Feb 2022
Feb 2022
28 Mar
Sew Meets Louise Kelly

We’ve caught up with the wonderfully creative Louise Kelly, who designs beautifully charismatic dolls and lovingly hand stitches them from felt in Derry, Nothern Ireland. Each doll has a distinct personality brought to life through their carefully constructed outfits, accessories and hairdos.

We’re pretty obsessed with Sew Your Own Dolls, Louise’s debut book, which you can buy from 4th April (or preorder it from Amazon now)! In it, Louise shows you how to create an impressive 25 dolls from one fail-safe base body shape, plus outfits from tiny knitted cardigans to a summer dress in Liberty fabric.

Reading Sew Your Own Dolls feels as if you’re being guided by a good friend, and soon you’ll be well on your way to creating unique dolls of your own. We have three copies to win in issue 97 of Sew, on sale 7th April, and you’ll also be able to try your hand at Ruby doll!

Sew Your Own Dolls by Louise Kelly, published by CICO Books (£12.99)
Photography by Geoff Dann © CICO Books

How did your interest in sewing begin?
My dad is an artist and so I grew up in a very creative environment, always making or painting something, but my grandmothers kickstarted my venture into textiles and sewing. My granny Kathleen made clothes for all nine of her children, and my granny Nancy was also a wonderful seamstress and a genius knitter who taught me to knit and sew. I spent my teenage years wanting to follow in my dad’s footsteps but found my way back to the needle an thread in my twenties and just knew I had found my creative groove.

Where do you get the inspiration for your dolls?
I know this sounds clichéd, but I get inspiration from anywhere, really. It’s often from an outfit that I’ve seen someone wear (my lovely cousin Ciara, the family fashionista, inspired Olivia who is in Sew Your Own Dolls). Other times it comes directly from a colour or a fabric that I’m itching to work with. As a child I absolutely loved the 1950 style paper dolls, so they influenced me right at the beginning.

How do you come up with the dolls’ personalities?
I never have to overthink this part. Every little face is different, even following the same procedure and pattern, so they tell me their personalities. Every element, from the colour and fabric, to their hairstyle and even how they’re stuffed, all suggests character. I keep a list of names that I come across and any colours or adjectives that they suggest to me, as what they’re called suggests personality traits too, so that’s very important to me.

Photography by Geoff Dann © CICO Books

Who did you write the book for?
I don’t really pay too much attention to skill levels - I wrote it with everyone in mind and really encourage everyone to just get making! All the dolls in the book come from the one basic doll pattern and the clothes are all variations of a few basic shapes too. If you’re a fairly new stitcher, start with perhaps Lyra or Kayla, but you’ll be able to make them all in no time! I have included all the tips and tricks that I have picked up or developed to guide you through.

Which is your favourite doll from the book?
Now, that’s a hard question, I have a bit of a soft spot for all of them! So many had been floating around in my head for a long time, and so it was such a joy to finally let them out – I posted a sketch of what would become Mia to my Instagram two years ago! However, little Isla is really special to me. I sent her off to the publishers to be photographed and that night I couldn’t sleep. I lay awake thinking about how she just wasn’t right, so I got her back, re-fitted her mustard cape, stitched a new Liberty print dress and a put bow in her hair. Then I fell in love with her!

Photography by Geoff Dann © CICO Books

Have you got any dollmaking advice for our readers?
Yes, and I absolutely mean it from the bottom of my doll-making heart, even if I don’t always follow my own advice. Don’t sweat the small stuff or get caught up trying to make everything perfect. Any creative endeavour should be enjoyable, relaxing or cathartic, so have fun. Every new doll will polish your skills. Also remember to keep your stitches small and regular for clean lines and strong seams when you’re sewing their bodies. Stuffing is also important – which you can read all about in the book, of course!

What’s next for you?
I can’t give away too much, but there is a lot in the works. I have more patterns to launch, a new website in the making, and a few doll collections for my Etsy shop. But right now I’m most concerned with finding a studio space that isn’t in my house! Other than that, I am feeling excited about the launch of the book – I really hope everyone just falls in love with doll making.

Photography by Geoff Dann © CICO Books

Keep up to date with Louise on her Facebook and Instagram

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