The Diary of Two Girls: Anne Frank, The Girl and The Doll

A few years ago, I received an email from Eva Bloom, a ten-year-old girl, telling me she loved my dolls and was hoping to get one for Christmas. I was melted by the email and wanted very much for her to get one for Xmas too.  However, when I scanned the purchases of the three months leading up to the holiday, I was fairly certain her parents were not on there.

Three years later, I received an email from the now 13-year-old Eva, asking if I could make a custom doll, an Anne Frank doll, and how much would it cost. Eva wanted to start saving. 

Eva did not need to save. I wanted nothing more than to make an Anne Frank doll. My oldest daughter had also been obsessed with Anne Frank's story and other similar stories. She had devoured so many young adult books on the Holocaust, that we went to the Holocaust Museum bookstore in Washington DC to find more books. 

Eva explained her fascination with Anne, "I found interest in Anne Frank while I was reading her book.  With a diary like hers, I could really see what it was like during the Holocaust for a girl in hiding.  It stuck with me because I felt she was similar to me, when reading her book I felt transported into her everyday life.  I read the book one year ago and the play two months ago.  I also read two unabridged versions and watched the movie.  I would strongly recommend her diary."

Diary of a young girl and a custom doll

Diary of a young girl and a custom doll

Anne's clothes fit perfectly within the 1940s clothing set I was designing last November. Read more about the collection here and here.  

And what could be more sentimental than designing an Anne Frank doll? She was a beautiful girl with an amazing spirit.

Anne Frank, the doll

Anne Frank, the doll

As I was designing and making Anne, nearly two thousands miles away in a small town in North Dakota, Eva, was working on her sewing skills and Anne Frank's wardrobe. Eva used the patterns and tutorials from my website to create Anne's wardrobe.

"I learned how to stitch when I was three years old, but I think I was seven before I started sewing things together. My mom, grandmas from both sides of the family, and our good friend Sara Malles were the ones who taught me.

"However, Lisa Is the one who got me to sew more than ever before.  Her patterns really got me going.  I have been sewing for Anne Frank about 4 months now.  I have so many dresses I'm not sure what to do with them all!" In my next post I will have some of Eva's tips for sewing doll clothes and lots of pictures of her amazing clothes.

Anne Frank arrived in time for Christmas. And Eva's father captured the moment(s) beautifully.

Next post, Anne's beautiful clothes and doll clothes sewing tips from Eva.

The gift and the card

The gift and the card

Opening the doll
Anne Frank doll

Deborah Fisher: A Doll Maker with Many Missions

There are a lot of doll makers I follow and within that group there are a lot of doll-makers who I am impressed by.

And then there are the few that completely amaze me.

Deborah Fisher is in that amazing category.

These two lovelies were the winners of the details category in the SewMamaSew Spectacular Softies contest.. I love everything about them! And not just because the boy doll resembles my husband.

These two lovelies were the winners of the details category in the SewMamaSew Spectacular Softies contest.. I love everything about them! And not just because the boy doll resembles my husband.

Doll making can be about so much more than just making the dolls.

First, dolls can bring a sense of comfort to those in need. Doll-making can be about the craft of sewing and creating, or teaching that craft. And doll making can be about using those skills to create employment or a business.

Deborah does all of these things. She is a doll-maker who has taken the craft to a whole new level.

Deborah uses sewing, specifically dolls and quilts to both comfort and empower.

Where do I start?

She is the co-founder and director of Bright Hopes Collaborative Quilt Project. Bright Hopes is a non-profit organization that  gives quilts to those without the comfort of a permanent home, such as children in foster homes and homeless families.

They also offer on-site quilting workshops for people living in shelters and group homes.

Deborah did not know how to quilt when she started the collaborative with her mother (who did know how to quilt). Now she can often be found teaching quilting on site.

Bright Hopes Collaborative

Although Deborah learned quilting as an adult, she has been sewing since she was a child. She loved to sew dolls.

"I started sewing dolls when I found a Loretta Daum Byrne pattern in a magazine (probably Needlecraft for Today or something like that). I would make the same doll body over and over and make each one a different costume.

"I don't know why it never occurred to me to make one doll with a whole wardrobe of costumes. But it did make for quite a collection of dolls as you can see in the photo below.

