I am no good at giving presents. Well, I'd like to think that I'm good at some aspects of gift-giving. I put thought into it, and often a lot of time. But when it comes to waiting or surprising I'm pretty much the worst. It usually works out, since as a procrastinator I don't frequently have long to wait between finalization of gift and handing it over, but every once in awhile I plan ahead and find myself with weeks of lag time. This simply will not do, and do it did not in the case of Zelda and the armless baby.
Zelda's beloved Gob, a naked thriftstore baby George picked out a long time ago and had since abandoned -- her akimbo limbs and creepy, uneven, dead-eyed blink citable as potential turn-offs -- recently lost an arm. It's no shame for her; she's dragged around by her arms more than anyone can be expected to survive, limbs intact. This hasn't affected Zelda's love much, but it was a good opportunity for me to make her a new doll. With her birthday coming up, I had the occasion in addition to the reasoning.
Waldorf doll making has always intimidated me. The particular supplies, the expense and the precise techniques were hurdles I hadn't overcome though I've long admired the style. Meg McElwee's book Growing Up Sew Liberated: Making Handmade Clothes and Projects for Your Creative Child includes a pattern for a Waldorf doll, and it's been in the back of my mind since George was smaller. Alas, he's never really taken to dolls. Zelda is a different story, though, my children being so unbelievably gender stereotypical as to make me think someone is playing a joke.
I love Meg's book (and blog) and the directions seemed clear enough to allow for some finagling according to my budget and crafting style which is a little more by-the-seat-of-my-pants than Waldorf dolls generally call for.
I regret that the face isn't shaped, and if I ever make another I'll put more time into the facial features. The body is out of some soft bamboo velour I thought was perfect for a one year-old to snuggle, and the clothes are made from fabric scraps (Heather Ross' beautiful and now out of print mermaids) and leftover yarn. Choosing the hair yarn was tough, and I wish that I'd found something more colorful to make a real rainbow mop but that, too, is something for the next attempt.
This doll is most definitely a quick and dirty version of a Waldorf doll, but the Sew Liberated pattern and instructions gave me a great starting point and I gained some knowledge about how to attach arms and heads in ways that don't result in droopy shoulders and floppy necks. Because it's tough to have a tea party with someone who can't stay awake.
She's real cute, and, true to form, I couldn't wait until Zelda's birthday to see the reaction, even though every gift I've ever handmade for my kids has been met with the same vague interest. When will I learn? Never! It doesn't really matter -- most of the fun is in the making, anyway.
At their introduction, Zelda dubbed her "Dunna!" which we took to mean Donna, a perfectly suitable sister for an armless baby named Gob.
They were fast friends, though Donna's gonna have to do something to prove her unconditional devotion á la allowing herself to be drawn and quartered.
The entire project took me three evenings of off and on work, the most time-consuming being the altogether pleasant handwork of the face, hair, and foot shaping.
I think Zelda's actual birthday may see the opening of a matching outfit or two, because I am that person I would never have expected myself to turn into, who loves matching outfits on pretty much anyone and anything. When I was little, my mom made me a life size Raggedy Ann with a dress and pinafore for each of us, and if photos are to be believed it was a monumental hit.
I think a more androgynous doll may be next on the agenda. Overalls, shorter hair, and some actual facial features.
Happy early birthday to you, Goldie. Here's to a (doll's)life-long friendship.