Lavendilly Dolls: A Faerie in my Garden

There is a faerie playing in my garden. I spotted her yesterday with her hair flowing free … She had nothing on so perhaps she’d been for a swim in the river. I invited her in to dry off and rest.

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This morning she was gone from my house but I spotted her again … saying hello to my flowers …

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… playing in our trees …

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… flying freely and happily over the lawns and down to the river …


She said she isn’t staying long. Just a stop over before she heads up to bring some sunshine, warmth and playfulness to the mountains …


Lavendilly Dolls: Zanna

IMG_3551Ask any doll maker and they will tell you that their dolls definitely each form a character and identity of their own. It’s true! Very often a doll will start ‘speaking’ with me as soon as I begin to sew their pieces together. By the time their body is complete I can barely stop their chatter.

You should have seen me with Zanna, choosing fabric for her clothing. She was sitting in a chair nearby, wearing some borrowed dolls clothes and I had fabrics spread all over the floor around me. The choices I was leaning towards (funky patterns, bright colours) were not at all what she ended up with. There she was, leaning back in her chair laughing at the girly fabrics I kept putting out and willing my hand to keep going back to the plain green and the plain purple.

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This was not a doll for whimsical frills and flounces. Her clothes have purpose and immediately defined her character. This is a doll who needed to be dressed practically for action. She’s fun too – she has a real sense of adventure and is prepared to take a risk. She has lace, yes … but very purposefully made into an apron pocket to keep her magic treasures and herbs in. The crochet hem on her pants is old and handmade by women in my family (yes, I have kept some for myself!). It felt right to share it, and it added to the healing qualities I kept feeling from her.

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Zanna feels to me like a healing companion. She wanted to be a connection between earth and daily living. When I made her medicine pouch and gave it to her, everything about her changed. She felt happy, like I understood her.

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Ha! I know what you are thinking. I do connect to every doll I make, but not usually as deeply as I have with Zanna. She is going on a long journey to England soon, I feel sure that this connection to earth magik that has been part of her becoming will be helpful to the little girl she is going to journey overseas with.

Her embroidered tunic has my  blessings stitched over her heart, and her amber necklace is added protection also, and will also be available as a bracelet for when Zanna’s new mother grows older. This is one powerful girl!

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Lavendilly Doll: Stawberry Baby

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Meet Strawberry Baby. Strawberry Baby is our new Lavendilly Sunshine Playgroup friend and is going to visit all the children’s homes and play with them, each in their turn. We can’t wait to hear about the fun everyone has together! Until then Strawberry Baby can have lots of playing at Lavendilly House.

Strawberry Baby is neither boy or girl, like Lavender Baby from my daughter’s kindy, Finger Prints. This means that any child can enjoy the company of our new friend. Lavender Baby became such a special part of the kindy experience and I think Strawberry Baby will be too.

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Strawberry Baby began life as Red Baby. Red Baby is about 13 years old at least. Possibly more. Red Baby was made by Valerie, the Facilitator at Silkwood School, who taught all the staff how to make dolls while I was a teacher at Silkwood. I learned how to make dolls from Valerie and I’ve been holding on to Red Baby for years because of this connection. Red Baby was one of the original dolls at Silkwood and she came home for repairs. A few repairs later, she was still here at Lavendilly House, well-loved by my own children. Red Baby’s hand fell off again and has been waiting in my sewing room for repairs for some time … and this week I walked in there determined to repair as much as I could before packing up my sewing room. Red Baby was first and I got rather distracted, so all the other things needing repairs are still there.

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Red Baby’s face had chalk on it that hadn’t washed out, an eye was loose and the hair was all felted after years of play and cuddles. So fresh skin, bright new eyes and a trip to the hairdressers brightened Red Baby up quite a bit. New skin to cover the hands too so that Red Baby was all clean and happy again. But Red Baby didn’t look like Red Baby any more, even though the hair was the same colour and style. Red Baby wanted a green beanie and then started to look like a strawberry, and so Strawberry Baby was born.

