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, 26 September 2018

Creating Blank Space in Your Life

"....I've got a blank space, baby, and I'll write your name...."

Before I go all Taylor Swift on you, let me explain a little bit! I want to talk about why creating 'blank space' or 'white space' in your diary, and in your life is so important.

Life is a little bit like a glass of water - no, this isn't the positivity analogy, this is the space analogy.

Let's say your glass is 95% full. What happens if someone needs to add another 20% to that glass? It spills over and makes a bit of a mess, doesn't?

The thing is, sometimes somebody comes along and just adds to the volume of your glass, whether you like it or not. You can't control the excess amount that is about to be added to your tumbler of water, you just have to frantically reach for a cloth and try and mop up the spillage as quickly as you can.

The only thing you can control is how much water you have in that glass to start with so that when it rains, you have minimal overflow.

I have had that experience this week. It has been one of those weeks. Where the unexpected happens, and it comes in pairs. When the days are longer and more stressful and stuff is happening that you didn't plan for. That's life, and it happens.

What I have been grateful for this week, is that I had a smidgen of blank space there that helped me cope with the situation a lot more easily than if my glass had already been 99% full. This was coincidental and I have been so thankful that for some reason, organisation had been on my side before the week got tipped upside down.

Which makes me think, perhaps we all need a little more white space in our diaries to allow for the unexpected.

Stressful situations occur periodically throughout life, however, often I find these situations easier to deal with if I haven't already got a jam-packed schedule to start with.

Allowing myself 'nothing' space is like creating time between appointments - you can allow time for potential traffic delays, an unexpected phone call or a flat tyre. These things are all a complete nuisance but it is ten times more stressful if your time is stacked so tightly, it only takes one tile to fall before you are in full domino mode.

I feel like creating blank space is as simple as taking a deep breath, and allowing some time in each day to stop and enjoy a cup of tea or something that helps you relax - preferably away from a screen, social media in itself can feel quite 'hectic'.

This definitely helps reduce feeling flustered, and if something arises (and it will!) that takes you by surprise, then you have already created a bit of wiggle room in your schedule.

Life is a little bit like a journey, that you have a partially filled out map to. You have enough of the pieces to know which direction you will most likely go, but sometimes things take an unexpected turn and it helps if you are already prepared for such things.

Creating the space isn't always easy, because whenever you don't say no to something, you are saying yes to it. Did I just state the obvious? For me creating space has never been easy. I always want to be there for everyone, and do everything. It's not physically possible. And it's even more impossible when things aren't going to plan.

The trick is, to not keep your day or week SO FULL. This can mean saying no to a friend, or rescheduling your weekend plans. This can mean allowing yourself more time for tasks than you usually would - so you at least have the ability to add to your list if you need to. So often, I think I can complete certain tasks in half the time than I really do - which just makes me feel stressed. Learning to appreciate that each day only has 24 hours and of that, a good part needs to be left for sleep, has really helped me make more space in my life, and become more patient.

Blank space, that I am very grateful for when something occurs that takes up any extra room in my glass. The overflow is minimal, and when it does happen, at least I am standing by with my mop!

Megan xx

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, 13 September 2018

Creative Business Tips - Maintain a Giving Mindset

Secret Sauce: Definition (your contacts, suppliers, processes...all the stuff that helps you do what you do!)

Every maker has her secret sauce and by all means, you do not have to share the recipe with anyone. A little bit like a magic show, there are some things you should keep close to your heart, otherwise you may find when the process is demystified a little bit of the magic around your work evaporates with it.

This said, it is important to maintain both an open heart and giving mindset. Often we interpret this as having to 'blab' our Secret Sauce recipe in response to the impertinent questions from others who either want to do what you do or are your competitors. This is not the case.

As a maker and creative you will eventually come across a copycat and inspire countless others to join you in your craft, either selling it or making it for themselves.

This is inevitable and you need to think of it as part of the initiation process on your climb up Maker Mountain. It doesn't mean you will feel GOOD about these things, it's simply the milk that eventually gets spilled - it's okay to cry about it but then you have to clean it up and get on with the day.

