Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Owie Dolls

This is Julia.

Julia is in hospital because she has one million owies.

She is taking it admirably, though.
Not the least because she has to wear the standard issue
dressing gown, which is pink (not her favorite color).

The standard issue slippers, though, she likes a lot.

She thinks they are much better than the polyester slipper
socks in the
other hospitals she wouldn't care to name.

While she was lying horizontal with nowhere to go,
she made friends with her ward-mate Rebecca,
who just had an appendectomy

but who liked to pretend she was much sicker
(because she had a secret crush on Dr. Miller).

Their other ward-mate, Celia, broke her leg falling off
a tree, into some
very prickly bushes.

When they were in the common room, they liked to
hang out with the other kids

and complain about the sad state of medical fashion,
although the girls thought the boys didn't fare so badly
in the footwear department, either.

So of course when they were finally well, they were more
than ready to swop their gowns for something
less uniform and head home.

Julia kept her slippers, though!

This has been a strange year, healthwise. Not so much for us
(we got the swine flu and that was as bad as it got) but
for friends and family. Earlier in the year, a good friend
underwent a live-saving medical procedure that was
thankfully successful (and she is back on her feet again
and driving around town and everything!) And her little
kids were fabulous in how they adapted to her recovery.
I remember feeling a great urge to make them dolls with
which to play doctor as they watched their own mom heal.
Part of the impetus to make these dolls was my usual
penchant to turn everything into an excuse to sew
something. But part of it was because I believed it
would be therapeutic, especially for children.

After teaching high-school Physics for, I dunno, almost
a decade, I was a school and crisis counselor for a
couple of years. Mostly I conducted workshops, teaching
teachers to counsel their students and do suicide intervention
and build resilience and all that, but I also had the privilege
of working with kids and young people themselves who
were suicidal, or stressed, or coping with grief and loss
of some kind, along with the usual pressures of school.
I remember many instances when little children, all calm
and cool in our conversations, would suddenly open up
to a puppet on my hand about some sad thing that
was happening in their day/week/life.

And dolls were another way for the kids to express
stuff that was going on inside them. I've always loved
eavesdropping on my own kids when they are playing with
their dolls and dollhouses - so much is a mirror of what's
going on in their lives, and some of it is hilarious! Jenna is
always making someone use the potty. Emily is always
putting everyone to bed. Kate is enamored with the
babies and the doggies and packing everyone
in the car to go somewhere.

The girls also love playing nurse/doctor/vet - which
child doesn't, really? Oh the countless times we've drawn
little Band-aids on adhesive labels so they could liberally
apply them to the furriest of their softies after
sadistically injecting them with the vaccination du jour!
And the yards of flannel bandages I've run off the serger!
And all the handtowels in the house disappearing
mysteriously, only to reappear as bedlinen in some
triage bedroom filled with horribly injured dolls!

Anyway, all that to say, I finally made the Owie Dolls. They
are the same kind as last year's Operation Christmas Child
dolls (see the old post here to chuckle at their evolution)
but I gave them different hairdos and added some boys.
I made one for Jenna and one for Emily (Kate was not
interested; she said she preferred markers to dolls) and
then the mass-production bug bit me and I made... more.

I alluded to them in this earlier post as the Weird Dolls
and it is all the fault of the fabric they are made of. I
wanted velcro band-aids to stick to them- on
any part
of them, without having to put little squares of velcro
bits on their skin. I mean, who wants to cuddle a
scratchy doll? So began my quest to find the fabric,
which explains why it took me so long to finally make them.

Some of you know I stash a measuring tape in my purse
but maybe not so many know I also carried a little
square of hook velcro along with it. Whenever I was
in a fabric store and spied something promising, I'd fish
out the velcro, glance furtively around to be sure no
one was staring at me, jaw on the floor, and then
surreptitiously do my Does The Velcro Stick To This Fabric
test. It was the craziest thing in the world.

The conditions were stringent: velcro had to stick to it,
but lightly. And the velcro should not rip fibers off it,
like it does with acrylic felt. And the fabric itself couldn't
be plasticky or horrible. And it had to come in skin tones.
And after several months, I'd all but given up and was
contemplating using just muslin or felt.
But oh, I couldn't let go of the velcro idea!

Long story short (too late for that now, though),
I found it - the mysterious weird fabric - generically labeled
on the bolt as some kind of "velour". Rather pleased,
especially, at how soft and flannelly it felt.
And yes, yes, yes, velcro sticks to any and all of it, anywhere!

