Teaching VERY young girls (6-8 years) the joy of sewing is a very special privilege. For a young girl’s 7th Birthday Party, 7 of her friends (and a couple of parents) learned basic hand stitching skills as they made these dolls. I took some pictures along the way of creating the design, so that I could share it with you in hopes that you might make a memory with a young sewer during family holiday times or 'Nana Camps' ... you get the idea. I’ve included my preparation steps for this project as a ‘party’, though if sitting with a child one-on-one, you could guide them through the steps in a logical manner.
Cut the doll of 2 layers of appropriate color felt. The doll body is 7.5″ tall x 5.25″ wide (hand tip-to-tip). To assist the girls with regular -spaced stitching, I ‘dotted’ one side about 1/4″ in from the edge all around and every 1/4″ or so. This ‘side’ becomes the ‘backside of the doll. Note in the photo below the 2 horizontal lines on the right body side – this is the ‘NO SEW ZONE’ – allowing a place for stuffing to get inserted after stitching. This photo also shows the polar fleece hair stitched onto the body back. When stuffing with loose polyester fiberfill, using the pencil end of an UN-sharpened pencil works well. After stuffing, the ‘No Sew Zone’ is closed with more whipstitching.
I have found that a Size 18 Chenille Needle is both easy to thread, and to use on double layers of felt. For thread, I like to use Size 5 Perle Cotton. A good length to cut the thread is from their nose to an extended arm. Pulling the ends of the thread even, and knotting them yields a manageable length of double thread for stitching. The knot is secured between the layers, and stitching is done with the dotted side UP, bringing the needle UP from the bottom at a dot, then repeating which ‘whips’ the edge. I left a threaded needle in the doll from stitching around the head so that the girls could get a good distance around the doll before they needed to re-thread and start over. I actually taught all these skills on a simple green felt Christmas Tree BEFORE we started the dolls. I provided a Gift Bag with class information, and a bag with 5 buttons, thread, and needle for them to complete their Christmas Tree at home. My hope is that they were so excited about learning to sew, that they would want to do more, and to show their parents (of course, asking to take classes themselves!)
Face & Hair
The photo below shows several things:
Shakey eyes – glued on. The ones I purchased at JoAnn’s had sticky on the backside, but that did NOT hold adequately. I used my favorite E6000 glue. I also cut off the little ‘tab’ as shown.
The lips are created with a strand of 6 ply embroidery floss. I took one stitch, with a couching stitch in the center to create a bit of curve. Be SURE that this stitching ONLY goes through the front layer and doesn’t catch the back of the head, or stuffing will not be possible.
The polar fleece hair ‘part’ is stitched on a lightweight piece of Seam Stay Tape. I stitched this unit to the BACK of the head of the backside, allowing extra at the top of the head. I then glued the excess hair down onto the forehead and a bit around the sides of the head AFTER the Whip Stitching was done.
Yes, I went ahead in the PRE-party work to stitch around the head, as I felt first-time stitchers would be too frustrated trying to stitch around the head without catching in the hair strands.
I completely didn’t think – I SHOULD have stitched around the doll’s left arm and down to the top ‘No Sew Zone’ mark. If I had, it would have sped things up and made the ‘stuffing’ easier.
More Hair Details
Many thanks to my sewing friend, Dale, for the idea of using polar fleece for hair!!! See the middle photo below for the choices I found at Jo-Ann’s Fabric Store. I bought just 1/8 yard of each color. I especially liked the mottled light ‘blonde’ color, but the Birthday Girl decided on brown hair for all of the dolls for her friends.
Polar Fleece ‘curls’ and stretches when cut into narrow strips on the CROSS GRAIN. I cut rectangles the 4.5″ (1/8 yard) wide by 7″ deep – which was enough for TWO doll ‘wigs’. Bigger is always better – as you can always cut it down. Next I stitched down the center on top of a skinny piece of stay tape as shown in the photos above. After that, I used a rotary cutter to cut the strips to within 1/2″ or so of the stitched center back ‘part’. You can see how the hair ‘curls’ in my photo below at the right, but for the party, I left this fun ‘curling process’ for the girls to do.
They had a lot of fun doing the hair – and each turned out with slightly different hairstyles. I provided felt strips 1/4″ wide x 7″ long for hair ‘bows’ to adorn as they desired. Most did pigtails, but one gal did a ponytail.
Thinking ahead to a very short working ‘time’ of about 1 hour at the most, I had done a lot of preparation on the skirts and ‘vests’ for the dolls.
The skirts were cut 3 75″ wide x 15″ long. I cut a lower curve using a wave rotary cutter. To make ‘threading’ the ribbon through the upper casing easy, I first fused down the ends. I then stitched a .75″ wide casing. Allowing a 3/4 yard length of 1/4″ wide ribbon will allow for ‘threading’ the ribbon through the casing using a large, blunt darning needle. The length of the skirt was then ‘gathered’ along the ribbon and could be easily adjusted. ‘Dressing’ the doll by tying the skirt onto the doll, high at the waist with the ‘bow’ of ribbon either in the front or the back was exciting for the girls. They then trimmed any excess length of the ribbon.
You can see the size and shape of the Vest in the picture above at the right. Onto the front, I had the girls stitch a button using white perle cotton. For the buttons, I had purchased several bags of fun small buttons, like hearts, stars, etc. and offered them in a muffin tin for easy selection.
I ‘sew’ hope that you take a little one aside for some one-on-one sewing time sometime soon. Doing so will be a blessing – to you both!