The trick is, not to let these things affect your mindset. Don't let them stop you from being giving, gracious and generous with your work. As the old adage goes, it is better to give than to receive and that's because the warm fuzzy count is pretty high when you are generous with others.

The BURST of energy you get from being open-hearted helps counteract the fearful feelings that you find creeping in, as you grow more invested in and naturally, more protective of your work.

When you are a maker or creative selling your work, you have a fine line to walk. You need to be able to keep up the energetic creative rhythm so that you can continue to make new things to sell, while juggling the business side of things that can cause you to evaluate your work in ways you wouldn't when it is a hobby.

This includes the information you share, the images you post and the niggling worry that if you hand over too much, your Secret Sauce will be discovered and then you will be out of a job.

All this fear and worry can be crippling when it takes hold. Maintaining an open-heart and giving attitude can help stop this from happening.

When you decide to share freely and openly, you are basically saying 'NO' to Fear.
Fear that if you share or give too much, that it will be taken away by others.

People who are unscrupulous will always be there, and they usually find a way to break into your house and take stuff anyway. While they might take some of your valuables, and mess things up a bit, they can never take the things that really matter from you.

Your creativity and your ideas. The magic 'X' factor and the unseen essence that makes you, YOU. It's your choice as to whether you let Fear take that from you too. It takes positivity to rise above these kinds of situations. If you feel like you have to hold everything tight to your chest and ward off the vultures that come to steal the precious jewels with a big stick, then you will become more focused on what you stand to lose than what you have to gain.

By being open-hearted and giving, you automatically change your outlook and you can look forward to the GOOD stuff. This is a state of mind you will create within yourself. I am not saying that you need to tell everyone where you source your supplies or answer the incessant questions of strangers. They can do their own research and homework, it's good for them. It's also not what you are in the business of doing, so you should feel no obligation to answer those questions.

People will always ask, they are curious. And you can decide you want to mentor others if you wish - that's your call and you probably have the wisdom to know who to help, and who is going to cut and run as soon as they have the goods.

But don't be afraid to share yourself, your heart and the creativity that flows from it. Don't be afraid that you can incidentally inspire others. Be gracious and be secure in your own work.

Once you realize that there is room enough for everyone and that the biggest threat to your success is your own fear and doubt, you will find that your energy is abundant because it is coming from a place of love, positivity, and productivity. And that is your real Secret Sauce.


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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Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Annie, a Waldorf-Inspired Doll + Resources and Tips

I have really enjoyed my adventure in designing and making little Waldorf-inspired dolls so far. It has been something I have wanted to try for quite some time. I don't think I would have been able to pick it up as quickly, if I hadn't already had a lot of dollmaking experience. That's what I love about making a lot of different items over time - each one often teaches you skills that you can then go and apply to a completely different sewing project.

I consider Annie my first-ever proper waldorf-inspired doll. She was a little wool-filled head, rolling around my desk for months. That might sound a little gruesome, but I promise you it really isn't. Annie's head moved interstate with us, and I found it when I was unpacking - a month or two later.

Note here to say that if you have ever moved a considerable fabric and creative supply stash any distance, you will know how long it takes to unpack everything!

Inspired to turn the little head into a little doll, I made Annie. She took a little while to get her clothes as I wasn't quite sure what style she needed. Eventually, I chose a sensible bloomer and blouse combination as she had an adventurous spirit and I thought clothing she could run, climb and play in trees with would be most suited. She also has a backpack to put her treasures in.

I like making my dolls to be simple and childlike. Of course you can be any age and love dolls - at one point in our life, we have all had a connection to a favourite doll or teddy bear. I think these memories are often reignited in adulthood when we come across softies and toys. For me, it's important a doll can be interactive if she is purchased or made for a child. So Annie's clothing, headband, shoes, socks and backpack are all removable.

It's fair to say I have had a reasonable amount of questions about my waldorf-inspired dolls - especially for those who are eager to try making one themselves. As a maker, I do like to have my little black book of secrets, but as most of them are involved in my own unique processes, I have created a small resources page you can now find here on the blog - with links to books, blogs, websites and some shops that I particularly love. 

The resources page has information not only for those wanting to adventure into the world of waldorf-inspired doll making but also a list of my favourite business tools and craft books.

