Welcome to my monthly post on the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network, this time something a little different.  I’ve admired the Tilda range for a long time and love all of the beautiful dolls & outfits that I have seen online, from the simple to the extravagant. Many years ago, maybe 35 or so, I made a traditional rag doll complete with woollen plaits, underwear and her dress. I can still picture every detail and wonder where she is now. Since then I’ve made no more toys and couldn’t wait to start this project.

I chose the Tilda Summer Ideas Book, some ditsy floral Fat Quarters, beige Cotton Poplin Fabric and some soft cotton Yarn by DMC for the hair. 

There are some beautiful Tilda fabrics on the Minerva website, however I chose some less expensive fabrics on this occasion, to experiment with achieving the same effect with non-branded materials. For anyone wishing to try making something from the Tilda range this is a more cost effective approach with very pleasing results. The Tilda Doll Fabric is described as cotton poplin and I was really pleased with the alternative fabric I chose, for a third of the price.

The book contains many stunning photos and lots of tips & techniques for creating the hair & turning sections right side out. All of the required pattern pieces are at the back of the book which I simply traced onto white A4 paper and cut out. It surprised me how big the pattern was when all of the pieces were laid out. I used the pattern pieces as a template and carefully traced the outline onto the fabric. If I make more dolls, I will transfer the pattern onto a sturdier material such as cardboard which will make it easier to trace around.

The cotton poplin in beige is perfect for the skin tone and gives a nice smooth effect, equally it is easy to trace onto, cut and sew, yet strong enough to withstand turning of small sections.

The first stage of preparing the fabric, even before applying the pattern pieces, is to plan the beige and patterned fabrics for the under clothes/sleeves and join these pieces with the required seam allowance, pressing the seams open. The pattern pieces are then positioned with the marks as per the pattern at the level of the fabric joins. This actually took me a little while to plan but would be quicker in the future now I’ve worked out the layout. The pattern describes using a plastic material to make her shoes but I had nothing similar to use, therefore I added a contrasting section of fabric to the lower legs that would be the shoes.

It is easier to trace onto slightly bigger pieces of fabric, sew along the transfer lines and then cut the 5mm seam allowance after stitching, rather than cut to size and try to sew leaving the required seam allowance all around. It was really quick to sew the seams this way & then trim the allowance afterwards.

After clipping the curves, the book recommends using a florist stick for turning. Again, it is not something I had to hand and so I used a pair of chopsticks then finger pressed the seams methodically before ironing. The chopsticks worked really well and they now live in my sewing room. Turning was easier than I envisaged and I recommend pressing all sections at every stage.

The legs are stuffed from below the knees, again using the chopsticks, and a stitch line made at the level of the knees. After stuffing the upper legs, they are fixed in place with machine stitching along the bottom of the stuffed body part. The arms are finally filled and stitched onto the side body using ladder stitch. This was a bit fiddly to hold and stitch but more pins directly into the body would help with this.

Care is need for filling the doll otherwise you end up with lumpy areas. I didn’t add the knee seam until I had compared both legs for size & shape. Stuffing took much longer, & more stuffing than I anticipated but the Habico Polyester Filling is good quality and value, with the added benefit of being clearly labelled with the safety standards that it meets – a necessity if it is being used to make toys to sell.

I originally wanted to make the dungarees but, although the main pattern piece fitted onto a fat quarter, there wasn’t sufficient for the other pieces, the bib, pockets and waistband. Instead, I changed my plan and used the dress pattern.

The dress was really simply made from a rectangle of fabric, although it is important to place equal sections of the skirt on the doll to ensure even pleats.

The book gave simple guidance on creating the hair shape and I did some further research on You Tube to get more tips and a better understanding. I found it quite fiddly to secure the hair and as usual, practice makes perfect and next time will be much easier. Although the cotton thread is soft, it is thick & I needed a pair of pliers to pull the needle through in some areas. In hindsight, and from watching more videos, it would have been easier to use regular thread or single strand embroidery thread to attach the hair rather than the same cotton hair thread, even though I separated some strands it was still very hard to pull through.

I am so pleased with the finished doll and would love to make some for our grand-daughters when they are a bit older. My doll has some added characters as her eyes are slightly wonky and one side of her hair is pulled a bit too tight changing the shape of her head - hopefully this all adds to her charm. 

This is an adult, or older child’s doll and not suitable for very young children or babies due to any small embellishments used, in this case the flowers on the shoes. Obviously, if there are no additional small accessories or choking hazards, they are safe for little hands. Personally, I think they are too pretty and delicate for little hands.

Thank you for reading and to Minerva for this beautiful kit.

Helen @ JustSewHelen.com