Doll Class Dolls and Wildlife

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July 26, 2006: I have completed the fifth and last doll for the Cloth Doll Making for Everyone class  by Judi Ward. Here she is:


Senorita Catalina Cortez

Catalina is a working member of a successful wine-making family in Spain. Her Tio Roberto Lopez, the patriarch of the family is pressuring her to accept the marriage proposal of one of several of her suitors because the match will benefit the wine making business. Catalina is an independent thinker and she jumped at the chance to travel to America on a Public Relations tour on behalf of her family's excellent wines and to escape from Tio Roberto's  urging her to take a step she has no intention of taking.   She is traveling by ship and in this picture you see her dressed for the Captain's Ball. Her underwear is made of black lace. Her dress is made of peau de soie with an overskirt of organza, an adaptation of Judi Ward's pattern. It has a beautiful neckline with a deep dip in the back. The dress bodice is lined with a coordinating satin in the color seen on the little evening bag she is carrying. The bag is made of the dress and lining fabric, and is embellished with a tiny black organza bow and a red bead.  Beaded trim is at the waist, on the crown of the mantilla and on her shoes. She is wearing a beaded necklace and earrings. Her face is one I originally made for Susannah and glazed it with a color change that made it unsuitable for pink "skin." I saved it and made Catalina's body of doe skin velour in a color called bamboo that coordinates with her face color. Her face is flat, that is, not needle sculpted, and is painted with acrylics. She has beautiful green eyes. This doll has invisible button joints and fully articulated fingers and her fingernails are painted. She is actually standing alone! It takes some balancing, but she can do it. Her head is attached to her neck in such a way that her head can be turned from side to side.


In this back view you can see the almost-to-the-waist dip in the neckline. What doesn't show, is that the lining color peeps out like decorative piping on the neckline. I am also disappointed that her hair doesn't show.

In this final lesson Judi really encouraged us to begin to branch out and begin to experiment. I made Catalina's wig myself using directions from a class by doll designer Kathy Hays that she generously shared with members of the doll making forum to which I belong. I felted wool into a pate, or scalp piece and then felted the ends of long tresses of black mohair to the pate. It was easy to fit the wig to the doll's head because the pate can be stretched a little or a tuck can be taken and felted in. I even felted the hairline in front to make sure the hair looks like it is growing out of the head. I arranged her hair in a large chignon, a style suitable to the Spanish costume. I kept her trim simple because I love beautiful fancy cloth and I wanted the fabric on this doll to sing.

doll's shoe

Catalina is wearing lace covered opera pumps with heels and beaded trim that matches the trim on her dress and mantilla. This technique involves putting clay in the foot of the doll and sculpting the shoe shape, baking it and then painting the style of shoe. Many styles of shoes can be made using this technique of Judi Ward.

the five dills

Here they all are, Catalina standing on the table, Angelique back left, Maria in front of her, Susannah on the right and Jennifer front and center, as usual.

By now part of the fascination of making dolls should be evident, one must be able to sew, paint, sculpt in several mediums, must be a wig maker, a hat maker, a cobbler, a designer. I have finished this particular course, but I have only just begun to make dolls.

I forgot to mention in the last entry that the most of the male humming birds left on July 16th. Many of the females are still here and a few males, plus those beginning to pass through. I estimate that we have about half the hummers we had earlier. Migration always starts before I think it should. I will miss those little jewels when they are all gone, but not all the work they had me doing to keep so many of them fed this summer!

July 20, 2006
: A lot has happened in the month since my last update.

Farris and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary by going to the Boar's Head Inn Resort in Virginia and taking just about everything their Spa had to offer, two whole days' worth. I called it our Fiftieth Anniversary Rewards and Indulgence Week. And were we indulged! The Inn had a chilled bottle of champagne and a box of Belgian chocolates (Truffles) waiting when we arrived in our suite. A gift package of spa goodies from Camilla and George awaited us. The next day (our actual anniversary) a beautiful cheese, berry and cracker plate was delivered with a bottle of pink champagne and a bouquet of flowers arrived, all from Camilla and George. Lynette and Ray sent a dozen Talisman roses, the kind of roses I carried in my wedding bouquet. When the Spa staff found out why we were there we were patted, petted and pampered for two days straight. Camilla and George joined us for dinner on our anniversary and at the end of the meal a special cake was brought out....again courtesy of Camilla and George. We spent a day at their serene and lovely home before coming back to Texas.   My brother Ed house-sat and took care of our birds, deer and cats, a truly wonderful gift of worry free days for us. When we got home, Mitch and Tresa came down especially to take us out to dinner so the celebration continued. It was a wonderful observation of a real milestone.

