This is a sort-of-tutorial, building on an idea I found on sooz‘s blog and playing around with a few different variations. These little dolls would make lovely Christmas decorations with a loop sewn into the tips of their hats so that you could hang them up.
But they’re also good friends to have in your pocket at any time of year.
What you will need to make the basic doll:
-some felt scraps
-a needle and thread
-some stuffing (see step two for some possibilities)
-your choice of various materials to make your doll’s head. Sooz and many others use skin coloured interlocking (which is tee-shirt material) and though I’ve no idea why, I’m not a fan of the way it looks. I have had some success using wooden beads (you can find them at Steiner supply stores and craft stores) and balls of felt. You can buy these pre-made (from the same stores as the beads) or you can needle-felt or wet-felt them yourself.
-craft glue (if you are using a wooden bead for a head)
Step one: design the body of your doll
The basic principles for this seem to be gently curving lines and symmetry and within those two guidelines there is lots of room to explore. Use the head you’ve chosen or made as a guide for the size of the body. Sooz has offered two body shapes and here are some of mine you are very welcome to use.
For a young or very new sewer, I would recommend the first and third shapes, since sewing in and out of legs is slightly trickier than sewing around smooth curves.
Step two: create your doll’s body
Once you’ve chosen or created a body type, cut two body shapes out of your felt (one for the them front and one for the back). I think the easiest way to do this is to lay the paper body onto a piece of felt and cut around it. Then lay the felt body onto another piece of felt and cut around that.
(These are felt pieces to make two different dolls)
Then sew the two pieces together. It is probably ideal to use blanket stitch but you can really use any stitch you know as long as the stitches are small and close together (they will need to hold your doll’s stuffing in).
Make sure you leave an opening at the top. This is both to put the stuffing in and also to attach the head. The bigger the opening, the deeper the doll’s head will be set in it’s body.
Next, stuff your doll. Although lots of cloth dolls work best with the stuffing packed in very tightly, I don’t think this is true for felt dolls. A softer, squishier doll feels nicer and strains less at the felt and stitching, so I would say to stuff your doll quite loosely, but do make sure that the stuffing gets into every corner.
I am using ordinary craftstore-bought stuffing but pure wool would be even nicer and tucking in the felt trimmings from when you cut out your doll’s body would be a great use of the scraps (though the result can be a little lumpy).
You could also add something fragrant like dried lavender, crumbled cinnamon, cloves or cardamom pods. Mmmmmm….
If, like me, you have a lovely wooden crochet hook that you bought hoping you might be a natural at crochet but then turned out not to be, it is very comforting to use the non-hook end to push the stuffing in. It makes you feel much less like you wasted six dollars.
Step three: attach the head
If you are using a wooden bead for a head, this is the best way I have found of attaching it. Using your needle and thread, make a stitch on the inside of the neck hole of your doll so that your thread is dangling out like this…
Then thread the wooden bead on and push it down into the neck hole like this…
Next you need to make four or five long stitches from the back of the dolls neck up through the bead. Make the stitches so that they spread all around the back of the dolls head, but don’t worry if they bunch up as you sew.
You can even them out again afterwards.
At this stage you may want to add a stitch or two to your doll’s neck hole to make sure it fits snugly around the head (I added a stitch on either side).
Then smear craft glue over the stitches so that they’re held in place and have a cup of tea while it dries.
(Because the wooden head is really only attached to one side of the body it may be a bit wobbly. I will show you a good trick to fix that in step five.)
If you’re using a felt head, then all you need to do is push it into place…
And stitch all around the neck line through the felt ball, like this…
Step four: adding a hat
This is optional for a doll with a felted head but definitely necessary to cover up the gluey stitching on the wooden headed doll. There are two good hats I know how to make.
The first is the easy-peasy felt hat. Wrap a piece of felt around your doll’s head, putting it where you would like the bottom of the hat to be. Pinch the felt together at the back of the doll’s neck, like this.
Then remove the doll but keep the pinch in place and cut a straight line from the pinch to where you would like your pointy hat to end (it all depends on how long you want your hat to be). You will end up with a folded triangle, like this.
Sew up the long edge.
And you’re done!
The felt hat can be glued onto a wooden head or stitched onto a felt head like this.
The other hat is really a mini-project in itself – the knitted gnome hat I’ve made a tutorial for before, which you can find here. For this one I cast on twelve stitches and I think this teeny hat is ridiculously sweet if I do say so myself!
It is perfect for either a felty head…
or a wooden head…
(It can be pulled right down and glued into place to cover the stitches like this.)
Step five: add a scarf
This is of course an optional step, but it has the benefit of making the shape of the face of a felt-headed doll a bit nicer (they can end up a bit odd with all that stitching and squishing-into-hats) and strengthening the neck of a wooden-headed doll.
Just cut a strip of felt…
Wrap it around your doll’s neck…
And sew it into place. (I like sewing little star shapes but an ordinary stitch or a little cross will work perfectly too.)