But wait, there's more craziness -
their hospital gowns are

Ha ha ha!
I am insane and I have invented the reversible dress!
Far, far better and easier than sewing facings and bias-tape
on necklines and hemming sleeves and serging tight curves.
No raw edges! No basting! Oh joy!

Such lunacy. Such mental instability.

But it is done. And I had a fair bit of fun.
Let me show you the little set:

So there's the reversible gown, the modesty shorts
(the boys get pants), the slippers, the foot cast,

the arm bandage,

the eye patch, the head bandage,

the arm sling

the velcro band-aids

and a roll of DIY, self-expression bandage.

And a drawstring bag to hold all the little parts.

Everything an Owie Doll might need to feel better -
except for maybe a good home. I thought I'd put a few
in the shop if anyone wants to adopt them for Christmas.
Please note that I will need to ship them by the 10th
of December (earlier if you are outside the US)
to get to you by Christmas.

Those miniscule velcros!
There were about a hundred.
I can't believe I sewed them.
I must be even insaner than I thought.


  1. wow they are amazing! I love the idea and those plasters are just so cute. I love the idea and the therapeutic value of them.

  2. Oh my gosh--cutest dolls ever. I am just dying with joy and have shown everyone in my house this post. You are so amazingly talented. Pattern anytime? I am just fainting with happiness right now!

  3. I love them so much I got one!!! I'm so excited! My daughter will absolutely LOVE it!

  4. Wow - those are incredible!! Where do you find the time?? I love your blog and always enjoy your latest creations. Thanks for sharing them with us!

  5. You have invented a new toy.

    You are amazing! I LOVE the dolls but can't believe you made 9, NINE, of them (unless you actually made more and these were just the ones for the store?)! It's so cool to finally see what you've only been hinting at in e-mails and such :)

    What's this about the swine flu? I will send you an alarmed e-mail soon as I get back from playgroup.

  6. I think insane is the right word (;
    But they are wonderful, of course.

  7. These are fantastic! What little one wouldn't love to bandage up a wounded doll with all those accessories. The reversible gown and bandaides are my favorite.

  8. i cant belive it!! you are defanatly one of the most talented and amazing artests that i'v seen!
    how do you make stuff so cute and perfect?
    have you ever thought about publeshing a book???
    you should!!! you are a one of a kind!!

  9. When I first saw the Princess Pavilion, I remember feeling just speechless, and I feel the same way now. I mean, wow. These dolls are adorable and amazing and so beautifully executed. Bravo.

  10. Well, my husband may kill me for spending money when I'm meant to be saving, and my daughter does not need more Christmas toys, but....I nabbed the last girl! So so cute!

  11. Those dolls are amazing -- let me second the call for a pattern for a dolls and all of the absolutely perfect, absolutely thoughtful accessories.

    (First-time commenter: I'm a working mom of a two year old daughter and a 6 year old son. I love sewing and knitting during my very limited free time).

  12. You are SO amazing! These are precious. I look so forward to seeing what you come up with next! Thanks for inspiring me.

  13. Oh, they are gorgeous! Beautifully designed and made (love the idea of having a scrap of velcro in your bag!)

  14. I soooooooo love this blog. Thank you for all the impressive tutorials. You are a sewing genius!

  15. Oh WOW! You have done a wonderful thing here. I'm sure any kid in hospital or a prolonged illness would so appreciate these dolls. Ot any kid who likes to tend to the sick.
    wonderful, just wonderful

  16. Awww, I missed these. If you are making more, I would love to buy for my little girls.

  17. Oh, I am so bummed I missed them. They are really adorable, good job!

  18. These are AMAZING! What a great idea-you might want to approach a toy company with this idea.
    Could you make some with brown skin and brown hair? My kiddo would love one that looks like her.

  19. Another amazing project! You are awesome! These came at a good time. My daughter was covered in bandaids and recovering when we read this post together. She requested I make her a doll with bandaids too. I have a question about the arm and leg bandages/cast. What material are they? Are they stretchy so they stay on? Thanks for your continued inspiration!

  20. oh WOW! Those are so incredibly awesome I cannot even believe it. What a great, fabulous idea. You never cease to amaze me!!!

  21. oh my goodness! i do not buy things online yet i would have ordered this in a heartbeat! my husband is a pediatrician and this would be so cute to have for our kids and also those he takes care of at the hospitals. (Of course many groups make these types of dolls for them, but these are so beautifully done.) You are amazing. A+ !!

  22. You ARE amazing! These are the cutest thing I've seen! I'm not surprised (but very sad!) that these are sold already! Please say you'll make more...someday! Oooh, yes! A pattern would be nice too!

  23. I love your ideas. I need to know where you found that fabric. i too am now on the search to make these for my girls. Thanks for keeping me inspired.

