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Saturday, 28 January 2017

Sew Small- and use up those scraps.

There are times when you need to think small. When you just can't face or don't have the space to make something that takes more than half a metre, when you are confronted with a growing pile of scraps that you cannot bear to throw out, when you need something small to take with you when travelling, when you want to play around with fabric - those are the times I am thinking about.  If you have small children for whom to sew you may have a ready outlet for this type of sewing - bibs, caps, coverall aprons for messy play, toys, pencil cases for school.  Cushion covers, pot holders, coasters  are all possibilities but there is a limit to the number you need for your own home. Thus I am pleased that I decided to take a doll-making class with the multi-talented Maria Anderson-Contreras, pictured here during a class break, at the end of November 2016.

That's my effort in the foreground on the way to completion .  All the materials needed were provided in the workshop so I didn't have to remember to take anything with me.  The doll pattern is simple as the the legs and arms are not separate pieces, here it is laid on calico ready to be cut out.

As directed I sewed around the doll, reinforcing the stitching at the necessary points, leaving a section unstitched at the top of the head where the stuffing would be inserted.  The face of the doll had been ready painted by Maria, there is no way that I could get such a lovely face.

My initial idea, when I booked the workshop, was that I could make dolls with the features of family and friends taken from photographs digitally printed on to the cloth but Maria pointed out that the proportions of the features on a doll are different to those of an adult and my idea would not work or be attractive.  Better start practising drawing faces!  Once I had clipped the seams in the appropriate places and turned the doll right side out, it was time to start stuffing.  This was made easier by using straight forceps to get the stuffing down the narrow arms and legs.  These are inexpensive items, £3- £5 depending on the length, available from medical suppliers and fishing tackle shops (they are used by anglers to get hooks out).

Hair is made from knitting yarn and applied with glue, although I used a combination of glue and stitching.  Once applied you can style the hair as you  wish, long tresses, plaits, a bob- the choice is yours.  I decided on a chignon.
Next it was time to make some clothes from the tiny patterns provided - a sleeveless top and a full gathered skirt with a ribbon tie at the back.  I only had time to get halfway with completing these- too much time chatting and tea drinking!  I intended to make these up swiftly but Christmas preparations and minor illnesses intervened and I have only just given the doll some clothes.  Here is the front and back views of her in the floral two piece I started in the workshop. I made a tulle petticoat to go underneath.

Here she is in casual gear, a cotton top (from the same top pattern but with extended arms and slightly looser fit) and denim skirt.
The tops are fastened with tiny strips of velcro and the skirt with a tiny press fastener. 
I am not happy with my attempt at shoes, made with red felt, so I will experiment further.  Meantime I am thinking of making her a shift dress in this bright striped jersey scrap - I am sure I will have fun playing about and sewing things for her. She can be my alter ego and wear all those items I no longer can or the styles I fantasise about. 

I may even become addicted to doll making, as Maria has.  Anyone interested in taking a workshop like this or having a personal lesson or commissioning a doll can find more information on Maria's web site 
And what about scraps of knitting yarn, as I know many of us knit as well.  My solution, a godsend in this frosty weather, has been to make Mobius Twist Headbands in crochet following the instructions on Youtube from Oana's crochet Channel .  You can make them as wide as you like and wear them with the twist in the front or back.  How my ears have thanked me for these, a few of which you can see below.  Even a beginner can make one quickly.

And finally, another cold weather scrap make - gloves.  They do not have to be one colour, in fact the more stripes the better in my opinion.  These are knitted on two pins using yarn of the same tension and I knit them both at the same time, using yarn from the beginning of the ball for one glove and the end of the ball for the other so the stripes will match in width and thus I do not have to calculate how much to use on each glove but just knit until there is not enough yarn left to complete a matching row on each glove.  They don't have to match at all and I am inclined to have odd coloured fingers in my next pair. Just remember to knit one shaped for the left hand and one for the right hand.

Anyone have any tips for using small pieces of fabric or knitting yarn?  Perhaps you can tell us about it in a comment below and then post a photo on our club web site in the Member's Makes  Album.


  1. The dolls are lovely! I have a wee baby but I'm not yet inclined to sew for her so far. She has a ton of hand-me-downs and I can't fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes yet so I'm only sewing for me. I have a small collection of jersey/stretch scraps which I will start making underwear from at some point. I only keep woven fabrics if the pieces are large enough to cut a pocket bag from (and I don't care if all four pieces are mismatched)! All smaller scraps go in a nearby Traid bin for textile recycling. It gets rid of the scraps without guilt :)

    1. And quite right too: sewing for yourself is good for the soul! You'll get round to making 'little clothes' when you feel like that, but you really don't have to just because you sew. Getting the seams on very small things right is more difficult than on adult size clothes too.

      I wonder if I'll ever graduate to making underwear... Although I did make several tops that I can wear as vests - nice and cool cotton (for summer), the thinnest fabrics are the best.

      Great tip about Traid.

  2. I have some scraps too that I mean to destine for underwear, so far I have only sewn a pair of boxer shorts using a pair that I had that died of old age as a pattern. One day, maybe, a bra! I was so delighted when I discovered that Triad took scraps. Now I have a plastic bag into which my scraps go and I take it to a triad store nearby when it is full. I'm with you on the pockets, I actually love having some contrasting fabric secretly hidden away in a pocket.

  3. Your doll is so cute Barbara! Utterly gorgeous. It makes me want to make one too.

    I don't have a really great tip on how to use up scraps. One way would be to sew scraps together in a crazy line patchwork - anything that will lie flat. With a bit of interfacing and a fabric backing this can make a great mug rag or coaster. And a great present: something really unique, just for the recipient.


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