Fire in the Belly
(25 in, 61 cm; completed December 2007)

I worked on this doll on and off for over a year. I used a magic ball -- many yarns tied together -- with very long tails to make this piece. I worked the piece completely in freeform in smallish sections. First, I would work the base in roughly the shape I wanted. Then I would pull through the long tails and chain them for 5-6-7-8 chains or so. I discovered part of the way through that it's important to finish the chains carefully so they don't unravel, so after pulling through I would pull through again and then pull very firmly. I didn't make the entire magic ball at once, but rather tied one or two of each color together (more or less randomly) and then would work it, add some more, etc. It was a challenge to achieve the shape I wanted -- it took a lot of adding a little to an edge here, taking a tuck there, folding back and sewing down an edge over there that stuck out too much, etc. I also "cheated" a little and added some chains where I wasn't 100% happy with the color distribution.

By the time I finished the legs and lower torso, I wasn't sure I liked it and didn't really know how it should go from there. For a long time this was my car project so I would work on it in fits and starts. At some point I decided to use all oranges for the belly because I felt she had something to say (though I still don't know what ... just a fire in the belly of some sort). So, I got a little further up her torso and then didn't really know how her arms should go or what her head should look like. Long hiatus! I had a wonderful get together (after several years of an online friendship!) with Barbara Hillery Van Elsen and brought along the doll to get her input. She thought that the head should be much more plain than the body; I was thinking along the same lines, so that really inspired me to proceed. Then my aunt gave me a pin that she no longer wanted; it was a female form similar in style to this one, as it happens, and its arms were up in the air -- aha! She loked like she was both joyous and passionate, and that's what I decided I wanted for this doll. Those two events were in November 2007 and I started working on her again quite intensely until she was finished.

In thinking about the head, I very much agreed with Barbara that it needed to be simpler to work with the highly textured and colorful body. I also thought it needed to be thick so as not to get lost in all that chain-y body and also monochromatic, more or less. I made a flat piece of all slip stitched work, randomly using the front, back, and both loops. I liked the resulting texture. I then made a backing piece in back loop sc and also a "filler" piece in back loop sc to give the head some thickness. I was in the car and had no other stuffing material, so decided just to crochet my own, and it worked out pretty well. The outline of the face is a ring of dc with alternating tc, sc around that. The hair, always such fun for me, was pretty easy: for each strand, start with a short chain, a small puff st at the end, and then sl st back to the base of the head, and repeating that across the top, with one row behind the other and the back row a stitch or two longer.

I made the head before adding the arms and I was so pleased with how it came out that it really encouraged me to keep moving with the project. There were many points along the way when I almost abandoned ship because I just didn't know what this doll wanted to become. However, I put so much effort into her from the start that I guess I wasn't willing to give up on her, and I'm glad I didn't -- a good lesson for me! I don't think I'll use this chain technique for a large area again ... it really was a lot of work and somewhat hard on my hands. However, I think it would make good hair for a flat doll, so the wheels are spinning in that direction.

Here are some close up shots of the body to give a better feel for the texture that results from the combination of the chains and freeform stitching underneath..

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