Inspirational Yarn – Betty’s Doll Wool

Over the past seven days I’ve introduced you to seven names that make up the seven skin tones of my doll wool.

Last year I was obsessively making dolls for my final university project, these Northern Folk dolls were a challenge to me, a doll maker, in whether I could produce a doll that was locally sourced, naturally made and inspired by local folk.

The main part of the dolls was the yarn that I used to crochet them with, at the time I used an acrylic wool. This is pretty much what 99.9% of knitted and crochet dolls are made up of.

The only skin tones I could find was a few browns and the only lighter skin tone was Sirdar Hayfield which is a budget acrylic yarn.

Over the last few years, and with the introduction of amigurumi, crochet doll making has increased in popularity and yet the shades of yarn remained the same.

I think one of the problems was yarn manufacturers thinking only in terms of clothing and in reality, who wants a flesh coloured jumper?

Another problem was the use of acrylic, I’m not a yarn snob, not at all, but we’re in a situation where we need to take a serious look at plastic and it’s effect on the world.

It seems crazy that the Media seem obsessed with our use of plastic straws and yet celebrate Christmas jumper day, a day when we all buy a new acrylic ugly jumper which we’ll wear only a handful of times before discarding.

So, It had to be done, I had to make a wool yarn in skin tones, just for my final university project, and I admit, at the time I had the intention of continuing to use acrylic after university because, well, not only am I not a yarn snob, but I am very much against yarn snobbery.

After months of testing dyes and wools and turning my kitchen into a dyers studio I found seven tones that I liked.

I chose the Cheviot sheep as a breed for the wool, being a Northern sheep breed, I might not be a yarn snob, but I’m certainly passionate about Northern quality.

I found a family run mill helping me keep big fat-cat companies as far away from the project as possible, and a local small dye company with a similar family feel. I can’t trace my wool back to the sheep, but pretty close. The farmers take the wool to Bradford, it’s spun in Huddersfield and using dyes from Sheffield I create the wool in Leeds. Even the pipe cleaners I used for the armatures came from a small factory in Huddersfield.

local craftspeople doing what they do best

It seems a shame to keep such a great wool all to myself, so after university was over, and I spent some time sorting out my health (for those who don’t know, I’ve done all this whilst being quite ill – No they still don’t know what’s wrong, but the last time I saw the Cardiologist they were thinking about heart failure, but don’t worry, I’m on the up!) I decided to manufacture the wool.

Naming the wool

As many knitters will know, yarn comes in colours and each colour had a name. So, I spent a long time trying to work out what to name the tones (I call them tones rather than colours because they are skin tones and it keeps us thinking we’re all equal in tones rather than separate as colours).

I saw tones named after food (strawberry, chocolate, honey) and tones named after drinks (Latte, Coffee) but it didn’t seem right, in fact it felt wrong.

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The above tone chart comes from Windsor and Newtons felt tip range… Putty! Who on Earth wants to describe themselves as Putty? Isn’t putty that off-white stuff you use on windows?

Then there was my personal feelings about dolls and doll making. There was so much research about the effects of dolls on children and I decided the whole doll making process had to be one of inspiration.

I can’t remember the day it happened, but after weeks and weeks of searching for tone names and looking at images of people from across the world. I decided on using names of people for skin tones. Each person had to be a woman of that skin tone who could be an inspiration to doll makers, doll collectors and most importantly players of dolls.

It was important that when a child held a doll  of a darker skin tone, they knew that there was no limits to who they could be in life. People like Mae Jemison, who had dreams of going into space as a child, tell the young children of today that their dreams can become reality, that no one has the right to quash the dreams of the young.

No one can stop a plus sized young girl like Shelby from being an athlete. Sports companies might not make plus sized athletic wear, thinner people might try their best to body shame larger children into dieting, but size doesn’t matter in our dreams and Shelby, with her Princess attitude proves just that.

Coming from wealth or coming from poverty, having two parents or none, having the best paid education, attending funded courses or learning later in life makes no difference in getting where you want to be in life.

I have the privilege of being a doll maker, it’s a magical job where I have the power to inspire the next generation simply by making the dolls that will inspire their dreams.

So here is the wool, ready to buy and inspire…

The seven shades will be available on my Etsy shop and on the shop on this website.

The wool comes in 100g skeins, plenty enough for one of my Crochet dolls which are 15″ tall. It’s a thicker side of DK weight yarn but works with 3mm-4mm needles to create a tighter fabric to help avoid stuffing showing through, this is vital for those who make dolls to sell since it’s a requirement of the EU safety laws.

