I’ve just finished making my first ragdoll, from the aptly named ‘My Rag Doll’ book by Corinne Crasbercu. I’m very pleased with “Dolly” (a particularly original named bestowed upon her by my three year old daughter), though unfortunately and somewhat paradoxically, I’m rather less than pleased with the book itself. For despite the beautiful dolls and great photography, the patterns and instructions are insufficient and in some cases incorrect.
I wanted to make a ragdoll for my daughter and thought it would be easier and quicker to make from a book with patterns and instructions for both the doll and her clothes, rather than creating them from scratch. After a good search, I felt that ‘My Rag Doll’ certainly offered the most charming dolls, however the reviews on Amazon were also a mixed bag. The general consensus seemed to be that the dolls and their outfits were utterly delightful but there were a substantial number of people commenting that thought that this was a book for advanced sewers only. Being a reasonably experienced sewer, I thought it was worth giving the book a try as I couldn’t find another with dolls I liked half as much. Having now completed a doll from the book I would have to agree with the “advanced sewers only” assessment. It’s unfortunate as the dolls should not be that complicated to make, if only the instructions were better.
I choose to make the cover doll as I loved both the red Princess leia style bunches and the dungarees. The basic template for all 11 dolls in the book is the same, it is just the hair and facial features that differ. In the edition of the book I have, the pattern pieces for both the doll and clothes are full sized so you can just trace them off rather than have to enlarge them by 140%, something that was a common gripe amongst other reviewers with previous editions. I wouldn’t have minded enlarging them so much, but what I did find frustrating was the incompleteness and the errors in the templates. For starters, none of the pattern pieces are drafted with seam allowances, which is such a pain as after tracing them all out you then have to add a 1cm seam allowance before cutting, something I found unnecessarily time consuming. I can only assume the publisher was looking to penny pinch and didn’t want to include a few extra pages to accommodate the slightly bigger patterns that adding the seam allowances would have produced.
Perhaps the biggest issue I had with the pattern pieces though were the errors. I can only speak for the particular garments that I made, but the dungarees had two major errors within the template. The first is that all the leg pieces were labelled “1/2 Front Leg”, which is not helpful in the slightest. The second is that the bib piece was not symmetrical, when it blatantly should be so I had to readjust it. For a beginner, I imagine both of these issues would have resulted in much stitch unpicking and wasted fabric.
Possibly the worst thing for a beginner would be the instructions. There are no adjacent photographs or diagrams, just text. I don’t think it helps that the text has probably been translated from French. In places the instructions feel skimmed over or sometimes even in the wrong order. I had to resort to looking on Youtube for clearer instructions on how to create the doll’s hair. Luckily, my experience in pattern cutting and sewing enabled me to make up the clothes without too much trouble but I was admittedly working from my own knowledge a lot of time, rather than following the instructions. The author also assumes the reader has a sound understanding of sewing and embroidery terminology, for example reference is made to ‘skeins’ (a length of thread or yarn, loosely coiled and knotted), ‘satin stitch’ and ‘bullion knots’ without any accompanying images or glossary.
That being said, the book itself is very nice with great photography of the dolls and also pretty lays of the fabrics and trims needed for each one. It makes for a pleasant coffee table book if nothing else. I probably wouldn’t recommend the book for beginners but if you have some experience of sewing and making clothes, the gorgeous, and very French, detailed design of the dolls make it worth giving a go, despite the book’s shortcomings.