{Mermaid Waldorf Doll Tutorial: Time for Mama}

Welcome to the second instalment of the Time for Mama: Creative Playtime for Moms series! This month I am SO SUPER EXCITED to share this guest post from The Monko at Taming the Goblin. She has made the most perfect mermaid doll to kick off a month of mermaid-themed posts here at Mama Pea Pod! I'm officially declaring June to be Mermaid Month at Mama Pea Pod :-) And best of all, The Monko is giving this swimming sweetie away! Read on to find out how you can make this adorable little mermaid your own.


by The Monko @ Taming the Goblin 

I am delighted to get a chance to share my craft learning with you as part of this great series 'Time for Mama'. Before I start I should warn you that I am not a skilled sewer and I am certainly not a perfectionist. I don't measure things and I do most of my stuff through guess work and visual judgement. I sew because I like it, but neat finishing bores me, so I don't do it - which is why I could never do this as a job. So with that confession out of the way (and you will see what I mean further down this post), lets begin.
If you'd like to make a Waldorf inspired mermaid doll you will need:
  • About half a metre squared of jersey material - which ever flesh colour hue you want
  • A small amount of gauze bandage
  • An old sock
  • About half a carrier bag of wool roving (this is carded and cleaned unspun wool for stuffing)
  • Black and white embroidery thread
  • White thread
  • A ball of five point yarn  - or other chunky yarn for the hair
  • Material for garments and a tail - your own old clothes are good

I recommend sticking to the Waldorf principles of using natural materials. Sheep wool as stuffing will warm to your child's body when they hug the doll. All the materials are available on line, just don't make the mistake of typing in Waldorf doll fabric - suddenly the jersey material is three times the price (I get mine on Ebay).

Take your old sock and make it into a ball. Wrap a chunk of roving wool around the sock and smooth it, let any end bits hang down as a 'neck'. Take your gauze, hold the ball up to the gauze to gauge the width you need (I told you I do it all by sight), and cut yourself a rectangle the width of the ball and a bit longer than the ball. Sew the rectangle on three sides leaving the bottom open. Put a running stitch across the top of the rectangle and pull. Turn the gauze bag inside out so the gathered bit is on the inside of the bag, and pop the wool and sock ball into the bag.

Tie white embroidery thread around the bottom to seal the bag making a separate head and neck. Pull the thread over the top of the ball and tie it down to the neck. Then run a thread around the ball cutting the 'face' in half - this will give you a dent where the eyes will be (See top left corner of head collage below). Just below the thread that divides the face take a needle and normal thread and pick out a nose by working the thread back and forth through the gauze (catching some of the wool) in a circle. See the diagram below so it makes a tiny bit more sense. 
Now you have the basic head you need to cover it in jersey material. Take a folded rectangle of jersey material. Stretch the fold over the nose and 'face' part of the head. Then fold down and tuck in the edges. Pin and sew. This sounds easy enough but believe me this and the shoulders are the two most tricky bits of making the doll. Bear in mind that the hair will cover the seams. The bit the hair won't cover is the chin to neck join. Take some extra time to smooth and work this area. I usually put a stitch or two into the neck to separate the neck and chin. 

Now its time to make the arms and body. I usually fold the material in four and cut one arm so that when you unfold it it makes two folded arms.  I have provided a PDF pattern at http://dropcanvas.com/rbz2b for the body and arms. As you can see from the picture below the body I made is slightly bigger than an A4 sheet of paper. So I have added a dotted line on the pattern. When measuring your material you need to fold down the top to the dotted line to create the height for the shoulder area. Please remember that this pattern will only work if your head is roughly the size of a tennis ball. If your head turns out bigger or smaller you will need to adjust the size of the body so it matches. 

Sew around the arms leaving about an inch gap in the middle to allow you to stuff them. Do the same with the body but start sewing about two inches from the top of the neck and stop two inches from the neck on the other side. Then turn them inside out. When stuffing don't ram too much wool into the arms and legs. This is because a) the doll will feel nicer if it isn't stuffed too solidly and b) the more you ram in the more the jersey wool will stretch. The first doll I made ended up with ridiculously long arms and legs because I pushed far too much wool in.