So far only two tones (Shelby and Malala) have been tested to EN71 safety, making it safe for doll and toy making. and it passes the doll flammability tests. It’s going to cost a couple hundred pounds to have all the wools tested so I want to see if it’s popular before spending so much money on testing.

I’m going to boast here…

It’s the only wool of its kind in the world (I searched high and low but perhaps there’s another wool out there) which is made especially for doll making, produced fully in the UK (and apart from the sheep themselves) is produced in Yorkshire.

It’s currently priced at £18/100g although I will do an introductory price and wool shade cards for retail and large orders will be available very soon.

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Inspirational Yarn – Mae

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Mae, tone number 6, is named after the first black woman to travel in space, Mae Jemison.

She was interesting in science as a young child but not encouraged by her teachers who suggested she didn’t want to be a scientist but rather a nurse. She says ‘the best way to make dreams come true is to wake up!’ Take your dreams as a challenge and a call to action.

‘It’s your place in the world; It’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it and make it the life you want to live.’

Mae Jemison – Engineer, Physician and Astronaut

Mae also wanted to be a dancer and aimed for both a career as a doctor and as a dancer. I love the attitude of her mother who said, ‘You can always dance if you’re a doctor, but you can’t doctor if you’re a dancer.’

When Mae saw Sally Ride become a female astronaut she realised doors were opening and still with her original dream of becoming an astronaut, she reapplied to NASA and went into space in 1992.

She says her parents were the best scientists because they were always asking questions.

And she even got to appear in an episode of Star Trek (of which I am very excited about!).

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Inspirational Yarn – Malala

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Our fourth Yarn tone is named Malala after Malala Yousafzai.

Malala is known to most people as the fifteen year old Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the face for wanting an education. Surviving being shot in the face didn’t deter Malala from speaking out for girls education which just shows the determination of Malala and her family.

Perhaps not so well known is that Malala’s activism for girls education didn’t start on that bus ride home at 15, but started much earlier as an anonymous 11 year old blogger for the BBC Urdu website.

Her father was an educator and encouraged Malala to get her education because he remembered growing up in a world where his sisters unable to be educated. He wanted more for his daughter and put her name forward to write the anonymous blog which would describe life under Taliban rule.

Malala wrote anonymously until the end it seemed freedom had come and girls were allowed to attend school again.

After the Taliban returned her family were split up and Malala ended up living with relatives, then the New York Times made a documentary about Malala and as she became more known her anonymity began to end.

With the news that again the Taliban had been forced out of their home the family returned, but now the death threats arrived. Both Malala and her father received death threats for their support of women’s education.

The eventual shooting happened as Malala travelled home from taking an exam. A gunman got on the bus and asked Malala to identify herself otherwise all the girls would be shot. She was then identified and shot in the face.

‘I want every girl to know that her voice can change the world’

Malala Yousafzai – Activist

I don’t think there is need to say more about why Malala is an inspiration, although there is a lot more that can be said. To be as young as eleven and knowingly put your life on the line to make the world better for yourself and others is courage beyond measure.

Inspirational Yarns – Shelby

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Shelby is the name of our third yarn tone and is named after Shelby Sinar.

Shelby is a women’s wrestler for UK Womens Wrestling, perhaps not the most popular of sports and Shelby might never be a household name or olympic medal winner.

However, it takes real courage to get into a ring and use quick thinking and athletic skill to win matches. To do all that whilst being in a created personna too, which I think is a skill that’s not given enough credit for.

But what makes Shelby inspirational for me is her courage to do this while being a larger woman than the stereotypical athlete. Shelby fights under her characters name of the Plus-Sized Princess.

‘For years they told me I wasn’t an athlete, that I couldn’t do sports. I find certain things difficult, but I will never let someone tell me that I can’t do it.’

Shelby Sinar – Female Wrestler

As a plus sized woman I’ve experienced the bullying, the comments from strangers who feel it’s acceptable to comment on my size or perceived lifestyle. The fear that someone is just waiting to put me down, even as I write this blog post I’m aware that someone most likely is going to make a comment about larger people because it’s a bullies last stand.

To be a larger woman and put yourself out in public is one of societies last taboos, but let’s be honest, I don’t know too many thinner women who can throw a full sized person around like Shelby does which just proves size isn’t everything.

To be a female wrestler is a tough enough sport, but to do it with the courage of Shelby Sinar, to be the powerful woman she chooses to be, is why she is an inspirational woman.

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Inspirational Yarn – Emma

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Our second Tone colour is named Emma after Emma Watson.

Most recognisable as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films who had the brains, skills and looks to be the best at what she put her mind (and spells) to.

