November 5th, 2014

A few weeks ago, with kid’s clothes week looming, I did not want to sew.  I really did not want to sew any clothes for my kids, though they did in fact need them (and still do!). Begrudingly I got out my sketchbook to figure out something to sew. The theme of KCW was storybook, so I got some of my favorites off the shelf.

dolls inspired by Ida Pearle // elsie marley

One of which is by a friend of ours, Ida Pearle. Her book, A Child’s Day (affiliate link) is full of gorgeous cut paper collages depicting children acting, dancing, hiding, jumping, and playing their way through every letter of the alphabet. The clothes Ida created for the children in the book are stunning. Both the styles and the prints translate easily into handmade clothes–and they have! Mary Frances from this is marzipan made many outfits for her boys all based on pages from this book.

But it wasn’t clothes I wanted to make when I looked at the book, it was dolls. Sometimes creative urges are so strong you have no choice but to give in. I hadn’t made a doll in ages, but I knew exactly what I wanted them to look like right away.

nov3   dolls inspired by Ida Pearle // elsie marley

And amazingly, they turned out quite close to what I envisioned. Just for kicks, I staged photos of the dolls to look like Ida’s illustrations. Playing with dolls, is ridiculous fun! Making them, on the other hand can be quite frustrating. I am happy with how they turned out, but there were a few drafts, and many discarded [doll] body parts on my studio floor before these two girls came to be.

dolls inspired by Ida Pearle // elsie marley

I made the dancer first and she is by far my favorite. I almost made the hair out of felt. If I had done that, then she would have looked exactly like the picture in the book. But I had never made hair with yarn and it looked like an enormous amount of fun. And it is!

dolls inspired by Ida Pearle // elsie marley

I pinned yarn (black Bernat roving) to the doll’s head in the style I wanted, then hand stitched it down. I had planned to do one bun, but there was rather a lot of hair and the bun was HUGE!  Two small braided buns looked just right.

dolls inspired by Ida Pearle // elsie marley

I’m kicking myself for not having a few little braids in there too. For the swimmer’s hair, I stole this mermaid’s hair. I love how the crochet circles look like an old timey swim cap. I added a bit of felt hair underneath, so the poor girl wouldn’t look bald.

dolls inspired by Ida Pearle // elsie marley

After the dolls were made, they seemed a bit too plain. Clothes! They needed clothes! Inspired by another lovely illustration in the book, J for jump, I made the yellow bubble dress. Oh my lord, it took me forever to figure out how to make a tiny bubble dress pattern that worked. And once I did, it seemed silly not to make another.

dolls inspired by Ida Pearle // elsie marley

Then while looking at this page, I thought I could make a coat too just like I for ice skate. Instead of a coat + hat, I drafted a raglan sleeve coat with a big hood. I am quite proud of how the coat turned out. Granted, it is made easier when you can stick the pins through the fabric, directly into your model.

dolls inspired by Ida Pearle // elsie marley

After I made the navy, ikat coat for the swimmer,  it was obvious I needed a coat for the dancer too! I used this 1/4 yard of nani iro that Frances had sent as a gift in one of my fabric orders. I had to make the hood a bit bigger because of her hair and honestly I could have made it even bigger. Even though the coats aren’t perfect (they don’t snap shut at the neck, darnit) I love how they turned out–fully lined and fabulous!

Well now they had coats on top, but nothing on the bottom. I made two quickie elastic skirts and then I had to stop myself. I was starting to think about shoes and suitcases and very quickly I felt myself going down Crazy Lady road.  Better to stop while I was ahead. But argh! do you see those shoes on the J for Jump page? Don’t you just want to get out some felt and make them?!

dolls inspired by Ida Pearle // elsie marley

Even without shoes, both dolls have a respectable wardrobe. All the clothes were designed to go on and off easily. They can even be thrown in the wash! I wanted these dolls and their clothes to be rugged enough for a little girl to play with. Because dolls are no fun sitting up on a shelf.

