Creative Process, Mini Quilts, Fabric Pins & Dolls!!!!

My Creative Process

In recent years I’ve found a most enjoyable approach to making art and I’d like to share it with you.  I’ve read about other artists and how they approach their work.  Some plan out their project in great detail before they begin.  I’ve tried that approach and it doesn’t work for me at all.  Anything that’s “super-planned’ usually ends up in my trash can.

Gathering

Gathering is the first stage of each project I undertake.  For years I’ve kept an idea file.  I have a huge stack of ideas and every once-in-a-while I’ll go through the stack to see if any of the ideas still have “juice”.  The ideas that stay on top become project candidates.  They get put on my project list where they can live a long time before I take any further action.   When I start to get serious about an idea, I create a project box (I like the clear Iris scrapbooking box from Michaels) and begin to gather related ideas, materials, models, photographs, articles – anything that I might use to develop the project further.

Marinating

When the box gets full I start working with the contents and playing around with “stuff” to see what my next steps should be.  I decide what kind of project it will become – book, collage,assemblage, or piece of fiber art.  The time I spend playing at this stage is great fun.  I love Pinterest and I often review my “pins” to see if there are any interesting ways to expand my thoughts.    It’s exciting to revisit the colors, shapes, textures and ideas I’ve filed away.  Often inspirational flashes will come that help me “jump-start” the project.

Producing

When the time comes to construct the project, I have a clear idea of how I will begin.  As I’m building the piece I let the work guide me. I do one thing at a time and the work directs the next step.  This keeps me from feeling overwhelmed.  Since it is a discovery process, I don’t usually know what the finished project will look like.  But I do know when the work is done, because it tells me intuitively when there is nothing left to do.  By keeping an open mind, I experience delightful creative discoveries and hopefully a unique finished product.

This is what I like most about making art!!!!

Mini Quilts

MinidetailInspired by my friend, Barbara Snow from Bellingham, WA, I’ve been having a lot of fun making small quilts using running stitches and French knots.   I’m not a quilter but the idea of a card sized quilt made with fabric scraps and running stitches was appealing.

To get me started Barbara gave me a baggie with a small pile of fabric bits and pieces and some cotton batting.  One could use several layers of old sheeting, percale, or a piece of felt instead of batting.  There was also a piece of scrap fabric for the backing that coordinated with the scraps of fabric in the bag, some sheer fabric (netting, organza etc.), ribbon, and several kinds of thread.  The only additional tools I needed  were scissors, needles, a thimble, pins and beads.

I started by making a “cloth sandwich” with a piece of printed fabric, cotton batting and a piece of an old sheet.  I basted these together about 1/2 inch from the outer edge and then to make sure the fabric didn’t shift, down the middles.

Then the fun began.  After staring at the piece for while, I start stitching without any real  plan for the finished product.  I ran a line of stitching from one edge to the other.  It turned out to be a horizon line.  Then I started stitching around some of the shapes.  Next I added some knots for texture and some beads and more stitching.  Each time I changed materials I asked the work to tell me what to do next.  I used the sheer fabric (netting and organza) to “glaze” the surface.  I tacked the fabric in place with tiny stitches and then added some beading on top to anchor it in place.

The final step involved adding a backing to protect the stitching.  I cut a piece of fabric slightly larger than the little quilt.  Next I folded in the quilt edges to the inside and basted them in place so that they formed a finished edge.  To finish the back and protect the stitching, I cut a piece of fabric and pressed under the edges so it almost met the quilt edge.  I used a blind stitch to hold it in place!  And my little quilt was done.

Card QiiltThis was so much fun to make.  It was finished in several hours – mostly while I watched TV with my husband.  I decided that this type of project is a perfect travel activity because the materials and equipment fit nicely into a baggie, and most of the work can be done in my lap.

For fun, I made up some baggies with fabric, batting, beads, and thread and gave them to friends, just in case they wanted to try it out.

A Hug and A Kiss!!!

These mini pieces of stitchery were originally going to be used on a mini quilt.  But I found myself uninspired.  Then I thought I’d use them on my birthday doll.  But that didn’t speak to me at all.  I finally decided that I would turn them into fabric pins.  I finished the rectangle with the big X on it and realized that I had beaded a “kiss”.  If I placed the small square in a circle and it could be a “hug”.  It was easy to finish up both pins!!  I love the way they work together on a dark jacket.