Emma Watson is in many ways the girl who has everything, the looks, the talent and the brains. Attending prestigious private schools, Landing her first professional acting role as Hermione, getting a professional career and attending universities in both the US and UK, then gaining a successful modeling career with campaigns for companies like Burberry and Lancôme.

I think, when most people think about inspirational women we don’t often think of people like Emma. We imagine people who have overcome hardship, who’ve had to fight for their dreams, who didn’t have it all.

‘You have to go out there and make your own mistakes in order to learn.’

Emma Watson – Actress & Activist

Here’s why I chose Emma as one of the seven inspirational women.

Emma could have taken the privilege of her life and bought herself a nice mansion, done her films and modeling and said thank you very much and no one would have complained. Many celebrities do just that and we celebrate them and award them for it.

Emma though has spent much of her time speaking out for women and girls who were not as privileged. She is an active goodwill ambassador and a speaker for gender rights. She speaks on feminism not as a women’s movement, but as a fight for equality that affects men as much as it affects women. Her determination to raise awareness on equality for everyone os why she is an inspiration and named after one of our skin tones.

Being an inspiration isn’t reserved for the overcomers, it’s important to recognise that everyone has the ability to reach out to others.

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Dolls House sized Travel Home

Well, it seems quite a while since I made anything or wrote on this blog, but here’s a fantastic little free make in the hope that you’ll forgive my non-posting.

I’ve spent a long time making dolls and trying to ‘up my game’ I figured I’d like a nice way to package dolls I sold. I’ve been looking for boxes for quite a while, then I came up with this little idea.

A little traveling home for my mini crochet dolls. It fits dolls just under 6″, so that’s dolls house dolls and some of Beth Webbers smaller dolls, plus some of the ball-jointed dolls that I’ve been looking longingly at recently.

It’s a long set of instructions and all the items I used were bought at my local Hobbycraft (I think that might be Hobby Lobby in the USA)

Firstly, you will need:

1 x A6 craft essentials storage box

12″ x 12″ scrapbook paper (for wallpaper, so look for small patterns)

A4 sized foam board

Piece of 1/8″ diameter wooden dowel

Bead with a large eye

Thin piece of ribbon or embroidery thread

sewing needle with an eye large enough for the ribbon or thread and thin enough to fit through the bead. I used a cross stitch needle.

Pritstick, Tacky Glue, double sided tape

Sellotape

Pencil

Scalpel

Cutting mat

Ruler

Pliers

Gorilla Glue

Small bit of water.

Step 1 – The Wallpaper

Cut a piece of 12″x12″ scrapbook paper to 16.5cm x 22cm

Along the 22cm edge measure in 5cm from each side and fold in, this should make a folded piece that fits perfectly into the A6 box.

Use Tacky glue, Prit-stick or Double sided tape to stick into place.

Make sure you add glue to the corners, no one likes the peeling wallpaper look!fullsizeoutput_198b.jpeg

Step 2 – The Bed

With Foam Board, cut the following pieces:

1 x 7cm x 16cm piece for the top

2 x 4cm x 7cm pieces for the bed ends

2 x 4cm x 15cm pieces for the sidesfullsizeoutput_198a.jpeg

Glue the short ends to the bed first, then the long sides. Glue the sides to the front of the bed, not the edges. Secure with sellotape.fullsizeoutput_1989.jpeg

SAFETY WARNING! 

When using scalpels and glues, remove kids and pets from the working area, keep scalpels closed and glue lids on. My cat recently sat on a mould filled with epoxy and ended up with a plastic butt!fullsizeoutput_1988.jpeg

The bed cover. Cut a piece of 12″x12″ scrapbook paper to 25cm x 16cmfullsizeoutput_1987.jpeg

Then cut a 4.5cm corner out of each corner of that piece. fullsizeoutput_1986.jpegFold the sides over and glue into place. Secure the edge with clear sellotape if you think you need to.fullsizeoutput_1985.jpegfullsizeoutput_1984.jpeg

Step 3 – The Centre Panel

Cut a piece of Foam Board 17cm x 5cm

Cut a piece of the scrapbook paper 17cm x 10.5cm.fullsizeoutput_1983.jpeg

Along the 10.5cm edge mark 5cm from both edges and fold in, this leaves 1/2 a centimetre space for the edge of the foam board.fullsizeoutput_1982.jpeg

Fold the paper over the foam board and glue in place.fullsizeoutput_1981.jpeg

Place the bed into the box then slide in the panel making sure the bed has a comfortable fit to pull in and out once the panel has been glued in place. fullsizeoutput_1980.jpegMark the panel position with a pencil then remove the bed and panel, fullsizeoutput_197f.jpegGlue between the panel markings and glue the panel in place. Check the bed still fits, but remove the bed until the glue has dried.