Deborah's Childhood Dolls

"There is an Eskimo in the top left, a bride in the top right corner, Artemis and Aphrodite on the bottom shelf, etc. I never made faces on any of them because I didn't have confidence in my ability to do it right.

Deborah has more than conquered doll faces. Recently two of her dolls won in the details category the SewMamSew Spectacular Softie contest (photo at the top of this post). And the details are amazing—I am smitten with the shoes and hair.

Deborah sewing  Sewing Smiles Dolls

Deborah sewing  Sewing Smiles Dolls

Deborah started a second collaborative, Bo Twal. Bo Twal brings handmade dolls to children internationally. Bo Twal pays women in the community to sew dolls from the Sewing Smiles doll pattern and the dolls are distributed to children in the community. She raises funds for this through the sale of her doll and bunny patterns.  Bo Twal is currently working with women in Haiti and soon Indonesia.

Lastly, Deborah is the author of the book Sew Fun: 20 Projects for the Whole Family. The projects are all very creative and designed to be enjoyed by children. With each pattern there are suggestions on how children can help with the sewing.  

There are two adorable doll patterns in the book, along with many softies and other clever and fun sewing projects. And stay tuned, there just might be a "Sew Fun" book giveaway

Cover of Sew Fun Book
Sew Fun Table of Contents

Handmade Toy Makers: Willowynn Textile Art

First in a Series about Toy Makers

Foxes made from an upcycled cotton curtain, photos courtesy of Margeaux Davis

Foxes made from an upcycled cotton curtain, photos courtesy of Margeaux Davis

Bringing Nature into the Playroom

As a toy-maker, I love following the art and career paths of other toy makers. I covet glimpses into their studios and creative process. Each of our journeys is unique, yet we also often share similarities, too. My career background is an unusual mix of years as a graphic designer,  years of environmental protection and doll-making. An unusual mix, I know.

This is why I was especially drawn to Willowynn Textile Arts. Owner Margeaux Davis transforms the beauty of the natural world into cloth toys that are as captivating as the real thing. Her toy collection ranges from the more traditional owls and foxes, to blue and killer whales to species rarely made into toys such as moths, snails and mushrooms. Her depictions of these fauna (and one flora) are sweet but not unrealistically cute. The toys range from soft sculpture for gentle play to bunnies that can withstand the abuse of more intense play. These toys would be perfect for children already interested in wildlife. Or they could be used to spark an interest.

Custom Killer Whale

Custom Killer Whale

The Willowynn Label

The Willowynn Label

The Work Environment

Margeaux lives with her family in rural Australia among macadamia nut farms and cow paddocks. Before starting Willowynn Textile Art, she worked as a park ranger and environmental educator. She has always sewn, but through Willowyn she has been able to recreate the creatures that fascinate her. “Owls, snails, moths, foxes, rabbits and whales have such a gentle, serene beauty and I love trying to create that mood or feeling in them.”

Margeaux has been sewing since she was a child, “I have honed my skills through trial, error and persistence. Each design has come about after countless hours spent stitching, unpicking and stitching again.’ When she was a child she made shorts, skirts and drawstring bags for her treasures. Her designs for Willowynn are made out of repurposed materials, linen remnants, second hand fiberfill, cotton napkins, vintage blankets, upholstery remnants,  Margeaux is drawn to reuse for environmental reasons and because she enjoys the story and romance of the repurposed materials.

Her boys sewing in the studio

Her boys sewing in the studio

Bringing all of her Passions Together

Although Margeaux loved her job as a ranger, she created Willowyn so that she could stay home with her two young sons while working with her favorite things--nature and cloth.

Willowynn Textile Art can be found:

On Margeaux’s Website


and in her Etsy Shop.

And this past week at FinderKeepers in Brisbane

Bunnies for more active playtimes

Bunnies for more active playtimes


DIY Knitted Babes Kit: Easy to Do and Easy to Win

The dolls in the "Knitted Babes" book are so easy and fun to make, you will soon be addicted, which is fine, because there are enough materials in this kit to make at least four. 

The book "Knitted Babes--Five Dolls and Their Wardrobes" by Claire Garland (see my interview in the earlier post), amazing photos and easy instructions

  • Two skeins of skin colored of Merino Yarn
  • Two skeins of hair yarn (blond and black
  • Felt for Eyes
  • Floss for their eyelashes (important)
  • Four fresh fun fabrics like the ones in the book
  • Two cotton yarns for knitted clothing
  • Three fun trims

How to Win?

