How to clean your wool doll: part 2

In part one my youngest daughter’s dolly ‘Annabelle’ had a surface wash and I shared how we do it. Today we are bathing Dolly and Rosie with a full submission wash.

Please don’t panic – this is not difficult! My daughters did all this with my supervision, but it is very important that you follow the instructions to avoid felting your dolly (making her insides go all lumpy bumpy).

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Wool dollies don’t need washing often, and most of the time, a surface wash is all that is needed to lift the play grubbiness and give a new lease of life

Before undertaking bathing your wool dolly please check you really do need to do it as they do take a while to dry and you need to prepare your child for this (see points 7 and 9 below). Please see my earlier blog post to find out how to surface clean your dolly as this is more than enough most of the time.

What you will need

Soap flakes, or pure natural soap grated
Hot and cold water
A basin
Cotton cloth
Lots of towels
Optional: Stockmar crayon and a small piece of jersey rag

How to bathe your dollies

A well loved doll will need a full bath eventually – it will inevitably become a necessity through the illnesses and accidents childhood brings.

1. Remove all the dolly’s clothes (if they have any on).

2. Make up a mild soap solution by adding the soap flakes to a little bit of hot water and letting them dissolve. Then add this to the basin and add cold water until cool to the touch. Hot water increases the chance of the wool felting into lumps so we need to keep the water cool.

3. Carefully place your dolly in the basin. As this point it is crucial that you don’t rub or squeeze her as this will cause her wool stuffing to start to felt and form into lumps. Gently wash her just as you would a real baby, use a soft cotton flannel such as Cheeky Wipe to wipe her face and body.

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4. Lift her out of the basin and fill it up with cold water, place her back in for her first rinse, keep repeating this until the water is clear and all the soap solution rinsed out. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to not squeeze or rub her as the wool will felt very readily. For a smaller doll you could just rinse gently under a cold running tap – my daughter pretended Dolly was having a shower.

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5. Wrap her up cosy in a towel and pat dry – don’t squeeze or wring as it could cause the doll to felt (I know I keep going on). Keep replacing the towel as it becomes wet – you may get through a few! Gently reshape her.

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6. Place dolly on the flat to dry, away from direct heat. We laid our dollies on top of the drying rack in the garden, allowing the sunlight to use her natural cleaning power, bringing them in at night. The largest dolly took around 36 hours to dry.

7. While dolly is drying encourage your child to do something special for their beloved friend. My daughters planned a welcome home tea party with a homemade banner, cards and gifts. Or you could use this opportunity to make her new clothes, knit her a scarf or write a story about her!

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8. Once dolly is dry (which could be a while) you can reapply the blush. Rub the crayon onto the soft jersey rag and then use this to gently build back up her rosy cheeks. This is also a great opportunity to check her over and repair any loose stitches (get in touch if you need any help).

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9. Time to enjoy your clean dolly – here is a shot of the tea party my girls organised for Annabelle, Rosie and Dolly!

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I hope I have managed to capture some of the excitement my girls got from caring and washing their dolls. It was a great opportunity as a mother to bond with my children through showing them how to care, that doing good things takes time, and to pass on my love of doll play.

 

How to clean your wool doll: part 1

For those of you who have already purchased one of my wool filled dolls you will have received information on how to care for your new dolly.

In particular I tell you not to put your doll in the washing machine as her insides will go all lumpy and felt.

Unlike our Grandma’s generation, we are not used to having to wash things by hand. Our washing machines are so clever they can ‘hand wash’ delicates, and what we can’t ‘shove’ in the washing machine we send to the dry cleaners.

With this in mind I have put together this how-to as washing machines will really ruin your dolly’s insides.

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My daughters and I washed three of their wool filled dolls. Annabelle had a surface wash with my youngest daughter helping and I will share how we did this today.

What you will need

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Soap flakes, or pure natural soap grated
Cold water
A basin
Cotton cloth
Towel
Optional: Stockmar crayon and a small piece of jersey rag

How to surface wash

Wool dollies don’t need washing often, and most of the time, a surface wash is all that is needed to lift the play grubbiness and give a new lease of life.