fullsizeoutput_1978.jpegLEAVE TO DRYfullsizeoutput_197a.jpeg

Step 4 – The Wardrobe

Using a 1/8″ diameter piece of wooden dowel you need to cut a piece that will fit across the wardrobe space. For me the size was 4.3cm, but you need to measure your own dowel, however, it should be around the same size.fullsizeoutput_197b.jpeg

I cut the dowel with a scalpel knife, then snapped the piece off with pliers.fullsizeoutput_1979.jpeg

Use a good glue to fix the dowel in place. I use Gorilla Glue and am beginning to swear by Gorilla Glue products. fullsizeoutput_197d.jpegThis glue activates with water. fullsizeoutput_197e.jpegSo I dipped the dowel in water, then added a tiny drop to each end of the dowel. The glue expands when dry, so you only need a tiny amount.fullsizeoutput_197c.jpeg

Push the dowel in place. If you’ve measured it long enough it should fit snuggly and not need holding in place.

Put the bed into its space to stop the dowel from pushing the panel out.fullsizeoutput_196d.jpeg

LEAVE TO SET

Step 5 – The Bed Pull (Optional Step)

I used a glass bead with a medium sized hole and a cross stitch needle.

Thread the ribbon (or embroidery thread) through the needle, then thread the needle through the bead eye. If it’s a tight fit you could use pliers to help pull the needle through, but don’t break the bead doing this.fullsizeoutput_196a.jpeg

Tie a knot on the ribbon to stop the bead falling off and cut the ribbon long enough to hang nicely from the underside of the bed (about 2inches).fullsizeoutput_196e.jpeg

Glue in place under the bed, add some clear sellotape to keep in place while it dries.fullsizeoutput_1969.jpeg

Step 6 – The Shelves

Cut two pieces of foam board 4cm x 4.5cm

Cut two pieces of scrapbook paper 4.5cm x 8.5cm

Measure along the 8.5cm edge and mark 4cm from each edge, leaving the 1/2cm gap.

fullsizeoutput_1968.jpegFold in and glue around the foam board shelves.

fullsizeoutput_196c.jpegAgain, you need a nice tight fit, so you will most likely need to trim a slither from the edge of the shelves to fit.

fullsizeoutput_196b.jpegOnce they fit nicely, glue in place.

fullsizeoutput_1966.jpegDecorate as required.

I made some coat hangers from Polymer Clay and jewellery wire to hang the dolls spare dresses on and she has a shelf for spare underwear and shoes.

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I’m also making a quilt and pillow for the bed but as you can see, she’s going to have a great time in her little travel house.

Hope you enjoy this little tutorial.

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As I said, I bought all of the supplies from Hobbycraft. I’ll be at my local store on the 13th September running a six week quilting and patchwork workshop. At the time of writing this there are a few spaces left, it’s a small group and if anyone has been to one of my workshops you know that I make sure everyone has a great time and makes something wonderful. No experience necessary but if you’ve got experience still consider coming and see what new things you can learn.

Other news, I went to London in July for the New Designers exhibition, that was really great. I also got accepted for the craft council website and of course, I graduated with a BA(hons) in textile art and crafts. By far though the best news was coming winning first prize for wool innovation from the Worshipful Company of Woolmen. Good things must be ahead!

Let me know in the comments how you are all doing, send some crafting and doll making love and let me know what you’ve been making.fullsizeoutput_1964.jpeg

And now the real work begins…

I know.

I haven’t posted in a while.

It’s been a crazy few weeks, but oh so wonderful!

On Thursday I finally get to wear that cap and gown I’ve worked so hard for, my degree finished. I’ve still got library books to hand in (typical) and being so last minute I still don’t know what time I have to be at the university. But I’m a few days away from not being a full time student.

Here’s a wee photo of my final project (and me).

As well as the degree I won an award…

And I was one of 11 students chosen to take my exhibition to London to the New Designers show

I met some people with potential opportunities and, well, it’s all been a crazy busy few weeks.

And then it all stopped.

Now I have to earn a living. I’ve applied for a couple of part time jobs to keep the money coming in, and the little I have left after exhibiting in London I’m putting into adding a shop onto this website, so excuse the next few weeks as I try out various looks and slowly add items, I’m still trying to figure out how to add postage to the listings.

Have a gander at the shop, let me know what you like and what you don’t like. Give me a few suggestions if you have them. And wish me luck trying to make it in the real world!

Wool vs Acrylic

For years I’ve been making dolls out of Acrylic yarn and I’m sure many of us have. Doll and toy making was traditionally done using the scraps and left over yarns we had left over from our precious makes.

