I first knew that Jill Hamor was a good toy designer when I saw the Lisa and Corduroy set she made on her blog. This doll and bear so perfectly capture the nostalgic sweet look of Don Freeman's illustration I was really blown away. It's simply stunning work and I've been reading Jill's blog, bybido, ever since.
Jill just published her first book, Storybook Toys.
Knowing the loveliness of her work I was eagerly anticipating this book's realease. Storybook Toys has patterns for 16 projects, evenly split between dolls and toys, and all of them are inspired by classic toys and illustrations from the 1930's-1950's.
Here you can see one of Jill's inspiration images: the front of a vintage birthday card with an illustration of a horse.
She's translated the idea of this horse into a sewing pattern, while keeping the childlike innocence of the original illustration.
What a fascinating and original concept for a book!. I love this.
I collect old toy patterns and I love them as much as I love my collection Japanese softie books. In fact, these collections have quite a bit in common. The old toy patterns and the new Japanese softie patterns share an essence of sweet innocence, unabashed cuteness, and a sparse simplicity in design. Jill has taken these traits and translated them into new designs that modern sewists will love to make and today's children will love to own.
This book would be well worth the $25.95 cover price for the front section alone. Detailed information on how to make yarn hair for dolls, including goldilocks curls and fancy updo's that would make any little girl swoon.
And templates to use for what I find to be the scariest part of doll-making, making the face. Jill shows us step-by-step how to stitch the beautifully embroidered eyes you see on the dolls in the photos.
I read doll and toy books cover to cover all the time and I've read a lot of them, but there tips in this book I had never heard of before. Spray the face with water while you stuff to smooth out wrinkles? And draw the features on a plastic sandwich bag first so that you can move the around the face to see how they'll look? These are truly brilliant suggestions and there are more.
Huge kudos to Jill's publisher, Stash, for including full-sized pattern pieces and pullout pattern sheets, something so rare in doll and softie books. What a big difference it makes in the ease of starting a project when the pattern pieces are the right size.
I decided to sew the Roly-Poly Duck on page 109.
Describing the inspiration for this toy Jill says, "Though most often made of plastic, roly-poly tumble toys were commonly found in mid-century toy boxes. Ducks with little sailor hats were also quite popular, not just as toys but on greeting cards, storybooks, and other childhood treasures. I created this wool felt version of a roly-poly toy."
This duck took me about two hours to make start to finish and it came together without a hitch. I put a rattle and a bag of glass pellets inside so that when you knock him down he makes a little noise and rights himself again. He's a cutie.
At the end of the instructions for this toy Jill suggests some variations on the roly-poly concept including a clown and a Santa or snowman. This caused me to do a Google Image search for vintage roly-poly toys and now I'm super excited about all the possibilities.
I wish that Stash had included alternate views of a few of the toys. There's a pattern for a puppy that is described as "a practical and fun toy for either a boy or a girl, a bedside protector at night and a pajama (or secret treasure!) holder during the day." I want to see this pocket in action, but we only get a front view of the toy. It's belly is the real star, but we don't ever get to see it. A few more inset photos that show off the specialness of some of these toys would have been welcome.
That being said, with this book you can happily make a whole range of classic toys such as a Goldilocks and The Three Bears topsy turvy doll, a Red Riding Hood puppet set, marionettes, and range of old-fashioned cloth dolls. Line drawings illustrate the crucial steps and Jill's instructions are clear and easy to follow.
Storybook Toys just might make you begin your own collection of vintage doll and toy patterns, too. Jill tells me she loves the old "mail-order" patterns. You can find them on eBay (I have happen to have that one) and her favorite vintage doll-making book is Modern Soft Toy Making by Margaret Hutchings (you can read my review of that book here).
You can find Storybook Toys by Jill Hamor here. I think you'll enjoy it. And follow Jill's blog, bybido, to see the toys she is sewing with and for her three daughters (people with three daughters are awesome, by the way).
Disclaimer: Jill sent me a review copy of this book, but you know I always tell it the way I really see it when it comes to craft books. The Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.