Dolly Henry is a sewing and design blog for the creative wanderer, where style meets play and making is a lifestyle.

Hi, I'm Megan - owner, designer and writer at Dolly Henry! Join me here as I explore the ins and outs of creativity, dabble in dollmaking and raise my voice on issues facing creative entrepreneurs.

Make yourself a cup of tea, and come on in!


Thursday, 29 November 2018

Willoh - A Waldorf-Inspired Doll

Meet Willoh. She loves collecting vintage treasures and hosting tea parties for her friends. Willoh lives in a little retro caravan called Connie, which she has decorated with cloth bunting and gingham curtains. Willoh spends her days creating - she loves to sew, crochet and paint.
Dolly Henry Dumpling dolls are one of a kind, Waldorf-inspired dolls.
A Waldorf doll is traditionally compatible with Steiner education philosophies to encourage a child’s own imagination in play. Their appearance is kept intentionally simple and childlike, in order to encourage creativity, problem-solving skills and imaginative play in children. Dolly Henry Dumpling dolls make excellent companions for children, their clothing is removable for interactive play, and are filled with a beautiful natural eco-friendly vegan fiber so they are lovely to cuddle. They have a little bit of weight to them, unlike a cloth or rag doll, that is comforting to children and makes them feel a little bit more 'real.

Annie was so excited to meet her new sister, and the latest addition to the Dolly Henry waldorf-inspired doll collection - Willoh! 

It's clear that Willoh loves a good matchy-matchy colour scheme, as she is decked out in classic baby blue and aqua.

Her unruly blonde locks are piled high and kept tidy with her vintage style gingham headwrap.

There is something so lovely about blending knitted and woven textures together - the cotton blouse peeps out from underneath her gorgeous hand-knitted pinafore, which is delightfully soft having been made using 100% organic Australian merino! 

Willoh is now available for sale in the Dolly Henry store. She would make an excellent companion and wonderful Christmas gift for someone very special! You can see her here.

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Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Dolly Henry Podcast - Episode 1

Hello! It is with much excitement, and a few nerves, that I introduce the first ever Dolly Henry podcast. In this episode, you might have to endure a few 'ummms...' as this is the first time I have ever done a podcast or recording, and excuse my very 'Australian' accent!!

Consider this a little studio diary, as I chat a bit about making my latest pattern, Mama Llama (shown above) and the events coming up for Dolly Henry in the coming weeks.

I have linked below to some of the things mentioned in the podcast, happy listening!

Megan x

Links from the Show:

Dolly Henry Pattern Shop

Hazel's new outfit - the Woodland Dress and Cape Sewing Pattern

Crafternoon Tea Party

Handmade Doll Christmas Shop

Dolly Henry Facebook Page

Bellingen Artisan Market

Sign up for the Dolly Henry Newsletter

Sunday, 18 November 2018

DIY Christmas Tags & Stitching on Yarn

I'm delighted to be a contributor to the second issue of Yarnologie, a new Australian focused digital magazine for yarn lovers, hoarders, knitters, spinners and crocheters...yes yarn hoarding is a hobby too!

As our seasons are completely reversed to the Northern Hemisphere, it's so lovely to have a knitting and yarn publication that is dedicated to sharing all things yarn from down here in Australia. We have so many amazing artists and designers down here, it's refreshing to learn about new people and read stories from our neck of woods. The summer issue will be full of inspiration to suit the southern hemisphere, though I am personally NOT feeling the heat yet here in NSW.

I dusted off my water colours to create a set of bookish Christmas tags, suitable for attaching to all those woolly socks and jumpers you've been making as gifts... if you really have managed to make gorgeous handmade items for your friends and family, then I salute you. For me, my NY resolution was to not make anything handmade this year, for gifts. Mean I know, but I really needed a break.

Of course, as with all resolutions, I didn't quite stick to it and some people still benefited from my creative adventures...count yourself as chosen ones if you got something I made this year...

In my defence, it takes just as much effort and creativity to curate a lovely store-bought gift. Even gift cards - they are like buying a little bit of are locked into spending the moolah guilt-free at your favourite shop...what's not to love?!

