Gillian Allen, stamped doll, instructions on the right
Gillian Allen, stamped doll, instructions on the left
Arteth Gray, Cyclop's Daughters
Arteth Gray, Cyclop's Daughters
Mo Wassell, La La
Mo Wassell, Emma Blue
Nicky Holmes, primitive doll, bride
Nicky Holmes, primitive doll
How to start a simple doll
The basic construction of these dolls is based on the simple method by Sherrill Kahn. Two pieces of fabric are sewn together leaving an 1/8 inch border which is painted with acrylics to prevent fraying. A gap in the seam allows for stuffing.
First design your doll shape. It can be any shape and size. Draw and cut out on paper, use this as a template for front and back . I used a fine white cotton to start with, but later you can experiment with other types. Lay the template on the fabric and draw round both for front and back. I used a biro which seems the smoothest on fabric and shows up well for stitching later.
Colouring and decoration of the fabric. You can use fabric paints or dyes, but I used acrylics as I found that embossing worked better on a non absorbent surface. Think about the overall colour scheme you want, several harmonious colours merging together work well, paint the fabric. Go outside the biro line and paint at least 1/8 inch all around with acrylic paint
I used some of Sherrill Kahn decorative stamps and  Judy Kins spiral block 9517G, trying out acrylics and inks to build up blocks of colour and pattern. I also tried embossing with bronze and antique gold powders, using the heat tool. When on acrylic painted background they came up much shinier. Do this to the back as well. Any stamps can be used, hand made ones of your own design or anything with a nice texture/pattern. Fabric scraps, lace, trims sequins can all be glued on with fabric glue. I also tried some areas with  gold leaf and metal flakes, and the transparent tiny Beadz. An alternative is to use Bondaweb (Wonder Web) fusible film, to iron on shimmery and transparent scraps. This is the fun part where you can be experimental and create a very rich textural fabric with not a lot of effort.
Creating faces. For mine, I used the T shirt method. Find a face you like, and measure your dolls head, in an imaging programme--whatever you use, crop the picture and resize the head (see the Vintage Images resources pages on this site for lots of faces). It can be in black and white or colour, then print out on t shirt paper transfer for the inkjet (widely available) I printed out several in a row, and cut these off--(you can later print out on the rest of the paper). Cut out the head and place on the fabric and iron (using the recommended settings and instructions) I find with this material you have to have the iron quite hot and use a heavy pressure, this makes it merge with the fabric. You might like to practise on a scrap first. On the back of the head you cant paint the hair
Sewing together line the back and front together, decoration facing out. Machine (or you can do small backstitch) around the biro outline. If its disappeared you can put the template back on to go over the lines to see. Leave a 2" gap. Cut around the doll shape 1/8th" inch outside the stitching. Paint the cut edges with the same colour acrylics. Stuff the doll with fibre fill/kapok or whatever you have, do the narrow hands, arms and feet with a thick needle or fine paintbrush end first, don't overstuff the doll.
Finishing off. Sew up the gap. You can carry on embellishing your doll with fibres, beads and charms etc sewn on. I glued some flat coiled copper . It's up to you how complex and decorative you want it to be. The next one I want to try is using lots of appliqué patterned fabrics, organdie and lace for a romantic effect.
Gillian Allen.
Gillian Allen, stamped doll, back
Gillian Allen, stamped doll, back
Arteth Gray kindly hosted a 'no limits' doll swap, using any materials and technique. These creations are shown below. Thank you for your participation.
Please send in scans of your fun dolls for inclusion on this page
Arteth Gray
Nicky Holmes
Mo Wassell,
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Belinda Schneider
Belinda Schneider
beaded doll made in Brionie Williams class