A miniature world created with love, of wool or felt, by hook or needle(s) – little houses, handmade dolls, crocheted, sewn or knitted clothes for them, animals, nature. A magical world in which I invite you to join me throughout the interview with Beth Webber, the creator of such a magical world.
Rux: While visiting your website I have discovered a little world crafted with love. Who is the person behind „By Hook, By Hand”? Please tell our readers a few words about yourself.
Beth: Hi Rux, thank you for this opportunity :-). I am in my mid fifites, raised in the Midwest of the United States. I was trained as a Mechanical Engineer, which work I did for over 25 years for a maker of Diesel engines. My Mother taught me to sew and my Grandmother taught me to crochet. I have been blessed with talented and loving women in my life. My Father is an engineer, and so is my sister. My husband of over 30 years is also an engineer, and my very best friend. No children, but several nieces and nephews. My husband and I both ride bicycles for both enjoyment and transportation. Our car sits for days at a time without moving an inch! We do our best to live green in a very brown world.
Rux: How did By Hook, By Hand appeared and why have you chosen this name for your project?
Beth: I wanted to be able to share the patterns I create with a larger audience and felt a blog would be a great way to do this. By hook, by hand describes pretty well the kind of work that I love to do…with needle and hook, and made with love by hand.
Rux: When did you become interested in handmade dolls?
Beth: I have loved handmade dolls all of my life. An Aunt of mine taught me how to make very simple mop dolls of yarn when I was very young, and I can recall spending hours doing this, then playing imaginary games with them. There is something magical about being able to create a doll with your own hands!
Rux: Do you still have the first doll you have ever made?
Beth: I wish! I’m afraid I don’t…but I do have the first knitted doll I ever made, since I only learned how to knit six months ago 🙂
Rux: How many dolls do you have in your personal collection? Is there a favorite one and if so, would you tell us something about it?
Beth: We live in a very small house and there are dolls in just about every room! Picking out a favorite doll for me is sort of like trying to pick out your favorite child 🙂 The one I’m the most proud of is the knit doll, which was from a free pattern by Jean Greenhowe.
Rux: You have made several thematic collections. Would you tell us some words about each of them?
Beth: I started my blog with a pattern for a crocheted doll called Free Spirit, which was inspired by the very popular Blythe doll. Large head, skinny body, big eyes. She is about 12 inches tall.
I love small dolls, so the next challenge was to make Free Spirit smaller…a Mini Free Spirit! She is about seven inches tall, still with a slightly oversize head and big eyes.
I love Asian Ball Jointed Dolls (ABJD’s), especially for their pose-ability, and wondered if a crochet doll could be designed with similar pose-ability and so the Pocket Spirits were born. They have a move-able head and jointed arms and are slightly smaller than the Mini Free Spirit.
All of these dolls are crocheted. I also love rag dolls, and Bleuette, so I created a simple cloth doll with proportions similar to Bleuette. These are the Praire Flower dolls. After learning to knit, I wanted to create a knit doll after the Waldorf fashion. This is the latest of my doll designs.
Rux: Where do you get your inspiration and how do you choose the themes?
Beth: I love child dolls, so children offer much inspiration. Also, BJD’s inspire me with their wonderful faces and pose-ability. Antique dolls such as Bleuette, and contemporary dolls also offer much in the way of inspiration. Dolls with wardrobes are wonderful, so a theme such as late Victorian, Steampunk, the seasons, or trendy all offer great ideas for making a doll.
Rux: Do you make all your patterns? Would you tell us a few words about the doll making process?
Beth: The patterns I offer for free on my blog are my own designs, but I also enjoy making other peoples designs as well. There are so many wonderfully talented dollmakers and designers out there! I start with a doll I love, such as the BJD’s, and wonder if this could be rendered in crochet, knit, or fabric. Crochet is really, for me, the best dollmaking medium. You can create three dimensional object very easily with crochet. So looking at the BJD, what is it that makes this doll unique, and how does this translate into crochet? It is pose-able, so how do we do that in crochet? Make a move-able head and arms that can be positioned. Then, I start to crochet! I ususally start with the head, then body, then limbs, working out pleasing proportions. Sometimes it takes a few attempts before the doll looks like the one in my minds eye, but I get there eventually :-). Faces on crochet or knit can be difficult, but by using acrylic eyes, and keeping the features very simple, an endearing face can be created fairly easily. And this is pretty much the process I follow to create a doll in crochet.
Rux: Your doll wigs are unique – they look so real and delicate! Would you tell us a few words about them?
Beth: I LOVE creating wigs for dolls! And it does not have to be an ordeal. There is a tutorial on my blog for creating wigs for dolls, but in a nutshell, you crochet a wig cap in the yarn you want to use for hair, then use this for a base to embellish with bangs, pigtails, ponytails, braids, short hair, long hair, whatever. The wig cap base means you won’t have any scalp color showing through your hair. Once done, you sew this cap to your dolls head, which also has the advantage of hiding any threads you may have used to embroider the mouth, or sculpt the head.
Rux: You are making doll clothes, you have a doll house, small animals, outdoor settings and so on… What can you tell us about this magic world you have created?
Beth: I believe you put a part of yourself in anything you make with love. When you place a handmade doll in the hands of a child, they know this. You cannot think negative thoughts when using your hands in this way, so I see the things I make as tangible manifestations of positive thought. It is no bad place to be 🙂
Rux: While working things happen. Do you have a funny / interesting story that you like to remember?
Beth: Well, I have an odd little cat, that likes to take my balls of crochet cotton and dump them in his water bowl. If I cannot find the thread I was using, I can usually find it floating in the water of his bowl!
Rux: If you are to make a famous character (from a book, movie or a cartoon) what would it be?
Beth: Hobbits! In fact, some of my Pocket Spirits made up as darling little Hobbit children, complete with sweet faces and curly hair 🙂
Rux: Besides crochet, what other techniques have you tried and which do you like the most?
Beth: I’ve recently learned to knit, which for me is awesome since I spent about 40 years convinced I couldn’t do this. And, I like to sew and embroider.
Rux: What are you working on at the moment?
Beth: I’ve been making knit dolls from Fiona McDonald’s book ‘Babes in the Wool’ and ‘Knitted Fairies.’ I want to teach myself how to draw Manga characters, so I can then draw a doll that I can crochet. So many dolls, so little time!
Well, I hope you all enjoyed our little trip into Beth Webber’s magical world and I have to thank her for the chance of making this interview and for all the advices she gave and sharred with us. Please visit Beth’s website at: By Hook, By Hand.
All the photos in this article belong to Beth and have been published with her consent.