Hug&KissDonatella – My 2014 Birthday Doll

I just finish my birthday doll for 2014.  Her name is Donatella.  She was a lot of fun to create and a good example of my personal creative process in action.

I started her several weeks before my birthday  by looking at my Pinterest file on art dolls.  I had no visual idea for what the doll might be. Next I started gathering materials. The collection included fabrics caught my fancy, a big of metal “findings’, a drawer full of yarns and ribbons and a multitude of beads of all sizes that seemed to go with the fabrics in the pile.

I spent an evening playing with all this stuff, and making little stacks of things that seemed to go together.  I had several small pieces of red stitching on dark fabric that I thought I might use in a mini quilt, but then I thought it might be fun to use them on the doll.  I vacillated back and forth but the stitchery didn’t go with any of the stacks.  So I set them aside for another project.

I was drawn to a piece of crazy quilted fabric I had made several years ago for a fabric bead project.  I kept coming back to it so I knew it had to be part of the doll.

Once that decision had been made, the doll began to take form.  I found the jeweled piece which told me it was part of the doll’s head.  I felt it was too small to be the whole head so I formed a wire circle and wrapped it with black taffeta.  Voilla!  Donatella’s head appeared, and from that point on I began to see her as a finished doll.

I knew the fabric would be used for the body.   My initial thought was to stuff the body, but somehow that didn’t feel right.  Playing with fabrics I formed a body shape that worked with the head.   Next I formed a petticoat which provided dimension without making an actual stuffed body part. I studied the head with the body and determined  that the legs and arms would be formed with wire and beads.

The biggest challenge came in how to “engineer” the component pieces so they worked together.  After I made the arms and legs and I had to figure out how to attach them.  I ended up using glue and stitching.

The final step was embellishment to enhance her personality.  I used ribbon and yarns to create a scarf.  My final delight came when I added more color.  I put the “hug” in the hands of Donatella and used the “kiss” as the yoke of her dress, coming full circle back to my original intention of including the little red stitcheries.

Donatella now lives on my studio wall as a sweet reminder of achieving my 77th year!

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Drawing Adventures

When it comes to drawing I usually use a sketchbook or a good piece of art paper. After I’ve finished the drawing I may add color or I may leave it alone. I’ve never given much thought to the particular surface that I draw on.

This past week at a two-day class titled “ Exploring the Surface: Mixed Media Drawing on Paper”, I tried a whole new approach! The instructor was Catherine Nash, well-known papermaker and encaustic artist who has a personal passion for drawing.

Our first day began with handling an assortment of papers and making marks on them with a variety of tools to see how each paper responded. We treated some surfaces with sizing, wax-based resists such as crayon and then applied colored washes to create interesting backgrounds and drawing surfaces. We purposefully flooded ink and watercolor on to some areas of asian and hand-made papers so that the color would bleed through to the other side. After they dried we turned them over and worked on the back of the page, using the pattern that had bled through as inspiration for the drawing.

On “Day Two” we used a many kinds of drawing materials: pens, stick dipped in ink, crayons, chalk, pastels, oil pastel, graphite sticks and assorted brands of colored pencils to draw on the surfaces we had created the day before.

Our focus was on experimentation and discovery and layering media to develop richness in our drawings. The surfaces we worked on ranged from “Yupo”, a plastic sheet watercolor artists are working with to soft print-making surfaces and papers made from cotton, kozo and abaca fibers.

Here are some quick photos of things I played with.
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These ink drawings were done as tests to see how papers responded to sumi ink and Noodles drawing ink in fountain pens. I collaged them together with a glue stick and some stitches.8

This kozo paper with bark chips in it was further distressed with methyl cellulose painted on it in a few areas (hard to detect) and then watercolor pencil and light wash added in a few areas. Now it’s all ready for a drawing!
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Yupo and watercolor and a few pen marks make for interesting effects. I think I need a whole class on working with Yupo and I seem to remember that someone at the Drawing Studio is teaching one this spring.
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Walnut ink laid gently on to damp sized kozo created the perfect background for a quick sketch of a pistachio branch. I drew it on dried paper with a sick of charcoal and a gentle hand. Next I added the watercolor. After it had dried again, I rubbed off the charcoal and was left with this.5a

I drew this quickly with a graphite stick on paper that had been toned first with washes and then, when dried, rubbed with some soft pastel (yellow-orange).

