Monday, August 17, 2015

Olive's Doll -- My First Waldorf

I've been thinking about and studying up on Waldorf dolls for a few years now.  I've made a lot of dolls in the past, from corn husk dolls and knitted dolls to rag dolls and dolls made from felted sweaters.  But a Waldorf doll is special, yet open to lots of creative interpretations.

Waldorf dolls are a part of the Waldorf School tradition, founded on the philosophies of Rudolph Steiner in Germany in 1919.  Steiner believed in practical and creative education, based on play and imagination -- my kind of school -- and opened his first school at the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Company in Stuttgart for the children of the factory employees.  Waldorf-style schools still thrive around the world, and many charter schools in the US follow the Waldorf paradigm.

The basic idea of Waldorf dolls is that they are to be played with.  A lot.  They are traditionally cloth dolls, made with stockinette fabric stuffed with wool roving.  The faces are sculpted with heavy thread, then covered with a jersey-type knit fabric.  Facial features are either embroidered or painted on, then hair is stitched on.  If you google "Waldorf dolls", you will get thousands of photos of unique dolls, some with perfect hair and features, some more free-form.  Dolls are sold on Etsy and other sites for hundreds of dollars.  Speaking of Etsy, I purchased a kit from Reggie's Dolls for my first attempt.  I received all the traditional supplies I needed -- stockinette, knit, roving, heavy thread, ball-point needle for my machine, and a cute little crayon for her cheeks.  Plus, Reggie was so helpful with my questions, guiding me in the right direction.  I relied on the internet for the body pattern, but think I could probably sketch out my own for next time, or for bigger or smaller dolls.  There are no hard and fast rules -- the goal is to make a doll that will be loved and played with.

So, here she is.  I think I'll call her Red until Olive gives her another name:

Of course, I planned to take a lot of pictures during the process, but once I got going (and other things, like a flooded basement interfered!) I just forgot.  But here are the body parts cut out of the jersey knit:

And some stitching on the arms.  One hint I read was to use a zigzag stitch, so I did.  Next time, I'll use only straight stitching -- I don't like how there are tiny gaps between the zigzags when the body is stuffed.  Not awful, but a little annoying.    

Stuffing the body with wool roving was perhaps the most enlightening thing about making the doll -- for years, I have used the polyester "fluff", but the roving feels better, doesn't squeak and keeps the shape of the limbs and body just like you want them.  Does that make sense?  Just know that is it far superior to squeaky fluff, and I'll be using it all the time now.

I re-did her head several times to get the facial expression I wanted -- I would like her to be a little "smilier" still, but I think she's pretty cute.  

For her hair, I crocheted a little cap, then stitched it to her head, then threaded hair into the cap.  I don't know if Olive's hair will be red like this (the little bit she has is currently strawberry blonde), but I just really liked this color and the texture of the yarn.

Her dress was from a pattern from Reggie, but I messed up the sleeves twice and decided to make it sleeveless.  I had this fabric in my workroom, and the rickrack is from a big box of vintage trims my pal, Richard, gave me after his mother passed away -- it makes me happy to be able to use her things.  I added two snaps on the back. I crocheted Red's shoes and beret, and knit her little sweater using a pattern from Bamboletta -- it's a little big.  I was knitting on the sweater in the evenings before the body was completed, so I didn't do much measuring.  Next time, I'll be more careful.  I also made her some little panties, because I think all dolls should have them, right?

Does this look weird?  

Here she is, in all her finery.  She likes to hang out in the camper.

 I also added a little label on her back:

And I took Red to the fair, where she won a blue ribbon.  OK, so she was the only doll in her category, but Clay says she would have won the blue anyway.  He is nice.  

(See how her little beret looks like an olive?  Tee-hee.  I bought this great olive green yarn at Shabby Sheep and Ewe in Columbus, a sweet little shop -- it's a sport weight held with a mohair-like yarn to get the fuzzy look.  I wish I could tell you the brands, but I misplaced the ball bands.)

So, Red will be Olive's birthday present, and now it is time to start thinking about Abby's.  Chestnut brown hair, coral dress?  Gold sweater and hat?  I think, if I didn't have any other things to do, I could sit and make dolls all the time.  Maybe someday I will do just that.


P.S.  Here are some other sources for dolls or supplies:  BambolettaNova Natural Toys and CraftsMagic Cabin,  Bella Luna ToysPaluma Inspired LivingWeir Crafts This Child of Mine, and  A Child's Dream.


  1. Awesome. I'll never even attempt this so I am amazed by your talent, vision and perfection.

  2. What an adorable doll and to think this is only your first. Happy doll making !!! And thank you so much for your kind words and the link to my shop. Dolly hugs!

  3. I saw you in line at the Fair to turn your doll in. She is just adorable. I LOVE dolls - especially homemade ones. I've made lots of them.

  4. Georgie I day it all the time but you are THE most talented person I know. I wish I could do half of what you do. You totally rock,!

  5. I love Red! Can I take seeing lessons. I'm trying to sew curtains for Louise and I'm struggling!

    1. Of course! I was planning on holding some sewing sessions in October, but I can get you sewing curtains ASAP!