Creating A Doll for a Garden Designer – Meet Cathy

Creating a custom order doll for an Award Winning Garden Designer – now that’s what I call a challenge!  Cathy’s Wildlife Garden won her a Platinum medal and Best Beautiful Border at BBC Gardener’s World Live 2022.  Cathy has a real passion for wildlife gardening.  You can see the beautiful willow bees decorating her garden in the photo below.

I wanted to create a doll for Cathy that would reflect her passion for bees, butterflies and all things wild and natural.  

Garden Designer Doll Cathy - Cathy's Platinum Award Winning Garden GWL 2022

Cathy trained at Winterbourne School of Horticulture, Birmingham and volunteers at Nettlefold Garden.   For the June 2023 Gardener’s World Show, Cathy worked with fellow designer Nik Attard to create a garden called “Where there’s a Willow” using naturalistic planting, a dash of rewilding and a lovely mix of wild, cultivated and edible plants.  The garden was inspired by the natural balance of the wild world and a curiosity about our place in it and won Cathy a Silver medal.  

Garden Designer Doll Cathy - Cathy with Alan Titchmarsh
Cathy with Alan Titchmarsh at Gardener's World Live 2023
Designer Doll Cathy - Where there's a Willow Silver Award GWL 2023
Cathy's "Where there's a Willow" Award Winning Garden
Garden Designer Doll Cathy - Where there's a Willow Silver Award GWL 2023
Where there's a Willow - Cathy wins a Silver Award at GWL 2023
Garden Designer Doll Cathy Where there's a Willow Silver Award GWL 2023

After the show, the plants are being donated to the gardens at Birmingham Hospice (the new name for St. Mary’s and John Taylor Hospices).where they will bring joy to patients, families and staff.

You will see the eye catching white roses in the picture above, in front of Cathy’s garden – and spot the white rose in Alan Titchmarsh’s hand too?  Birmingham Hospice are currently running a fundraising campaign where you can buy one of a limited edition of these white roses in return for a donation.  Cathy’s garden helped the Hospice to promote their campaign.

Birmingham Hospice White Rose Fundraising Campaign June 2023
Birmingham Hospice White Rose Fundraising Campaign June 2023
Designer Doll Cathy - Fiona visits GWL 2023
Fiona visits GWL 2023

Cathy’s garden received a huge number of visitors over the four days of the Gardener’s World Live Exhibition, but very few were allowed to sit on the bench in her garden.  Fiona – a doll I made as a raffle prize for the Birmingham Hospice Party in the Park Fundraising Event on 22nd July 2023 – was allowed to relax a little in Cathy’s garden before exploring the rest of the show.

To commemorate her award winning gardens, Cathy asked me to create a doll for her.  She was kind enough to give me plenty of freedom to design the doll – I love this sort of brief!  I wanted to create a doll that reflected Cathy’s passion for wildlife gardening.  Cathy’s first award winning garden had some beautiful whicker bumble bees decorating it, so incorporating bees into the design was a must.  I also know that Cathy loves butterflies and designs her gardens especially to attract them.  Cathy wears a lot of blue and has a favourite denim jacket – so the design was really beginning to take shape in my head now.  This is the story of how Cathy’s doll was created.

Garden Designer Doll Cathy Featured Image

Many of the dolls I have made have flouncy full skirts (see previous posts on how to make a Tilda doll), but this time, we agreed that our garden designer doll would wear a practical pair of denim dungarees (made from upcycled denim) and a pair of trainers to match.  I chose a pretty blue fabric from my stash that reminded me of garden trellis – very fitting for a garden designer?

Cathy’s doll needed bees and butterflies, which was the perfect opportunity to add some embroidered accents.  Dressing a doll in dungarees gives you the opportunity to add pockets – just perfect for small scale embroideries that help to personalise a doll and make her unique.

Making Embroidered Pockets

For the embroidered bees,  I decided to use an Embroidery Library design (m35196) and just omit the day of the week when I sewed it out onto the doll’s central pocket.  I also changed the flower colour to blue to match the rest of the outfit.  I just love the honeycomb embroidered with gold metallic thread – and the bees’ wing details?

Garden Designer Doll Cathy - Embroidery Library Design Honey Bees & Violets on Sunday m35196
Embroidery Library Design Honey Bees & Violets on Sunday m35196

For the two side pockets of the doll’s dungarees, I chose a pansy border pattern – just the right size for the pockets.  The pockets need to be embroidered first so they can be attached to the dungaree fronts before stitching them up and making the lining.

I cut a piece of lining fabric the same size as the pockets and stitched all around the edges, right sides together, leaving a small gap in the bottom seam for turning.  I then pressed before top stitching to attach them to the dungarees.

Designer Doll Cathy - Dungaree Pockets
Designer Doll Cathy - Dungaree Pockets
Garden Designer doll Cathy - Sewing out a Butterfly

The Pansy Border was another Embroidery Library pattern – Country Border Charm J6896.  I also added a butterfly – made to stand out in 3D, as though it had just flown in to settle on the pansy border for a while.

Embroidery Library Charm pattern m10862 was embroidered onto Avalon soluble stabiliser to create the delicate white 3D butterfly.  The stabiliser can be easily dissolved in water when the embroidery is complete leaving the intricate lace butterfly ready to attach to the pockets.

Making the Dungarees

I wanted to make a pair of fully lined dungarees with no visible seams.  I designed a pattern that would enable me to turn the lined dungarees inside out so that I could finish the bottom leg seams and leave no seams showing. 

