A Doll-maker’s Suitcase

Thanks to a combination of having family in other countries and wonderfully flexible work, my family and I are away almost every school holiday. After years of packing and repacking my holiday projects (and always taking for more than I manage to make), I finally bought myself a doll-making suitcase. It has already revolutionised my travelling doll-making, and I absolutely love it! To me this small red case promises creative adventure, colour and beauty. A little corner of wonder to lose myself in, and a reminder of home and family to carry about with me.

My little doll-making case is 30cm across and contains (pretty much) everything I need to make several tiny dolls. I love working small because everything is so appealing, and making larger dolls just requires too much stuffing to make it viable over a long trip. Also, you can put a small doll almost anywhere to instantly create a great story-starter. I think anybody could travel with a small doll in their suitcase, a tiny secret companion helping to make all places feel like home.

So, what’s in my suitcase?

This is everything that I could fit in, and I have to say that my daughter and I did have fun putting it together. Let’s work clockwise:

I started with my pattern book (just out of shot on the left here), a copy of a small dolls pattern book that I traced from the original Swedish when I was 14. I have made my own adaptations to almost all of the pattern since then, and it is still where I store my small doll notes and designs.
Some skin-tone threads, slim pins and a selection of small pieces of tiny-patterned fabric. Choosing fabric was hard, I really wanted to take everything, and probably the bit I will really want to use will be among those left at home.
One, just one, doll could come with me on the trip. The case didn’t feel right without an occupant to begin with. This is Martha, who will not be for sale. She has accompanied me on too many adventures to go to another home now.
For some extra decoration, I added a strip of pictures taken with my mother and daughter in the TOFT photobooth at this year’s Edinburgh Yarn Festival.
Oh, and a little bits of lace. Just a bit, for underwear, and whatever really.

Yarn samples (again from the Edinburgh Yarn Festival), a selection of narrow knitting needles, needle gauge, stitch-markers. That should be all I need for doll’s jumpers.
Oh, all right, I confess, I also took 15 mini balls of fingering-weight Shetland wool. But we’re at least pretending that this is all I need. Maybe I’ll show you the Shetland wool another day.
A skin fabric colour selection, tubular bandage and strong tying thread (hmm, I think that’s in the suitcase somewhere) for bodies, embroidery thread for features, and some wool for hair. Yes, you’re right, I really don’t have many hair options here. I may have to improvise a little, to be honest I ran out of time for more hair. Maybe I’ll make a lot of bald babies…
A small tube of needle-felting needles, incase I want to sculpt limbs and faces. I will have to be careful not to break them as I only have one of each type of needle.
Some rouge for cheeks, my sewing bag of basics (I’ll come back to that), some shearing elastic for clothes, and a small jar or tiny multi-coloured buttons.
Somewhere near the top you can see the stitched limbs of the first little baby I began on our journey. More about that one later too!

Last, but not least, my sewing bag. This bag was a gift from a friend before I left school, and I have used it to carry my travelling sewing things ever since. there are usually some pins in here too, but they seem to have floated out into the suitcase somewhere. And of course, the tiny playing cards are a back-up. You never know, and they have travelled a long way with me over the years too.

Oh, there is one last thing. I put a bag of wool stuffing in the top. It stops everything rattling around, and is obviously quite important! It think it’s int he first photo somewhere. And this is what I’m working with right now. It is an entire portable studio, and my first tiny doll is almost ready to share with you. Do look out for it on Instagram, and see where my suitcase will be appearing over the next few weeks.

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