I have done it. I have finally finished my first two dolls inspired by the craggy terrain of Scotland. Two exquisitely precious, all handmade, natural fiber art dolls ready to embark on their own adventures. Made with loads of patience, many dreams and beautiful fabrics, please enjoy reading the beginning of their journey.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, last year I started dreaming about making a doll inspired by Scotland. I wanted her to wear lots of tartan and be a crofter's daughter. However, as is usual with these things, the inspiration lay dormant for many months, then last month a friend of ours came to visit and gave this inspiration of mine a much needed kick in the pants. Talking about Scotland's history, the place where he lives (Fort William), getting a brief intro to celtic culture and hearing gaelic spoken was just the treat my heart needed. Initially I was going to make just one, but the brain and hands had different ideas. I have three dolls of which I present to you only these two, because they are sisters and because they asked to be the first to find homes: Skye, the eldest, and Iona, the goofy one. We'll start with the youngest.
If you follow my work on Facebook you probably have seen a little of Iona's personality. It is a bit wild, like her hair. But she cleans up nice, see? Iona dreads mornings, because they usually mean a dreadful encounter with the "knotty brush" as I call it, she calls it "naughty brush". We re-braid her hair every day, so it doesn't get into a mess, it is wild and precious and a bit capricious, just like Iona. I do have to seduce her into sitting on her wooden chair, with a massive bowl of porridge and a large plate full of scottish scones with bramble jam. Otherwise the whole thing is a no go. If she is entertained eating her breakfast she retaliates less when you do pull her hair, so that's a tip to keep in mind.
Iona is a little lady, who spends much of her time drawing stories. Not separate stories though, it's all one thing. She is writing a novel, but she decided she is a much better "drawer" than "writer", so there she goes, with pencil and paper in hand sits outside to ink her fables. Some days it takes her a while to fill a page, because she is very attentive to all the little details, like the wrinkles on someone's shirt, the 5-o-clock shadow of a tree, the steam out of a hot cup of tea, a broken button on a cardigan. If you pay attention to Iona's sketches you will notice just how vivid her mind records simple pleasures, small moments, the every day life of a little girl. I wish I could keep Iona's sketchbook because it is a little window into her brilliant mind.
Iona has a big sister who is always making sure she goes outside dressed in many layers. She also packs her a sandwich into any available pocket, and when it's really cold outside she gives her a roasted potato to keep her hands warm. Iona adores her big sister, she consults the potential of a particular sketch, sits with hair while she embroiders or knits, and is always listening to her stories. If there is one thing Iona loves best, is the power of a good story. And luckily she has Skye to provide for her in that regard. Iona goes to bed happy (most days) knowing that her secrets, her sketchbook, and her sister, will be there in the morning.
Iona is named of course after one of the beautiful islands of Scotland. I wanted to give her a whimsical attitude, unlike her sister who is more proper and demure, so we created her clothes with more patterns and textures. Iona is a 20" tall petite fig doll. They are tall, but slender, and they are the most playful dolls out of my studio. She is made with swiss cotton jersey and stuffed very firmly with wool. Her head has been sculpted with needle-felting techniques and has embroidered eyes and painted freckles. Iona's hair is baby mohair weft, hand-sewn to a mohair cap. It can be easily styled (you can brush it but be very gentle) and she likes to wear it in braids. Iona wears a linen dress, closing on front with sewn-in snaps. The dress has a cashmere shawl collar and long cuffs, plus detail buttons and leather straps. The hem of the dress has been finished with a tartan ruffle. She also has a pair of merino long underpants, felted lambswool boots and a leather headband. Iona has two beautiful hand-knits that complement her personality: a cashmere/wool cape knit with hand-dyed yarn with a beautiful lace bottom and a wooden button; plus a chunky wool sack hat that gathers on top with twill ribbon. Iona took many hours to be created and she is recommended as a doll for a child 12+ or an adult collector, that can treat her with gentle hands but play with abandon.
Now, let's introduce her sister.
When I thought about that initial doll I wanted to create, it was Skye I was thinking of. I am so happy though that she utterly requested (or demanded) to have her little sister because I truly feel like Skye and Iona had to be made in tandem. I went from the witty Skye to the cheerful Iona, and back again. It was such a nice rhythm, high and low, quiet and loud, very lovely. I think I enjoyed working on them so, so much, that you can see it in their whole demeanour. As I've already mentioned Skye is the eldest and therefore a bit more calm and more quiet than Iona.
The first item I made for her was her shawl, and it came out exactly as the dream I had of Skye. Rugged and soft, an item of regular use, meant to keep those frail shoulders warm. I gave it ties at the end so that she could tie it on her back and keep it snug while going about her many daily chores, like going to find wood in the forest to make supper for Iona.
