Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My Dolls - A Brief History!

I have been the creative sort for as long as I can remember, but began making various types of dolls commercially around 15 years ago now. (Before that I made them as 'keepers' or as gifts for friends and relatives for many, many years!) At the beginning I made wooden dolls dressed in American folk art style printed fabrics and homespun checks. (They used to sit well amongst the patchwork quilts that I also used to produce - I shall have to do a post about those one day!) I soon had more dolls than I could sensibly own myself or give as gifts, so I began to sell them on the craft fair circuit. This was a very successful time for me, especially during the months leading up to Christmas.
Unfortunately my dolls started to get copied by other stall holders. I know people say that this is a form of flattery, but when it is your only source of income, it feels annoying, frustrating and unfair. (Sorry, but its a pet hate of mine! It can take a long time to perfect a look and find the right market for creations. So when someone copies the whole package, it seems very unreasonable to me.)
It was then that I decided to move on to making other sorts of hand made dolls.
Rather than paying a lot of money for the new folk art fabrics, I started buying old clothes from jumble sales and recycling the fabrics. Old men's cotton check shirts were brilliant for this!

This little doll was one that I made many years ago for one of my daughters to give to her primary school teacher. She is dressed in the same blue checked summer dress that was the uniform for the school.
I soon moved on from recycled jumble fabrics and invested in authentic vintage ones as my funds began to swell from the doll sales.
My collection of antique fabrics amassed as I visited more and more fairs and flea markets. It was at this time that I began to make large rag dolls for an antiques shop in Bath.

These are some of my early designs from about 8 years ago. I loved making each one different and unique.

The owner of the shop liked the simpler red or blue French Vichy check dressed dolls best. Each one had a check dress, petticoat and long bloomers, as well as a C19th French linen jacket.
I made these for several years.....

And also some smaller angel dolls at Christmas time.
Here is an angel order that I completed one year.

I have recently stopped making the dolls for the shop (for various reasons), but I am now back doing what I love. This is making totally unique dolls, dressed in antique and vintage fabrics, so that who ever chooses to own one, knows that they have a one-of-a-kind item.

sorry I'm sold.............................sorry I'm sold.
I use the smaller angel size rag doll pattern for most of them, each one made with care and much thought.
But I also like to vary the collections with tiny dolls too.....
sorry I'm sold
And I have just created a larger version as an alternative.
These are available on my website today.

Sorry I'm sold.............................Sorry I'm sold
I have to be honest and say that after so many years of doll making, there are days when I don't feel like making them; especially when my RSI flares up in my wrist, from stuffing their limbs with toy filler so firmly!
It is on days like this that I love to try out new ideas.
Such as vintage wallpaper wrapped handmade soaps. Each one is decorated with vintage lace or ribbon, plus a vintage brooch; I spend many hours sourcing the brooches, because I need so many. I like to use them on lots of my handmade products, such as:

Padded coat hangers and my new range of brooch pillows - perfect for storing your brooch collection on!

Handmade bags are made with a variety of vintage fabrics, trims, buttons or flowers and more brooches too!

I am at my happiest when I am being creative, as many fellow bloggers are too. To all of you who appreciate the work created by artisans and craft workers I thank you for that. After all, in the mass produced world of today, a handmade treasure can bring a special touch to your wardrobe, home or garden, that high street goods just cannot do.


  1. Well Niki, I've been shopping.

    It was quite stressful, I felt like I had turned up at the first day of the sales at the most sought after shop in the kingdom but no one knew it had been opened except me .....

    I think I need a lie down to recover ...:)

  2. Anonymous11:08 am

    glad to see you back, but I can't get into the catalogue! Help!

  3. Anonymous11:39 am

    Your dolls are beautiful :) It was really interesting to see how your crafting has evolved over the years.

  4. Anonymous12:29 pm

    Lovely to see you back Niki and yes I've been shopping! Looking forward to receiving my jar of vintage fabrics and I am very tempted by one of the dolls but I will have to get in quick


  5. Got your newsletter today! That's how I found out that you are back here on your blog too! By the time I came online all the things I loved where already reserved. Looks like your fans have eagerly awaited the reopening of your webshop! You have a lot of packing and shipping to do now I see! Your dolls are so pretty and I can understand that you were mad when people started copying your work!
    Have a fabulous week!
    Carol xox

    LOL @ Ginny! :D

  6. Hi Niki,
    I appreciate the years of work,effort and imagination that have gone into your lovely creations. I too craft peg dolls, starting off years ago with very basic attempts helped by my children. It has taken years for me to perfect them by experimenting, giving them away to family and friends, etc. I hesitated about selling mine via ebay for the same reasons as you, I didn't want them copied! Best wishes and good luck for your return.

