coffee
Well, - you have just bought your first cloth doll pattern! Where to start? Brew a coffee, - sit down and firstly read the pattern well - become familiar with the project before you start. Most find it easier to glue the pattern pieces to light cardboard and cut out as templates. As Betts Vidal says - 'honour your doll with the best fabrics' - and using a fabric marker trace around the template onto your fabric.

Where the template line is the sewing line, you can trace onto freezer paper, cut out, iron onto your fabric and then sew around the paper template. The freezer paper then simply peels off for the next time - and then cut out allowing a small seam allowance. For small dolls this method is great - and it is best to use a clear open toe applique foot on the sewing machine. When sewing it is recommended to use a smaller stitch - approx 20 stitches to the inch (25mm) On really tiny pattern pieces if you have trouble with your machine 'chewing' the fabric place a piece of kitchen (greaseproof) paper under the fabric. I like elinor peace bailey's philosophy - "Only poverty should separate you from a really good machine - and that poverty should be shared by the entire family. If it occurs to you that you are the only person in the family who feels poor, then march right out and find the dandiest machine. Yes ma'am, that's justice" (from elinor's 'Pickpockets')


Always sew slowly and carefully - when sewing around a curve, lift the machine foot and turn the fabric continually - it all helps with a pleasing overall appearance of the completed doll. Clip the curved seams after trimming - you will learn in time how much clipping suits you. My first class with with Barbara Willis and she taught to clip and then Fray Stop the seams - that has stayed with me, but others clip very little. If you use a Fray Stop on the clipped areas, take care that it doesn't run into the body of the doll, as it may stain - be very frugal!! (If you have never used Fray Stop before - be aware also, that it is very, very thin, almost the consistency of water - it will pour out if you are not careful.


Now you are ready to turn the pieces of your doll! Once you have turned your doll, run the timber dowelling from your turning tool set inside the seams to straighten and open out the seams. Now you are ready to stuff! Different people prefer different types of stuffing. Some like a lot of bounce - others like a softer fill. Some stuff really firm - but when first starting to make dolls, it is easy to stuff too lightly. Give the poor girl some body - some say the feel of a ripe peach - or until she feels 'natural' to you. Soft stuffing seems to go even limper in time.


A point to remember when stuffing is not to wind the stuffing around the stuffing tool (into big 'cotton balls', as it will only make your doll look lumpy. Just wind a little stuffing around the tip to start it off and then push it into the doll in big, loose pieces.


Your doll is now turned and stuffed - sew those parts together and she's starting to take shape! Choose your clothing fabric well, - and choose the best! 100% cotton is the easiest fabric to work with - and for most dolls, I think it looks the best. Do support your local quilt store if you can - many of them are struggling.

Dyes



If you have been adventurous and made your doll from silk now is the time to dye! I've been using the EARTH PALETTE Dyes - they're great for Patti Culea's dolls or Jackie's frogs!


When the doll is completed, spray lightly with water, so that the dyes will merge - then pain on the dyes, either straight or diluted (the stronger the concentration of dye, the brighter the colour) Use as many colours and combinations as you wish - experiment! Once you're happy with the effect, wrap the doll in plastic and leave for 24 hours in a really warm spot - the warmer the better to 'cure' the colours. Unwrap and let her dry. Great for painting on pieces of lace too - lots of colours look great on the one piece - cure the same and then rinse.


HAIR!



Time to put a wig on that bald patch! You can use almost anything for hair - string, sisal rope unwrapped, scourers, beads - look for magic scrunchies in the cheap stores. Have seen a pin doll with beads threaded onto curled wire - wow!! Look for unusual wool in thrift shops - you can sew wool on in individual pieces taking a small piece of head fabric each time - and knotting against the head each strand if necessary. Take a lot of time, but looks really good! Otherwise you can lay the wool on greaseproof paper and sew down the centre - wind around cardboard first to get the correct length if you like. Be careful not to use too much - looks awful!


You can make a special frame from a coat hanger and wind wool around that and sew up the centre - make the frame a rectangle and the result is even lengths! Cut the ends after sewing - glue or sew to doll. Don't use a hot glue gun if you can avoid it - the glue goes hard in time and cracks off. If using the dyed mohair or wool you can sew pieces on individually - I like to make a knot in the centre and then stitch to the head. You can also lay pieces onto paper - (the tear way stabiliser is magic if you have some scraps) - zig zag up the centre - peel off the paper, fold on the stitch line and zig zag along the fold to secure. You then have a long wefted piece of hair that you can cut into various lengths to suit the doll. I like to stitch it on - you may like to glue.
Have you tried Felting Needles to put hair on?? Lynne Butcher told me about them first and sadly I didn't pay attention! Then I saw Patti Culea stabbing away at her doll's head and was terribly impressed at the effect!


You just lay the fibre you are using across the head of the doll and then push it into the head with the Felting Needle. It depends on the size of the head and the effect you want, how far you push the hair in - the deeper, the firmer. Work your way over the head - looks so very natural and is really zippy when you have some practice. It will pull out with a really good yank but is really quite strong. You can loop the fibres and style the hair quite easily - and the hair sits up naturally just as if it had grown there! Be careful of your fingers though - they are very sharp. I've only used wool and mohair, but some have tried thicker yarns with great success. Its always best to have 2 on hand in case you break one when doing a head too.