DIY story: A feltie in 4 steps

feltie feature

I’m not sure what happened the other week.

Maybe it was seeing doll-artist Mimi Kirchner’s doll-making tutorial on Purl Soho, and then being completely blown away by the dolls on her instagram feed. They are incredible.

Maybe it’s the long-going, all-garter-stitch project that I’ve been working on — like cloud-gazing, working its rows tends to lull me into daydreams about things to make.

Or, maybe it’s simply the slow seasonal shift out of winter (fingers crossed?) that’s bringing in a new light and, with it, some unexpected creative whims. Whatever the case and cause, I felt the strong desire to make a felt doll last last Saturday – it was an insistent and oddly specific feeling that a little felt creature of some kind had to happen, and for no discernible reason. I am not known to say no to a surprise visitation from the feltie fairy; I canceled my weekend movie-night plans, brewed a big pot of tea, and took to the drawing board. Here’s the DIY story, in 4 parts.

(Note: I have minimal hand-sewing experience and near-zero needlepoint skills, so the following project is easy enough for absolute feltie beginners!).

1. Designing a Pattern 

I started with a simple sketch – a brainstorm of how I wanted a potential doll to look. I was inspired by one of my favourite childhood drawings: a picture of a somewhat forlorn hippie-bear with vacant pools for eyes. My current doll-prototype has yet to approximate the truth and goodness of this bear; it’s one of my favourite things.

I translated the sketch into a slightly modified paper cut-out that would serve as the doll pattern. Having no experience with designing doll-arms and doll-legs that move, I decided to make a static figure. Very Gumby-like. I held off on the rabbit-ears (but this idea has been very much shelved for later).


2. Stuffing & Sewing Up

Two identical pieces of felt were cut from this template (one for the doll-front, the other for the back). That is about as easy as it gets. Pinning the two pieces together kept the edges aligned while hand-sewing. They were seamed using a visible whip stitch and stuffed using some poly-fill that we conveniently happened to have on hand from felties past. One trick that I found useful (though likely unconventional) was to fill each small section as it was sewn (a leg, an arm, etc.). Skinny limbs can be hard to stuff — the flat end of a pencil can help move the fill to where it needs to go.

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I spent Saturday sewing and stuffing my way through the project, and by Sunday morning, the paper template had a marshmallowy, 3-D version of itself (with a tummy patch!).

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Another lesson learned, here: once stuffed, the resulting doll will be a little thinner than its paper counterpart — something to keep in mind when designing a stuffable template of this kind!

3. Adding Features

Using Mimi Kirchener’s excellent Purl Soho tutorial as a guide, I gave the doll some hair: a simple cut-out from one of her “wigs” that adorably represents a neat little parted up-do. The hair was sewn on, again, with a visible whip-stitch.

feltie hair.jpg

I returned to my creature last Tuesday to embroider some features. This step made me pause: I have almost no thread/floss-needlepoint skills, and the closest I come was a failed 5th-grade cross-stitch project that never saw the light of day (coincidentally, this project was also of a bear, seated, holding a heart which ended up looking more like a deflated beach ball). In other words, not a good track-record to bring to a project that I thought was going well, and didn’t want to ruin in one fell needle-swoop!

Luckily, Nathalie Mornu’s Embroider Your Life: Simple Techniques & 150 Stylish Motifs to Embellish Your World was an indispensable embroidery guide — it’s very beginner- and user-friendly (not scary!) and provides easy-to-read primers on how to do basic stitches and shapes with needle and thread. The ethos of the book is that embroidery and needlepoint can go anywhere.

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Using a water-soluble ink pen to pre-mark where the eyes would go, I used satin-stitch to fill in the eyes, to make a nose on a ‘snout’ (using a contrast colour of felt), as well as for her tiny heart tattoo (because she wears her heart on her sleeve). Back stitch was used for the brows and mouth.

I’m learning that there’s good reason to wait until the doll is stuffed to add its features – it’s simply much easier to see how and where everything will actually be positioned on an already-fully-stuffed head.

4. Last step: some new threads!

This was the part I anticipated the most when I started the project — my imagination was set free by dreams of tiny sweaters galore. I decided, in the end, to start with a basic poncho in the round: after a basic neckline, I worked a few rows of raglan-style increases and kept on knitting rather than separating the stitches off for sleeves (worked on size 4 DPNs and some scrap DK weight from another project, more on that soon).

As in large-scale knitting, top-down construction lends itself nicely to work-in-progress fittings:

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And voilà.

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A feltie and her (fore)bear.

The mini-poncho’s colour work pattern comes from Andrea Rangel’s quite awesome AlterKnit Stitch Dictionary: 200 Modern Knitting Motifs. It’s a great resource for fun colour work charts (you’ll find everything in this book from zombies and squirrels to bicycles and scarab beetles). So much colour work goodness here!

And that’s a wrap! I hope to do more of these. Felties are fun to experiment with, and are great for small-scale garment-making. Following the process from sketch to sewing up can, as you can see, lead to some quite unexpected results (which, I think, is where the joy in design and making lies).