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Strawberry Baby loves the bright red strawberries on the green belt, and little strawberry flowers are sprouting from hat and red tunic. Strawberry Baby immediately went outside to enjoy the sunshine and start some brand new adventures.

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The Essence of the Simple Doll

This is Lavender Baby. Lavender Baby was lovingly created by the staff at my daughters’ kindergarten, intended to be a friend who journeys between home and kindy with each of the children in the group. This week it was my daughter’s turn to bring Lavender Baby home, and Rosella received her with the pure joy and delight that one can only express in childhood, and has cared for her as tenderly as a mother can. It did get a bit tricky in the beginning – having Lavender Baby at Lavendilly House. It was very easy to get mixed up and start calling her Lavendilly Baby 🙂

She has been shown all around our house, has been hugged, sung to (all new, original lullabies by Rosella!), tucked in and put to sleep many times a day. She’s been to playgroup, soccer practice, school and the supermarket – tucked into the sling – and she has been safely buckled into the car many times. She has listened with enraptured silence to an endless stream of stories and succumbed to an overwhelming amount of attentive mothering. I am so glad to have had Lavender visit this week, her arrival has been perfect timing. Rosella had been feeling a little low recently, but Lavender, a most special friend, has really brought her cheerful, playful spirit back.

Lavender Baby LOVED jumping upside down on the trampoline

Lavender Baby has been made in the style of traditional Waldorf dolls: simple and uncomplicated. She sparked my thoughts again regarding the destiny and purpose of a doll. I’ve written a little about it before, however for some time I’ve wanted to write about the essence of the simple doll. Rosella’s thoughtful kindy teachers intentionally created her to be neutral. Her expression doesn’t betray her own feelings, but reflects those of the one she is with. We are referring to Lavender as ‘she’, because that is how Rosella has identified with her, however Lavender doesn’t mind being a ‘he’ either. That’s the beauty of the simple doll. They are so agreeable, so ready to be whoever you need them to be. Always there to be a mirror to your soul to help you experience your feelings from outside of you. How many toys these days are created to be a part of that flexible and responsive process of growth and learning?

Every child needs at least one uncomplicated, neutral friend. This was the original intention behind the Waldorf doll-making movement.  Dolls were made to be available to a child without making a statement about what that child’s hair or clothing should look like, what they should say, or what they should do. Lavender Baby is dressed head to toe in soft purple velour (comfort is important!) and she doesn’t have to worry about fashion or how her hair is arranged. She’s just there as she is for whoever needs her. Now, I’m not making a comment on whether it is right to have waldorf dolls with fashionable hair and clothes – I’ve made a few of those for sale myself – but I also do not believe that such dolls are as readily open and available to the child’s spirit in the same way as the simple doll.

The waldorf doll market can be an expensive, competitive and consumer-based place, but at the same time it is still one worth a visit just to admire the exquisite work, from an adult perspective, put into many of these dolls. There are many beautiful dolls looking for a child to befriend. I just invite you to be conscious of your reason for purchasing. Of course you could make one yourself (it ISN’T hard!) Any time you want to buy or make a toy for your child I encourage you to ask: What is the essence of this toy? What need does this toy fulfill for my child? Will it serve my child’s inner world (growth, feelings, thoughts) or my child’s outer world (image, fashion)? Will it grow with my child as my child grows?

We made Lavender Baby a pair of overalls to keep her clean when she played outside.

Of course I know that it is fun just to buy stuff just because you want it, and I think this is less of a problem in terms of consumerism when our real needs (for example, our basic needs for health, acceptance, creativity, expression etc) are already fulfilled.  This place of security allows us to then make good (and fun!) choices based on what we want, without being consumed by the need to have more. My good friend, parenting writer Amber Greene, recently drew my attention to this article: The Boy With No Toys. It is a great illustration of how simple playthings empower our children.

The fresh abundance of joy, freedom, love and imagination that our unassuming Lavender Baby has released in Rosella has made me very aware of how much the simple things fulfill our needs faster than the fancy things can fulfill our wants. Lavender Baby, thank you for bringing us all some simple joy!