dolls inspired by Ida Pearle // elsie marley

I was torn about whether or not to embroider faces on the dolls. Ida’s collages don’t have facial features and I am not confident with my embroidery skills. I loved the dolls so much, I didn’t want to risk messing it up with embroidery I wasn’t happy with. We’ll just call them Amish chic.

dolls inspired by Ida Pearle // elsie marley

I had such an amazing time taking Ida’s illustrations and turning them into these dolls. I haven’t had this much fun in ages–and I know I’ve used the word fun too much in this post, but I really was smiling (and humming!) while making these dolls and their clothes. I still get nervous making my own patterns for my kids, but I had no qualms about flat drafting off the dolls’ measurements! Getting out of your creative comfort zone is definitely a good thing!

dolls inspired by Ida Pearle // elsie marley


Posted in plush.

24 Responses to dolls

  1. Ramona says:

    these are DIVINE!!! any chance you could make a pattern? it would be such a great gift for a little girl, a copy of the book and a matching doll… seriously, sign me up as either your first customer or your pattern tester or anything!!!

  2. Heather says:

    You are a great talent and true inspiration. Wow!!

  3. Sara Speight says:

    These dolls and clothes are beautiful! I would buy the pattern too!!

  4. katka says:

    lovely dolls!!! :)

  5. zauberflink says:

    They are stunning! I love how simple and plain they are and how they leave everything to your imagination! I feel very inspired!
    Greetings from a fellow doll maker

  6. Kerri says:

    These are terrific! So beautiful. I would buy the pattern, too! :)

  7. Marlena says:

    Incredible! Can I come over and play dolls?

  8. Jess says:

    Wow. I adore them!
    I need that book, too.
    You’ve inspired me, I didn’t manage any kids clothes during KCWC, but I somehow always can find the motivation for dolly sewing.

  9. Tara says:

    Eek they are so cute., I’ve caught the doll bug from you. Got a doll making book on its way here now.

  10. Dasha says:

    Wow! These are marvelous! I have four girls and these would be so perfect for my girls. So yes, I am joining all the other people who are asking for a pattern. Pretty please? :)

  11. Elizabeth says:

    WOW! These are amazing!!! So cool!

  12. erin says:

    again, i always admire how you just jump in and make. these are fantastic! and fun!

  13. Karin says:

    The dancer is the most beautiful little faceless doll in the world. Proportions are perfect. And that hair!!! The joy jumps out of both them and all around. Thanks for sharing with us!

    • meg says:

      Thank you, Karin, you always know the perfect thing to say. More than anything I wanted the proportions to be right! thanks!

  14. Erin says:

    Meg, these are FANTASTIC! I absolutely love them- I think this would be a great project for a kid to help with maybe (a-hem, is there a tutorial or pattern in the future?? ::cough::). I have made several doll clothes this year for my girl’s 18″ doll, and I started out hating each project (the 1/4″ seam allowances, the tiny arm holes) but then LOVED the end result. My daughter doesn’t play with her doll too much, but every night she changes her into homemade PJ’s. It’s fun. :) Anyway, please make more of these. They’re awesome.

  15. Dorie says:

    These are so wonderful, in the making way and is the result way. The special-est!

  16. Juniper says:

    Especially impressed with the dolls hairstyles! Well done!

  17. they are really, really lovely.
    It was fun reading about it, I can only imagine how much fun it was to do. I absolutely agree about getting out of your comfort zone. If we can’t do that with sewing/craft then when can we! the price of failure is so low, but hey, look at the rewards of such sweet success! Brilliant.

  18. Irene says:

    Your dolls are so beautiful! Their wardrobes are fantastic. I like the simplicity of the dolls without faces–for some reason, it makes them look more like pieces of art.

  19. erin says:

    I completely understand the enthusiasm going on here – dolls are the greatest, and these are so lovely. So I’ll be joining you down crazy lady lane and we can make those tiny shoes, ey?

  20. Melissa Q. says:

    Are you kidding me? This is so delicious. I love that book so much and am so sad the boys don’t’ want to read it anymore. Your dolls capture everything I love about that book…the colors, the style, the fabric on every page. I’ve always been impressed by you but this, this is really something.