When faced with a stressful situation small sewing is good medicine. This weekend we made some big tech improvements to ann wood handmade that were sort of terrifying. I’m thrilled with the result – especially the speed.
While all the scary work was being done I lingered in the details of tiny felt jackets and hats and slow stitched talismans. Besides needing to distract myself from the website work it has been cold and snowy, all the more reason for cosy hand sewing and bundling the little dolls up. I sure do love to bundle things up.
Find the free little jacket pattern here and the tiny doll hat here.
The folky little winter ensembles make me curious about tiny doll world, the details and history. I’m going to investigate that over the next few weeks. You may recall I explored the world of a family of cosmopolitan ants a couple years ago.
It was probably the most fun I ever had. I’m looking forward to imagining a world for the tiny doll folk. Stay tuned.
P S – The owl pattern is coming soon – early in December. If you would like an email when it is available you can sign up for notifications here. I’ll also announce it on instagram etc.
One of the challenges in tiny rag doll sewing is getting a smooth neck. It is challenging when sewing any doll that has a torso and head as one piece, the stuffing wants to sneak out of the narrow part. I always recommend wool stuffing and that helps but stuffing still escapes sometimes. This past week I came across a great post on stuffing small dolls by Beth, author of By Hook, By Hand, that includes this genius tip for getting a smooth result, particularly in the neck. Spray a little water on the fabric before you stuff.
I gave it a try this week and the result is marvelous. It’s so simple. Also I was impatient so I used a blow dryer to speed things up after I stuffed, not sure if that made a difference or not.
I stuff most of my figures, owls, songbirds etc. as firmly as I can but rag dolls are different. I like rag dolls to be stuffed just enough to completely fill out the shape but not too firmly.
Sculpting from the outside with a needle helps refine the shape too – I mean moving stuffing into little cavities with a needle from the outside after a doll is stuffed and closed. I almost always do this with any stuffed thing I make. And I find it easier to feel the areas that need to be filled in more than looking for them.
While we are on the subject of tiny dolls, find the easy way to turn tiny parts here and tips for hiding knots here.
PS – the songbird print pattern is back in stock and ready to ship
Sometimes a light jacket is just the thing and I’ve made you a simple and easy sewing pattern in two sizes, one for the tiny rag doll (or any dollhouse size doll) and a slightly larger version for mr. socks. And the pattern scales well so you could use it for other dolls too. It’s quick and very easy.
The hat pattern is free too and you can find the satchel pattern here, if you need to fully outfit someone tiny.
You might also notice that mr. socks is wearing pants for the first time. I made them using the bloomer pattern for the tiny rag doll sewing pattern. I add about 1/4 inch to the pattern and left an opening in the back to accommodate his tail.
To make the jacket you will need : wool felt, an embroidery thread, a tiny button, basic sewing supplies and the pattern.
download the sewing pattern here
* You can click each image for a larger view
1. Cut out the three pattern pieces and pin to your felt.
2. Cut out one of each.
3. Fold the rounded collar of the front top over and stitch. I’m using one strand of embroidery floss. You can use any stitch you like, fancy or simple. I’m using a basic whip stitch.
4. Fold over each rounded cuff and stitch as well.
5. Pin the front under piece to the back piece, make sure your folded and stitched cuffs are on the outside.
6. Pin the front top piece as shown.
There is nothing wrong with sewing in bed. As long as it is your choice and pins and things are kept track of. I don’t do it often but on a cold snowy day it’s irresistible, the perfect place for sewing tiny things. Plus I got dressed which makes it even more OK. Not exactly going out dressed, more day appropriate lounge wear, but still.
I’m working on small things, mischievous cats, tiny ladies, bundled up birds and lamb folk among them. The lambs are made using the mr. socks sewing pattern with modifications you can find here. Some of these things will be in the shop tomorrow (if you are on the list for new artwork you’ll get an email).
I sure do love a lamb in pants
I’ve also been making some paper mache progress. Paper mache is good for busting out of stuckness. The paralysis and not knowing what to do that creeps in when there is too much to do. When my brain rebels and just won’t work properly. Paper mache has a magic effect. It does not require much thinking activity and progress is immediately apparent. Those little pieces of paper becoming something else. That part is satisfying and just getting my hands moving get’s my wheels turning again.