1. Remove all the dolly’s clothes (if they have any on).

2. Make up a mild soap solution by adding the soap flakes to a little bit of hot water and letting them dissolve – see image below. Then add this to the basin and add cold water until cool to the touch. Hot water increases the chance of the wool felting into lumps so we need to keep the water cool.

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3. Using a soft cotton flannel (we used cheeky wipes) gently wipe dolly’s face and body, paying particular attention to the grubbier areas. For Annabelle her hands, feet and cheeks were grubby – we didn’t do her whole body.

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4. Using cold water to keep rinsing the cloth, gently wipe to remove the soap solution.

5. Wrap her up cosy in a towel and pat dry – don’t squeeze or wring as it could cause the doll to felt.

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6. Place dolly on the flat to dry, away from direct heat. We laid our dollies on top of the drying rack in the garden.

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7. Once dolly is dry (which won’t take too long for a surface wash) you can reapply the blush. Rub the crayon onto the soft jersey rag and then use this to gently build back up her rosy cheeks.

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I hope that was helpful and will give your confidence to have a go with your little one! My daughter enjoyed washing her dolly ‘Annabelle’, and I enjoyed the connection we shared while caring for her dolly.

Next week I will show you how to do a full submersion wash when we will bathe Dolly and Rosie. My girls found this very exciting!

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Meet my latest doll: Pebble

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Isn’t she the cutest little bundle?

The story behind her is a walk along the beach with my family over Christmas. We were visiting my parents, who live in North Wales, and as the day was bright, dry and calm we headed down to Criccieth beach. It’s such a beautiful stretch of coastline, and walking away from the castle you soon find yourself part of nature. The girls climbed on enormous boulders, collected sticks to ride on as ponies and searched for the smoothest pebbles. As they turned the smooth shapes round in their hands I thought, ‘how about a doll that’s smooth like that’ and Pebble was born.

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She is made with a traditional Waldorf shaped head, and the body is stuffed with 100% British lambswool. In my opinion this is the best filler as it is so soft, warm and comforting, and it has the natural antibacterial qualities that wool has (find out more about wool here). Her cute knitted body and hat is actually made from a brand new newborn sock, from Marks and Spencer, and tested to make sure it is safe for use in toys.

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Her face is designed to have sleepy eyes as these are the most calming eyes for children and this doll is a brilliant comforter. Her facial features are hand embroidered and the blush is applied using a beeswax crayon. She is completely handmade and hand wrapped by me, CE marked and suitable from birth.

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Each dolly comes in a beautiful gift box made from recycled materials and lined with felt – in the lid of the box are the care instructions and ‘birth’ certificate. Choosing a name for a dolly helps a child take ownership and therefore better care of their new toy – I love hearing what names the children have chosen.

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She is £15 and available in my Etsy shop, just click here!

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My Christmas elves

I have never felt comfortable with elf-on-the-shelf. I love the idea of staging the beautiful scene each night with the funny things you can do, and I imagine the wonder and amazement on the childrens’ faces is amazing.

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Mainly I just don’t like the idea of bringing a snitch into the home, highlighting the bad instead of the good, someone who spies on you and then rushes back to headquarters each night to fill in a report. It doesn’t fit with our style of parenting. I also don’t like the fact that the children couldn’t touch the elf or the magic would be lost, and the fact the elf disappears on Christmas eve just in time to miss out on the celebration we have been building up to in Advent…

In our home we focus far more on the wondrous story of the nativity and the children re-enact the story throughout Advent bringing the Angel Gabriel to Mary, moving Mary to meet Elizabeth, gradually moving Mary, Joseph and the Donkey around the living room towards the stable as the days go by. They create their own magic and the story gets more detailed as their little minds grow. I have been asked to make a Herod to add to our characters for this year!

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However, Elves are an essential part of the magic of Christmas, a type of magical fairy creature that helps with the preparations of Christmas and I love the idea of the Kindness Elves from Anna at The Imagination Tree. We share similar sentiments on the elf-on-the-shelf phenomenon so please check out her blog to find out more about her alternative approach.

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So with all this in my head I set about the design my own elf. I wanted it to be affordable, and all natural and most importantly of all, tactile. I want children to hug and hold my elf.

