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Finally I’m ready to show off my Perfectly Imperfect cloth dolls. I’d been working on these dolls and posting in-progress pictures on Instagram for months. My original plan was to make a bunch for Christmas presents and the kids’ various charity Christmas markets and giveaways.
My original plan failed and I only managed to get this one doll out of the 11 I started ready in time for Christmas.
I made these little guys from a pattern by Allison from Sweater Doll called the Perfectly Imperfect Play Doll, which is currently available in the Sweater Doll Etsy shop or in Tickle the Imagination, Issue 21. I love Allison’s work (have you seen her Glovosaur tutorial which she graciously shared with Cucicucicoo readers a few months ago?) and her whimsical style, and I was immediately drawn to this cloth doll pattern when I saw it. Let me tell you a little bit why.
I sew, but I don’t consider myself an accomplished softie maker. As you can see in the in-progress picture above, I am far from having mastered the art of stuffing (I never know just how firmly to stuff softies, and how my dolls’ heads came out all different shapes and sizes is a mystery to me), the facial embroidery is pretty wonky and their heads have funny bumps. But let me remind you of the name of this pattern: Perfectly Imperfect. Love it.
I love it because striving for perfection each and every time is the surest way to get burnt out and learn to hate something that should be completely enjoyable. So I made it a point to really enjoy making these dolls. To take months to sew them when I had a bit of extra time. To just let go of any desire to make perfect items, and let each doll has its own flaws and imperfections, its own personality, just like every one of us has.
I also love this pattern because it’s not a classic softie pattern with a classic construction. You piece together rectangles of fabric for the different parts, trace around the template onto the back of the pieced-together fabric, sew on that line and trim away the rest. Only the arms are sewn on separately at the end. It’s a really simple method and wonderfully easy for people like me who aren’t used to sewing around teeny tiny doll parts with tiny seam allowances. (Speaking of which, there is an error in the instructions and the seam allowance when sewing the rectangles together should be 1 cm, not 5 mm.)
What else do I love about this pattern? It is absolutely perfect for scrap busting! About 95% of the fabrics I used for their bodies and accessories were from my bags of tiny scraps and the other 5% (the skin and most of the hair) was from larger pieces of new fabric yardage left over from other projects. My kids and I had so much fun picking through my scrap collection and putting together our favorite combinations of fabrics for interesting outfits and hair. I also let the kids create their own dolls with their favorite fabrics that they could keep for themselves, so they were particularly careful when picking those out.
And how fun is it to use scraps of real clothing to make doll clothing? For example, the dolls above on the left have jeans from my old jeans and a shirt from this skirt I refashioned. The dolls on the right have accessories made from a sweater I refashioned into a skirt and legwarmers.
These dolls have clothing from the One Cardigan, jean skirt refashion and PeterPan/Tinkerbell costumes, among many other things which I never blogged about.
I love these dolls’ personalities. As I worked on them, one by one, I felt like their characters just came out on their own and I got to know who they were. These two ended up being my favorites. I’m not sure why, but I pictured them as best friends, which is why I decided to give them matching accessories, in girl and boy versions. And yes, that boy has burgundy velvet hair which matches his pants (which were from an old skirt of mine that became a pillow last year). Wouldn’t you love to have fuzzy purple hair, too? When I was in high school, I tried to dye my hair purple, but my hair never took the dye properly. (And yes, I am aware of the horrific job I did stitching on that poor girl’s hair curls.)