I always do all the edges first, using the littlest pieces of paper to negotiate the smalls curves. Once the edges are done the filling in takes no time. Each complete layer, the brown paper followed by the news print, take less than an hour to complete. These ships are all made from the paper mache ship pattern collection. I did modify the sides of the large ship. I do almost every time I make one, I like to experiment with the shape. This time I made it higher in the back and lower on the sides at the middle.
This little boat is made from the free boat ornament tutorial you can find here. My plan is to finish all the ships and boats this weekend. And to festoon the Christmas Tree (my beloved norfolk pine). I’ll show you next week.
* All the new creatures and dolls below are in the shop now.
Houndstooth is always a bold statement and the scale is daring for an owl of his stature. I think he pulls it off though and he should, Mr. Skimpole is concerned only with appearances and pleasure.
His associate Sinclair, a far more somber owl, is made from Edwardian and Victorian garments and has shoe button eyes.
For the last couple days I’ve been adding finishing touches and last minute details to almost finished dolls and creatures. I love a worktable covered with lots of things that only need the fun part done, a little edge stitching or an expression tweaked. One after another they cross the finish line and I feel like an over achiever for a little while.
Tonight I’ll begin a new group of things. Mostly ships and boats. I love waking up to a freshly dried layer of paper mache.
Have a lovely weekend and holiday,
This year it’s for sewing by the pool. I love a forlorn pool, all its summer sparkle and glory gone. It’s a contrast and a particular flavor of melancholy that I have always been attracted to.
I’ve temporarily relocated myself outside of NYC while my entire ceiling is replaced. It is a spectacular October and it’s good to be sewing again after a truly miserable week.
I brought a sewing machine, tons of fabric and projects to work on. Besides the pool I have a big sunny room to work in and a diligent helper. He loves the sewing machine. And thread, he really loves thread.
The first thing finished was another soldier – more a Wickham than a Darcy this time. He is handsome and beguiling, all poetry and romance, but don’t believe him when he says his heart is yours……..
I’m hoping to have the soldier sewing pattern perfected, drafted and converted to an illustrator file in a couple days. I’ll shoot the steps as soon as I get home. I’m also working on a collection of Fortuny animals (they will be in the NY showroom for the holidays) and lots of little things, small sewing I never get tired of.
Thank you for your thoughts and concerns since the big dusty crash. I’m still all turned around and unsure of what to do next but things are generally well enough and I am finding a rhythm.
I’m writing to you today from the wreckage of my dear old place. The plaster ceiling collapsed on Monday. I’m crammed into the “safe section” with all my belongings and lots of dust. All my plans for October are canceled and I’m scrambling to get things together to leave for the rest of the month at least.
The event itself was shocking and my brain has not really worked right since. All the rubble is still here ( which is interesting…..) and I sift through sometimes looking for tiny things that might have survived.
I hate to wish time away. Especially October. It’s such a good month. But the next few weeks feel impossible. I will keep you posted as the situation and my whereabouts unfold.
When the catastrophe happened I was having a perfect rainy October day, hand sewing a rag doll, sitting right underneath. I’ve got good reflexes. She and I just ended up dusty and surprised.
Her perfect October continues, spending blustery days in the park among the fading flowers and leaves, reading about star crossed lovers and thinking her wistful thoughts.
Patched and mended, a little worse for wear, but good and happy sheep, sheep who persevere. I made mr. and mrs. lamb from the mr. socks pattern with just a couple little modifications. Their outfits and the satchel are made from the tiny rag doll clothing and wardrobe patterns with modifications detailed here.
The only changes are to the head. I made ears – gray on one side and black on the other – stitched with the right sides together. I left the last half inch open for turning right side out.
I closed the opening, whip stitched around the seam and then stitched the ears to the head. I cut a little circular head cover instead of the pointy mr. socks head cover.
I pinned the head cover in place and stitched over the ears and across the front. I added a tiny bit of stuffing before closing the back so his head would be smooth.
Here they are all sheepified – mrs. has got some seriously happy ears.
Mr. L’s tiny trousers are my favorite part – made from the tiny rag doll bloomers – I added about 1/4 inch to the pattern and they just fit.