Little Sunni Chalahn – Facebook Giveaway

I am calling her Sunni Chalahn. Chalahn means rainbow in the language of the Wangeriburra, which is the language group of the local Yugumbeh region that I live in. I called her that because I am hoping to see both the sun AND a rainbow soon because all we’ve had is rain rain rain for the last few days. Not just sprinkles. Steady, unrelenting rain.

Today the water in our local area rose so much that Mudgeeraba has just about disappeared under a lake of flowing brown water. It’s very exciting and it is tempting to go and have a look, which is not really advised in crazy weather, but having said that we did have a sneak peak at our local creek.  This road is now cut off at both ends. Lucky for us these creeks empty as quickly as they overflow. Today my plans were to take the kids to GOMA (the Gallery of Modern Art) in Brisbane but it just didn’t feel like a good idea when I learned that at least three roads between our house and the M1 were closed due to flooding.

So today was a home day, which meant Leggo, stories, fixing up some dry space for my poor sodden chickens – and finishing the crochet on Sunni Chalahn’s dress whilst thinking sunny thoughts. The sun hasn’t come out, but the rain has stopped finally, although it doesn’t sound like it because the gully below my house, usually dry, is roaring with the volume of water rushing through it.

Bach to Sunni Chalahn though – she is this week’s giveaway at Lavendilly House on facebook. She’s pretty excited about it. You can enter too, if you want to take her home. This is what you do:

1) LIKE Lavendilly House on Facebook

2) Comment or put your name under the photo album featuring Sunni Chalahn

3) Share her photo album on your facebook page and ask your friend to Like Lavendilly House because you get another entry every time someone says you referred them 🙂

You have until Monday 30th january, 8am to enter – and then I will announce who Sunni Chalahn’s new family will be.

Good luck!

Doll-Making Instructions: Shaping the Inner Head

The Eye-Line

This part may require some help from another person. The threads need to be tied very tightly for the eye-line – but not so tightly that they will snap! I find it easier if another person uses a thick cord like a shoe-lace or a thin bit of rope to wrap around the mid-section of the head to pull it in. While they are holding this you can then use your linen thread to tie this mid-section very tightly. Wrap your thread around two or three times for security and tie the knot so that it won’t slip. Then the other person may release the lace/rope.
     The idea is to create an indentation that will form the place where the eyes go. The indentation creates a brow, and also cheeks under the eyes, giving your waldorf doll that ‘distinctive’ look.
     It is really important to have this eye-line tight, because later we will be shifting the back section of this eye-line downwards to create the back of the head, and if this line is not tight, you will lose the indentation at the front. You will know if it is tight enough if you are not able to slide your fingers underneath it!
 The Chin Line

Eye-line (horizontal) and chin line (vertical). Stitch firmly where the two lines cross.

     Take a look at your doll and see which side you prefer for the front of the head. Holding the head with the front facing you, take your linen thread and wrap a vertical line, starting under the chin and being tied up on the crown of the head. Again, you can wrap the thread two times around the head for firmness, and to help keep the line tight.
     Now, looking at the place where the two lines cross on each side of the head, you need to stitch those lines together AND to the inner head to hold that point firmly in place so that the next step works. Use a thinner thread of a suitable colour and stitch over and under BOTH of the lines at the point where the cross.
Shaping the Back of the Head

Wriggle the back of the eye-line down towards the neck. Ladder stitch to the chin line.

     Turn your doll’s head so that the ‘back’ of the head is facing you. You are now going to work the back of the eye-line downwards to create more shape to the back of the head and neck. Push the fabric and stuffing up under the line as you gently work it downwards. You will find out at this point if your eye-line is not tight enough! As you work the back of the eye-line downwards you will notice the indentation at the front slackening if you have not tied this line tight enough to begin with. It is possible to tie another one at this point.
     Ladder stitch the back chin line to the back of the eye-line. This is a simple zig-zag stitch that runs between the two to keep the lines in place, to keep the cute shape at the back of the head, and to stop your baby developing huge ‘jowls’!
      That is the shaping of the head completed! Now you take the ‘Outer Head’, and making sure that it is turned right-side out, gently ease this over the inner head. Once it is over the inner head, pull it down tightly, tie the neck line with matching thread and just tug a bit on the outer head fabric just below the neckline to smooth out any creases that may have formed when you tied your thread.
Pull outer head sock over the shaped inner head.

