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Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States
Hello doll lovers! This blog was created to tell you about dolls I have made and classes I teach on doll making at Attic Window Quilt Shop in Comstock Park, Michigan (a suburb of Grand Rapids). My goal in teaching is to pass on the love of making heirloom quality dolls. Most of the dolls I make (and hold classes for) are designed by Gail Wilson - visit her website at . Page down my blog for some fun doll links including antique doll sites and hard to find doll supplies.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

cooking pumpkins

OK, I heard back from the flying husband about where the camera cord was.  He said to use batteries. So, to test how long the batteries work, here's a little post about cooking pumpkins!  I need better lighting for dolls, so tomorrow in the daylight, I will try again with the batteries for pictures of Lottie in process. Thanks for your patience!

I heard on the news that there is going to be a canned pumpkin shortage this holiday season. No sweat as far as I'm concerned because I always cook my own.  Once in awhile, I hear some one explaining to some one else how to cook pumpkin (peeling and dicing, then straining, and mashing) and I think to myself, geesh, the long hard way to skin that cat!  So here is my easy method to cooking a pumpkin.

I start by selecting a pie pumpkin that feels heavy for it's lift a few, see how they feel.  Yes, you can consider this your arm muscle workout for the day as long as you lift at least ten pumpkins with each arm.  I usually get three medium sized ones because I like to do a lot of holiday baking with pumpkin.  The one I cooked tonight yielded about three cups.  Once you get them home, leave them out in the cool front porch until you are ready to bake them. 

 Once you are ready to bake, wash the dirt off and knock off the stem if it won't fit in your oven; the rack should be situated so the pumpkin is about mid level in the oven. I set my pumpkin on a metal plate to catch any drips (and there may be some) and to protect the bottom of the pumpkin from burning. Set the oven to 300 - 325 degrees - depends on how long you want to wait. If you're in a hurry, you can go 350 degrees, but you may get a bit of brown in the bottom of your pumpkin.  Bake until your pumpkin starts to look like a slightly deflated basket ball.  Usually for me this is about an hour and a half to two hours  for 300 degrees and a bit less for 325 -350degrees.  Tonight I baked my pumpkin with a meatloaf and scalloped potatoes in the oven with it. Then after dinner came out of the oven, I lowered the temp and let it go a little longer. It should feel like a baked sweet potato when it is finished baking....which is a tad bit softer than a regular baked potato.  You can see in the picture above where I poked my finger thru to see if it was soft.

Once you pull it out of the oven, let it cool a bit and peel pack some of the skin.  Then with a spoon, scoop off the soft pumpkin flesh off the top, being careful to avoid the seeds and strings.  Once you get a nice sized hole to the seeds, then scoop out those and put them in a large colander. I prefer the plastic ones because the have larger holes that allow the strings to fall thru into the garbage disposer. The mesh ones keep the strings in the colander, making it harder to clean the seeds. 

After the seeds are out, you can easily pull off some skin from a side and knock out a side and scoop out the pumpkin. No need to mash it, it's already very soft and ready for your recipe.  I measure out what I know I will need for certain recipes: pumpkin pie needs 1 1/2 cups, pumpkin bread gets 1 cup, etc.  Then I put those measured amounts into a container for the freezer for later or in the fridge for tomorrow, or right into the recipe bowl.

I run the colander under water in the sink and toss the seeds around a bit until all the bits of strings are gone. Let the seeds drain a bit, then spread single layer on a cookie sheet and bake in a slow oven at 225 until they are nice and crispy. If you have a convection option, use it.  Baking seeds takes hours, so test here and there until you are happy with the crunch.  Once they come out of the oven, I like a touch of butter and some salt.  If they are going to the birds, I just leave them alone.  If you are not wanting to deal with the seeds, the blue jays will take them any way they can get them, just toss them out the door in a spot that it's ok to do this -  in view of a window, so you can watch the birds taking the seeds.

And the finished goods - pumpkin cranberry bread and toasted pumpkin seeds -  yum yum:

Enjoy your pumpkin and no worries about a canned pumpkin shortage this year!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Hi Doll makers, it's time to get ready for the next doll class - Gail Wilson's Lottie. Lottie was featured in the Austrailian magazine Homespun, and the pattern or kit is available on Gail's website. Just click on the title of the post and it will take you to Gail's website. Look in the new items for Lottie.  The class starts on Oct 7th at Attic Window Quilt Shop on Alpine at 6 Mile if you are interested.  See the last post for more details.