Mr. L sports the always risky pants and scarf but no shirt look.
He is off to wander among the woebegone pines. Find the free pattern for the trees right here. I’m working on some photographs for the holidays so I’m making a bunch right now.
This is a long post – with lots of dolls in it. All the dolls below are in the shop right now.
The details make me happy. The tiny details. Stitching the feathers and flourishes to his hat and the medals to his coat. I’ve been looking forward to those tiny medals since starting him. They are pretty much why I made him.
A note on his fancy hat – I’ve just learned it’s a Bicorne – that is what the Napoleon-ish hats are called. Now you know – in case it comes up. Let’s talk about the coat. It has a real working, very tiny, button and button hole. It is my first. It might be my last. But I do love it. I am turning him into a sewing pattern and the coat will be included – it’s very easy to make.
And I sure do love a front bustle. It looks so pretty on the hem and reveals a scandalous amount of leg.
I wonder what they talk about……. Lots of progress was made this week on the rag doll pattern. I’m planning on including a basic body, a clever and easy hair method and options for stockings, underthings and a skirt and, of course, the nude option.
Speaking of nude, I made Nora a frothy negligee – so when she wanders the moors in the mist she is not quite so entirely naked.
And finally dear mrs. spots. With lots of details, all her necessities. You can find more about how to make her wardrobe here.
For the next few days anyway.
Doldrums. Who ever invented the word deserves a prize. It sounds like what it is, what it feels like: a warm inertia, an unpleasant stillness, listlessness. Apparently I am not a summer person – productivity wise anyway – I always find myself here mid July-ish.
Or maybe it’s coincidental. The mid summer almost always finds me working on larger – longer term projects – christmas – workshops for the fall etc. Projects that it can be hard to feel progress on.
And sometimes the stagnated feeling means I need a break. Not this time though – this is a restless stuckness. So I am busting out. Rowing hard until I can catch a breeze and some beautiful momentum. For the next few days I’m making – starting and finishing – a doll everyday. Experiments and some of the usual suspects like mr. socks and tiny rag doll. It’s the kind of sewing I feel like doing, the kind of thinking I’m in the mood for.
I began today with Nora. A mysterious dark eyed girl. Im still deciding on her degree of anatomical accuracy and outfit. I’ll spend the rest of the afternoon and evening finishing her.
Working on shorter term projects gives me a sense of forward motion and satisfaction. I can feel the shape of the day again. Hopefully I can bring some of that energy into the larger projects in a couple days.
Have a lovely weekend and check back next week to see who else appears.
P.S. There are a couple new small paintings in the shop.
It’s such a mistake to let too many unfinished projects pile up. The weight of all that isn’t done can really mess with a person’s momentum and momentum is key. When it happens the only way through is to start finishing things – one at a time. This week I’ve been finishing stuff – big stuff and little stuff. A wooly edwardian owl was the first – he was nearly there so it was an easy win.
He’ll be in the shop next week with some songbirds and other creatures – you can sign up here if you would like an email notification when the new things are available.
Crossing just one thing off the list makes a huge difference, the shift is instant and it’s easier to tackle the next – as each task is completed momentum starts to snowball and replace the self perpetuating overwhelmed and stuck feelings. My next project was finishing up my improvisational doll experiments – also lingering in “all most done”.
He stepped right out of a Jane Austen novel, one of her steady hearted colonels. I love him. And he is excellent at guarding books.
A large project got finished too, creating a new workshop for this September. Come see me in Boulder!
That’s me – in my middle aged art lady uniform. The linen smock (by Cal Patch) really is my uniform – if you run in to me in Brooklyn or come to Colorado there’s a pretty solid chance I’ll have it on. This is my first 3 day workshop ever and it’s presented by the Makerie September 22nd through the 24th. 3 days to explore something with a small group sounds marvelous. The title of the work shop is Natural History.
I can share all the details with you next week and registration will open then too. For now I’ll leave you with this very little fly I made to bring to Boulder with me.