Anyway, whether your creativity goes all out or not this year, at least you can affix a handmade tag to your gifts! Also in this issue, I have written a couple of articles, one on WIPs (works in progress to the uninitiated) which are always on my mind as the year draws to a close. I did half wonder if I could finish all my current WIPs before 2019 arrives but I decided that was probably a bit WIP stash is next level across the crafts of knitting, crocheting, embroidery, patchwork and dressmaking!

Commitment issues? Nooooooo......(ducks and runs)

My second article is all about when Stitching met Yarn. (sneak peek above!) A modern love story? More like the entwining of two threads, who alone are pretty amazing but when put together produce results only dreams are made of. Well, that might be a tad dramatic and romantic but you get the gist. Stitching pretty things on other pretty things made of yarn makes everyone happy.

I'm sorry if my writing has been a bit up and down in this post, that's probably what happens when you type with pop music blasting out of the computer...your fingers dance a little.

Anyway, if you love yarn and creative inspiration, then make sure you jump on and order your copy of Yarnologie from the Say! Little Hen shop - Issue 2 is out on December 1st! (I feel like the overly bright voiceover from a TV advert! I'm not, it's just really good and you should get onto it!)

Megan x

If you know someone who would find this article useful, please direct them back here, to my blog as I would LOVE for more people to enjoy my work.

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Thursday, 15 November 2018

Here & Now | November 2018

It has been such a busy week, it's nice to sit down and focus on the Here & Now, at least for today.
Thanks to Sarah from Say! Little Hen for running this monthly linkup.

Loving // Cooler Days. The weather is a bit crazy but thankfully, the super hot weather has left again and it's once again feeling quite cool...especially for this former North Qld girl! Wondering if I will ever put away the jumpers and socks for a season...

Eating // Chocolate cupcakes that didn't quite get their full share of raising flat chocolate cupcakes. Still chocolatey and delicious though!

Drinking // Less tea, more water now that summer is (sort of) here

Feeling // Like I really could do with a holiday...a month of no disruption, no stress, no running to-do list. That quiet time between Christmas and New Year cannot come fast enough. (PS. I am sorry if I haven't replied to any blog comments yet! I love hearing from you and promise I will do it soon!)

Making // I re-opened my pattern shop in case anyone needed to make something lovely for Christmas, and have been working on a new dolly outfit pattern for the holiday season...

Thinking // About dinner because it's about that time of day!

Dreaming // Of somewhere over the rainbow.

If you'd like to join in the Here and Now link up, you can find all the details here on Sarah's blog.

What has been happening in your Here and Now?

Megan x

If you know someone who would find this article useful, please direct them back here, to my blog as I would LOVE for more people to enjoy my work.

If you would like to receive freshly baked blog posts and other Dolly Henry news delivered straight to your inbox, click here to SUBSCRIBE.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Slow Saturdays

It has been one those very busy weeks, which means a quiet Saturday was definitely in order. Despite the hectic days, I am surprised at how much I have achieved creatively. My projects included some photography for Yarnologie magazine, alongside a festive commision which involved my watercolours. 

A beautiful surprise parcel arrived in the post, a gift from a lovely friend whose kindness and encouragement is something I value very much. Sometimes a sparkly heart, some buttons, and beautiful fabrics are just what you need! That and a few sneaky trips to the delicious sourdough bakery we are so lucky to live near. (I am pretty sure I am making up for all the years I couldn't eat conventional bakery food!)

My doll making adventures included making a purple-haired little munchkin, her lovely locks beautiful handspun wool from my sister - I'm constantly stealing anything that isn't deemed suitable to knit for my dolls! I guess if you wanted to factor in all the extra time that using things like handspun yarn take in the making process, you'd be needing a thousand dollars for your doll...but I digress. I enjoy the slow nature of creating a doll and using as many natural materials as I can. I love buying new fabrics, but also enjoy the fact I can use my scraps or reclaimed pieces to make their clothes too. 