Now, as you can probably guess, I’m having a lot of fun making a variety of backgrounds so that I’ll have some ready to draw on.

Welcome 2014

New beginnings.
Here I am several weeks into the new year. My “to do” list has had “Write and post on Wild Sage Art” on it for at least the past ten weeks but somehow I don’t get to it! Maybe this year I’ll do better, but maybe this is the “every-once-in-a-while” blog.

I love beginnings – the new year, summer, the school year, my birthday, the first day of every quarter, the equinox, the solstice, the start of something (project, diet, friendship, workshop). For me each one is cause for celebration for at least a day or two. And that has been true this January too – with an extra special bonus. I had been plagued by an h.pylori infection that was recently diagnosed. After treatment, I am feeling so much better – better than words can describe! I feel like I got my life back – another new beginning to celebrate.

Great workshop.
Last week I took my first workshop of the year – a 12 hour class (over three days) with the extraordinary book artist, Laura Wait. She taught us a dimensional structure she developed several years ago. It utilizes a very wide spine which can support a hanger so that the book can be displayed on the wall. Signatures are spaced widely across the spine and stitched on to the spine with a traditional long-stitch. The hanger (cord or wire) is inserted into the spine through two of the stitching holes.

We started out writing with sumi ink on large sheets of BFK. Our natural handwriting became the foundation for paper embellishment. We experimented with a wide variety of tools from pens, colored pencils and chopsticks to wooden shingles and were encouraged to explore mark-making with anything that could transfer ink or paint on to paper. Over the course of the first two sessions most of us managed to get three layers of ink and/or color on to our papers which resulted in rich tapestries for book pages.

I especially appreciated the comfortable atmosphere that Laura created and would encourage you to take a class with her if you are so inclined. She will be teaching two classes at her Santa Fe studio and in San Diego and San Francisco this year. Check out her website for more details. She limits her teaching just a few weeks each year to make sure that she has plenty of studio time to do her own work. www.laurawait.com

Some of Laura’s favorites for making these painted books:
Paper that folds without cracking.
She likes BFK (heavy – 240 gm) for text pages because they have “bulk. She uses Velin Arches for covering book board and for pages.
Both papers fold without cracking and can handle water and layers of paint.

Watercolor and gouache for painting pages.
She appreciates the quality and extensive color choices of Daniel Smith watercolors. For gouache she often uses Winsor and Newton and Daler Rowney. Inks and liquid watercolor (Hydrus) are also fun to use for this project.

Watercolor pencils with creamy pigment.
When you spray drawn lines, they bleed in interesting ways and they are fun to use when writing on damp or wet paper. Derwent is one brand that is nice and soft.

Easy to handle cover boards.
We used 60 pt. archival case board which was a new product for me. It’s a fairly rigid board that is much denser than mat board. And it is easy to cut when compared to the Davey board most book artists rely on.

I worked on two books during the class and finished them up this past week. The first book, “Sanctuary”, was informed by writing about trees as I was working on large sheets of paper. I was thinking about how a tree can provide food and shelter for birds and other creatures. When it came time to choose a shape, the tallness of trees and the density of foliage where on my mind. After completing the structure I added the branch to the front cover and placed small copper clips to hold folios together – suggesting safe places found under the canopy and between the leaves.
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The second book I’ve titled “Markings”. As I looked at the pages I had painted and began to assemble them into signatures, I was struck by the variety of marks and values I had created. Thus the title. When I went to size the book, I created pages that were two contrasting sizes and colors and widely spaced on the spine so there could be movement when the book was handled. This book also has a hanger on the back spine so it can (with a little help from museum wax) be displayed on the wall.
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Birthday Doll – 2013

For the past three years I’ve made an “art” doll on my birthday. I got the idea from an article in “Art Doll Quarterly” which featured the work of fiber artist Karen Page who has, for many years, been making dolls to celebrate her birthdays.

