Make your very own own toddler child

The finished mannequin doll is very convincing.

The finished mannequin doll is very convincing. (All photos courtesy of Gail Kellogg Hope.)

I’m always entertained when my artist friends cobble stuff together that normal people would just buy. Whether we’re confirmed Do-It-Yourselfers because we’re cheap, or because DIY is just an extension of the creative nature, I can’t say. But our default response always seems to be, “I can make it better than that!”

Gail Kellogg Hope is a painter and seamstress who’s taking off a few years to raise a toddler. She recently needed a mannequin to display an outfit she made for her son. Being thrifty, she wasn’t inclined to pay $57 for a flexible child-sized mannequin. “They are also so generic I knew they probably wouldn’t work for my pint-size half-elf son,” she said.

Using a Waldorf technique to make the head.

Using a Waldorf technique to make the head.

Gail started with an 18-month sleeper, to which she added mitten hands and feet and a head she devised herself, using a Waldorf doll-making technique. “I had to take things in and squish stuff around a little to get it right.” She used a stick from the front yard as the mannequin’s spine. “My son has been looking for that stick for a week,” she said. “Poor kid.”

After the basic body shape was fleshed out, Gail refined it with felt and ribbon ties. “Not using a fixed pattern gave me a lot of freedom to cobble shapes together. I kept a measuring tape handy and double-checked the doll and my child regularly. Wrapping the sleeper was the most difficult part. I had to tie the thighs together to narrow the hips enough to be human.” She padded the joints so they can still move but not bend backwards, since she found the doll’s double-jointed knees disconcerting.

Ribbons helped adjust the shape of the sleeper doll.

Ribbons helped adjust the shape of the sleeper doll.

When she had the shape right, she stitched a “skin” of chiffon over it. “It had good stretch and was nicely ‘my-kid-colored’,” she said.

The only thing she would do differently next time is make the skin separately and slip it on, rather than stitching it directly to the doll in sections. “It is not as neat as I’d like. Really only the hands and head will show once it is dressed, but I dislike my seam lines.”

Stitching down the skin.

Stitching down the skin.

Granted, she spent several days making the thing. But by using found materials, the mannequin doll cost her almost nothing. “I bet it would run about $30 if you had to buy all the materials,” she said, but the outgrown sleeper, leftover stuffing and fabric from her personal stash kept her purchases down to a spool each of thread and ribbon.

And that’s the creative impulse in a nutshell: I had this stuff lying around, I envisioned something, and I made it.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park in August 2015. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops! Download a brochure here.

Carol Douglas

About Carol Douglas

Carol L. Douglas is a painter who lives, works and teaches in Rockport, ME. Her annual workshop will again be held on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park, from August 6-11, 2017. Visit for more information.