Tips and Tools for Creating Soft-Sculptured Dolls
"Jesters," Simply Christmas by Miriam
Gourley, published by Contemporary Books.
I have been sewing dolls since my childhood in Colorado.
Cloth dolls, in particular, have always fascinated me. For the past 18
years, I have been designing dolls and many other fabric creations for
patterns, magazines and my own books. There are no rules for making a cloth
doll, but I would like to share some of my favorite tools and tips with
you to make your sewing experience more enjoyable. So grab your sewing
basket, and let's get started. And, if you're like me, you'll make a new
friend along the way!Getting Started
What do you want to make? A cloth doll makes a fun first-time project. There
are many doll patterns available, but you can easily create your own simple
design. Don't limit yourself to dolls that resemble people - you can make
animals, a moon and stars, or
other imaginary creatures!When selecting fabric for a doll, purchase a finely-woven
cotton muslin. You can tea-dye the muslin before you begin, if you like
an antique look. Or, if you prefer a flesh-color muslin, leave it natural
and paint over it to create the color you want. When choosing fabric for
your doll's clothing, you may want to coordinate the colors with a particular
room or let the fabric be the inspiration for the kind of doll you choose
to make. It's also fun to cut up old pieces of clothing for doll clothes.
- After stitching each body part, trim seam
allowances to 1/8". Clip seams around all curves, inside corners
and across points.
- Turn each body part right side out, use the Perfect
Pointmaker (#4034) to make sure any points are sharp and not squared
- For very pointy noses (a profile type of face),
it is sometimes difficult to keep the stuffing in place. To avoid this
problem, place a little stuffing on top of the stitched area before turning.
Re-stitch through the stuffing and layers of fabric. Trim close to stitching
and turn right side out (B).
- Use polyester fiberfill for stuffing. To avoid
lumpy bodies, fluff it a little before stuffing (C).
- Begin by stuffing outer areas of the doll's body
parts first. Insert small pieces of fiberfill. Use the Mini
Stuffer (#4037) for stuffing pointed areas and other unusual shapes
- Insert larger pieces of fiberfill, using the Stuff-It™ II
(#4036) to fill out the overall shape (D). While stuffing, use
your free hand to flatten the doll's body part. To help avoid wrinkles,
stuff each part firmly.
- After the doll's body, arms and legs are stuffed
and the openings are stitched closed, then stitch the doll together.
Use a strong sewing thread, such as the Nylon
Thread, White (#4048) or Brown
(#4049). Use a whip stitch to attach the legs to the lower end of
the body, then the arms to the shoulders.
|Figure A, Use the
Perfect Pointmaker to make sure any points are sharp, not squared
|Figure C, Use the
Mini Stuffer for stuffing pointed areas and other unusual shapes.
||Figure D, Insert larger
pieces of fiberfill, using the Stuff-It™ II to fill out
the overall shape.
Making Sculpted Fingers
- Using a pattern, trace hand and arm shape on twolayers
of fabric, using the Fine
Point Disappearing Ink Pen (#4030) (A).
- Machine stitch on marked lines. Trim seam allowances
to 1/8". Clip curves and turn right side out.
- Use the Disappearing Ink Pen to draw finger lines
on the right side of hand fabric shape.
- Machine stitch on lines. Backstitch at beginning
and end of each line; trim threads (B).
- For each finger, cut a piece of pipe cleaner twice
the length, plus 1/2". Fold pipe cleaner in half. Insert folded
end into tip of each finger (C).
- Stuff remainder of hand and arm. Stitch opening
closed; attach arm to body. Bend fingers to desired shape.
|Figure A, Trace Hand
and arm shape on two layers of fabric, using the Fine Point Disappearing
||Figure B, Backstitch
at beginning and end of each line; trim threads.
|Figure C, For each
finger, cut a piece of pipe cleaner twice the length, plus ½".
Fold pipe cleaner in half. Insert folded end into tip of each
Sculpting A Nose
- Draw nose on face using the Fine Point Disappearing
Ink Pen (#4030).