This year I decided to make some hand-quilted fabric to use as the doll’s body. I quilted the fabric on a recent trip Ed and I too . We traveled to New York to visit Ground Zero and to Washington D.C. to spend some time with his daughter and her family. Ed returned to Tucson and I stayed on an extra four days to spend time with my Tri Delta sorority sisters at the Sanctuary Retreat Center in Bellsville, Maryland.

I had been collecting doll ideas on Pinterest in recent months but I didn’t have a specific concept for the doll other than to use the quilted fabric. On the morning of my birthday I open gifts from my sister, Barbara. She had used some delightful threads and yarns to tie the packages and I immediately realized they would become the doll’s hair.

After breakfast I sat with the yarns and fabric and consulted my “scrap” box. I pulled out the fabric bits that might fit as I built the doll. From that point on, she took shape quickly as I discovered a crazy quilt scrap to use for her boots and heart and a lovely golden toned gridded silk that became her arms and hands. Assembling her took more time than expected and I didn’t finish her until this morning. Doll2013

While every birthday is special this one took an extra celebratory note as I brought my husband home after spending the night in the hospital. He had just completed a very successful surgery on his left carotid artery. This was his second carotid surgery, the other having taken place last spring. This aging process is certainly challenging but now we can rest a bit easier knowing that the “rivers” in his neck are flowing freely.

Finding Inspiration in Small Collectibles

For a good part of my life I have been drawn to small handmade objects. As a child I collected glass figurines and had a shelf over my bed where I kept my precious collection. When I “grew up” this interest shifted and I began collecting hand-made “fish”. When my father died my sister and I split his small collection of jade and ivory which now reside in my studio along with other small objects collected over the years.

Wherever I have traveled in the world local I am drawn to museum displays of artifacts made from bone, ivory, metal, wood, stone and fiber. And my favorite travel mementos are small beads, amulets, jewelry, dolls and animal fetishes.

As I view these wonderful objects I think about their universal appeal and wonder about when, where and why they were made? How were they handled and used. I know I love to look at and touch my collection. Just having them nearby nurtures my inner creative muse.

If I can’t bring objects home, I can always bring home a photograph. These photos are of objects I’ve encountered recently in my travels:

Small bone and ivory objects are among my favorite inspirations. I love the primitive qualities, the interesting surfaces and sensual shapes. They inspire drawings, dolls and jewelry. And if you want to make similar objects, polymer clay is the ideal medium for creating faux bone and ivory. blogbonecarving

A simple angel figure made from carved twigs and some wooden scraps found on a larger wooden sculpture appealed to me.
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I’m always fascinated by bundles and wraps. These items attached to a blanket wrap have inspired me to wrap and tie fabric and paper into beads and dolls.
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That fascination with wraps goes even further with the concept of making art, putting it into boxes and then tying them up in interesting ways. This Kwakwaka box from Canada was used to store things. Often the boxes were made with a bentwood lid and could be used as an extra seat! They stored just about anything; food, furs, and valuables.
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This wonderful doll is covered with found beads and milagros. The last two years I’ve celebrated my birthday by making a doll. I’m thinking that this year it will be a miracle doll – with milagros sewed on it to help keep my body strong.
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SomeBooks to Explore
If you are interested in these same kinds of folk art you may find the following books particularly interesting:
“Amulets, Sacred Charms of Power and Protection” by Shelia Paine
“Faith and Transformation, Votive Offerings and Amulets from the Alexander Girard Collection” edited by Doris Francis
“Bodyguards, Protective Amulets and Charms” by Desmond Morris
“Amulets and Talismans, Simple Techniques for Creating Meaningful Jewelry” by Robert Dancik

Polymer Clay Workshop with Tory Hughes
Last summer I took a wonderful workshop with Tory Hughes at her studio in Santa Fe. She has an incredible collection of amulet-like objects which serve as inspiration for some of her work. She is one of first artists to use polymer clay to replicate bone, ivory, amber etc. Her work is quite beautiful and her classes are lots of fun. If you will be in the Santa Fe area this summer, check out her website for classes etc.:
www.toryhughes.com

The Dean’s Alaska Adventure
Ed has posted a album of photos we took while we were visiting Alaska and Vancouver. You can view it at: www.eddddean.zenfolio.com (That’s 4 d’s!)

Finding Inspiration

We just returned from a three week trip to Alaska and Vancouver, B.C. The scenery was simply beautiful and went on and on and on. Fairbanks was our starting point with our first major destination being Denali National Park. It was blanketed with snow providing a multitude of mountain vistas, each more beautiful than the previous one. Soon we’ll have a photo file up on Ed’s Zenfolio site.

One of my favorite travel activities is looking for interesting local art. I use my camera as a notebook use the snaps to inspire creative juices. I’m working on some posts related to these. Maybe you’ll find a little gem to inspire you.

In Fairbanks we went to the “Museum of the North” where I discovered these wonderful items made from gut, skin and fur. I love this Inuit seal gut parka with it’s visible seams and bits of bone and fur? feathers? I ask myself could this be a starting point for a stitched paper project? Maybe I could make it from waxed paper. What if I applied encaustic to paper to give it a translucency.
Blogparka
Those of you who know me well know that I love interesting bags. They are so practical for holding “stuff”. I love bags because I hang them off my body and my hands are still free. And by hanging stuff on me, I only have to make one trip from the car! I look at these bags and wonder about ways to make bags art pieces. This bag and hat? is made from loonskin and loon feathers? I never thought birds could be skinned!!! How might I use feathers (or maybe even papers cut like feathers) to embellish a bag? I don’t want to replicate this bag, but I’d love to create a piece that is “informed” by it.
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These two bags really caught my attention. The black bag is made from swan skin, gut and bird feet! Those Inuit’s find ways to use everything! I’m not so sure I could or would make a project with bird feet. But I’m thinking that maybe there are other natural materials here in the desert that could be applied to a painting or dimensional art piece. I do have a dried out lizard and a few brilliant green beetles! Cholla anyone? I really like the shapes of these two bags. Maybe I can build some similar bags using paper. Now how can I make paper more flexible. Many asian papers are very strong and can be sewed. Some papers become leather-like when they are coated with gesso. I could also bond paper to fabric (a la Jane Davies). The possibilities are endless.
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For some time I’ve thought about doing a series of bags and envelopes and maybe this summer is the time to explore that theme. The more I think about it, the more exciting it sounds.

I hope you find these photo notes as interesting and stimulating as I do. Maybe they will inspire a project you are working on. Let me know what you think and do send me a photo if you make something based on an idea provoked by this post.

More to come. Next I’ll post some small bone pieces that I think are beautiful.

Valentines and Quilts

Now that we’ve got the blog working properly, I’ve not been very motivated to post.  And it’s mainly because I haven’t had any “wow’s” to write about.  I like to share with you the wonderful things I’ve discovered be it a new art process, a delicious recipe, or a great sight to behold.

Nothing like that has happened recently!  So I haven’t been inspired to write for you.  Who knows what I’ll discover tomorrow, and if it hits me big, you’ll be sure to hear about it.  Today I have written up a couple of little “finds” that have come my way.

Small paper and fabric quilt flag

Small paper and fabric quilt flag

Back in January Jane Davies came to Tucson and gave a “Paper Quilt” workshop for PaperWorks.  We printed on all kinds of papers with a Gelli Plate and then combined fabric and the printed papers to create sweet little collage quilts. I enjoyed the process and the results were satisfying.  They take a lot less time to make than regular quilts.  If you haven’t heard of Gelli Plates, do check them out on-line. www.gelliarts.com  They are a great monoprinting tool.

Gelli printed papers and scraps of fabric stitched and glued on to fabric.  Paper glued and wrapped on to the quilt to finish raw edges

Gelli printed papers and scraps of fabric stitched and glued on to fabric. Paper glued and wrapped on to the quilt to finish raw edges

Thursday, a small group of art friends met at Carolyn DuPont’s home and played around with alcohol inks.  I decided to use the inks to color valentines made with aluminum tape hearts.  I cut the heart shapes from mat board scraps, covered them with the aluminum tape and then drew designs on them with an embossing tool.  I dropped alcohol inks (Adirondack and Copic) to color the metal and then finished off with clear Krylon spray.  There are lots of instructions on-line for using alcohol inks.

Embossed metal hearts colored with alcohol inks.

Embossed metal hearts colored with alcohol inks.

