Cheryl Stillman’s Chandler home is a doll lover’s paradise. Hundreds of dolls in every size and color, many wearing extravagant fashions, fill curio cabinets in several rooms of her house. Each is labeled with its name, manufacturer and date.
Dozens of the elegant outfits the dolls wear are award-winning ensembles Stillman created.
Making doll clothes is a hobby that’s relaxing for the semiretired home economics and science high school teacher from New Jersey.
“I will sew clothes as a destressor,” said the 64-year-old, who learned to sew from her mom. “It’s been a relaxing thing for me all my life.”
She started collecting dolls in 1995, then combined it with her love of sewing to create doll fashions.
“I love the 22-inch dolls because I can make the outfits more detailed,” said Stillman, a substitute teacher at Willis Junior High School in Chandler.
She discovered doll conventions in 2000 and began entering her designs in competitions. She travels the country attending an average of six conventions a year and is active in three doll groups, serving as secretary of two.
“I totally enjoy people I’ve met through the whole experience,” she said. “It’s just a neat bunch of people. I’ve made some really, really good friends through doll collecting.”
Almost every outfit she’s entered has won a first- or second-place ribbon.
“I’m just doing this for my own enjoyment,” she said. “The honors and the ribbons are just a nice side to it.”
Her outfits range from a sparkly trapeze-artist outfit with a large feathery cape to a ’70s-style dance outfit.
Her highest award so far was first place in best-dressed fashion doll category and collector’s choice at the Modern Doll Collectors Fashion Awards for a beautiful floor-length, halter-style burgundy ball gown with ribbon lace and hand-sewn beads. The dress also was featured in the December-January Doll Reader magazine.
“This takes so much less fabric, and the measurements don’t change,” said Stillman, who used to sew all her and her two daughter’s clothing.
She’s always on the lookout for a great outfit, cool fabric and the right size buttons, ribbons and jewelry.
Her outfits begin with sketches on paper. Then she makes her own patterns. The first try at a new outfit uses cheaper fabric to see how the outfit fits. Once that is perfected, she sews the outfit again using the desired fabric.
If you go
What: Cheryl Stillman shows and talks about her award-winning doll fashion designs
When: 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Chandler Public Library’s Sunset Branch, 4930 W. Ray Road
Information: (480) 782-2834.