Jobs for the girls

There’s a popular series of Barbie dolls called ‘I want to be…’, all based on careers for girls to aspire to be. It where the astronaut and teacher Barbie dolls fit.

I was thinking about these Barbie dolls some time ago and wondering whether the idea of a career doll is useful to a child’s imagination. I was actually thinking about my own dolls and costumes.

Thinking back to when I played with dolls as a young child I remembered that my dolls didn’t have jobs, instead they went on adventures. I would get the duvet off the bed and scrunch it into a heap (pretend mountain) making a little hole halfway up for a cave and a place for Barbie to camp. The play was of Barbie hiking to the bed and using rope (a shoelace) to climb the steep side of the bed up to the top and the final climb up the mountain to the cave where she would set out her few belongings from her backpack and settle down for the night. Or she’d go to the pretend beach and swim in the ocean bathtub. Imagination I had in spades.

My parents bought me the super duper Barbie camper which kind of ended the mountain climbs but then came long distance driving to the country of “Living Room” and of course, being a big camper Barbie took friends.

If this is how kids play (and I only have my own experience to go on) then is a career Barbie any use?

Let’s be honest, an 8 hour shift is no adventure and someone only focused on earning money is quite frankly, rather boring to be around.

Imagine being one of Barbie friends…

On a nice hot Saturday we all decide to go to the beach, because in imaginary land we all live near the beach. We grab our towels, costumes, lotion, beach ball etc… and off we go.

We run onto the warm sand taking our shoes off to feel the grains of sand between our toes and turn to our best friend to tell her how great today is going to be… but Barbie isn’t there! Nope.

Barbie of course is the sodding lifeguard. Of course she is!

Her day at the beach is sitting in a chair watching people have fun and the only excitement is having a whistle to blow at people. Boring. And yet, that’s what toy manufacturers seem to base our play times on.

What is this obsession with ‘being’ someone?

I remember hearing a wee anecdote about a teacher asking her kids what they wanted to be when they grow up. One little wise one replied, “Happy”. So much of life and our place in life revolves around a job title and we know, when we meet someone new one of the first things they will want to know is our job title. But is that right?

What if, instead of forcing our imagination into an eight hour shift with Barbie is… we changed our thinking with Barbie goes…

Barbie goes to school and instead of having to stand for hours on end in high heels teaching a gang of obnoxious kids she attended an art class, or learnt to ride a motorbike. Barbie goes to the beach and catches a crab, real adventures rather than eight hour shifts.

Saying all this though, I remember wanting to be a shop keeper as a child. I remember getting everyone’s shoes, lining them in a row and pretending to sell shoes. Later when I was old enough to have nail polish I remember pretending to have a job painting nails. I had a notebook that I had drawn nails into and painted them with my polish, and wishing I could have a job where I painted nails but who on earth would be daft enough to pay someone to paint their nails?

On the other hand I was also looking at the Lammily doll ( an alternative to Barbie and her body size problems. I liked Lammily at first, or rather I liked that someone was offering up alternatives, but the more I look at Lammily the more I like Barbie. I know there are some folk out there (actually some are friends of mine) who think doll making isn’t art but I disagree. You need to be an artist to make a doll. Lammily though was made purely through mathematics.

A mathematician decided he would take the average measurements of girls and produce a doll based on those measurements. Great idea, but like I say, doll making is an art form not a science. Like all great brands Lammily also has a brand strap line, Average is beautiful.

So, Lammily comes onto the market, an average doll living an average life. Modern mummy’s flocked to buy the doll that wouldn’t make their child aspire to be skinny and long necked. Feminists applauded a less bimbo stereotyped doll. Her average life offers an additional pack of stickers to personalise your average doll. Sanitary towel stickers for when the doll gets a period, stretch marks (for when she’s had a baby or lost weight perhaps) acne stickers, bruise stickers (for when your average boyfriend punches you?) cut stickers (for when life is too depressing?)

I know, it’s not funny is it.

Whatever hidden message people think Barbie is flogging it isn’t shouting average. Be average, don’t stand out, don’t make a scene, celebrate being normal. Don’t make a fuss. Let’s be honest, we’re not average people, we’re all different so surely a doll shouting how being average is cruelty at its worst. You don’t want to be different, you want to be like everyone else, different is wrong.

Being an astronaut sounds fun. Getting to spend a year aboard a space station sounds like a great idea, but into the third week I’d be bored. Same old view from the window (do they get Netflix up there?) even the novelty of peeing in zero gravity will eventually wear off. But given the choice, I’d rather aspire to be an astronaut than average.

The Elevator Pitch – EPY week 3

An elevator pitch is a short description of what your business is about, supposedly short enough to say in the time a lift goes to the next floor (because we all talk to people in lifts), well, maybe not, but we might meet someone who could help us along the journey only to find we don’t have time to go into the details but need to grab their attention.