  24. Poor Julia and her friends! I just love this idea. Thank you for sharing them! I can't wait to check out the rest of your blog. :-)

  25. I just found this post through Made By Rae's blog and I love these dolls! I'm going to try my hand at making one (though I know it won't be as cute as yours) for a friend's little girl who is undergoing a liver transplant. Thanks for sharing your brilliant ideas!

  26. Brilliant!!! So love these, thanks for sharing!

  27. I can't even tell you how much I love these dolls. And the story that goes with them is just icing on the cupcake!

  28. I would like to order a few dolls for my girls' Christmas, but there are none in your etsy shop. I know I can buy the pattern, but wanted to first find out if you are planning on making any in the next couple months to sell. Also, thanks for being so inspiring and awesome. I love your blog and everything that you are doing! I hope to start trying to be brave enough to draft my own clothes...maybe after the holidays :) Thanks again! Jessica Baird ( p.s. I'd like to see more about the other patterns that you sell, but I can't figure out how to do that. When I click on them they send it right to the checkout basket instead of let me see what they actually are.

  29. Hello!! My daughter recently spent some time in and out of hospital so these dolls are perfect for her! I purchased your pattern and then I set about making it. I had to do pretty much exactly what you did, go around with my velcro like a sneaky spy and stick it on all the fabric in the stores (I used the velcro enclosures on my daughter's winter coat) until I finally found some that works wonders! Micro fibre! Velcro sticks all over it like crazy and yet it pulls off without ruining the fibres. It is truly soft too but it makes a hunormous mess when you cut it(almost akin to the hunormous mess that filth wizard had at her place with her roadkill unicorn! haha! That's where I found the link to your blog) Anyway, thank you so much for sharing such a wonderful pattern! The doll is just LOVELY and my daughter loves it to bits!

  30. I've found your blog recently. Is there anyway to buy these dolls pattern? I love them! And I looooove your blog, your ideas... I wish I could do half of what you do!

  31. @Ana
    Ana, yes you can buy the pattern here:

  32. I think these dolls are a wonderful idea and so adorable! Seems the little red round velcro dots might make some lovely measles/chicken pox/misquote bites for the dollies!

  33. Oh my gosh. Where do you get the energy to do all these amazing stuff?! I love it though. Especially the band aids. My daughter has a thing for band aids.

  34. I'm working on an Owie doll now and it is so much fun! But how did you manage to sew those teeny tiny BandAids? The felt keeps slipping around under my presser foot because they are so tiny. :-(

  35. I'm making an Owie doll right now and it is making my heart sing. However... the tiny BandAids keep getting hung up under my presser foot. Do you have any tricks for sewing tiny things? I had a similar problem with the eyepatch elastic, although I did finally get that to work after half a dozen tries (which resulted in four eyepatches... because I'm sure I will need 4 eyepatches!)

    1. Sharon: I sew the bandaids before cutting them out. So I cut out the velcro pieces, then sew them onto a larger piece of felt, then cut out the felt around the borders of the velcro. You'll also need a higher tension (top and bottom) to get a nice topstitch through velcro. If your needle gets stuck or tugs the velcro/elastic down through the throatplate, it's blunt - change needles. But otherwise, no, I didn't have a problem with the bandaids or the eyepatches. Good luck!

  36. That should make it a lot easier! Haha! Thank you thank you!


  37. You're crazy. Crazy. I love it.

  38. You will never know how much joy this page gave me reading about your Owie dolls! So sweet a read. LOVE your reversible outfit. So impressed!

  39. Christina @
    These are irrestible. Thanks for sharing such a fabulous tutorial :-)

  40. I absolutely love this! Best idea ever! Thanks for sharing:) You'll make many a little kid very happy with those dolls:)))

  41. You amaze do you do it. Love reading this post.

  42. Will you be making these again to sell?

  43. When my 8 year old son was preparing for the first of 3 surgeries for Ulcerative Colitis, the therapist in the Child Life program at Johns Hopkins hospital helped him personalize a doll to
    prepare him for the ostomy bag and incisions. I used this doll to explain to his 3rd grade classmates why they shouldn't hit Brian in the stomach. Your dolls would be a wonderful gift to help a child deal with the unknowns of scheduled surgery.

  44. These are AMAZING! I imagine they'd be sooo helpful in hospitals/doctors' surgeries. They look so perfectly made!!

  45. love love love these dolls what a great idea. Was thinking maybe there could be a way to make the hair removable for children going thru chemo. going to have to get these patterns. Thank you :)

    1. Mardi - yes! Here is the mini-tutorial for the removable hair:


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