Certainly you have heard of Hillary Lang and seen her work? I have been anticipating the release of her new book, Wee Wonderfuls, 24 Dolls to Sew and Love, since the day she announced that she was writing it. I am a long-time fan of her blog and her patterns and I just knew that her book would be amazing.
I like it when I'm right.
Published by STC Craft, this collection of toys is just what you would expect from Hillary and then some. The dolls are brimming with character and they all have that Wee Wonderfuls signature style. They are cute, but not fussy and range from a trolley to bears with all kinds of little people in between. Jane and Kate immediately took the book away from me and then put in requests for about a half dozen creatures each. I took their comments into consideration and then made what I wanted to make anyhow: Doxie and Margot.
Doxie is a little stuffed dachsund sewn entirely by hand. This was the perfect project to sit with in front of Project Runway and it took just a bit longer than the 1.5 hours of the show for me to finish it. I have never attempted such a small, handsewn project and was really surprised to find that I liked doing pretty much every bit of it. And I love how she turned out!
A topsy turvy doll like Margot was my secret desire as a little girl, but I never had one to call my own. I was always amazed at how you could flip it over and see an entirely different doll. When I saw this project in the book, I knew I would be making two. One for each girl.
I love how they came together. They did take a significant amount of time because each one is essentially two dolls and there is a fair amount of handwork, but they were not hard to sew. I used a doll needle for the first time while embroidering the yarn hair and it was worth the trip to JoAnn's and the $3.79 because it made it so much easier. I also painted the cheeks – scary! But really, not a big deal. I psyched myself up and had that done in about 10 minutes. Easy peasy.
I asked Hillary some questions about her approach to the book and making dolls because I'm nosey like that. Thankfully, she was willing to reply.
Erin: There is such a wide range of toys in your book. I swear there is something for everyone. And by that, I mean, something for any kid you can imagine AND something for sewers of all levels, with machine or without. Which projects would you recommend for someone just starting out making toys? And which one for those who like a challenge?
Hillary: Thanks! I really tried to mix it up. My favorite craft books have projects that are totally in my comfort zone and have me making right away as well as some dream projects that I know I'll get to when I have the time. I don't want to discourage anyone, because I did design with beginners in mind, but there are some projects that are definitely less involved than others. Good projects to get a quick success under your belt would be Mermaiden, Koji, Bonneted Baby, Evelyn Inchworm. Projects that are more involved and time consuming would be Patchwork Penny, Margot, Panda Buns, Betsy and all her outfits. And I love Tag-a-long and Sleepover Pals as projects that are a lot of bang for your buck so to speak. They're not overly complicated but look like they are which is great for gift giving.
Erin: Ooh, good to know. The Sleepover Pals is on Kate's wish list.
I've made a lot of soft toys from your patterns and they never disappoint. But I know from experience that pattern writing is not easy stuff. Do you have a certain process you follow? Do you sketch and then sew? Or just go for it?
Hillary: No, it's not easy is it. It would be easier if everyone's brains worked the same way. I'm very visual and need short to the point instructions but I know many people like very detailed written instructions. You need to try to write patterns with everyone in mind. But yes, from the beginning… I start with a sketch. I made notecards with project ideas on them for the book (see photo) and those first sketches were what I worked from throughout the process. Then I just start cutting and sewing. There's a right way – make paper copies of every pattern piece you cut, keep detailed notes, take in-progress photos along the way and a wrong way – just go go go, make the whole thing, edit, rework and then when you finally have it the way you want go back and try to figure out how you got there. Want to guess which way I use?
Erin: Um, I bet it's the same one I use. Ahem.
Let's talk about doll hair. There are so many different types in your book – yarn, wigs, ribbons, fur, felt! Which is your favorite technique? And if you had to choose, buns or braids?
Hillary: I love doll hair. That was the first list I made when I knew I was going for the book. A very long list of all the hair-dos I've ever wanted to make. I have so many favorites in the book. I really love Pixie's fluffy curls. And Storybook's ribbon hair – I've been wanting to try that forever and I really liked how it turned out. Very sturdy! And Mermaiden's hair – I've been playing around with quilted wigs like that for years now and so happy to finally get it out of the draft stage. That was going to be the hair for the topsy turvy doll but in the end I thought she needed yarn hair. I still have a few other dolls in my sketchbook with that same hair that I'm dying to make. And the panda buns. I love those! I want to make all sorts of dolls with their spirit animals represented in their hair-dos. I think I could probably talk about doll hair for a really long time, which is pretty weird, so I'll just stop now. Braids 🙂
Erin: Jane loves the panda buns! That was the first thing she zero-ed in on when she saw the book. And for the record, braids for me too.
Some of the other projects I like include
Melvin and Marian – made from wool felt, these cuties have clothes!
Betsy – paper doll meets pillow. There is even an elasticized pocket on the back for storing all her clothes. This would be a great gift, I think!
Haus Sweet Haus – I can see this done up in Christmas colors and folky fabrics for a holiday gift and decoration. Sweet, indeed.
I could go on and on, but I think I'll stop. Here's the gist: Wee Wonderfuls is an incredible addition to any craft book library. The projects are all adorable and will appeal to just about any kid or kid at heart. The patterns are extremely well written and easy to follow. If you think you want to make soft toys or dolls, do yourself a favor and get your hands on this book. You will not regret it.
Now for the giveaway!
I have one copy of the book up for grabs. The winner will also receive a kit that Hillary put together from her own supplies to make Koji the dinosaur. Pretty awesome, huh?
To be entered into the drawing, leave a comment on this post before Sunday, October 10 at 5:00 pm EST. To make it more interesting, tell me your favorite doll hairdo – buns, braids, felt, fur, quilted, or something else. I'll pick a winner using a random number generator and announce it here on the blog Monday morning.
You can also enter the giveaway that STC Craft is hosting. Go tell them what your favorite childhood toy was for a chance to win a copy of Wee Wonderfuls.
Have a great weekend everyone.