(you can find part 1 here)
The more time I give myself for play like this the better my thinking, my connection making and idea generating get. While messing around with these dolls I have had one million ideas. This kind of experimenting is like giving my imagination vitamins. It is not an efficient way to make a doll, and I get frustrated in the process sometimes (it takes a while to shift out of expectations and perfectionist thinking and into curiosity) but it never fails to get me to new places. In trying stuff – stuff that works and stuff that doesn’t – I make connections I would not have otherwise made and connections are where ideas come from.
I experimented with a bunch of stuff for making arms and legs and landed on something simple I like. I’ve made her arms and legs in two sections upper and lower from the paper covered wire. Each section gets covered with batting and then covered with fabric.
I left a little extra at the ends so they would be easy to join and nice and bendy. The legs are made the same way and I added a little lace to the top before attaching by whip stitching to the bottom of her torso with sturdy thread.
I like her spidery arms and legs. I’ll leave her for now and show you progress on the other girl who is no longer a girl. Read More
Its good to experiment – but not easy to let yourself, there is a powerful force that wants you to stay on the well lit path. Experimenting generates ideas and makes you ask new questions. It can shift your perspective, reveal connections and intersections. And maybe most importantly true experimentation helps you work with uncertainty and build a tolerance for trying stuff that might not work. There is no creativity without failure.
One way to make yourself experiment is to create conditions that force you to improvise. I’m going to show you one of the techniques I use. I’m making dolls – from the inside out. It’s a method that is imprecise and difficult to control – in a good way – there is lots of opportunity for happy accidents. It’s a spontaneous process – each action builds on the previous – you work with what shows up.
If you would like to try you will need:
* you can click on any of the images for a larger view
I start by making a simple wire form for the torso and head – I made three. Next cut strips of cotton batting and begin to build a shape by winding it around the wire form. A little bit of glue stick will help when adding or ending a strip.
Keep winding until you are happy with the shape – you can also add bits of batting in some areas for rounder shapes – like in the center image above – I’ve given her a substantial bosom by adding a scrap of folded batting and winding over it. I stitch through the shape here and there to adjust it and help it all stay together and finally I cut pieces of batting to stitch over the shape.
Next I begin to add fabric – I’m using a very light cotton to cover her face and the front of her chest. I pull the fabric around – stitch it in place and trim away the extra.
I covered the edge of the face fabric with strips of cotton for hair – I’ll come back to that later – I want to make the top of her dress first. Also – you may notice another doll has appeared – I’ll be working on her as well.
Her face and chest are covered in a light ivory silk, I used black cotton for her hair and stitched super simple features. Now I’m adding a scrap of lace because it’s lovely and will also cover some edges and seams I’d like to conceal. Read More
Meet Mrs. Spots – a dear old friend of Mr. Socks. There have been a number of questions lately – and – I have wondered myself – if the tiny rag doll’s wardrobe could work for the Mr. Socks doll pattern. I spent some time experimenting with that and – with some adjustments – it can. And that is how I arrived at Mrs. Spots.
Beginning with the dress (the dress is from the tiny rag doll pattern) – it needs to be a little larger, Mrs. Spots is taller than the tiny rag doll and has considerable girth around the middle. There are two easy ways to do it – you can add a quarter inch to the dress pattern – the cut line becomes the stitch line with the exception of the back center seam – don’t add extra there.
Or just enlarge the pattern to 115% ( I have not tried this with the pinafore apron yet but I suspect enlarging it to 115% would work – if you give it a try I’d love to see).
For the coat – so easy – you can use the pattern at it’s original size but skip the hood and do not sew the back seam (step 3 in the pattern) – leave the full width. The little satchel works as is too. (The coat and satchel are both from the coat, bag and hat pattern).
And finally the free hat pattern – for days when a coat is just too much. I enlarged it to fit and you can download the larger size here.
And some small art news:
I’ll be adding the first of the small art series 2 pieces to the shop soon – either tomorrow or over the weekend (sorry that’s not more specific – I have a couple tech things to work out). I’m planning on adding about 24 little paintings. If you are on the artwork list you will get an email notification (not sure if you are? email me – happy to help) and I’ll also update this post and instagram.
Entirely nude, but for a threadbare whisper of a nightgown.
The gown is made from the sleeve of an Edwardian lawn gown – so simple to make. I just hemmed the top edge – gathered across the front side and added ribbon ties that go around her neck – halter style.