This is actually quite a useful and important thing to have ready when you think about it. Our little business is something we put our heart and soul into it and we can sit for hours talking about the details and inspirations, but reality is, we don’t have business leaders getting their secretaries to phone us up and book an hours appointment at the local coffee shop to talk about my dreams. Reality is, we might actually be standing at the elevator when we realise the person standing next to me is that one investor or business person that could give me a helping hand along the way. We literally have a few sentences.

The Enterprise team have a simple template to follow for writing your pitch.

1. Who is behind the company? (What is the company Values?)

2. What is my product?

3. What are the key benefits?

4. Who is my market?

5. What is my competition and how do I differ?

One mind map later I was ready to start writing, and this is what I came up with…

Betty Virago is a traditional doll maker who provides dolls, doll making supplies and workshops to inspire the current and future generations of doll makers.

Unlike mass produced dolls that often come with unobtainable bodies and overly made up faces, our soft bodied natural looking dolls are made to look like the children who might own them.

Our materials, where possible, are locally sourced, keeping our carbon footprint as low as possible and our techniques blend both old and new skills to create dolls suitable for boys as well as girls.

Aren’t you pleased?

I think it’s quite a nice bit of writing, it says what I’m planning on doing, and yet…

I just couldn’t imagine my down-to-earth self speaking this well thought out worded speach to a friend, never mind a stranger. It feels rather cold, not at all something I’d want to listen to.

But what could I say?

What do I do?

I make dolls.

But saying I make dolls just kept bringing images of zombie boys “I like turtles” comment.

This is where I’m starting to see the value of a business plan. A document that forces me to consider every aspect of my business and forcing me to sit down and pull out all the ideas I’m used to keeping in my head and examine each one.

What do I want to do?

Make dolls and share doll making skills with others


Because there is just something magical in making a doll for someone over buying a mass produced doll.

There is something special in having a doll, made just for you, and something magical in the relationship between child and doll.

Now how do I put that into words?

I’ve never put much thought into a business plan before, I know what I want so why do I need to write it down? It’s all here in my head. the truth is, I’ve tried writing them, but I come to the money section and get stuck. How do I forecast my finances?

The elevator pitch might not be a word for word statement I pour out at any stranger I meet, but it has forced me to get the plan on paper. I know what I want, but keeping it just in my mind hasn’t done me any favours. Getting the plan down on paper, seeing it in black and white, and really thinking about it has shown me new places I can take my goals, and helped me cut back on the parts of the dream that just weren’t working.

Bang Bang

When I made the cowboy outfit for MLCD (My little crochet doll) I pondered whether it was right. Should I be making dolls that typically carry guns?
I live in the UK, where Cowboys/Cowgirls are in short supply, but I’m pretty sure there is more to being a cow-person than shooting things.

Feeding cows, herding cows, counting cows… Yeah, we sure do have a shortage of cow-personnel around here.
The question I really had, and still have is, Should I make an outfit with a weapon?

 For years the question has been asked about violence in play, more recently in video gaming. Both sides have good arguments but as a long time gamer (although a bit of a chicken with violent games) I fall slightly to the gamers defence.

Can we blame a murderers behaviour on video games? People have been killing people long before TV, computers and video games were even thought of. Besides, if computer games influenced people into becoming what they play then I suppose many Facebook gamers would have left their office blocks to become farmers. Perhaps there is more to turning violent than playing violent games.

As with all hobbies and interests, there are those who enjoy the fun and those who have a problem distinguishing between fantasy and reality.

No truer example of this is found at Kings Cross station and the 9 3/4 platform where believe it or not, people have physically hurt themselves by running into the wall. While most of us realise it won’t take us the Hogwarts because we’re muggles, evidence shows that people actually believe they might just make it through.

I remember many years ago, one of my nephews was playing a notorious computer game, Grand Theft Auto. He was well below the recommended age for the game but had somehow persuaded a grown up to buy him a copy.

I asked him to show me how to play the game and he certainly did.

The purpose of the game is to commit crime, avoid the police and complete some missions, but the graphics and play of the game meant that you were free to roam around a virtual city and do anything you like.

My nephews computer character walked into the middle of the road and an oncoming car slowed to a stop. My nephew (as the character) pulled the driver from his car and got in, then drove off, hitting pedestrians on the way. All fun and games till someone gets hurt.

Driving round the city he found a dark alley with a woman walking along the curb and slowly drove alongside her. 

“If you drive real slow she gets in the car” he says, and yep the woman in the tight, short skirt poked her head through the window, then climbed into the passenger seat.

“Now you’ve got to drive somewhere quiet” and they drove to the beach and parked on the sand.

