Reclaimed Fabric Jester Doll

Retrobellish Jester Doll

This little jester started out as an idea I had to make a medieval style doll about five years ago. I have always been inspired by the medieval style clothing from some of the great classic movies. The colors, the style and flow of the fabrics have always been a fascination of mine. A few weeks ago, while looking through my fabric remnants, I saw beautiful colors and lush textures that inspired me to make a jester doll.


Rag Jester Body

Completed Jester Body

First, I had to create the doll’s body and since this would be an abstract cloth doll, I decided to use the fabric from an old cotton sweatshirt. I cut a lengthy portion from one sweatshirt sleeve and rolled up the cut piece forming a firm makeshift torso and sewed the edges to the rolled up portion. Next I cut smaller pieces from the same sweatshirt, rolled up the piece to make an arm in the same fashion as the torso and repeated these steps to make the other arm. I then sewed each arm piece to each side near the top of the torso. I followed the same procedures to make the legs and sewed them to the bottom portion of the torso.


The head was challenging, but I used the same sweatshirt remnant from which I cut one lengthy piece. I rolled one long piece into a rounded ball shape and when big enough in proportion to the body, I pinned it in several spots and started sewing along all edges to secure the ball shape as much as possible. I cut apart old sheer knee high stockings and placed a piece over the round head shape, stuffed more cotton pieces at the base to make a neck and started sewing that part to the body. Next I looked through my remnant box and found a small piece of soft white cotton that was large enough to sew over the entire head. I took brown colored sewing thread to sew the jester’s eyes, eyebrows and nose. I used red sewing thread to make the lips. I then used brown curly wool trim to make the hair by sewing down the strips to the head.


In my remnant fabric box, I found a beautiful cream colored cotton fabric, which was large enough to make the jester’s tunic, sleeves and pants. I spread the fabric out on a table and laid the doll flat over the folded fabric. By eye, I used a pencil to lightly trace around the doll creating a pattern on the fabric and (leaving a generous 1/2 inch seam allowance). I cut out the drawn pattern to sew the doll’s clothes. When I finally finished the jester’s clothes, I used a maroon colored permanent fabric marker to draw and color in a harlequin pattern onto the tunic. I had a roll of cream colored lace trim that perfectly matched the cream colored clothes. I used cream colored sheer cotton to separately make sleeves and connected them to the tunic at the shoulders and around the armholes.


jestor cape back

I also found a beautiful maroon colored velour fabric piece in my remnant box (cut from an old jacket of mine) and saw that it was perfect in size to make a cape for the doll. Using a matching maroon colored thread and needle, I basted long stitches about one inch from the cape’s top edge hemline. I sewed smaller single stitches down each side of the cape, placed it over the doll’s shoulders, and sewed a bottom hemline on the cape. Next, I decided to make a hat for the jester, so I took another maroon velour remnant and cut it into a trapezoid shape. I sewed together the longest edges forming a tubular shape (leaving the top and bottom ends open), and sewed the smaller opened side to the jester’s head (through the white fabric and hair), flattened down the rest of the tube while puffing out the fabric, which piled nicely forming a round puffy shape, sewed tiny stitches to hold the folds in place, and continued to form the hat as I went along. Then I sewed the center of the hat down through the center and hid those stitches under one of the folds of the last layer. I was very pleased with the results.


I adorned the harlequin pattern on the jester’s tunic by sewing on some maroon colored beads. I also made the jester’s boots from the same maroon velour fabric and sewed tight stitches to create the curled points on the boots.

Just like in some of the old movies I’d seen, I wanted the jester to be holding a mandolin. I looked up a picture of a mandolin on-line, drew it onto a piece of regular paper and figured out an appropriate size mandolin by holding it up against the jester. Once I figured out the correct size in proportion to the jester, I traced the mandolin pattern onto heavier paper and again onto corrugated cardboard. Next I measured where to make the center hole on the mandolin and used a paper punch to do so. Using acrylic craft paints, I painted the mandolin details onto the heavy paper pattern and let it dry.

making Paper mandolin


Next, I worked with the heavy corrugated cardboard mandolin and neck cutouts and glued them together. The lower back portion of the mandolin body was rounded (as if made from a hollowed out gourd). I achieved that look with paper mache (which I made from scrap paper towel strips watered down with white glue) and affixed that small round shape to the mandolin’s back by wrapping long narrow mache strips from the back and around to the front of the mandolin’s body. I then placed the mandolin on a piece of waxed paper and near the heating vent to dry. Once it dried overnight, I was able to remove the mandolin from the waxed paper without any problem. Next, I glued the painted mandolin paper veneer over the face of the heaver paper mache mandolin piece and painted the rest of the mandolin to match the already painted top veneer.

Retrobellish Jestor & Mandolin

I cut small rectangular corrugated cardboard pieces to make the bridge and nut pieces on the mandolin, then used bright yellow sewing thread and fabric glue to adhere the strings onto the tiny rectangular bridge. Once the strings dried in place, I cut (with sharp scissors) the ends off of rounded toothpicks to make the tuning heads and pushed those cut pointy ends (dipped into a little glue) and into the head. Once they dried in place, I took one string at a time, dabbed glue around the tiny tuning heads and with tweezers, began wrapping each thread around its corresponding tuning head and cut off the excess. Once everything was dried, I placed the nut in place, and used glue to line up the strings evenly in place.


making doll hands

Last, but not least, I made the jester’s hands from flesh colored polymer clay. I rolled each finger and made some slightly longer or shorter matching the sizes for each hand. I made the palm part, a longer wrist part, pierced the end of the arm part with a toothpick (so that I could later sew the arm to the sweatshirt arm). I then attached the fingers onto the hand part and held them in front of me and while mimicking playing a guitar, curved the hands and shaped the fingers. I carefully placed the complete shaped pieces onto aluminum foil and baked them in the oven (carefully following the clay manufacturer’s instructions).

Although this project took me over a month to complete in my spare time, it can be done in several days with the right amount of time. And although I chose to make a jester doll, you could give it a try with any doll you’d like. So just have fun and create your own reclaimed fabric doll.

Upcycled Mens Suit

The inspiration for this project came to me while cleaning out David’s closet this fall. We were taking down the summer clothes for the winter when I came across a few of David’s old suit jackets from his younger days which he had outgrown many moons ago. We decided to donate most all the clothes in the closet to the Salvation Army except a few pieces I decided to keep to upcycle. One was this navy-blue suit jacket and the other was an old pair of jeans. I have always loved to embellish the lapels of my jackets and I had an idea to use the jeans to make a hand painted applique for this suit.

I started out by trying on the jacket, pinning it to a length I liked and cut the suit 14 inches from the bottom edge using pinking shears to prevent the fabric from fraying. To create a smooth bottom edge, I measured a 1/4 inch hem, sewed it, and then used a cool iron. I then used a pencil and plain paper (taping a second piece of paper) to trace each lapel and part of the neckline area. I then carefully cut out a pattern for each side. I took the paper patterns and pinned them onto the denim. Using tailor’s chalk, I added a 1/4″ inch hem all the way around, then cut out the denim shapes. I sewed the denim pieces onto the jacket and carefully sewed on the neckline pieces as well. I also used extra denim pieces and leftover buttons from this jacket project to embellish the pocket. For further embellishment, I used a dark navy-blue permanent fabric marker to draw vines and leaf shapes onto the lapels and neckline.

When I had tried on the jacket, I knew the sleeves had to be shortened, so I left these for last. I measured the length that I liked, pinned the sleeves a bit longer for a hem, removed the buttons from each sleeve cuff, and cut the sleeves with my pinking shears. I sewed the hem, ironed and sewed on the buttons. I used what I had available to me at the time, but this project could also be accomplished with an old coat, a woman’s suit jacket or blazer. Thank you for stopping by! Just have fun and create your own.

Beading A Deep Pink Blouse

Sometimes we have clothing items that we’ve outgrown or have fallen out of love with or maybe it’s just lacking a little pizazz! Whatever the reason, I’ve found that what always works for me is to take out all of my colorful beads and set them out on a piece of fabric on the dinning room table. I then study all of the beautiful colors of the sparkling beads next to that article of clothing and it’s easy to imagine them already sewn on and make the final decision. The beads I used on this embroidered deep pink blouse are not necessarily the most traditionally used style of beads, but rather what I thought would give the blouse an accent and subtle sparkle without taking away the focus from the beautiful embroidery on this blouse. After I sewed the crystal beads on the blouse, I realized I had leftover quite a few deep pink crystal beads and decided to make a set of matching earrings.

