Monday, January 7, 2013

Waldorf Style Mermaid Doll

Louisa's number one request for Christmas was "a mermaid doll." I have been wanting to tackle a handmade doll for a while—first inspired by this fabulous one, and then reinvigorated by the Little Amigo pattern in Growing Up Sew Liberated, as well as by recently reading Heaven On Earth (a great book about early childhood by a local preschool teacher and the founder of the Charlottesville Waldorf School).

I didn't keep the doll a secret because I can't usually finish crafts very quickly if I don't work on them a little bit during the day while Louisa is around. Plus it was more fun to involve her in picking the fabrics and yarn.

I also wanted to make sure she was enthusiastic about getting a doll that looked like her mom made it, as opposed to one like this (which was my backup should the endeavor fail). And I thought she would appreciate the process and time that was spent making her very own custom doll.

There was a brief worry that Santa might not know that I was taking care of the mermaid doll, and he might be making her one too—but I managed to convince her that I could tell Santa that I was covering it and he would bring her something else. I kept the last few stages—sewing the hair on, finishing up her bathing suit top—a surprise for Christmas morning.

I used the PDF pattern "Waldorf Inspired Mermaid Doll" by Thimble Garden, available on etsy here or directly from her at The skin fabric and the stuffing are from Weir Dolls and Crafts, which was recommended in the resources section of Growing Up Sew Liberated. I chose the peach interlock for the skin, and bought a 1/2 pound of Eco-Wool Core Wool Batting (fantastically natural stuff), as well as a yard of 2" stockinette tubing to make the head. Their customer service was great and they shipped everything right away.

Her tail fin is Sarah Jane Out to Sea Seaweed Blossom Pink, and her bathing suit top is Sea Flowers in Navy from the same line.

Her hair is very special. The yarn is hand dyed by my mother-in-law, a.k.a. Nona, who hand-dyes really nice natural fibers, sourced primarily from her own Angora goats, at Kid Hollow Farm. This one, which Louisa and Nona selected together from her inventory, is Silk'n Kid Yarn (40% kid mohair, 40% silk, 20% wool) in Cherry Mountain. Fun fact: Nona is also a full-time teacher at our local middle school, and I had her for 7th grade English. Her son and my future-husband was also in my class. :)

Anyway, the pattern was easy to follow for a first time doll-maker. I was unable to sculpt a nose (maybe I made my head too tight?) and I was not very happy with the way her neck turned out, but over all I think she looks good. Doesn't quite have a whittled waist, but that is just fine. The back is a little wonky, but that doesn't bother me either.

I highly recommend finding some surgical hemostats, as she recommends in the pattern, for stuffing the tiny little arms. Worked like a dream.

I consulted the Little Amigo pattern as I went along. I considered making the hair the traditional way that is explained for that doll, but I ended up sticking with the permanent ponytail style that this pattern calls for. It keeps the hair neat, and it was relatively quick to sew together. Plus, it can still be braided and styled a bit... as seen above. :)

I made the simple cardboard and knitting needle hair loom which she describes in the pattern. I made the needles 11-inches apart, which set the length of her hair.

Once off the loom, the yarn loop is stitched together on the machine, then snipped in half. I made the mistake of backstitching a few... don't do that. It made threads show when I was sewing it to her head.

The hair installation took me probably three hours, the first bit over drinks in our dining room with a few friends visiting home for Christmas, the last few on the couch on Christmas Eve while my husband made her necklace.

The beads on her necklace are vintage from my (maybe my mom's) childhood, and the sequin bikini straps (if you can even see them in this picture) are from my princess Halloween costume my mom made me when I was in preschool. I am always looking for places to use these special notions I keep around.

Louisa named her Violet. :)


  1. She is SO CUTE. What a wonderful gift. She will treasure it forever, I'm sure of it.

    I didn't notice the lack of nose or waist definition. I think she's perfect! And I love her hair.

    I'm going to have to try doll-making someday. But I find it very intimidating.

    1. But you just made that adorable elephant! I'm sure you can do a doll. It was actually really fun. I might make a small boy doll for Leo with my leftovers if I can get up the oomph. :)

    2. Also, thanks for your kind words about my mermaid :)

  2. this is so sweet- and well made! the yarn for her hair is such a unique color. :)


Thank you for commenting! Moderation is turned on so your comment may not appear immediately.