Friday, April 26, 2013

Who Says Only Little Girls Can Love Dolls?

On my last post, I told you about the stress relief dolls I made for my sister-in-law, Janet, and her sweet friend, Kelli. After  reading on my blog that the dolls were finished and, having had a pretty stressful day at work yesterday, the girls were anxious to come by and pick up their new friends.
They looked somewhat tired, stressed out and a little frazzled, as they walked through my door. I wish I had taken a picture when they walked in, so you could have seen the "before and after."


After sitting around, relaxing, stroking and cuddling their dolls for a few minutes, they were feeling ever so much better. I snapped these images of the lovely ladies, just moments before they left my house, dolls in tow.

Pure Delight
It was love at first sight. Notice the big, bright-eyed smiles. What blissful happiness these little ragamuffin dolls brought! It just goes to show, you don't have to be a little girl to love and appreciate even the most plain, simple and unassuming doll.

Wishing you a safe, happy and blessed weekend!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tutorial-How To Make a Homespun Stress-Relief Doll

Did you know there are dolls which are claimed to relieve stress? You have probably seen some of them on various sites around the web. These dolls are sometimes called by other choice names but, since I run a clean blog here, and since my children, grand-children and friends sometimes read my blog, I will call this type doll a "stress-relief" doll. In today's post, I will be showing you how to cut out and sew such a doll.

I am a peaceful and peace-loving person and I am not into "voodoo" and do not advise poking a doll with needles or anything of that nature. I am not advocating any type of violence or abuse. The idea is that one is to flail the doll around (if that is what helps them). You know, like having a pillow fight, I guess. All sorts of poems and sayings can be found on the net to go along with this type of doll, if you are intending to make one and give as a gift.

The dolls I made are constructed of very soft flannel and filled with polyester fiber-fill. My grand-daughter says that cuddling these dolls provides a lot of comfort and relieves stress. She wants her own now!

The two dolls shown on this post today were made for my sister-in-law, Janet, and her dear friend and work associate, Kelli. So, if they read my blog, they will know they are all ready to be picked up. Janet and Kelli share an office and their jobs can be very stressful. They had a stress-relief doll in their office before and, between the two of them, they wore it out. The girls had asked me several months ago to make them a new one. I thought each of them should have their own personal doll, so I made two. The dolls are identical, except for their yarn "hair" color. I figure the red-head might have a fiery temper, which has probably gotten it into trouble from time to time. The other has gray hair. I suppose that one has seen a lot of stress. If not, it probably will where it is going. Maybe, we should say it is pre-maturely gray!

This is another truly simple project for that person who might be new to sewing. I genuinely want to encourage my readers to be creative. It is my earnest desire to share my love for sewing and other things with you. As I have told you before, it is one of the main reasons I blog. You all possess talents and gifts. I know you do! Some of you are hiding away your gifts and are, therefore,  stifling your desire to be creative. Maybe, you are tucking these things away, far back in your hearts, perhaps because you fear you will fail if you make an attempt to try something new. By hiding away your creative talents and desires, you may be denying yourselves and others much joy and happiness. When you are happy, you will make others happy too! It's contagious! It is as simple as that. Believe me when I tell you that I have made more mistakes and messes than I can remember. Seriously. Tons of them! I could become discouraged, if I allowed it. The point is, I keep on trying new things, again and again and again. I encourage you to do the same.

  If you do not own a sewing machine, you could sew this little doll by hand, if that is the thing that may beholding you back. Just use somewhat small and fairly straight stitches, so that the filling or stuffing in the doll does not fall out. The dolls here are fashioned in a rustic, home-spun, rag-doll  fashion. The fabric used is tightly-woven, decorative flannel and its seams are sewed on the outside of the fabric, so there is no need to "turn" it right-side-out before stuffing it. There are no eyes or other facial features to draw, sew or glue on and these dolls really do not have a neck either. They really are quite simply "plain." Or would that be plainly "simple?"

