Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Making of a Rag Doll

Sometime in early June I became obsessed with the idea of making a rag doll. For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be a doll maker. I wanted to be a doll maker waay before I could sew two seams together. But it was all talk and thought. Like all things and many of my ambitions, I soon realised I'm no doll maker. I mean, it's a lot of work. Pfft! Plus, I have sensitive noses and the polyfil gets everywhere. So to date, I've made ONE doll which coincidentally was made in June 6 years ago. I still have the same bag of polyfil I used for that doll, for god's sake. I know I'm more comfortable as a doll collector. Wait, let me rethink that. I'm too lazy to even be a doll collector. I just like looking at photos of dolls. There! That's how lazy a human being I am. But it being June and doll making ambitions tend to rear its ugly head so I dived into my fabric stash to bring a doll into being.

I have this book The Making of a Rag Doll by Jess Brown. How many of you had the same thought as me? How deceptively easy to make. Man, I could churn out thousands and make tons of $ like the Jess Brown dolls.

Guess how many Jess Brownish doll I made? ONE. And just barely.

First of all, the pattern that comes in the book is not the same pattern that makes the famous Jess Brown dolls. It's a dumb down version. I'm okay with the dumb down version although the armpits are a sewing nightmare. What? You mean I have to sew a sharp pivot and then turn it right side out? I don't understand. That's sew madness. Also, I don't know what happened with the legs. Mine came out fat. Totally different from the book version. But I couldn't be arsed to find out why.

The patterns include outfits and accessories for the doll which is really the fun part. You get to make a pair of knickers, a newspaper hat, a sundress, a tote bag, an overcoat, a quilt (a doll size), a drawstring dress, a sweater scrap hat and an apron. And I was going to make them all. All. All. All.

The less scary version
Of course I ran out of steam. Firstly, the doll's face just wouldn't happen. My first version - my daughter said made her scared. The eyes were pinched and the mouth was pinched. So I unpicked the embroidery and did a unpinched version. It's less scary but still nothing close to a Jess Brown doll.

The hair was my biggest mistake. The book gave a very vague explanation on how to do it. Like remember the bad old days when you borrow a book on how to make a bag and it shows you every damn detailed step except the most important and crucial step which comes with no photo and a long freaking essay. Well, I did my best to fake it. My mistake was to use a cheap $2 Daiso felt for the hair. Who knew a $2 felt would shed felt dust everywhere. The moral of the story? You buy cheap felt you get felt shit everywhere.

In total I made one dress and one pair of knickers. Much to my horror, there is total disregard for hiding of raw seams. I didn't want to impose my own raw seams snobbishness on a Jess Brown doll so I went with the flow. I've always felt imprisoned by my own inflexibility when it comes to raw seams. Maybe this will teach me something. Or maybe it will kill me...

Anyway, I ended up sick as a dog for 2 weeks and that effectively ended my ambition to make any more dolls or doll clothes. Really, otherwise I would have made all the projects. All. All. All.

So the illness that felled me - I had gone to Chinatown for a supply run. Well, it was literally to buy 2 yards of webbing. While on the way home, I had to transfer train to another train line and entered a train compartment that was incredibly cold never mind that it felt like 40 deg outside. Being thoroughly unprepared for the polar vortex for that 2/3 min train ride, I became incredibly sick, sneezing my head off. By the time I had pulled out my cardigan and covered my head with a hoodie, I had reached the point of no return. Body aches, fever, sore throat the whole nine yards followed for a week.

The doctor said it was sinus infection. No biggie, right? I've had that before. The medication - augmentin (antibiotics) is also something I've taken before. No biggie, right? Except this time, I diarrhead (verb) my head off. Not the little bit of watery shit one gets now and then. The big, unstoppable kind. At first I was just annoyed. Then I got frightened. Because it was coming out of my rear end like tap water. Finally with 1 more day of augmentin to go, I called it quits. Looking back, I wished I had the good sense to stop earlier. I hadn't been eating and was subsisting on apple juice and yakult.

In my browser history, you'll see my most popular searches are How to stop diarrhea and Can you die from diarrhea? As I discovered the hard way, the medicine to stop diarrhea does not work immediately. Nope. It takes its own sweet time.

Eventually it stopped. As hubs said to me when I was in the depth of despair: all things come to pass. Yah, just shaddup. I hate to listen to wise nonsense when I'm "in my mind" one foot in the grave. I want a cure - a magic wand. Not blah blah blah.

And once the diarrhea stopped I had other problems. Getting food down my throat. For a few days I went around wanting to puke at the very thought of eating. Isn't that the worst part? You're better and starving and you. can. not. eat. So back to apple juice.

Today I had one whole bowl of quinoa noodles. So I think I'm on the mend. Once I'm able to run 5km round the canal without collapsing, I'll declare myself fully recovered. And you never know, I might even make another Jess Brown doll. No, I'm kidding. One is enough.

Before my illness completely overtook my every waking moment, I had cobbled together a similar dress and knickers for my tiny doll Neve. I think I made it when I was having a fever and quite possibly hallucinating. Look how careless I was with the seams and all! I've always felt very apologetic towards Neve because she had literally nothing to wear. Ready to do some serious twinning?

p.s. if you don't own the book and wants to attempt the doll, try this version or that version.


Jane McLellan said...

Perhaps I've been living under a rock, I've never heard of a Jess Brown doll. I have made rag dolls, for children and grandchildren. I'd neaten the seams, whatever the book said! Hope you're on the mend and soon eating well.

Projects By Jane said...

Hi Jane, Jess Brown dolls sell for over 200 bucks each. They look pretty exquisite unlike my version. Yup, next time I'm hiding all the raw seams.

Kate said...

I live in a world of boys, so dolls aren't even on my radar. Your doll looks fine to me. I really like the two versions of the sheet little dress.

Barwitzki said...


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