You can find it here - if you know someone who would find this page useful, please direct them back here, to my blog as I would love for more people to enjoy my work.

Back to Annie - I am currently taking a break from selling my work (finished dolls and sewing patterns alike) - If you would like to support my little business and are interested in purchasing a Dolly Henry doll, simply subscribe to the list here and you will receive all the latest updates on all things Dolly Henry (blog posts included)


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Monday, 10 September 2018

Here and Now | September 2018

I haven't been blogging a lot this year, so it feels like forever since I joined in one of the lovely Here & Now linkups with Say! Little Hen. I always enjoy this link-up as the prompts are a great way to pay attention to some of the little things I have been up to lately.

Spring is here, according to the calendar. We've enjoyed and gratefully received a couple of early Spring storms - quite a spectacular show was had on Friday night. The lightning was magnificent and the wind was more than a little wild. Henry (my Shih Tzu x ) was a little bit alarmed when his bed outside went flying into the yard. He looks a little bit like Toto so I guess it's okay for his furniture to have a Wizard of Oz like experience.

I'm finally starting to settle in a little bit to our new area, we have been in NSW since Christmas time last year and I still don't feel like I know which way is up or down sometimes. It's amazing how many little things you know about your local area or the faces that are familiar at the checkout - you don't realize this until you up and move hundreds of kilometers to resettle. 

Some lovely local ladies have started a very informal craft group - meeting at a local cafe for an hour or two to just sit and enjoy some knitting. It's a reminder to me how much craft and creativity can serve to connect us, especially at a time of displacement. I must admit I have really enjoyed these craft sessions and the fact it has helped me feel a little more rooted in my new community has helped a great deal.

Hazel, ever the center of attention

Because I can't exactly take along the sewing machine, I have been knitting or crocheting while we chat and have taken to trotting a couple of the dolls along for a bit of show and tell. Hazel is of course in her element - she loves being the center of attention but last week, it was the Waldorf doll's turn. It did feel a bit strange walking around town with a basket of dolls in hand!

With Spring, the garden has had a bit of a bloom and some gigantic hares have hopped by - thankfully they seem to have a complete disinterest in the lettuce - touch wood!

As a treat, I have purchased a couple of beautiful posies to bring some colour inside. Not that there isn't enough colour, with all the fabric and pencils getting around here, but for some reason, I absolutely love gorgeous bouquets of blooms. The bouquet below was grown locally and without chemicals, something I was so excited to learn. The center purple flower that looks rose-like is, in fact, edible kale. Fascinating!

Finally to my Here and Now

Loving // the warmer weather - even though my feet still need socks and the teacups still need warming before the tea leaves go in!

Eating //  Cauliflower soup and a 'white' pizza - consisting of a sourdough base, caramelized onions, a cream sauce, rosemary, lemon thyme, preserved lemon, and parmesan cheese.

Drinking // Herbal teas to help with my water intake on these still-cool days

Feeling // Like I have a lot of things I want to achieve this week!

Making // Sauerkraut - I have never made it before and I can't wait to see what it is like!

Thinking // That in NSW I will prefer summer, as opposed to North Qld where I definitely preferred winter!

Dreaming //  Of days at the beach, toes wriggled into warm sand and cool, clear ocean waters

What's been going on in your here and now?


Share with a Here & Now post of your own, either on your blog, Instagram or even in the comments below! It's a fun way of documenting the little things month to month, and also a good way to get the words flowing again if you're feeling a bit stuck with your blogging. See here at Say! Little Hen

Saturday, 8 September 2018

From Winter into Spring

Winter has slowly melted into Spring, with the days growing lighter, earlier. I've been looking forward to the coming warmth, and Spring storms, two of which we have been lucky to experience in the first week of September. With our only water supply a rainwater tank, it is with gratitude that I receive the first rains of the season. 

A few early mornings in late August, possibly brought on by a burst of full-moon creativity gave me the chance to enjoy the calm quiet of the early hours, and see the sun rise over the hills, highlighting the dew drops on the garden, turning simple leaves into sparkling jewels. Captured in time through the lense of my camera.

Creatively, I've been enjoying just pottering about. Stitching on some new designs and leaving a lot of ideas on the pages of my sketchbooks. Fresh posies of beautiful flowers from local farms are a welcome treat, filling the house will colour and joy.