      You can lightly stuff the ‘body’ part below the neck line if you feel it needs it, then neatly sew up the loose fabric at the bottom of the head.

**photographs courtesy of Mama Joie De Vivre **

Making Waldorf Dolls: the Inner Head

These instructions are basic to make any Waldorf doll, however they have been written for you to use specifically with your Lavendilly Doll Kit. The photos were taken by my friend from Mama JoiedeVivre. I always start with the head when I begin a doll. It takes the most amount of work, so anything after this feels super easy! Not that making the head is challenging, but it takes time and patience. The doll head keeps its shape for a lot longer the firmer you make it. So don’t be afraid to roll that fleece into the tightest ball you can! Over time the fleece felts (with all the cuddling the doll gets!), which compacts and shrinks the stuffing, so to reduce the risk of the head and face changing shape then it is good to have it nice and firm to begin with.
Take the fleece for the head and begin rolling it very tightly into a ball. It must be very tight and should not have much ‘give’ in it when you squeeze it. It is important to have a very firm foundation for the head so that it will hold its shape well when we begin the process of shaping the head.
If you have a felting needle, you can use this to hold the fleece in place, and to make the ball a bit firmer on the outside too. This step is not essential, but does make it easier.

When you are certain that the ball you have rolled is firm enough then take two lengths of fleece, long enough that about 10cm hangs down when you drape it over the ball. Cover the ball with these two lengths of fleece, crossed over each other.
      Now pull over the ‘Inner Head’. This is the tubular bandage or 2nd head piece that you have in the kit (it may be a different colour or made with re-claimed fabric). It is sewn at one end.  Make sure it is turned right-side out, with the stitching in the inside. Now gently ease this over your fleece-covered ball.
Open up the fleece you wrapped over the head and stuff inside this space very firmly with more fleece. This will make up the neck and chest and it is really important to have this section very firmly stuffed so that the head of your doll will not wobble when it is finished.
Now take a length of the linen thread and tie the neck, just under where you can feel the ball of fleece you made first. This tie should be pretty tight, but you should also feel firmness in the neck. If you think the neck will be wobbly, add more fleece now. Better to have more fleece than not enough. You still want to have a clear definition of the ball for the head, though; otherwise your  doll will have a thick neck and no chin!
Now you can sew up the bottom of the inner head to stop your fleece escaping while you continue working. Fold the edges over each other and use any stitch you like to hold them in place. The stitching does not have to be pretty, but it should hold the fabric neatly and without too many lumpy bits.

Oriana and the Lavendilly Mermaids

This is Oriana. She was made by Liz from a Lavendilly Doll Kit, and her new mummy is Olivia. Orianna has legs with some very cute feet at the end of them, but they are hidden by her new mermaid outfit, that was hand-felted and handsewn by Liz. It is a great way to transform your doll into a mermaid, isn’t it?

I’ve been making some mermaid dolls this Christmas, too – but their tails are permanently attached 🙂 Here they are! They are brother and sister mermaids (should that be mermaid and merguy?)

Repairing Old Dolls – Baby Hans visits the doctor

This is Baby Hans. He is the original Lavendilly Doll, made before my first child was born, 8 years ago. In that time he has been loved and hugged, left lying around, lost, done a bit of gardening and a bit of drawing too. He has been washed many times and has many a long soak in a nice warm (lightly bleached) bath. He is proof that Lavendilly Dolls last and are loved even when they are a bit grubby.

