Monthly Archives: December 2016

Preemie Cloth Doll Sewing

It’s boxing day (what we called it in Canada) and I certainly won’t be shopping anywhere today!  So, for anyone else staying inside, I thought I’d provide some reading material.  😛

img_0061This was one project that I wanted to complete before the year end.  While at the SAGA Convention, I spotted a tiny, preemie doll.  The doll belonged to Wanda, the SAGA Wee Care co-ordinator.  I already owned the pattern, but had not taken the time to sew it.  Seeing the tiny doll was incentive for me to find time to make one.  I believe that it is always helpful for other to “see” just how tiny some of these preemies are and perhaps give them the extra push to get a few Wee Care gowns sewn.

Having a few spare minutes, I decided to head out and find supplies – 2 days before Christmas!!!  What was I thinking??? That was no small task! Traffic was horrible and the crowds in the store – oy!!!  Somehow, I foolishly thought that I could get everything at one store.  Wrong!!!  After visiting 4 stores, I had everything needed for the doll – knit fabric, fleece, plastic pellets, etc..  Just FYI – the plastic pellets used for stuffing the doll were found at Hobby Lobby.  Other craft stores didn’t carry them or they only carried them online.  On to the pattern.

The preemie pattern is from The Cloth Doll Market.  I was unable to find any reviews of the doll.  The pattern makes up so nicely and quite accurately on sizing/shape of preemie babies.  Included is a master pattern which you have to copy and shrink it by percentages to get the smaller sizes.  I did this.

You should be aware that this method of adjusting sizes does cause some problems. When you shrink a pattern that has a 1/4″ seam allowance, your seam allowance also shrinks, so I ended up with a generous 1/8″ seam allowances to make the 2 lb. size doll.

Be aware that the pattern is hand drawn and has very little in the way of markings/guides (aka: no notches) on the pattern pieces to aid the seamstress in matching up pieces before stitching.  I followed the directions, but because there are no illustrations, some directions were challenging.  I had to read through some of the instructions multiple times to “get” what the instruction was.  I am more of a visual learner, so no pictures is challenging.  Because of this, I would sat that this probably isn’t a pattern for a beginner.

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The instructions say to use a knit fabric that doesn’t have too much stretch.  That is rather vague.  I think that giving some fabric types to look for may have been more helpful.  The only fabric that I could find with our lack of fabric stores was a knit jersey.  While it worked, I wasn’t a fan and won’t use it again.

Each piece of the doll is cut out of both the skin colored knit fabric as well as another piece cut in white fleece.  The fleece is then inserted into the skin fabric.  This is a good plan because it helps with the plastic beads that are used for the filling – it keeps the “skin” softer and works out much nicer than stuffing the doll with stuffing.  It does take a bit of forceful pushing to get the fleece pieces inside the knit pieces and I found that the jersey began to run in a few places (like pantyhose type of runs).  I put fray check on the runs and hopefully that will keep the runs in check.

After some research, I found that many cloth doll makers use a knit doeskin, which is a suede type of knit fabric.  I’ll have to order some of that if I decide to make another doll, though I’m seriously thinking about making the doll from Kona cotton if I try it again.  I have seen a picture of the doll made by another FB friend and it was in a woven fabric.

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The facial features were supposed to be painted on with acrylic paint.  I don’t paint!  🙁  So, a Sharpie had to do.  The knit wanted to stretch as I “drew” the features.  Ugh!  I was pleased to find that when the doll was finished, the 1 – 2 lb. Wee Care gown fit very well.  It’s nice to see how well these are proportioned.

Once the doll was finished, I had to get rid of the blue wash-out maker that I used to mark the darts and to draw in the fingers, etc.  Obviously, you don’t want to soak the doll after it’s finished.  That was a lengthy process.  It took many, many spritzing to get all the marks out.  I would think that they were gone, and when the spritzed area dried, they were back again.  Ugh!  Next time I’ll use one of the air-erasable markers and be sure to stitch the same day!  I did find that dotting along the stitching line worked better on the knit fabric.   Trying to draw in the lines caused the knit to stretch.

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Because of the way that the arms and legs are attached, they are somewhat posable, which is  a nice feature.

The little diapers pictured on the doll are from the Teeny Tears group.  They make diapers and donate them to hospitals for tiny babies that don’t make it.  The larger size diaper fits the 2 lb. sized doll.  I made the stockinette cap from a toddler size 5-6 sock.  I cut the cuff off the sock right above the heel and tied a ribbon in it.  It’s a snug fit, but it works.