Spring is here, the birdsong has changed and the winds are warmer. However, the frosty mornings and need to wear socks all day tells me that Winter hasn't quite said goodbye just yet.

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Good, Not Perfect - Selling Your Work Online

I was listening to a podcast, late at night last week in an attempt to fight off a sudden bout of insomnia. It didn't work, but as I listened sleepily to the discussion on selling your creative work online, there was one part that I found particularly relatable.

The fact that 10 years ago, it was a lot simpler to publish your work online and earn sales, then it is in 2018. Back then, Etsy was new and the whole internet was quite a different place than it was now. There was not a lot of competition and like many things in their infancy, the whole thing was a lot more exciting!

This drew me back to my own experiences, the first items I made and sold online. It was fairly easy to share your work, and I was lucky to grow a small audience quite quickly. It was a community. Everyone was so new at the whole make-it-and-sell-it game that it didn't matter my photos were totally dodgy. I look back now and laugh at items that sold out instantly - the product was good, the photos were bad. Very bad.

The thing was - everyone else's looked like that too. Filters were applied a little too liberally - I remember one item I sold vividly. The photo was cropped with curly frames and the effect I applied had a snow-like grain to it, in an attempt to try and make the whole photo look 'better'.

But it didn't matter - nobody had excellent photos, and the pressure was relatively non-existent. It was easy for people to find you - the community was a lot smaller and social media didn't have the algorithm issues. So making, selling and promoting your work was a fairly simple process.

I saw a post on Instagram recently, a clever little sketch depicting a character all excited to share his art online. He was excited because the internet made it easy for him to share his work with others. Except when he checks it out, he is so daunted by the high-quality standard of the work other people are sharing, their thousands of followers and photography, he is too afraid to share his work.

This is an excellent example of comparison stealing joy. The comic strip was very relatable, it's true. It does feel like you have to be a professional photographer in order to sell your work online now. An expert on Instagram. A whiz at marketing. You feel like you can't share your work or somehow, it isn't as good because you don't have the skills to compete with such glossy imagery.

This is sad. The need to be 'better better better' and the advertisements in your newsfeed telling you 'that you too can reach 1000 sales overnight or earn a 10-figure income off your handmade pineapple purse' has created so much pressure for creatives that are already experienced, let alone the new artists dipping their toe in the water for the first time.

Don't listen to the noise. It is indeed wonderful that you can take your work and share it on the internet, and reach someone in another country. Don't let the fact that you are new and still working things out stop you. Don't let one account with 20k+ followers daunt you - they started years ago and they started when the social platforms made it easier to accrue those numbers. A lot of people are swayed by vanity metrics but that's all they are - vanity metrics. They aren't the numbers that matter.

There is no hard and fast rule - some people might try to convince you that there is. But if you shut up like a clam and don't put yourself out there, you are not going to be any closer to achieving your dreams.

Acknowledge to yourself that you are learning, embrace the exciting stages of learning something new. I never used to touch the camera, was afraid of how it made my work look 'crappy.' One day, I decided the only way I was going to improve was with a lot of practice. And that improvement is something that never stops. You only stop improving when you stop learning. And we will never stop learning.

Now I really enjoy photography and reaching new stages in my work. It's become creative for me, the process itself is quite fun. The more I look around, the more I have come to see how many different kinds of photography there is. It's taken me nearly 3 years of constant clicking away and experimenting to reach the point where I feel happy with the quality of my photos. There has been so much trial and error! And I should mention here that I am not a patient person.

So forget the hustle, hustle, hustle and just start. Enjoy the journey. Remind yourself that everyone who is now experienced was once a beginner. You only have to go back to the beginning of someone's Instagram account to see that once upon a time, their work didn't look as 'amazing' as it does now. But they persisted, and it's that ability to accept the process that will in time, allow you to improve your work as a creative and add to your skillset.

The pressure is only higher if we allow it to be. The pressure that comes with comparison, comparison who delights in robbing hearts of joy and in the process, murdering creativity.

Learn to be okay with good enough, trusting that in time your version of good will change and adapt as you continue to grow as a maker and an artist.


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