Jean Greenhowe Designs

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Art School or Art College?

I am sometimes asked where I trained to design all the things I have produced in my career.  The short answer is, I have never had formal tuition relating to any part of my work.  My only official credential is a school certificate on leaving High School.  I got good results in eight different examinations, with a distinction in art which had always been my best subject.


On leaving school our art teacher Miss Bell assumed that I would progress to art school. Her comment on my final report, ‘I do hope that she will continue to develop her gift’.  I didn’t go to art school or art college for which I am now most grateful.  With formal art tuition it is unlikely that I would be doing what I do today, Miss Bell could never have imagined the outcome!

My reasoning is as follows.  Knowledge and techniques which are already known can be passed on to others.  Any new ideas and inventions yet to come in the future don’t rely upon teaching, they depend upon the imagination of individual creators.  Anyone can be taught techniques to improve skills thereby encouraging creativity,  but I don’t believe that anyone can be taught to produce original work.


Here is how I accidentally got into soft toy design. Around about 1960, I found some toy patterns for cats and kittens in a magazine.  They were attractive  and I made them.  There were lots of elaborately-shaped pieces and gussets which had to be sewn together, but this wasn’t a problem because I had been dressmaking and tailoring clothes for myself and my family for years.


However, I wondered why these toys were so complicated and here’s the important crux of the matter.  At that time I wasn’t aware that the methods used for the cats and other soft toys were already well established as far back as the Victorian era.  I eventually came across a pattern for a toy elephant published in a magazine dated 1879 which showed that the sophisticated soft toy cats’ techniques must have been in use years before that date.


But in the 1960s I was completely unaware of these facts because no-one told me about the methods or taught me the techniques. Because I didn’t know that these rules existed I unwittingly broke them and began to experiment with doll and toy designs.


Many years later I came across a book published in 1971 about designing soft toys, which followed the established methods.  The technique is described as ‘profile and gusset construction’, from which three-dimensional toys can be produced. The majority of manufactured soft toys are created in this way.  Below, there is an example of the patterns for a horse from the 1971 book. The ‘profile’ of the horse is easily recognisable and as shown there are numerous elaborately shaped pieces.

1971 Horse Patterns 

Back to the 1960s and ‘rule-less’ I was creating my own methods for soft dolls and toys and the designs were subsequently published in various magazines.  My first Woman’s Weekly toys were featured in the magazine in 1967 as a special offer paper pattern.  Below is the photograph of the soft toy book author’s realistic horse, alongside my Woman’s Weekly Cowboy and his Horse.


1971 Realistic Horse1967 Cowboy and Horse


The author’s horse is a complicated and exact representation of a real-life horse.  My horse is recognisable as such, but his legs are short and stumpy and he stands up on his tummy, everything is easy to make and I’m sure you’ll agree that he is comically entertaining.  The pattern sold like hot cakes and established the foundation of all my work for the magazine for the next 24 years.


In 1983 I was asked to repeat the Cowboy and Horse so I made some changes and also included an Indian and his Pony.  The special offer pattern was featured in Woman’s Weekly 17 September 1983 and again ‘hot cakes’.


1983 Cowboy and Indian


Another spark to my imagination was the limited amount of space available for toy patterns in magazine features.  So I began to devise methods of producing toys without using any pattern pieces, just measurements in the instructions.  Here are two examples out of many. Below are twelve soft toy animals, which don’t require patterns.  Without any ‘profile and gusset’ complications they are all still recognisable as to what they represent.


Twelve Soft Toys


One of my favourites follows – Morwenna Mermaid and friends and again, not a single printed pattern in sight.


Morwenna Mermaid


My 19 hardback toy-making books also featured some unusual subjects. Musical boxes are usually constructed from wood.  ‘Making Musical Miniatures’ was published in 1979 and included 27 musical items for every occasion - no carpentry required, they are all fashioned from cardboard.


Musical Miniatures


In the circular miniatures the platforms revolve as the music plays and for others the individual figures revolve in the same way.   All the movement is achieved through the musical movement winding keys.  I think it unlikely that anyone else has produced a similar publication.


I also designed several dolls’ houses, again using cardboard and other throw-away household  items for the furnishings. Probably my most amusing ‘dolls’ house was made for a tiny Dormouse family, entirely constructed from fabric – one of my all-time favourites.


Dormouse House


And so the new ideas  carried on through time, featuring everything from children’s fancy dress to play-houses, jewellery and printed fabric dolls and toys to cut out and sew.


Then in 1980 I designed my first knitted dolls …


What follows is a list of my hardback books, all of which are out of print.  However, second-hand copies are often available, including paperback editions.


Breaking the Rules, Part Two
History of Knitted Toys?



Making Costume Dolls
BT Batsford
Presents and Playthings
Mills & Boon
Fancy Dress from Nursery Tales
BT Batsford
Fancy Dress for Girls
BT Batsford
Gifts for the Family
BT Batsford
Making Miniature Toys and Dolls
BT Batsford
Dolls in National and Folk Costume
BT Batsford
Making a Victorian Dolls’ House
BT Batsford
Making Musical Miniatures
BT Batsford
Jean Greenhowe’s Miniature Toys
BT Batsford
Making Mascot Dolls 
BT Batsford
Cuddly Toys and Dolls 
Favourite Toys 
Knitted Toys
Fancy Dress for Girls and Boys
BT Batsford
Bazaar Bestsellers
David & Charles
Favourite Dolls and Toys
Party Costumes For Kids
David & Charles
Teddy Bears, Toys and Tales
David & Charles















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© Copyright Jean Greenhowe Designs 2006 - 2019