Like I mentioned in my last newsletter (have you signed up for it yet? Click here to sign up for the Cucicucicoo Newsletter to get lots of free patterns and other goodies!), my kids are now finally back to normal after 3 weeks of being very sick. During that time, the dolls were all sewn and embroidered, but were feeling a little blah without any extra accessories. So one evening, after a particularly exhausting day spent nursing my whiny, ill children, as soon as my husband came home from work, I locked myself away into my sewing room, surrounded myself with my many bags of random scraps, and went to work making accessories, starting with my kids’ three dolls:
It was surprisingly relaxing to just sit in silence and create from odd-shaped fabrics of all types. I didn’t care about perfect sewing technique or perfect fit for the dolls, but adapted the scraps for fun and versatile accessories, improvising the entire time. It felt wonderful to let go of perfection and just be creative and enjoy myself. Plus it was a fantastic walk down memory lane, seeing bits of my past projects infused into these little dolls.
I love how my little boy decided that his doll should have rainbow striped hair. He decided to only have one doll, so I put a little extra effort into his Super Nicky super hero accessories and added an “N” to the cape and belt buckle.
This is my daughter’s girl doll, with fabrics she chose herself. She started using it and sleeping with it before I got around to making the accessories, which is why it got some spots on its face and body. I made all the accessories child-friendly, so that kids can easily put them on and off and use them in different ways.
You can see what I mean about using strange scraps from that bit of blue and white sweater (left over from the One Cardigan). This was a scrap of upper sleeve with long strips on each side which had gone under the neck. There’s a seam in the middle. I just trimmed it slightly, folded the edges under and stitched them with a zig zag stitch, and I was done. Decidedly imperfect technique, but just perfect for this doll anyway! When my daughter started feeling better, she made her own necklace from my bead stash with elastic string for the doll.
Here are some ways that this little girl can wear her accessories.
For the boy, she was undecided for a bowtie or a super hero cape, so we just went for both.
This guy reminds me of a sort of Clark Kent/Superman or Bruce Wayne/Batman dual personality! Haha!
Conclusion? I really love this pattern. It’s truly simple and easy to sew, but is really just a canvas for your creativity. There are endless possibilities for these little guys, depending on the fabrics you choose, how to do their hair, facial embroidery and accessories. It made me so happy to see each one take on its own personality so that they started to feel almost like real people to me. It reminded me what it’s like to be a child who projects life into her inanimate toys, how magical play can be.
But it was also a wonderful sewing experience, to remember that sewing shouldn’t necessarily be about creating something absolutely perfect, but to make something that will be loved as it is and, most of all, to enjoy the creative journey!
So, I highly suggest you get this pattern in the Sweater Doll Etsy shop or Tickle the Imagination, Issue 21 (available in both paper and digital versions) and, while you’re at it, go visit Allison at Sweater Doll. She’s been working on some truly exquisite embroidery work on the most unexpected materials, has lots of free sewing tutorials, and writes one of my favorite weekly newsletters.
Did you enjoy this fabric doll pattern review? Then check out my review for the Finger Pocket Fish finger puppet stuffed toys!
6 thoughts on “Perfectly Imperfect: a fabric doll pattern review”
Oh! A whole gang of delightful little children!!!! These are wonderful, Lisa. I’m so glad you enjoyed making them and using up your bits and pieces. They look wonderful.
I don’t think I could pick a favorite, but the striped hair is the best! And the pink plaid pants are to gorgeous. Love the way you use the crochet bit for a shawl or skirt. We’re going to have to have a playdate – you and I.
Thanks for the awesome review. The magazine can still be purchased in print or digitally at the tickle the imagination website. I do have plans to put a pattern download together. You know….the to-do list is always growing. Thanks again for trying out and sharing my pattern.
So glad you like them, Allison! They were really so fun to watch come together and it’s such a wonderful feeling to relive past projects when you see their scraps become a little “person”! I also really love those pink plaid pands. I often found, when making these, that I wanted to have their outfits!
I’ve edited the text to add the link to your Etsy shop, too. Thanks so much for the fantastic pattern, Allison! Now I need to get working on your other play dolls that I have the patterns for! 🙂
Such gorgeous dolls and what a story behind the making of them. I loved reading it and seeing all the characters you’ve made!
Thanks so much, Jill! It was really so much fun to put them together bit by bit and create their little personalities!