Thursday, April 12, 2007

Raggedy Betty

I don't know why her name is Betty. It just is.


A few weeks ago, I got this little yen to make something by hand for my little sister, sweet Olivia. I think the idea was sparked by my mom's gift of these old craft books from her shelves:


I found a pattern for a rag doll in the book on the left, and decided it would be the perfect thing, even though I haven't made any stuffed creatures before, and this one had a lot of pieces. In my usual cavalier, I-have-no-idea-how-to-do-this-but-I-will-figure-it-out-as-I-go manner, I went ahead and made a doll.

Of course, since I am still a bumbling beginner when it comes to sewing machines, I decided it would actually just be easier to sew the doll by hand. This was not an unpleasant experience. Sort of meditative, really. It's sort of like driving a stick versus an automatic. The automatic might be simpler, and easier on the knees, but driving a stick keeps you focused and truly involved with the driving.

I did have to alter some features, including the rotating arms, to eliminate small baby-unsafe pieces.


I'm quite proud of her facial features, considering that, in spite of the fact that I've owned a small mountain of embroidery thread for many years, I have never embroidered anything in my life. I tried making a stem stitch, which I looked up online after reading the instructions on the pattern, but it ended up being more of a fill-in-the-blanks stitch.

I have sewed by hand off and on since I was young, but during the making of Betty I learned a few new, very useful things about hand-sewing:

1. It is totally possible to draw blood with the eye end of the needle.
2. So you should use thimbles.
3. Cut lots of extra fabric, above and beyond the pattern's seam allowance. And make sure that both arms are the same size.
4. It would be a good idea to actually buy some thimbles and keep them around.
5. Band-aids are always useful.
6. It will take three times as long as you think it will.
7. Thimbles.

By 10 p.m. the night before I drove up to New Jersey, Al and I were channeling Project Runway at the dining table, me frantically cutting and recutting fabric for Betty's clothing, trying to make patterns by sight, while he stitched with a machine that stuttered and jammed every five minutes or so. And unfortunately, I didn't judge the clothing dimensions well, so the tailor didn't have a whole lot to work with. But I think she looks lovely. He even embroidered a little bird on the back pocket of her jeans. Which brings us to the last hand-sewing lesson:

8. It is wonderful to have a husband who knows how to use a sewing machine.

But it was all worth the pain and permanent scarring. Betty seemed pretty happy at her new home, with her new pal. Who promptly started chewing on Betty's arm. I think that means Olivia likes Betty, too.

1 comment:

tinker said...

Betty is adorable! She has a winning smile. I love her jeans, too. I'm sure though she may be teethed on, she'll be treasured. What a thoughtful - and meaningful - gift. She makes me think of the "Sissy" ragdoll I had as a little girl (so named, because she looked like my big sister - and was my favorite doll of all time).