To make the elf affordable at this expensive time of year I have not done the traditional head shaping, but a soft head. The body is simply made as a tube and tied to create the effect of arms, bottom and feet. The stuffing is still 100% British wool, the fabric is the best quality cotton velour and the facial features are still hand embroidered. They are also CE tested and safe from birth.

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You can order the elf in a choice of three colours, red, green or gorgeous bluebell blue which is almost purple. There is a choice of five skin tones.

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They come with a little certificate to say the elf has been sent from Santa to them. Perhaps Santa has sent the elf to help them with their kindness tasks, or to just love and cuddle throughout the excitement of Advent.

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If you are planning on ordering a handmade doll for Christmas please don’t leave it too late. I’m currently working at a 2 week making time, before posting, and I would hate for anyone to be disappointed.

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The Knitting and Stitching Show

I love a day out, a break from being a mummy and a wife and a chance to just be ‘me’. So a chance to combine a day out with my insatiable appetite to create was the highlight of my year.

My close friend, Becca Manning of Blazing Needles, and I have had this date in our diaries for a while, and after not being able to go a few years, we were going to go to the Knitting and Stitching show this year!

On Saturday, we caught the train to London full of excitement and anticipation, clutching our shopping list and tickets – we knew that at the show you can get hold of suppliers that it is difficult to find otherwise. After a beautiful walk up the the hill to Alexandra Palace we paused to take in the view before taking on the crowds to soak up all the inspiration we could.

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If you have never been to the Knitting and Stitching Show, and always wanted to, it is more than worth the effort. There is such a huge range of stands that I couldn’t possibly list them all here.

My personal interest in dressmaking and vintage fashion is more than satisfied. I treated myself to a new pattern from Sew LaDiDa Vintage – a funky all-in-one suit for next summer. I had my eye out for some fabric for a pinafore and came home with the softest linen/cotton blend from Cool Crafting.

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For my dollmaking business I picked up a couple of fat quarters of Liberty fabric for my Martha dolls’ dresses from House of Alistair, a new book on Doll Clothes written by Mette Jøregensen and some excited pens for facial details – I’m thinking freckles – from Amazing Craft.

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I was also looking out for some wool felt, and I came across this brilliant company called Amica. They sell very reasonably priced thick wool felt sheets which has been handmade by skilled crafts people in Nepal. It is beautiful and I plan on making holly badges to decorate and sell at my Christmas Craft Fairs.

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Did you go to the Knitting and Stitching show this year? Please share your highlights with me below.

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Time for a change

September was such a transitional month for me this year, as the natural world around me shifted into a different gear, my life changed alongside it. I had to turn off from my dolls to allow myself time to focus on my family and home. It was much needed and important but I am glad to be back.

The biggest change has been my youngest daughter starting school – while this does give me more time to focus on my dolls – I do miss my girls. My mothering instinct wants to hold them close and keep them safe but I know they gain so much from school. Watching them walk in happily hand-in-hand this morning I looked forward to returning to the coffee house to write my blog, restart up my etsy shop and plan my weeks work.

The other major change has been moving home. I have left my beloved tiny terraced house, my first home, the house I was married from, and the home my two children took their first breath in (home birth mama).

I’ve moved literally around the corner, to a 3 bed semi-detached home, a proper grown-up family home. It has a beautiful room with a view of the garden for my studio, and a large garden for my children and puppy to explore and play. Its the first time we’ve moved – and my husband and I are slightly shell-shocked – but it becomes more like home every day. I now have herbs hanging to dry in the kitchen and my studio is set up.

So, before I sign off I just want to show you what I will be working on in my studio this week. I already have a little pile of orders for my Christmas elf. They are only £12 each and made from natural materials and wool stuffing – beautifully tactile these will be treasured for years to come. If you want one please order through my Etsy shop!

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The day I went to sea…

Anyone else find the Summer holidays tough? This year my daughters have six and a half weeks at home, with me…


We do have family activities and outings planned but there is an awful lot of downtime in-between. As a parent I find my thoughts swinging from “Yes, I am managing, they are happy and busy”, to “Oh no! Why are they arguing? What can I do to intervene?”. Children’s moods change so quickly!

