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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

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My Little Crochet Dolls Video Tutorials

Here is the full set of video tutorials for the My Little Crochet Dolls:

  1. Starting the head

2. Changing Colour

3. Adding Safety Eyes

4. Stuffing the head

5. Making the lower legs

6. Making the Ears and Nose

7. Upper legs and body

8. Making the arms

9. Sewing on the head

10. Painting the face

11. Adding the Iris

12. Adding the Pupil

13. Adding the Twinkle

14. Adding hair

15. Finishing the hair

 

Hope you enjoy them.

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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.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-32121732

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

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A doll making history

A few days ago, while day-dreaming, I asked myself,

When did my love of doll making start?

I have been crocheting for over 6 years, probably making crochet dolls for 5 years, maybe less.

But as I thought about it I realised my doll making history goes back a long, long way and it has some interesting little dolls in there…

The Cigarette doll

I’ve mentioned in other blogs a little about growing up in Salvation Army hostels, and though some of it wasn’t good, a lot of it was great. I’d often come home from school and whilst my parents were still working I’d join the men in the TV lounge or have my tea with them in the dinning room.

It was, in a strange sense, like having 100+ uncles (just imagine how many sweets that amounted to). None of the residents were rich, all lived off benefits, but as I’ve recently re-discovered, poverty can bring out the best in people.

My first hand-made doll was given to me by guys in the hostel, made out of used cigarette packets.

Back then (and maybe still today) the flip top cartons had a silver foil liner. This was torn into a doll shape and popped back into the flip top box, like a little pocket sized bed.

It fascinated me, as a little child, to have a little paper-foil doll in it’s own little bed. Obviously the doll never lasted too long, but never mind. It was the men making me endless paper dolls that I loved.

The Tissue doll

The next handmade doll I remember was made from tissues, using just two 2-ply tissues , scrunching one into a ball for the head, I made endless little dancing dolls. Again, they didn’t last more than an hour or two, but it was the making of the little dolls that was the thrill.

My Cinderella, Topsy-turvy doll

 This doll was bought for me when I was little, perhaps 5 or 6, and I still have her now. She was bought from a church craft fair, made by one of the older women in the church.


My Air-dry dolls

I was perhaps 19 when I next started doll making, this time using air dry clay. I sculpted heads, arms and legs onto wire, wrapped cloth around for a body and glued or sewed clothing. I remember my first doll (about doll house size) was meant to be a hippie and had one hand in a peace sign. I learnt the valuable lesson on making strong individual fingers when they snapped off. The doll features were rather basic and almost frightening, but to me they were wonderfully made.

My trip to the dark side

Moving on many years later and again I am making figures, although I’d been making jewellery for years. Yep, the dark side got me for a while and I made teddy bears. I still have some fur in a box somewhere, so maybe one day.


Then a flood of figures, teddy and dolls came as I moved back to Leeds and started working more and more on hand making.

Sculpey figures

I started playing with polymer clay, mostly to make small beads for earrings, but using the old air-dry clay idea and my new skills from studying ceramics, I came up with some rather dashing fairies and witches.



Then I started sewing…

And needle felting…


And maybe I love all different crafts, but maybe I have a special love for dolls (and felted mice).

But somewhere along the line I made my crochet dolls…


And I loved them, so I wrote the pattern down and found others liked them too.

So, why am I telling you all this?

I might have mentioned that I’m about to start my intern year, and thought I had a place all planned out. 

Then a few weeks ago I was offered a place on the University’s Enterprise year, where you spend the whole year looking at setting up and running your own business. 

I’d gone to the interview, where I had to pitch my business idea and spent the time speaking about doll making.

Over the years, especially the last few years, I’ve come across people who’ve not been too enthusiastic about my ideas.

Several people have told me I can’t run my own business because I have a mental illness, but as I once told a packed room of civic leaders, if Maggie Thatcher can run a country on her period and Paula Radcliffe can run a marathon with asthma, then I can run my own business with a mental illness. I just need a bit of support.

I’ve also met my fair share of people who think making dolls is lame. I’ve met artists who laugh at cute looking dolls because, well, I can’t be an artist if my work isn’t threatening or obscure. Maybe though, I don’t want to be that kind of artist. The most annoying thing is that they (often ‘friends’) don’t seem to have any problem with telling me my cute looking dolls are horrible, but would be hurt if I told them I didn’t think much of their artwork.

