'I made a doll for my daughter and it changed my life' - Mum's new venture

Donna Gilliard, from Stalham, with the doll she made for her daughter, Penelope. 

Donna Gilliard, from Stalham, with the doll she made for her daughter, Penelope. - Credit: Supplied by Donna Gilliard

Making 'portrait dolls' which look like actual people has become the passion of a mum from Stalham, who said making one for her daughter "changed her life".

Donna Gilliard, 35, has now launched a doll-making venture called Love from Penelope Rose, named after her mother, Rose, and four-year-old daughter Penelope.

Penelope, 4, from Stalham, with the doll her mum Donna Gillard made for her.

Penelope, 4, from Stalham, with the doll her mum Donna Gilliard made for her. - Credit: Supplied by Donna Gilliard

Miss Gilliard said portrait dolls were keepsakes that could be passed down through generations.

She said: "The eyes are embroidered in the same colour as the client, the hair is coloured and styled to look just the same as the client's favourite style and even the outfit can be made to resemble a special outfit belonging to the person that the doll is based on.  

"Thus a beautiful, bespoke keepsake is created."

Donna Gilliard, from Stalham, with the doll she made for her daughter, Penelope. 

Donna Gilliard, from Stalham, with the doll she made for her daughter, Penelope. - Credit: Supplied by Donna Gilliard

Miss Gilliard, who has previously worked in the pharmaceuticals and funeral sectors, said she spent almost a year developing the pattern and then six months of "near continuous stitching" to make the doll, which looks like a miniature version of Penelope. 

She said: "It isn't easy making a flat piece of fabric resemble the complicated three-dimensional shape of a body.

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"I had to learn through making mistakes which lead to a lot of tears and frustration.

"However it was worth it as the sense of achievement I got from finishing the doll and giving it to my daughter on Christmas morning was such a wonderful feeling.

"She was over the moon. The delight on her face filled my heart with joy."

Miss Gilliard said he had already had enquiries from as far afield as New Zealand after sharing the story and said her "ultimate goal" was to make portrait dolls full-time.  

She said he had already had her first sale and was now working on a portrait doll for a friend. 

Miss Gilliard said: "A spark of energy ignited inside me as I came up with an idea.

"With patience and time, I could create dolls for others to gift to their beloved family members.

"After a life working for corporations, trying to build the dreams of others, I am finally building my own dream."