This tutorial is aimed at a beginner to intermediate level; you must be confident with a sewing machine and simple sewing principles like back-stitching and hand sewing however you can accomplish this doll by hand sewing alone, it’ll just might take a while! This doll was created using a sublimation printer however you can follow along with a regular printer to create a blank doll.
IF you’re not using sublimation skip from Step 1 to Step 5.
Things you will need:
Sewing Sewing Machine or Hand sewing skills (… And the patience of a saint!) Scissors Thread Pins Stuffing Fabric of your choice Pattern Doll Pattern / Photoshop Printer – Sublimation or Regular (Optional)Sublimation: Transparent binder Sublimation printer / ink /paper Heat Press
1. Prepare your Doll Pattern
I make my doll patterns with Photoshop using an A4 layout for printing. I draw out each shape using then pen tool and add an outer glow of 50px to create a seam allowance which makes life so much easier when cutting and constructing the doll! It also ensures accuracy when sewing – you don’t want wonky and uneven limbs! You can find lots of basic doll patterns online and tweak them to your own needs.
Without Sublimation: If you’re using a pre-made pattern simply print out your pattern and lay out on doubled-up fabric with right sides together. I tend to sew along the paper which makes sewing small detailed pieces easier; you can cut out each piece or sew it all as a sheet and cut out later – it’s all to your own preference. Once completed jump to Step 5.
2. Prepare your fabric
If you are lucky enough to have a sublimation printer, you know the special inks work best with synthetic fabric fibres such as polyester however with this neat wee trick you can use cotton! I coat the cotton fabric with a transparent fabric binder used for screen printing. Completely saturate the fabric and leave to dry.
3. Prepare for Sublimation
TIP: Remember to invert your images before printing as a mirror image will appear on your fabric and can be a costly waste of printing and fabric.
Print your doll pattern and loosely cut out the pieces, place them over your fabric face down and situate them together on the fabric being careful not to overlap the seam allowance.
Depending on the sublimation paper / inks / printer you use, the baking time can vary. I tend to press my prints at high pressure for 75-80 seconds at 205degrees. If you press your fabric while it’s still damp, this can result in a slightly burn brown tinge to your fabric.
4. Remove Paper
Careful! Your fabric will be extremely hot and paper may need some extra care to peel off due to the residue of the transparent binder. Marvel at your work and the magic of a clear print on a natural fibre!
4.1 Matching Seams
Cut up your pattern in preparation for sewing and match your pieces right sides together. This part is easier if you use a bright light of a light box to see through the fabric. Pin your pieces together taking care your fabric is flat.
Carefully sew along your seam taking care on corners and curves.; if you’re sewing this by hand it’s time to employ dem patience skills.. Good luck buddy. Remember to back-stitch at the beginning at end of every piece as the stitching can fray when you begin the final stages of the doll.
TIP: When machine sewing, if you leave your needle in the fabric and lift the foot to rotate on corners it makes your life much easier. Remember and take your time! Don’t rush.
5.1 Tips for successful limbs:
Sew reinforcement stitching at sharp corners like toes and fingers which prevent the seams from popping open later.
Cut off extra corner fabric around toes and fingers so the edges aren’t bulky when turned inside out.
Snip 1 or 2 small cuts right next to the stitches in convex areas like behind the knee, wrists, waist and thumbs this prevents the fabric from bunching on corners when inverted. MAKE SURE! You don’t snip OVER your stitches.
6. Invert Yer Bits
Now for the annoyingly frustrating part! Turn your pieces right sides out – in other words turn them inside out… Prepare to go mad… At tight areas this is a bit tricky but with the right tools and practice this isn’t so heart-breaking. I tent to use (weirdly enough) a chopstick and pliers..?
The chopstick will only get you so far but if you have some pliers on hand gently pull out the reluctant hand or foot a wee bit at a time.
When you have defeated the beast, poke out all the seams with your long and pointy implement…. being careful not to pop any of the seams! And eventually you’ll have your full set of pieces ready to stuff!
7. Get Stuffed!
Cheesy, yes. Am I ashamed? Maybe.
Stuff your pieces with your chosen filling; just be sure to go little piece of stuffing at a time or you’ll end up with a lumpy doll! Although a doll with cellulite could be interesting…
It’s tempting to take large pieces of stuffing and jam it in like you’re in a hurry… But this can lead to blockages and hard / soft pieces throughout your doll. Start with small pieces of stuffing and gradually add more and more when you get to the THICC bits!
I tend to employ my favourite chopstick to bash in the stuffing and judge the shape of the limbs as I go; the amount you stuff determines the shape of your hands and feet… For example, if you’re planning on adding detail stitching later to the hands / doll position / bending knees etc. So be mindful of your future plans for detail and make sure your legs and arms match!
Then you can marvel at the marvellous shape of your doll bits… And have a break.
8. Almost done!
After the long task of stuffing your doll you get to the fun part of constructing your final doll shape. This part is free for expression regarding the final position of your doll i.e. standing or sitting. Sew your pieces together with a long needle by hand; I sew my pieces together with a hidden Jim Henson stitch, but if you’re new / lazy cheating you can always use a transparent thread which makes your seams invisible.
I aim to hide all raw edges however if you want a more weathered and rustic looking doll it could be interesting to keep raw edges frayed and exposed with a blanket stitch or some messy stitching with an embroidery thread. I’m too much of a controlled perfectionist for such unruly creativity! 😉
Just create a pose for your doll and you can pin and sew her into place, I recommend pinning until your doll is painted and dressed of things could get difficult. Photograph in a dramatic way and presto!
The doll below is my first ever doll, so just remember you can always improve after practice and the first one is just a starting point.
Well done, you at least made it to the end of this tutorial!