OK - I looked high and low for the camera cord, so that I could take pictures of Lottie, but the husband put it away....and who knows where. He's in an airplane right now, so I'll have to update the Lottie pictures later and for now, I will use pictures from another class. So sorry about this, I know you like to see the real doll in process so you know what it will look like in class.  Most of these pictures are from the Kate Greenaway class we had earlier in the year.

  First up  in making the class sample doll is to laminate the patterns and sew the body. Remember to use the tiny 18-22 stitches per inch. The reason this is important is so that the stitches won't pop when you stuff the doll.  Lots and lots of wool roving will go into the head. The first time I made a Gail doll, I remember thinking "no way is this much wool going into this little head". But yes, it is doable. You're going for a really hard head (like raw potato hard).  The body is not quite as hard (think baked potato hard). Tiny stitches will help keep the seams intact.

After sewing the body and limbs, use a stuffing fork to stuff the doll. Be careful not to push the fork thru the fabric, but if that happens, all is not lost. There are ways to mend boo-boos. And in the doll world, we just call those boo-boo's "instant antiquing".  Sometimes it's the things like mistakes that make a hand made doll so charming.

Roving is by far the best stuffing as it is resiliant and wants to expand outward.  Also, any doll fashioned after the dolls of years ago wants to be hefty. Wool roving adds that heavy feeling, and won't squish around like the synthetic stuffings.

Fingers are lightly stuffed and needle sculpted with YLI hand quilting thread. Elbows are added with seams centered.  Knees can also be added if you want your doll to sit.  If your dolls says she wants to stand, leave off the knee stitching.

This is a picture of the completed body from another doll similar to Lottie, except that Lottie doesn't have ears and neck darts.


Most dolls get a coat of gesso and skin paint. The parts pictured are from the Kate Greenaway series, hanging to dry after gesso. After the parts are all sewn and stuffed, Lottie's limbs will get an overdye wash  but not painted like these are. 
Overdye is a technique to make a new doll look like she has been hanging around for a hundred years.

Most of Lottie is stuffed, and hopefully on Friday morning, she will get her coat of overdye and will be hanging to dry.  She'll look weird until she gets her face, sort of like a faceless corpse.....

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Next Class - Gail Wilson's Lottie

Hi all,  Here's the skinny on the next doll class at Attic Window Quilt Shop:
The featured doll is Gail Wilson's Lottie (click on this post's title and it will take you to Gail's website - new items. Page down a bit to see Lottie).  The pattern is $18 and the class fee is $50.00. Lottie was featured in the Austrailian magazine HOMESPUN and is a cloth doll with a needle stitched face and a mohair wig. She is about 10" tall. 

Class starts Oct 7, and continues on Oct 21, 28, and Nov 4.  Class time is from 10am to 3pm - ish.  We usually break for lunch and run over to Subway to pick up a sandwich or pizza. Please bring your basic sewing items and sewing machine to the first class.   If you decide last minute you would like to take this class, it's ok to just show up, pay for class, and we can order your doll pattern then and there.  You won't have your pattern for the first class but can use the laminated class patterns.  All you need for the first class is your sewing machine and basic sewing supplies. I'll get you a tool kit made up  in time for the second class - you won't need it until the second class.

We are discussing what to do for the rest of the year on Thursdays - if we want to meet every Thursday or not, so if you have a preference - come and let us know so we can get your desires counted.  Also, if you would like to come and work on another doll, you may come to a doll class without signing up ahead of time and treat it as a bee ($5.00 daily bee fee applies).  If you need me to help you thru a process, please email me ahead of time and let me know what you need.

The first class in the new year will be Gail's cloth fashion doll - yup - the one folks ask me about all the time. She is a larger doll, more lady like in her shape, 12" tall and has a bonnet and fabric covered hatbox.

A word to the wise:  Christmas is coming!  Just about 100 days and it will be here!!!!

Gail Wilson dolls I have made

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