The filling I currently use is an eco-friendly Australian made corn fiber filling. Wool is always my preference, and I deem it to be the most environmentally friendly (my opinion) but after some trouble with a large bag of wool this year, and difficulty with sourcing good clean wool for a reasonable price, I resorted to the next best option. This doesn't make the dolls ' vegan-friendly' by any means, because I continue to use animal fibers in their clothing and hair, however, I figure if you have a slight wool allergy, hypo-allergenic toy filling can't hurt!

I moved onto a mouse doll today, a second prototype of the first mouse doll I made earlier this year. I was busy preparing for a big market and didn't have time to perfect the pattern - for ease of construction - so she fell by the wayside. When she was finished, we visited the doll dress up box - a little cardboard suitcase I keep of doll clothing discards. I like to do this because it seems unfair that the doll has to sit around nude while I wait for clothing inspiration, and it also helps me to decide what kind of clothing the doll's personality requires. I currently have a few nudie dolls because I am yet to decide what clothing they need!

I really love mousey. She needs a better name but her sweet yet comical expression makes me smile.
I love the simplicity in her shape and design, she reminds me very much of a toy that has been loved and treasured as a childhood friend over many years. I usually use matching thread to the material I am working with, but as she is sort of a prototype I stitched with white, the colour my machine was threaded with. You can see the stitching a little in the seams, but I rather liked this effect - giving her a worn, vintage feel. I am toying (pardon the pun!) with the idea of stitching a little fabric patch on her, to further enhance this look.

What do you think? The jury's still out for me.

These beautiful liberty fabrics and buttons have inspired me so much, I haven't put them away yet! 
Thank you so much for the surprise Ally!

I've been enjoying a bit of watercolour lately. I used to paint and draw so much growing up, before I ever touched a sewing machine! Those sped-up videos people share on painting on Instagram are addictive, there is something mesmerizing about watching a painting come together. I would like to try other paints but for now, I have my watercolour pencils. They don't make much mess or take up much room so they are perfect for my current situation. I have been creating little illustrations and then developing them on the computer into some prints...

A little birdie tells me there'll be some watercolour bonus's in the next issue of Yarnologie...

I know there is a trend called 'keeping it real' for the purpose of showing your followers that real life doesn't always look the same as your blog or Instagram feed, but I have never needed the 'keeping it real' posts from people I follow. 

I guess because I know when I do photography, I can make a small corner look very different then it does in real life. I like this about photography - you can tell a story with a single shot, a made-up story if you really want to. Or you can use a camera to give you a new perspective - to find beauty in the ordinary. You can edit a photo and either make it feel warm or cold.

 So often, it's easy to let all the little things go unnoticed, to be ungrateful for the good that you do have. Taking a photo and showing the beauty in the every day, in the clutter, in the mess and in the totally ordinary can completely change the way you see something.

These photos in this post tell of a calmness that hasn't existed in my week, which has been chaotic and beyond my control to say the least. You could make assumptions, but I see that there is in fact truth in these images - though it might feel like life is a runaway train, these recordings show me that I did manage to snatch moments where I was able to be in the present, preserving a little bit of the process.

 Ignoring the bigger, noisier picture to instead focus in on the small things such as the splash of paint on paper, the soft feel of handspun yarn under my fingers or the slow contemplation of a doll's attire.

This is keeping it real, because when the noise fades away, you can see the things that really matter.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend,

Megan x

If you know someone who would find this article useful, please direct them back here, to my blog as I would LOVE for more people to enjoy my work.

If you would like to receive freshly baked blog posts and other Dolly Henry news delivered straight to your inbox, click here to SUBSCRIBE.


Thursday, 8 November 2018

PDF Patterns Are Not Pop Songs

As a designer, I am always having conversations with fellow creatives about the issues we face, and recently I have read a couple of blog posts about the cost of creating PDF or digital files.

I usually relate to these posts quite well, as it's somewhere I have been and something I continue to struggle with at times. I appreciate other's raising the subject, as it is something that I feel needs discussing, alongside educating customers about paying designers an adequate fee for their skills and time.

