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!


Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Reconnecting with Slow Stitches

It has been a slow start to 2019 for me, with a bit of a cold/flu type thing arriving just before Christmas and settling in for the past month, I have had to take things a bit more slowly than usual. Though this has been frustrating, it has also given me a chance to sit back and smell the proverbial roses. The weather has been quite hot in January, which is never very conducive to a lot of creativity. I've found little pockets of making here and there, and I have found myself embracing slow stitching, whether that is in sewing, knitting or crochet. 

Slowness is underrated and I will admit, I am not a naturally patient person. As a beginner I sought to rush through the learning experience, anxious to gain new skills and implement any new ideas. I can still catch myself doing this now if I'm not careful when I come across something new and exciting - I want to try out a new idea RIGHT AWAY. 

The more experience I gain, however, the more I appreciate the time to stop, consider and go slowly. I'm not sure my patience has grown, but perhaps I now appreciate the journey and process a bit more than I once did. An excellent example of this is in my doll making journey - years ago I abandoned making dolls because I found the stuffing process incredibly dull and slow. 

Now I enjoy it, and quite like the opportunity to sit down and drink tea while I sculpt a new little creature. Lots of people like to Netflix while they craft, and while I enjoy watching a good show with some hand stitching or crochet, I also now enjoy the space that sitting quietly and doing my craft allows - it is more mindful (for want of a better, less of the moment word!) and helps me to process new ideas while my hands work.

When I need a break from sewing, knitting or any other form of hand work, I like to spend time drawing, painting and creating my visual journal. Below is a glimpse of my friend Ulla's journal that she has created with beautiful fabrics, magazine pages, travel brochures and more. I particularly loved the paper dolls, and I was inspired to create my own set to use in my journaling, and they are now available as a printable set in my store.

In an attempt to claim back some space in the day, I have started limiting the time I spend online, and on Instagram in particular. I love spending lots of time on there, it's wonderful that we can connect with other people who share like-minded pursuits further afield. However, it can also be a little bit distracting, so I have found not allowing myself to use Instagram until later in the day allows me to have a more productive start. This isn't a hard and fast rule, but it has helped me organize my time a little bit more efficiently. I have been meaning to write a blog post on this subject, but that will have to be for another time.

I keep all my dolls, fabrics and extra stock in not very glamorous plastic tubs. They might not look good or aesthetically pleasing, but they keep all my pieces and supplies dust free and away from sunlight. One of the problems with this is that I often feel a bit disconnected from my creations or lose track of what supplies I do own - often a piece of fabric will inspire me - so lately I have taken more time to check in with, and stay familiar with my stash, and creations. 

It's a topic for another time, but so often I find in creative business, due to the often slow nature of production, we forget or neglect to set aside time or a day where you kind of do 'nothing'. 'Nothing' time is invaluable, and I have found spending a bit of time just pottering away a new idea or resorting my supplies is a good way to reconnect to my creativity. 

I read somewhere once upon a time that it's okay to simply be inspired by yourself. I frequently forget this, as so often I look outward for inspiration, rather than spending some time with my own work, looking at my own photos and own creations. 

I did this the other day and tried a different outfit from a different doll on Croissant - putting her into a Liberty dress, headwrap and knitted pinafore. I love this look so much, I feel like it transformed her and I instantly got a new wave of ideas. I had had all my pieces out, taking stock when I got tired and decided to just have a play. 

Trying out something new from what I have already made was so inspiring, I think I need to spend more time looking through my own work rather than suffering the comparison syndrome so often - we all struggle with it now and then, and as someone with perfectionist tendencies, it's safe to say I regularly feel like my work is lacking in some way or another...

Which I know is silly, because I frequently encourage everyone to be brave enough to commit to their own version of creativity, find their voice and accept the style that flows from their own hands, because it unique to them. Nobody ever stood out by being the same as everyone else.

