Want your own sewing retreat but don’t want to spend lotsa money? Well, shop your sewing room and borrow from your mother, then put your blinders on for a 4 day weekend sewing project at home.

After shopping my room I decided to cut up a 78 year old pattern I had for sale in my Etsy shop for 2 years called the Cuddly Big Doll. I had all the supplies except the stuffing and my mom was kind enough to let me have some of hers.

This doll was going to be a big project so I needed a strategy of breaking it all up. Day one I gathered all of the supplies, successfully used the 78 year old transfer the pattern came with, and cut out all of the doll body parts.

Cutting a 78 year old pattern was interesting. The tissue holds up better than the directions but you still need to be extremely careful.

Day two I completed construction of the doll. I followed all of the original instructions. The head was first and made of three simple pieces. The pattern had a mystery piece that I finally discovered was meant for you to use to cut a circle out of cardboard. After stuffing the head I was to stitch the circle onto her neck and then perform a basting stitch (long hand stitches) around the base of the neck pulling the thread tight to gather the edges all around the cardboard. This made a nice platform for the head to be sewn onto the body and all of the raw fabric edges would be canceled in-between. Arms and legs were also sewn separately and hand stitched onto the body. This took what felt like a really time and was different from the other dolls I made.

I named her the Iris Doll after famous fashion designer, Iris Van Herpen.

Day three, much fun was had embroidering the face on. At this point I felt the hard part was over! That was until I got to the eyelashes.  I did a back stitch for the eyebrows and eyes, a satin stitch for the lips and then it just got crazy. They eye brows were made by making loops, LOTS of loops. I used an awe to make them all the same size. For this eye lashes the directions said I was to stiffen them with glue or sizing. I used starch and a q-tip.

On the night of day three I made her hair. This is where I did my own thing. I have made a lot of dolls, everything from Raggedy Ann to Topsy Turvy, and I knew how the hair sorta worked. I say sorta because each and every time you make small changes to a project it adds a new element that can make it complicated. The original doll has long red braids and Iris Van Herpen has long pretty brown hair.

I figured I would make 24″ strips of yarn using my tape measure on the floor until I got 6″ wide. I did this five times until I had enough strips to cover her head. I started by sewing them all down the middle with a simple whip stitch. Once I had the middle sewn down it was a couple more hours of whip stitching it down everywhere else.

I added blush to her face as the directions said.

Day four and at least twenty hours into this project, I was ready to be done. She needed clothing and it needed to be simple and fast. I raided my stash and thought about what Iris Van Herpen might wear? Black came to mind and I already had lining, chiffon and wide lace. BOOM!

I used the bloomer pattern that came with the doll and some black lining fabric.

When it came to the dress I remembered when I made my flapper fringe dress how easy it was to add the fringe if I only sewed one side of the dress and pinned the lace straight across it was much easier to work. I used the shirt pattern piece that came with the doll. I made it a little longer and omitted the sleeves. I also lined the chiffon so I wouldn’t have to finish any seams. It took a couple of hours to make her clothing.

My take away from this doll project – the doll! I put so much love into what was once a piece of simple unbleached muslin that I will never sell or give her away. She is mine forever. I know why people do not make handmade dolls like this to sell.

Behind the Scenes~

Add fabric designer to my resume. Here is a sneak peek of the first fun designs in my design studio. They will need to be proofed and if they look great they will be available to the public.

Thank you for reading!

Tracy McElfresh

Dream It! Sew It!


Tracy McElfresh
Latest posts by Tracy McElfresh (see all)