Skye has indeed many responsibilities aside her education, but none she takes more seriously than making things for Iona. From helping her with her daily hair conundrums, to advising her on the right shade of watercolour to use on a sketch, Skye thrives taking care of her. She once had a kitten, and when it got lost she turned all her mothering instinct to taking care of Iona (she also now embroiders cats of all shapes and sizes). Skye loves handwork and is a very accomplished fiber artist: she tats lace, embroiders in exquisite whitework, knits bonnets and socks and the occasional shawl, and crochets edgings for all the pillowcases. She squeals with excitement when there are socks to darn or patches to sew, don't ask me where she got this, I have no clue. Skye would be very happy if she has a little basket with some thread, yarn and knitting needles at the ready, she hates to be idle.
As you can see, I took extreme care to create Skye's outfit. I think her skirt is the funnest thing I have made in a while: a cartridge-pleated long twill skirt, lined with cozy flannel (to keep those nasty north winds off her legs) that I ceremoniously hand sew to keep Skye happy; with a sewn-in snap and leather straps. The mock buttons down the skirt make me so happy, so so happy. I will not recount how many times I showed this item to my husband, nor will I repeat his words or tell you the face he ended up making. But you can see why I love it so, can't you?. I know you can. And yes, I do want one for myself.
Skye is also a 20" tall petite fig doll, tall but slender in construction. She is made with swiss cotton jersey and stuffed very firmly with wool. Her head has been sculpted with needle-felting techniques and her eyes embroidered. Her hair is mohair weft hand-sewn to a wool cap. Skye wears an organic cotton double-knit blouse with flounce sleeves, cashmere collar and cuffs (it opens full on back for easy dressing). She has long lambswool fair isle underpants, that have a very wide waist to keep her warm. Her skirt is made with Donegal tweed, lined with cotton flannel, and closes with two leather straps. She has cotton socks and merino boots with leather soles and leather straps. Skye's fichu was knit with alpaca yarn, in its natural shades and changes from a lovely caramel to a deep chocolate latte, it has straps to be tied around her waist. As a last item I made her a lace bonnet, knit in 100% cashmere. I adore the way it makes her look: precious, innocent and warm.
Now if one of these ladies has stolen your heart, please feel free to enter your details in order to purchase them. Their individual price is $1200 USD plus postage ($30 US and Canada, $50 International) Taxes apply to Canadian residents. I will leave this form open until 9 PM EST tonight and select a name at random to purchase each doll, you are welcome to enter for both if you wish but you will have to enter the form once for each of them. If you encounter any issues or have questions please don't hesitate to ask.
~ THE ENTRY FORM FOR IONA AND SKYE HAS BEEN DELETED. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ENTERING.
So there you have it. Two lovely (if I say so myself) natural dolls that can open the well of imagination, creativity and storytelling in your home. Two dolls I feel so proud to have created, so accomplished and so grateful. I can't wait to find out where they will be heading tonight. Perhaps a home with some Scottish heritage, perhaps a family that loves the rocky coasts of Scotland, perhaps a home where stories and handwork are kept alive. We shall see.
As promised, here are some of the resources I used when creating Iona and Skye. I hope you enjoy perusing them, and maybe even letting them infuse your day or your own creations.
A History of Scotland, The Complete Ten-Part Series by BBC. Narrated by Neil Oliver.
History of Scotland, Castles and Clans, by Scottish Television.
I listed to a lot of music by Julie Fowlis, but this song especially touched my heart (Bothan àirigh am Bràigh Raithneach). Followed in second place by The Skye Boat Song (sung here by Laura Wright). I loved listening to this one as well, as it is a traditional song in Scottish Gaelic; the song is called An Innis Aigh, you can hear it over here.
One of my IG contacts, Lori Graham, recently travelled to Skye! What are the odds of that happening while I am making these two dolls? I tell you, the Universe works in mysterious ways. Anyways, I followed her IG feed closely while she was there in order to get a few more glimpses of the island. Other than that I had my Pinterest board to get me going.
I used The Plucky Knitter yarn (given to me by one of my lovely customers and dear mother to some of my dolls, thank you Rosemary!) for Iona's cape. The hem lace is called "Petticoats" in Vogue Knitting Stitchionary 5 (their volume on lace knitting). However, I found a similar one called "Lacy Bear Paw" in Knit Stitch Dictionary by Debbie Tomkies. Her hat was knit with Sandnes Garn and is basically a tube with eyelets at the top to gather up.
For Skye's shawl, I did a simple triangle inspired by a fischou. I used an all alpaca yarn, undyed, sadly I lost the tag. This happens quite often as I am knitting. For her hat I used a 100% cashmere yarn (also given to me by another doll mother, thank you Nina! you see? I get loads of goodies in the mail too!). The lace pattern on her hat is called "Crescent Moons" (without the columns in between lace repeats) in the same Vogue Knitting book. I decreased for a normal crown and ta da, we got a lovely bonnet.
If you love Scottish-inspired knits, I highly recommend you visit Kate Davies Designs. She is about to release a book called Buachaille, which contains patterns, recipes, photographs, and a guided walk around Buachaille Etive Mòr are all included. You might also be interested in Colours of Shetland. I love everything she makes and plan on buying her yarn very soon. As you can see, the fascination with Scotland hasn't stopped.
Thank you for reading and following my creative journey.