Handmade rag dolls come to life in the middle of the night

When the kids are tucked up in bed at night Kimberly Mills is busy making beautifully unique rag dolls. Taranaki Community News caught up with her to find out how these charming dolls come to life.

Hi Kimberly! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
Hi, I am a wife and mother. I have four kids, Hunter (13), Cleo (10), River (6) and Poppy (4) and my husband is Thomas Mills.  We have three cats Kandy, Midnight and Dexter.

I create heirloom rag dolls while the kids are at school and kindy and at night when they are in bed. I would make them all day if I could.

A few months ago I decided I was happy with the outcome of my dolls and I decided to give it a go putting them out there and I’m very proud of myself that I did, as finding the courage was hard.

The dolls you make for Cleos Poppies are stunning. How did you first get into making dolls?  
I have always been a creative person. I made my first dolls about nine years ago when I came across a book at the Hospice Shop which had instructions on how to make a doll.

I made only a few and then went on to create other things. A few months ago I decided to create my own doll pattern and start making dolls again. It took a lot of trial and error until I was finally happy with the outcome.

Each part of each doll is handmade by you and just beautiful. What’s involved in creating a doll and how long does the whole process take? 
It takes me at the very least nine – 10 hours to make each doll from start to finish.

I start out by tracing and cutting out the pattern, then sewing and stuffing, then more sewing of the body, then embroidering the face, attaching the head, attaching the hair and crocheting or sewing the outfit.

I like to have a few dolls on the workbench at one time and I don’t usually do every step in order – I alternate steps between the dolls.

Do you have a favourite part of doll making?
My favorite part of making the dolls would probably have to be embroidering the face.

You have made a collection of lovely rag dolls. Do you have any absolute favourites?
My favorite so far would have to be Annabelle one of my ballerina dolls. I have so many ideas of what I would like to create, so I’m sure I will have a new favorite in the future.

Do you remember any special dolls or toys from your childhood?
I  remember one doll which was my sister Sophie’s doll, but I can’t remember the brand – just that the doll had brown hair, a yellow top and black and white striped pants. But I was never really into dolls that much as a child.

Have you always been creative?
Yes I’ve always been creative. I LOVED art at school… other subjects not so much. My mum got my sister and I into ballet and jazz at three years old which was very good of her and I did pretty well in competitions.

Since I can remember I have struggled with anxiety and then in my teens the anxiety was accompanied by depression and for me creativity has always been a way of coping. It’s very therapeutic.

What’s your favourite quote?
My favorite quote is probably “We fall, we break, we fail – but then we rise, we heal, we overcome.”

Sometimes life has felt very dark but there has always been light in the end and I have pulled through, so this quote makes a lot of sense.