Just as I never intended for this blog to become a record of child-based home improvements, I similarly never intended for what few craft activities I do have time for to be solely those for dolls or made on a miniature scale.
But here we are. The time available for making stuff (I resist saying ‘crafting’. It sounds American. Not to say pretentious and a bit wrong) is very limited. And the benefits of making things that are small are manifold. They are fast! And cheap! And require little time or space. And mentally, they are easier to start, since they feel risk free. After all, if halfway through your double-bed-size patchwork quilt, you decide you’re not so keen on the design after all, you’re really in quite a bit of trouble. Whereas anything for a doll… well, as my friend Jo said, ‘Dolly doesn’t mind‘. And she’s right.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Dolly (in this case, ‘Baby Isla’) looks rather snug and pleased with herself. As well she should, as she reclines upon a dolls’ bed that is spray painted, with a hand-made mattress, removeable sheet, pillow, pillowcase, patchwork quilt, and crochet blanket, if you please.
I definitely didn’t start personalising this bed intending it to become some kind of kitsch handmade in miniature exercise. But I seem to have got rather carried away. Bear with me. To begin with, I started making bedding partly to personalise the bed (the fabulous value but rather plain Ikea dolls’ bed that almost everyone I know seems to own) but also in order to practise with my new sewing machine. I could remember vaguely how to sew, but didn’t want to start anything too scary or expensive until I felt more confident. Similarly, I had some hazy aspirations to make patchwork quilts, but didn’t know where to start. Sewing this little quilt was a great way of overcoming a mental hurdle and realising it was all quite simple, whilst also learning how to sew binding on, how to quilt, and also a good way of making some mistakes in a place that didn’t really matter.
I was guided in my making by the memory, as ever, of what I would have liked as a little girl. I was in some ways, a serious and exacting child, so specifically, this meant no shortcuts. I covered the foam mattress with an old pillow case, then painstakingly sewed an elastic-cornered, removeable spotty sheet. (So far, of course, none of the girls has ever shown any interest in taking it off, or indeed done anything that betrays they’ve even noticed it is removeable…) In making the sheet, I discovered that there is a reason why sewing instructions say ‘press seams open’. Which was funny, as I’d evidently previously thought that they just put this in for fun. But I digress….
And then I learnt to crochet. I went to a totally fabulous local course where a whole bunch of us learnt to crochet, and another group learnt to knit. The process of sitting down and focussing, coupled with being creative, and with learning a completely new skill and seeing it come on steadily every week (not to mention the chat, the tea and the cake), was so brilliantly therapeutic and enjoyable that I’ve signed myself up again next term to learn to knit.
I found myself wanting to crochet something, thinking of blankets, thinking of king size throws, musing on organic wool and bamboo/ cotton blends … and once again contemplating potential expense and time in slightly melancholy fashion. I also found I really wanted to make something with ‘granny squares’, but realised that I didn’t necessarily really like many of the things that are made in this design. And the answer to all of these things, naturally, was more dolls’ bedding.
There was another advantage, too, which was that I was pretty sure the girls would love it. I had started to notice how Rosa and India would consistently use the dolls’ patchwork blanket in their games, removing it from the bed and spreading it out on the floor as a ‘picnic blanket’ usually. But when it came time to tidy up, I would often retrieve it from some corner of the room where it had been tucked, and it seemed to me that they would enjoy having another blanket to use in their endless round of teddy picnics, and princess parties.
I followed a tutorial online to make a rectangular blanket as I felt very strongly that I didn’t want it to be square. The tutorial was a bit scary (alarming manicure, but perhaps I am too closed-minded about these things) but very simple. Once I’d done the rectangular centre, I could happily treble my way around and around and around, in a soothingly mindless way, in the car, in front of the TV, anywhere… I found there was something rather meditative about it.
I am most pleased with the colours. Which is funny, really, since they were completely serendipitious. Which is to say, unplanned. I bought a bag of small rainbow odds and ends and just crocheted them together depending on what size the balls were, and whether I thought I’d have enough to do another round or not. I love them. I would never have combined these myself, but I not only like the way they look together, I also love how they go with the rainbow colours I already have on the dolls’ bed. This close up (above) is rather pleasing to me. Like a landscape of wool. Or a geometrically pebbly beach.
So there we have it. I learnt to crochet. I love it. I have added ‘make crochet things’ to the end of my long list of things I would like to spend more time on. The girls love it. Rosa spotted it as soon as I put it out, and gravitated towards it shouting, “Oh wow!” in what I can only describe as a highly gratifying manner. I do fully intend that at some point in the future, my entire house might be as beautifully appointed as this dolls bed. Perhaps my sofas will be piled high with crocheted blankets, my beds heaped with patchwork, and lovingly covered with handmade sheets.
At some point.
Until then, a bientot.