on buying your child a lighter, but it is reassuringly safe.
  2. Wool is biodegradable, and I don’t mean it will disappear in a thousand years. If you bury the doll, he will naturally decompose in a matter of a few years, slowly releasing it’s valuable nutrients back into the earth.
  3. Wool is a renewable fibre, just sun, water, grass and good old mother nature (oh and a sheep or two) and you’ll have another fleece to make another doll.
  4.  

    Bluefaced Leicester Wool is considered one of the finest fibres of British sheep breeds, it’s a long wool fibre which gives a soft smooth feel to the skin.

  5. Wool absorbes moisture, wicking it away from the skin and evaporating into the air, making sleeping with the dolls more comfortable and less prone to clamminess.
  6. Wool is an active fibre that reacts to body temperature, it helps you stay warm when the wether is cold and cool when the weather is hot.
  7.  

    Because of wools moisture absorption ability is doesn’t attract static, making it less likely to attract dust and lint. Wool also has a natural protection that helps prevent stains from being absorbed.

  8.  New scientific research is being done to show the health benefits of wool with amazing results, wool bedding and sleepwear appears to promote a better nights sleep, and new research is showing that wool nightwear is helping people with skin conditions such as dermatitis. A good reason for taking the doll to bed with you.

     

    Add these reasons to the fact that the materials for the doll have all been produced within a 60 mile radius, mostly from small businesses, and you can see the benefits this doll can bring.

My Crochet Friend


This is just a quick post, but for fans of the My Little Crochet Doll patterns, I hope something exciting.

I’ve had several requests for the doll made up, instead of the pattern, so here… At long last… Is the first finished doll.


She is available on my Etsy shop (a link is available from the buy from Betty link)

You may notice some slight differences to this gorgeous beauty and the beauties in the pattern. I’ve used mohair for the hair, it’s a brushable mohair made especially for doll making, I’ve also changed her face and hand painted it rather than using plastic eyes.

She comes with some spare clothing


I’m currently working on updating the original pattern, changing a little mistake I found, adding a few more photos, explaining things where people have had difficulties. I’m hoping to also add some advanced techniques like painting the faces and the secret to getting the neck nice and firm.

If you’ve bought the pattern from Ravelry you will be send a message letting you know when the updated pattern is available, I’m looking into a way I can do the same for Etsy customers, but don’t worry, if you have bought the pattern in the past I will make sure you can get the updated pattern when it is finished.

In the meantime though, if there is any part of the pattern you found difficult, or anything you want me to make clearer in the new version let me know.

There are new outfits coming soon (suggestions for future outfits always welcome) and some other possibilities that I can’t yet mention (but very exciting if it works!!!)

If you’ve made a crochet doll from the pattern I would love hearing from you and seeing photos, it’ll help me see where I need to focus on the pattern, but seeing the dolls would make my day.

Purses and Pence Jugs


I know… My posts are like buses, none for ages then several at once. I promise though, I’ve been working hard and doing some interesting things.

One very interesting project I’ve been working on is with the Knitting and Crochet Guilds archives near Holmfirth (check out “last of the Summer wine to see how beautiful this place is).

The archives are a huge collection of knitted and crocheted items, books, needles, hooks, yarn, patterns… If it’s yarn related it’s probably found here and I was totally in heaven.

Way back in August I was at the ‘In the loop’ conference in Glasgow and heard a talk by Barbara Burnam about miser purses, then in November I wrote a blog post called ‘Thinking the future through the past’ It talked about Miser purses and how I saw a future in the simple design of the purses.

I’d been carrying around the Crochet Traditions 2011 edition (available from Interweave) fr many years. It had an article by Gwen Blakley Kinsler about the miser purse and a pattern t make your own. It was one of those patterns we keep in the hope that one day, we’ll get around to it.

For years, that pattern and article had been my only link to a miser purse and it’s history. The In the loop conference allowed me to see a miser purse up close, although in a sealed box and as it was passed around the room I felt it was more a glance than a good look.

It was a few weeks ago, while at the KAC archives that I came across a small box labelled netted purses. Inside the box were 3 small netted miser purses. Here, at last, was my chance to look up close to a miser purse.

Through the sorting at the archives I’ve since found other boxes with old handmade purses and also come across another great purse idea, the pence jug.

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These tiny purses look like flat jugs with a ring on the handle, pennies were put inside the jug and the ring pulled over the top of the ‘jug’ securing the opening.

My response to the archives has been to make some purses inspired by what I’ve found. The purses from the archives and my own inspirations from them will be on display in a small exhibition in the Quayside building at Huddersfield University starting the 11th April.

But for those who can’t be there, here’s a sneak preview of my own attempt at a pence jug.

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I didn’t write down the pattern, although I could do. I used a 1.60mm hook and size 20 cotton. Made a double crochet base (single crochet – USA) then beaded the edge. The top is a crochet fan and back post triple crochet, double crochet handle with a beaded ring. Finally I made a tassel for the base.

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