Sunday has become EPP (english paper piecing) day, as every Sunday evening I co-host the #sipteaandepp party on Instagram. This has been a really good way to make sure I get at least one hexagon flower made each week - I do so many other things all week, that little things such as wanting to one day make an EPP hexagon quilt often slips by the wayside, remaining in a pile of 'one day' projects. One Day often doesn't come, so having this little party has certainly helped my chances of success!

I've been mixing my own fabrics together, as they work wonderfully for fussy cutting. 
This is last weeks flower: (and a baby Hazel for company)

Larisa from @stitchingnotes is my co-host and I have been meaning to share this little needle book I made as a gift for someone last year. Larisa creates the most beautiful little stitched pieces, with intricate attention to detail. I made the needlebook below using one of her tutorials as inspiration, suiting the inside of the book to the recipient's needs.

I absolutely love the little fox button! Given my own needlebook isn't as pretty as this one, I might have to make myself one soon! I also love the look of this one by Ann Wood.

Have you embraced slow stitching recently? 

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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Sunday, 27 January 2019

Sewing Gorgeous Cushions

I do believe I am a cushion addict! It could be genetic because I remember my Grandmother had massive amounts of throw cushions on her lounge chairs. They are wonderful to hug, prop behind your back and they add a sense of comfort and warmth to your chairs and bed! 

When I was little, the many cushions Gran had were also good for making blanket forts, caves and anything else my imagination could conjure up. These days, I love cushions for more practical reasons, and I don't feel like you can ever have enough. They are great for changing up the look of a room, adding new life to an old chair or some style to your couch.

Cushion covers are also fun to make, as they are faster than larger projects like quilts, can often be made up from your stash (unless you are choosing new colours to go with your decor) and they are useful little items which means you can make lots and keep the spare covers in the cupboard when you need a change up! Cushion covers are also perfect gifts for any age.

I really enjoy making the Washi Fox cushion cover - the patchwork design allows for plenty of room for you to create your own unique look, with whatever prints and colours you fancy. The front of the cushion is also lightly padded, which adds an extra squish factor to your cushion. I personally love mixing a light solid or low volume print in between the prints, which makes the angles around the center block 'pop'. The back is an easy envelope style closure, which I prefer to a zipper. 

My friend Kellie from Sew Mimi K made the Washi Fox block into a beautiful baby quilt, and paired with a matching cushion and a Freckles the Fox doll, it makes a perfect new baby gift.

I love matching sets!

I have also made this design up and changed the center block for a completely different look. The cushion above uses my Miss Mouse panel design as the feature, and I have a couple of these available in the Dolly Henry store if you would like to make a cushion too. (It also makes a great little bag!)
You can get yours here.

There are so many options you can explore making your own cushions. Different print and colour combinations, adding different trims or stitches. Below is one of my favourite cushions, using my Dolly the Deer fabric design and an English Paper Pieced Hexagon flower in the centre, instead of the appliqued fox.

I also added a little detail to the cover with some ric-rac trim and embroidery. As I mentioned earlier, the front is lightly quilted and I found using some of the wavy decorative stitches on my sewing machine on the top and bottom pieces a fun, easy way to add further interest to the design. I also free-style quilted some crazy daisy flowers on the left-hand side.

I hope I have encouraged you to make some beautiful cushions for your own home!
You can find the Washi Fox Cushion Cover pattern in the Dolly Henry store here, I'd love to see what your interpretation of the design looks like!

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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Sunday, 20 January 2019

Getting Started with English Paper Piecing

Earlier in the week, I was chatting to Larisa from Stitching Notes about the various projects we would like to complete in 2019. English Paper Piecing came up, and after some discussion, we decided to hold a little EPP party on Instagram, this Sunday evening.

The idea is to share your current EPP projects, as well as any tips, skills or ideas that you have. I have some hexagon flowers, and a lone Lucy Boston block that have been sitting gathering dust for several years now. I would love to make more time for English Paper Piecing, and both Larisa and I thought this would be a great way to make sure we work on our projects, at least once a week! 

