Wednesday, March 05, 2008

How to design your own doll

A reader asked me a very good question this morning:
How do you design your own doll?
Well, that is a very good question. Let me try to answer it.

The answer is- it depends!
If you want to make a cloth doll which you sew entirely in cloth, turn and stuff- well that can be a challenge. It takes a lot of trial and error- first making dolls from other people's patterns and getting a feel for how certain tucks and turns and darts and "smarts" (hopefully not farts) contribute to a pattern.

Once you get the hang of that, you can try making your own pattern based entirely on your own design. It's a process and a bit time consuming but nevertheless fun. Truth is, there's more than one way to make a doll- and I would recommend trying all different types of doll making processes- cloth, polymer, mixed, wrapping over wire, pattern, etc. I won't get too involved in all the different techniques- I will just focus on the sewing pattern to answer this question:

Greetings,
Last night I was checking out your website and reading your blog and was inspired to TRY and design my own cloth doll. Francesca & Fuscia are just beautiful, from their face sculpting & coloring to their costumes.
My question to you is, "What is the first thing I need to do too design a 3 dimensional cloth doll?" I have ideas in my head and some on paper, but I'm just stumped.
Don't get me wrong, I have purchased patterns from different desginers & love using them and will still continue to do so, but I want to create my own originals.
P.S. Thank you for the opportunity to communicate with you and the free Francesca pattern. I'm going to start on her this evening.
Happy Dollmaking!

To answer this question, the first technique that comes to mind is something I learned from Patti Medaris Culea. I can't draw the pictures to illustrate what I mean because I'm worried about copyright- but let's see if I can explain the basics in words.

1) Sculpt a doll body from clay. You will have to make a wire armature- like a simple skeleton- so it isn't so heavy it will just fall apart. A good clay to use is an air-dry clay like paperclay. Note I said Body- not arms and legs. Just the body. Yours might look like a butternut squash with bubble boobs- that's ok.

2) Next, using an inkless pen or some such tool, make pretend seam lines going down the sides of the body, where you would expect to sew. You'll be engraving them into the clay, so to speak, as markers.

3) Next make lines over the boobs, from neck down to the bottom, and one down the spine.

You've got your stitch lines, and now all you need is to figure out what the actual pattern looks like, so when you sew it and stuff it, it will look like your lump of clay (hopefully a little better)

4) Get some strong paper towels, and lay them over. With a felt tip pen, draw into the grooves you made before. Cut out your pattern. Transfer it onto regular paper, and add a seam allowance.

That's it! Basically, at least. Just in a nutshell. You will probably need to do it a few times to get it right. And if your doll has big boobies then you will need to make darts. That's done with the paper towel again- just fold it a few times till it sits over the boob nicely- mark the dart and transfer it over to your pattern. Until you have gotten used to this technique though, I would probably recommend cutting circles out of stretch material and attach them by hand applique.

I learned this technique from Patti Medaris Culea. She taught a class on pattern design quite a while ago. I am aware of a pattern making class by Kathryn Walmsley- I think it might be on Doll Street Dreamers. Write Judi Wellnitz and ask - maybe she'll get something going if it isn't! :-)

Last but not least I would highly recommend a book called ANATOMY OF THE DOLL by Susanna Oroyan. We in the doll world are unfortunate to have lost this great artist to the big C last year- I don't even want to write the name of that disease on my computer. But any of Susanna's books are must-haves and will give you tons of information to get you inspired and on the right track.

Happy Dolling!!

2 comments:

  1. Good explanation! We actually are scheduling Kathryn's cloth body class for later this spring over at Doll Street.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great post! Long time ago I found this on-line tutorial on how Phyllis designs her dolls. It has pictures to illustrate what you're describing:

    http://designsbyphyllis.homestead.com/designing.html

    I'll check out Doll Street later to see the class that Judi's talking about too.
    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for leaving a comment and happy dolling!