Barbara G. Walker Books
Learn to Knit Afghan Book
A First Treasury of Knitting
The Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns
Charted Knitting Designs: A Third Treasury of Knitting Patterns
A Fourth Treasury of Knitting Patterns
Mosaic Knitting Patterns
Knitting From the Top
Barbara Walker Knitted Doll Outfits
Several years ago, Schoolhouse Press was pleased to acquire most of Barbara's doll collection, along with their knitted outfits.We are putting together an online photo gallery to share with knitters, the start of which (18 dolls) is found below Barbara's essay about her collection. We will update the gallery periodically as we take new photos; Barbara's collection features over a hundred dolls and even more outfits. Please note that each doll has its own gallery with a full image and detail shots of the knitted outfits. To view the dolls, you'll need to use the drop down box at right in the gallery below to select each one by name.
Knitting Doll Clothes, an essay by Barbara G. Walker
Once when my son was small, I gave him a little G.I. Joe doll. He didn't play with it much. He soon abandoned it. After a while, I picked it up and idly designed a sweater for it. Then I began to notice commercial designs for Barbie doll clothes in the magazines. They were thick, clunky, clumsy affairs with little or no shaping -- some even calling for knitting worsted -- in which the doll would be simply swallowed up.
I thought clothes for an 11- or 12-inch doll should be miniaturized in proportion, and shaped to the doll's figure. So I bought a couple of Barbies and began experimenting with materials like fingering yarn, fine boucle, thin cotton, silk and metallic threads, even sewing thread, on needles size zero or smaller. I found the shaping interesting, and each different design a new challenge. Also, it could be finished fairly quickly.
This was an avocational relief from the drawn-out process of completing each full-sized garment that I was creating, so I bought more small dolls and enjoyed making fantastical costumes for them. It soon became another one of my obsessions. I began to haunt doll shows, picking up a variety of male and female models for my ideas.
Eventually, I had a whole room with floor-to-ceiling shelves on three walls to display my more than 400 dressed dolls, with several hundred additional costumes stored in boxes as I continued to make more.
Each of my doll designs was made from the top down, in one piece. Even though I used a variety of different materials and stitch patterns in the same garment, they were always seamlessly connected. Fitted garments were given a snap opening down the back, so the doll could be inserted feet first. Trousers or tights for the males therefore had the "fly" opening usually in the back rather than in the front. To nip in the waist, I often used the ever-handy Fabric Stitch for a firm, tight belt band. I also knitted accessories: slippers, boots, hats, hoods, masks, and hairbands to keep the dolls' typically flyaway hair in place.
I created these hundreds of doll costumes, no two alike, in my spare time between commercial designing, making self-and-family knitwear, inventing new pattern stitches, and writing books. The doll costumes were the fun part: the stuff I did for relaxation. The comfortable thing about such designing is that you can let your imagination soar. The garment doesn't have to be practical or even "wearable" in the ordinary sense. It can be as fantastic or as sci-fi otherworldly as you like. Anything goes. Doll designing is an opportunity to put yarn types, colors, and pattern stitches together in new and unexpected ways.
No, I never published any pattern directions for such designs. They would be much too lengthy and complicated, since each was a one-of-a-kind, invent-as-you-go process. But isn't it always more fun to work at materializing what our own minds can dream up, rather than copying someone else's ideas?
I'm inclined to think, too, that finely shaped knitting for a curvy object like a Barbie doll figure may be one of the few products that only human hands and minds can make. No machine, however complex, would be able to perform the variety of changes and adaptations required. The necessary technology might be invented some day, but it isn't around now. This is something that only you, the knitter, can do.
Please note: There are 18 dolls represented above, use the drop down box on the right beneath "Photo Galleries" to choose each doll by name and see a full image. Then, click the thumbnails below to see the detailed garment shots for each doll.
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