“Watch this” he says, as the car starts jumping up and down (yep, they really are doing what you think)

After a moment the woman gets out and his characters money shown on the screen goes down a little.

“Now, you’ve got to be really quick and kill her because she’s taken some of your money”.

Out he jumps and shoots the woman dead.

My innocent little nephew had no idea he had just mastered the ability to pick up a virtual prostitute and had learnt the ability to kill a woman to get his money back. To him and his tender age it was all a funny part of the game. He was far too young to understand what he had just shown his Aunty.

My nephew, thankfully, never grew up to be a gangster, nor did he begin driving down dark streets at night. He became a healthy, intelligent youth worker for the church, and now works as a carer for disabled adults, in his spare time he wrestles, but he’s as violent as a snail.

Though he didn’t quite grasp what he was doing, he was showing me something far beyond his years and I didn’t like it.

When I look at the news today I see it full of despair caused by hatred and violence, perhaps more than I have previously seen. In one sense, children can’t avoid gun violence and giving them a toy gun to play with is giving them something they see on TV and real life. 

Do I want to pretend violence doesn’t exist?

In 2014 a photograph of 4-year old Syrian refugee, Hudea, went viral. The photographer, Osman Sağırlı was using a long camera lens that the girl mistook for a weapon, a terrified look came on her face and she raised her hands in surrender.

Kids today know what a weapon looks like, they see them on the news, TV, toy shops, video games, but it’s all fake or virtual. It’s not real, it’s on a screen or it comes in plastic with a bright red cap to prove it’s fake.

Suddenly we are faced with a child as young as four. Not in a game or TV show, but a child who knows only too well how to react to the reality of a weapon.
There is another concern, where the weapon were once bow and arrow, now it’s guns, what will be the next weapon of choice for future kids? A machete? toy bombs? I google my fear, knowing already someone has been there… Someone has already made a suicide vest Barbie.

Then I read about the “Lion and Lamb” project who run toy exchanges, allowing kids to bring in their violent weapons in exchange for non-violent toys, or the “Guns aren’t fun” project set up by 16 year old Cody Hill, who exchange toy guns for sports equipment.

One such exchange programme happened at the Salvation Army in Marquette, Michigan. They explained that they hoped they could get toys to kids that weren’t associated with death and destruction.

Suddenly I see another argument that makes sense. With the Salvation Army, known for working in poorer areas of the world I can imagine many of the children they come across have seen the result of guns and violence. If a child has suffered the nightmare of seeing a friend or family member lose their lives to gun violence, do we want to be giving them a weapon as a play item? 

I took a trip to one of my local toy stores, The Entertainer. I don’t always manage to look around this shop because it doesn’t open on Sunday’s. The owner, as a Christian, believes in the keeping Sunday Special idea. I know many Christian families who appreciate the ethics of not selling on Sunday and choose this shop over the other alternatives in town.

I’m a regular at all of the local shops (If you make dolls, you need to keep an eye on what’s happening in toy land). As I walked around the shop, taking notice of the boy toys and weapon toys. This shop seems to sell more nerf guns and warfare toys than the other shops, which stock more playmobil, Lego and outdoor toys. I walk around the ‘boy’ section, mostly stocking Nerf guns (they now have purple nerf guns for girls) and war styled action figures, words on the boxes stand out to me, doomlands, vagabond, dual-strike, retaliator, Battle ’em, Solder in action, stealth forces, beywarriors, Battle set, Super hero mashers, Star Wars, Avengers, Furious rampage, Civil war. I wonder how the Christian ethics of the shop feel about being the biggest seller of toy weapons in my town.  

I think about that little girl with her hands up, if I could make her any doll, what would it be? Certainly not a doll with a weapon.

Another little known fact about the Salvation Army. In the UK they help rescue 100s of people caught up in slavery in the UK. People brought to the UK in the guise of a better life, yet brought into slavery, and often with their family.

A friend of mine is part of a team that drives to locations across the country to collect rescued victims from the police and drive them to opposite ends of the county to safe houses. She asked me once about knitting teddy bears, because often she has children in the car. They don’t understand what is happening and often don’t know our language. They have a long (several hours) car journey and the thought of being able to give each child a teddy bear to hug during the journey just might help.

There can be something magical and healing in a doll or bear for a child. It’s one of the best things about making dolls, imagining the child who will receive it and the possible life-long friendship between child and doll. 

There has to be an alternative to the never ending supply of violence in boy-targeted toys, and perhaps me making dolls without weapons is a small step, but it at least is a step in the right direction

When I grow up…

D’you remember when you were a kid, being asked what you wanted to be when you were older?