It made sense to use cheap yarn for a doll.

Last year I began experimenting with wool for doll making, then with my final uni project I decided to make these dolls using only natural materials. There was one test I wanted to do to compare Acrylic to Wool, but it meant making and destroying two dolls, plus although in theory I knew what they said about the results I wasn’t sure. Today I did the test… I’m shocked!

Anyway before that test, here are some reasons to use wool in doll making over acrylic…

  1. Natural. Wool is completely natural, sheep eats grass – sheep grows wool – sheep is warm in winter – we cut wool – sheep feels cool in Summer – we use wool – sheep eats grass – and so on and so on. No chemists or scientists involved.
  2. Biodegradable. Prince Charles did a similar experiment to mine, but he also tested how quickly wool would disappear back into the earth. He buried two jumpers, one wool, one synthetic. Six months later he dug them up. The synthetic jumper was intact, but the wool jumper had disappeared. In this plastic heavy world, this should be reason enough.
  3. Renewable. Like being a natural source, wool is also renewable. The sheep doesn’t just have one coat, but a continuously growing fleece.
  4. Breathable. Wool wicks moisture away from the skin making your body less clammy. Ok, so it might not make that much difference to doll making, unless you’re a little kid who takes the doll to bed with them. Nothing worse than waking up with sweat sticking a doll to your face.
  5.  Keeps you warm… or cool. Wool keeps you warm when you’re cold and cools you when you’re too hot. Again, a nicer toy to hug at night than a plastic doll.
  6. Machine Washable. Yep, the yarn I use in my dolls is treated to be machine washable.
  7. Stain resistant. It has an outer layer that prevents stains from being absorbed and it’s anti-static properties mean a lot of dust and dirt simply don’t stick to it.
  8. Odour resistant. When it wicks away sweat, it also absorbs the molecules of odour.
  9. Better sleep. New research has shown sleeping with wool bedding or nightwear leads to a better nights sleep. Another reason to take the doll to bed with you.
  10. Healthy skin. Again, research is coming out that shows the benefits of softer wools on skin.

Finally, wool is flame resistant. What does that mean?

Watch this video…

www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrWRpTA54_4

Shocked?

One important message to come from my final project is the importance of making dolls and toys out of wool, but as I researched a wool to use I found little on offer. Ok, you can buy browns and pinks and mustards, but skin tones are not really covered by wool suppliers.

That’s one thing I’ve been looking at with my dolls and what to do after university, perhaps I could produce 100% British wool in skin tones for doll making, the video has shocked me enough to realise it’s got to be done.

See also:

 Woolmark – benefits of wool

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/02/how-prince-charles-set-fire-to-a-pile-of-jumpers-and-buried-othe/

Benefits of sleeping with wool

Benefits of wool on skin

Meet the dolls 3 – The Knitter

Betty, our knitting doll has been named after Betty Yewdale who, with her friend Sally, were sent to a knitting school in Dent to learn to knit. They hated the school and ran away. Their story is well told here Betty’s tale

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The knitters were often known as the terrible knitters of Dent and like me, they knitted during church services (Hooray!) but unlike me they knitted very fast.

One of the many items knitted in Dent are the fine gloves, knitted similarly to Sanquhar gloves in a fair isle style pattern.

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So, my doll had to have her own knitting and is currently up to the fingers of her second glove. The first one (which took me 6 hours knitted on five 1.5mm double pointed needles) is in her basket along with her balls of wool.

She has a hand knitted plain shawl and a hand carved knitting sheath tucked into her leather belt.

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I think the hardest part of making this doll was remembering to stop making the second glove so Betty could hold the knitting.

Betty has been made after visiting the Dent Village museum and falling a wee bit in love with the people in the museum. Dent Museum

Meet the Dolls 2 – The Clog Maker

My second doll is Frank the clog maker.

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He’s connected to Walkleys clog shop in Mythramoyd, West Yorkshire www.clogs.co.uk

Walkleys is a true must visit place if you’re ever in the area, but if not, they deliver. Imagine having an amazing pair of shoes made just for your feet for the cost of a pair of trainers. But having a pair of locally made shoes from the Craftsmen and women at Walkleys is perhaps one of the highlights of this project, the doll is named after Frank Walkley who started the company in 1946. Yes, I am a big fan!

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Frank has a crocheted flat cap, another Yorkshire must have accessory (for the Yorkshire working man, not the women or gentrified hipster! – personal opinion!)

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I managed to carve some small clogs for the dolls feet and well, not perfectly, but the fit, managed to make a functioning shoe. He’s also holding his next clog in progress.

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