Embroidered Paper Doll DESIGN DIARY
Hi, thank you very much for stopping by... the development of this particular piece involved some unique challenges and I hope that you enjoy following the journey.
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It's hard to describe what happens when an adult lays eyes on a book or toy that was abandoned on the road to adulthood. It's a sensation that's frequently brought to the surface when Dad drags a dusty 'artifact' from a dingy, cobweb-draped corner of his attic. The same feeling often bubbles to the surface in Old Curiosity Shops (aka 'antique barns', 'flea markets' or 'junk shops').
Having passed many happy childhood hours with Paper Dolls, the concept of an embroidered doll has been tapping on my shoulder for several years. Who wouldn't want to design and stitch tiny costumes to clothe a delicate, nostalgic plaything? Unfortunately, no matter how insistent or compelling the desire, technical difficulties always overwhelmed my resolve.
The first, and definitely most difficult challenge, in creating an Embroidered Paper Doll is the fact that the doll and her clothes must fit one another.. a task that's sure to generate nightmares in the mathematically-phobic!
On the surface, it seemed so simple. Sketch a cute little doll and get stitching! Funny, isn't it, how simple things often cause us the most trouble.
There were so many early attempts And they'd all begun with the fun part... designing the clothes! Of course, this can't possibly be done without first conducting some thorough and exhaustive research :-) How many magazines, websites, books, posters, paintings, photographs does one need to scour before digging into a task like this? A handful? Dozens? Hundreds? For some strange reason, all this research produced lots of lists, a few sketches and no solid results. Okay, I have to admit it... for a while, the search became an end in itself! Unfortunately, I never managed to persevere beyond the realization that the next step involved creating a doll that fit the sketched clothing.
This time though was different... it began with the doll herself.
The following portion of the 'Embroidered Paper Doll' Design Diary deals with creating the doll herself and, consequently, contains no news about designing and stitching her clothing. If you'd like to move right along to the needlework portion of this diary, please click Dressing a Paper Doll.
You're still here! Good! Let's continue creating our little doll character...
As usual, it all began with considerable research and quite a bit of mess! Faces are enormously important and endlessly interesting to me... so that seemed a good place to begin. Hundreds were torn from magazines. Round faces; tanned faces; snooty faces; sinful faces. Faces with pouty lips and long-lashed Mary Quant eyes; faces that carried an arrogant "'aren't I just the most beautiful creature in the world" message and faces that held the innocence of a child.
Similar research went into establishing a pose. It was essential though that it met the needs of a stand-up Paper Doll... outstretched limbs would be flimsy, bend easily and break. And an extravagantly posed or contorted figure would make her clothing almost impossible to render (at a reasonable size) on a 14-count foundation. Oops, I forgot to tell you about that decision, didn't I? The quick explanation is that, similar to the little Fortune Tellers a stiff base that would be more durable than woven fabric, was required.
The next decision involved undergarments. A bra and briefs?... a little skimpy maybe. A lacy slip?... may limit clothing choices. A sexy, merry widow outfit with nylons and a garter?... perhaps not!
Since she didn't seem to suit long hair, I decided to give her a trim.
Remember that semi-circular, stand-up device (back on the image that shows 3 different undergarments)? It just didn't work...
We've pretty well covered the 'birth' of our little Embroidered Paper Doll. She's getting a little chilly though... let's find her some clothes.
To see full design and materials details, please click here.
If you'd like to see how other designs were developed, please click here.
To see other designs of particular appeal to children, please click here.
If you'd like to view my complete collection of needlework designs, please click here.