DIY: How to Make Cloth Dolls

Doll Toy Old Toy Cloth Dress

If you’re looking for a bit of motivation to get started making your first doll, then this article is exclusively for you.

The beauty of making dolls is that many of the patterns available call for inexpensive materials. Or, because you don’t need a tremendous amount of fabric to make most dolls, you can splurge and work with high-end fabrics such as satins, silks, and furs.

Here are seven tips to get you started making cloth dolls:

  1. The first thing is to decide what is available at hand. Is there a sewing machine available? Are you going to be sewing by hand? Choose your first doll, knowing that hand sewing will take you longer. On the plus side, if you intend to hand sew, you can tote your project and stitch on it while you’re on a road trip, on a lunch break, or waiting at the office.
  2. Pick the correct pattern. You can find that perfect doll at fabric and craft stores, or you can find some very unique patterns at quilt shops and specialty stores and online. I
  3. After picking your pattern, find the “Materials List,” which is usually on the back of the pattern envelope or visible through the packaging. If you can’t find it, ask the clerk to help you. Remember, they want you to buy all the materials you need to make that doll from them, so they’ll be helpful.
  4. Buy your materials. Slow down. This can be the most enjoyable, exciting part of making dolls. Breathe in and let your creativity flow. Use a pencil to check off the items as you purchase them. There is nothing more frustrating than starting your doll only to find that you forgot the thread.
  5. Before you dare start cutting into that fabric, dig deeper into the pattern instructions. Most big pattern companies have a glossary at the beginning of every project, but some of the boutique designers don’t. That’s one of the reasons you need to read the pattern first. If there are any terms that you don’t understand, try doing a GOOGLE search. It’s also important to read the pattern to find out if there are any special or out-of-the-ordinary instructions. For example, some patterns are printed on both sides of the paper, and the doll maker is expected to either copy or trace the pieces without actually cutting them. Some pattern pieces are meant to be traced onto the fabric, then sewn on the tracing line and cut out with the doll maker, adding a seam allowance.
  6. Like any hobby, you need to actually do the craft to see if you’re going to like it. There are many “specialty” items available for making cloth dolls, but I would recommend trying to get by without them, at least until you know for sure that you’ve fallen in love with the art. You don’t want a closet full of gizmos that you are never going to use.
  7. Even though the doll designer has probably spent at least a hundred hours developing your pattern, you don’t have to make the doll EXACTLY like the original. There are no doll police. Sometimes you’ll find something you like better. Sometimes you’ll create a disaster and start over. But either way, you’ll be making cloth dolls that will be your own artistic vision.

With that being said, there is no shame in making a doll exactly like the doll on the pattern envelope. After all, that was the doll you fell in love with. Making a doll to the designer’s exact specifications, while not as exciting, can be a wonderful way to learn new techniques and start to develop your own.

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