Have a DIY feltie design query? Or any doll-making tips to pass on? I would love to hear them in the comments below.

Wishing you many moments of creative happiness this week!

A few new things

How are you, crafters and creatives?

Blog reno is going well and I think I’m done tinkering with it for this little while. I reined in my zeal to change everything, kept most things, and introduced a few little things.

In addition to having a new domain name, the site also has a new header (and a logo!). New photo for me, too (with a new project in tow).

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Sifting through a year’s worth of posts, I lamented the fact that some of my favourite entries were buried. These buried posts are ones that I’d like to more easily access for future projects; coincidentally, they come the closest to DIY tutorials (but are more like “creative tag-a-longs” where I share the process of learning something new or trying a crafty experiment like yarn-recycling). To keep these posts visible, I gave them a visual and positioned them in the sidebar.

Finally, there’s a new page on the menu bar: Books I Love. Looking back on last year’s content, I was struck by how often I wrote about books. Compiling an ongoing list of my favourite craft-related reads seemed like the next logical step. I should note that book links — on the “Books I Love” page and in blog posts — are Amazon-affiliated. This means that the links will bring you to an Amazon book info page. Any purchases made through an Amazon-affiliated link on this site will send a little extra change (to help keep the crafting going, of course!).

Ok. Back to the fun stuff.

What have you been working on this week?



Once upon a feltie…


A flashback post today.

After my bf and I first started dating, I came upon Nelly Pailloux’s Felties: How to make 18 cute and fuzzy friends from felt. Being the burgeoning crafter that I was (this was way back in 2011), I couldn’t help but suggest that we grab some felt and try our hands at making some of the characters together. The bf obliged, and we ended up having a fun crafting day with his neices and nephews (some of whose stitches are seen above!).

A few glue-gunned googly eyes and some poly-fill later, we had these two. I took a quick snapshot before the felties went home with the kids. Continue reading “Once upon a feltie…”

Colour work & crafty calendar planning

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How has your January been, crafters?

With three dear friends expecting this Spring, the first weeks of 2018 have seen me exploring some basic baby knits and making plans for my upcoming longer-term knitting projects.

The two hat-and-mitten sets (above) were a joy to work. Done on size 7 DPNs with worsted weight, Melissa Thomson’s Golden Pear baby hat is workable in a little over an afternoon. This hat pattern features 8 rows of basic colour work, and was quite coincidentally the perfect project for applying myself to my 2018 intention to keep developing my stranded knitting skills.

I’m enjoying stranded knitting in the round on DPNsThere’s something about the proliferation of all the materials that works my mind out (i.e. managing 4 needles instead of two, say, and multiple strands instead of one). The two-handed yarn-hold that I prefer reminds me of playing the piano; each colour plays its part as bass and melody (this metaphor is how I now think of the initially puzzling concept of yarn dominance. It makes much more sense!). I enjoy the way stranded knitting on DPNs is an ambidextrous workout; there are a lot of little parts and processes to juggle, and it’s absorbing to keep it all in motion.

I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that the little “loop” at the top of the hat is done using none other than a simple i-cord – a technique I encountered only a few weeks ago while making hangers for last year’s batch of holiday mini-stockings. To make a hat-mitten set, I added 4 rows of colour work to the mittens as well, using Very Simple Baby Mitts as a basic pattern. Also worked on size 7 DPNS, these mitts are adorably and lovingly thumbless (now I am curious: what age do mittens officially sprout the opposable thumb?).

Crafty calendar planning

In the weeks ahead, I’ll be working on a longer-term knitting project. Having found myself spending most of 2017 longing to knit a full sweater, I would also like to begin to set some initial sweater-making plans and intentions. Even the best of intentions, I’ve noticed, have a tendency of slipping through the fingers if not brought down to earth (i.e. things like plans and daily quotas and To Do’s and timelines and, yes, deadlines can be allies in getting things done). In my own work, I benefit from turning a “big project” into many smaller, incremental, and non-scary pieces — pieces small enough to fit into the space of many afternoons, or the space between dinner and sleep. Planning is how I practice a little more courage.

Luckily, I am better prepared this year to do this – not least because my desktop has seen a new organizational addition: a January Beastie calendar page! Being a regular user of paper planners, and a Beasties fan, I was very keen to add 12 months of Beasties to my workspace. I was so thrilled, then, when Helen of Crawcrafts Beasties decided to offer free, full-colour printable PDF calendar pages for 2018 (woo hoo!). It’s such a treat to have a little Beastie charm while planning the important things.

The calendar is beautifully designed. January features a very crisp and full-colour Paddy and Plunkett — the adventurous tweed-and-cable-clad travelers whose regular road trips you’ll find on the BeastieBlog. As you can see, my workspace & corkboard are definitely sunnier with their presence!

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Ok, time for lunch, and more on the cro-nuts (crocheted donuts) in a later post. Looking forward to catching up on your recent projects!

How do you organize your projects and track your progress? One consecutive WIP at a time, or many? And what tools and practices help you to make space for your creative commitments?