Materials and/or Tools Needed

A Piece of Fabric or or  Paper (a paper bag will do just fine) at Least 12x17 Inches to Draw Pattern 
One-half Yard of  a Good Quality Decorative Flannel Fabric
Quilting Weight Thread of Chosen Color (You Can Use Regular Thread But Quilting Thread is Stronger for This Project)
Polyester Fiber Fill
Optional: Yarn of Any Type and Color of Your Choice
Sewing Machine or Hand Sewing Needle

Instructions for Cutting a Pattern and Sewing Your Doll

Draw a Pattern:

To get started, you will need to draw the basic shape for your doll onto a piece of paper or waste fabric(muslin, etc.). You will need only this one "pattern" piece. The dolls I made are a finished size of 16 inches tall(top of head to bottom of foot) and 11 inches wide(across the arm-span).

Here's a tip: I used one of my grand-daughter's toys(a sock-type monkey) to draw a very basic pattern shape. This was the easiest and fastest way to do it. I simply laid the toy, back down, on a piece of waste fabric and drew around it and shortened the arms a little bit. The legs should be a little longer in comparison to the arms. Remember, this is a "stress relief" doll  and some people will hold it by the legs. It does not have to be perfect and mine certainly is not, but for the stress-relief doll, especially if you are making it for an adult, you will want to make the dimensions about the same as the one I made (11x16 inches). This is what the pattern piece looks like:

Basic Doll Shape Pattern Which Does Not Even Have A Neck(11x16 inches)
Cut Out Doll and Sew it Together:

I started with pre-washed flannel fabric. Fold(so you can cut both pieces at the same time) or lay out the flannel fabric(right sides out) so that you will be able to cut out 2 identical pieces. Place your pattern piece onto your fabric and cut 2 identical body pieces out of the fabric.With wrong (back) sides of fabric touching or facing each other and right (decorative) sides of fabric facing on the outside, you will now sew the 2 body pieces together on top of the right side of fabric. Using about 1/2 inch seam allowance and starting on the side-top part of head on one side and sewing toward the shoulder, continue sewing all the way around the body until you reach the other side of the head. Leave about 2 to 3 inches open at the top of the doll's head. Remember, your raw edges will remain on the outside of your doll.You will insert the doll's polyester fiber filling through the 2 to 3 inch hole in top of the doll's head. Here is a close-up shot of where to begin sewing at the side of the head.
Here is another shot of the entire body after sewing is complete, except for the top of the doll's head. A contrasting thread was used in hopes that it would show up better on photographs. It still does not show up very well, however.

Now it is time to start stuffing the doll with the polyester fiber-fill. Begin at the bottom of the legs, putting a little filling in at the time. This will be easier if you will use a new or un-sharpened pencil or other long, narrow blunt object to aid in pushing the stuffing. Push the filling down with the "eraser" end of the pencil or blunt end of other object. You will want to put in enough filling to make the doll quite firm, but not completely stiff. Continue filling the doll, including the arms, and all the way to the top of the doll's head. If you want to add yarn " hair," you will want to do so before you sew and close up the top of the head. To do this, you can loop some yarn(as much as you desire) around three fingers of one hand or a small piece of cardboard and carefully remove the yarn, holding the loops together. Loosely stitch the loops together with a needle and thread before inserting into the hole at the top of the doll's head. After inserting the "hair" where you want it to go, either hand-stitch or, as in the case of my doll, machine stitch, the top opening of the head closed. You can either leave the yarn "loops" as is or you can snip each one with scissors, as I did, to give the doll straight hair.

Dolls After Adding Stuffing And Adding Yarn "Hair" & Sewing Up Top Of Head

After completion, I dampened the two dolls and then put them into the clothes dryer to make the raw edges "fray" and give them a little more "home-spun" appeal. These dolls can be washed and dried, as needed, and they will become more rustic looking each time they are washed. I have made quilted baby blankets like this and given as gifts. The edges form a wonderfully frayed look. Maybe I will do a future post on one of those sweet blankets. 

