Valley of the

I have just been out shopping to look for a christmas present for Amelia J. We already got her the amazing Fisher Price Aquarium a couple of weekends ago, but I also wanted to get her a beautiful, “special” doll to mark her first Christmas on the planet. What I really wanted to find was a rag doll – something to cuddle and sleep with which will offer much comfort throughout her childhood and beyond… So I traipsed through all the usual places and there are very few dolls around at all – lots of weird pseudo antique collectibles in frothy dresses with strange expressions, “real” baby dolls that poo and wee and crawl (yet aren’t cuddly and don’t have that new baby smell so are hardly real at all), barbies and barbie clones, the new breed of strange groovy dolls with big heads, gangly legs and dreadlock-like colourful hair. There’s even a resurgence of gollys, but that beautiful rag doll that I had in my mind’s eye was entirely elusive. Which brings me to the exciting conclusion that I am going to have to make a doll! I have already had a stint at making some dolls a while back, but they are incredibly fragile and far from huggable. Inspired by the art of Yoshitomo Nara (thanks Van for the link) I need to break out the felt and get sewing… errr… how many days until Christmas?

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29 Responses

  1. if all else fails, try online! or ebay, too.
    but i think *making* amelia a doll is a magnificent idea. i can’t wait to see what it looks like! =)

  2. I think making Amelia J a doll is a great idea. It’s something she’ll be able to give to her daughter, in time.

  3. Dolls … Sounds like a lot of fun. I made my very first doll earlier this year, for a 2-yr old friend of mine. It’s neat to see a little pink person come to life in your hands. However, given your amazing illustrations and action figures, I think you’re off to something a little more elaborate. Good luck! I’m sure Amelia will treasure it always.

  4. I think the idea to make a doll for Amelia is really wonderful, but just in case you don’t find the time: The Madeline dolls are all very beautiful, and there is a rag version (with yarn hair instead of smooth). The books are lovely as well, so it could be a convenient way to start her learning French at some point! I’m sure there is an AU store you can buy her from, but you can see all of the rag dolls here:
    I like the classic original in the blue coat best. 🙂

  5. Ebay have some cute cuddly dolls, but good luck with your creation 🙂

  6. it will be gorgeous. making stuff is so much better than shop bought anyway.
    maybe you could even make matching outfits (for amelia and the doll)

  7. says:

    do you know about Waldorf dolls? they are very soft and beautiful – with mohair hair and sewn on faces you choose yourself. expensive to purchase but cheaper to make yourself. check I have made several (about 25 hours each) and they are snuggly and lovable…

  8. If you want something soft and snuggly but also washable, you could find some good, thick flannel to use instead of felt. Also, for stuffing, I’d go with a natural fiber, like wool or cotton. It’ll also wash better if you go that route.

  9. says:

    oh that aquariam looks so lovely hehe, i want one for xmas too. i can’t wait to see your handmade doll for amelia. i’m sure it’ll be cute. i really would like to learn how to crochet a doll. hmm.. yes, one day!

  10. Amelia will LOVE a homemade rag doll, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with!
    Here in the States, I think you can still find “Raggedy Ann” dolls, that have red yarn hair and painted faces and are nice and soft and huggy.

    The comment about “washable” is a good one, though. My sister has a rag elephant made of plain white cotton that she’s had since she was 5 or so (she is now 26). It’s been through innumerable accidents, washings, re-stitchings, etc. and it has lasted all these years.

  11. The doll I made was also a Waldorf doll — they’re very simple, and soft, and with no chokable bits. They sell them at, and they also sell kits there, and wool batting, and hair-like yarn, and flesh-tone cotton interlock.

  12. says:

    eee, I had a beautiful ragdoll named Samantha that I got when we gave our labrador to a summer camp…The little girl there just handed it to me! I lost her somewhere, and finally got a replacement which I still have…I’ll check her brand name for you. But she can’t replace the hand-made Samantha, so I’m all for you whipping up your own doll!