Wildlife notes: We have seen a red fox trot though our yard twice this month and a gray fox passed through the yard this week. The barn swallows were very busy at the nest while Ed and I were sitting out on the porch. They line their nest with feathers and I took some pictures of that activity:

barn swallow
Barn Swallow feathering its nest
 (couldn't resist that)

The bucks have been coming up to the yard most afternoons and Ed and I enjoyed watching them. There is a protocol among them. The big guy comes first and checks out the situation, then the buck with the next biggest rack comes up and so on. Here are my latest pictures of the bucks:


two bucks

This is Big Daddy

Number two buck in front, Big Daddy in back. Aren't they beautiful? They are still "in velvet."

I took both of the above pictures  through a window because the bucks are too cautious to come up this close when we sit out on the porch.

I am leaving the previous entries up because the teacher of the doll making course I am taking has been on vacation and I need to direct her here to see the dolls as I finish them. I have completed the fourth level doll; only one more to go and I will have completed this course. It has been challenging and fun and I am learning so much!


Jennifer may look like a blonde and blue eyed little darling but in reality she is an opinionated little vixen. We had several arguments while I was constructing her clothes. Because of the 105 degree days we were having Jennifer balked at having a petticoat and long sleeves with elastic and lace. Having some concern about heat stroke if she were dressed in the usual petticoat, long sleeved dress and in this case, pinafore, and pantaloons, I agreed to drop off the petticoat, and compromised by giving her looser 3/4 length sleeves.  She didn't want shoes and that was okay because that was mentioned as allowable in the class instructions. Jennifer flatly refused the pantaloons; I told her that I would flunk the course if I kept dropping everything off, so we compromised again, but I think in reality she won. Although propriety precludes showing it, Jennifer is wearing a beribboned and lacy little thong. This doll has fully articulated fingers and little stitched toes. She didn't want nail polish but I talked her into a very light color named Sea Lily so her little finger and toe nails are painted a pale pink. Her dress is of muslin with embroidery on the sleeves and collar, and lace at the hem. Her pinafore has colored metallic stars on the fabric and it is enhanced with lace, ribbons for ties, and the same flowers as the one at the collar of her dress. Her hat has a muslin crown and the floral fabric brim is enhanced with a tiny organdy bow and three more of the little flowers.


Jennifer is wearing a purchased doll wig. Her arms and legs are invisibly button jointed. She has real eyelashes. Her face is lightly needle sculpted and her pert little nose is made with clay inside that has been baked, a new technique taught in this lesson. Her face was painted with make up and colored pencils and her eyes were painted with pastel pencils .

The last doll in this course is dressed more formally and wears high heels! Back to the studio and the sewing machine!

June 20, 2006: We had a Painted Bunting at a feeder this week. We seldom see them. They like millet seeds and we don't put those out because they attract cowbirds that pirate song bird nests. I sometimes hear the buntings  up on the hill behind the house. Each evening this week as I have been in my studio working on my doll for the class I am taking, I have been treated to visits by eight or nine young bucks. They come  near to the house as they graze on the forbs in the yard. I took this picture through the window:

young buck

Buck "in velvet"

I ask the indulgence of those of you who just aren't into dolls. If you stay with me through the next few entries, you may see and hear more about them than you want, but I belong to a group who make dolls and they sometimes come to see the dolls that are posted. I also direct my teacher here to see the dolls I have made for the class I am taking. When I get enough of them I will put up a doll gallery and then my readers can choose whether they want to visit dolls there.

