Soft sculpture dolls can be a soft and cuddly children's plaything or a work of art that expresses the doll artist's creativity and vision. The dolls can be quite tiny or nearly child size. Regardless of the type of soft sculpture doll you choose to make--whether you explore doll making as a creative endeavor or to add dolls to your own child's collection--the materials and methods are similar.
Materials and Tools
Soft sculpture dolls are made of soft, stretchy fabrics. Lightweight jersey, cotton-spandex blends and swimwear lining are all suitable. Cotton or polyester velour, stretchy wool jersey and other knits may also be appropriate. You will need stuffing, most commonly polyester fiberfill, but cotton or wool stuffing will work well, especially with heavier fabrics. The other specialized items you need for soft sculpture doll making are long doll-making needles, typically 4 inches to 6 inches in length, and heavyweight, skin-toned quilting or upholstery thread. You should also have a sewing machine and flesh-toned thread, scissors, pens and a fading fabric marking pen.
The basic construction of a soft sculpture doll is often quite simple. Details are sculpted into the body, so it is often cut in very few pieces. A baby doll may even be made with nothing but a simple tube of fabric. The typical soft sculpture doll consists of only two pattern pieces. The body piece includes arms and legs, then the head is cut out separately. Pin two layers of fabric together, then trace your pattern piece onto the fabric. Sew along the traced lines, leaving a small opening to turn. Once sewn, cut away the excess fabric. Repeat this process for the head. Stuff the doll, using a chopstick or knitting needle to push stuffing into the arms and legs. Firmly stuff the head, then stitch the head onto the neck by hand.
Soft Sculpting the Body
Thread a long doll-making needle with quilting thread. Decide where you want to sculpt the doll's body. Knees, ankles, toes, elbows, hands, fingers and even the doll's bottom are all common choices. Stitch through the hand and foot to create shaping for the toes and fingers. Depending upon the size of the doll, you may use a single large stitch for each finger and toe or several small ones. Add stitches at the knee and elbow to create dimpling. If you wish to create a sculpted backside for your doll, stitch from the back of the doll to the front, making a stitch to create the doll's navel. Come back through to the back and stitch from the doll's lower back to the crotch to form the buttocks.
Soft Sculpted Faces
Begin sculpting the face. You will want to create definition for the eyes, nose and mouth, as well as dimples if desired. Pull the thread through from the back of the head, anchoring it with a sturdy knot. Shape the lower half of the eye with a single long stitch or several shorter ones. Form the nose by taking several vertical stitches on each side of the bridge of the nose, catching both fabric and stuffing between the stitches. Two tiny horizontal stitches can shape the nostrils. Make long stitches to form the mouth.
Finishing the Doll
Use acrylic paints to paint your doll's eyes and mouth. Blush from the cosmetic aisle at your local drugstore can tint your soft sculpture doll's cheeks. Add purchased doll hair or a handmade yarn wig. Dress your doll in handmade or purchased clothing.