My First Attempt at Doll Making

Had no idea what I was getting myself into. lol  I've been wanting to make some kind of dolls for some time now.  I think something in me was craving for 3D art after doing a lot of 2D stuff.  I started buying books on doll making on Amazon and started making a project in paper clay earlier this month, but it involves waiting the clay to dry before moving onto the next phase of the project, so I ended up starting on a cloth mermaid doll, with the intention of working on both in alternating phases.  What happened was that my clay doll head being left on the drying rack and my focusing on the cloth doll.  ^^;  I'll eventually finish the clay one.  I promise.

I took some pics along the way since it was slow-going.  Well, it's my first attempt, so I wasn't expecting it to go fast by any means.  ^_^  I've made dresses before, so I knew how the sewing machine worked.  And I have lots of patience, so I figured I could try my hands at this. :D

The books I was using for instruction are by Jan Horrox - "Introduction to Making Cloth Dolls" and "Making Fantasy Cloth Dolls".  The books include patterns at the end which are actual size for the projects demonstrated with text and photos in the books.  The body parts are also interchangeable between projects and books, so you can try different types of heads, hands and feet, and body.  I wanted to make a mermaid - also figured this would be one less limb to deal with as my family quickly pointed out - so I based the tail on Jan's mermaid from the fantasy book and used the body from a fairy from the intro book.

She recommended Pimatex, so I ordered a yard from an eBay seller.  The cloth needed to be dyed some shade of skin color, and the dye mentioned in the book had to be shipped from the UK, so I looked up Rit's web site, found formula for a custom shade, which required 3 bottles of different colors.  The Rit dye turned out to be available widely at stores, but never the complete line in one location...  So I ended up buying their "Camel" (shade of brown/tan) and eyeballed it with a scrap of Pimatex.  First test turned out too dark, so I went easy on the whole yard of fabric.  Amazingly, I got lucky and got what I wanted. :D

Head was harder than I thought. :(  My sewing machine is old ... like over 20 years, and I only have a very limited assortment of 'feet'.  So the process probably was harder than it could have been, but managed to sew up something that looked like a head.  Ears were fun.  And of course, drawing in the face was a fun part although my black Pigma, which shouldn't have reacted to water, actually ran a little bit when I was cleaning the purple 'disappearing ink' lines with a bit of water.  *Note to self: wait for it to air dry and disappear next time.

Then came the body and limbs.  The hands were tedious, trying to make all these tiny curves with a sewing machine.  Also difficult was sewing in curved lines - I was always just slightly 'off' one way or the other.  No two limbs are exactly alike, in my case, which I guess is actually also the case in nature.  ^^;  At least, the hands with webbed fingers did not require my to turn the fingers one by one, which looks like a total pain in the rear...

I did my mermaid's bust differently than the book, by the way.  I wanted her to actually have breasts, so I altered the instruction on one of the fairies that wore a bustier.  Instead of using print fabric, I just used the skin color to make the cups.  The tail was fun to make.  Actually, the whole thing seemed less daunting once the hands and arms were done.

Gave her a bra top, then beads and sequins all over.  I like this kind of work.  Tedious yet simple, so mind is free to wander off... ahem, ponder on all important things.  lol

Did some more painting with acrylics on her shoulders and along the spine.

Gave her pearl earrings. :)  The plastic bag behind her head is the dyed Tibetan lamb's wool I purchase from another seller on eBay.  It said "remnants" on the listing, but I got a lot of this stuff for as little as I paid.  I'll be going back to this seller for more hair in my future project, no doubt.

Anyhow, I made a mistake of attaching the tail to the body before attaching the arms to the body like the book instructed.  Getting disorganized by combining parts from two different dolls in two different books...  Nothing major.  Just a lot of things that get in the way of the thread when you're trying to attach the head to the neck between the limbs (BTW, I think I will shorten her arms' pattern in my future dolls... they're disproportionately long for my taste.) and all the beads and sequins on the tail.  ^^;

The hair was a bit of a mystery to me at first.  In the books, Jan used yarns, strips of cloths, etc.  And she also used lamb's wool, but attached the sheet straight onto the head.  I wanted to try the method shown by the lady I bought the hair from (She makes beautifully intricate polymer dolls and keeps a detailed blog with lots of pics.  Totally inspiring!).  She cuts the locks in small segments and glues them in one small section at a time.  First, I had to check if this was feasible with cloth head.  So I did a test attachment on a scrap of Pimatex.  It worked really well.  So I started out at the nape of the head, gluing the segment of hair one small bit at a time.  The Fabri-Tac glue is reasonably easy to work with.  It has a consistency, for a lack of better word, of nasal mucus, quite a bit stickier, of course, but if you get a little on your finger, you can just roll the glue into a little ball and pling!  lol

The mermaid's hair took me hours.  And the lamb's wool kept shedding even from just handling the remnant sheets.  This was, by far, the messiest stage of this project.  In the end, my mermaid ended up with more of a Troll  look (Remember these pudgy guys?) than what I originally envisioned for her, I like her wild fluffy hair just as much.  ^_^


I hope to take her to the park or a botanical garden one of these days and do a nice photo shoot.  This pic was taken mid day on a super hot day.  We're in the Wisteria vines for the dappled sun.

I don't live near a beach, so sea and sand are not easy to access for a photo shoot.  This mermaid will have to live in the trees for a while.  I decided to name her Adriana.

Here's the thing.  With this many parts and processes involved, there's bound to be mistakes and mishaps.  Sure enough, once everything settled, although I thought I was being very careful when attaching the body to the tail, she doesn't quite sit straight.  T_T  She kind of requires a wedge to support from both sides at the hips in order to be securely seated (Most likely her butt is not flat enough!).  I thought about what to do, and an idea came to me when I was watering my garden this morning.  I'm going to make her a swing so she can be properly balanced and also be displayed.  :D   Thinking I'll make her swing out of some natural fiber, crochet an open half-pod like swing and decorate it with shells and cheese cloth.  Sounds like a plan to me.

I already have a few doll ideas for the near future.  This was a lot of fun for me, so hopefully, I get better at it with each attempt, and learn even more about doll making.  ^_^


  1. It is gorgeous and loved reading how you created this wonderfull mermaid. Faults are ok, it is the first time you made this figure so you can only learn from them. I think she is very adorable, lots of hugs, Marion

  2. She's so beautiful, I think the name "Adriana" suits her perfectly too Mitzi. I have loved watching her take shape and become a stunningly beautiful, dreamy mermaid doll. Huge, Huge Hugz Lorraine xxx

    1. Thank you, Lorraine! Thought of her name from the Adriatic Sea. Also, I kind of wanted to name my dolls alphabetically to see how far I manage to go. ^_^ I already have so many doll ideas on paper...

  3. Amazing work! It's obvious how much time and effort you put into this doll. I especially love beaded details on her tail and the acrylic patterns on her skin.


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