Today I thought I’d do another book review.
“Cloth Dolls for Textile Artists” by Ray Slater and published by Interweave Press is a book that’s not really just for dollmakers. This is a large format hardcover book with beautiful uncluttered photography. The dolls are elegant and full-sized patterns are included for heads, hands, bodies and legs. But what I like best about this book are the textiles that clothe the dolls. Ray is a British textile artist and costume maker and her love of fibres and fabrics really shows. In amongst the instructions for stump, wired and stuffed dolls is a crash course on surface design! These are some of the clearest instructions for techniques that other books and magazines like Quilting Arts take for granted that you already know how to do. And maybe, like me, you’d like more details please.
The tools and materials are listed generically with brand names only suggested when a particular item is truly required such as Wonder-Under fusible web (aka Bondaweb in the UK). Unless an author is required to flog specific brands for contractual reasons, I find it confusing and frustrating to have instructions call for something I don’t have and don’t know where to get when something similar will do just as well. This is especially true when the author lives in a different country than I do, which is almost invariably the case. Her sources are not going to be the same as mine.
So what kind of surface design techniques are in this book? Making layered background fabrics, stitching and zapping with a heat gun. Machine-wrapped cords, hand-stitching, bias tubes, puffs and frills. Transfer paints, appliqué, cutwork with a soldering iron. Creating fabrics with water-soluble film and machine stitching. Obviously missing though is anything with beads. No beads anywhere. A deliberate omission?
If you are interested in dolls, those directions are just as nicely presented in increasing levels of difficulty. Armatures, stuffing and attaching. Flat faces, shaped faces and needle-sculpting. Mitten hands and hands with poseable fingers. Colouring the facial features. Headdresses and hair. Everything you need to know to create your own expressive doll.
Problems with this book are few but I did notice that there were some photo captions that were inadvertently jumbled. The “Useful Suppliers” section in the back relies heavily on Interweave publications where you might go to note the advertisers therein for supplier options. If it was me, I’d leave this section out of the book entirely since most people these days go straight to their computer to google for more information. Printed listings just go out of date too quickly be useful. The “Further Reading” section notes some worthwhile books but I find it odd that the author lists one that is of unknown city and date of publication and probably self-published. What she doesn’t mention is that it really is a CD and available online. But since URLs change more often than your underwear, there’s no point in including them in a book. It’s worthwhile to hone your online search skills instead.
I’ll conclude this lengthy review by recommending this book highly if you are a beginner-to-intermediate dollmaker or if you want more detailed information on how to get started with surface design, whether for dolls or for other textile art work. The directions are clear and well-illustrated with drawings and lots of inspiring photographs. The results, in Ray Slater’s hands at least, are quite delightful. Whether I can make anything remotely as delightful remains to be seen!
In other crafty news, I’m on the home stretch on the Back Home Blues Socks and a bit farther along on the Star Stitch section of my Laminaria shawl, which I’m now calling the Seaweed Shawl. Yeah, I know that Laminaria is a type of seaweed and it sounds much more classy, but I like to put my own spin on it. I’m stubborn that way. And I’m very fond of many kinds of seaweed. See?