Craft Book Review: Steampunk Softies by Sarah Skeate and Nicola Tedman


There are few things that crafters find quite as irresistible as a beautiful book filled with adorable, quirky plushies, and Steampunk Softies delivers just that! The cover boasts “Scientifically Minded Dolls From a Past That Never Was,” and the projects do not disappoint. Each doll has its own personality, with just the right amount of steampunk charm to bring all of the strange and wonderful details together!


Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, Steampunk Softies is fully illustrated and has detailed color photos throughout. The book is 80 pages long with a paperback cover, and includes step-by-step instructions for 8 softie projects, each with its own story and a unique personal style.

Finished Marveletta O'Houlihan Doll

For my first test project, I chose Marveletta O’Houlihan (p. 22), because nobody can resist a girl in (opera) glasses! The overall construction of her body was simple, and I loved the how the blue bead and blue hair tied everything together, making her accessories look purposeful instead of hodgepodge. Sadly, my tiny blue glass bead broke before it could make it to her lantern, but I still think she came out looking pretty classy. When I was making her, I definitely noticed how much thought had gone into all of the details, and I really appreciated how thorough the instructions were. If the materials list at the beginning of the project had been grouped by task in the same way as the instructions, I might not have panicked so much the first time I looked at it!

What I loved about the book:

1. The introduction addresses tools, materials, and aging and distressing techniques to help you get the right timeworn look (p. 6-7). I didn’t have any prior experience in making things look older with wax, nor in aging fabrics with scratching and bleach, so these tips made me feel much more confident that I could achieve the results that I saw in the book.

Steampunk Softie Self-Portrait

2. The dolls are easy to customize. I mixed the styles of Marveletta O’Houlihan (p. 22)  and Minerva Dupine (p. 56), added a few ideas of my own, and came up with a Steampunk Softies self-portrait. She’s definitely me, right down to the red hair streak and ugly gold glasses!

Steampunk Softies Instruction Page

Instruction Page Drawing Detail

3. The step-by-step instructions are clear, well-written, and easy to follow. Each step is shown with both a written description and an illustration. Whether you’re a visual learner or a learn best by reading, they’ve got you covered.

4. The dolls are just the right size for decoration, but are too small to be easily mistaken for toys.

Easy Hand-Stitching on Doll Body

5. You don’t need a sewing machine. I hand-sewed both of the dolls that I made, and each one took only a few hours using very basic hand-stitching techniques. Plus, because most of the sewing will end up on the inside anyway, these are great projects for practicing your stitches.

What I didn’t love about the book:

Materials List

1. The materials and equipment lists were long, complex, and not organized into task-related groups. For me, this was definitely the biggest problem. As I was flipping through the book, getting ready to pick out the pattern that I would try, I was completely overwhelmed and intimidated by the sheer number of specific objects that I would need to find to make even one of the softies. I didn’t even know what some of the items were, and ended up taking the whole book to a bead shop to ask someone to translate. Everything turned out just fine, but it was a little bit stressful to get started.

Note: The material list panic that I described above is addressed in the introduction (p. 4-5), where you are encouraged to be creative, use what you have on hand, and improvise. Because I was trying to test out the pattern that I chose as fairly and accurately as possible, I tried to stick to the actual materials from the list wherever possible. For the record, handled tea balls are nearly impossible to find in Brooklyn!

2. Where needed, the seam allowances weren’t built into the patterns. The pattern pages are in their own section in the back, and you need to trace the shapes to make your own paper patterns, so adding my own seam allowances was an extra step that seemed unnecessary.

3. All of the female dolls are all beautiful, while the male dolls seem a little bit more on the creepy side. I would have loved to have seen a dapper steampunk gentlemen!


Steampunk Softies Dolls

Bottom line: Once I got over my initial panic about finding the right materials, I had a ton of fun creating two new steampunk friends to watch over my sewing area. Because they are so easily customizable, I’ll definitely be pulling this book off the shelf around the holidays. A personalized steampunk doll would be just the ticket for some of my smart, geeky friends!

Disclosure: Book Provided for Review


  1. says

    The best thing about books is that you use your imaginations and not someone else’s.
    50 people can read the same book and come up with 50 different scenarios.
    You just have to love books and the amazingly talented writers.
    Jan Peter Prokes


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