Before sewing the head onto the body I recommend sewing the eyes. I think the eyes are the most important bit of the doll and if you make a mess of them once the head is sewn on there is no going back, but if you do it before you sew it all together you can always recover the head and try again. 
To sew the eyes get two pins and position them where you think you'd like the eyes. I usually put them quite far apart on the dent line. Then tie a knot in the end of the black embroidery thread and go in from the ear - or further back. Come out exactly where you placed your pin, then sew three or four loops to create the eye. Take the last stitch back to the ear and cut the thread - it will hold without having to tie it off.

I don't put mouths on my dolls. The idea behind Waldorf dolls is that their expression is neutral so that the child can project their own emotions onto the doll. I have seen a lot of Waldorf dolls that do have mouths but personally I think it is harder to project your own feelings onto a doll if the doll has a mouth which conveys an emotion that doesn't match yours. However its entirely up to you whether you want to give your doll a mouth.

Now the hardest bit, sewing the shoulders. You need to fold the front and back up, over the arms and pin to the neck. Then pin around the arms making sure to fold in the rough edges. I usually sew round the arms first and then finish off with the shoulders. And here is where you can see that I am not a perfectionist and that my visual judgement is not always that accurate - Can you see that I have made one arm significantly longer than the other. If I was a perfectionist I would unpick the shoulders and move the arms across. But I'm not so I didn't. It gives the doll character.

Finally you need to add the hair. I usually make the hair longer and then trim it up. So I take my ball of yarn and loop it from my hand to elbow until I have a full hand of hair (you can always add more later). While it is still in loops I lay it out on the doll's head. Rather than pinning it I go straight for stitching it roughly with a thread of a similar colour to the yarn. Start a little bit back from the forehead and anchor the thread, then lay out a few lines of yarn down to the forehead and stitch these on. Then just work your way back in one straight line laying the yarn down and stitching it onto the head until you get to the nape of the neck. When you have finished snip the loops and trim the hair so it is the length you desire.
If you leave it there the sides of the head will be exposed. There are several ways to deal with this. The one I use is to bring some of the hair forward and stich it to the sides of the face and then anchor odd bits of hair hear and there to cover the rest of the head. If you want to make a merman I have a boy doll hairstyle tutorial.

There you have your basic doll. How you dress her is your choice. I made my one a little tankini. Because the dolls head, with all her hair, is much bigger than her shoulders, it is easier to make clothes that wrap around rather than go over the head. So the tankini has a little button at the back so it can be taken off.

Now call me ridiculous but I worry about her getting cold so I wanted her to have a cardigan. I have an old jumper that I have been using to make other things. It has a lovely pattern and some ribbed bits. I have found a neat trick when making doll's garments is to use collars and trim from your own old clothes. So I used the neck of a T-shirt to make the waistband of the tankini bottoms, and I used the collar and cuffs of the jumper to make the cardigan. 

Finally, and most importantly I made the mermaid tail. I found an old pair of dungarees I had in my funky hippy days. They had a lovely patchwork effect that looks great as scales for the tail. I drew round the dolls legs and then added some extra length for the tail end. I loosely stuffed the tail end. Around the waist I added some elastic and lined the tail with silver shimmery material, the only bit of the doll not completely natural - I couldn't resist, it shines through the green when it catches the light and makes it look fishy.

And this is what she looks like with her tail on.

I'm running a competition over at Taming the Goblin this month, to win this doll. All you have to do is link up something (ANYTHING) you have done that was inspired by this mermaid doll. If you don't have a blog you can still enter. Just email your project to tamingthegoblin [@] gmail [dot] com. The competition is open to international entries. Of course you won't need to enter because now you have read this tutorial you will be making your own, right? But why not come and check out what other people have been up to. And happy sewing.