I’ve done many things, went to college to learn brass and woodwind instrument repair, liked the metal work, not great at woodwork. Done a lot of silversmithing courses, qualified as a reflexologist, even done Bible college. Yet, through it all, I return time and again to making dolls.

Of all the business pitches I could come up with, I talked about my doll making, and it struck me, how much of a passion I have for that.

Over the next year I’m going to be looking into my doll making, trying to see whether I can make a ‘go’ of this.

That’s why, a few days ago I sat there thinking about it all, wondering where this doll making thing came from, yet looking back, maybe it’s just something I have to do.

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Teen Doll Comp Shop

I decided I would do a comp shop. This is where a fashion/textile designer goes around shops looking and comparing their items to what’s available.

However, instead of comparing clothing I would compare dolls. I wanted to see what was on offer in the teen doll market, usually the 11″ dolls like Barbie, aimed at young teen and pre-teen age.

In Leeds there are two toy shops, The Entertainer in the Trinity shopping centre, a small shop with a small selection of dolls and Smyths at the Crown Point retail centre. Smyths is a much larger shop, and I knew they would sell a wider variety than The Entertainer.

Interestingly enough though, The Entertainer I believe is a Christian owned brand, which is why they don’t open on Sundays. Sitting here I also realise I’ve never seen any of the ghoul and witchy style dolls that seem to be popular and I wonder if this is because of their beliefs.

I looked at dolls at Smyths and TK Maxx.

Barbie

Let’s start with the doll who has everything, or should we rephrase that as the doll who is everything?

Barbie seems to be the name everyone mentions when they complain about dolls and body image, but she has stood the time beating off several rivals over the years. When I was a kid it was Barbie or Sindy, but many of us had both dolls who played happily beside each other.

The good thing about Barbie (that I saw) is that she is the doll of variety. You can buy the Rock and Roll Barbie with outrageous clothing, the Style Barbie with eyelashes as long as her nose, or the wholesome Barbie with minimal make up, simple practical clothing and a bike with safety helmet.

Another thing I like about Barbie is her sisters, a very clever marketing idea, that has sister dolls of younger ages, making Barbie the doll to grow with as you age and grow out of Skipper, turning to Barbie the… well, how old would you put Barbie?

Am I the only one who used Skipper as Barbie’s child? Barbie, as an astronaut had to be in her 20’s at least. Am I the only one thinking this? That Barbie is old enough to be married with kids, yet toy manufacturers insist on keeping her barren?

As a child the best part of playing with dolls was the clothing, changing clothes, picking outfits, making new clothes out of old material. It’s nice to see that the clothes are returning to the shops. For a while the little stand-alone outfits seemed to disappear, leaving the only way to buy a new outfit was to buy a new doll. I have a theory that the lack of outfits for Barbie is the reason so many naked dolls are sold unwanted in charity shops. Kids wanted clothes, not dolls galore.

Bad points? Although clothing has made a come back it is very limited. Clothing came in at £6.99 for a small dress or £3.49 for a couple of accessories. I still don’t think enough is done to stop the mass of naked Barbies, and while supermarkets continue to sell a basic doll with outfit for around £6 the unwanted dolls will continue to add to landfill.

Yes she’s thin, yes she has a long neck, but she’s versatile and has stayed the test of time.

Monster High

 

When people complain about thin dolls then quote Barbie as the perfect example I feel the need to hang my head. Have you never seen a monster high doll? While the male dolls look like they’re on steroids the female dolls look severely anorexic.

I’ve yet to see additional outfits and while the dolls seem to be slightly more expensive than other dolls it’s the sad case of having to fork out for another doll over a new outfit. Each doll has additional parts depending on their character, for example, one might have fins on their legs. This would cause a problem in selling single outfits because of the variety of doll shapes.

I’m not quite sure what the appeal is, a skeleton doll or doll with two heads just doesn’t make me want to hand over my cash, which probably explains why I still haven’t bought one, I’ve been close, but something always stops me.