I wanted to be a Salvation Army officer. Failing that, any job that paid me to travel the world. I didn’t get to do my first choice and although I’m writing this on the night coach to London I didn’t really travel the world either.

The truth was, I didn’t really know what the choices were. I knew my parents job, and a lot of their friends worked the same career, my grandparents had done the same job, as had my Aunt and Uncle. My parents generation and those before perhaps didn’t have the choices we have today. They often followed in the family trade and kept a job for life.

These days there is a belief that we can be anything we want to be, unless you are heir to the throne, then I’m afraid it’s the family business for you sunshine.

I don’t even think asking a child what they want to be is a good question. It’s a closed question, although the answer isn’t a yes or no answer, it doesn’t leave room for imagination.

What do you want to be when you grow up?


“A train driver”

“A Pop star”

“A footballer”

And another thing, what’s with the notion of growing up?

I’ve been 36 for a long time. I was caught off guard last week when a reporter asked my age and I told the truth, he printed my age in the paper, Why? What has my age to do with anything?

But it’s this idea of being grown up. I left college at 20, was I grown up? Was I hell!

I’m …. Years old now, am I grown up, not always.

My dad’s in his 80s, and sometimes can act more like a child than any kid I know. I think we should scrap this notion of being grown up, I don’t believe there is such a thing.

How about we re-phrase the question and instead of asking the closed, uninspiring question of pick one job and that’s your lot, how about this.

Adult:    “What do you like doing?”

Child:   “I dunno, singing I guess”

Adult & Child: So how many jobs can we think of to do with singing?

Pop star, opera singer, backing singer, recording manager, stage hand, prop designer, costume designer, singing teacher, musician, pianist, composer, theatre director…

No longer is the child aiming for one goal, but exploring a whole world of imagination.

So, why have I been thinking about this?

When I was a wee kid, my dad taught me my party trick. I’d stand with hands on hips and say in a cheeky voice, “when I grow up, I’m going to be a proper little madam”. Some would argue that the dream came true.

I honestly don’t know whether my desire to be an officer was from my mum, from God, or simply that I saw no other option. It seemed to be the natural course of my life and I don’t remember thinking of becoming (or being offered) anything else.

When I went to my interview at University I was asked a question that today still makes me think.

“If you could be anything, what would you be?”

I don’t think anyone ever really asked me that before. I’ve reached the point where I pass for a grown up, yet I still didn’t have a clear aim. I’d just got myself a teaching qualification and wanted the next level, but needed a degree. So that’s why I applied to Uni, plus I needed to do something to kick me up the backside and get me out of my disability comfort zone.

When I go back to Uni in a few weeks I have to start looking into my intern year and wow, I have no idea what I want to do.

It’s like I’ve lived my life on Mars bars and suddenly I’ve found a whole sweet shop at my disposal.

So, instead of thinking what I want to be as a grown up I’m asking an alternative question and hope you will join in with any suggestions.

What do I like doing?

Knitting and crochet, spinning wool, writing knitting and crochet patterns, making dolls and teaching. Oh, and doing something for a good charity.

So how many jobs can we think of? (JOIN IN PLEASE)

Working at Rowan, doing anything –  I’d even make tea, but hopefully get to do other stuff too.

Working at Sirdar

Working in a spinning mill like Yorkshire spinners

Making dolls

Selling my stuff

Teaching at Swarthmore or a similar centre

Running craft classes for a charity or with vulnerable adults.

Doing something craftivism


Doing spinning demonstrations at the next wool week, and why not?

Working in a museum

Writing patterns

Organising a knitting event

Recycling yarn

Being a bit of a wool historian

Hopefully you’ll all come up with more ideas, in the meantime, here is a picture of me, being a grown up singer. Not a famous pop star, and a bit like where’s Wally, but I’m singing with the London Philharmonic in the Royal Albert Hall at the Proms. (I’m to the left of the organ, middle row, fourth from the edge!)

The Joy of invention

This morning I decided I’d go to the cinema to watch the new Star Wars film, but when I was looking for film times I found something rather interesting. A film called Joy.

Now you might not find that interesting at all, but then again, you might be one of those people with a name like Sarah or Rachel, who has lost the wonder of things with your name on them. You might have a drawer full of gifts from the seaside with your name on. Pens, key rings, mugs, coasters, rock, I’ve searched through them all and every holiday at the beach I come away without my traditional seaside tat.

But then again, I have Christmas with shops full of decorations with Peace, Noel and JOY!!!

I’ve been given stockings, nativity scenes, tree decorations and this year a nice set of candles all with my name on (no, Betty isn’t my real name… It’s a long story!)

So, seeing a film with my name was wonderful.

The film is about a woman, Joy Mangano, who fought against the odds to produce a product she invented. Like a lot of Hollywood films, much of the story is embellished, but the facts are still pretty impressive. Joy had an idea and pushed it to completion through sheer determination.