So today, I want to say a great big thank you to all the people who share activities on Pinterest for me to turn to in times of desperation.

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As a way of showing my appreciation I want to share with you my simple DIY instructions for a paper hat and boat (click the link below to download). All you need is newspaper, no glue, scissors or trips to Hobbycraft!

Click here to find out how to make a sailor hat and paper boat

I hope they will give each family at least half an hour of crafting time and imaginative play. My eldest loves to make them and will make lots of different sizes for all her teddies. My youngest loves to be a pirate and climb into the washing basket with her bunny and two wooden spoons (for oars) to sail the seven seas.

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I would love to see your creations – please tag me if you share your paper hats and boats on Instagram @polly_had_a_dolly thank you!

 

 

Guest blogger: Ann from Modestly

Being an active Etsy seller is amazing!

I began to get involved with Etsy in January, when Etsy put on a free course called Etsy Resolution. It included great seminars with Patricia van den Akker from the Design Trust; seller advice from successful, established Etsians; and a great Facebook support group. It helped us all get to grips with getting found, taking good photographs and finding our customers.

Once the course came to an end our Facebook group kept going (now moderated by members of the group) and I have a great group of fellow sellers where we can work together, solve problems and ask advice.

I want to be able to share with you the wide and varied artists and craftspeople I work alongside and today I am featuring Deborah Corr from Modestly – am amazing artist specialing in handmade books. So with no further ado, here’s her post!

Modestly does it.

We are experiencing a world in flux -it has ever been thus – and still we need to champion the Arts as a way of life, one which explores, enhances and illuminates the human condition.

Sounds pompous?  Well I am a serious kind of being – the girl that was always told to lighten up, the young woman who was told she was too serious.  Isn’t life sort of a one-off?  I see myself less as serious, more as curious.  I am a curious being.  It informs what I do. And the older I get, it reveals itself as more wonderful, more terrifying, more interesting than ever. The world is it. I get it. And it is down to each and every one of us to explore it in the way that gives us the experiences we are looking for. I am different to you, and different to everyone I know.  I don’t get how my son’s girlfriend is an action hero – enjoys flying and daring do.  I like a book. I like lots of books.

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It has taken me some time to work out how to manage my responsibilities, that’s the family which comes with appetites and laundry and stuff, and still fulfil the responsibility to myself- to explore my creativity.  I love words, and I love art. I am fascinated by the artists’ choice of subject, colour, tone, medium.  This may be down to the fact that I have no visual memory myself – I do not see pictures in my mind’s eye – for instance I do not ‘see’ my children’s images when I think of them.  This has upsides and downsides.  I do not project into the future, and live very much in the ‘now’ of the moment. Fortunately I am married to a planner or we would never have a meal on the table.

So I immerse myself in creating images, and putting to them words that I have loved, that have made me feel moved, that have made me care.  It is a way of reminding myself I am human. Really it is playing. Finding love is your life’s endeavour. Wherever it lies, in work, in relationships, in a cause, in religion.  Wherever you find it, nurture it. Mine has been in the ordinary – the making of a family.  I look to the stars, and I bow to those who create a greater mystery than I can ever dream of – those artists and dreamers who translate the experience of being human and bring to it a touch of the divine.

We work hard, everyone has struggles so that they feel fed, safe, rooted.  But we have to dance too. We have to feel the breath of the wind, and the warmth of the sun.  We have to love. Find what you love, and then find a way of doing it.  And when it rains, remember it has to do so in order that the flowers grow.

So what you will find if you choose to visit my little corner of the Etsy world  is shelves of handmade books made with love, some of my choosing, others that have originated as custom listings and reconfigured for anyone. Some books have started with a poem, as this one Prufrock by T.S Eliot , others have celebrated the work of a favourite artist, such as this one Joseph Cornell .

I love making to commission, and am always thrilled by receiving a customers’ appreciative thanks;

 “I just have to have another one of these books. … I have to have one of these books for my own quirky nature. In truth, I would like almost all on your site. Glad you are out there.” Joan Coles

Like lots of you, I love drawing inspiration from nature and feel more grounded and rested when I have spent time amongst the natural landscape. One of my favourite places on earth is the Isle of Skye which never fails to restore my spirits, helps me to gain a foothold again on creating. So you will see lots of illustration that started as my photography – there is an accordion folded celebration of Skye in my shop too – Skye Tales as well as cards and books celebrating the beauty of trees and flowers.

When I first started on Etsy I concentrated on the books, and as time passed I became interested in designing my own illustration for making handmade cards and prints. This has blossomed into what I would describe as a compulsive disorder!! I cannot stop. What more is there to say?  Here is a sample of images from my Etsy store .

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Thank you for allowing me to introduce myself, I really hope you are curious enough to browse around and find something that appeals to you.  If you would like to collaborate on anything that strikes you as interesting, please convo me and let’s explore your ideas!  It’s goodbye for now, and a peek into my travel everywhere box – currently we live in two separate counties so spend a good deal of time travelling. I keep everything to a bare minimum!

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CE marking – what’s it all about?

When I first thought about making dolls to sell my lovely Father-in-Law flagged up that I was entering a minefield of CE marking. He is an expert in all things trading standards and knew what large manufacturers have to do – sending toys off to testing houses – an expense unaffordable to a home maker.

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Unable to let my dream die I was sure there must be a way and thank goodness for the internet. I soon stumbled across a brilliant Facebook group of toymakers and I realised that  homemakers can easily and affordably test their toys, and a testing company even has a pack we can download to walk us through it, click here for more information.

I sell at a lot of craft fairs where toys aren’t CE marked, buyers aren’t aware of its importance and how simple it is to do at home, and makers don’t think it applies to them. It applies to everyone who makes toys for sale – including charity sales – and it is there to keep our children safe. The people who organise craft fairs or run local shops, must ensure that the toys on sale are CE marked – if not they can be held responsible too.

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How awful would you feel if your make harmed, or even killed a child? Children and babies can choke on toy stuffing or get strangled in long cords; they suck cuddlies so are you sure the materials you use are free from harmful chemicals? How quickly would the toy catch fire if the child accidentally dangled it over a candle, is there enough time for them to drop it? The CE mark is there to test all these risks and more.

Trading standards do visit craft fairs and do have the power to seize any untested toys, or ask to see proof of CE testing, all you hard work could just disappear!

The CE mark is for a European standard, EN71, but this is harmonised with our British standards so no matter what happens in the future it still applies. I also sell worldwide and this standard covers me for all my European sales.

There are three parts to the test, I will briefly break them down as I understand them, but please seek out the great Facebook group and purchase the pack from Conformance to test your own toys.

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This part is to test that our toys can stand up to Sid from Toy Story. The Conformance pack walks you through the variety of tests, a test to twist, and test to mimic two children having a tug of war, a test to mimic a child trying to poke their finger down a seam and so on. The toys also have to withstand a washing test – and then you repeat the tests afterwards.

Here’s some photos from testing my dolls:

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This is another two part test, we have to do it once before we wash the toy and again afterwards. Basically we have to hold a flame of a certain height under the toy for 3 seconds – and then measure how quickly it burns to make sure it doesn’t burn too quickly – giving the child chance to drop the toy and move away.

The majority of my dolls, stuffed with wool, don’t even catch fire in the required 3 seconds, and when the flame is held longer (so I can check how quickly my doll would burn) they self extinguish. Various materials – polyester, cotton, wool, silk – all burn differently so its important to test the finished toy, size also makes a difference too.

I hate doing this test, but I remember what happened to Claudia Winkleman’s daughter at Halloween and stuffed cuddlies being burnt is a thousand time better than a child!

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This is the bit we can’t do ourselves – chemical testing the fabrics and materials we use to make our toys. It costs around £53 per fabric test, so if you think about all the components it soon adds up (fabrics, thread, yarn). Internal components are excluded but most of us use stuffing that has been tested too. Again, the Facebook group to the rescue, we can purchase test results between us and it works out around £6 a test – teamwork!

Obviously, in an ideal world we would have every single colour and print tested, but as this is expensive, and therefore impossible, we use due-diligence to apply a test across a manufacturer’s colour range.

I hope this helps to explain to you why CE marking is so important – and next time you are at a craft fair don’t forget to ask whether the toys on sale have been CE tested before you buy!

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