This is Aubrey, and she is a teeny little 9″ Thimbleberry that I am giving away for free, including shipping, to one of the people who comments on this blog. This comment is open to everyone- you most certainly do not have to be a Facebook fan to enter. Please leave one comment- just one- if you would like to be entered in the drawing. One entry per household, please. I will choose a random winner this evening, probably sometime around 8 or so. I have to manually approve comments of people who have never commented on my blog before, so be patient if your comment does not appear immediately. I am excited to give Aubrey to someone- she came out so adorable and she is so snuggly in her warm little wool sweater I knit her. She has a short sleeve dress on as well as bloomers. Thanks for entering. This should be lots of fun!
Archive for April, 2011
Inspired by all the bright colors beginning to appear outside my window, and long lovely walks to the park where the kids play for hours, I came up with the idea for dolls called “Hues of Spring”. I thought dyeing silk in the same cots that I dye the yarn in would make for some really lovely, unique custom fabric. Actually I had some knitting yarn that I dyed up intending to knit matching sweaters, but time got away from me this week. I picked five colors, green, blue, pink, light brown, and pale yellow that would capture the color idea. It’s always interesting trying a new theme, idea or process, since the result is always uncertain. Often I am surprised in a good way, and there is always some sort of surprise involved, but there is never a guarantee that an idea won’t totally flop. The more I experiment, however, the closer I get to making the actual dolls come to life like I envisioned them. When you put a ton of work into something, there is nothing like the feeling of relief when the idea turns out to be a success. After that relieved feeling, the next is total ecstasy as dolls are examined one by one, outfits are compiled, and dolls are posed together to give the sense of the group as a whole. There is lots of squealing involved here, and lately Kendra has been helping me out with this step at the end, prepping the dolls, putting on blush, styling hair, putting on shoes, sewing on buttons…it takes quite a bit of time! She agrees with me- it is probably the funnest part of making dolls!
Today I was hoping to take some lovely outside shots of the dolls first thing this morning- when I woke up to a thick, wet, snow falling! Laughing about the irony, Kendra and I set up a makeshift studio by a window and I snapped away as she handed me doll after doll needing her picture taken. I really want a group photo with these gals, because like other sets of dolls I have done in the past, seeing them all together is so much fun. It’s really the whole point of doing themed dolls, right?
As I waited for the dolls to sell on Etsy, I kept trying to come up with ideas for my dolls that would really make them pop. I had read the recommendation on the Dancing Rain Dolls site that using a variety of types of yarns for the hair would make the hair look unique, fun, and long-lasting. As a long time knitter, hunting around for fun creative yarns sounded like a total blast to me, so right from the beginning I explored yarns of differing thickness and texture to mix in with the mohair I used. I was pretty happy with the dolls I had up for sale, I just knew it was a matter of being noticed by someone- Etsy is a big place and I didn’t have any feedback yet.
After a few weeks I began to slowly sell my first dolls. I continued to make dolls, learning something new with each one I made, and that pattern has continued- each doll has taught me something new. At that time I usually had 6-8 dolls in my shop at a time, as well as some doll clothes and a few soft bodied velour dolls for babies. While shopping on the internet for different items for the dolls, I came across some gorgeous handspun yarn made of mohair and wool. I could totally envision a doll with that yarn for some funky, wild hair. It was a big step because it was really expensive- $15 more than what I usually spent for the hair! I debated whether it would be worth it- since I already had so many dolls sitting in my shop. I was only selling about one doll a month. Should I take the plunge? I decided that I would make two or three dolls just exactly how I wanted to make them- no holds barred whatsoever in material costs, and using the gorgeous yarn I had found. I also decided to change the pattern to include thumbs. They would be my “dream dolls”.
After the two little dolls were finished- a girl and the first boy doll I had made!- I fell totally in love with them. I felt they were my very best dolls ever, and since my shop was full, I decided I didn’t really HAVE to sell them yet…instead, I put up a custom listing on Etsy, with the picture of Rhapsody as the first photo.
These were the days of a convo every week or two, and a doll sale was a cause for all the kids to run around the house celebrating. I put the listing up for the custom doll and left home- and came back a few hours later with two messages from people wanting to buy this doll, not a custom…Even though she was $15 more than the other dolls that sat in my shop for weeks. I picked the person who got back to me first, and made a look alike doll for the other lady. After this I was convinced that I need to make the dolls I absolutely wanted to make, not worrying as much about what I would have to charge. I knew I put my best into each doll, using the best materials I could get my hands on, and not worrying about how long it took to knit sweaters and accessories. If an idea entered my head, I just totally went with it. All of a sudden my sales began to increase- sometimes I would sell a couple of dolls a week. I grudgingly agreed to sell the little boy doll, Rhythm, and he is to this day one of my favorite dolls I’ve ever made. I think he is the one that I most regret selling…and I would buy him right back if I ever got the opportunity! Sniff, sniff!
Another favorite doll was Sage… and I saw a picture of her a few months back on my FB page, so great to see! Apparently the light brown skinned dolls are my favorites!
My doll business was going great, and I had so many awesome ideas for dolls… and then I got pregnant…and all of a sudden wool, Waldorf dolls, cotton interlock, and cute little doll faces absolutely nauseated me. I suffered through a few final custom orders, hoping that the dolls would come out okay despite how I felt about them (I think they did!) and I vowed to never sew another doll again as long as I lived. I pulled out my neglected knitting needles (I used to knit like crazy all the time, but hadn’t had as much time as before with the doll making) and knit up a storm. For me, for the baby, for the kids, I couldn’t stop. Sometime around Christmas of 2009 I discovered that I was getting a all kinds of comments on my Flickr page, as well as tons of emails through Etsy. I had no idea why, since my shop was sitting fairly empty, and had been for some time. I kept turning down the offers, and even bribes, I was being given for dolls- custom dolls, rainbow dolls, dreaded dolls, fairy dolls…I couldn’t believe it Of all the times to decide to quite my business. Had I been given the requests last summer I would have been thrilled out of my mind… now I couldn’t take in a deep whiff of sweet smelling sheep’s wool without wanting to barf. It was unfortunate. It couldn’t be helped, though. My inspiration was completely gone, I thought, for good.
As spring came around the corner though, last year, and pregnancy was coming to an end, and as I continued to receive emails from people requesting dolls, and encouraging me to not give it up (one of those people was the wonderful Susan Teppin, who is known on Facebook as Tumbleberry Friend), I decided to see if I could give the doll making another try…The rest, I suppose, is history. Dolls quickly sold out as I watched in amazement, and excitement. I no longer felt sick and doll making became fun again. I spent months trying to find a way to expand with extra help, coming up with a system that could be taught to others, and would not compromise the look of the doll. So far I am very pleased with my helpers, and love the fact that I can now create just about any doll that enters in to my head.
I still to this day buy any materials I like whatsoever, barely glancing at the cost. Having spent years knitting like a crazy person (hate that phrase, sorry, but it does describe it), I am super familiar with yarn and know exactly what I like to knit with, and what I want the finished product to be like. I buy all fabric that grabs my eye, and any handspun yarn that I think is beautiful. I make humongous messes when I am planning out the dolls because I like to see in front of me all the materials that I have available. Lately I have been experimenting with dyeing yarn and it is another adventure that I want to explore further; I have only reached the tip of the iceberg. For me doll making is the ultimate crafting experience- it involves color, and knitting, and hand sewing, and clothing design, and sewing, and photography, and fun, and love. For me, this is the best business ever and I thank you for the part that you all play in it. 🙂