As you can tell though, from my daughter’s unhappy face … Baby Hans wasn’t well. His arms and legs were loose and one leg had a seam coming undone, which required a handkerchief bandage until he could be repaired. Rosella was insistent that Baby Hans need urgent care, and wanted to hold his hand through the whole process. Such a good mother, there she sat, in her best gardening tutu, stroking his hair and singing to him softly while I patched him up. I am sure it made all the difference. It certainly settled me 🙂

With my tool kit nearby I was very gentle, and his leg felt much better soon. I talked to her about how her finger was stitched together by a doctor with a needle and thread when she was a baby and she had caught her finger in a door hinge. macabre conversation maybe, but this child is a bit melancholic and it seemed appropriate to share the experience with her baby. What I was a bit anxious about sharing with her, however, was the next part: re-attaching Baby Hans’ arms and legs. They would need to be snipped off and re-attached with the doll needle.

The previous night, at my Craft Night, I was asked if I ever made the dolls while the children were watching. My answer was no – they might see bits of unfinished dolls, and they have seen me stuffing parts or making hair, but the bits that involve using those gigantic doll needles I have never completed in the presence of children. Those needles make me squeamish – I can’t imagine the effect upon a child watching unattached limbs or a blind doll head being stabbed with needles as long as my hand!

It had to be done though, while the time presented itself, and I knew Rosella wasn’t going to be entertained anywhere else until her baby was feeling better. She took it better than I did when I watched her have her finger stitched up at the hospital (I fainted on to the floor and had to lie there with my head on a pillow, while my baby presented her finger as if she was having a manicure!) My stoic daughter watched with interest, and said to me: “It doesn’t hurt him mum. My baby is a doll.”

Right. Ok.

I’m still not going to do it again.

Anyway, here’s how he was repaired:

I snipped the joint thread between his legs and his body and pulled all the old threads out. If Rosella wasn’t watching, and if I had more time I would have re-stuffed his legs a bit too. Then I threaded the doll needle (see what I mean about how long it is!) with a really long piece of strong linen thread (which I buy HERE). I took the needle straight through one leg, the body, through the other leg, and pulled it out the other side.

Then I inserted the needle about 1cm away from where it came out and brought it back through the 2nd leg, through the body and through the 1st leg, coming out about 1cm from where the thread entered the 1st leg. I pulled the thread tight and tied it in a double knot. Then I re-threaded each end of the linen thread separately and brought them back through the 1st leg, the body, and out the 2nd leg, where I tied them together tightly in a double knot.

Then I brought each of the ends out underneath the leg, close to where the joint was made and snipped the thread very close to the fabric, where the end will disappear into the stuffing and won’t be left hanging out. Nice and neat.

His arms received the same treatment, and he was looking much happier. So was Rosella 🙂

I trimmed his hair a bit (gave him the equivalent of a #3 buzz cut) and gave him a new mouth, as the thread of his old mouth had faded so much that you couldn’t even see it. Then we gave him a bit of colour in his cheeks, which really made him look happy!

This was done by rubbing a bit of crayon on some paper and then lightly rubbing the paper in a circular motion on his cheeks. It is good to practice on a bit of unwanted fabric first.

All this took a bit of time, because as you can see my littlest assistant came along to sort through my toolbox. She’s still in training, and actually, she isn’t very helpful yet.

Baby Hans was returned to his mother and greeted with a big cuddle. Then Rosella said, now it is Baby Rosie’s turn! Baby Rosie is even older than Baby Hans. She is stained and bald and her mouth wore off a long time ago. We had great fun working on her together … but I will tell you about that next 🙂

The new face of Lavendilly Fibre Arts

I’ve spent the whole day slogging it out in blog-land today … and although it is certainly not my favourite past time I am happy with the results!

Please go and have a look at my ‘new-look’ Lavendilly Fibre Arts Blog.

I have added Pay-Pal buttons to the site to make it easier to book your place in my felting and doll-making workshops.

I am wondering how to transfer my fleece sales to this blog too … there must be a way!

In the meantime fleece is still available for sale at Lavendilly Fibre Arts Shop.