She is offered in the shop – along with a few other new things – as promised I’ve been adding at least one new thing every day and will continue to for as long as seems reasonable. For now she is happy here, she sits serenely, in her nightgown, silently judging that little ant who admires himself so constantly.
And something new on my worktable – an evolving rag doll creature. The texture thing is pretty ambitious and I’m not sure I’ll ever do it again, it’s labor intensive even by my standards. But I do like the effect on him.
Of course she needs a sensible coat! And it’s reversible! I’m pretty excited about the reversibleness of the coat – and the nifty way it goes together – it feels like kind of a magic trick ( I included a video link for that part). I also love that the coat is built from just two pieces and demonstrates an awesome system for making reversible doll garments – you could modify the pattern and use the same easy technique to create all sorts of lined or reversible little clothes.
I also made a little lined flat bottomed satchel for her foraging and a hat too. She is ready for adventure.
Find sample pages from the pattern here and here.
The winter wardrobe pattern is in the shop now and I’m including the little hat pattern in this post too – download the template here and instructions are below – it’s very simple, easy and quick – you can make one in under twenty minutes.
For the tiny hat you will need a little wool, felt or flannel and contrasting embroidery thread. Pin the hat pattern to the fabric and cut out.
Whip stitch all around the bottom edge with a strand or two of embroidery thread.
Fold the hat in half and whip stitch the back seam from the bottom towards the tip.
Knot just before the tip and fray the tip. And finally tie little lengths of embroidery thread to the ear flaps and knot.
She is fully outfitted for her travels. A couple other notes on the pattern- the coat and satchel will fit mr. socks too and you could scale it for other dolls. I have not tried the hat on mr. socks – but I think it would work if you enlarge it a little.
If you make a tiny wardrobe I’d love to see – you can email photos to info at ann wood handmade dot com.
* shop announcement the new things below and some suprises are in the shop now – Friday 11/4
A heroic root vegetable – the majestic turnip. I love making these – rutabagas and turnips – the stitching is meandering and meditative and I like experimenting with textures and layering. I have found that antique table linens are ideal for making the shape – the cotton is thick and there is a little sheen. I layer sheer cottons – often pieces of antique kimonos and lots of stitching to add color and more texture including the rough edge where the leaves were chopped off. That’s my favorite part.
PS – I’m teaching a class on this very subject in the spring in NYC – at the Sweet Paul Makerie.
And do you remember the wolf? He is among a little group of things started over the summer that finally got finished and photographed this week.
He doesn’t look so bad…. He looks sort of pleasant.
But do not trust him – there is a dark side.
And he is only one of the problems a tiny rag doll can run into around here. I finished 5 new mosquitos too – 2 are going on special missions but the other three Edwardian girls will be in the shop tomorrow. Please meet the ladies:
The tiny rag doll pattern was not something I planned on or saw coming but I’m so glad I followed the impulse – it has been and continues to be a very happy thing. A happy thing for me to make and a happy thing to share. I think it strikes a cord – a point of connection so many of you that show up here have in common with me and each other. It’s the kind of sewing I grew up doing – slow hand stitching. There is sweetness, simplicity and nostalgia about it. I came across this thought from Dawn – a tiny rag doll maker – she puts it perfectly:
I love the quiet peacefulness of stitching by hand, using a thimble, putting the tiny pieces together just so. I feel a connection to countless other hand stitchers who came before me. I think it comes through in the dolls.
The doll above – forward looking and ready for adventure is by Dawn ( as well as the next 3) and below I’ll share some other wonderful tiny rag doll work by customers. You can find more and add your own to the ann wood handmade by you Flickr group – there are lovely things happening there – all sorts of ideas and details and variations being shared (including adorable crocheted wigs – a pattern from another fabulous tiny doll maker Beth – scroll all the way to the bottom of her page for the link).
I think it’s the perfect moment for a tiny doll revolution – the world needs more tiny handmade rag dolls – an army of hand stitched little ladies who mean business.
P.S. If you’ve made a tiny rag doll and have details, variations or tips you’d like to share please do in the comments or email me and I’ll add it to the post.
Below – tiny rag dolls by Karen: