Team Tillie: Meet Pam Ray

Kristin Rutten

Team Tillie Tester Pam Ray


Before any Matilda’s Closet or AptOne8 pattern is presented to the public, it is tested by Team Tillie, our fabulous team of volunteers.


Today meet Pam Ray, one of those talented testers…






Please tell us a little about yourself …

I have been married for 38 years to my high school sweetheart. I grew up in Colorado in the Loveland/Ft. Collins area. We raised our children there. We have two biological children that are grown with beautiful families and two wonderful grandsons that are growing way too fast. We also adopted my niece and nephew in the early 90’s so Dave and I had four teenagers at once – two girls and two boys. From soccer to softball, we stayed quite busy. We then made the decision to move back to the mid-west where my family is from after the four kids were grown. We moved to rural Minnesota.

Ruffled Romper pattern for 18-inch dollsLife was going to be quiet… well, we found ourselves with three little kids. In 2005 we started over, and in 2006 we had the privilege of adopting our three grandchildren from our adopted son.

Our three little angels all have lifelong disabilities. Boy life turns quickly! It has kept the two of us very young. At least the rocking chairs and bonbons have been set aside for later years.

My sewing and everything for the first few years were put away and stored. Life was way too busy. In that time, I learned needle-felting. It was so easy to take to the doctor appointments or just sitting on my bed and felting away at a sculpture. I created the “Minnesota RockHeads” little wool character dolls. They all begin with a Minnesota rock in their head. They tell humorous and whimsical stories.

I have now been able to dust off my machines and put a small sewing studio together. It feels so good. I have met some wonderful people and designers along the way this past year and am excited to see what the future brings. I am now combining my love of sewing and needle-felting together. I have combined some with a couple of outfits and as time goes and I am feeling more confident. I hope to come up with a couple of outfits or even accessories that will be one-of-a-kind to complete an outfit.

Drop-waisted Shortalls pattern for 18-inch dolls

When and how did you learn how to sew?

I was a little girl when I first learned to sew with my grandma. I spent my summers in Minnesota on my grandparents’ farm. I was always in love with my grandma’s Singer treadle sewing machine. It actually was my great-grandma’s and its my machine now.

The memories are from about the age 4 to 5… I made so many pillows, every summer. Then I would create clothes for my dolls, too. When I came home, I would sew on my machine that my mom had given me. Nothing compares to learning on a treadle machine, with your grandma sitting next to you and giving you tips on how to keep it running smooth or the stories she would tell of teaching my mom to sew on that machine, too. Memories!!!

What do you do with the items you create during the testing process once testing is complete?

I keep all my samples. I take the dolls on adventures with the wool characters I create. What better way to show off a new outfit? A new clothing design from a famous designer. I also share them on Facebook, and I’m starting to share on Pinterest and Instagram, too. My dolls always have a fresh new wardrobe!

What kind of sewing machine do you use? What do you like most about it?

Half-Zip Pullover with Hooden Scarf and Mittens pattern for 18-inch dollsI love Pfaff … my husband bought me my first Pfaff 20 some years ago. He just upgraded it for me and I now sew on a Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2. My favorite, ultimate favorite is the IDT foot, a built-in walking foot. I use a cover-lock Pfaff serger and a hobby-lock Pfaff small serger. One feature of my new machine is it has a automatic drop-down pressure foot – I am still not used to that. I love the slow-down sewing button … it comes in quite handy when sewing small seams.

Are there any tricks or other tools you use to make it easier to sew doll-sized clothing and/or build PVC furniture?

This is probably not a trick, but my biggest advice I have given my kids even is slow down and enjoy what you are sewing. When sewing small seams, I love using plain tissue paper underneath the sewing. The seams come out so nice! I like cutting small items on the bias… they seem to lay better and the added stretch helps when dressing dolls.

When you’re not sewing or constructing PVC projects, what other hobbies or activities do you enjoy doing?

I love spending time with my family, from camp-outs to roasting marshmallows over a fire. We love going on walks and looking for rocks. Winter sledding is also one of my favorites. I also love to sit and needle-felt my wool characters and come up with our next adventure together. The kids and my husband know wherever I may go… whether it’s the grocery store, doctor appointments, Disney World (one time), camping or schools … a couple of dolls and the Minnesota RockHeads will be there!

Which is your favorite Matilda’s Closet or AptOne8 pattern and why?

Half-Zip Pullover pattern for 18-inch dollsMy favorite Matilda’s Closet patterns include the Half-Zip Pullover with the Hooded Scarf & Mittens. As my daughter says, then you come in from a cold day and my doll puts on her Footie Jammies! I honestly love a lot of Matilda Jo’s patterns. Those three patterns really stand out to me. Santa brought them last year to our youngest and when you see her eyes light up, it melts my heart.

My favorite AptOne8 pattern is the Convertible Bunk Bed. I don’t think my dolls have ever slept so well!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our blog readers?

If anyone would like to touch base or see what I am up, you can connect with me via email at MNRockHeads@aol.com.


TeamTillieBadgeFind more photos of outfits made using our patterns in the Team Tillie Idea Gallery!

Scroll down for links to the patterns featured in this post…


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About Kristin Rutten

Kristin Rutten is the creator, owner and operator of Matilda Jo Originals. Born and raised in Montana, she first learned to sew on her grandmother's antique Singer sewing machine by cutting out and stitching a simple nine-square pillow. Other projects soon followed and she has been crafting and sewing ever since. In addition to sewing and pattern design, she also enjoys crocheting, scrapbooking and designing WordPress websites, including sister company iCreateForDolls.com. She makes her home in Central Montana with her husband and four children, ages 9 to 22.

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