How to sew a small doll by hand
No. 21 in the 30 Days of Dolls Series: ‘The Fonz’
Isn’t it funny how crafty projects can take on a life of their own? I know that each doll I’ve been making of late has begun life as a ‘project’, and has morphed into a ‘personality’ or a ‘character’. This little guy, my take on a doll I saw many years ago in Samford, was a meek and mild fellow to begin with. Add a ‘denim’ jacket however, and he started acting all cool for school. And when his collar on the jacket refused to sit down, ‘The Fonz’ came to mind. No turned-down collars for this guy. He wants to stand up and be noticed.
I love to dress my simple dolls. Playing fashion with them is also a chance to unravel their personalities, attitudes, or approach to life. I mean, clothes tell so much about a person or a doll. They help give us an identity, a framework, a way of presenting ourselves and our beliefs to the world. So a tailored coat says something completely different to a blacksmith’s apron, a cook’s hat, or a warm knitted shawl. When we use these dolls in storytelling with our children (from formal sit-down stories, to grab-a-minute story on the floor), or we give them to the children to use in their own play, the outfits they are wearing help to influence, inspire and perhaps guide their and our stories. If we want to change the story arc, we just change the clothes. Human beings can do this too. I love the fact that simply by dressing differently, we can change our destiny. It is so, so, true and a lesson I learned very late in life.
So take a moment to play with your fabrics and your felts and your colours before cutting out and making your doll clothes. One little snip here or there could change everything!
How to sew a small doll by hand.
Photos left to right, top to bottom.
1. Tie a knot in a piece of wool fleece, then roll it into a ball. If you don’t have wool fleece, cotton wool balls will work.
2. Place this ball in the centre of a 10 by 10 cm square of cotton knit.
3. Smooth out the lumps and bumps around the neck area, then tie it off using thread. When you knot, loop the thread twice like this, then pull as the double loop helps the thread to ‘catch’ and hold while you tie it off.
4. Gently smooth out any excess wrinkles on the neck by massaging the fabric to the sides.
5. Cut out this pattern on a folded piece of felt. The fold is on the arms/neck line. Mine measures 8 cm from neck to base, and 10 cm from hand to hand.
6. Cut a small hole in the centre of the top line, to fit the head.
7. Push the head through the hole from underneath the felt.
8. Sew the head in place with a few decorative cross stitches, both front and back.
9. Use cotton embroidery thread to stitch on a wooden bead for the ‘hand’.
10. When it is holding well, begin blanket stitching the pattern closed using the same thread. Work your way around the whole body until you reach the armpit. Stuff the body with wool, then sew the wooden bead in place. Finish sewing up the seam with the blanket stitch.
11. Cut a rectangle from a piece of felt. Place it behind your doll to gauge where to cut holes for the arms. Cut two holes. Round off the felt a little to help tailor the jacket to your guy.
12. Fold back 1/2 cm of felt on the top edge to make a collar. Use straight stitch to sew it down.
13. Sew on two small rectangles for pockets with a line of straight stitching on the U sides.
14. Thread a needle with a long long long piece of thread. Wrap some fleece or knitting wool around the ‘head’ then use your thread to go in and out, in and out, all over the head, making little baby visible stitches to hold the hair and style it in place. Hey, hey. The Fonz is in the house.
In my upcoming book, 52 dolls (with a better title!), I have also made a very cute little bed for this guy. You’ll love it. Not long now… hoping for a January release on this one. Will keep you in the loop.