About Inviting Play


Inviting Play is just me, Julie Colby, a Minnesota mom, wife, and doll maker.

taken in January of 2014
taken in January of 2014

I fill the nooks and crannies of my life designing and hand-making wholesome, durable, beautiful, environmentally respectful dolls and treasures.   I create all of these one at a time, by hand, by myself in my studio.   Each doll is different and unique and represents hours of thought, planning and hand-work.  I use only my own patterns which are constantly evolving.

Here’s me and my favorite people


I have always been a maker. I remember, as a child, going through my mom’s stash of brown paper boxes, fabrics, ribbons, and supplies and deciding what to make. I’ve always received so much satisfaction from fitting things together and creating. Now, I am inspired by my own three kids, my nieces and nephews, and the other special children in my life.  Doll making became the natural place for me to focus my making energies; seems to be the perfect practice for me.  I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like routine and repeat tasks.  I’m always motivated to make something new and different.  Dolls are inherently new and different for me.  Each one comes out of the process with its own personality and unique beauty.  Doll making is made up of many disciplines:  sewing, felting, molding, stuffing, embroidery, crocheting, knitting, design, photography.  Some of these I’m more inclined to want to do than others – but the diversity of tasks is wonderful for someone like me who likes to mix it up!  Doll making holds my passion.

Process and Materials

I strive to use only natural, replenish-able, earth friendly and beautiful materials in my dolls.  The dolls start on paper.  I sketch to scale the body of the doll, erasing, redrawing, emphasizing.  On top of that, I sketch its under clothes, then its layers of clothes on top of that.  I add hair, eyes, lists of ideas and materials.  The doll’s sketch hangs on my pin board through out its creation.



A doll design diagram

Though my sketches and images for each doll does change, I often come back to the original sketch to help ground me in the direction the doll is emerging.   Then, each doll starts with very thick cotton interlock or jersey.  I am lucky to have a variety of beautiful skin tones to choose from.  Most of the skin fabric I use is imported because I haven’t been able to find a reliable source domestically.  Each doll is stuffed with fluffly natural unspun clean carded wool.  I love the stuff. I love how my hands smell when I’m working with it.  I use a variety of materials and yarn for hair depending on the look I’m trying to achieve.  My current favorite is cotton fabric woven with tiny unspun mohair locks.  It is the same kind of material used in making one-of-a-kind teddy bears.  Clothes for my dolls are mostly made from cotton and less often from wool, silk, bamboo, and blends.  I sometimes upcycle clothing I’ve kept or found and use it to make items for dolls.  I occasionally use leather scraps that I’ve upcycled or bought at local re-purposing shop called artscraps  (http://www.artstart.org/artscraps-reuse-store/).  If you are local to Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN area I urge you to check it out – its a great non-profit.

Some of the skin toned fabric I have available. Two heads for 8 inch dolls and a mountain of fluffy wool!



I take time and care to make sure all seams are double and triple sewn and each doll is carefully made to live a long life of love and play.  From start to finish – design to shipping; each doll takes literally days.  Because I am a small maker (I do not produce more than 1-2 dolls per week) and love to experiment and vary the types of dolls I make, establishing an assembly line like efficiency hasn’t been possible for me.  Production time ranges from small dolls with clothes stitched on taking 4-6 hours while a big doll with several clothing pieces taking more than 20 hours.

What ‘Inviting Play’ Means to me

My goal is to create lovely items that invite people of all ages to play! I strive to make dolls that celebrate the very nature of childhood.  Very little satisfies me more than seeing my children, peaceful, hard at work, playing with something lovely. As a mom who is home each day with my three children, I am constantly striving to provide my children with a play space that encourages imagination, creativity, and open play. We live in a hectic culture of constant play dates, enrichment activities and electronic gadgets; and a physical environment that is filled with ubiquitous, cheaply made, disposable trinkets.

Tiny Robin listened, with rapt attention, staring at the illustrations to try to gain a sense of the plot that had prose beyond his comprehension.
Tiny Robin listened, with rapt attention, staring at the illustrations to try to gain a sense of the plot that had prose beyond his comprehension.

As such, it can be challenging to open physical, emotional, and mental spaces for our children to REALLY play. My personal anecdote to the big-box-disposable-low prices -always on sale – world we live in has been to surround the children I know with simple, natural, hand made toys and treasures as much as possible.

Do you want to build a snowman?.....hmmmmmm hmhmmm hmmm mmm hmm hmm hmm ?
Do you want to build a snowman?…..hmmmmmm hmhmmm hmmm mmm hmm hmm hmm ?

Its not only children who love and need handmade dolls.  As adults we often find the beauty of these handmade creations captivating and full of nostalgia and comfort.  Adults get to play too!  Let them, these wool beings, carry you to your place of playful happiness and comfort.

inviting play collage of eowyn

I believe that life is too short to make dolls I don’t love.  So, I love every doll I make and I hope you love and cherish them too.

I’m inviting you to play!


inviting play boots closeup

For information on how to buy an Inviting Play Doll click here

I began selling dolls in person, at tiny local craft markets, and in my Etsy shop.     I craft each doll one at a time and sell only 1-4 dolls per month.  As my dolls have become more widely known, it has become more direct and simple for me to sell my dolls to my customers  in a more personal way.


6 thoughts on “About Inviting Play”

  1. I am in love with your dolls! Do you have YouTube tutorials and where can I get your pattern frOm? I’m new at this and want to make my girls some dolls. <3

  2. Hi,

    These are beautiful dolls! I am looking for a weft for my daughter’s 1st doll’s hair. Any advice on where to buy this or make it? Thanks for the inspiration!

    St. Paul, MN

    1. Hi Chandra –
      I have a few places to recommend:
      1. Lali dolls – be sure to figure out how many meters you need each pack is only 1 meter (https://www.etsy.com/listing/227854083/mohair-weft-doll-hair-brown?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=mohair%20wefts&ref=sr_gallery_4)
      2. reggie’s dolls : https://www.etsy.com/shop/reggiesdolls
      3. Bumbeena dolls – but she is temporarily not open: https://www.etsy.com/shop/bumbabeena
      4. mohairwig.com http://shop.mohairwig.com/ – this place has a somewhat confusing website – but the woman who runs it is helpful if you message her.

      If you are looking for long blonde and straight – I have some I can sell you – but that is the only type I’ve bought in bulk. The ones I have were commercially processed in China and the fiber is camel fiber.

      All of the wefts I have linked you to are made/processed in China. They are animal fiber but tend to be highly processed. It is impossible to track the chemicals that are used to process these commercial wefts and they are definitely not necessarily safe for children. That is to say – I’m pretty sure that the chemical straighteners and gloss and other processes done to the wefts are not child safe could even be carcinogenic much like if you had your own hair chemically straightened and glossed, the process could contain carcinogens. I don’t mean to scare you and many people have decided it is ok to have this unknown for their child because their child is older and wouldn’t be putting the doll in their mouths or sleeping next to it. If you’d like to use very natural wefts – you must process them yourself by buying fiber and sewing the fiber into strips as wefts. You can buy fiber raw (unwashed) or combed and washed – the price varies by farmer, length, quality and lots of other things and the process is long and tedious but can be rewarding.

      I hope you find this information helpful and I wish you happiness in your doll making!

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