Traditional Disney Dolls

Buy the film, buy the doll. I see the concept, but don’t know how much imagination you can get from a Disney doll when it’s story has already been written. What if Snow White wanted to run away with Aladin or Ariel? Well she can’t because that’s not in the script.

There is also a theme running through Disney dolls, if you’re not a princess in a ball gown then you just don’t make the grade.

One trend I have noticed in dolls is the painted or moulded on clothing, it’s as though manufacturers have given up. They just can’t be bothered making a full outfit, so we’ll make a skirt and paint on the bodice. But then maybe it’s me. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong and the first thing a child does when they get a doll isn’t to remove the clothes, but It’s what we all did, it’s why build-a-bear are so popular. Paint underwear on them to your hearts content, but please let us continue with the age-old tradition of taking off all the clothes and put them back on. It’s like female mechano, except instead of gaining dexterity with nuts and bolts it’s press fasteners and trying to get rubber non-slip legs into tight pants. It’s every little girls first ritual when acquiring a new doll. I beg you, please don’t take the ritual away from us.

Disney Descendants

WP_20160112_002

A new style of Disney dolls have arrived, the descendants are the children/grandchildren? of Disney heroes and heroines. I don’t know… that’s all I can say.

I don’t know who is who, Mal (above) is the child of Maleficent, a truly original name. Some inheritances remain, they all have Coronation editions (not outfits, you gotta buy another doll) so yep, all Princesses. The problem with only having a minuscule selection of darker skinned original characters is that through the ages the skin tones have blended to pretty much one, white (with very subtle shades of light skin), ‘Tis a crying shame I say.

Ever After high

Staying on the Fairy tale theme are the Ever After high dolls, again descendants of storybook characters. Pretty much same-old same-old, All princesses, all in private high schools. I can hear a voice in my mind, but they’re not all white… no, of course, there is a purple one!

By the look of the dolls they come from the same mould as Monster High, but aimed at the kids who wants a doll that doesn’t hide in their closet at night they made them cry. Who are they trying to kid!

Moxie

WP_20160112_048

Be True! Be You! with a Poopsy pet Panda. First of all, Panda’s don’t make good pets, and secondly… Green poop? I love that they put the rear view image on the box, just so you can see the Panda pooping. Great, I was just about to get my tea.

Moxie dolls are meant to encourage you to be confident in who you are, Be true, be you… Ok, so where’s the tomboy dressed, chubby kid that was me?

After a while it all feels like marketing garb with no real thought thrown in. It’s almost like they sat in their office one day listening to a YouTube video of some mother complaining about Barbie and her low morals and they just thought, “Hey lets make a doll that bleeds enthusiasm. Lets make her look like a the girl next door, with long blonde hair, short skirt… It just somehow feels as though this dolls style was made for the enquiring mind of a teenage boy rather than a young girl. I own a second hand Moxie doll and I admit, she’s cute, but there’s just something uncomfortable about the doll that makes me want to hide her when my nephews come to visit.

Bratz

Bratz are fashion concious dolls with attitude, smaller than Barbie, and thinner than is natural for a head that size, Bratz seemed to take on the Barbie doll, targeting the kids who just don’t want to be a princess or be a… well, they weren’t ready to play at careers. They just wanted to experiment with fashion and have fun.

There is just one problem. Yes, the clothes come off, but the shoes, well they come off too, but the feet come off with them leaving little bobble stumps. This only added to the naked unwanted doll problem because not only were doll discarded naked, but shoe-less, therefore, foot-less. Oh dear, we seem to be going backwards.

Bratz had cool playthings, like chopper bikes and sports cars, and boyfriends that not only looked the same age, but didn’t need to be substituted by Action Man (Ken, you just didn’t man up enough for my Barbie) I digress here but Action Man didn’t have a willy either, but at least they painted underpants on him so you could imagine he did.

The chunky shoes let the doll down for me, and a lot has been said recently about make-under dolls (removing the excessive make up and repainting a plain doll) It’s a great idea, but those teeny tiny eyes they paint on just look creepy.

Bratz dolls didn’t have sisters, but smaller and baby versions of themselves. This seems a great idea, especially for the adult who doesn’t want to admit they still have dolls. Get a small one you can hide in your bag.

Project MC2

When I first mentioned to a doll making friend that I’d seen science themed dolls, she remarked, Yep, but I bet they’re dressed in pink.

