Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Ho ho ho and on we sew - Clara and Nutcracker Dolls

Today I'm very happy to be hosting the 'Ho, ho ho and on we Sew' Link Party. 

Fiona at Celtic Thistle Stitches and Paula at Mud, Pies and Pins started this last year to try and make sure they were organised for Christmas, and it worked so well for them that they've continued it this year! You see, it's never too early to start your Christmas making - certainly not for me if I'm to stand any chance of being ready and relaxed come December!

And if you get making and link up, as well as being all prepared for Christmas in good time, you get to enter into a lovely giveaway. Thanks to the wonderful Ho, ho, ho sponsors...

Crafty Trimmings

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Plush Addict Logo Celtic Thistle Stitches
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Quilting Fabric at the Fat Quarter Shop

...there's a giveaway each month. And March's prize is 1m of this gorgeous Copenhagen Christmas fabric, from Patchwork Elephant.

Lots of lovely fabric and bits and bobs over there to browse through - including some beautiful Michael Miller fabric
You've got till the end of the month to add your makes (see the Link Up at the bottom), so there's still time to get going.

Right, back to my make. Last year the girls were both involved in an amazing ballet performance, and Maria's little section was an excerpt from 'The Nutcracker'. There was something about it that caught her imagination - I don't know whether it was the music or the costumes, the dancing itself or the little bits of the story she picked up on, but she became very interested in The Nutcracker. Probably a combination of all these things, and I think, in part at least, just the unusual name itself added to the interest. Anyway, we read different versions of the story lots, we listened to the music lots and Maria danced lots. Then, at Christmas I got Maria a musical Nutcracker as a present, and she loved that too...

When you wind him, he beats his drum and plays Nutcracker music.

I thought it would be lovely to give Maria a different 'Nutcracker' each year for Christmas, to build into her own special Nutcracker collection which will always remind us all of her very first ballet performance. And it occurred to me that this was also a perfect present to be lovingly homemade.

I decided I'd make a large 'Clara' doll with her own, small Nutcracker, so although it would have a Christmassy Nutcracker theme, it would also hopefully be something to play with in different ways all year round. I started off with a simple drawing of a Nutcracker...

And cut out 2 figures in this shape, just from some plain white fabric scraps. Then broke the picture down into its component parts...

And cut out these from lovely, recycled wool.

I sewed these on to my basic outline, fabric shape, adding thread detail...

Once they were both done I just sewed them together, section by section. The doll is quite small, and the wool is great for leaving edges raw, so I just sewed the 2 pieces wrong sides together, leaving the stitching on show - rather than having to turn fiddly, little sections inside out. Again because it's small, I stuffed a little bit at a time, finishing by sewing the top of the hat, rather than sewing the whole thing in one go and then having to stuff it all from one small gap.

Here the boots are being stuffed.
I added colour to the stitched, facial features with some colouring sharpies, and some gold details with ricrac and a button buckle, and there he was done.

Then on to Clara. Again a sketched out shape.

2 pieces for each of these body parts.

And some machine stitched detail...

Also some ballet shoes to sew onto the foot ends of both leg pieces.

For the back of the foot, I also tucked a thin ribbon in underneath before I sewed it on.

Just be sure to tuck your ribbons into the middle when you sew the leg pieces together, so you don't catch them with your stitching, and when you turn your legs out the ribbons are then on the outside as you want them.

The Clara doll is quite a bit bigger and made from cotton that will fray around the edges, so this one I did construct by sewing right sides together and then turning out. So the 2 leg pieces with their ballet shoes added, when sewn together, turned back out like this...

For all my Clara construction sewing, I went round at least twice to try and give it some strength and longevity on all the seams.

Here with arms as well, gently stuffed...

Some colour on this face - again with sharpies and some fabric crayons here too, ironed to make them colour fast...

Then I attached the arms to the back piece of the body, and pinned them towards the right side of the fabric, away from the edges I was about to sew...

Then sewed the front body piece on, over the top, careful not to catch those arms in the sewing.

The side you can see here is the inside out, wrong side, it's just the colours have come through very clearly, and my stitching is amazingly neat on the back here!
So here she is turned out, with her arms in place now.
The bottom edge is neatly ironed under here, ready for the final line of stitching coming up...