So with the topic fresh on my mind this week, after a bit of a flurry in the knitting/crochet circles about designers being paid for their patterns, I thought I might share my point of view - in for a penny, in for a pound, as they say!

The common misconception with passive income streams, such as digital patterns, is that once the work has been done, you have no further costs in distributing that pattern. I laughed when I heard this, before I had ever even made or sold a PDF pattern.

Previously, I designed and made children's clothing, selling it online internationally and also from a short-stint brick and mortar shop. The clothing didn't just sell itself, I had to get online every single day and let people know my products and brand existed. If I didn't keep at the marketing, the sales would slow. I was a very small business of one, without a large advertising budget so the buck stopped with me.

When a friend was creating her first digital product (an e-book), I urged her to increase the price on the item as she naturally assumed that once her work was done, the book cost her nothing. I reminded her that the book would continue to cost her time, even if the difficult work had been done. She would need to continually promote the book to continue to receive sales on a regular basis, assist people with download issues, and I knew she'd offer extensive email support should a customer encounter an issue with making a recipe.

All of these things take time and need to be taken into consideration when pricing a digital product.

The heavy lifting of the creating is done, however, unless you completely abandon the product once you have created it, your digital item is no different to a tangible product - you need to market that baby and you need to provide customer support services too.

Unless you have won the lottery and have disposable time and resources to spend on these things without being compensated, then you have to take this into account when you create a product.

That being said, it is incredibly difficult to 'regain' the costs of a PDF pattern or ebook in the short term. The number of hours alone it takes to create a new design and write the instructions means you often need to sell hundreds upon hundreds of copies before you break even. If you do a good job, most people will not need assistance with creating your pattern, so you don't need to worry about adding $100 on top of each sale to cover the time you'll spend helping them!

However, if 1 in 20 customers need a bit of help, then the little bit extra you have gained from each sale will help cover a little bit of that time. That's a good theory anyway, quite often there is no little bit 'extra.'

When you think about it logically, how is someone selling a $10 pattern several times a week (or even a day if you were really lucky!) going to make an income? Even if you can donate your time for free, there are still running costs for the distribution of the pattern - all website platforms have transaction fees, listing fees or an overall monthly fee. This is a cost to the designer - it's like shop rent and each of those costs has to come out of the patterns they sell.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

It really is impossible! When I was creating my first pattern, I asked a few people about how much they'd expect to pay for a pattern. I found the answers a little dismal, with one lady even telling me that if the pattern template pieces weren't digitally drawn, then she wouldn't spend more than $10 on the pattern. (I personally have purchased some excellent patterns with hand drawn templates, and I have also purchased some TERRIBLE patterns with digitally drawn templates.)

In short, the general expectation was that more than $10 was a little bit expensive for a digital pattern. I don't entirely disagree, there are some designs that warrant smaller price tags depending on the size of the pattern and item in question. However my patterns have extensive instructions, are photographed step-by-step and even though I originally offered my initial design with hand-drawn templates, they all now contain digitally drawn templates - several pages of them.

I wanted to create designs that looked amazing but were relatively simple to sew and so that the resulting item looked the same as my original work. There is nothing more disheartening than setting out to create something only to discover the process is incredibly complicated and your finished project doesn't even vaguely resemble the pattern picture. I hoped to make a pattern where even a beginner could feel proud of their finished item - even if their skills needed perfecting.

Doing this takes a lot of time and energy, and years of carefully honed skills. These skills aren't simply the ability to draw and sew a doll. To create a pattern to the standard I wanted I needed to know how to take good photographs, grasp editing software, feel confident in graphic design and learn to master Adobe Illustrator and digitize my pieces - to scale so that they print out properly and all match correctly.

That is a lot of work so that my customer can confidently purchase a pattern and download it in one afternoon, start sewing and (hopefully) produce something that looks really good too. The simpler something looks and the easier the process is, the more work it takes to make it that way.

On top of all that time, I also have running costs - such as the Adobe suite which enables me to edit and create graphics, pattern pieces, and edit photos. If I didn't do all this myself, I would have to pay a graphic designer for these things and factor the costs into the pattern. I do it myself, which allows me to do it faster and on demand, but I deserve to be paid for these skills as much as a graphic designer would so the costs need to go into the pattern.