They’re not.

This isn’t a doll with attitude, or filled with positive energy, or even old enough to already have the job. These dolls, four in all, each have a different personality and want to take on a different role.

McKeyla wants to be a journalist or writer, she also likes upcycling!!! Wow, a doll who likes upcycling, maybe she can do something with all the naked leftover dolls.

Adrienne doesn’t want to be a chef, but a culinary chemist! She likes marshmallows and rescue animals, Awwww.

Bryden wants to be a photographer and likes everything technical, doesn’t like being without wifi and likes consipracy theories.

And Camryn likes building things in the garage, and the greatest thing is, she doesn’t like PE class, Hooray, I hated it too!

Dolls come alone, or with a little science experiment (What? No handbag and pooping doggie?) There are also additional science kits to buy without dolls.

Could this be it? finally a doll for real girls?

Maybe if they didn’t hide her on the lower shelves she might have a chance

Conclusion

No doll had everything I would look for, but I came up with nine things I think I would like in my ideal dolls.

More than one skin colour – out of the eight dolls only three had a doll of a darker skin colour in store (Bratz, Monster High and MC2) while Barbie has collector editions in various tones and ethnicities the regular priced dolls are hard to find.

It seems ridiculous that this is still an issue in today’s society, yet people would rather complain about a dolls neck length than there being no skin and ethnic differences. It’s not just about having a token black skinned doll, where are the Asian, Indian, Chinese, Brazilian dolls? What about short hair? or curly hair? why does every doll have the same shiny straight hair?

Clothes come off – Three of the dolls (Disney, Bratz and Moxie) have either clothes painted on or feet stuck to the shoes. I believe one of the greatest enjoyments of playing with a doll is the dressing and undressing. To not allow that to happen ruins the enjoyment of play.

Additional Outfits – only two dolls had additional outfits as options (Barbie and Bratz) While the Bratz outfits came with slightly more clothing, the original price of £12.99, reduced to £8.49 is still more than the cost of a cheaper no frills version of the dolls. I think it is about time doll manufacturers stopped trying to make dolls scary, motivational or princessy. Get rid of the gimmick, one doll – one outfit and supply more clothing for the doll a child already has. Imagine a world where you could buy the Barbie as a teacher doll, or if you already have enough dolls, the Barbie teaching outfit and accessories. It’s not just a matter of saving money by not having to buy yet another doll, but in this world of environmental awareness we need to either see a recycling solution or an end to the charity shops naked doll phenomenon.

OTT Make Up – Half of the dolls had over-the-top make up, but some of this was down to the whole scary nature of the doll. Barbie had the most variety, but please, lose the eyelashes. I feel the make up on dolls has calmed down recently, perhaps due to the many comments from doll make-under artists.

Scary or Cute – Apart from the Monster High dolls, all dolls could be classed as cute (by my standards) Bratz had a bit of attitude and Project MC2 had a more geeky style. Barbie though has more variety with dolls as fairies, punk band singers, spys, extreme fashion, and homely styles.

Ultra thin – Monsters High and Ever After High both have dolls that were worrying in the lack of skin department. All other dolls were slim-thin. I’ve seen the new style of natural size dolls and to be honest they look odd, frumpy. I’d like to see a larger doll, but I doubt it would sell. The message seems clear, Don’t make dolls too thin, we will complain, but don’t even attempt to make a larger size doll, unless it’s or a joke shop.

Different abilities – Princess style dolls are perfect, but then history tells us what happens to princes with disabilities (look up the story of the lost prince). Monster high had a merman in a wheelchair, but he is only wheelchair bound when in the water. Barbie has had both a wheelchair bound friend and a cancer charity Barbie, but they are very hard to find. A couple of the dolls wear glasses and the Project MC2 has the difference of focusing on the dolls intelligence. On the whole though, disability is not supported in dolls. It’s difficult in some ways, how do you make a doll showing a hidden difference like depression.

Mixture of tastes – Only Barbie really showed a variety of styles in dolls. Whilst some dolls focused on horror or cuteness, Barbie was the only make of doll to offer a wide range of styles.

