What made you start Polly had a Dolly and how long have you been making dolls?
I have made dolls as long as I can remember – starting off making doll clothes as a natural progression from childhood doll play – and moving into creating rag dolls from kits with my mum.
Once my eldest daughter arrived I wanted to make her a special doll, one sewn with love especially for her. I then wanted to make another for my second daughter and thus I had reignited my passion for dollmaking.
An opportunity came up in our village, Staplehurst, a pop-up shop for a few weeks and I was invited to be part of it. I was a dressmaker at the time and it gave me the push I needed to start making my dolls professionally – which meant CE marking them. Thankfully, with help from CE groups, testing houses and Blazing Needles,
I worked through the process relatively easily and could offer them for sale!
What do you think the benefits are of children playing with dolls?
Dolls are different to teddies, cuddlies and blankets. Our need for doll play in our development goes back thousands of years and is linked to natural childhood development. Steiner education has taught me a lot about how important it is for children to have a special doll.
How every child engages with their doll is different, some like to parent the doll – to take care of it and treat it as a baby, others need someone to take on adventures, others need someone who they can share their secrets with when all is quiet. Every child is different, and every doll should be too. Each one of my dolls is unique – and I can make dolls to order to look just like your little one.
What materials make up one of your
As all my dolls are CE marked the components have to be tested in a lab to ensure they meet very high British Standards and comply with EU law.
I use a wide range of materials from Liberty fabrics, to super soft plush and specialist doll making fabrics. Every one of my dolls is filled with 100% British lambswool because:
- Wool has natural antibacterial qualities
- It has a weight to it making the doll feel substantial and lifelike
- It absorbs your body heat which feels so reassuring and comforting
- It is naturally fire retardent so it won’t be a danger to a child
- Its eco-friendly – renewable and biodegradable
Come in store and give a doll a cuddle to feel the difference!
You have lots of different designs, what are your favourite 3?
I am a prolific creator with a head full of ideas – and I don’t think I could choose my favourites as they are all my creations! However, based on feedback from parents, the children’s favourites are:
• My Penny dolls, I hear countless reports of them being sneaked into school in pockets, they are so small and baby like and their closed eyes are a calming influence.
• My Martha/ Matthew dolls are very popular with older children – these can be made in your child’s image with skintone, eye colour and hair colour to match – their own mini me. They are the perfect size for adventures.
• My cuddle dolls seem to be the most popular bedtime companion – their super soft plush fabric make them very tactile and comforting.
All these dolls are available in Made in Ashford.
What do you enjoy most about owning a handmade business?
I enjoy the flexibility – I can be around for my children after school and attend Sports Day and Carol Concerts without having to check with anyone else first! I also love the collaboration with other artisans and makers and working together.
You are part of a lovely network of creators and makers in Staplehurst, can you tell us a bit more about your group?
We have a lovely support group
in my village called Staplehurst Makers. We set up initially as a spin off from a business networking group, we split into our own group as we recognised the specific needs of a handmade business, the isolation it can bring, and the tendency of creatives to suffer from anxiety or depression. We met in each other homes, around 8 times a year and keep in touch via a private Facebook group. If you would be interested in joining us please visit our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/staplehurstmakers/.
Who your top 3 small bushiness?
Alix at the Little Red Hen Jewellery has been enormous support and influence to me right from the start of my doll making business, she has always encouraged me to try new things and gives me honest feedback.
Becca at Blazing Needles inspires me daily through her dedication to her craft. Her needles really do blaze and she always knows what the next trend is going to be!
David Gall is a coffee roaster in our village – St Apple Hurst Coffee – he has such tireless energy and is always visiting farmer’s markets around Kent. His coffee is amazing and he bring along his machine to our Staplehurst Makers meetings, delicious!Where else do you sell?
I have my own website, which you can purchase my dolls through (www.pollyhadadolly.co.uk
) and also sell online on Etsy and Handmade in Kent.
I am currently part of an amazing pop-up shop in Canterbury called Whitefriars Food and Craft. I also attend a select number of fairs around Kent (see my website to find out more).
What are the future plans for Polly had a Dolly?
I’m currently very excited about developing ideas to help us as parents engage with our children through doll play and going to get my girls to help me work on this during the summer holidays.
Once my children are a little older I want to branch out into teaching people how to make dolls, and selling my patterns and kits to make them.