improvisational doll making – part 1

Its good to experiment – but not easy to let yourself,  there is a powerful force that wants you to stay on the well lit path.  Experimenting generates ideas and makes you ask new questions. It can shift your perspective, reveal connections and intersections.  And maybe most importantly true experimentation helps you work with uncertainty and build a tolerance for trying stuff that might not work. There is no creativity without failure.

One way to make yourself experiment is to create conditions that force you to improvise. I’m going to show you one of the techniques I use.  I’m making dolls – from the inside out. It’s a method that is imprecise and difficult to control – in a good way – there is lots of opportunity for happy accidents. It’s a spontaneous process – each action builds on the previous – you work with what shows up.

If you would like to try you will need:

* you can click on any of the images for a larger view

wire doll forms

I start by making a simple wire form for the torso and head – I made three.  Next  cut strips of cotton batting and begin to build a shape by winding it around the wire form.  A little bit of glue stick will help when adding or ending a strip.

Keep winding until you are happy with the shape – you can also add bits of batting in some areas for rounder shapes – like in the center image above – I’ve given her a substantial bosom by adding a scrap of folded batting and winding over it. I stitch through the shape here and there to adjust it and help it all stay together and finally I cut pieces of batting to stitch over the shape.

Next I begin to add fabric – I’m using a very light cotton to cover her face and the front of her chest. I pull the fabric around – stitch it in place and trim away the extra.

I covered the edge of the face fabric with strips of cotton for hair – I’ll come back to that later – I want to make the top of her dress first.  Also – you may notice another doll has appeared – I’ll be working on her as well.

Her face and chest  are covered in a light ivory silk, I used black cotton for her hair and stitched super simple features. Now I’m adding a scrap of lace because it’s lovely and will also cover some edges and seams I’d like to conceal. 

Back to mrs. brown hair – I wound the long strip of cotton for the hair around her head and pinned it – just to get out out of my way for now – but I think I like it and might stitch it in place- happy accident.  For the beginning of her dress I’m  stitching a little piece of lace over her neck and chest – just the front.  I’ll trim off the extra.

I did something similar for the other doll – a bit of lace at her neck and now I’m experimenting with folded strips to make a dress – just playing and pinning – to see what might work.

improvisational doll making

She’s fancy. I’ll be back next week with part 2 – making arms and legs, finishing the clothes and details.

Update : find part 2 here!

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