Before I introduce my latest doll, a word of explanation for those not so familiar with cloth dolls. When you view cloth dolls, you often see seams in the faces, seams in the arms, seams lots of places. This is a fact of life of cloth dolls, and the seams are perfectly acceptable as long as they are neatly crafted. There are ways to hide the seams but they make the doll face and sometimes the head hard and subject to denting or damage, although there are some wonderful dolls made that way. I just haven't learned to do it yet. I finished the third level doll in the Cloth Dollmaking for Everyone course taught by Judi Ward. Here she is:


This is Susannah. She went for a walk early this morning to gather wild flowers and I snapped her picture
when she paused to rest after climbing the hill back to the house.

Susannah's clothes are more fitted than the previous doll clothes, her hands are more articulated with three separate fingers. Her arms and legs are button jointed and her head is a different style from the previous dolls. Her face is painted with acrylic paint after the head is stuffed. I found that quite a challenge--ever try painting with water based paint on cloth filled with polyfill stuffing and not lose control of the painting? Susannah has tiny little ears; that was another challenge--ever try sewing curves on a lightly stuffed shape about the size of a dime? Twice? And make them match? Although they do not show, Susannah wears pantaloons like the other dolls and they match her printed blouse. Susannah's fingernails were supposed to be painted, but she wasn't having any of that, she said she wasn't the type to use anything but clear polish.

This close-up is included to show  more details of her face painting

Detail of her eye, showing the texture of the fabric, in this case the "wrong  side" of velour, and showing the varied colors in her eyes.


Susannah's hair is sewn on and is made of eyelash yarn. Her style is a bit different from the other two dolls in that she has bangs and her hair is pulled up from the sides to the back and tied with the ribbon.

One of the best benefits of this class I am taking is the people I am meeting. Judi advised me to join Friends of Cloth Dolls, an online doll making group with 2000 + members from all over the world. When I joined I was welcomed by an email from Kate Erbach, a tremendously talented and prolific doll maker. She teaches doll making classes in person and online and has some marvelous pictures of her dolls posted here. Kate makes figurative and caricature dolls and art dolls and all kinds of dolls, including lovely dolls with heads made of gourds.  Especially look at her dolls of color and her original dolls. The beaded faces of her most recent dolls are the best I have seen anywhere. She also develops and publishes original doll patterns and they can be found at Cloth Doll Patterns here and at Dollmakers journey here, and at Joggles here . Kate and I have become cyber friends; at one time she lived in a small town and, remembering how hard it is to get supplies, she generously sent me a care package consisting of a beautiful box of all kinds of doll making goodies. The trims you see on Susannah's vest and shoes are courtesy of Kate.

Well, I have two more dolls to make for this class, so I am heading for the studio again this morning. Until next time, do something you really enjoy!

June 07, 2006: It is way past time that I put up a new entry. We have had loads of company this spring and other things....I will tell you about those in a moment.

In terms of the wildlife at The Lair this spring, we finally saw a beautiful bald eagle fly over the place a few weeks ago. This is the first one we have seen from our house in about three years. I don't know why. We used to see them fairly regularly, although not frequently. The barn swallows successfully raised a new little swallow under the eaves of the front porch. We saw it shortly after it fledged and now the three of them sail around the place after bugs. They are so beautiful in flight with their blue-black backs and forked tails. A huge red tailed hawk perched on top of the electric pole and I watched as a mocking bird attacked him again and again, often approaching him from behind and actually striking him on the tail sometimes. The hawk didn't even bother to look around. We had a roadrunner run through the yard (couldn't resist saying that) and the mocking birds attacked him so mercilessly that he ran into a group of yucca to hide! I didn't know birds attacked roadrunners. We continue to have hundreds of Ruby Throated and Black Chinned humming birds at the feeders. We are using about 80 pounds of sugar per month for the hummers alone. They keep me busy refilling six feeders daily.