Some people are raised financially fortunate, they are able to do amazing things in life because they have the means to buy what they want. Money though, doesn’t buy everything. The determination needed to become who you should be isn’t always affordable through cash.

Other people are raised freely fortunate, it’s not an upbringing that costs a fortune, it’s the upbringing that includes people who encourage you to be anything you want. It’s the parent who sits and listens to a child’s dreams and explores them instead of telling them not to have their heads in the clouds. It’s the teachers who show the possibilities and lead us to questions not yet explored.

Oh I’m drifting again!!!

Last year at University we learnt the value of play. To sit with tools and materials and just play, with no outcome in mind.

I came up with a toy called Chalky the Spider (see a previous blog for Chalky and the pattern).

What I didn’t do it tell you what happened to Chalky, it’s a story I’m rather proud of.

Not long after making Chalky I was in a knitting group, one knitter was talking about her family and her son, a young teenager with Autism. She was telling us that he has never been able to use a pen, so has never learnt to write and has never drawn a picture.

I wondered… What is Chalky could help. He was after all, a drawing spider and doing nothing but sitting in a box where I keep all finished Uni makes.

Of course, it’s a good ending. Chalky was able to help a child begin drawing and who knows where that child will go next.

Invention. It doesn’t have to be the a rocket going into space, the worlds fastest car or a flying car.

Invention is also smaller everyday important items, like the ultimate mop or a spider that helps children draw.

Dolly time Dolls

I keep seeing these adorable little knitted dolls on Ravelry and decided to buy a pattern to try. I bought the Little Belle pattern.

The patterns are created by Wendy Phillips who published on Ravelry as Dollytime.

I love the sweet, friendly natured faces and colourful outfits.

Wendy has patterns in several sizes and I’m already looking at another pattern to get.

I like the softer fabric of knit, but most knitted doll patterns work flat on two needles, which I guess is great for those who don’t like DPNs (Double pointed needles). I like working in the round though and am guessing patterns could easily be changed to my preferred way of knitting. It would also avoid all the sewing up of seams which I find tough going.

I’ve made a little belle of my own…

She’s standing on my iPad, I used some doll hair I found while sorting through a box of doll making stuff and scraps of yarn, that’s a great way of using up scraps.

The clothes are not removable, but the pattern comes with lots of variety to create several different dolls and while you can’t change the dress or shoes, the hats and capes are changeable.

The Flutterby Patch blog on the iPad is the blog for more about the dolls.

I’ve looked at several knitted doll patterns and although I still prefer crochet dolls (not as much sewing up!) I think these dolls are wonderful.

Huddersfield University Textile Students Final Year Show 2015

Today I was back at Uni for a preview of the fourth year students final work.

I don’t really know what I was expecting since I’ve never been to a student show before. Some work I looked at and thought Eh?, others Oooo!, and some Ahhhhh!
Our task was to write a review on three pieces. They had to be different in some way (i.e style, technique, like/don’t like) Obviously I was more interested in the knit projects, but there were many others that took my eye.
In the end I chose three that I classed as ‘Marmite’ projects. Projects with a love/not love style to them. In one sense they’re not different, but in another, each one brought first an Awww (cute) or Hmmm (Not sure Hmm), followed later with an Oooohhhh, Hmmmmm (deeper thinking Hmm).

1. The one I liked then loved.

Eve Cavell


The ‘Willkommen’ collection is inspired by a dark illustrative story conceived by the theatrical nightmare of historical entertainment.

The augmented illustrations that exist somewhere between horror and humour allow for a surreal yet recognisable twist of humanity and nightmare that has been evolved into a collection of wearable art.

Willkommen is a collection focused on empowering fashion to exist as a purer expression of self-being, through eccentric aesthetics and the ideals of A-Gender clothing.

Instagram; @evecavell


Ever since we did the Grayson Perry assignment I’ve tried to look at things longer. Instead of walking through a gallery and nodding to things I like I’ve also stopped to look at those I don’t like. My eyes are opening to the story behind the image.

In this case I have seen Eves’ work before and liked her style. Her pen and watercolour images are funny with just the right touch of wickedness plus they connect to my inner goth.
The project is based on nightmares and horror, with a touch of humour. Like the poltergeist films where the clown, created to be funny, becomes one of the scariest parts of the film. DSC00813

Her images are based around a circus theme, a story of characters in a circus of nightmares.
And suddenly I’m in her world, loving the heavy glaring almost monster like men in their oversized sweaters, although I don’t know the story, I feel as though I can see it.

The presentation did the project justice, golden brown copper piping holding amazing knit samples made on the Brother knitting machines.

