new doll design

A few people left comments the other day saying they were curious about my design process. I just finished a new doll so I thought I'd run through how I got from a to b. The "a" here was actually a freak out realization that I'm raising a girl and a slow rising panic about the challenges I will face trying to raise a strong, self-confident, independent girl. Especially with so many crap pop culture influences to deal with. Anyway, that reminded me that one of the ideas I'd had for the Kit, Chloe and Louise dolls was to name them the Can-do Girls. I thought it'd be fun to set them off on all sorts of adventures and challenges, sort of like scouts or something. Then it all started getting very American Girl doll in my mind so I shelved it and just went with Kit, Chloe and Louise. But now I'm back to it and was thinking what kind of doll my Can-do Girl would be. That lead me to the sketch…

I thought a can-do sort of girl would need to be very poseable and action ready so I was thinking button joints for the arms and that I'd sew seams at the elbows and knees as well. Then I was thinking sort of floppy and not so super stiff and stuffed like my dolls are normally.

After the sketch I start sewing. And I wish I'd taken photos of my disasters. I started in flannel. I drew out pattern pieces and then sewed it up and it was a floppy, smushy pile of gush. Not good. I decided if it was going to be not as densely stuffed that the fabric would need to be more sturdy so then I went to this cotton duck stuff I had. Not my favorite but all I had on hand. I got the arms and legs right the first time (miracle), the body was too short so I made a second longer body (after sewing all the arms and legs to the first too-short body of course) and then the head. I have a problem with heads. You'd think I'd be able to by now look at my drawing and go "oh, that's this shape", but no. I tried at least 3 different heads, two pieces, four pieces, two pieces with a dart and finally ended up here, two pieces but even this took me two or three times to get the shape right. Her hair is a little weird. I wasn't sure where I was going and ended up here. So here she is.

I'd like to try her again in a better, softer but still sturdy fabric and give her hair another shot. I love how poseable she is, although I'm not in love with how the button joints look. Maybe just the elbow joint is enough. So that's where I am now. Next time I'll be sure to take pictures of the missteps. That'll be good for a laugh! Actually what I should do is replace our broken video camera and get Oscar on tape when I show him a doll in progress. He is always very concerned and very displeased. "Mom, that one doesn't have a face…it's all wrong. Just make it like your other dolls. sigh."

23 thoughts on “new doll design

  1. meg says:

    I think heads are really, really hard. And your dolls have hugely different personalities because of the shape of their head (that makes me sound like a weird phrenologist). I’m a big fan of floppy dolls, so I can’t wait to see the final draft, she’s pretty great so far!

  2. marymary says:

    There _are_ a lot of crap pop culture influences when it comes to raising girls (I’d say there are just as many, if not more, when it comes to raising boys — and some of them sneakier and therefore more insidious, but I’ll spare you the shpeal), BUT you’re an involved mom, and she’ll soak up who you are and what you believe. No need to panic. She’s got a great example.

  3. Rose says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who has problems with the head. When I made the pattern for my daughter’s first doll, I thought she would look just like my drawing. Wrong! I made a few tweaks but since I had a short amount of time to make it (in time for her first birthday) I wasn’t able to get the doll to look EXACTLY how I had envisioned in my original drawing. I’ll keep plugging away at it. All of your designs are so cute that for some reason I thought it just came so naturally for you!
    Love the new doll by the way!

  4. Wanett says:

    My oldest two get totally disgusted if show them something that is incomplete. Leaving off the face is a crime around here. I still have a Spaceman’s face to finish up and they are NOT letting me forget it!

  5. Kim says:

    I have 2 girls, I totally understand your fears. My almost 3 year old has no idea who any of the Disney Princesses are, and I intend to keep it that way for as long as possible. She loves to dress up like a princess, but it is always in things I have made for her.
    Phoebe, I am sure, will be much the same.
    I love seeing how you just jump in there and design a doll. That is so fantastic. I am not nearly as brave.
    Love Oscar’s two cents about it too. Sounds so much like my boy.

  6. mamie says:

    thanks for letting us in on some of your magic. i tried to ‘design’ my first softie this week with recycled felted sweater material and a sketch by my talented little brother. no go. but now i am encouraged to keep trying.

  7. donna says:

    Your doll looks very thoughtful,sitting there posed and pondering! very good atributes for such a beautiful doll…her joints look fine to me xx

  8. Elise says:

    Fascinating – thank you for sharing a bit of your creative process with us. As someone who can’t draw, I always find it amazing to see ideas first emerge on paper and then into a three-dimensional product.

  9. Maribeth says:

    I make dolls myself and I know exactly what you mean about heads. The relationship of the head to the neck can get really weird sometimes. Trial and error is really our best friend.
    Mimi Kirchner’s tutorial linked in another comment is excellent.

  10. Margie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing you design process. I have followed your blog for about 6 months and I think you create wonderful things. You make everything look so easy and effortless. It’s nice to know that you have your creative challenges and you don’t get everything on the first try — it makes me feel like my ‘challenges’ are a normal part of the process. Thanks again. BTW — I think she is cute!

  11. Andrea says:

    I wonder if you could do the body kind of like a waldorf doll. Ours have button joint limbs and the stuffing is stiff but could be less so it would be floppier.
    just a thought.

  12. annie says:

    Okay, here is my question: Did you sew the buttons on from the inside before stuffing her or did you use one of those super long doll needles and put them on after she was stuffed? I really struggle with this one and I’m not sure what the best strategy is… I’m sort of curious what other people do.

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