How to Sew a Personalised Rag Doll
If you would like to sew a personalised rag doll you are in the right place. I have tips and a lovely pattern. For the tips read on, and for the pattern click here.
If you can sew a rag doll you can make the ultimate personalised present for the little girl or boy in your life. It’s a great change from plastic toys with electronic noises and it’s probably even eco friendly… but how do you make a doll or find a decent pattern?
Here are some of my secrets of doll making for you …
1 Choose your hair.
My favourite dolls have felt hair. It stays gorgeous without tangling, it comes in lots of different colours and it looks great.
Choose your felt carefully, you need to get a good wool felt, don’t buy acrylic felt as it will go bobbly very quickly. When you are choosing your wool felt look for around 2mm thick. If you go any thicker it will be harder to sew and turn. Fleece will give you a similar effect in that it won’t fray and comes in a huge array of colours, just ensure you choose one that is anti-pilling to stop the bobbling.
You could match your dolly’s hair colour to her new owners, or go funky and choose pink or purple or green!
Or you could use fabric instead, if you do this and your pattern calls for felt you will need to add a seam allowance and possibly a lining to the fringe/ bangs area so you can turn it through.
2 Choose your ‘clothes’
Your choice of hair colour has now created some personality. Will your doll be traditional, or playful?
As you are choosing the fabric with a child in mind you could ask them what their favourite colours are, or make your doll as a kind of keepsake using their outgrown clothes.
See how many areas of your doll you can use different colours on, so shoes, tights dress, skirt, hair bows. Contrasting patterned fabric with plain fabric can look really classy
3 Choose your accessories
Think how you can accessorise. Ric rac is really retro cool for rag dolls, ribbons and buttons can become a wristwatch or tie together your fabric choices. Buttons and felt flowers can add cuteness to a hairstyle.
Can you incorporate shoelaces for a child learning to tie bows? Or put a row of buttons on a plain fabric front to make it look like a shirt?
4 Get a pattern that speaks to you
Some patterns have sewn in arms and legs, some have embroidered eyes or larger than body size heads. Choose one that appeals to you as the maker. After all, if you don’t enjoy making it, you may never finish it!
5 Once you’ve got your pattern read it through first
And then put any terms you don’t understand into Google or YouTube. You might be an experienced dress maker, but soft toys can use different skills and terminology.
Practice any new skills, before you start doll making… My daughter still has the first doll I ever made, and she loves it but I cringe every time I see my terrible attempt at ladder stitching
6 Use interfacing on thin fabrics
You are making an item that will be stuffed, and then loved and played with. So if your fabric is a bit thin or delicate, interface it so it will still look good after several rounds of dolly’s tea parties and a trip to the park.
Choose an iron on woven cotton interfacing to stabilise where you need to. If you are making a doll from clothing be especially careful to interface all stretchy fabrics so they don’t loose their shape.
7 Style the face
Will your doll have craft eyes? Or drawn on eyes?
Some dolls have closed eyelashes embroidered on. You can add a bit of blusher too, but practice first so you don’t make a mess.
Decide if you want your doll to have a mouth, or freckles. All these choices can make your doll really personal to you and give the doll a completely different look.
Get the face ready before sewing everything else together, just in case any element of it goes wrong, so you can have another go.
8 Set your sewing machine to sew little stitches.
Use a big stitch and when you stuff your doll it will strain the stitches so you can see them all. Stitch small and the stitches will stay invisible. Especially if you’ve chosen a cotton thread that matches your fabric.
You can add extra decorative touches by top stitching in contrasting colours. And for this use a larger stitch so it shows your workmanship.
9 Snip the curves
Pinking shears will make this WAY faster. If you try to eliminate this step, you’ll get awkward shapes on the curved elements of your doll. You don’t want to put in all that effort only to find that once you’ve turned and stuffed your doll its face doesn’t curve nicely.
While you are snipping it is often worth trimming any excess fabric from the seam allowances. Then as you sew the next element to it you won’t get a bump and wobble where your machine has encountered a bulk of fabric.
10 Stuff with little bits
All sewn and ready to stuff? Don’t hurry this step. Get little bits of stuffing and poke them into your doll one at a time.
Use a plastic chopstick or a knitting needle. Push the stuffing in all the way until it meets the end of the limbs. Then get some more. Repeat until your doll is stuffed. If the arms and legs look a bit lumpy roll them between your hands as if you were making a snake out of play dough and it will smooth them.
When you stuff the face put the doll face down on a clean hard surface and stuff firmly. This will help to make sure he or she doesn’t get a bumpy face.
A combo of good interfacing and good stuffing technique will make your completed keepsake look so much more professional.
11 Get a good pattern, that is right for you
Choose a pattern that fits your sewing abilities. Most patterns are marked up to show you how complicated they are. So, they will be labelled as beginner, intermediate or experienced. Pick one that fits your abilities so you don’t get disheartened.
If you are an intermediate sewer and you would like a pattern with a photo of every stage of the process, that can be adapted to give you different hair styles and used to make a doll as traditional or as modern as you like, click here to buy my pattern from my Etsy shop.
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