The colour scheme was subdued almost pastel, but (if this is possible) the dark side of pastels. Oh yes, everything nice like clowns, ringmasters, jugglers, but with a little amount of horridness.DSC00809

I loved the idea of drawing on white leather and the brass frame looked fantastic.

The knitted techniques used were complex and appealing, there were a few samples that showed the knitted techniques and thought process on them, but these seemed a bit lost amongst the sketches. It could be that an overuse of drawings could hide the importance of the knitted structure. I found myself taking time to look at the drawings and admiring them more than the knit – which is a worry when Eve is trying to show her textile talent.


I liked the way she kept her journals, writing in her own hand rather than typing out words, yet she took time to imagine how things would look on the page before writing.

I finally found sense in having designers I like and am inspired by, her journals felt fresh and uncluttered, but helped link her final ideas to her thought process.

Is this the type of show I want to present?

Although knit is my specialism I am not sure I see myself making final pieces like this. I want to know the techniques used and be able to use them in my work, but I see myself doing something different.

I love the presentation of her work and hope when it comes to my turn I’ll be able to show my ideas in as clear and pulled together way as she has. I’ve taken some ideas from her way of presenting knit samples and will put some thought into my research journals (which over the first year has gone from what is research to I need to do more research).

 DSC00810 DSC00811

2. The one I thought was cute, then saw the bigger picture

Megan Dodds  |  Little Homes

BA (Hons) Surface Design for Fashion & Interiors  |  2015

A project inspired by the increasing issue of gender stereotypes and idea of gender neutrality in child’s play combined with the quintessential familiarity of the idea of ‘home’.

‘Little Homes’ investigates, and working alongside Fourdot Ltd and Applelec, proposes a series of functional and inspiring lighting products for children and the home. Full of creativity, they’re designed to encourage storytelling and fuel imaginative play, creating an interactive and sensory experience to intrigue your child’s curiosity. Through the ability to pick and mix panels forming the light’s façade, they can create unique combinations to discover their own little world.

At first glance I saw Megans houses and thought, pretty and walked on. Then I looked again.DSC00834

Yes, they are beautiful.

Yes, they make nice lights.

But they are so much more.

They are welcoming, interactive play scenes for imagination (something that computer games seem to be stealing from growing minds).


They are well thought out scenes that allow story telling through play.

The square lamps illuminate and cast pictures and shadows on walls and surfaces to make even bigger play areas.

There are little clear pieces with fish on that can be added to the waves of the sea. Children can make characters to expand the story and have endless adventures.

But it’s more than that…

Doc 10-06-2015 13-0113Doc 10-06-2015 13-0114

Something I’ve been exploring myself through my doll making recently is the idea that dolls are for girls. Who says so?

The idea of pink being for girls and blue for boys has been around far too long. Megan explores the idea of gender stereotyping through toys in some well presented books. Why can’t girls have blue rooms?

WP_20150610_003My latest patterns for the My Little Crochet Doll have been aimed towards boy doll ideas. Cowboys and Spacemen. But hang on, even I label them as cow BOYS and space MEN. As though the careers go to the boys and the ballet outfits go to the girls.

This stereotyping is ingrained into our beings from such a young age that we don’t recognise it as a hindrance.

Does is go even deeper, are we damaging children or rather not allowing children to reach their potential by forcing children into a mould?

WP_20150610_005These are questions raised by Megan through her work with the little houses. How can we create play as a gender neutral place?

Can we create toys that are beautiful, useful, simple and allow children to grow?

The presentation was in a smaller space than the other two I chose, but the space was used to it’s potential and perhaps more room would give a different feel that wouldn’t work so well.WP_20150610_002I really enjoyed the books that came with the presentation. The smaller ones (shown in these images) show photos of children using the light as it should be whilst the other book was an explanation on her research into traditional play (pink and blue separation).

The light was made using lazer cut pieces in wood and perspex, painted or dyed I’m not sure, but a simple and effective way to let light through.

It looked as though the panels could be taken apart and put together, thus adding to the possibilities and allowing a child to chose their own panels for the lighting. However the wood chosen looks fragile. I don’t know how strong this would be if taken apart several times.

I linked closely to the thoughts behind this project, as someone looking into toys and gender (or why can’t dolls belong to boys) I found it very interesting.

I also found myself returning to something that I love… toy and doll making.

This morning I was handed some results from my last assessment, there was the suggestion that my work looked commercial rather than my own designer maker style. That’s quite something for those who remember my posts when I first started Uni. I spent some time wondering where I was heading.

There is a part of me that feels lost. In a way I feel as though I don’t quite know what I am about, while everyone else seems to know. I’m sure that’s not true and we’re all feeling lost, but I wonder whether I’ll ever get back to making dolls. There are so many things at University that I want to try out. I want to master all the knit machines and computer programmes they can throw at me, but in my almost addiction like need to learn, I worry that I will lose the things I love.