Comment under this post before January 30, 2014. I'll pick a comment from the random number generator. I need to know how to contact you, you can contact me privately.

And if you win, this will be coming your way, soon in the mail.

The book and materials for the babes clothes.

The book and materials for the babes clothes.

Hair, eyelashes, skin and eyes.

Hair, eyelashes, skin and eyes.

Two of my Knitted Babes.

Two of my Knitted Babes.

The Art of Doll-Making: An interview with Claire Garland

I first heard of Claire Garland when a pattern for a "Knitted Babe" appeared in Rowan Magazine, a knitting magazine with a focus on knitted clothing, not toys, or dolls. I was immediately smitten, the doll was different, funky, adorable and easy to knit. A few months later her book--Knitted Babes; Five Dolls and their Wardrobes-- came out, and I was knitting babes in the car pool line, while waiting at gymnastics and when I was supposed to be cooking dinner. They were addicting. Since then Claire redesigned the dolls to be knitted in the round, written another book and developed a following on Ravelry, Facebook and Pinterest.  Here's a bit more about Claire in her own words:

A spread from the book "Knitted Babes"

A spread from the book "Knitted Babes"

Have you always made dolls? 

Ironically, I started actually making dolls for something to do when my son was a toddler, about 14 years ago, and I was expecting my second child!  - I know it sounds like I should have had my hands tied with a two year old (hence the exclamation) but he was always content to sit and watch or play with whatever I was doing at the time be it gardening, baking or sewing. 

My first handmade doll was a fabric rag doll, in fact a forerunner to the doll in my first published book Embroidered Treasures. The Knitted Babe dolls soon followed when I asked my mum to re-teach me how to knit and from that I knitted a similar shape to the fabric doll to develop a basic knitted doll with a seam running all around the outside.

Before all that however I concocted simple shiny space outfits from sweet wrappers, sellotape and foil for my Pippa dolls when I was about 9!

Clothes for Knitted babes from Claire's Ravelry page.

Clothes for Knitted babes from Claire's Ravelry page.

How did the idea for "Knitted Babes" came about?

Knitted babes 3.jpg

After that first doll,  prototype if you like, was born/ created (looking slightly alien-like I must admit) I added hair and knitted a simple hat which I thought looked like a swimming hat - and then a swimming costume - then came her name: Dot Pebbles and then a notion that I could create a range of dolls and clothes and shoes - like the packets of little outfits and shoes I used to love to receive at Christmas for my Pippa dolls - and perhaps compile the whole lot into a catalogue or book which I eventually did. The title Knitted Babes came at the end - Bathing Belles was my first collective name.

How has your toy-making career dove-tailed with parenting?

As I mentioned it was because of my children that I first started to make dolls - I don't know why dolls and not other toys or bears, perhaps my childhood had some hand in that? -My daughter has the whole collection of all the dolls and the clothes that I have ever made (two suitcases full!) and the two boys have enjoyed the knitted bears I eventually got round to - but they don't make their own except my daughter who loves to dress peg dolls in her own eclectic style.


One of Claire's newer styled Babes.

One of Claire's newer styled Babes.

What are you up to now?

Not that I feel I've exhausted the knitted doll which got bigger and easier to knit (if you like knitting in the round!) as the dolls progressed - and the doll eyes as opposed to the embroidered eyes I felt appealed more widely (- the embroidered eyes - although much more character giving - are a little tricky) but now I'm crocheting for the time being! And loving it! I'm in the process of adding a crochet doll to my collection… and also crochet letters with numbers to follow. 

Any advice for amateur doll-makers or inspirational thoughts?

It's the faces that make the doll so don't just finish your doll off quickly. All, bar none, of my dolls have eyes and mouths removed many, many times before I am satisfied with the finished look!

It's that expressive look you're after!

You can find Claire at:

On her blog, which is very inspiring,

 on Etsy,

and on Ravelry, where you will find all of her knitting patterns.

And stay tuned for a giveaway of A Knitted Babes kit that will include the book and all of the supplies to make several knitted babes. Details in my next post.

The Giveaway, details in my next post.

The Giveaway, details in my next post.