Sunday, July 29, 2012

Scrappies -- Tiny Rag Dolls

At the very zenith of creative puttering, I have been going through my box of fabric scraps and experimenting with natural dyes.  It's not so messy as you might think -- I have a dye bath in a bucket on the back porch that yields various shades as the dyestuff depletes or is replenished.  And I have googobs of fabric scraps from other projects.

So I have begun making these tiny rag dolls as the perfect excuse to stitch meditatively without the machine, and use the samples of cloth as I experiment (er, putter).  I find a running stitch actually is much more flexible getting around the curves.

Their faces began as a hand cut stamp that fades out according to what sort of dye is used, which is fine by me; the whole intent is that they should look old, cobbled by my inner little girl learning her needlecraft, and played with.  Wrinkles and tatters are not just tolerated, but encouraged, including the old thread piled up inside the battered buttons, and the puckering from pulled tight stitches.

I especially enjoy the French knot hairdos, which remind me of the pin curls before bedtime, a very long time ago.  How did I ever fall asleep with a headful of those?

The colors came from alkanet (the purples), madder (the orangy pink), walnut and ordinary black tea.  The fabrics  from old hankies, ornamental linens, laces, quilter's scraps of silk and feed sack prints.

A bit of research on line yields many exciting blogs on natural dyes, and for now, I recommend the most exciting and impressive Cornell Mycological blog that probes the use of mushrooms and lichen as color sources.  And here in the Great Northwet, we are surrounded by fungus and lichen, and deep native textile traditions of pattern and color.  More on all of these things as puttering advances.  You may not realize it, but we are surrounded with dyestuffs, leaves, grasses, vegetable peelings, soil; it's almost limitless.  Stay tuned for new links and the products of that back porch dye pot!


  1. I love them. I know how peaceful it is to do hand work like that... and they do look like they're at least one hundred years old and have been played with. The natural dyes are gorgeous. Well done!

  2. I love these dolls... And the idea of dyeing with roots and stuff...

  3. Super sweet collection. They look as if you experienced a meditative process. The fact that the fabric was hand dyed makes them all the more special.

  4. Are you familiar with Miriam Rice of Mendocino? She did the early work on myco dyes and even made "pastel" sticks with mushroom colors--cool stuff!