The Benefits of a Waldorf-Inspired Doll

It is because of my very strong convictions of the benefits of a Waldorf-inspired doll for a child that I make them. Much has been written about these benefits and I do not feel that I need to restate it in my own words. A starting place to read.

My contributions to a child through my dolls are that I ensure I use the best workmanship and quality of material possible so that a child can experience what it is to own something for a long time that will not break and fall apart – something all to common with store-bought dolls made in foreign lands. An Olive Sparrow child is pricey, as it contains many, many hours of my time to create it. It is not intended to become just one of a bunch of dolls, yet to be a special friend and companion to a child. Their relationship will grow and change as the child matures.


French seam on tunic.

I sew each dolls clothes with care and pride so that the seams will withstand many hours of play. Small clumsy hands taking them off and pulling them back on. I think of the play value of every element of my dolls. Can an outfit be recombined to look differently? Can it be made reversible, so it looks different depending on the child’s mood? The laces in the shoes are sewn in the middle back of the shoe so that they don’t fall out the first time little hands try to undo them. Some of the smaller dolls come with bare feet, as little shoes would only get lost (but they of course can be requested). I use snaps instead of velcro so that little hands learn an extra skill (and because I still have nightmares of the sound it made when I was changing my sons diapers in the middle of the night) – and velcro can also get tangled up in a doll’s hair.


A little hand made by my hands

As a trained artist, visual impact and beauty is what my eyes lead my hands to create. I strive for harmony, because I believe that when we learn to see as  a child, we will step through life with an open heart and an ability to see beauty even when surrounded by difficulties. Beauty generates hope. I was blessed with a father that taught me to see the beauty in flowers and the landscape around us. Although he only had a grade 5 education and was a factory worker all his life, he had a gift for photography, for composing his subjects – had he been born into a wealthy family, instead of one with 10 siblings, he would have surely been able to capitalize on his gifts. I hope that I might help guide the eyes of your child through my work.

Living in Canada, forging my life by the labour of my hands, means that I need to charge a living wage for my work. My youngest client was a 7 year old girl who had fallen in love with my dolls. Through her mother’s help she started making small needle-felted angel ornaments that she sold at a couple local craft shows and earned her own money to buy one of the dolls. She is now making outfits for the doll and is so proud of herself. I can only imagine what this sense of achievement at such a young age will do for her future believe in herself!

I understand that it is not possible for everyone to purchase a doll from me, especially if a family has more than one child. I also believe that the most wonderful doll is made by a mothers’ hand for her own child. This is why I love teaching doll making workshops. Although my own dolls are made by highly developed and designed patterns, I do teach a simpler version of the doll that will be of equivalent beauty to mine. The workshops are always a wonderful sharing experience and all the dolls a treasure to keep in a family for years to come. The doll workshops take a significant amount of my time – there is planning, preparing, organizing, involved that goes beyond what a student sees during the workshop. The cost of the workshop is about the amount of a doll, however, once you have the skills, you can make multiple dolls. I keep the number of students low to ensure that all the dolls satisfy my students.

Purchasing a ready-made doll, commissioning a special one from me or making one yourself, are different ways to bring beauty into your families life.


Switzerland, October 2012

This visit



        forever goodbyes

some one-sided 


            from forever goodbye's

                of two years


Yet also

    there where

    some new


            deepening of 



Holding Hugging

            tears laughter

    sharing future dreams

            long lost memories

Circles closed

        circles opened.


My Mami, my Mother Rosmarie Aebischer-Kästli, January 14 1934 – October 16, 2012

Her brain injury was part of her but not her whole being. We often had to explain her to others so they could understand how she was different from somebody with a fully functioning short term memory. For the last 32 years of her life she taught all who met her a lot – patience, old sayings, love and faith. Most of all, we need to remember a woman who loved to laugh, to break out in song, who was full of love. A mother who was very tender and loving. A sister who kept her own siblings close even after her marriage to my dad in 1957. A patient who was always thankful. A woman who through her faith found peace with her tragic destiny – often through a joke.

When I was 12, I lost my Mami when she had her bike accident on August 18, 1980. Now, my mother died.

Her accident took away her ability to be herself and left her with the mental ability of a 10 – 12 year old child.

There are many stories of this part of my life – this place here, perhaps the place to tell some of them when the time is right. Perhaps. Perhaps not.


Spring/Summer 1969.


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. 


Happy Day of Love

We have started a new tradition around our meals: recounting our favourite thing of the day. 

Today I had a most definite favourite: 

Huxley got up at 5:30 to tape about 50 heart cut-outs onto the walls of the kitchen and the bunny-room door, he made us breakfast (toasted bagels and cream cheese) and taped some hearts underneath our plates. He also put his lovely hand-made cards under our plates. 


Spending a few minutes before our family dinner every night to focus on good things has brought much happiness to our days. At first, Huxley always wanted to mention bad things too – I encourage him to focus on the good things before dinner and then we could talk about the bad things afterwards. Being Thankful, a small gesture, a few minutes of time and a huge difference.

Huge Huggles to you all! and may your lives be filled with love of all kind!


On the Trails

Living in the middle of a large city with 2,500,000 people has many benefits. Living in a house with a backyard big enough to plant vegetables in this large city is even more special. Harvesting sour cherries of my own tree in the front yard is a dream come true. Going for a very short walk through what is known around here as the "dog-park" with its trees and perspective that shows no other parts of the city is a quick escape in any season. 

Missing from this is a long walk in the forest, not a park, but a real, wooded forest. To have an experience like that we gather up food, water bottles, a first aid kit, swiss army knives, cameras, extra clothes, hiking boots, sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, napkins, snacks. We empty our wallets of too much weight, remember the bug spray. Then we get into the car and drive. And drive. And drive. Usually upwards of an hour to an hour and a half. At the end of this long drive, we get to a part of the Bruce Trail. We calculate a day to go hiking. 

For the swiss-raised child in me, I find this horrific. I grew up in a small town where there was forests around, a short sunday walk entailed almost always a jaunt through the forest, along a stream, sitting down on a bench for a rest. As a snack, we took an apple along, but more often than not, we just put on our shoes and walked out the front door. We'd be back home within a couple of hours. Hiking meant taking a train into the mountains, climbing some hills. We even had a nice "hill" just up north of our town, within walking distance from our front door, with a restaurant on top, a playground and a view that was heart stopping. Still, we never took more than ourselves, and of course my dad and mom brought their money to purchase a drink and a snack up on the hill. 

If I am asked why I live in Canada when I had all the beauty of Switzerland around me, I often reflect that it is the landscape and of course my family and friends that I miss. The mountains, the Sunday afternoon walks, the hikes. Here in Toronto, I have many other things that I could not have there, so I guess the payoff is that it takes a day to go hiking. 

We try to go onto the trail as much as we possibly can. Usually between June and October we manage to go about six to seven times. It is bliss. The forest and the trail does feed my soul and I hope to feed my son's soul there too:


There is a froggy in this picture, and in the ones he took. 


Here are a few of my froggy images: