Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Making a Tiny You: Part 1


Hello my lovely loves!

Regular followers of my blog doubtless know about Tiny Hannah and her adventures, but, for those that don’t, Tiny Hannah is a small felt version of myself that I sent in my stead to visit friends and family.

It was really getting me down that there were so many important events in my friends lives that I couldn’t be a part of, so I made her to go in my place. It really takes the pressure off knowing there’s a representation of you acting as a placeholder while you’re not well.
Here are some of her adventures.

TH is currently in America, and there’s plans to send her on to friends in Canada after she’s visited all my American friends. 

I’ve found having TH to send to friends really comforting, and my friends have been amazing about her, so I thought that other Spoonies might like to make their own version of themselves to send to places when they’re not able to go.

You will need:

A Pattern: I created a hybrid pattern for Tiny Hannah using one that I found on the internet, and one that I purchased on Etsy. The first had moveable limbs, and the second had a less childlike body shape and a facial aesthetic that I preferred. 
Here is the pattern I used, which you can print for yourself. There are two different leg/foot sizes, and different body shapes included.

The Etsy shop doesn't appear to sell doll patterns anymore (which is a real shame, because they were awesome), but here is the blog post including the free pattern which I also used as inspiration. The video tutorial included in the post is a must watch too; it really gives you insight into the construction of dolls like this.

Felt - A skin tone, a hair tone, some different colours for clothes. 
(Wool felt is generally more durable, and comes in a wider variety of colours, but can also be more expensive. I use acrylic based felts, because I’m allergic to wool, and working with it for longer periods of time makes my hands raw.)

Embroidery thread - Regular thread is a bit thin and could probably tear felt relatively easily, so it’s best to use embroidery thread. 
If you buy your felt from a shop then usually the assistants can help you match the colours. I tried to buy mine online but it’s very hard to colour match over the internet; in the end Mum went in to our local craft shop and enlisted the help of the lady there.
Embroidery thread appears rope like, but in fact comes in six strands that you divide up to use two at a time.
If you do use normal dressmaking thread, double it over so you’re using two strands at once to lessen the chance of tearing.

A needle - It will need to have an eye large enough to thread two strands of embroidery thread through it. Embroidery needles are a thing, so look for those if you’re not sure what to go for. If you have the option of buying more than one, then do. You’ll lose the needle at least once during the process.
(When you do I recommend shining a light on the area you dropped it to make it easier to find. It’s not the kind of thing you want to stand or sit on later.)

Pins - In some cases it may be easier to hold what you’re sewing together, but for cutting out pattern pieces, and sewing tiny clothes, it’s best to have some pins on hand.

Scissors - Fabric scissors are best, but as long as they’re sharp, and have pointed ends, it’ll be fine.

Safety eyes - I used 15mm black eyes for Tiny Hannah.

A sharp pencil.

Plain paper sheets, roughly A4, for templates.

Paint for facial features - I used acrylic paint, but you can use a special fabric paint if you really want to.

Soft toy stuffing

Teddy bear joints (yes, that’s what they’re called) - this is if you want to be able to move your dolls limbs. They usually come in packs of five, but Tiny Hannah only has two; her arms use teddy bear joints but her legs are just wire. 
If you wanted to get fancy you could even make the head of your doll separately and attach it with a teddybear joint so the head turns. I was slightly worried mine would end up like something out of The Exorcist so I didn’t bother.

(You don’t have to do teddybear joints if you don’t want to - you could technically just make a front piece, and a back piece and then sew them together without any separate limb pieces at all - but for the sake of this tutorial I’ll talk as if you are making moveable arms.)

Optional: Fabric glue - can be useful if you’re less confident with stitching fiddly things, but not suitable for the main body of the doll. I used glue when putting the finishing touches on Tiny Hannah's hair.

Optional: Bradle - A stabbing tool useful for making eye holes, and showing toy stuffing who’s boss. You don’t have to have one though. A pencil works fine in a pinch.

Optional: Wire to make posable limbs - it took me ages to find the right strength and thickness, and this is the one I recommend. You could probably use pipe cleaners in a pinch.

Optional: Wire cutters - For the love of God, do not use scissors on wire. It will destroy them.

Optional: Round headed pliers - you can get away with regular pliers, or with tweezers, but the best option are still jewellery pliers. They won’t leave dents on the wire, and they’re easier control.

Optional: Sugru mouldable glue or similar - used for attaching wire to teddy joints. If you’re not adding wire, you won’t need this.

Optional: Magnets to make magnetised hands and accessories - These are the magnets I used. Again, it took me ages to find the right ones. If you’re using magnets, make sure to keep them out of the reach of pets or children, as they can do serious harm if swallowed.
I used 5mm x 0.5mm neodymium magnets. You can go larger or thicker for a better span or strength, but I wouldn't go smaller. They smaller the magnet, the more fiddly they are to use. 
If I didn't feel one magnet was sufficiently strong I just stuck two together.

Extras: Snap fasteners for Tiny Clothes, ribbons, buttons, beads, trimmings etc. For decoration and for keeping clothes on your doll.

Making Your Doll

Okay! You have everything you need. Now on to making. Necessary steps are in bold, optional extras are not.

1. First things first. Cut out your pattern. You’ll need two of each piece. I had originally decided to do the ears separately, but later I decided the head of my doll was too big. When I cut down the head I left extra bumps on for the ears.

Here we have my pattern pieces, clockwise from top left, the ear, the head/body, the leg, the sole of the foot, and the arm.

2. Lay your pattern on your felt. It’s easiest to fold your felt in half, and pin your pieces to it. Then, when you cut the pieces out, you’ll have cut two of everything. 

(Try to arrange your pieces so they take up the least amount of space you can reasonably manage. 
It’s not a massive deal, but if there’s more fabric left over you can cut out extra pieces if something goes wrong.)

Materials are expensive. Use them wisely.

3. You’ll need to see if your pattern has already included a seam allowance. From what I can gather most toy patterns don’t - the ones I used didn’t, and if you’ve using the same ones they won’t. That’s fine. When you cut out your felt pieces, leave a bit of extra fabric all around the paper as I have in the photo.
Keep the scraps for now.

Despite appearances, there are actually two of everything cut here.

(3.5. For Tiny Hannah I was worried that the acrylic felt I had bought was too thin, so I cut out another layer of felt and stuck it to the original using iron-on double-sided interfacing. This step is pretty unnecessary, and I wouldn’t bother next time, but I’ll show you what I did to avoid confusion on why my felt changes appearances at this point. 

I cut out more felt pieces (this time not leaving the extra for the seam allowance), and the same pieces in double-sided fusible interfacing. I ironed the interfacing onto the new pieces, peeled off the backing paper, and then ironed the pieces onto the original. Ta-da! Doubly thick felt pieces.)

Unnecessary felt pieces, slightly smaller and a different colour.

Unnecessary ironing of interfacing.

Unnecessary (but pleasing) waffle pattern left by the tea towel
I sacrificed to stop interfacing sticking to the iron.

4. Lay all your pattern pieces on a sheet of paper so it roughly resembles your doll. Make sure to fold the leg and arm pieces in half lengthways when you do this. 

Line the arms up with the shoulders at roughly a 45 degree angle, slightly overlapping the body piece, as shown. 

I am an illustrator. People actually pay me to draw things.

Line the legs up with the hips, slightly overlapping the body and leg pieces, as shown. There will likely be a gap left between the legs: that’s fine, it makes it easier to make clothes.

Draw around the shape you have created on the paper. This will make it much easier for you to make clothes for your doll later. DO NOT LOSE THIS PIECE OF PAPER. It’s technically possible to work out sizing for clothes later, but it’s really difficult.

5. Mark the eyes on one of the face pieces of your doll. You can do this by eye, or by laying your pattern piece on top and stabbing through the paper with a biro or pencil. 

6. I used a tool called a bradle to stab a hole in the felt ready for the safety eyes. 

Stabby, stabby!

If you don’t have a bradle, a sharp pencil could work, or you can CAREFULLY cut a little cross over the pen mark you made, using the point of your scissors.

This is the most horrifying thing I've ever created.

This step will probably be much easier without the double layer of felt, or if you’re using wool felt. Wool naturally stretches more, and the interfacing I used is basically a mesh of glue, which stopped the hole from stretching.
I ended up widening the hole I made using scissors, by snipping little cuts into the top, bottom, and sides of the hole made by the bradle (like a cross). If you use scissors, cut a tiny bit at a time. You can always go back a cut more, you can’t cut less.

7. Add the safety eyes. You do this by pushing the eye through the hole in the felt, and then fastening the plastic washer on the other side. Suddenly your felt will look much cuter.

Left without washer, right with washer.


8. Draw your facial features onto your doll with pencil. You could technically do this before the eyes are in, but I found it much easier to get an idea of what size everything should be once the eyes were in. You can also add things like tattoos at this stage.

It’s up to you what look you give your doll. I decided to keep my doll more cute looking and forgo a nose. *Suddenly realises that this is the look Voldemort was going for all along*

The resemblance is uncanny.

9. Paint your dolls face and other features like tattoos. I used acrylic paint, watered down about half and half. If the paint is too thick it gets caught on the loose fibres of the felt and sits on surface, and you won’t be able to get a clean line. If it’s thinner, it’ll be much cleaner, but also sink more into the fabric, and become much less likely to flake off.

You might find the fuzzy fibres get in the way, so take your scissors and, laying them flat across the surface, snip away the loose fibres from the surface of where you need to paint. 
If that sounds confusing, imagine you need to cut a hair from your leg. You wouldn’t stab in and snip and risk cutting skin, you'd lay the scissors flat and try to mimic a razor. You’re basically shaving your doll’s face.

Once you’ve painted the face on the un-sewn head piece, your doll will now resemble an adorable fat-monster from Doctor Who called an Adipose, if an Adipose had kidnapped Kim Kardashian’s makeup artist.
For this reason I have named my own little felt Adipose, “Kim Lardashian.”

Kim would be proud of those eyebrows.

10. This is the last step on this post, and so far we’ve managed to avoid sewing, but I’m afraid this is where that changes. 
The next thing you need to do is learn how to blanket stitch. It’s pretty much the only stitch I used for making tiny Hannah. Have a practise on a spare piece of fabric before you start stitch your doll.

Here is a helpful tutorial on how to blanket stitch. 

Next time... we'll be making your doll's limbs!


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