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Hooray for Cloth Dolls!

So I’ve been on this doll kick lately, but I’m still a pattern-maker at heart and for me the best way to understand the proportions of little dolly-bodies is to make little dolly-bodies and play with the pieces until I get something that feels right.  (No, really, you can tell if a pattern is right while you’re still cutting it. If it’s awkward to cut, it’s going to be awkward to sew.)  I’m finalizing patterns, but here’s some preview pics….

Doll with legs
The first "working" pattern.

I started out working from my Tyler clone.  This was the first “working” pattern to emerge – she’s roughly the same size and shape as Tyler, but I changed some of the torso curves. That was partly to make her easier to sew, and partly in the name of realism. She’s close, but slightly less … perky than the original.

doll, dressed in wench costume
She fits the clothes I made from my master patterns for Tyler, though.

That was one of the pre-requisits for this little project – I wanted cloth doll bodies I could use for display, as well as for impromptu dress stands.  Sometimes, it’s nice to be able to stick a pin into your dollies – not in a crazy voodoo sort of way, but as a practical “I ran out of fingers” kinda thing.

dressed doll, from side
I actually am pretty close to the right angle for her back an neck. On Tyler, it's cute. Here, not gonna lie, it's creepin' me out a bit.

I think she looks slightly ghoulish. I’m not sure if that’s the lack of hair, or the prototype head she has on.  I didn’t clone a pattern for Tyler’s head as a starting point, because I didn’t want to remove her hair.  Because, seriously, bald doll. Ick.

So, she’s pretty cool, but I’m not really a doll maker and I found this to be a major pain in the patouty to put together. Those who have the joy of soft doll making are probably blinking a bit, thinking, “But… she doesn’t even have fingers. What was so difficult?”  The legs, that’s what.  I mean, sewing them was fine, but getting them on the silly little body was annoying!  And da-FEEEETS! I had no idea that something so small could take me so long.

And that’s when I realized that if I was going to make multiples of this little &*!@#, I was going to need a different pattern. Something without legs would be a bonus…. So I reworked the torso a few more times, and came up with doll 2.0:

doll with a solid bottom
Dolls 2.0 and 3.0, technically....

The doll with the wider base came first, because I had some sort of joy of angles going on.  She’s great – sews up smoothly, no problems, but she’s a little big in the skirts. Actually, she’s bigger than my dolly hoop-skirt. Great news! I won’t need to make her hoop skirts!  Yay!

legless doll, dressed
So dolly 3.0 has a much narrower base, and she can wear, well, a lot of skirts. Most anything pre-Edwardian, I would say.

They’re both full of sand, which is nifty for two reasons: 1) It makes them slightly moldable. You can moosh extraneous amounts of doll body around to get them into corsets, or just fluff up their little chests once they’re in there. You can also accommodate layers of waist bands. That makes them a lot more like working with a human form. 2) They make dandy door stops. No lie – I have images of the Pheonix dress ushering me into my study some day….  ;)

I’m working on finalizing patterns for the dolls. The more basic doll (the skirted one) is almost done (although I haven’t figured out anything exciting to call it, aside from the incredibly poetic “Soft Doll with Skirt Base”.)

For right now, I’m just totally geeked out about making a little army of costumed sandbags, and giving them little hair-dos and junque like that….  Tee! (I’m also seriously geeked out about paste-stiffened canvas and medieval bodices, but that’s another story…)


  1. Martha
    Martha January 10, 2011

    Great Job Missa! When do we get to see some Miss Piggie wench wear? You have my curiosity up about the paste stiffened canvas – what is Missa up to?

    I was wondering if you are still weaving and spinning? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Happy sewing! – Martha

    • missa
      missa January 10, 2011

      Teehee…. Good – curiosity is the secret to a long and healthy life. ;) Right just now, missa is redoing her doll with legs pattern so that it’s less like a doll pattern and more like something designed to go through a bloody sewing machine. *grumble*

      But on a more general level, one of my pet areas of how-th-heck-did-that-happen research is the stomacher-busk-stomacher evolution (and conundrum) of the 16th century, and I’ve been working on how the earlier models go back to the sudden advent of infrastructure in the 15th century, which is what brought me to the paste. Believe it or not, it’s actually *fascinating*. (Geek? Me? Quoi?) It’s a long and twisty path that starts at Fouquet’s Madonna.

      Which means, of course, that it’s time to get just a little medieval on a doll, and to work up some really high-tech visual aids. ;)

      Miss Piggie wench-wear is coming soon. I just can’t leave Miss P. barefoot in a picture, so I need to learn how to make little boots first.

      Spinning took a back seat to learning how to knit, owing to great scads of yarn piling up around the house… Then I somehow wandered over to the dark side (aka, jewelry making) for a bit, so…. I think it’s fair to say that mom and sister were pretty happy with their prezzies this year. And now there’s less yarn, but I have great scads of roving piled up, so I guess it’s time to start the Circle of Crafts(tm) all over. ;)

  2. Trish
    Trish January 12, 2011

    The evolution of what became the corset has always been fascinating to me too. I can’t wait to see what you find out. Thanks for all your inspiring & informative articles.
    I actually made a brocade dress form (from a pre-made pattern), a long time ago, for Barbies for my MiL who collects them, so she could display some of her favorite outfits. Turns out she liked the body form more than the idea of displaying the extra outfits. (I think without a head it’s a little creepy myself, but she likes it *shrug)

  3. missa
    missa January 13, 2011

    Thanks, Trish! I’m still totally intimidated by working at Barbie size – you’re a braver woman than I. Those little armscyes are crazy!

  4. Sue P
    Sue P December 30, 2012

    Just love your patterns without legs, would love to purchase them, when will they be available?
    Keep up the good work.


    • missa
      missa January 5, 2013

      Thanks, Sue! Her pattern is available online in the store, which is cleverly not called “store”. (I should maybe think about that a little harder…) You can find her here, or check all the patterns and other downloadable things here.

  5. Victoria
    Victoria May 1, 2015

    Hi! I was wondering if it would be possible to get a copy of that first pattern with the legs? I really like it and it seems like she’d be perfect for a doll I’ve had in mind for a while now with a bit of tweaking. If it’s not, how did you modify the Lizzie pattern?

    • missa
      missa May 2, 2015

      Hi, Victoria – I don’t sell or distribute a copy of the first doll because she’s a straight knock-off of an existing vinyl line. I modified the design to make her more natural in shape – her waist and backside are a little larger than the original. Hope that helps!

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