Derry doll-maker, Louise Kelly, says the artistic and traditional craft influences from her own family background were the inspiration behind her first book, ‘Sew Your Own Dolls: 25 stylish dolls to make and personalize’, which has been newly published by CICO Books.
The ‘Journal’ caught up with Louise, who as well as writing craft books and contributing designs for ‘Craft Lifestyle’ magazines, also travels all around Ireland and Britain working and teaching at knitting and stitching shows with Derry-based Fabric Affair Ltd., which sells beautiful Donegal Tweed woven in Downings.
“I have always been making, drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a house were my creativity was always encouraged,” explained Louise.
“My dad is an artist and his paints, pencils and paper were never out of bounds and mum always brought me beautiful illustrated books and, most importantly, she would give me those beautiful paper doll books that were hugely popular in the 80s, which are a direct influence on how my own dolls look today.
“Both my grandmothers were of that wonderful generation of women who stitched and quilted and knitted and baked. My Granny Nancy was the one who taught me to knit and I remember sewing with her as well, so I guess it all started there when I was a kid.”
Louise says her advocacy of the rich doll-making [Crolly Dolls] and textile [the Derry shirt factories and Donegal carpets and tweeds] heritage of the North West really took off when the unexpected loss of one job opened doors through another.
“Fast forward a few years and I am working in a pretty quilt shop in the Craft Village after being made redundant from a previous job. The ladies that I worked with there, and the ladies who shopped there, re-ignited my love for fabric and thread.
“I learned patchwork and quilting and was re-introduced to embroidery, but it was really when I had started to teach a children’s sewing class in the shop that this whole ‘doll’ thing started.
“A few requests from the kids to make softies and teddy bears had me researching some techniques and making samples and that was it.
“My mind was flooded with little characters and all the outfits I could make. I haven’t stopped making dolls since.”
The local designer says there have been many twists and turns on the road to ‘Sew Your Own Doll’, including a pivotal trip to a craft fair organised by the English aristocrat, television personality and business woman, Kirstie Allsopp, in London.
“There have been many things and chance meetings that has led to the creation of my ‘Sew Your Own Doll’ book. I travel to many of the ‘Knitting and Stitching Shows’ throughout the UK with my dear friend who owns Fabric Affair, which provides the most beautiful Donegal Tweed, woven by NcNutts in Downings, to quilters and crafters.
“It was at one of these shows, Kirstie Allsopp’s The Handmade Fair in London, that I was introduced to the Deputy Editor of ‘Mollie Makes’ magazine, which led to a commission for a dolls house project for them, which then led to the front cover feature. The rest, as they say, is history.
“The book was months of intensive work and I loved every second of it, a real labour of love. My intension for this book is that anyone, young or old, experienced stitcher or novice, could pick it up and create their own little character. There is such joy in making tiny little dresses and shoes.”
Louise says she’s busier than ever and after the successful publication of ‘Sew Your Own Dolls’ she’s keen to follow up with a sequel.
That’s if she ever gets time!
“I am currently working on a range of patterns and kits and right now. As we speak I am stitching some Polar Bears for my Christmas designs (Yes, really!). Book number two is high on my priorities list, so, fingers crossed.
“My kids sewing class, ‘Saturday Stitches Club’, new class dates will be announced very soon. I have been really busy this past year and I am very grateful to be able to call this my job!”
Louise blogs as Lou Loves This on Facebook, Instagram and http://loulovesthis.blogspot.co.uk and can also be contaced by email at firstname.lastname@example.org ‘Sew Your Own Doll’ is available for purchase from Amazon.