To make sure that the side pockets were in the centre of the dungarees, I folded both the pocket and the dungarees in half and matched the fold lines, then pinned the pockets in place. Before top stitching the pockets to attach them, I made sure to double check that the pockets were lined up by placing one half of the dungarees on top of the other and ensuring that the pocket sat in the same place on both pieces.

Designer Doll Cathy - Attaching the Pockets
Attaching the Pockets

The upper and side seams of the dungarees then need to be stitched closed – with right sides together (and the little butterfly border trapped inside!).

Garden Designer Doll Cathy - Sewing the Upper and Side Seams
Closing the Upper and Side Seams

The lined top pocket can now be attached in the centre of the front of the dungarees.  You can almost hear the bees buzzing now?!

Garden Designer Doll Cathy - Top Pocket of Dungarees attached

The lining was made from the pretty blue trellis fabric in just the same way as the top of the dungarees, stitching the upper and side seams as before.  With seams pinked to neaten them (though they will be fully hidden later on) and pressed, it was time to stitch the inside legs of both the denim dungaree tops and the trellis lining.

When the inside legs are stitched and the seams neatened, the top dungarees (denim) can be turned inside out and the lining placed inside them so that the right sides of the fabrics are facing each other. I then pinned the centre seam to make sure that everything lined up nicely.  The lining can then be attached – and the upper seam closed – by stitching all the way around the top of the dungarees.  After pinking the seams to neaten them and pressing them nice and flat, the dungarees can be turned inside out through the bottom legs.

Designer doll Cathy - Sew Dungaree Inside Legs Together
Sew Dungaree Inside Legs Together
Designer Doll Cathy - Attaching the Dungarees Lining
Attaching the Dungarees Lining

Now all that is needed is to turn a narrow hem inside on both the lining and the denim, press and finish by top stitching in place.  You can then adjust the size of the turn up to suit the doll you are making and stitch it into place with a few holding stitches at each side of the legs.  Be sure to make both legs the same length!

Garden Designer Doll Cathy - Finishing the Dungaree Bottom Legs
Finishing the Dungaree Bottom Legs
Garden Designer Doll Cathy - Finished Dungarees
Garden Designer Doll Cathy - Finished Dungarees
Designer Doll Cathy - Side Pockets - Butterfly on Pansy Border
Side Pockets - Butterfly on Pansy Border

Tips and Tricks

  1. Pattern matching can be quite tricky with a wide pattern repeat like the trellis fabric.  I was careful to pin and hand baste each seam to match up patterns on adjoining pieces.  You will need to allow a bit more fabric to ensure you can do this.
  2. As the denim and lining were such different colours, I used different colour thread in the top and bobbin threads to match the colour of the different fabrics.  Make sure you remember which fabric you have uppermost to match the top thread to!
Designer Doll Cathy - Pattern Matching the Dungarees Lining
Pattern Matching the Dungarees Lining

Making Cathy

With her dungarees all ready, it was time to make the doll that would enjoy wearing them out in her garden.  Using the tried and tested pattern I have now made many times, I made Cathy using the pretty blue trellis fabric that would co-ordinate perfectly with her dungarees.  The cute watering can necklace and trowel earrings are miniature Tibetan silver charms – very reasonably priced and readily available on line  (e.g. EBay).  Denim trainers complete the practical look – particularly when embellished with blue daisies cut from surplus vintage trim from her hat.

Garden Designer Doll Cathy - Finished Custom Order Tilda Doll
Garden Designer Doll Cathy
Garden Designer Doll Cathy - Earrings and Necklace - Tibetan Silver Charms
Trowel Earrings and Watering Can Necklace - Tibetan Silver Charms

Cathy's Hair

I was particularly pleased with Cathy’s hair.  I have used all sorts of materials for making  doll hair (see previous posts) in the past.  This time, I wanted to achieve a very soft, romantic and natural looking hairdo – fit for a passionate wildlife gardener.

I chose to use hand washed teeswater locks available from the Fibre Alchemy Studio on Etsy.  These British Rare Breed prime-quality locks are soft and lustrous  – just perfect for a really special hairdo for a Designer doll.  A little goes a very long way, so it is easy to add a touch of luxury to a doll like this without breaking the bank.  The teeswater locks can be “tacked” into place with a felting needle before stitching to hold them firmly.  It is nice to be able to support this small UK business too.

Heart UpCycling

Everything I create makes good use of up-cycled materials and Cathy is no exception.

  1. Cathy’s dungarees are made from up-cycled denim that used to be someone’s  favourite jeans – bought from a charity shop.
  2. Cathy’s hat was saved from an Easter Egg bunny rabbit.  It was just the right size for her!  The original hat was rather plain, but a short length of blue daisy vintage trim and a bow from my ribbon stash livened it up a treat.  I never throw any of the bows that arrive on cards, toiletries etc. away – you never know when they will come in handy.  This little blue bow seemed to have been just made for Cathy’s hat?
  3. The intricate buttons on her dungarees were given to me  by my friend Marion.  I am forever in her debt for the stock of unusual buttons she shared with me.  Thanks Marion!
Garden Designer Doll Cathy - Up-Cycled Hat
Garden Designer Doll Cathy - Up-Cycled Hat

All in a Good Cause

Cathy’s order for a custom  garden designer doll generated a donation of £50 to Birmingham Hospice.

If you would like a custom order doll made for you, please do contact me/order via my Etsy shop.

Birmingham Hospice Logo

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