Dollmaking: Adventures in Cloth

This week I’ll kick off my new series about dollmaking with a peek at my past explorations, how I got started, my eventual switch to cloth and a little about my pattern development process.

My Love of Dolls


I should start with my undying love for dolls in general. I’ve collected them since my 1st birthday (Thanks Grandpa!) and continue to slowly collect them today. My tastes have definitely changed over the years, once favoring porcelain and frill and now leaning towards the dark, unusual or second hand very well loved toys with a vintage charm, but I have never for one day “outgrown” dolls. Okay, there was that time in 6th grade where I had my “doll friends” and my “omg dolls are for babies friends” but that was thankfully short lived and I’m now a confident grown woman 🙂

Early Explorations

As a child, I made simple hand stitched cloth dolls with lessons from my grandma, and shortly after fashion school I made a couple more inspired by my fashion illustrations. Then around 2005, through sites like Deviant Art and ETSY, I was introduced to the world of art dolls and ran out to buy some wire and clay to start experimenting. The image below is my first mixed media doll which I still own and hold very dear. I continued to make a doll here and there for the next several years, did a few commissions and attempted listing them on ETSY with no real success, but doll making remained an interest for me. There’s just something so amazing about bringing a little personality to life! (Click here for more past work)


The Switch to Cloth

Jump ahead about 5 years and I took a detour into small art quilts for the instant gratification of finishing something in an afternoon. Dolls were put on the back burner for a long time…until another 5 years later. I was now a SAHM longing to do a project just for fun, just for me. A doll felt perfect, but I realized clay was out of the question with my limited windows of time to work, so out of necessity my cloth doll pattern was born!

The Pattern Development Process

Before I jumped into pattern drafting, I pulled out some past work for inspiration and guidance. A cloth doll body I made (14 years ago!!) and never dressed, an old drawing of a girl and a couple of my mixed media dolls to draw from. Taking components from all three I drew up a pattern and sewed the first sample, then sat down with the sample and pattern to make alterations and construction notes…onto pattern and sample two, and so on and so forth. It took 6 rounds for the body and 5 for the head before I was satisfied with the pattern and ready to start producing a batch of them. Here’s some snapshots of the progression.

doll pattern development 1doll pattern development 2doll pattern development 3doll pattern development 4doll pattern development 5

I really enjoyed the whole process and it felt great to use a little critical thinking combined with creativity between playing in the sandbox and stacking blocks with my kiddo. Next up in this series I should have some finished dolls. She’s on the worktable right now!

cloth doll pattern development (8)



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