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Page 4 - Techniques for Making Cloth and Fabric Doll Bodies

Dolls & Costumes
Susan Kramer
susan@susankramer.com
Dolls sitemap with many patterns

Dolls designed and made by Susan Kramer

 

 

 

1. Design and Embroider Facial Features on Dolls
2.How to Hand Sew Doll Bodies and Clothes
3.How to Knot on Yarn Doll Wigs
4.
How to Soft Sculpture Cloth or Fabric Dolls
5.
Sewing Feet on Cloth and Fabric Dolls
6.
Supplies Needed to Paint Features on Cloth and Fabric Dolls

 

 

1. Design and Embroider Facial Features on Dolls


Design your doll's face first on a sheet of notebook paper. To make symmetrical features, crease your paper lengthwise and using a ballpoint pen draw the features alongside one half of the face, (halfway through the forehead, nose and mouth). Then open the paper and from the impression left by the ballpoint pen, draw in the features on the other side of the face.
Doll Clothes Patterns by Susan Kramer
Use transfer paper to lay on the good side of the doll body head.

Align the pattern piece carefully over top of the cut out fabric body.

Use a ballpoint pen to transfer markings through the paper pattern and through the transfer paper to the front of the doll body. I have found through experience that ballpoint pen does not accidentally punch through the pattern as easily as a pencil could.

I embroider the eyes, eyebrows, nose and mouth in 6-strand floss before sewing doll together.

To embroider

I use a small round hoop to hold the material smooth and stretched.

For the nose and eyebrows I use brown in an outline stitch.

For the mouth I use red in an outline stitch. If you'd like to close the lips use a satin stitch.

If you know the eye color of the recipient of your doll, try to pick a color thread to match. I use an outline stitch and fill in with a satin stitch.

Article and photo credit Susan Kramer

2. How to Hand Sew Doll Bodies and Clothes


I recommend sewing doll bodies and their clothes by hand for ease of manipulating the small pieces and for a finished quality look.

I hand sew all most of my dolls and their clothing using either one strand of quilting or buttonhole thread. If the doll is not going to have much rough use you could also use cotton / polyester thread which is less expensive. Be sure to double your strand of yarn when sewing with it, though.
Doll Clothes Patterns by Susan Kramer
I knot the thread on the underside of seams where it will not be seen. When at the end of a thread and have made my knot I cut the thread leaving one quarter inch hanging just incase the knots loosen.

I keep in mind that my grandkids will be putting these clothes on and off their dolls and stuffed animals, so make the sewing as strong as possible.

Another hint for your handsewn items is keep an outfit all together in a half gallon size clear ziplock bag.

For embroidering features on doll faces and for embellishing clothing I use either 6-strand floss, or for a small design I separate a sewing length of floss in half so it is just 3 strands.

To knot on yarn wigs I use either 4-ply wool or acrylic yarn. My recommendation here is to make sure your choice of yarn for wigs washes nicely, so you can use the washing machine to launder the whole doll.

Article and photo credit Susan Kramer

3. How to Knot on Yarn Doll Wigs


Knotting the yarn wigs on dolls is a fun and creative task in doll making.

For the Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls in the photo I use 2-foot lengths of yarn threaded through a large eye metal needle.
Raggedy Andy and Raggedy Ann sewn by Susan Kramer
Just use a single strand - not a double strand and no knot at the end.

Pattern: Beginning at the dollís right jaw line I work up around the face line to the left jaw line. The next arc of stitches goes in a row one quarter inch behind the front row beginning at the dollís left jaw line this time.

Continue sewing rows moving back over head and side to side. I make the hairline across the lower head even with the jaw line.

Now - hereís how to attach the locks of yarn hair
Raggedy Andy and Raggedy Ann hair sewn by Susan Kramer
Study the photo for a minute. I begin at the lower right front jaw and work up and over to the left front jaw. I then add rows behind it to fill in the scalp.

Beginning with your long thread:
1. Take a stitch, pull it tight, leaving a 2 inch tail hanging.
2. Take the 2nd stitch and rather than pulling it tight, leave it as a 2 inch long loop.
3. Take a stitch and pull it tight. (Being careful not to pull so hard that the loop of the previous stitch is disturbed.)
4. Take a stitch and rather than pulling it tight, leave it as a 2 inch long loop.
5. Take a stitch and pull it tight. (Being careful not to pull so hard that the loop of the previous stitch is disturbed.)

Continue repeating the sequence of alternating one loose loop with one tight stitch.

Believe me, it holds up - my grandkids play with their dolls and their hair is still holding on tightly!

I like to use both acrylic and worsted wool. The dolls in the photo have acrylic wigs. Be sure your choice is washable, though! Enjoy your doll making projects!