- Use Monofilament Thread (#4047), which is a transparent
Nylon thread, for creating "invisible" stitches that will shape
the nose. The 3" Sculpting Needle (#4053) works well and is easy to
- To begin, insert needle and thread into top of
head, bringing out needle on right side of upper nose (A).
- Make a small stitch in place and re-insert needle
into right side of nose, bringing out needle on left side (B).
- Take a small stitch in place below exit point on
left. Re-insert needle into nose, bringing out needle on right below
first stitch. Pull thread slightly after each stitch to raise the center
of the nose slightly and create dimension.
- Go back and forth, working down nose.
- At base of nose, insert needle and take a stitch,
bringing out needle from middle of opposite side (C) . Repeat on otherside
at base of nose.
- Acrylic Paints
- Spray Sealer
- Flat, Small Liner Brush & Stiff Stencil
- Permanent Black Fabric Pen (#4029)
- Embroidery Floss, Black
- Fine-Grain Sanding Sponge
- Paper Towels
- Use flat brush to paint doll's head, neck, arms
and legs with flesh colored paint. Let dry; then use the sanding sponge
to smooth the surface.
- Apply a second coat of paint and let dry.
- For cheeks, dip stencil brush in paint. Rub excess
onto a paper towel until paint has a powder-like quality.
- Apply paint to doll's cheeks in a circular motion
- Using the Permanent Black Fabric Pen, draw a smile
- Make French Knots for the eyes using the embroidery
- Use a #2 lead pencil to draw facial details.
- Use a liner brush to add eye details - black for
pupil; blue; green or brown for iris; light cream for whites of eyes
and a small dot in the pupil for a highlight. The lid is painted warm
beige. Use the Permanent black Fabric Pen to draw eyelashes and upper
eyelid line (A)
- Use medium brown and liner brush to paint eyebrows.
Make hair-like short strokes, diagonally or a simple one-stroke curve.
- Dry brush the cheeks (see Simple Face). This method
may also be used if eye shadow is desired.
- For the lips, use a rosy color, thinned with a
little water. When the paint is dry, use warm beige or light brown (with
water added) to make a very thin line through the middle of the lips
- When paint is dry, spray the painted areas of face
and hands with a matte sealer.
Simple Doll Wig
- Hair Fiber - embroidery floss, skeins of yarn or
- Doll Body
- Muslin Scraps
- Unique Stitch (#4071)
- Flesh-Color Thread
- Cut a square of muslin to fit the upper area of
the doll's head (A).
- Cut the fibers long enough to drape over the doll's
head and to the
length of the finished hair style.
- Lay the fibers across the muslin, bunching them
so none of the muslin shows through.
- Using the flesh-color thread, stitch the fibers
to the muslin center (B).
- Cut the muslin into a football shape, with the
pointed ends at the beginning and end of the stitching (C).
- Using Unique Stitch glue, apply muslin to the doll's
head, with the part centered or off to one side.
- Trim or style the hair as desired.
Here is an easy way to make moveable arms and legs using the Dritz for Dolls
Cover Button Kit (#4026), which contains
five 7/16" buttons along with a mold and pusher to make covering easy.
- Cover buttons with fabric to match doll's body,
following package instructions (A).
- Using Nylon Thread (#4048 white or #4049 brown)
and a 5" Joining Needle (#4052), thread the needle and knot end
- Insert needle into upper arm, through shoulder area
of body, out the other side and into the other arm.
- As the needle exits the second arm, insert needle
into shank of covered button, then back through arm, body and other arm
- Insert needle into second button shank, back through
arm, body and arm, pulling the thread slightly.
- Repeat Steps 2-4, one or two more times, until
arms feel secure. These steps may be repeated to attach legs to the body.
For More Information
Miriam Gourley publishes her own patterns and books. For an order form, please
send a SASE to: Fabric Folke, 1033 North 560 East, Orem, UT 84097.