Magic needles



Saturday 27th July

Saturday saw the second of our two workshops with Kathryn Thompson, doll-maker, sewing teacher and all-together lovely lady.  As we unpacked assorted body parts, Kathryn was keen to check that we had completed our homework and that everyone had achieved the correct amount of stuffing.  No time for idle chit-chat, we were soon attaching limbs to torsos using some scarily big needles.

If we had thought that fingers were difficult, nothing had prepared us for heads and faces.  First we were given a refresher course in drawing and the relative proportions of eyes, noses and mouths.  We needed a few practice runs on plain paper before we were let loose on cloth.  Once we had stuffed the heads, making sure that noses remained filled with polyester, we traced an outline of the face onto the head using a soft brown pencil.  Taking another magic needle and some strong thread, we followed a doll-maker's version of join-the-dots adding little stitches here and there to give contours to the face - bringing it to life.

Now Kathryn has been making dolls for many years and she has amassed a vast array of coloured pencils, pigment pens, gel pens and other mark-making tools that she uses to create faces.  None of this is any good without years of experience colouring faces.  And so we came to her with our pudgy dolls heads, with their asymmetric features caused by inexpert stitching and with a few stokes of a pencil she had transformed them into glorious personalities.

With heads attached, we could now see the possibilities of our dolls.  Miss Haversham emerged with greying locks, a Geisha sat serenely in the corner, an ice maiden glistened with glitter pen make-up and a Spring sprite suddenly adopted hair which Amy Winehouse would have been proud of!

Our dolls are not quite finished but the photo shows what can be achieved with some magic needles and a very good teacher.  Thank you Kathryn!

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