A very long time ago, I had dabbled in making earrings because I couldn’t find the style of drop pearl earrings to match my wedding dress. I had bought earring findings–packets of head pins, eye pins, jump rings, earring hooks, faux pearls and jewelry pliers to make my drop pearl earrings. I was very happy with the outcome of my loop pearl earrings and saved all of the leftover pieces. I dug around and found the small box containing those findings that I needed to make matching earrings for this deep pink blouse.

Giving used clothing a beaded look could be very rewarding and depending on the size of the beads, not too tedious. You can use larger special types of beads as an accent on the blouse especially if the article of clothing already has beautiful embroidery or an interesting pattern. Beading can be used as an accent rather than the focus of any piece. So don’t be afraid to try out new projects with items of clothing that could use Just a little of your creative touch. Thank You for your visit!

Reclaimed Fabric Appliques

One of the fastest and easiest ways to give a plain piece of clothing a new look is the use of fabric appliques. I’ve been collecting appliques for decades. I’ve bought appliques now and then at good clearance sales, and have even reclaimed some from sweaters, jackets and dresses I’ve bought at garage sales or vintage shops. I tend to buy black appliques more than any other color, but I do have several appliques in white and beige.

Occasionally, I’ve come across an unusual collar, like the large black beaded collar piece pictured here. This beaded collar is from a sweater I bought at a vintage shop. I sewed the beaded collar piece onto a black blouse I have and wear it with a black/brown print jacket. Appliques are very easy to sew and tack onto any piece of clothing. You can use a matching color thread and depending on the thickness of the fabric, use a heavy duty thread for heavy fabrics (like denim), or a lighter thread for delicate fabrics (like silk). Another great advantage of enhancing any article of clothing with an applique is that it’s not permanent, so if you should ever find a more beautiful applique, you can always remove it and sew on the new one in its place.

Sometimes you may come across a damaged dress or blouse that is very ornate with beautiful features, but it’s bottom edge is ripped or mangled. Well you can still reclaim the dress or what have you by cutting out the ornate applique features and using those cut pieces as appliques on your own article of clothing. Appliques are easy to sew onto any blouse, sweater, dress, jacket or even a purse because they are already affixed to a sturdy mesh backing. Most appliques are so beautiful that you can also use them in an art project. So the uses for these appliques are limited only to your imagination.

Reclaimed Holiday Cards

Greetings and happy new year. With all the holiday cards we received throughout this holiday season, we ended up with quite a few holiday cards that were too beautiful to throw away. One of my favorite things to do with my old holiday cards is to cut out name tags and smaller cards for many other occasions throughout the year. Those little gift cards at the card section in many big box stores can get a bit pricey. In the past I’ve either free handed my own drawings onto small cards or I’ve made them out of reclaimed holiday cards.

After the holidays, I start out by eying the cards to see where would be the best areas to start cutting out my new cards. Great tools to have are a pair of scalloped edge scissors and a one-hole punch that you may already have or that can be picked up at any craft store. In the past, I have even used a small knitting needle to make the hole. Scalloped edged scissors make great designs on your borders and the one-hole punch is to pierce a small hole in the top center or corner of a gift tag. If you don’t want to tape the gift tag or note card to a gift and you can also pierce a spot on the gift tag or card and run any kind of string, ribbon, or even yarn through the pierced hole. I use a toothpick to push the string, ribbon or yarn through the pierced hole.

Using the scalloped edge scissors to cut around objects and even shaping your own plain circles and tree shapes in the blank areas of most cards can make very beautiful little gift tags. You can even create small note cards by cutting simple square shapes from the folded edge of a card, which looks even more decorative when cut with the scalloped scissors. These tags and cards are not only colorful and whimsical, but also very original. I just hated to throw away such beautifully designed and artistic cards. Some tags have turned out so beautiful that I’ve used them as an ornament to hang on our tree and our wreath.

I hope this gives everyone fun and useful ideas on how to reclaim your holiday cards.


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