Stuff the head and body carefully, small pieces of stuffing are much the best I find, then pin the legs in place in your bottom, neatly ironed in, opening. Just needs sewing along this line now, and your basic doll is complete (though hairless!).

I converted an old, Summer top into Clara's nightie. It started out like this...

But with a few snips, and new seams...

It fitted her nicely.

I'm not sure it looks quite nightie-ish enough, so she may get another at some point.

And to finish, I just hand sewed some wool, along a side parting, for her hair.

Here she is with her Nutcracker. I think I'll probably put either some velcro or maybe a button on her hands to help her to hold him, here I cheated for the photo and her hands are just pinned together.

So there you go, I'm sure Maria will love them and it will be great to be able to pull them out of secret hiding place, storage come Christmas, all ready made - although very tempting to just give them to her now!

Even if a ballet dancing Clara with a Nutcracker isn't your thing, I do think a doll of any kind makes such a special, home made present. It feels so much more individual and personal when it's a one off, made especially for a particular child. And this style of doll really is very easy, and incredibly flexible to create different versions. If you need a more formal pattern and tutorial to follow then there's one over at Make it, Love it which looks pretty good, and easy to follow. Perfectly possible to get one made in time to link up before the month end even, and be in with a chance to win that lovely, Christmassy fabric! Or perhaps you have something different to link up below, I'm looking forward to seeing how you're getting organised for Christmas.


PS Look out for all the 'Ho, ho ho' Link Ups each month on the 18th, here's a little timetable of all the wonderful bloggers hosting...

JanuaryCeltic Thistle StitchesFiona
FebruaryThreading My WayPam
MarchWonky PatchworkSally
AprilSLIK stitchesBenta
MayPractically PippyKaren
JuneCharly & Ben's Crafty CornerRuth

Patch the GiraffeChelsea
AugustSunshine Through the RainDeborah
SeptemberPractically PippyKaren

Party of Eight: Our StoryGina
OctoberElla and Nesta's Little RoomNesta

Sandra Sews :)Sandra
NovemberRose & DahliaJoanne
DecemberMud, Pies and PinsPaula


  1. Clara and her Nutcracker are adorable, Sally. I love her beautiful ballet shoes and the top turned into a nightie. They are both bound to be well loved!!!

  2. Oh goodness, just adorable!

  3. Sally I am endlessly amazed and wowed by your creativity. Clara and the Nutcracker are both so adorable. What a wonderful gift. X

  4. Gosh, these are just the sweetest!

  5. Ho Ho HOLY COW, what a sweet make, Sally! Just perfect. :-)

  6. It was great to see Clara and the little Nutcracker come to life step by step. Your work is just beautiful.

  7. Awesome! You've set the bar really high for the poor person following you (that'll be me!!!)

  8. What an absolutely adorable pair of dolls. They will make for a really beautiful gift.

  9. Aww they're just adorable, Maria's going to love them, especially as the Clara doll has a look of her :)

  10. Your daughter is going to love her very own Clara and Nutcracker! And knowing that you made them for her will make them even more special to her.

  11. I love your Clara doll - and especially her ballet shoes. I'm gonna use this idea for our home-made dolls (each girl has her own).
    Oh, further possibilities are endless. Once I made matching dresses for my girl and her old doll - for Christmas :-) Here you can take a look:
    Best regards!

  12. Clara is so sweet! And now you have to wait so long to give them to her!
    Thank you for hosting:-)

  13. Sally! Clara and her dear nutcracker are a delight and I especially appreciate all the work that goes into posting a detailed "how to" such as this one. I also appreciate that it is within the ability of almost any one - even with minimal skills - to accomplish.

    Now - about that Ho Ho Ho ..on we sew link party! YOU know this is right up my alley - speaking my soap box - etc ha! So I am definitely in! Been felting a Dala horse and begin adding embellishments today so will post the link soon!

  14. So sweet! Maria will be thrilled!

  15. Oh she is adorable! perfect for christmas (if she stays hidden until then!)

  16. Difficult to keep such a lovely couple a secret until Christmas! I know I would be super tempted to give them early!

  17. Difficult to keep such a lovely couple a secret until Christmas! I know I would be super tempted to give them early!

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