Recycled Remnants for a Glamorous Redhead – Meet Maria!

We doll artists draw  our inspiration from all around us.  Generous donations of  fabric and lace at the Harborne Village Fete last month enabled me to create a Tilda doll made entirely from recycled remnants.  

Could there be any better way to make good use of some of the donated fabrics than to create a doll inspired by my good friend Maria Goodwin – Community Fundraiser for Birmingham St. Mary’s Hospice?

Meet Maria!

Redhead Tilda Maria
Redhead Tilda Maria Feet
Redhead Tilda Maria

Maria is one of those rather special people that St. Mary’s Hospice is very lucky to have in the team.  Hard working, full of fun and always with a smile for everyone – come rain or shine and no matter how heavy the mascot (!).

Redhead Maria Goodwin
Maria in Action
Redhead Maria Goodwin
Redhead Maria Goodwin
Always a Smile for Everyone

Let’s Hear it for Beautiful Redheads

Not only that, she has a rather glamorous head of beautiful red hair which was the inspiration for my latest Tilda doll.

Some of my favourite people in the world have red hair.  My daughter for a start, my sister and both my nieces, so it won’t surprise you to learn that I really admire it.

All the Tilda dolls I have made so far have had neat, shortish hairstyles, but I felt it was high time to create a glamorous redhead with longer tresses.

Just 2% of the world’s population have red hair, which makes it the rarest of hair colours: the unusual is always particularly attractive.

November 5 is National Redhead Day – also known as Love Your Red Hair Day in the United States, the United Kingdom and other parts of the world.  Redheads get the whole day to celebrate their rarest of hair colours – it is their chance to shine.  If you have red hair yourself – how will you celebrate your day?

I created Maria using the same methods I have set out on previous posts, so you can refer back to those if you want further detail of how the doll herself is created.

Tips and Tricks

Working with recycled materials has its unique set of challenges.  It is much harder than working with new fabrics for a number of reasons:

  1. You have to wash and iron it all before you can start a project.  I always launder all fabrics that are donated.
  2. You can’t always see the selvedge, so you have to test the grain of your fabric and cut it straight before you start.  See my earlier post for how to do this.
  3. The fabrics you have to hand don’t always co-ordinate well.  They may all be the same colour, but the shades just don’t match – they don’t work well together.  Fabric dyes are a good way of sorting this problem out.
  4. You don’t always have much fabric available – remnants are, by their nature, the small bits that are left over.  Similarly, if you are salvaging material from donated clothes, you often get left with odd shapes by the time you have cut the seams away.  Tilda dolls are a great way of using up remnants because they can be created by sewing several small pieces together.  It may not look as though you have enough material to make a whole doll when you start, but as you join the fabrics together and place your pattern over them, the magic starts to happen as you begin to create something from nothing.  See below for tips on how to store and make best use of remnants.
  5. I purchased some specifically designed beading needles recently which made this project much easier.  They are very fine, long and bendy, which makes picking up and threading lots of tiny beads much easier.  It always amazes me just how much difference having the right tool available makes to a project.  These needles cost less than £5 and I got a whole tube full for that.  A sound investment indeed!
Redhead Placing the Pattern
Placing the Pattern
Redhead Tilda Maria Beading Needles
Beading Needles - A worthwhile investment

Everything in its Place and a Place for Everything

I try never to waste anything.   This is not only because it feels like the right thing to do (“waste not, want not” as my Dad always used to say), but also because donations are precious – they are given with care and should be treated with respect, not just tossed carelessly away.  

When I cut my fabrics for making Tilda dolls, I maximise the use I can make from every square inch by cutting as many pieces of the right size for arms, bodice, feet, legs etc. as I can from every piece.  I keep bags of the right sized fabric so I can mix and match with future donations, maybe using fabric dyes if necessary to achieve a good match.  In this way, I finish up with an organised fabric stash and bags of fabric all cut to the right size and ready to piece together for my next project.  The sizes I usually work with are:

    • Arms – 3″ x 6″ (7.5cm x 15cm)
    • Legs – 4.5″ x 6″ (11.5cm x 15cm)
    • Bodice 6″ x 6″ (15cm x 15cm)
    • Leg Top 6″ x 8′ (15cm x 20.5cm)
    • Bloomers 9.5″ x 8” (24cm x 20.5cm)

I save smaller scraps – to make my Baby Tilda dolls:

  • Head/Body – 5.5″ x 8″ (14cm x 20.5cm)
  • Bloomers/Pants – 5.5″ x 3″ (14cm x 7.5cm)
  • Legs 5.5″ x 3” (14cm x 7.5cm)

Scraps that are too small even for Baby Tilda dolls still have a use in miniature projects and appliqué.  I save these in clear plastic containers that I can easily see through and stack neatly – one box for each colour way.

Remnants for Tilda Dolls
Remnants - Cut to Size for future Tilda Dolls
Baby Tilda Scraps
Remnants - Saved for Baby Tilda Dolls

Heart Up-Cycling!

Maria’s bodice, top skirt and feet were made from a very pretty piece of cream and orange floral fabric donated by Maria herself.

Her first underskirt was made from  an orange and white small check gingham fabric given to me by Mich in her latest bag of donated remnants.  Keep on sewing Mich!

To bring her to life, Maria was stuffed with polyester fibre from a donated cushion.  The shimmering purple beads and sequins and some lovely lavender slub silk have been saved for a future project.  Watch this space …!

Redhead Maria donated cushion

Maria’s necklace was created from the fringe of a scarf donated to the Hospice charity shop.  There are plenty more beads left for future projects …

Redhead Maria donated scarf
Redhead Tilda Maria Beads
Redhead Tilda Maria Beads

I saved half of the beads cut from the scarf, but still on their thread, to make them easier to fish out of the box when needed.  I saved the other half with a couple of inches of fabric left attached.  They may be more useful left attached like this – maybe for a 1920s style flapper girl type doll?

To finish Maria’s bodice in the style fit for a beautiful redhead, I used a small piece of donated vintage lace.  There was just enough to decorate the front and back of the bodice.  I used some of the beads from the charity shop scarf to further enhance the vintage trim and make it look extra special for Maria.

Redhead Tilda Maria Bodice Beaded Vintage Trim
Beaded Vintage Trim

Meet some more Tilda Dolls ...

Would you like a Doll made especially for you?

Would you Like to Learn how to Make a Tilda Doll Yourself?

I will be running a series of workshops in Birmingham in January to March 2022 where you can join a small group (4 places maximum) and enjoy creating a Tilda doll of your own.  

Over 3 workshops, we will work together to bring our Tilda dolls to life.  I will supply all the materials you need.  All you need is access to a sewing machine at home and to bring along your enthusiasm to meet new people and learn new skills.  Please contact me for further details.

Request Printable PDF Instructions

A Printable PDF Instruction Sheet for making your own Tilda Doll is available incorporating all the Tips and Tricks of previous posts.  

Please contact me to request a downloadable PDF file (Subscribers only).

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