One of these dolls would make a great toy for a toddler to cuddle with and be comforted. A smaller version could be made (probably without the yarn hair) to give to a new-born. There are no small objects to come loose or fall off to become a choking hazard. Remember, it is important to always be safety-conscious when sewing or creating anything for little ones.

Like me, these dolls are NOT perfect. That does not matter. They were not intended to be perfect. 

Now, go ahead. Open up your hearts and give your soul the freedom to be creative and soar. There is no time like the present and now is the perfect time to get started. Be inspired, be happy and give happiness to others, dear friends!

I am linking my creation and tutorial up with the lovely Jessica White's A New Creation Link Party at Please hop on over there and join us!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tutorial-How to Make a Memory Shirt Quilt, Part One, the Quilt Top

A while back, I told you a little about a special quilt my best friend, Harriette, and I put together for her husband, Larry. I wish I could take credit for the concept and creation of this wonderful quilt, but, alas, I cannot. Yes, I cut squares of fabric and backing, as instructed, and I even sewed a seam or two. Oh, and it was I who took pictures to document the process. I have seen ads on the internet where you can send in your tee-shirts and have them made into quilts, but this particular quilt was altogether the vision of my awesomely talented friend.

Larry has worked for many years in the area of law-enforcement and security. He spent most of the last years of this career working for a security site, where his job took him to many areas of the United States. He accumulated a large collection of shirts from different sites at which he had worked during  the time he was employed at the site. The shirts had been packed away and were serving no practical purpose. As the couple was cleaning out their attic a few months ago, they found a box of memorabilia and patches from the days when he was a young Boy Scout, etc. The idea began to come together for her. A quilt would be a beautiful and useful way to remember those days and times of boyhood and career.

The entire process took a couple of months of working together, as we could find the time. I don't want to discourage readers by making this post too long, so I will do another post on how to put the quilt top, batting and back together for the finished product. For sure, there are those of you who are experienced quilters and seamstresses, but I am trying to be as detailed as possible for those of you who have not made quilts before.

This post, then, is dedicated to the process of constructing the top of the quilt.

Materials and Tools You Will Need For Making Your Quilt Top

  • Scissors
  • Quilting Ruler or Other Straight Ruler
  • Thread the Color of Your Choice
  • Sewing Machine to Sew Straight Stitches
  • Shirts with Embroidered Emblems and/or Patches to Sew onto Fabric Squares
  • Light Weight Fusible (Iron-on) Backing
  • Cardboard or Other Material to Cut a Template for Quilt Blocks(for those of you who quilt a lot, you might already have transparent quilt templates of the size you want for your squares)

Steps for Assembling Quilt

Measure and cut out a template to use for cutting your shirt patches. You will want this template to be the size you desire each finished quilt block to be, plus one inch larger to allow for 1/2 inch seam allowance. In other words, if you want your finished blocks to be 6x6 inches when sewed together, then cut a template 7x7 inches and this will give you 1/2 inch seam allowance, when you start piecing, for each seam of your square.
Making Template for Cutting Shirt Patches
You might want to use the next step to make sure you are going to cut where the emblems will be displayed to best advantage. Cut a piece of waxed paper or other transparent material the same size as the cardboard template. You can see through it for proper placement over the emblems on the shirts, like so:
Transparent Waxed Paper Template
Begin cutting out your shirt emblem squares. At this point, you will be rough-cutting, allowing an inch or so extra over the size of your original template. You will be cutting off any extra fabric later when you use your cardboard template for cutting the squares to size. Note: During this step, you will also want to cut out some extra plain squares from the left-over shirt fabric to use to fill in, as needed, when you lay out and begin to piece your quilt together. Also, if you have loose patches to use, you will need blank squares on which to sew these.
Cut Out Squares and Extra Plain Squares
Time to cut your squares of the  fusible backing. You will need a square of fusible backing for each fabric square to be used in your quilt. Cut these a little larger than your cardboard template. Any excess will be cut off after the backing is fused to the shirt squares. In other words, you will be laying down your template onto each shirt square after the fusible backing has been applied and cutting through both, to make squares the exact size of your template.
Cut Out Squares of Light-weight Fusible Backing
Following the instructions that come with your fusible backing you will now begin to iron the fusible backing to the back(wrong side)of each shirt square.
Iron Fusible Backing to the Back of Each Shirt Square
You will now be using the template you made to mark each square of the shirts with fusible backing having been applied. You can use a disappearing marker, pencil or pen of your choice for this step. 

