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Doctor Who metal figurines, by Flickr user Kaptain Kobold.

Until recently, in terms of science fiction fandom, one of the most uncool things you could possibly be was a Doctor Who fan. Fans of Star Wars, Star Trek, old-school Battlestar Galactica: anyone could mock the Whovians.

So when the original BBC series was cancelled in the early 1990s after a run of several decades, it seemed like the fandom was destined to spiral down into gentle obscurity. The show's low-budget campiness had become a cliché: if you wanted to say that you'd seen something with poor special effects, all you had to do was suggest that it was "like Doctor Who," as though Doctor Who was a synonym for "something by Ed Wood." Sad words for a show that once was, for its first generation of young British fans, something so suspenseful, imaginative, and sometimes frightening that it had to be watched "from behind the sofa."

Much as geekiness in general has become cool in the last decade, Doctor Who is no longer quite the locus of mockery that it once was. A revamped version of the series began to air in the UK in 2005, to great popularity and acclaim, re-energizing the fandom. It currently stars David Tennant as the alien Time Lord who regenerates into a new form in situations that would kill a mortal human, and who travels through time and space in a ship called the TARDIS that resembles an outdated style of London police call box. (The third season of the revamped version is currently airing in the US on the SciFi Network; the second season will be re-aired on BBC America starting this weekend, as will the spin-off series, Torchwood.)

Anything popular enough to have a large online fandom seems to spawn crafts at the speed of light, and Doctor Who has been no exception. The most iconic item is a series of long, colorful scarves worn by the Fourth Doctor in the late 1970s, which we'll delve into after the break. But that's the tip of an iceberg that also includes a number of projects related to the TARDIS (yes, this article is also bigger on the inside than on the outside), and to the Doctor's most famous enemies, the infamously pepper-pot-like Daleks. Ever wanted to eat a Dalek? Well, you'll learn more about that after the break, too... and it won't taste like pepper at all.


From the late 1970s until early 2006, most Americans associated Doctor Who with one of the most popular actors to play the character. Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor, was on the show from 1974 to 1981, during which it was aired by many PBS outlets. Baker stayed in the role longer than anyone else. Naturally, the most popular Doctor Who craft is related to Baker's portrayal: the ultra-long, striped scarf that he often wore, created by a knitter named Begonia Pope.

During the years that PBS carried the series, it was common, during pledge drives, to see volunteers from local Who fan groups manning the phones. Many volunteers would be wearing their scarves, and often a few would knit while waiting for calls. In those pre-Web days, the scarves were more often colorful approximations than accurate re-creations: fans would mostly have had books and magazines as reference material. (Baker's episodes had most of their airings before VCRs were even common in American homes!)

Who scarves are still frequently made today. They're a semi-practical item: they're warm (a big scarf is always useful in a cold climate), and need not necessarily look "costumey." However, accurate Who scarves have two drawbacks: they're so long that safety is an issue, in that you can trip over them and injure yourself, and they take forever and a day to knit. They're done in garter stitch, which is easy enough for a beginner, but slow to grow in length, and kind of boring for anyone who isn't a beginner. Garter stitch also has a tendency to stretch with wear, so a scarf can easily wind up several feet longer than it was when it was made.

Some people think that any long, eccentrically striped scarf is a Doctor Who scarf, but Tom Baker actually wore distinct versions that aren't really as colorful as most people remember: though there are numerous colors, most of the shades are muted. The scarves tended to change from season to season, and varied in length from 10 feet (not unwearably long) to a whopping, stretched-out 24 feet (serious risk of broken bones). You can learn a lot more about these scarves from Bill Rudloff's History of Tom Baker's Scarves. Bill also has a basic pattern for a Doctor Who scarf.

Chris Brimelow's Doctor Who Scarf is an even more helpful site: don't miss it if you want to make a Who scarf. Some of the information on it, like the length of the fringe at each end of the scarf, contradicts Bill Rudloff's information. You'll find a history of the scarves, several different patterns (for example, the three-color season 18 scarf is made from fuzzy chenille rather than plain wool yarn), recent photos of an original scarf, and much more.

One more Who scarf pattern, from A Whovian Outpost.

If you aren't interested in knitting scarves, perhaps you'd like to check out some logo charts. The show's logo changed a number of times through its run, and Knitting-and.com has several different versions. This may be the most profoundly nerdy link in this article, but if you've ever wanted to make a no-bones-about-it Doctor Who sweater or pillow, it's the place to go.

The Doctor Who Pattern Book, a book of crafts by Joy Gammon, was published in 1984. It contains a variety of projects, like a K-9 shoulder bag and a TARDIS sleeping bag, and does not seem to be very expensive or difficult to find (in the US, at least).

You can always make a paper TARDIS, or a paper Dalek, but if you'd like something more cuddly, why not try this pattern for a knit plush TARDIS? Or how about knitting a Dalek, or crocheting a Dalek? (The last two links were also a part of my article Amigurumi-o-rama 3: Pop Culture a few weeks ago.)

There are other ways to make Daleks, but none is as delicious as a Dalek Cake. This chocolate Dalek cake was blogged a lot a while ago, but did you know that there's also an entire Flickr pool dedicated to Dalek cakes? If you have a few cake decorating techniques under your belt, and access to the appropriate equipment, it shouldn't be difficult to make one for yourself.

Among the less edible ways to build a Dalek are those espoused by the Dalek Builders' Guild and Project Dalek. These sites are for people who want a real-looking, life-size Dalek, not a small, whimsical one.

There's also a TARDIS Builders' Guild. If you're wondering what you could possibly do with a TARDIS around the house (extra coat closet?), try this site: Fitting a Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) Console inside a TARDIS. It's not a project for the faint of heart, or the electronically inexperienced.

Into action figures? Check out these tips for creating custom Doctor Who figures and dolls.

And for Halloween, if you're disinclined to attempt to costume yourself as a character from the show, you could try a Robotic Dalek Pumpkin.

Almost last, but not least, is the Livejournal community Crafty TARDIS (which would have been helpful to discover before I was almost finished writing this article). You'll see the TARDIS, Daleks, and many other things in all sorts of forms: crocheted, knitted, embroidered, edible, you name it. Check out this knit sweater tribute to Ace (one of the Doctor's traveling companions from late in the run of the original series), a tiny felt Romana (another companion), and these fantastic filet crochet TARDIS designs. If you want to see where Doctor Who crafts are going, this bustling group is the one to watch.

Who Knits, another LJ community, focuses firmly on the knitting aspect, and has recently held a scarf knitalong.



  • Victor Agreda, Jr.

    And for those interested in building K-9 check this out:
    http://www.nebula7.com/K9/

    Reply
  • M.E. Williams

    Doh! I know I've seen that one somewhere, yet it didn't make it into my Big List of Links. K-9 is super-cool; the highlight of "School Reunion" (the second-season episode wherein The Doctor and Rose encounter Sarah Jane Smith) for me was definitely K-9's appearance.

    Reply
  • 2 Comments / 1 Pages
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