3. The Marmite one – I like it, but don’t like it.

Amy Rowson-Jones


Made in Britain

 BA(Hons) Textile Crafts

 Led by a passion to source and produce within the UK, Rowson-Jones has combined local heritage and natural materials to create a garment which holds its own story. Each material has been carefully gathered within Yorkshire, with the use of hand picked berries from Hanging Stone Road, Huddersfield, beautiful alpaca yarn from Summer Wine Alpacas, Holmfirth, preserved cotton from the original Belle Vue Mills, Skipton. Made up of both rainwater and Hedera helix, the natural ingredients and dye process have resulted in the garment to be one of a kind. The jumper has been crafted for a high-end unisex market.

Follow my journey on Instagram @arowsonjones

Most people would assume this would be my favourite project in the show.DSC00863

I liked it and it’s something that’s close to my heart and something I’ve been wanting to explore a lot more.

This idea of locally sourced yarn is something I am passionate about as a spinner and knitter.

I remember the first time I bought a ball of wool I could trace all the way back to the sheep and the sense that I had found something so precious will stay with me for a long time.

I still have one of the balls of wool I bought that day. It’s from a sheep called April who lives in a field just outside of York. Her owner sheers DSC00866the sheep, washes the fleece and even spins it herself. Talk about locally sourced, that ball of wool has yet to leave Yorkshire!

You can’t get better than that.

The wool though is rough, too rough for garments next to the skin. Well, of course it’s rough. It’s British wool. From British sheep.

And that’s where I don’t like this project so much.

I love the idea of locally sourced and one reason is that it often helps local people, people who need local buyers to help keep their livelihoods going.

I often hear people talking about the dreadful situation we’re in by allowing our garments to be produced overseas. Tales of factories being closed down as products are outsourced for lower paid workers, often leading to bad conditions and dreadful disasters where factories are so badly managed that they collapse.WP_20150610_014

This is one of the main reasons I suspect, that people are choosing locally sourced over overseas products. I hear people talking about their favourite yarn companies telling me how it’s a local company, until I point to the small print on the label that says, produced in Turkey.

Our once large spinning mills are now museums struggling to survive with the small funding they receive and my county is littered with once thriving factories.

Sourcing locally keeps what workers we have left in business and is important.

WP_20150610_012Amy’s fibre was locally sourced, the berries for dyeing were hand picked locally, the water used was rain water (even the tap water was seen as unsuitable for this economical jumper). Everything was done to give you the impression of local, economical, resourceful, community, traditional back-to-basics way of making. Made in Britain.

The fibre (because technically it isn’t a wool) was spun in a factory outside of Yorkshire.

While there are many hand spinners in Yorkshire who would have happily hand spun the fibre, keeping with the tradition that Amy seemed to aim at, she chose to machine spin the fibre.

I love the concept (am going to say that a lot!)

I just don’t think it hit the mark.

The natural dyeing process is a good idea, but I think (and might be a bit harsh here) it could have been better. While the jumper is aimed at a high end market it looks muddy, almost dirty in colour. Part of that is the inconsistency with the dye. darker and lighter in parts.

This might be because the yarn was dyed in a skein and not dyed accurately. If the dye had been added prior to spinning the fibres they would have blended more evenly and given a more consistent colouring. There’s a part of me that wishes she had just left the yarn in it’s natural state. A lovely white alpaca was sourced, so why dye it grey?

I love the concept.

Okay, here it comes…

My pet hate.

Alpacas are beautiful animals more related to camels than sheep, so produce lovely soft fibre that is a pleasure to spin and knit.

Alpacas are not British.

I’d like to say I refuse to buy alpaca from British farms, but last year I was offered a real bargain, a whole fleece for £5 and I couldn’t turn it down.

Alpacas are native to Peru, where they have a wonderful system that means every alpaca owner, whether big ranch owner or small farmer in poverty gets the same fair price of his fleece based on quality of the animal. Buying Alpacas from Peru supports the small farmer who relies on us for his livelihood. Without us, without the alpaca trade, he would not be able to support his family. It’s that important.

As much as I hate losing our trade to overseas I hate the idea that we are in return taking trade away from Peru farmers.

And I have another pet annoyance.

Alpacas are not cheap. Really not cheap. While you can often pick up a sheep for £10 Alpacas will cost you between £2,000 and £3,000. This is not a project for the poor! To have alpacas in the UK you need some money behind you. The field, food, vets are just one of the many costs.

As someone who is working with Leeds Poverty Truth and Churches Action on Poverty I cannot buy British alpaca fleece from a rich owner, knowing I am taking trade from a poorer owner in Peru.

