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Friday, July 4, 2014

Book Review: "Crafty Dolls" by Jane Bull

Published by Dorling Kindersley
American Edition 2014
Hardcover, 124 pages, $20.

A dollmaking book has to be really bad for me not to buy it. Even a bad one I'll buy for archival purposes if I can get it cheap enough. Because if you don't like the finished doll, you can change her face, or you can learn some new construction techniques. Or if you like the clothes, you can make them for other dolls in your collection. Or if you don't like the clothes, the basic shapes might be useful, or the ideas, or the presentation. So to miss out on all these opportunities a book must be just dreadful.

Happily, Crafty Dolls: Simple Steps to Sew and Knit Adorable Dolls is a very nice dollmaking book. Took me only about 30 seconds to decide I needed it. The presentation is wonderful--generous use of bright and lovely colors, great fabric choices, appealing lay-out, clear photographic instructions, high production quality. A huge amount of creativity is packed into these 124 pages--you get a lot of bang for your buck! Not only many different dolls, but many different kinds of dolls. What really sold me, though, was the level of detail. Pretty and clever details in the clothes, heaps of cute accessories, variations galore.

The book is divided into four sections. First comes the "Lottie rag dolls." There's a basic pattern for a simple doll that looks to finish about 13" to 14". Construction is illustrated with step-by-step photographs. Variations are given for a Lottie girl doll, boy dolls Billy and Jim, and a mermaid. Hair is done with felt shapes, face is embroidered.  Then comes lots of fun pages of clothing patterns--I just love the sweaters knitted with self-striping sock yarn so that they look like fair isle! Little satchels and shoes, cameras and scarves, bunny slippers and ballet toe shoes, tutus and fairy wings, pajamas and little felt dolls' dolls.  The section finishes with "topsy-turvy" dolls, Cinders and Cinderella, and Awake and Asleep dolls.

 The "Yarn Dolls" section begins with instructions to knit a doll that looks like yourself, with different versions shown, all fitted out with little clothes, necklaces, knitted bags, and miniature knitted works in progress. Or you can knit Pirate Pete, a Superhero,  make some characters out of old knit gloves, knit some tiny figures, either easy or harder versions, or even one of the traditional all-yarn dolls.

The "Dolly Mixtures" section shows different crafty-type dolls: Lavender sachet dolls, two different styles of pillow dolls, a miniature felt Lottie that looks to finish about 4", with clothes and a still smaller doll's doll, and little "Handy Dolls" meant to hold and protect small items.

The last section is "Knitting and Sewing Know-How," very appealingly presented and all illustrated with clear photographs pleasant to look at. There's even an index!

One disappointing thing about this book is that it never tells you what size the dolls should finish to. Yes, the finished size can vary with the dollmaker but we still need a ball-park indication--don't make us rely on guesstimations.  We have to have a size to shoot for in order to make sure that the clothes will fit. Not only that, but the same doll could seem cute and charming at 8" or 10", but annoyingly out-sized at 16" or 18".
The Lottie doll is an excellent starter for beginning dollmakers or sewist. The body is so simple that she might not interest more advanced dollmakers, but there is great compensating charm in her finished self, so cute and cleverly turned-out. I will very likely change the face somewhat--but then, from me that's a probability with any doll pattern.

Summary: Very well done, and highly recommended. Acquire and enjoy!

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