If you would like to participate, you need to ‘bring’ your EPP project, a cup of tea (or coffee) and even a dessert! The idea is to have a little online party of a Sunday evening, where we can all connect through the hashtag #sipteaandepp - to inspire and encourage each other to work on our EPP projects (current and forgotten) and participate in a community craft party.

For more details, please see my Instagram post here.

The timezone is for Australia, however, if you have a moment while the party is on, and you are elsewhere in the world, you are still more than welcome to put up an Instagram post and join in on the hashtag - there are no hard and fast rules!

Meanwhile, I thought I'd do a little introduction to English Paper Piecing, and include some useful resources and links if you would like to give it a go!

I started with Hexagons, so for the purpose of this blog post, and because I am also currently sewing hexagons, that is the shape I have chosen. (English paper piecing shapes come in all sorts of different sizes and styles.)

So what is English Paper Piecing (EPP)?

English paper piecing uses small paper templates to create the foundation pieces for a quilt block design. As you will see below, the technique essentially involves wrapping fabric around the paper shapes and then hand stitching the fabric together. You have to be careful not to stitch through the paper, as the pieces are removed once your block or shape is completed, leaving only the fabric.

I quite like EPP, because you can stitch an entire quilt top by hand, and it is great for using up small pieces of fabric or scraps. It's also excellent for fussy cutting any details on a print that you would particularly like to showcase.

There are two ways to baste the fabric to the shape. One is with glue and the other is with quick, large basting stitches. I've done both, but prefer glue because it is faster! Some people prefer using thread because they find the paper templates can tear when removing glue-basted shapes, which makes them difficult to reuse. 

I have chosen to use my Miss Fox in Thyme print to make a hexagon flower. I like to choose a feature design first because then I can coordinate the other hexagons to match the print I want to stand out. This is a 1/12 inch hexagon.

If you haven't done any EPP, and are buying shapes for the first time, I recommend choosing a set that includes an Acrylic template. The template includes the seam allowance, and is easy to slice around with a rotary ruler. You can also 'see through' the template, so you can position the design exactly how you want it to look on the finished hexagon.

Once you have cut out your hexagon (if you don't have a rotary cutter, you can always draw around the outer edge of your template with a pencil and then use scissors), position the hexagon shape in the middle of your fabric. I often hold mine up to the light to make sure I have centered the design properly, before basting. I use the glue basting method, and you can usually buy a little glue-stick especially made for the task from your paper supplier. 

Apply a small amount of glue along each edge of your hexagon, and wrap the fabric edges over as you go (shown above) It's a little bit like wrapping a present! There is usually about 1/8-1/4" of fabric folded over to the back.

Then you are done! Sometimes, I give mine a very light press with my iron to reinforce the shape.

You will need to make seven hexagons in total to make a hexagon flower!

Once you have the arrangement you are happy with, the hexagons are joined together with small whip stitches. My friend Lauren from Molly and Mama has a detailed post on sewing together hexagons here.

My hexagons are now ready for sewing tonight for the first #sipteaandepp party on Instagram!

I also wanted to share this beautiful felt pincushion Lauren sent me, her stitching is so tiny and even! Miss Kitty is perfect (or is that purrrfect!) for my stitching tonight. She was accompanied by a sweet pouch that Lauren also made, featuring a gorgeous hexagon flower. I'll pop a link to Lauren's pattern shop below if you would like to make a pincushion like Miss Kitty!

Useful Links

EPP papers, templates and tools - Patchwork with Busy Fingers or Sue Daley Designs.
I've tried some other brands too, but I find the shiny white card shapes are the best, and also remove well without tearing.

My fabric designs are perfect for fussy cutting onto 1/12in and larger hexagons - you can find them here in my store. You will get quite a lot of fussy cut pieces out of one 1/2 yard piece!

The Molly and Mama pattern shop, for gorgeous pincushion and sewing patterns.

