Dollmania Part 1: Jeeves and Wooster Dolls

I defy anyone with a sense of humor to read a P.G. Wodehouse story and not come away laughing (or at least smiling).

We bought the Jeeves and Wooster box set last October and, halfway through watching it, I started reading the (substantial) canon. I fell in love with Wodehouse’s prose style and particularly his good-hearted protagonists. So when I got it in my head to try a new project — making dolls — they were the first models I thought of.

2 White felt squares
2 Antique White felt squares
2 Smoke felt squares
1 Silver Grey felt square
1 Brown felt square
1 Red felt square
12-color pack Janlyn six strands cotton embroidery floss
Grey Mouliné six strands cotton embroidery floss
1 bag acrylic pillow stuffing
1/2″ two-hole buttons
Small embroidery needle

I used Mimi Kirchner’s doll template, posted free on Purl Bee. I reduced the size of the stencils 50 percent by selecting “Booklet Printing” on my Printer Setup, which reduced the four page pattern to two pages, reducing the projected size of the doll from 14″ to 7″.

I made the Jeeves doll first, way back in December. It was the first time I’d ever worked with felt and the first time I’d ever sewn a doll. As a starter doll, this was a good character choice for color — three felt color squares (black, white and antique white) at 29 cents a piece from JoAnn’s Fabrics, four different colors of embroidery thread, which you can pick up in a huge variety pack for less than $5. I already had a set of small embroidery needles. The template didn’t have any models for male clothing so I had to improvise a little. I’m not quite up to designing a long coat and bowler hat just yet, so I decided to go with the simple waistcoat, tie and arm braces we see Jeeves wearing during series 3 of the television show.

The actual body of the doll is white to match the sleeves. I cut out two slightly larger copies of the body template in black felt to make the waistcoat and tie. To make the male hair, I cut out the stencil for Wig #2 and trimmed the sides off. I elected to whip stitch it on with white thread because I liked the effect I saw in the example photos AND it reminded me of some of the subtle color accents on a few cover illustrations for the books:

Some of the smaller details were harder to pull off: some day I’ll be able to stitch a reasonable facsimile of Stephen Fry’s nose and lips, but again I wasn’t quite up to it when I first made the doll (and it seemed more than a little Jeevsian to just leave his expression blank). I picked a royal blue color for his eyes. The collar was actually one of the first things I did but it’s the idea I’m most proud of, because it was so simple to do. I also had the idea to use black thread to sew the head to the body and give the illusion of the loop part of his necktie.

Once I had both sides of each of the doll’s parts sewn together using the whip stitch, I used a pen or a knitting needle to push down a small amount of pillow stuffing into each part before sewing them up. I attached the doll’s head first, sewing its neck to the front part of the white body. Later I attached the arms to the shoulders using a simple whip stitch. Lastly, I attached the legs by placing the two-hole buttons on either side of the legs at the top and looping them through the lower part of the torso with embroidery thread before tying it off. I elected to keep this last part from Kirchner’s original design because I liked it and it makes the dolls that much easier to store somewhere — you can fold them in half to put in your bag or pocket or sit them on a shelf somewhere.

Improvising Bertie’s clothes was a little more complicated. Jeeves is in his work clothes while Bertie, a future English lord, had to look a little more polished. I chose the smoky felt because it resembled the charcoal suit we see Hugh Laurie wearing in series 1. The body pattern I cut out was white and I originally cut out three slightly larger body patterns in the smoky felt, intending to give the doll two open sides to a jacket as well as a waistcoat and tie (in silver grey). In the end, I thought the waistcoat alone looked better and made him more symmetrical to the Jeeves doll. The detailing of his waistcoat buttons and pocket were done with white and black embroidery thread.

I also chose to give him brown hair (repeating the pattern I used for Jeeves’ hair) since in the show and various artwork, Bertie is depicted as having lighter hair than his ingenious valet. Same with the turquoise blue embroidery thread I chose for his eyes.

Bertie is known for having what in the Edwardian days would have been considered an eccentric taste in fashion and accessories (monogrammed handkerchiefs, white fedoras, pink neckties) which Jeeves is constantly having to curttail. So initially I thought the signature for this doll would be to have a gaudy flower in his button hole which throws off the balance of his carefully tailored suit and buttons. In the end, however, I decided to go with a Remembrance Day poppy, since the short stories and novels take place after WWI and what the characters were doing in life prior to the war is a popular topic of discussion among Wodehouse fans.

This was a fun project and I’m not quite finished with my dolls yet. Look for Dollmania Part 2 to be posted later this week. In the meantime, here’s Bertie and Jeeves chilling out in my Sherlock bag! (Wodehouse was a fan of the Sherlock stories, references them frequently in his work and actually modeled his boys on Holmes and Watson).

Check out Dollmania Part2: Sirius Black and Severus Snape.

~ by blackmoodcraft on July 12, 2011.

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