I love to go out on the porch just before the Sacred Hour of Sunset after a busy day and relax in the rocking chair and watch the wildlife and birds. Shortly before the sun sets the hummingbirds start a feeding frenzy in which they swarm the feeders and often skim right by my nose in their hurry for that last sip of nectar. The white winged doves, cardinals, Black Backed Lesser Goldfinches, House finches and red-wing black birds crowd the feeding areas and the deer are feeding on the corn just beyond the people gate out front. Then, as if a maestro has brought his wand down, all bird activity suddenly ceases and everything becomes still and quiet. I did hear one of my most favorite sounds just before the night stillness fell, the rising and waning of cicadas answering each other, a sound  that always made me happy in childhood because it meant that school was out and I had three whole months to enjoy nature and my pets and to swim and have fun with my friends and classmates without pesky homework intervening.

There must have been one side of me that didn't mind the homework, though, because I have loaded myself down with it again. I found something I have been searching for on  the Internet  for a good while. I found a website that offers self-paced online classes in cloth doll making--well, they offer other kinds of classes as well, but these are the ones in which I am interested.  What I like about these classes is that they do not require one to be at the computer on a certain day at a certain time for the class. The student  is able to download the class material after paying and registering and there is a place where one can post questions if needed and the teacher checks that site regularly and gives the help needed, and the whole class can benefit from her answer.  The student works at his/her own pace and then posts pictures of the completed dolls to the support address of the class and they are posted in the class "Alumni Hall" for other class members to see. The classes can be found here.

I signed up for the class called Cloth Dollmaking for Everyone taught by doll maker/designer Judi Ward. And was that ever a good move. Judi is a marvelous, thorough and very generous teacher. She has been making dolls professionally for about thirty years and in this class her goal is to give her students the techniques and knowledge that will enable them to work with patterns made by anyone, many of which assume the purchaser already knows a lot about making cloth dolls. Judi has a real talent for communicating what she wants her students to do and how to do it. I am fortunate indeed to have her as my teacher. To see some of Judi's beautiful dolls, visit her site here . Click on the thumbnails. My favorite is the one called Art Deco Elegance, first column toward the bottom. Don't miss this spectacular example of Judi's work.

In this class we make five cloth dolls, starting with a relatively simple one and each doll progresses in the level of complication of techniques taught. The student can interpret the pattern in her/his own way.  I just started and just finished my first and second level dolls. Here are the two dolls that I have made:



Her little horns indicate Angelique is undecided whether to be good
or just be herself.
(This is the level one doll.)

Angelique is very proud of her little silver sandals
because she didn't know that angels wear shoes!
(Adding the horns was my idea, from a memory of a little
toddler similarly costumed one Halloween.)



Maria is the second level doll. She has semi-articulated hands in that the fingers are delineated but not separated and the construction allows the hand to be posed.
Her body construction was more detailed than the previous doll and her face is embroidered and shaded with colored pencils.
Maria also has pantaloons and she is wearing stockings and shoes.

I have only been in this class a couple of weeks so you can see that Judi Ward has the ability to bring one along rapidly if the student will take the time and make the effort. As you see we not only make the dolls but their clothing as well.

After I "graduate" from this class (and believe me, I haven't lost a bit of the determination I had when I went after and got my Masters degree years and years ago and this means just about as much to me now as that did to me then.) I  will take one more single doll class from Judi and then will be ready for my main goal--that is, taking her Design Your Own Doll class and her Advanced class on the same subject. Judi also teaches classes on applying hair and painting faces, both of which I hope to eventually take, especially the hair one. Like I used to give my mother a hard time  when I was very small and she would do my hair, Maria gave me a hard time as well.

I am also continuing to learn to crochet dolls. Here is the latest:

crochet dolls

This little crocheted doll is known as a saftig doll, meaning dolls that are more shapely, not flat, sometimes even voluptuous.

I have another crocheted doll about half finished that is totally different and have set her aside temporarily so I can work on the doll classes. I do not find these crocheted dolls easy to make but the yarns are so beautiful and the techniques so fascinating I am willing to pay the price to learn. Noreen Crone-Findlay who wrote the book Creative Crocheted Dolls has around fifty dolls in there to make, but the wild ones are the ones I am working up to, of course.

Doll making is addictive and I am thoroughly hooked.

Until next time, happy summer!

Last revised: August 09 , 2006

Copyright 2001-2010 Rheba Kramer Mitchell. All rights reserved.