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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Friday, 4 January 2019

Hello 2019

I am so happy to move into 2019, a brand new year. It's like getting a new journal - all new, not yet written on. Good intentions for the fresh white blank pages, knowing that some of those pages will not contain the best words ever written and some will even be torn out to use as a shopping list. Some pages will be reduced to scribble or a flurry of notes that might come in handy on a rainy day. But for the moment, the promise is in the new and that is worth taking a moment to inhale and enjoy.

I have seen a lot of people coming up with a word for 2019 - a theme if you like, to guide them through the next twelve months. If I was going to think of a word, it would probably have to be 'Acceptance'.

There is so much power, peace, and contentment in acceptance. Whether it's your current situation, a particular season or phase, taking a deep breath and accepting where you are for the moment is often quite difficult to do. Acceptance comes from letting go of the control you think you have over a thing, a situation or a person, and just going with the flow.

2018 was a tumultuous year for me in many ways. There was a lot of change, and I floundered for a while there with my creativity. It wasn't easy, but I learned a lot of really valuable lessons, which I am really grateful to take into 2019 with me.

So many people push for the fast-paced hustle these days, and it is exhausting. There comes a point where you have to accept that you do or have done your best and leave it at that. This was something I learned last year when I continually exhausted myself trying to yank open doors that weren't meant for me.

Wise words from a friend at one point helped me see things more clearly: She asked me what my true intentions were, and to look deeper at what I really wanted. When I did this, I realized that the avenue I had been trying to travel along wasn't actually where I wanted to go.

Rest is greatly underrated in our current climate. Simply being still and letting the mind wander. Off the screen, away from a TV or even a craft project. Allowing yourself headspace and downtime is so important, and though people have always worked very hard, I believe they also had more space in their life. Manual tasks were often so much slower that you would have had a bit more time to just think. If you walked or rode a horse to your destination, still slower and more mindful.

I had a three month period where I decided I would not engage in ANY business activity and focus on my own health and well being. This was really difficult to do, but as time went on, I realized how VALUABLE rest and stillness is. It's not optional and it isn't lazy. Taking a proper break helped me focus, and become more productive. You can't always see the full picture until you take a step back.

If you have your own creative business, you will understand how often we don't rest, how often you keep working when you really should have called it a day six hours earlier. This is where acceptance comes in. Accepting that there are only a certain amount of hours in a day and that you don't have to slam yourself into the ground to have had a productive work day.

Time and again I have seen others experience burn-out because they failed to ever take a break, pause or stop for a while to regroup. I have experienced it myself. I wonder how many little creative enterprises would still exist if their creators had ONLY taken a break, and some time.

Valuable lessons I learned in 2018, that I take forward into 2019 are:

- Rest. Take time off. If the day before was full on, have a break. The sky will NOT fall in. And neither will your customers or your business.

- Let Go. Realize when you are at the end of your tether and break free. Allow yourself to let go so that you can embrace the next thing coming your way. You KNOW when you have had your fill of something. Don't be afraid to quit and let the next thing come along! It could be something much more fulfilling and you can take all the experience you have gleaned from your last pursuit and channel it into your new adventure - whether it's a new business, new job, new hobby, parenthood or a new relationship.

- Fail Fast. Failure is amazing because it allows us to grow. You learn to ride a bike by wobbling around and falling off. You learn to walk by stumbling around and falling over. The trick is to accept when you feel something isn't working for you and move on quickly. Get back up again and do something else! Failure might mean failure, but it doesn't equal nothing. It yields experience, growth, and wisdom. It's a not so great pill to swallow that gives you valuable things in return.