Holiday Wrap

Supplies

– waterproof surface

– paint brush (1 or 2” chip brush is fine)

– cottage cheese container (or equivalent)

– white glue mixed with water (50-50)

– papers

acrylic paints and inks

– spray bottle

brayer (optional)

Note: lightweight papers such as rice paper, tissue papers, and deli wrap work best when mounted on heavier papers such as copier paper, brown paper bags, shelf paper, newspaper etc.

 

Two Layered Paper

You will be creating two layered paper from a base paper, and a topper. For the top layer, use a piece of lightweight paper (deli wrap, tissue paper etc.) and crumple it into a ball and then uncrumple it. Do this ten times to break the paper’s fibers and create lots of creases. I use copier paper for a top layer because it crumples nicely and gives a good effect.

Next take the base paper and paint the glue mixture on it. Then apply the crumpled paper spreading it flat but preserving the wrinkles. The brayer helps here. You could also use a bottle or rolling pin to bond the two layers.

At this point apply a thin coat of paint or ink right on top of the crumpled sheet or you can wait until it has dried. The water on the surface will further dilute the paint. If you wait until the paper has dried, you may want to mist the paper before painting. Experiment to see what works best for you.

Let the paper dry. These make great gift wrap, cards, and book covers.

 

One Layer Paper

Use a spray bottle to wet heavier papers. This helps you to wad it into a ball. Crumple and uncrumple the paper ball ten times. Lay the paper flat on your waterproof surface and paint on the color. Let dry.

HolidayWrap_8229

This is a single layer of a recycled brown paper bag from Trader Joe’s. After wrinkling, I spritzed the paper and painted an underlayer of dark blue. When it dried, I added a layer of gold acrylic paint that had been thinned. Makes for a nice gift wrap.

If I were using tissue – I would create two layers because the tissue is so fragile. I would put the tissue on top of newspaper or some other paper that has a little weight to it and won’t fall apart when it gets wet.

 

Art Boards for Free!!

I was reminded recently by Arizona Artist, Cory Celaya, of the use of recycled hard book covers as art supports.  I’ve been doing this for a long time.  I use them for small works and have worked on them in a variety of media: graphite pencil, acrylic paint, collage, and even encaustic!

For collage, the covers can be resurfaced by collaging on pages from the book itself.  Pick covers that are in decent condition.  You don’t want “dog-eared” corners on your finished work.  Remove the text block and cut away the spine.  You’ll have two boards to finish. Use white glue (Tacky is my favorite) watered down to the consistency of cream.  Cover the front being sure to wrap around the sides.  While still wet, wrap the cover in waxed paper and place under a weight.  A brick wrapped in contact paper or felt will work well.  When dry, add a coat of gesso to provide a nice surface to receive your next layer.

If I want a “fine art” surface to work on for drawing,watercolor or encaustic then I usually will cover the board with Velin Arches or 90# watercolor paper.  I place the cover on the paper and draw a light line around the cover.  Next I add 3/4” margin all around.  Using a 45 degree angle I cut off the corners leaving about two cover thickness to cover the corner.  I paint the paper with a thin coat of the diluted glue and lay the cover on the page.  Then I glue the two long sides, tucking in the corners.  To finish I glue the short sides, cover with waxed paper and weight down.  It’s important to have a bone folder to make sure that you get all the air bubbles out before you turn the corners , and again before you wrap the board in waxed paper.

Platinum Patti

Meet “Platinum Patty”

my  birthday doll

Last year I learned about a fiber artist who celebrates her birthday by  making a doll.  I decided I would do the same and made a doll from the gift wraps that were used on presents my sister sent me.  I called her “Sallie Fran”.

This year was a landmark birthday so Ed (my husband) and I decided to celebrate by spending a week by the sea.  We traveled to Oceanside where we had rented a condo at North Coast Village.  I brought along a little bag of stuff that could be used to make a doll.   On my birthday I birthed “Platinum Patty” at the dining table. I had hoped to incorporate beach items in the doll, but the beach at Oceanside is quite clean and the beach-combing rather scant.

Her arms and legs are wrapped fabric rolls.  Her hair is a scrubbie – to represent my every greying hair.  And the yarns chosen to adorn her were from the lovely packages friends had prepared for me.  The little book contains a special affirmation I had written to help give focus to my future.  The cover of the book is from paper gift wrap given to me on my birthday.