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Cloth Dolls -- No Longer Just For Kids
Barb Keeling, Keeling's Krafts


Most of us have made dolls for our kids or grandkids. Those adorable Raggedy Ann type cloth huggable, drag around type dolls.  These will always be made and enjoyed by both the giver and the receiver. 

In the past 20 years there has been a big change in doll making & doll patterns.  Dolls are still made for the young ones, but doll making has become a "new" art form.  Doll displays have become a part of Quilt, Wearable & Sewing Shows. Grownups are making dolls for "grownups". Increasing numbers of people are buying "art" doll patterns and making them as gifts.  The internet is filled with doll groups.  People who get together on line to share doll making ideas and techniques.  We talk to people all over the world who make dolls "just for fun".  There are dolls made for all sorts of reasons and causes. Doll Swaps, Challenges, Contests, Fund Raisers, Donations, Healing Dolls and Show Displays. These dolls are seldom given to "kids" but mostly used in and adult world.  These dolls are often called, "Art Dolls".

Last year some very thrilled doll makers were asked by the President and Mrs. Clinton to design a doll ornament for the Whitehouse Christmas Tree. This was a great honor to those who were asked and a thrilling tree for all of us to see. 

Cloth doll faces and bodies are sculpted to look realistic and have dimension.  Fingers, toes, arms and legs are made so they move.  "Real" looking fingernails are added, hair is punched into heads with felting needles to make it look rooted, eyelashes and brows, beards, and mustaches have taken on realistic looks.  Faces are painted on with all sorts of products. Talented designers and teachers travel the country teaching doll making in quilt and sewing type shops. There are doll retreats and shows attended by  hundreds who are interested in learning the latest methods of making cloth dolls. 

These dolls are sometimes given to "unlikely" people who ended up thrilled with the gift. One of my customers bought a pattern called Funky Fred.  She said it somehow looked like her boss.  So she decided to make it for him.  She told me he is a rather stern sort of guy, but when she gave him this doll he melted into great delights of appreciation and paraded to around the office with pride over this "look alike" doll. 

I have many unique doll patterns.... they are tons of fun to make. For the quilt makers this is a new use for those left over scraps. Doll making is another delightful way of playing with fibers and fabric. 

My husband and I have done Doll Shows as vendors for some 20 years. We specialize in unusual techniques.  For years we have written articles for Doll Magazines on fun stuff that can be done with products that were not considered doll making products.  The Easypunch embroidery machine which we have sold for over 20 years is great to use for making doll hair, eyelashes, eyebrows, and fantastic embellishment for doll clothing.  Our knitting loom which is basically used for knitting wearables and afghans is a great tool for making doll hair and wigs.  Great sweaters, scarves, hats etc. can be made for these fiber folks too.  the Crystal is great to highlight painted eyes and lips and is what I use to make doll fingernails.  Putting long fashion fingernails on a doll may not be anything you have ever thought about, however, if you are a doll maker it may be one of the fun techniques you find most useful.

The No Sew Beads are great for "beading" things without using a needle and thread. I did a Mermaid and beaded her whole tail. This amount of space might be a little mush to bead one bead at a time, but  with the no sew type beads they are ironed on making this a very fast process.  On the Mermaid I cut up scrap threads, both rayon and metallic and made a kind of thread confetti.  Sprinkled the threads on the mermaids tail, covered the tail with Steam A Seam fuse web. then add the No Sew Beads. Using hot dry iron and a Teflon pressing sheet I pressed the combination until the fuse web melted. This holds onto the beads, and the "confetti" threads.  The many color threads will shine through the clear glass beads giving the mermaid tail wonderful colors. 

My husband and I design our own doll patterns including the above mentioned Mermaid. Doug does all the heads, sculpting and face painting. I do the bodies, clothing and embellishments.  Our patterns are done with a flair of fun.  Senior Moment Sara is one of our patterns. Sara feels no one is ever to young to have a "senior moment".  Her attitude is you don't need a better memory, but just more pockets.  Where you can keep your "lost stuff".  You should see all the stuff she has in her pockets.  Then there is Twissel Man our Senior Super Hero, with cape and all.  He is a bald headed average guy who does not leap over tall buildings, but will stumble up a curb to help you.  He is every ones good friend and will make you smile.  Internet Ida is glued to her computer, with a lost in cyber-space look on her face.   All face sculpting, face painting, and shading is included in the patterns.  more patterns are found on our site.

Doug has also done two books on Cloth doll Faces.  Faces Faces and Faces Face Vol. II.  If you want a collection of wonderful faces you can trace out of the book there are well over 100 faces to choose from.  Shading is included and basic sculpting is given in the book. 

If you would like a change of pace, make a cloth doll.  That is all it will take to find a new fiber addiction.  Check out our website for delightful pattern, accessories and techniques.


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