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Improvised doll à la Ann Wood

Some of you may know the work of the mighty Ann Wood who makes lovely fabric dolls and other creatures as well as a range of galleons and little boats and so on.  She has a variety of free patterns on her website and an Etsy shop which is worth a look.   She has a whole range of tiny dolls with clothes and accessories.

One of her blog posts which caught my eye was about improvised dolls.  She describes her process of just starting off making a doll and not knowing where you will end up.  So you use what you have around you and just make a doll, trusting that the process will come up with something worthwhile.  I thought that this would be a really good holiday project while we were in a cottage in Pembrokeshire, particularly as it has been known to rain in this part of the world and you do need something to do when it pours.

I started to make my doll and I only had fabric and no stuffing with me, so I knew that it was going to have to be a rolled rather than sewn and stuffed doll.  So I made some fabric rolls from a beautiful soft cotton from the Cloth House in Soho.

These dolls are rough and ready and folky so they are not supposed to look highly polished, hence the wonky seams.  I stitched the legs onto the back of the torso so that the doll could sit on a shelf.  It was all going well until it came to the head:

Trying to fix a little roll to a large roll was tricky.  I could have stitched and then rolled more cloth round for a neck, but in the end, I decided to wrap it in a circle of linen and stitch the circle down:

This took a surprising number of attempts and was really ugly, but linen is linen even if it was a cheap end of roll bargain and I wasn’t going to throw it away.  The only thing then was disguising the very unlovely graft, which I don’t seem to have a photo of.  I was intending to make a nice girl doll, but the neck fiasco meant that a beard was called for:

I suppose I could have made a circus bearded lady, but I rather liked his shaggy look.  I had stitched a long nose, and had used black beads for his eyes from a variety pack from Tiger, and I used the coloured pencils in the photo above for his eyebrows and mouth and cheeks.

I found him really appealing, like a gentle hippy character.  I made him some Dad jeans and then really enjoyed knitting him a little sweater with gorgeous hand-dyed Welsh wool yarn I had bought in a woollen mill in Solva in Pembrokeshire.   The roll neck also helped to camouflage the weird neck situation:

I left the hands and feet free to fray.  I could have tidied them up, but I liked the messiness of them in an improvised piece:

So here he is complete:

The happy end to his story is that he has gone off to a new home in the USA.  He caught someone’s eye and we did a barter, although I would have been happy just for him to go off to someone who wanted him.  He would just have gathered dust here because the important part of the project was the process, which absolutely worked.