Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Anatomy of a Doll or How to look good naked

When I began making Waldorf Dolls, I had never seen one in real life. I wondered how other people stuffed the bodies and made the heads. Hair? Oh my! There are so many ways to give a doll a head of hair. Those pesky little stitches that hold the body together were another mystery as were the facial features. I had so many questions and no one to ask. This, of course, was before I was an internet user and the only computer I knew how to use was an ATM.
So my first dolls had soft, squishy heads and skimpily stuffed limbs. Their little faces always seemed to be looking to the right or the left. My dolls were made with love but not necessarily made to last. I kept at it and my handwork kept improving.
Normally my dolls are only seen fully dressed and ready to ship. A naked doll is rarely seen. Here are a few close up shots of a recent doll sans clothing and hair.

All ready for hair and clothes.

A sweet face ready for smooching

What am I hiding under the mohair wig? Some Frankenstein stitches.

Sweet Feet.

A little hand for holding.

I am always happy to answer doll making questions. Please feel free to ask.


Amy Atkinson said...

Great post!
Do you have any suggestions on how to make head nice and firm?

Berrie Wren Bowen said...

I'm a roller. Here is how I do it. First I pull strips of wool batting into 2”-3” strips (along the grain). Then I separate those strips in half lengthwise. What I mean by that is I halve the thickness of the strip. I take one strip and wind about 10” of it tightly around my finger to get a little firm starter ball. I take it off my finger and hold it on my right palm. The rest of the strip of wool is falling back across my hand between my thumb and forefinger. I then roll the ball while adding a little tension to the strip with my thumb and forefinger. When the strip is all the way wound on, I add another and another until the ball is a bit bigger than I want my head. I then take a square of batting that will generously cover the ball and place it over the ball. I gently smooth it over the ball and gather it up where the neck would be. I then put the stockinette tube (inside out) on one hand and place it on the “crown” of the head and pull it over the head turning it right side out. Tie the neck string and eye and chin strings and “voila!”, a head.
Either this is clear as mud or makes total sense. Let me know. I think a picture tutorial may be in order.
xo Berrie

Amy Atkinson said...

Thank you so much! I can read the technique in books, but my heads always turn out pretty soft. This is great, and a picture tutorial would be wonderful.

martha said...

your dolls always look so nice - even naked. i just looked at your etsy shop and those moondrops all dressed up are so cute!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have been admiring your work, I love your dolls, they inspired me to make one for my baby but I need help, I was able to get the head done, but when I cover the head with the skin tone fabric, can't do it!!! it looks nice on the face but the neck under the chin has wrinkles :( I spent hours trying to figure out how to do it without any wrinkles bu nope!! I am not that smart I guess :(, please help? any suggestions would be highly appriciated by me, by my baby and by my hubby who thinks I make elderly dolls :o, Please help! Thank you...

Rana, Livonia, Michigan

Elizabeth said...

I LOVE your dolls!! They are sooo cute!! I am thinking about making my own but there are so many variations on how to put them together. Do you have two individual arms sewn in on top of the completed torso, or do you have the arms sewn in as one piece and sew them to the muff BEFORE finishing off the torso. I can't decide which is better looking, more durable or the easiest. If it's the second option, how the heck do you do that!! :) It seems impossible.

Berrie Wren Bowen said...

Hi Elizabeth, is the second option. Sort of. I use two separate arm pieces and sew them to the muff. It is doable and durable. I have never sewn the arms to the outside of the doll so I can't say anything about that process.
If you can get your hands on a copy of Kinder Dolls you will find the process for sewing the arms to the inside.

Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post. I'm embarking on my first doll making this december for my kids for Christmas. I do have one question. Are the legs separate and then sewn to the body? I'm trying to make a pattern for my doll and I'm still not sure what i like.

Berrie Wren Bowen said...

Hi Heidi - Yes...the legs are two separate pieces. They are sewn into the bottom seam of the torso.
I still fiddle with my patterns after all these years. You will find what is pleasing to you and no matter what, your child will love a "mommy made' doll.
xo Berrie

Anonymous said...

I am having the worst time trying to figure out how to make nice, neat, nearly invisible stitches to attach the head and arms to the torso. Any tips for that?

Congratulations, by the way! It looks as though the big day is quickly approaching!

Anonymous said...

How do you get the cheeks to be so nice and chubby? I am busy with my first doll and it looks so old and not like a child's face. Any suggestions?
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I LOVE your dolls! They are adorable!

Lauren said...

Berrie - You are so wonderful to provide guidance - many many thanks!

Carrie said...

Thank you for this!! I have made 2 dolls and they are just not up to "my" standards.. But my girls love them so thats all that matters to me right now :) I always wonder how everyone else puts theirs together.. I bought the book Making Waldorf dolls as well as several ebooks and everyone does it a bit different..
We adore you dollies!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Berrie I love every thing that you create you are the best, I bought a few books about making waldorf dolls and made allready three dolls, but the way you teache and explain is very very vivid and clear, the photos allso help, I gave them as present and I am so
pleased so thank you for shearing us' all the best from
ofri Barzilay

Anonymous said...

Hi Berrie, did you used to have a tutorial on your blog on how to make a head? Thanks!

Berrie Hamby said...

Yes I do have a head making tutorial. I have it tucked away for now. With all the new doll makers out there, I feel it is best to only let it be utilized by people who do not want to sell their dolls. I am not showing it to anyone at this time.
Thank you for understanding.