Dollmaking FAQ

I get a lot of questions about my dolls, and I thought I'd try to answer a few of them here. Please do email me with any questions that I haven't answered at uncommongrace(at)comcast(dot)net.

~Do you sell your dolls? I am not currently taking commissions for custom dolls. I'm sorry to disappoint, but the pressure of making custom doll orders was too much for me. Should I ever reconsider this, I will announce it here on the blog, but at this time, I don't intend to take any more custom orders.

If you really want a doll made just for your child, or buying a doll made by someone else is too expensive (which I understand -- that's how I became a dollmaker myself!), I strongly recommend making your own. There is nothing like the experience of giving a child a doll you have made with your own hands. I know this as a dollmaker and as a mama.

 Read on to find out more!

~I want to make my own doll. Can you help me get started? I can offer you a lot of tips and advice on dollmaking. First, I just want to say that no matter how the doll turns out, your child will be privileged to have a doll made especially for him or her with the love that can be embued into it only by having been made by a parent (or other significant adult, of course -- grandparents, aunties, uncles, teachers, friends, older siblings, and cousins are all amazing dollmakers, too!).

With that said, here is a list of skills, tips, and materials that will be invaluable in your dollmaking journey.

1. Dollmaking is not hard, but it does require a lot of time, patience, and at least somewhat proficient sewing skills. (Hand and machine.) I don't recommend it as a "first sewing project" -- at least not without a lot of frustration.

2. Use a thimble. Seriously. Very important.

3. Learn how to hand sew a blindstitch. You will use this stitch to attach the body & arms, and to turn up the feet in some styles of doll. This is so important, not just for aesthetic reasons, but because a hidden stitch is much less likely to snag, thereby causing the doll to come apart.

4. Sew every seam on the doll TWICE. This means machine sewing around the body twice, and handsewing the head seams and attaching seams twice as well. This way if a stitch did get snagged or pulled and an entire seam came out, the doll would still hold together.

5. Assemble your materials, patterns, and instructions yourself. There are lots of kits out there, and I admit that I have not tried all of them. I'm certainly not saying that any of the companies that assemble and sell kits are trying to set people up for failure or that their kits are "bad". But the universal complaints I hear about kits are, "there wasn't enough (insert supply here)" or "the instructions, especially for the hair, were too confusing." Which leads to ...

6. The only resource you really NEED is the book Making Waldorf Dolls by Maricristin Sealey (this book was formerly called "Kinder Dolls"). It has all the patterns right there for a lot of doll styles and sizes, ready to trace out of the book. It has detailed instructions for dozens of hairstyles. It even has stitch schematics on some of the handsewing stitches you'll need to know.

7. Use a ballpoint needle on your sewing machine when sewing the doll's body. It's devastating when you are stuffing a doll and discover some "laddering" or runs (like with stockings) in the fabric of the doll's body, which can be caused by using a standard sewing machine needle.

8. Stuff the doll as firmly as you can; this will help it to hold its shape better over time. (Especially important with regard to the head.)

9. Allow yourself plenty of time to make a doll. Several months for your first doll, especially if it's going to be a surprise and must be worked on in stolen moments.

~What kind of yarn do you use for hair? I prefer to use a worsted-weight wool yarn. I have noticed that the mohair, while really pretty at first, becomes "ratty" more quickly, and doesn't retain that initial softness. I like Lamb's Pride Worsted and Cascade 220 for doll hair. Both come in a lot of colors.

~I've got the book you recommended. What other supplies do I need, then, if I'm not using a kit?
-Paper to draft your patterns
-marking pen or pencil
-5" doll needle (sold at JoAnn and Hobby Lobby, not just specialty websites)
-ballpoint sewing machine needles
-small handsewing needles (I like to use little sharps)
-embroidery needles (some with large eyes to accomodate yarn for some of the hairstyles)
-thread in colors to match both the skin and hair
-1 skein of yarn for hair
-embroidery floss in eye and lip colors
-1/2 yard of 100% cotton interlock fabric in the skin color of your choice
-1/2 pound of 100% wool batting for stuffing the doll (polyester fiberfill really does not work for this -- it won't hold its shape nearly as well)
-about 18" of tubular gauze to make the inner head form
-a spool of strong, thick cotton string
-1/2 yard fabric for a dress, a little less for an apron or pants
-other sewing notions for sewing the clothing: matching thread, standard sewing machine needles, ribbon or trim, buttons, narrow elastic, etc.

I get the majority of my dollmaking supplies from A Child's Dream Come True, including the tubular gauze for the inner head form, the wool batting (though I'm sourcing a local supplier for this), and the cotton string. I have used skin fabric from both Magic Cabin and Dancing Rain Dolls, and have been satisfied with both.

Dollmaking is an incredibly satisfying journey. Nothing compares to creating a doll with your own hands and watching it come to life. Best wishes to you on your own dollmaking quest!