- Be Brave. Thinking 'wouldn't it be nice...' as far as your business goals go isn't super helpful. If you don't put your prices up (nobody else will give you a pay rise!), if you don't contact that shop/publisher/blogger, if you don't plan that new collection, if you don't enroll in that course, if you don't schedule a holiday, then nobody else is going to. We aren't wallflowers at a party, waiting to be invited to dance by the handsome prince. We have to make our intentions known, and we have to make them known to ourselves FIRST. By being brave enough to acknowledge what you want, and even if it sounds silly, or you are shouted down or rejected at first, the only person that can make your aspirations known to others is YOU.

- Acceptance. Accept that you did your best. Accept that there are only 24 hours in the day. Accept that life is short and therefore you should be doing something that fulfills you. Accept that some seasons of life aren't that fun, but that nothing lasts forever. Accept that some days, salad doesn't cut it and you need cake. Acceptance is powerful because you can rest in the knowledge of ENOUGH, rather than feeling the impossible squeeze of MORE.

More keeps you running on overdrive. Enough brings you satisfaction and contentment. Leave the hustle for the hustlers and march to the beat of your own drum. We are all unique, life doesn't have a filter and mess happens. Some people can run as fast as a hare, and others get there on tortoise time. It doesn't matter. What matters is how much YOU enjoyed the journey.

I am so excited for 2019 - I can't wait to go forward and see what this wonderful year brings! I don't make resolutions, I know I'd never keep one. But taking the things I learn forward with me, and learning from a whole new set of challenges and making a whole new set of mistakes is the way it is meant to be (and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!)

If I was to make a resolution it would be this:

Live in the moment, and let go of what doesn't really matter. Stop resolving to be the one day *insert improved lifestyle, body, house, bank account, whatever here* and just accept where you are right now!

May you have a fulfilling and creative 2019!

Megan xx


Wednesday, 19 December 2018

A Crafty Party in Bellingen | Recap

The Crafternoon Tea Party that I co-hosted with Sarah from Say! Little Hen was such a lovely way to end 2018. Unfortunately, I didn't get to take any photos when the party was in full swing, but I managed to grab a few snaps before our guests arrived.

We held the event at the beautiful Cedar Bar and Kitchen, in Bellingen NSW.

The lovely Naomi from Paper Leaf Press showed us all how to do a simple flower arrangement, which like most things that look fairly simple, actually take quite a lot of skill. Naomi quickly whipped together the most gorgeous bouquet, inspiring us all to go home and create floral magic ourselves.

We were also fortunate to learn a little bit about the journey from fleece to fiber with Lyn, who is a prolific and passionate spinner. Her gorgeous display was highly textural, and I couldn't help stroking the beautiful blankets, scarves, and yarn she had created. You'll see above Lyn makes adorable knitted chickens, which are perfect for the poultry lover or for apartment dwellers who'd very much like to keep a flock of their own!

The thing I have observed throughout this year, assisting with creative workshops and again hosting the Crafternoon party, was that most people are surprised at how much fun they have once they are there.

That isn't to say when they book in they expect to be bored, but rather that most of us are so crazy busy these days, that we don't realize what a rare treat it is to sit and simply create, uninterrupted by family, work or technology for several hours. The surprise and joy I see reflected in the faces of those around me, tells me that this is something we need to do more often.

Spending time creating without disruption, and meeting other people face-to-face is a tonic to today's hectic flurry of activity and notifications binging away on phones. Actually having real conversation, and sharing your creative pursuits with others is almost meditative.

It seems that going out for a creative workshop or party is some kind of medicine that nobody knew they needed, until they are there, relishing the luxury of time spent in peace, creating.

If anything, these experiences have taught me that slowing down, connecting with others in REAL time and switching technology off for a while is something we all need to do much more often. It was a really joyful and satisfying experience providing everyone with that platform to do that last Saturday, and something I would like to be able to offer again in the future.

Going into the New Year, I encourage you to reach out to friends, go out and do some making at a cafe, join a craft group or host a craft party of your own. It will be the thing you didn't know you were missing, and a necessary stress-release from the craziness of everyday life.

Megan x

PS. You can come and sew with me in February 2019. I am holding my first ever workshop, see the details here.

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