I say again, I love the concept, but for me it missed the mark.

However, I enjoyed the concept and it brought me back to my love of wool. The same teacher who suggested I was turning to designer maker also suggested I made yarn for my project. I wanted to, but couldn’t quite see the idea in full. I’ve spent my year listening to designers I like, and looking at trends of the season and I panicked thinking while others are designing garments and fashion, my hand made yarn would look like a poor effort. It just didn’t seem to be what ‘they’ wanted.

I feel lost because I’m not following my passion, I’m trying to fit into what I think is required.

I might not have liked how the concept turned out, but it got me spurred into action. I need to return to my first love, finding locally sourced British wool, from British sheep, spun or dyed in traditional ways.

All images are my own

Type in italics is the individual students statement from the University.

All student work can be seen on the textile blog:

My Little Crochet Doll pattern can be found at:

My Little Crochet Doll – Mermaid

There are a lot of mermaid dolls out there at the moment, most of which have the tail sewn as part of the body.

This pattern has a removable tail, so just like the little mermaid, you can remove it when your doll wants to have legs.

It’s made from Sirdar’s Giselle yarn. Normally I think of a pattern and grab the wool I need, but this was a different process in that I saw the wool and saw a mermaid. Other Aran weight yarns can be used, but the gold glitter and shades of Giselle yarn set the outfit off perfectly.

Another change in this pattern is that is isn’t just a crochet pattern.

The bra is made from polymer clay, if you’re a beginner to this medium then this pattern is a great way to try a new craft. The tools you need are all easily found.

There are also instructions to make the beaded necklace, again introducing you to simple bead threading.

Am always happy to get emails from people regarding the dolls and crafts. Please ask questions if you have any.

So, here’s the doll…




I know, she’s great isn’t she.

Her hair was made using Sirdar Crofter DK, which gives a seaweed look to it. The beaded necklace and bracelet were from beads found in hobbycraft.

The pattern is here…

MLCD Mermaid – UK

MLCD Mermaid – US

Let me know what you think, give me ideas for future outfits, send me your photos.

Just a quick update…

I’ve posted two patterns, one in UK terms and one in US. Hope that helps my fellow Brits!!!

My Little Crochet Doll – Sunday Best

“Where have you been?” I hear you ask…

Well, been busy, volunteering like mad – gonna have to give some of that up I think. Working hard and crocheting.

But here I am with exciting news, a new pattern for the little crochet doll.




The Photo just doesn’t do the outfit justice.

I normally make a new doll for each outfit and am going to make one soon, The pink hair does clash a bit.

But here is the Sunday best outfit. A little Victorian style outfit ready for parties and special occasions.

She comes with a dress, bloomers, lace up boots, bag and the wonderfully detailed fur trimmed bonnet.


I have to warn you all though, I feel the pattern is hard, but have a go. It might be just the difficulty I found putting it down into words.

I’ve added pictures and diagrams and a link to a YouTube tutorial to make it as easy as possible.

And as always, you can email me for help.


For those who can’t wait for the next patterns to come along, I’ve included a little hint of the next pattern. Almost finished, just working out some of the pattern bits.

Anyway. hope you like it.


My friend Knitting Annie, says it’s the details that make my dolls look wonderful, so here’s some of the details to try and entice you.



Love her? Well the pattern for the outfit is here mlcdsundaybest

Some people have been asking where you buy the doll pattern from, so for those people who want to buy the doll that goes with all the clothes here’s a link

You can buy her from Ravelry, Etsy and now on my new Folksy shop, just search for me (Betty Virago) or My little crochet doll.

My Little Crochet Doll – Ballerina

I know, I know… It’s been a little while since I said hello.

I’ve been so busy. I got a few weeks paid teaching work and I also got a place at Huddersfield Uni. It’s all go!

But I finally sat down and finished the next doll pattern for the little crochet doll. This time a pink ballerina doll.



She is fast becomming one of my favorites.

The bodice from the tutu came from a similar style of dresses from the by hook by hand blog.

The pattern is here… MLCDballet

The dress is written in full, but you will need to buy the My Little Crochet Doll pattern from my Etsy or Ravelry shop to make the doll, underwear and ballet slippers.

So, What’s next?

I was thinking a Victorian outfit, or maybe a cooks outfit. What do you think?

While I’m here I might as well let you all know about the next needle felting session at Inkwell, Potternewton Lane, Chapel Allerton. It’s Saturday 22nd March, 10.30am till 12.30pm £6 each.

We’re making the needle felted fairies and dolls for Mothers day. We made them just before Christmas and everyone loved them. This time though we can look at free standing dolls. I haven’t taken any photos yet, but here’s a similar mobile I made using the same process, it’ll at least give you an idea.