  13. O Claire! You continue to amaze me! Your Loobylu action figures are utterly gorgeous! How did you make them? The doll you make for little Amelia J. will be far more beautiful and special than anything you can buy in a store, I’m sure. Remarkable! You’re such an inspiration!

  14. Wow, you’re so wonderfully talented! I dream of someday being able to stay home and make stuff, I suppose having a child is a great excuse! Luckily my hubby agrees that it’s a great idea.I think it’s wonderful that you make so many things for your child, each item is just that much more imbued with love!
    I do hope you’ll show us a finished result!

  15. says:

    have you put batteries in the aquarium and tried it out yet? we got one for our kid and it’s a little…strange. the music is minor key and kind of spooky, and the bubbles are kind of noisy. not sure if it’s just ours, or how they work in general.

  16. says:

    Being pregnant myself I’ve been looking at the soft toy/ doll market. Two that I could recomment that I think could give you inspiration. One is at AK Design on Malvern Road Melbourne which sells lovely rag dolls and kits that include you making their clothes or buying their clothes. I think they are from Khazakstan or some far away place so facial features are slightly Asiatic. Quite pricey but even if you are making one worth a trip just for the inspiration. The second is knitting one – there is a Playschool knitting book which has an excellent Jemima pattern which I have made – very simple and cute (and quick for the Christmas rush) and Jemima-like with both the overalls and dress option. Please let us know what you decide on doing.

  17. says:

    I’ve been thinking the same kind of things too. I’d like to make Samf a magic wand and fairy outfit and Christmas stocking and tree ornaments. As usual I won’t do a fraction of what I want to.
    Good luck with the doll!

  18. My son has one of those… He’s almost two now, and still adores it. It’s no wonder we call him ‘the feesh.’

  19. says:

    being reasonably talentless and an incurable pocrastinator I never got around to making home made dolls and macaroni collages. but so my daughter didn’t miss out on the experience of a homemade toy I purchased a rather large woollen homemade LaLa tellytubby from a local school fete. My daughter loves this slightly odd looking creature as much as her store bought toys. So yay for homemade as long as someone else is home making it.

  20. Wow! I was going to suggest the waldorf dolls too…I didn’t know they were that well known.

  21. your drawings are amazing and inspiring. no wonder Asian Wall Street Journal featured your site in their nov 18 issue. Just saw the newspaper lying around my computer table .
    i scanned the article.

  22. i think i must be slightly hormonal right now, but the thought of a mum making her little baby girl a doll for her first christmas is bringing tears to my eyes!
    that is such a special thing to do, claire.

    i am gobsmacked by claudine and big-p! you must market these dolls and sell them in groovy boutiques for big girls – they would do so well.

    i don’t think you could get any more talented!

  23. I know Christmas is very warm in your part of the world, but here’s a beautiful little something my boyfriend found just now, which reminded me very much of you for some reason:

  24. Giving Amelia a rag doll so she will always have something familiar she can take comfort in during her childhood (and possibly a cherished keepsake after that) is a beautiful sentiment. I hope you find/make the perfect doll. 🙂

  25. Please oh please, if you don’t have time to do this yourself, try Anna Chambers’ little guys. They are amazingly well put together, and the designs are fab.

  26. says:

    Love your site – especially since I am an expectant mother and I also have the urge to throw my wallet off bridges. Try finding a Groovy Girl for a hip rag doll – but I am sure anything you MAKE will be much groovier!

  27. Awww… Making that doll for your baby daughter will make it all the more special. 🙂 Merry Christmas! (And good luck with making that doll!!!).

  28. says:

    A dolly needs a family too you know…pretty soon you will have a whole little doll community for your baby.
    Its funny how little (big) girls can find such meaning in the love of a beautiful doll or stuffy.
    Think there are many guy blogs discussing war toys for their boys – or cars or such….
    Ahh if only they too were looking for the nurture factor.

    Best wishes for your babies babydoll =)