Today we're catching up with doll maker and author, Louise Kelly, who has just released her first book, Sew Your Own Dolls. Find out how Louise decides her dolls' outfits and personalities, her top tips for beginners and the exciting things she has coming up this year!
Sew Your Own Dolls is fantastic, congratulations! Can you tell us about your doll-making journey leading up to this exciting book?
Oh, thank you so much! I have always been making or drawing or painting my whole life, but the dolls began around five years ago after making some samples for a kids’ sewing class that I was running. I was a confident stitcher but needed to research some toy making techniques and really that was it, something sparked and suddenly all these little doll characters were all I could think about! My style is ever evolving and I am constantly refining my techniques. I stitch every day and my sketchbook is my best friend, everything I make, all my guys and gals come from doodles and sketches.
You create so many stylish outfits for the dolls, all matched to their unique characters. Where do you find inspiration for the outfits and how to do you decide on the dolls’ personalities?
Ok, this might sound strange but I never decide their personalities beforehand, rather, I let them develop their own characteristics, I guess you could say I work on instinct. Only once, did I try to make a cute but kind of grumpy doll and she didn’t turn out anything like that at all. I let them be whatever they turn out to be, but I will tell you this, everything you do suggests personality. Colour, hair style, mouth/ eye placement, pattern, name and even how the doll is stuffed all gives character! Inspiration comes from anywhere, a colour scheme, an outfit my cousin was wearing, a new fabric that I just HAVE to work with, lately I have begun to realise that a lot of my doll clothes are really just clothes I wish I had hanging in my own wardrobe.
Do you have a favourite doll in the book?
Now, I love them all, they would never have made it in to the book otherwise, but I do have a soft spot for Isla, it’s the mustard yellow cape, I think I want one of my own. Isla went off to be photographed for the book, and I awoke in the middle of the night thinking about her as she was just not how I envisioned her, so she made her way back to me, I re-fitted her cape, changed her dress and gave her a bow in her hair and then I just fell in love with her! I can really see her skipping through the forest looking for berries.
What would be your top tips for any beginner sewers who have your book and are looking to start making their first doll?
I am really passionate about this, crafting is meant to be fun and relaxing, it’s not meant to be frustrating or difficult, so when making your first doll (or even your 10th doll) don’t worry about making everything perfect, just delight in choosing fabrics, outfits and names. Each doll you make will polish your skills. Oh and choose really good felt, 100% wool or Wool-Mix, it will make the whole process a breeze! Cloud Craft, Billow Fabrics and Paper and String are my favourite felt suppliers.
And finally, what does the rest of the year have in store for you?
I have so many things I am working on and a million others that I want to do, but first on the list is finding some studio space, I need more room! I have a collection of dolls that I am finishing off, some top-secret projects, some patterns that I am writing and, I can hardly believe I am saying this in May, but I am quite literally obsessed with what I am making for Christmas 2017, I can hardly think of anything else. I am going all out this year! Follow me on Instagram and Facebook to see what I am up to.