There a few things as joyful for me to make as a handmade custom doll. My mum recently joked that she could understand a creative gene being passed on… but a specific doll-making gene passed on from my grandma who loved sewing? She never would have thought that existed.
I had a great time making this custom princess cloth doll for my friend’s daughter because rag dolls make wonderful gifts. They are so timeless, allowing you to put in as much care and attention as you have or like. That’s why in this two part tutorial, I’m giving you a similar pattern to make your own doll, along with step by step instructions. In this part I’ll show you how to make the actual doll, and in the next part, how to make the crown and skirt.
YOU WILL NEED
- sewing machine and thread.
- rectangle of plain fabric, approx. 30″ x 12″
- square of patterned fabric, approx. 20″ x 12″
- light pencil or air erasable pen
- piece of felt in any colour for the hair, approx. 9″ x 12″
- a small embroidery hoop, 4”
- embroidery threads in red, dark brown and one other colour
- polyester stuffing
- dressmaking pins
- downloadable paper pattern
WHAT TO DO
First of all, download the pattern here for the basic doll. I’m planning to build on this basic doll shape in the coming weeks with some great little outfits, so expect those coming your way as well.
Make sure your fabric is ironed and free from creases, then draw around the pattern pieces, following the pattern instructions, onto your fabric. If you’d like to skip this step and get the pattern pieces, exactly printed as the doll shown here, all ready to cut out, you can buy the kit here. It makes a great gift or project for your own handmade custom doll.
Don’t cut anything out yet since it’s better to do the embroidery first while the fabric is big enough to be stretched into an embroidery hoop. If you cut out the pattern pieces they will be too small and too strange of a shape to fit easily into an embroidery frame.
Next of all, if you want to embroider a name onto your doll, then make yourself a pattern by choosing a simple font on the computer and printing it out. I often choose the font ‘Didot’ and for this pattern download, printing out at around 70 pt size should be just right. Once the name is printed out, place it behind your fabric, making sure it’s central in the middle of the doll’s body and trace over it with an air erasable marker pen or light pencil.
Embroider the face and name for a handmade custom doll
Using a dark brown embroidery thread split down to three strands, outline the nose and eyes. Use a red thread to work several rows of back stitch around the heart shaped mouth. You can watch my tutorial on back stitch here.
Choose any colour you’d like to embroider the name and work it in back stitch. If you’d like to make it even fancier, like the name of my princess doll, then use a contrast thread to turn your back stitch into whipstitch – here’s the how-to video.
How to sew the doll together
Now that the embroidery is done, cut out all the pattern pieces. With right sides together match edge A of the top front body to edge A of lower front body. Stitch with 0.5″ seam allowance. Match front hair and back hair to front and back head and pin in place.
Next, make the arms and legs. This is super duper easy. Just match right sides together and stitch around the shape with 0.5″ seam allowance. Clip the curves, which means that anywhere you have a curved shape, just snip into it nearly up to the stitching line. As a result , curved shapes will ease out beautifully and you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes in getting a smooth curve.
Turn arms and legs the right way out. A chopstick makes a great tool for this since curves can be tricky to push out. Now stuff with the polyester stuffing.
Pin arms and legs to body, matching the little notched triangles. Then I would usually baste (this just means use big, loose tacking stitches) them on to stop anything moving about when you come to sew it.
Now make a kind of doll sandwich. Make sure the arms and legs are all folded inside like this picture then pin the back body, wrong side of the fabric facing you, to the front body.
Sew all around the body with 0.5″ seam allowance, leaving a small gap of approx. 1.5-2″ along one edge of the hip.
Finally, turn the whole doll right side out through the gap you’ve left and stuff with the filler. Use the chopstick to push the stuffing to all the corners, then close the gap with a needle and thread using slip stitch.
If you enjoyed this handmade custom doll pattern, then look out for doll clothes and outfits coming soon. If you make this doll, or anything else for that matter, don’t forget to share on Instagram using the hashtag #youmakingmore. You inspire me!