Big extra’s – This wasn’t looked at much, but I was looking for large additional purchases like a house or car. Barbie really does turn out to be the doll with everything, with cars, bikes, houses of varying sizes, Project MC2 has additional chemistry sets, but these are for separate play, not imaginative doll play. Bratz has similar toys to Barbie and like Barbie they were not located on the shelves.

Our Generation dolls

Turning into the next aisle in Smyths I found a doll which almost had everything. She came in two sizes.

The smaller 5″ doll is a shrunken version of the larger 18″ doll, similar but very much cheaper than the American girl doll. The small dolls have additional outfits, cars, a moped, caravan, horse and dance studio. I think one thing doll manufacturers are failing to see is the human need to collect. I don’t just want one doll, I want them all, and unlike Barbie who has just too many versions to have them all I can achieve the impossible. The caravan and car are perfect, and even though I never once dreamed of being a dancer, I too, would love the dance studio.

The 18″ dolls don’t disappoint either.

Cars, Bikes, Horses, horse boxes, retro diner, country kitchen, travel sets and bathtubs. Extra clothes can be bought with a matching outfit for you, well if you’re the right size.

Suddenly my life long love of the 11″ doll went to ground as I stood in the shop imagining the fun I would have had as a child.

You see, when I was a child, I had lots of dolls and lots more outfits. My dolls dreamed of going camping on the mountain that was the scrunched up duvet, I made homes out of boxes as instructed by Blue Peter, Action man was the one to date because he had a tank and a canoe. My dolls weren’t pop stars, or princesses, they were too busy having fun camping, too busy driving around the house to become a teacher; and science experiments happened in the bath tub using up mum’s talc and bubble bath.

Forget the gimmicks, the latest Barbie spy that comes with a giant plastic twirly thing you have to shove in the side of the doll to make her do a tumble, my dolls could all do that, I simply turned them over to make them tumble. I would have laughed at the Barbie with a camera on her chest and I literally did cry when I bought a Barbie that was just for fashion so much that the legs wouldn’t bend.

Give me a car and caravan and lots of clothes over fancy wings, light up dresses and gimmicky one trick ponies any day. I want the our generation 18″ doll with horse box.

But as I looked at the dolls, all neat on the shelf the same old disappointments also rose, can you spot it?

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This is 2016, multi-cultural Britain – Do we doll lovers still have to point it out?

 

 

 

 

 

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For sometime now I’ve been playing with the idea of leaving handmade toys for strangers to find.

It all started when I was on the bus, actually not one bus journey, but several journeys watching kids get on with nothing to do except sit still. Wouldn’t it be magical if I could hand each child I saw a hand made doll or toy?

Hmm, magical in a Disney movie perhaps, but on the South Leeds bus into town rather creepy.

I then started thinking, what about if I left the dolls somewhere they could be found. Still creepy?

If I left a little toy with a luggage label attached, maybe saying “hey, you found me” and linking them to my blog. What if I also put a page on this blog, of the toys I leave and let people admit to finding them?

Would it really be creepy?

I’ve been pondering these thoughts for so long and it’s about time I did something about them.

Then I found out that this idea isn’t new.

The Urban Threads blog (http://www.urbanthreads.com/bunny) have been leaving little embroidered bunnies around the world for some years now, these tiny and easy to make bunnies are made by people all over the world and left for people to find.

I especially love the little labels they come with, bright and noticeable. You might not notice the White bunny in some places, but you’d notice the label and feel a need to read.

On the down side, making several of the same thing might become tedious after a while, but the pattern is free and really is easy to make, you can use safety eyes and simpler stitching if you’re not too confident.

Then I found another blog, A message for you! (Amessageforyou.wordpress.com)

Handwritten notes left for people to find with words of encouragement.

Imagine finding this one while shopping for a new butter dish. On the other side of the message is the blog address where the blog has updates from people who found a note.

Another amazing idea is less for strangers you might never meet but for people you might know of.

Started by mother of two, Caroline Macrory, started by finding a struggling single mother, she bought a bag of goodies and did a knock and run on the strangers doorstep. (#DoorstepChallenge)

The rules are simple:

1. Pick someone who has had a tough time or would simply benefit from some festive goodwill. It doesn’t have to be someone you know well.

