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. 


Stitching away

Working on a little something for myself.. will show you what it is when it is finished.




Ingredients: 100% black, kinda glossy linen fabric; 100% silk hand-dyed thread; hand stitching, patience, slowness, rough edges, square, healing

inspired by: annekata and a procrastination at the studio and looking through some Japanese craft books 


… and humbly said also darn proud…

Challenge: medieval day at my nieces' school

Her wish: to be a jester

Total cost $5

Time: about 1.5 hrs.

Materials used: 2 long-sleeved mens t-shirts, some bells.

Tools: 5-thread serger, scissors, niece on hand to keep trying it on.

Skills needed: not much.. but willingness to try, to cut, to have fun.. and then to giggle like crazy… who would have thought that half a long-sleeved shirt worn on your head sideways could so easily turn into a jesters' hat.. not me.. 






Custom Order – Clothes

The time leading up to Christmas 2010 had me very busy with a selection of custom orders. The next few posts will document these. 

First up, a clothes order for a customer that purchased 3 Dolls from me in 2009 and wished for extra sets of outfits. There where some additional outfits in addition to the once here that I didn't document. 

Please forgive me for the less than stellar quality of the photographs here. I had my camera stolen and had to resort back to my old Canon Powershot, a great camera for outdoor pictures, but just terrible for indoor shots.. please bear with me.. all my creations this year will be photographed with my lovely Nikon D3100 DSLR.


Hand-knitted hats, a boys outfit, skirts, dresses, blouses, cardigans for 1 boy doll 45cm, 1 girl doll 45cm and one smaller 31 cm girl doll.


Detail of boy's outfit, linen shirt, pocketed trousers and felted vest.


Very traditional dress for 45 – 52 cm doll with linen facing at the hem and linen belted waist. 


Same dress from behind.


Drop-waist dress with linen trim and felted wool cardigan with ruffled edge and crochet neck band. 

A large portion of the fabrics are from up-cycled clothing, others are from my vast stash of cloth. The client came to my house to choose fabrics she liked and I created to clothes around them. 

All seams are sewn with french seams for a beautiful finish and durability. The felted items are sewn with a zig-zag stitch to allow for stretch when the dolls are being dressed by little hands. 


This is why I’ve been hiding…


My Olive Sparrow Booth at the Toronto Waldorf School Candlelight Vendor's Fair.

Selling my blankets, hand-dyed felt crowns, festive banners, playsilks and dolls. 

A detail of the Olive Sparrow Children:


There are eight children, of which six have found a home, the other two will be in put into my Etsy shop within a weeks time. 

Here is your chance to meet them one-by-one.

Bella will be Ayla's new mom. Ayla is about 44 cm tall. Bella's mom adopted Ayla before the TWS show, but Ayla came with us anyway, as she didn't want to miss out meeting all the people at the fair and having fun with her friends.


Her tunic is sewn with french seams from a recycled linen-mix mens' shirt, a bias neck closure and an alpaca-silk drawstring, from the same yarn as her knit hat. Her capri pants are made from a vintage pillow cover. 

Ayla is a beautiful layed-back girl, full of spunk, yet a very gentle soul.


Kayla has also been adopted. She is about 35 cm tall.


Kayla's hair is hand-dyed merino yarn from Switzerland, extremely soft and beautiful to style. It is a crochet-cap and hand-knotted wig, which allows for many different styles to be created.


Her over-dress is fully reversible, and suitable for both winter and summer wear. She currently wears it over a handkerchief linen shift and lilac bloomers (but, please don't share that information with anybody else…giggle). She wears booties made our of up-cycled felted wool.

Below you can see her with loose open hair and the darker side of the outfit. The dress is based on a pinafore pattern that crosses over in the back, so a child does not have to worry about buttons or other closures. 


Kiran's Grandmother adopted Lars and he will stay with her until Christmas, when he will move in with Kiran. Lars is 33 cm tall. His hair is crochet with the loop technique that Joy's Waldorfdolls describes in her wig-making instruction booklet.


Lars' hoodie is sewn from a T-shirt Huxley wore a couple of summers ago, he also wears linen-cotton pants and leather shoes. He was the first of the children to be adopted at the fair.


Here he is sitting with Reka (who is still available for adoption). Reka is the smallest of the children, measuring a mere 21 cm in height. Her price is $125 CDN. 

She wears a silk hat with a daisy button, and an embroidered, tailored light green linen dress. Her hair is hand-dyed merino wool in an open style. Under her dress you can see a little bit of her floral, cotton capri pants. Her crochet shoes are the same silk as her hat and close with a daisy button.


Reka would be a great doll for a slightly older child, as she is a bit harder to dress.


Lina is 43 cm tall and has a body that is on the plump side (my own pattern). She gives the best hugs. Lina has been adopted together with Mia (you will learn about her next). 

Lina wears a tunic, a cotton batiste and sequin skirt over linen capri pants, as well as a hand-knit hat. Her hair is crochet with the lovely technique that a few of my admired german doll-makers have shared with me (links to their dolls to follow in one of my next posts, in which I would like to share my learning curve about the dolls). Lina's shoes are also made from up-cyled felted woolen sweaters.


Lina with Mia and Silas


Sweet Mia, she is 26 cm tall and has been adopted to the same home as Lina, and I will also make another boy (a brother to Silas, that will look very similar to him).

Mia wears a tunic made from the same fabric as my favourite linen shirt is made out of, as well as white handkerchief linen pants and a reversible pinafore (a pattern I drafted, based on a pinafore I wear for spinning). Her hair is also a crochet mohair type wig.


Here you can clearly see the little bit of embroidery I added to the pinafore. Mia is wearing it with the lilac side out to show you how it matches her kerchief.


Silas, my big boy is 44 cm tall and such a wonderful big brother. He has been adopted as well. 


Silas is dressed up in his finest linen shirt, striped linen pants (made from an up-cycled men's shirt), and his warm wollen felted west. His kerchief adds a little bit of extra spunk to him, don't you agree? His shoes are suede and look very dapper. His hat has earflaps not to keep him warm, but to make him look cool, because, well, as we all know, big brothers have a reputation to protect. He has been adopted for a little girl that is quite a tomboy, so I'm sure he is set for a wonderful life of adventures. 


Last, but by now means least, here we have Pia, the other girl that is still available for adoption to a new home. Pia measures about 43 cm in height and costs $195 CDN.

For her hair I combined the brushed mohair technique with the loop-crochet technique, which gives her a beautifully unruly head of hair that she likes to tame with barrets and little pig tails. Pia is quite a girly-girl and wears a dress over her capri pants. To make sure she stays nice and clean when playing with the other children she wears the lilac side of her pinafore out, yet when she gets ready for an outing, she likes to wear it's white linen side. 



Pia's shoes are made from an up-cycled purple wool sweater and keep her feet cozy even in cold weather. 



Here you can see a detail of her dress showing the french seam.

Pia, Kayla and Ayla pretending that the craddle is a boat on hight seas.


This concludes the introduction of my first collection of Olive Sparrow Children. I was overwhelmed by all the beautiful encouraging compliments I received at the fair and feel blessed to being able to make three custom dolls for some very lucky children this Christmas. I currently still have room for one more custom order to be completed by December 20th as well. 

I hope you have a beautiful week ahead, leading up to our festive season.