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Friday, October 25, 2013

How to Embroider Faces on Cloth Dolls

There are many methods by which you can stitch the face onto a cloth doll. It can be done before the doll is assembled, during assembly, or after the doll is completed. Most of the time, it is easier to stitch the face onto the doll after the doll has been stuffed. This allows you to place the face exactly where you wish and the firm surface means your stitches will probably be more even. If you’re hoping to stitch the face onto a cloth doll, there are certain steps and tips that will make the process easier.

Thread Selection

When choosing a thread, the type and content of the thread is not nearly as important as its thickness. You’ll have to select a thickness that matches the size of the doll. For most dolls, embroidery thread will do. Depending on the delicacy of the doll, you may have to split the thread three times or more. For very large dolls, you may have to use wool. Choose a thread that gives you the desired results. A thread that is too thin won’t show up and one that is too thick will make your doll look chunky.

Creating the Face of the Doll After Stuffing the Head

If you’re stitching onto a head that is already stuffed, you’ll have to use stitches that allow you to conceal the end of the thread. If the head is not already attached, consider sliding the needle inside the head to start your stitches. The thread will be hidden inside the doll. As an alternative, you could a double stitch on the outside of the doll. This encases the thread, not only hiding the end but preventing the threads from being pulled out. There is nothing as annoying as finishing your embroidery and having the entire thing unravel.

Start by drawing the face on the head with a thin felt tipped pen. You should use a washable pen just in case you make a mistake. When you’re satisfied with the face, select the specific thread colors you’d like. Typically, a doll will have red lips, dark pink nose, and black or brown eyes and eyebrows. However, the colors you select are highly dependent upon the style and type of doll. Select the colors that work best for your project.

Thread a sharp needle of the appropriate size and, if you do not wish to use a double stitch, go through the neck area of the stuffed head. Pull the thread up into the area to be embroidered, but hold on to the very end. You don’t want to pull it all out and have to start again. Resist the temptation to secure the thread by tying a knot in the end of it. Eventually this knot will work its way through the fabric, unraveling your embroidery. You have to secure the thread by stitching it into the stuffing.

To define the shape of the eyes, you must use a chain stitch. Do this by pushing the needle down into the face and back up though the face in the same movement. The stitch length should be small and neat. Before pulling the needle through and completing the stitch, wrap the end of your thread around the needle. When you pull the need through, it will form a chain. Additional stitches are completed in the same manner. When you’ve reached the beginning, draw the thread back into the head of the doll and down through the neck. Secure the threads with a double knot, pulling them taunt but not enough to crease or pucker the face.

The eyeballs are created using straight stitches in whatever manner best suits your doll. The nose can also be worked with straight stitches, and chain stitches once again for the mouth. Eyebrows are also usually worked in chain stitches, though if you want thick eyebrows, consider a few rows of straight stitches. Stitches are all secured in much the same manner as the eyes were, by drawing the threads though the neck.

Creating the Face of a Finished Doll

The stitches remain the same for a finished doll, but everything else is different and infinitely more difficult. You can try to put the needle through the back of the head, but you’ll have to use a needle long enough to ensure you get the placement right. A double stitch can be used to secure the thread on the front of the face, but in all other respects the stitching remains the same. This method is more difficult simply because it is harder to secure the thread. Hence the double stitch.

If stitching a face onto a finished doll is too complicated (and it often is), consider using appliques on larger dolls. You can make your own appliques out of bits of felt. In areas too small, you may have to use a permanent fine tip pen to create the look you want.

Creating the Face Before Stuffing the Head

If you want to stitch the face before assembling the doll, invest in a darning mushroom of the appropriate size. You can stretch the fabric over the mushroom and position the face correctly before you stuff the head. Darning mushrooms are available from most craft supply stores.

Using embroidery to create the face of a doll is both beautiful and safer. Faces created with beads, jewels, or other items can present a choking hazard for young children. Instead of creating something that might pose a danger for your children, considering embroidering the face of a doll. With a little practice, you will become a master of this delicate art.

First published at Helium: How to Embroider Faces on Cloth Dolls

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