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I did learn a few things making this little doll.  I definitely need to work on my hand sewing technique.  😂  The doll head is hand stitched to the doll body – not an easy feat between the stretchy knit and the head flopping around.  Maybe I’ll be better at this the next time.   LOL!  Pulling out the fingers after stitching was a super challenging task on the 2 lb. size doll.  I immediately decided that I’d never make the smaller sizes with fingers.  Others have told me that they make the hand with only a thumb and then a mitten style for the other fingers.  This would be much easier and is a technique I’ve used on other cloth dolls!  She does suggest this method for the tiniest sizes.

I’m pleased with how the doll turned out.  It is only going to be used as a visual aide at workshops where the smocked Wee Care gowns are being made.  Our guild is doing the next workshop in the community room at a retirement village.  I’ll have the doll out for the residents to view along with some of the finished gowns.  I suspect that we’ll have different ladies drop in to check out what we’re doing.  The doll will be a nice addition and maybe even promote some interest for some new seamstresses to join us!

My overall review of the pattern makes up really well and is an accurate representation of the size/shape of a preemie baby, but the instructions are lacking in the way of diagrams/pictures of any of the sewing techniques.  There are only 2 diagrams total and there is an assumption of sewing knowledge, so some techniques aren’t described (ie.  “sculpt the toes”).

The designer of the pattern does seem to have some first hand knowledge of preemie sizes and proportions.  That is what makes the pattern of value.  Instructions are also given if you want to make the doll a weighted doll (accurate weight for the age/size), which some do want.  This doll looks very much like the preemies that I saw in the NICU when our granddaughter was there.  There’s not another proportionally correct preemie doll pattern that I’m aware of.  So, for this reason it is a great pattern if you want proportionally correct preemie dolls.

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Perhaps today I’ll stitch the 1 lb. size (with no fingers!) out of Kona cotton and see how that works.  I’ll keep you posted!

I hope you enjoy some stitching today!

Smocked Dresses for Dollies!

The last week before Christmas found me fixing up the dollies and dressing them for the 3 little girls.  It would be a special gift.  Their Auntie Lo had a huge collection of Gotz dolls (all are around 18″) that she played with as a little girl and that I saved.  So I selected 3 of them that I thought were just perfect.  However, after many years of being packed away, they needed some serious “work” done on their hair.  It was a mess!

 

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I consulted several different websites and tutorials on how to detangle and fix their hair.  I thought I’d share the process in case there are dolls in your home in need of some TLC.  The detangling is done by first soaking the hair in a bowl of laundry softener.  Since the hair is synthetic, not human, softener works better than shampoo.   After getting the hair saturated, you massage it into the hair, then rinse out thoroughly.  This leaves the hair with a powerful smell of the softener, so make sure that you choose a fragrance you like!  LOL!  After the rinse, the hair can be brushed out, starting at the ends and working up towards the roots.  It takes a bit of time, but it does work.   Then leave it to dry.

After doing the first doll, I got smarter and wrapped the doll bodies in saran wrap to keep the body dry.  I also found that it helped to stand the dolls up in a large bowl or plastic pitcher to dry.

This method worked well, but if I do it again, I think that I will dilute the softener with 2 parts water to 1 part softener.  I think that this would be plenty of softener to do the job and would tone down the perfume smell.

Once it was dry, the hair ended up smooth, but very straight (sorry for the blurry pic).  

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Next, I spritzed the hair lightly with water, rolled it in some sponge rollers and left it for a couple hours to dry.  This left the hair with nice waves.  I’m sure that you could leave it for a day and the curls would be tighter.

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Each of the dolls got a pretty, smocked bishop dress.  While cleaning my sewing room, I discovered several ready-to-smock bishop dresses that had been aging for 15+ years as well as shoes, cowboy boots (who knew that these would be worn with dresses!) and hats.  😱  Please tell me that I’m not the only one that has UFO’s that are this old!!!  I was delighted to find these and made quick work of smocking them and putting buttons/snaps on the back.

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These 3 dollies are ready to go home on Christmas day with 3 happy little girls!  I hope that they will be excited to see these dollies in their special dresses and new shoes!

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All of these dresses were made from fabrics that I had used for our youngest daughter’s smocked clothing – what a sweet memory!

I thought I’d share my tip for getting the lace collar to stand out nicely from the dress.  It always bothers me when you pleat the lace with the bishop dress and then the 2 pieces want to “stick” together so tightly.  I think you know what I mean.  To get the lace to stand out from the fabric it is pleated with, you need to smock a row on the dress fabric so that the lace won’t sink into the pleats.

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Pull up the lace and smock on the dress fabric following the same path as the last row of smocking.  Smock as closely as possible to the lace.  The end result is a lace overlay that stands away from the dress, which I think looks much prettier.  😀

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I’ve enjoyed squeezing in these last 3 smocking projects just before Christmas!

I hope that you and your family have a blessed Christmas rejoicing in the birth of our Savior!

