In the handmade doll industry, there are many ways to stuff a doll using different tools and methods which can sometimes be overwhelming. Today we will explore an overview of the types of tools and tips to have in your repertoire which will increase precision to achieve smooth and firm dolls in no time!
1) Make a strong doll shell
You need to start with a strong casing so that the stuffing can be really pushed into the gaps and creases to remove all wrinkles without ripping the doll at the seams.
For a strong and smooth shape, it is recommended to use a small stitch – between 1.5mm - 2mm on a standard machine or a triple stitch on an embroidery machine.
This allows the most control over curves and ensures there are no popped stitches due to strain.
In high strain areas, such as the neck and limbs, a second row of stitches within the seam allowance will make for a stronger seam. On pivots and sharp bends where you need to clip into the curve or angle, you may also wish to go over the stitch line again to reinforce that seam before turning. What stitch length do you currently use in your doll making?
2) Types of stuffing
The most commonly used stuffing for doll making is polyester or acrylic. This is because it is the most readily available, economic and consistent in texture for toy making. Many stuffing types have high-loft, so are extra bouncy and can easily fill a larger cavity, faster with using a lot less stuffing. However, depending on your doll-making style and preference, many doll makers like a FIRMLY stuffed toy. This means, you may actually end up using MORE high-loft stuffing to achieve the same density.
There are also natural choice such as cotton and wool. Later this month, we will do a deeper dive in to the TYPES of stuffing, and their pros and cons, but they are generally more expensive and denser.
You may also choose to add some weight or texture in the form of dried flowers, sand or beads. By teasing stuffing around the edges of these you can maintain a smoother contour.
Stuffing Tip: By shredding your stuffing beforehand and making up a pile of small loose balls, you can easily stuff small areas such as limbs precisely.
3) Tools that make doll making easier:
There are a number of different tools on the market which many claim to make stuffing and turning small and oddly shaped limbs easier, such as:
Metal Loop Turner - Narrow tubes
Plastic Tube Turner set - different widths
You can also use tools around the house such as:
The consensus among professional doll makers and the number one tool any doll maker who would like to invest should have in their tool kit, is a good pair of hemostats. They come in different lengths which you may want to consider based on the size of doll you like to make. A shorter pair will suffice smaller dolls whilst a longer pair will make light work of turning and stuffing larger dolls or longer limbs. You can also use this tool closed to smooth out corners safely and poke out points or tease tiny bits of stuffing into tight spaces. T his multifunctional tool will turn, shape and stuff and ultimately is well worth buying! Watch for a hands-on video demonstrating alot of these tool later this month!
4) Stuff evenly
A firmer doll will always give you a smoother finish so always anticipate on using more stuffing that you need. By stuffing your doll hard, it will be tight and taut, with all the creases filled in. Pay attention not to overfill though, as this can distort the shape of your doll. This step may seem easy but you need to take it slow to ensure a beautiful shape.
For best results, pull apart your stuffing first, then stuff evening on the edges first. Use your other hand to help shape the doll as your are stuffing. A video demonstration of this will be shared at the end of the month on our Deep Dive Video.
So stuffing takes practice but if you take it slow and stop frequently you will end up with a lovely smooth and firm doll. With the right tools, you can prep, shape and stuff with ease and precision. Do you have any tips or tools to share? Let’s continue in the comments below!