Trial and Error

It takes a lot of time, trial and error to arrive at an Olive Sparrow Child whose body shape and proportions are visually right to my eyes. When I made my first dolls I used some of my old patterns from years past (as in patterns from the 80's) and traditional Waldorf doll patterns found in the standard instruction books. Although I have sewn and created for more years than I'd like to admit publicly, I was somehow of the opinion that the dolls had to be "just so" and who was I to think I could alter something as established and well documented in Waldorf Doll-making circles. 

Over time, and through viewing many other doll-makers' creations, I decided that I wished to have a doll that was visually pleasing to my own sense of proportion.

I prefer a doll that has:

  • long legs (but not out of proportion),
  • a neck (except for the baby-doll that is next on my plan), 
  • the head/body proportions of a primary school-aged child (6 – 9 year old),
  • an oval, but roundish face, 
  • arms and legs that are free-moving, 
  • arms that are at a comfortable "hanging" position, yet can be wrapped around a childs neck to return a hug 
  • for larger dolls the ability to sit freely (for the smaller ones to sit propped up), 
  • largish feet, to wear shoes comfortably
  • proportionate hands and thumbs (those thumbs are always a pain to sew),
  • a body that can easily be held in a childs' hands.

Last year I re-designed the bodies for the 44/48 cm and 52/55 cm dolls and am very happy how they turned out. The 35cm doll has always been a favourite though. The smaller, yet still substantial size is ideal for children of 2 years and up, especially if they have shorter hair and simpler clothes. The pattern I have used in the past had many endearing features, yet was at times very frustrating to sew. Hence planning a new body pattern has been on my to-do list all year. 

As I'm now getting ready for this years shows, the time is now. Two weeks ago I was rolling heads, as I often slightly adjust my patterns to fit the heads. They are my starting point for proportion and sizing of the body. Last week I spent two days playing with skin fabric, pencils and wool stuffing. 

These are some of the samples I arrived at.


Two different arms, two different legs. I like my babes to be on the plumper side, as I feel they are more child-like. I also do like larger feet. My heads on the other hand are smaller rather than larger. Once a doll has their hair added, the head automatically becomes bigger. 

Arm shapes.


I made one doll with the left-most pattern, but after it was finished, decided that I prefer my older arm pattern. It is important though to not just draw and imagine the dolls as I would like them to be, but to actually sew and stuff sample limbs. Holding these samples in my hands and working with how the fabric behaves when it is being stuffed leads me to the right shape.

If you look at the right-most hand, you can see that the hand is smaller, longer with a less defined thumb. This was caused by aligning the pattern differently on the skin fabric. Since the skin fabric is a knit, that will affect the direction of the stretch when the limb is stuffed.  

The first of the new 40cm (aka the 35cm that grew larger) doll is now almost finished. In the morning I will embroider the face and get the hair ready. Hopefully I'll get a chance to take some pictures to show you.