Article and photo credits Susan Kramer

4. How to Soft Sculpture Cloth or Fabric Dolls


Soft sculpturing your cloth or fabric doll bodies gives them more life and personality. I find it a fun and creative part of doll making!




Looking at this photo of Amanda's left arm see the elbow joint on the left and the wrist at the right of picture. Instructions are below.

Sculpting is done on dolls that are already stuffed. I like to use fiberfill but old cut up nylons work well and both are washable fillings.

Wrists and Ankles

First thread a long sewing needle with a 12 inch (30cm) length of strong quilting or buttonhole thread.

Knot a few stitches on wrist back seam and insert needle through to front of wrist. Then take one stitch and pull slightly to form crease and carefully make a few knotted stitches to hold crease securely. Same with ankles.

Elbow and Knees

To determine the location for the joint, choose the midway point between shoulder and wrist to make the elbow crease. And for the leg, choose the midway point between the top of leg and top of foot.

Using strong thread make small stitches across joint. This is easier if you nudge stuffing away from the fold point before stitching across joint.

Article and photo credits Susan Kramer

5. Sewing Feet on Cloth and Fabric Dolls


Sewing feet on cloth dolls looks like it could be tricky. But, I'll explain the technique I use through these photos and descriptions to help you along.

The first photo is an upside down view of the foot in light blue fabric sewn onto the cloth doll leg, which is in a calico pattern.

The 2nd photo shows finished feet on my Anneke doll.

First cut out the feet and leg pieces from your doll body pattern. You'll need four foot pieces and two leg pieces.

Feet

With right sides together sew two foot pieces together beginning at the front top of ankle, down around the toes and soles of feet and halfway up between the heel and back of ankle, as in photo.

In the first photo the dark blue thread shows this. Repeat for the 2nd foot.

Attaching foot to leg

Each leg is one piece of fabric with the seam down the back to correspond to the open seam of the foot.

Line the lower edge of leg to the top edge of foot and pin in place all the way around. Then baste and sew in place so the seam is lined up evenly. In the first photo the white thread demonstrates this.
Sewing foot on doll body by Susan Kramer
Repeat for the other leg and foot.

Now line up the back of foot and leg and sew from the back of foot up the back of leg toward the thigh.

The 2nd photo shows completed feet and legs stuffed with polyester fiberfill. You can also use cut up nylon stockings, not packed too tightly.

These fabric dolls are fun to make and because they have several different pieces you can mix and match fabric to make every doll individual with their own personalities.

Have fun making your cloth dolls. Bring any doll making questions to the Doll Making forum linked at the foot of this page. We love to see photos of your finished dolls!

Article and photo credits Susan Kramer

6. Supplies Needed to Paint Features on Cloth and Fabric Dolls


Here is a list of supplies you'll need to assemble to paint features on your cloth or fabric dolls:

- White acrylic fabric paint for eyeballs
- Blue, brown or green acrylic fabric paint for iris of eyes
- Black acrylic fabric paint for pupil of eyes
- Oil-based chalk for blush on cheeks and top of forearms
- Oil-based colored pencils to outline facial features

First outline your doll face on a piece of graph paper with a vertical line through the center point between the eyebrows, center of nose, middle of mouth.

Experiment with drawing doll features on the graph paper, and when satisfied transfer your design to the doll face fabric using tracing paper.

Doll Face - on the fabric of the doll face outline all features with a brown oil-based pencil.

Eyebrows - draw little strokes for each individual hair.

Lower eyelashes - draw little strokes for each lash.

Nose - using light brown oil based pencil draw the sides and 2 dots for nostrils. Or, just draw 2 dots for nostrils and not sides of nose.

Lips - outline in colored oil-based pencil and fill in with red or pink oil-based pencil.

Eyeballs - outline with dark oil-based pencil and fill in with white acrylic fabric paint. When dry paint a small circle of green, blue, or brown for the iris. When dry, paint in the smaller circle of pupil in black.

Be creative with oil-based blush to make high cheekbones or perhaps along tops of arms. Use oil-based brown pencil to add a few freckles, if desired.

Most Important - practice your techniques on scraps of material till you are satisfied with the results!

Article by Susan Kramer

 

All doll reviews and content on this site are copyright Susan Kramer
 and may not be used in any manner without express written permission.
Email: susan@susankramer.com

How to Sew Cloth Dolls

and Costumes
Book by Susan Kramer
How to Sew Cloth Dolls and Costumes by Susan Kramer

Medium Doll Clothes
with Full Size Patterns

Ebook by Susan Kramer
Medium Doll Clothes with Full Size Patterns - ebook by Susan Kramer


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page updated December 29, 2012; August 14, 2014

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Dolls sitemap with many patterns