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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.

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NEWSLETTER

What Dollmaking Taught Me About Perfectionism

I spent many years staring at beautiful Waldorf style dolls before I finally decided to learn to make them too. There are so many different interpretations of these sort of dolls, with the only thing in common between doll artists being the techniques and materials used in this form of dollmaking.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks I overcame was oddly enough, not in the making process but in my mind when it came to adopting this style of dollmaking. I quickly realized I could easily suffer comparison syndrome and nipped it in the bud before it could take hold.



There are so many dollmakers working in the Waldorf/Steiner category. This type of doll is traditionally made using all natural materials (such as wool and cotton) with techniques drawn from European dollmaking. However, once the doll is made using materials (such as polyester filling or acrylic yarn) or in a style outside of those described in Steiner philosophies, they are usually given the term "inspired" rather than being a strictly traditional "Waldorf/Steiner' Doll.

This title is a great way to make it easy to describe the sort of doll you are creating to others, and also helps you find information in online searches, whether you wish to buy a doll or make one yourself. It is much easier to have keywords that can direct your search so you can find precisely what you need to. The term 'handmade doll' on its own is simply not specific enough, the sheer volume of different techniques used to make cloth dolls is overwhelming. Techniques which produce vastly different doll styles.


 So while 'Waldorf/Steiner Inspired' helps you in a search, I struggled with suddenly being put under a label, because even though there is a definite 'style' to these dolls, each dollmaker is unique and their creations aren't some stock standard item that can be compared or assessed.

With so many amazing, amazing dolls out there, I was pretty daunted when I set out to make my own. I was worried about what 'the masters' of the craft would think, or if people would compare my dolls to someone else's. Were my dolls any good? Did I make them properly? What is right and what is wrong?


None of these thoughts ever sprung to mind when I was making my cloth dolls, a style that has just as many variations in construction techniques and methods. I decided to stop worrying and focus on my dollmaking, my creative expression and my interpretation of this style.

Certainly, I deeply admire many other doll artists and derive great joy and inspiration from seeing their work. However, comparing my little dears to theirs is as silly as comparing children. Dollmaking is like painting, if you are brave, you can create organically from the heart and produce dolls that are representative of your own individuality - dolls that tell the story you intended.

Simply imitating or comparing is akin to painting by numbers - why produce a mediocre copy of a masterpiece when so much joy can be derived by bravely painting from your soul?

The joy I receive in making little cloth characters can be unsettled if I worry about silly little details - a result of my comparison to another's work. Whereas, when I remove the pressure of 'rules' or the opinions of others, I create authentically and produce a doll that is unique to me and my creative expression.




So much can be learned from this process. If my dolls nose is slightly off center, if her thighs are a little 'lumpy' or her torso longer than usual, I have learned to accept these 'flaws' as part of the dolls unique character and design. I use almost no pattern pieces or machine sewing when I make dolls this way. They are formed and shaped in my hands, and small errors, if that's what you want to call them, are part of that process.

For me, the doll shaped by human hands is conveying that very essence. Humans are by nature, imperfect. It's humbling and gratifying to know that even as we all have our own faults and physical shortcomings, so do the dolls we make.

They are little characters of cloth and thread. Made nearly entirely by hand, they mimic the human quality that we are all different - warts, lumpy thighs and all. That difference makes us the same, and the diversity and inconsistency among us is so very beautiful when we accept it, rather than feeling bad by comparing ourselves or our work to others.



Dollmaking has shown me so much and it's about more than fabric and stuffing. It's taught me to tell stories using needle and thread, to express my creative soul through tiny characters and that loving the imperfect is necessary to letting go and experiencing real joy.

Megan x

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4 comments

  1. And you really do tell the best stories with needle and thread. Your dolls are beautiful!

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    1. Thank you so much Lauren! You are so lovely and pretty magic with needle and thread yourself ☺️❤️

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  2. Yes to all of this. I used to make and sell Waldorf dolls, primarily as a way to fund my Waldorf doll making hobby. I discovered my own style was quite a natural style, simple I guess, though recently I have been needle felting and sculpting their faces.

    I had a hiatus in doll making and sewing in general for a bit but am slowly finding my desire to pick it up again. I discovered I loved the method of hand sewing my dolls and only machine sewing the clothing, though it is slower, I enjoy the mindfulness if the process. And like you I enjoy playing with my own patterns.

    I love each doll has their own story, little quirks and all. Just as we all do. That is the charm of a Waldorf doll I think.

    xx

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    1. Thank you Emma! It's such an 'organic' process isn't? There is something very magical about creating a doll in this way and I too find it very peaceful working away with just my hands, needle and thread. As a beginner at sewing I hated the slow speed of hand stitching but years later I actually love to be able to sit, away from a machine and just stitch away slowly! :-) Thank you so much for sharing your experience and thoughts! Megan x

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