  7. Niki, your dolls are wonderful. Such attention to detail, right down to their dainty little feet. How wonderful to be able to create.
    Coll :-}

  8. Glory be, these are excellent!

  9. I love your dolls. I am so impressed with their faces and clothes... can you email me so I can talk to you more about them?

  10. Thank you all for your kind comments.

    And thank you Sue and Paul (Vintage to Victorian) for your support and encouragement - it means a lot!
    ;)) - back at you!
    Niki x

  11. Very cute dolls!!
    You are such a good artist.
    Thanks for sharing with us.

  12. Anonymous7:38 am

    Gorgeous stuff Niki, your dolls have quite a fan club out there. BTW next time your in Norfolk if your ever in Kings Lynn there is a little antique shop on the way to Blackfriars tower with hundreds of brooches. Not all vintage but all "pre-loved".Might be worth a look.

  13. Hello Niki - hope yuo had a good summer! Thanks for this post - it was beautiful (as usual) and very interesting. your dolls are gorgeous!!! I've been sitting here drooling over your photos!!!
    PS I see you've been jamming too!

  14. Just beautiful photos of everything-you are so talented!

  15. Hi Niki,

    How interesting to see your history of dollmaking! I'm not surprised your latest creations disappeared from your shop so quickly - I hope you have lots of energy for the months ahead and the run up to Christmas - I have a feeling you are going to be VERY busy!

    Clare x

  16. I started out making dolls too. You're so talented and have a wonderful way of giving each of them personality. Blessings... Polly

  17. Welcome back Niki. I loved your doll post. It's amazing how your doll business has changed through the years. Love your unique ones. Of course the brooch pillows are lovely as well as the padded hangers.

    Have a wonderful day

  18. As usual I am amazed by your talents Niki! these are stunning, I have dabbled a little myself with dolls in the past and it is sooo difficult and so time consuming, so I know exactly how much work you put into these,mine however were nothing like these beauties!

  19. Oh Sue these are so beautiful. Love the brooch pillows, what a lovely idea. Pay day is just around the corner - hurrah! What a talented woman you are.

  20. I love the reds and whites in your house and I love it on these last dolls. All your dolls are lovely and so beautifully dressed.


  21. Wow!
    What lovely dolls!!

  22. Anonymous3:02 am

    Your dolls are gorgeous, and I love those patchwork bags.

  23. it was nice to see all your post about your story. Sorry the time you were copied , I know how you felt as it happened to me too. But your doll as so unique that you can be happy to be so creative. I love people like you. Always trying something new.

  24. Anonymous10:54 am

    Your dolls are gorgeous and this was such an interesting post.

  25. So glad to see you posting again - your jam looks delicious & the dolls are just gorgeous!

  26. Hi Niki!! It was fun to learn how your dolls have evolved over the years. I love the one you did with the gorgeous laces...she is so special! and of course... I love that little Violet to bits....;)

    xoxo Heather

  27. I love the history of your dolls - I'm waiting for the day when someone doesn't get there first and I can actually bring one home to France - and the brooch pillows are very clever. I bought a stunning art deco brooch in York last week.

  28. OH my GOSH! I just love these dolls!!!! Just DARLING. I love dolls, too, and just did a whole blog post about it myself...fun to see dolls that you have MADE. Just lovely. Thanks for sharing these photos with us!

    cheryl :)

  29. I feel so fortunate to be home to one of your beautiful creations. She keeps me company whenever I am working in my studio.

  30. I love your beautiful dolls

  31. I've been reading about your dolls....and just want to say hi to a fellow dollmaker....


    from Canada

  32. complimenti le tue bambole sono bellissime a presto lù..

  33. que hermosas!!! yo tambien hace años que hago muñecas artesanales de trapo !!! te felicito!!!


Thank you for finding the time to visit me...
Niki xx