2. Choose them a gift – big or small.

3. Write them an anonymous note, some kind words about why you were thinking of them.

4. Leave it all at their doorstep.

5. Knock on the door and leg it – make sure they don’t see you!

6. Feel happy knowing that you have spread some Christmas cheer with no expectations of anything in return.

She leaves notes with the bags saying things like, “Have a great Christmas, from someone who thinks you’re doing an amazing job” the great thing about the message is there is no discrimination, no guilt about struggling. It’s a tough job you’ve got, but you’re doing brilliant.

Looking into ideas for this brought me back to something I’ve not thought about for a long time, my dad has been doing stuff like this for years. The rumour is that he started the idea of the Salvation Army giving toys at Christmas. He says my eldest brother came home upset one year, when asked why he was crying he said his friend at school didn’t get any presents for Christmas.

The following year my dad (now a retired Salvation Army officer) approached the headmaster of the school and asked for a list of any families that were struggling. He then asked the local Salvation Army churches to do a toy service and donate toys to give away.

His own upbringing had been harsh, he remembers living in a workhouse as a child and having to steal food to survive. This upbringing helped him with his plan. He knew that in homes where a parent had an alcohol or gambling problem toys given before Christmas Day would be sold for money making his idea pointless. So, one Christmas morning, back in the 70s he got up early, put his Army uniform on and started driving around delivering packages of toys. He believed it was important that no one (especially the children) felt they were getting charity, so he came up with a story that he repeated at every house.

He explained that Santa had made a mistake and delivered their presents to his home by accident, he figured he’d best bring them round quickly in case they thought Santa had forgotten them.

Delivering the presents on Christmas Day not only meant the parents couldn’t sell the toys (he often waited for the kids to open the presents) but he often explained that nosiness was one of the most important tools of a minister, so while there he noticed as much as he could.

No electricity, he’d sort that out. No smell of food cooking, he’d return with some.

The thing is, few people knew, even my mum often didn’t know who he’d helped.

Giving to strangers works two-fold, a stranger gets that buzzy feeling that something good has happened to them, and you get a similar buzzy feeling, even when you’re not around to watch who gets the surprise.

Book Crossing is a website that encourages people to release their books into the wild. Each book is labeled with a unique ID number then let lose, either for a stranger to find or at an OBCZ (Official Book Crossing Zone) where several books are located. These books are tracked with the number allowing you to track where your book goes on its travels.

Huddersfield bus station has a small shelf where people can exchange books to read on their journeys, imagine if every bus station, train station and airport had book exchange shelves.

So, my idea isn’t unique, people have been passing goodies to strangers for years. The buzzy feelings that people get from finding or giving gifts might have helped in stopping the world spiralling into a black hole of despair (well, you never know!).

Then my search for all things left brought me to the (secret) toy society (thetoysociety.blogspot.co.uk) handmade toys are put in a sealed bag with a label saying, “take me, I’m yours” and left for people to find. Anyone can become a toy dropper and with almost 2,000 drops made it seems to be making an impact.


After spending the past week sorting through lots of boxes of craft stuff and I’ve found some dolls ready to be left. I’m off to London this weekend, so a perfect time to let lose some of my dolls.

Here are my suggested rules:

1. Label the doll, so people know it’s not a lost doll but a gift, and let people know where to find this blog

2. Leave them in places people will find them (not too hidden)

3. Don’t leave them in shops – that’d be confusing

4. Avoid being a security risk, yep, some people might worry.

5. Don’t stay to watch (well, maybe the first one)

6. Set up a page on the blog for people to record if they find the doll.

Buzzy feeling starting already.

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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.

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Crayon Play 2 – Chalky the Spider

So, after we finished making crayons I started thinking about what else I could do with crayons.

One major problem with kids and crayons is finding an odd one lost somewhere, treading on dropped crayons is close to stepping on lego.

I wanted a way of keeping the crayons together.

I thought of an apron, with crayons at the bottom, but the practicality of this wasn’t great.

Then I thought of a toy, with each leg holding a crayon.

I bought a mini artist chalk refill pack from the Early learning centre, they do crayon ones too, but didn’t have any in store.

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Then I made Chalky…

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Anyway, the pattern is on Ravelry, but if you’re not on Ravelry (and why not?) here is the pattern.

Chalky the Spider