Given all of the above, $10 feels like an obscene price to charge for a pattern. It should be much, much higher. After all, my customer only has to purchase my pattern once and they can make as many items as they like from my design and also learn new skills along the way. It's much more than a pattern, it's a little sewing workshop too.

Sometimes I hear people say they can't afford to pay more for a pattern, and I won't disagree with this statement as I have no idea what kind of budget someone else is running. I only know that as a designer, and owner of a small creative business, I'm not exactly rolling in it myself so when I can't afford something, I simply don't buy it, or I save for it. What I don't do is ask someone else to take an income cut so that I can have something for less $$.

If I can't change the price of flour, something I have to buy every week as a household essential, then I sure as hell am not asking a creative to charge less for their time on a pattern I only need to buy once and have forever. I've spent more on a cheap lunch than what a lot of us pay for patterns, and it's digested by the end of the day!

I have a friend who was recently faced with having to cull people off her newsletter list or start paying for the plan that allowed her to keep all 2000 members. The fee was above what she could sensibly afford at that point in time, so she culled hard. We did a little exercise for the fun of it, of what her subscribers would have to pay to stay on the newsletter list. It turns out that for $3 A YEAR each, she could cover the cost of the newsletter list and everyone could stay subscribed. Of course she didn't even offer this as an option, but it made us both think how little you have to spend to support a small creative business!

PDF patterns are not pop songs, you won't top the charts and sell 2 million+ copies for $2.99 a piece...

Selling PDF patterns for $10 or less would only generate serious income if you had a large customer base who were happy to buy a pattern every year or so. Just one pattern each. However you would need over ten thousand customers for that to happen, and because there are a lot of patterns out there for all sorts of different things, that scenario is incredibly unlikely.

My own patterns are in a small niche. And within that niche, my style will not be for everyone. This means that the patterns need to be more expensive so that I do not have to sell to 15,000 people. But this also means that the industry needs to really change its perspective on paying designers. Not all patterns are created equal, as has been my own personal experience, however you can't price your work based on someone else's.

I also take issue with the fact people question that a designer would 'dare' to charge 'x' amount for HER creative work, when in other creative circles you can earn a lot more money 'designing'... In my opinion, the sewing/knitting/crochet/quilting industry is vastly undercutting itself and it's not doing a lot of good!

In order to continue to create new designs and patterns, we need to be paid for what we do. The pay rise I'm asking for is not even extreme - paying $18 to $20 (AUD) for a well-written 10 pages + pattern, with instructions and photographs is not going to break the bank. But it might mean I can scrape together a small living.

In comparison to the patterns of yesteryear, which were black and white text instructions, with no photographs, no technique instructions or help at your fingertips or even pattern templates - today's patterns are like mini-workshops!

The notion that a digital pattern should cost less than a paper pattern is also misguided. The printing cost is only tiny percentage compared to the creation of the design - if a printed pattern was vastly superior and costly, then everyone printing off PDF patterns at home would find it very expensive, but as we know, it is relatively cost-effective.

When you purchase a paper pattern vs a PDF pattern, even if they both had identical pricing, the customer already saves money on their PDF by not paying postage and has the convenience of receiving their file instantly. There is no real need to significantly discount digital files in the face of their paper counterparts.

I think we are taking all this wonderful automation and instant learning for granted. We think because it comes quickly and easily to our computer that is should, therefore, be extremely cheap. The washing machine and dishwasher were created to simplify our lives and make things easier, however, those time-saving devices cost quite a lot.

I'm not suggesting we start charging $1000 for a pattern (though a girl can dream!) but I do think we need to perhaps have a bit of a mental shift going forward into this new era - for both independent designers and their customers.

Megan x

If you know someone who would find this article useful, please direct them back here, to my blog as I would LOVE for more people to enjoy my work.

If you would like to receive freshly baked blog posts and other Dolly Henry news delivered straight to your inbox, click here to SUBSCRIBE.

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