Use Template to Mark a Square onto Each Square of Shirt and  Fused Backing

Cut around each square of backed shirting on the lines you made with your template. I apologize, but I missed getting a picture of that step.

Harriette wanted to add a block with a special message, using her fabulous embroidery machine.
Message to be Embroidered onto a Square to Personalize the Quilt
Message Being Embroidered
Harriette Designing Message for a Block on Quilt
How the Finished Message Looked
You will now want to lay out your squares onto a surface large enough to accommodate the entire length and width of the quilt top when arranging the pieces. For this purpose, we used a bed. Make sure that all the designs and/or writing is running in the same direction, so that when your quilt is hung or placed on a bed, the designs can easily be seen and read. Arrange the squares into a pattern which is pleasing to look at. Be sure to place the different colors and designs where they look best. The personalized "message" square looked best in the bottom row on a corner, so that is where we placed it. This picture was taken from the bottom of the quilt, looking toward the top as squares were being placed, with quilt being cross-wise on the bed. We changed the arrangement after we took this picture. We had placed several plain squares together at the bottom and it didn't look right. Hopefully, this gives you some idea of what I am trying to convey.
Place Squares on Large Surface Like a Bed or the Floor to See How They Will Look
Beginning with the bottom 2 squares of each vertical row, flip down the second square onto the top of the bottom square(right sides facing) and pin the two together. Open these two squares back up and flip down the 3rd square onto the 2nd square and pin the two together. Flip that one back and you will have 3 pinned together, vertically. Carry on this way until you reach the top of the first vertical row. You will have pinned together one entire vertical row. Use a pencil and write a "1" on the back of the top square of this first row. Now start with the bottom of the next vertical row and pin it together, just as you pinned the first. Now mark that row on the back with the number "2". You see, if you do this with each row as you pin it together you will not have any trouble piecing your quilt in the same manner as you placed the squares.

Pin Each Row Together Vertically

Using one-half inch seam allowances and with right sides together, it is now time to start sewing the rows of vertical squares together where you pinned each.
Sewing Squares Together to Make Vertical Rows
After you complete sewing the squares together to form the vertical rows, press the seams of the squares on vertical row "1" in a downward direction. On row "2", press the seams all going in an upward direction. On row "3", press all seams in a downward position. Follow  through, pressing the seams in each vertical row in the opposite direction as the one before it. You will now pin vertical row "1" to vertical row "2" and sew the rows together.  Make sure the rows of seams are still facing(as when you pressed them) in opposite directions when pinned. Sew vertical row "2" to vertical row "3" and so on and so forth, until all rows are sewed together to form your quilt top. This picture illustrates what two rows will look like when sewed together with seams facing opposite (one seam downward and the next facing upward):

Seams of Each Vertical Row Are Sewed Together with the Next in an Opposite Direction
Once you have all vertical rows sewed together, press the whole top again on the reverse side. Note again in the following picture  how each row has been sewed in an opposite direction to the previous one. The object here is to not have a bunch of bulky fabric at intersections where seams meet and that the quilt top will be lay much smoother and prettier when finished.
See Here How Each Row Faces in the Opposite Row From the Next
Here is a picture of the finished quilt top. Coty thought he needed to be in the picture, too! He is such a cutie and he knows it.
Finished Quilt "Top"
As you can see, this quilt is very big. Your quilt can be smaller or bigger. Or, as the gorgeous Marilyn Monroe might have been saying when this famous picture from the movie Seven Year Itch was taken "Whatever blows your skirt up!"

Marilyn Monroe in Scene from Seven Year Itch
Please,stay tuned for Part Two of  "How To Make a Memory Quilt".

Meanwhile, be blessed!

Click on this link for part two-to see how to finish your quilt!