 

Sewing Accessories!!! Sew Much Fun!!!

It was time for something new and different to sew – something fun, relaxing and non-garment.  For some time now I’ve wanted to make some sewing accessories – especially the ones that are invaluable when you go to workshops or seminars.  I knew that I’d saved patterns or links to patterns that I wanted to make, so the search began.  I found them quite quickly.  Whew!   I chose to make a sewing machine mat/cover, a travel needle case and an iron caddy/mat.

Next was choosing fabrics.  All the patterns that I had chosen used several co-ordinating prints.  I’m not as clever as quilters with matching prints, but I managed to come up with some combinations that I liked.    It did involve some serious stash diving!  Does that count as exercise?  I settled on the brown/aqua combination – these fabrics are left overs from making the nursery decor for our first granddaughter  (she’s 6 now!).  Win!!!

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The first pattern I selected was a sewing machine mat, which doubles as a sewing machine cover when the machine isn’t in use.  You can see the ribbon ties on the sides that keep the cover secure on the machine.  There are lots of sewing machine mat patterns, but I chose the free one from Lillyella, which you can also get as a free download from Craftsy.  It looks beautiful and the instructions turned out to be excellent.  I would highly recommend this pattern!  You’ll also enjoy all the pictures of all the different mats and their fabric combinations!!!   Lillyella also has a removable thread catcher that buttons on to the front of the mat.  There’s plenty of pockets on the front of the mat to hold your scissors, rulers, marking pens, threads, etc.  I was really pleased with how this turned out.

To sew on the doubled bias, I followed this tutorial from Moda Bake Shop.  I was familiar with sewing the double bias, but turning the corners was new to me and her instructions for that worked out perfectly!

The only recommendation that I would have for anyone that wants to make this pattern up is to measure your sewing machine (front, over the top to the back) to make sure that this is long enough to cover your machine.  So many machines are much bigger today and this might be skimpy as a cover if you have a taller or bigger machine.  Changing the dimensions for a taller machine is simple, but changing the width dimensions will require that you also change the pocket dimensions.  🙂

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I also stitched some travel needle books.  These make wonderful gifts for your sewing friends!  The needle book is about the size of a paperback.  Again, I used a free pattern for this and the instructions for the needle book were very well written!  I love that it has a zipper pocket inside to hold things that would otherwise easily fall out and get lost.  With a place for your thread, scissors, needles and pockets for the rest, this is a well thought out pattern!  You can see that I enjoyed both patterns so much that I made them twice!

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The last project that I tackled was an iron caddy that doubles as a mat for ironing.  I love this caddy!!!  It has the heat resistant fabric so if you take this to class to carry your iron, when you’re ready to pack up and go home, you don’t have to wait for the iron to cool off – you can pop it right into the caddy and carry it home with you.  Perfect!

This was also a free pattern download.  I first saw this pictured on a chat forum years ago by someone that had made up the pattern.  Everyone on the forum was so thrilled with her caddy that she generously shared the pattern instructions and dimensions on the forum.  I cannot remember which forum it came from, however, I believe that this woman eventually  made a pattern available for this caddy because I’ve seen it for sale several different places and it looks like the exact same pattern/design.   There’s also a pattern for the mini irons available.  I used the free pattern that I’d downloaded, but there are some corrections that were needed on that original free pattern.  It turned out great and I love that it doubles as an ironing pad!

I promise – the pattern is correct – I didn’t realize until editing the pictures that I didn’t have the caddy closing situated nicely.  Perhaps that’s due to the fact that it’s stuffed with a huge roll of gift wrapping tulle and not an iron!  LOL!
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I still need to make a second iron caddy and also another thread catcher.  I wasn’t sure I was going to do that, but the sewing was such fun, I have the supplies on hand, so I’ve decided to complete the second set with these last 2 items as well.

The mental break from designing, drafting, writing instructions, etc. but still doing what I LOVE – which is sewing – has been very refreshing.  I have a plan for one of these sets and will probably either keep or save the second set.  I hope to make a 3rd set out of different fabrics that I pulled out during the stash dive.  😛  Then I’ll chose which set to keep and which one to put away for future use.

The best part of all of these projects is that with the exception of the heat resistant fabrics, everything else has been made from my “stash”.  I’d like to think that this was a stash buster project, however, with the size of my stash, that’s not the case.  It’s more like a drop in the bucket!  LOL!  That said, I do enjoy having enough fabrics in my stash that I could start sewing and not have to stop to make a purchase of something in order to complete the project!

So, if you still need a little last minute gift for one of your sewing friends, you may want to consider one (or all) of these!  They stitch up quickly, don’t take a lot of fabric and are really fun to make!  The added bonus of free patterns with great instructions make these just perfect in my book!

Enjoy your holiday stitching!!!

Kathy