Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Patchwork Clown Doll - a work in progress

I have been wanting to make a patchwork clown doll for ages, I don’t know why, but the idea just appealed to me.  As I haven’t done very much patchwork in the past, I didn’t really know where to start!  Luckily, we have a small patchwork shop called The Button Tree, here in Wolverhampton, so I went in for some advice.  The woman told me to stick to rectangles to start off with, and to stagger the joins, so that any unevenness would be less noticeable.  I decided to use this idea to make a sort-of brick pattern, with a nod towards Bargello.  She also told me to concentrate on making up a piece of fabric first, and then cut out the clown’s clothes. At the Ali Pali show some time ago, I bought some papier mache eggs from the Decopatch stall, to use as doll heads.  I tried to find something to make hands and feet out of, as I have had no luck using polymer clay, and I thought I might have found the answer on the Friendly Plastic stall.  There were some nice little hand-shaped cutters – but no feet!  Shucks!!   Back to the drawing-board!!! Weeks later I had got together all my fabrics, old stamp-blocks for the body and metal bits to fasten them together, and I had found out where to buy dowelling for the arms and legs.  Then I looked for my eggs, so that I could decide what size of doll I was going to make, but I couldn’t find them anywhere!  And I still didn’t have any hands or feet.  By this time I was ill, and I couldn’t cope with the disappointment, so I put the whole idea aside for later. At the beginning of August I treated myself to a day out in the city centre, and wandered into the Works bookshop, where I found this for the silly price of £1.99:-

It is only 5 inches tall, from the soles of its feet to the top of its head, and it is a bit crudely made, but it was a complete solution to my problems, so I decided to buy it.  I had planned to make a sitting doll, but this little model wont sit, so I had to change my plan. Now it was time for some patchwork fun!  I cut a 1 inch wide strip of each of my six fabrics, stitched them all together, with 1/8th inch seams as advised.  Then I pressed all the seam-allowances to one side.  This left me with a long, narrow, striped piece, which I cut into three lengths.  I stitched the pieces together the other way, keeping the order of the colours correct and pressed the allowances again.  Then I cut 1 inch strips across the stripes.  I laid the strips down beside each other, keeping the colours in the right order, then moved every second strip down by one and a half patches, to stagger the colours and joins.  Stitching the strips together was a bit nerve-wracking, as I kept being interrupted and losing my place!  As I went along, I unpicked the bottom patch of each strip that I had moved down, and stitched it on at the top of the same strip, so as to even out the top and bottom edges a bit.  When I had finished, I had a fairly flat piece with a brick pattern, which was what I was aiming at (though it was slightly irregular!), but I’d got my logic wrong, and the brick pattern was vertical!  Hey ho!  The woman in the patchwork shop had suggested that I back my piece with muslin, but I decided not to, as the piece was a lot stiffer than I had expected, and I thought it might prevent me from gathering it at the neck. In order to make a pattern for the clothes, I decided to make a voile (if I’ve got the term right!).  Using my (rather rusty) experience of dress-making and pattern-cutting, I made a rough pattern for a quarter of the main part, and cut the 4 pieces out of an old hanky.  I laid these out on the patchwork, to see how much I would have left for the sleeves, and luckily there was enough, if I only made a very small, plain hem at the wrist and ankles.  I decided to cut the sleeves in a raglan style, with the top edge incorporated into the neck gathers.  The voile worked out, when I tried it on the doll, so I cut all the parts out of patchwork and sewed them up, leaving a hemmed opening in the back seam.  I hadn’t allowed quite enough “height” at the neck, so I faced that edge with a strip of plain orange fabric, then I worked the gathers in the facing and the turnings and pulled them up.  I finished the back with a comically-oversized button and a thread loop.  To fit the clothes on the doll, I pulled out it’s “stick”, and pushed the end through a gap in the stitches of the back seam just above the crotch, then refitted the stick.

This is what the doll looks like now:-

To finish off, I had planned to add a hat, a set of juggling balls and a sort-of ruff as a collar.  However my inspiration dried up at this point, and then I ran out of time, because I was packing to go for a holiday on my boat, so I wrote the project up roughly and put everything away for later.  I didn’t have time to post it on my blog at that time, so here it is a month late!

Hopefully, my inspiration will re-emerge at some point, and I will add the finishing touches to my doll.


  1. Great brightly-coloured outfit, I think it's turned out really well! Hope you're inspired to return to some finishing touches sometime so your patchwork clown can stand proud on a shelf!

  2. Look forward to seeing how he ends up.

  3. I love the colours and it must have taken time at that small scale