19 December 2014

Fleur - a vintage-style cloth doll

In a complete departure from my usual sewing projects, I got to pattern-test Big Little's newest creation, Fleur, a vintage-style cloth doll. She is simply too beautiful for words. I don't think the photos do her justice to be honest. She is so robust yet lovely to hold and at around 38cm tall, she is an amazing size. My 5 and 7 year old daughters just love her to pieces.

If you are visiting here from Big Little's blog tour this week, you may notice that my version is a little different to the lovely ones that have been showcased so far. It was not because I disliked the original pattern, but simply because she was created based on what materials I already had in my stash.

I've sewed one other doll before, but I just made it up as I went along and it was very rudimentary. This doll has quite a number of components to her, including jointed limbs, and the pattern has a very comprehensive tutorial to accompany it; to see it all in one file may actually a little overwhelming for a beginner or inexperienced sewer. The testers were dripfed the tutorial, which I think was a really good approach so it felt more manageable.

I think to do it in stages and only when you have complete focus on the task at hand is key. I had a little bit on my plate last month when I worked on this doll and so I snuck a few hours here and there and always with the nagging in my head that I really ought to have been doing something else, so I think I rushed her a bit and lost enjoyment because she didn't come together as well I had hoped she would. I really struggled with a number of areas, and my frustration only grew when I could not achieve a nice, balanced look to her face. I don't even know why - all the other pattern testers seemed to manage it without a problem. Perhaps it was because I used polyester fill where others had used natural fibres? I just could not achieve the lovely rounded look in the example pictures when I started stuffing her and it caused so much frustration! She had no other features at that point, she was just a bald-headed, faceless creature with no arms or legs and I just wasn't feeling it.

I also found stitching and turning out the ears and making clothes that are this small an issue - I must have man-sized hands or something but finesse is required to work with these little details and plenty of patience is needed because you cannot rush through the stages unless you want it to show in your craftsmanship.

I had a ball of sea foam green wool in my stash and this is what guided me in the colour choices for the doll clothes. I followed Lisa's tutorial to braid the hair, which was surprisingly easy, and then I decided  my doll needed a more relaxed hairstyle, so I rolled the hair at the side, swept it around to the other side and then braided it.

Having struggled to stuff the doll, I made the decision to tackle the clothes instead. I figured it would be a good idea to have a break from the doll and play with some pretty fabrics instead to rekindle the enjoyment. For me, there is no point sewing if I'm not having fun doing it. I made a kimono dress and regretted my fabric choices so I opted for separates instead. I love how it all turned out, with her little leggings made from a pair of one of my daughter's old holey leggings. They are simply longer French knickers without the elastic in the legs and sewn with a tapered leg so they fit more snugly. The denim jacket is adapted from the bodice pattern and made using a pair of old jeans and I snuck in some of Sarah Jane's florals for the lining. The teeshirt is made from a stretch knit and I handstamped it with one of the girls' stamps for a street wear look.
So fash-un.

The shoes are made from a small piece of suede and were really quite fun to make. I cut out the soles from the supplied shoe pattern and to make the boots, I drafted a slightly wider pattern using the contour of the doll's leg as a guide.

I was especially hesitant to embroider her eyes; having come so far through the doll-making process and lacking confidence in my embroidery skills, I feared I would completely ruin the doll and not be able to disguise any mistakes. Lisa came to the rescue with a simplified eye design, which is just perfect on this doll.

There were so many emotions at play constructing her. I oscillated between excitement, to frustration to ambivalence and finally to falling completely in love with my creation. It was a total incarnation of the creative process diagram I wrote about last month. I could never give this girl up, so I am so glad that my children play with her and adore her too. As soon as her face was stitched on, it was my eureka moment and I just fell in love with her.

If you are ever given a doll that someone has carefully laboured over for hours, feel special because these dolls are definitely not a five minute project and if someone has carefully crafted something as detailed and beautiful as a Big Little Fleur doll for you, know that you are loved.

Lisa was incredibly patient with me as I worked through the various stages asking a barrage of questions along the way. She has also generously offered 15% off the pattern until this Saturday 20 December only which is now listed here in her Etsy store. Just enter the code FLEUR15 at checkout.

Unless you put all the dolls being showcased this week side by side, you mightn't realize that they were created from the same pattern, which is the beauty of it - it is such a versatile pattern and you are only limited by your imagination. I am having all manner of difficulty adding links and uploading photos to my blog at the moment, so if you would like to see more versions of this doll and to visit the remaining blogs in the hop, please do click through to Lisa's blog for a list of all the participants.

Aimee from Small Steps Big Noises has made a doll to give away to one lucky little person. Knowing how much work goes into creating these dolls, this is such a generous thing to do and captures nicely the spirit of this time of year. Please do go and enter for your chance to own your very own Fleur doll.


  1. Wow beautiful Leanne! I love the look of this doll but have not enjoyed my previous attempts at sewing toys so am hesitant to try it but yours looks amazing!

  2. She is brilliant, I love her hair and clothes, not too girly, but girly too!! She will be a great family heirloom I can see! xx

  3. Wow what an epic project. I'm sure you see all the flaws but to me she is just incredible (I could not even begin to attempt anything like this!). She reminds me so much of the doll my mum made me (instead of buying me a Cabbage patch doll) - the face and hair are very similar to this beauty - her name was Juliana and I loved her so much!

  4. She is absolutely beautiful! I agree with Amy - what a wonderful family heirloom you have created.

  5. I want one!! I mean for my daughters....

  6. Ava has truly been a labour of love for you, and I'm so glad you have such an awesome unique and wonderful doll to show for your efforts. She is wonderful! Very cool that your girls love her just as much - I trust she will be a great friend to them all... Lisa x

  7. Well done you!!!! I appreciate how honest you were about your creative process and I agree you have a stunning result at the end of it all. Gorgeous!

  8. She is freeking awesome! Definitely one of my favourites and no less because she is so way cool and individual! you are a legend and go you for persevering and making her your own!