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Dressing a polymer clay doll

Updated on June 25, 2013

Time for some haute couture for your doll!

Fabrics, fabrics! So many options to choose from yet making the right choice for your doll can be quite difficult. A flawless doll may sink into mediocrity with the wrong outfit, while a doll sculpted with quite a few flaws can become a masterpiece if the outfit is outstanding. So in this tutorial I'm gonna share with you some hints and tips on how to choose fabric, how to make doll clothes out of it and finally how to put them on your doll. Learn what fabrics you should have in your stash and what fabrics are unsuitable for your doll. The end result : a polymer clay doll ready for the catwalk, with cameras flashing and reporters noting down their articles in frenzy!

The ultimate guide book in fabrics

Fabrics A-to-Z: The Essential Guide to Choosing and Using Fabric for Sewing
Fabrics A-to-Z: The Essential Guide to Choosing and Using Fabric for Sewing

Whether you're new or seasoned in the art of sewing this book will satisfy your every need and question regarding fabrics, with priceless info and suggestions.


Choose the right kind of fabric

for your doll, not for you...

It's easy to get carried away when picking fabrics. We tend to notice fabrics that are within our taste and style, or fabrics that catch our eye due to their novelty or uniqueness.

The thing is, that not all of these choices are actually a good choice to dress your doll. Basically two main factors come to play :

1)how heavy or light a fabric is

Heavyweight fabrics (twill, denim, some wool e.t.c.) are not proper for dolls (at least most of the time) since they don't drape naturally in such a small scale like we want it for our doll, so the end result is a relatively stiff outfit that looks like its made out of carton. Lightweight fabrics (chiffon, muslin, tulle e.t.c.)on the other hand can create minute drapes and creases for our scale so the end result is as natural as it gets. Stretchy fabrics like jersey can be used but be aware that it curls at the edges when stretched and this can be disaster or a bliss, depending on your project's concept. My advice: "play" with some fabric, see how it reacts to cutting, stitching, stretching and then make your final choice.

2)the size of the pattern

The size of the pattern also plays a major role in dressing our doll. Imagine if you were to wear a skirt or a blouse that had a print pattern of roses, where each rose was about a meter in diameter. Well, that would look, the least to say, funny and eccentric. Now imagine how this applies to your doll. Think in scale and proportion, not only in how good the pattern looks. If you can't find a pattern that suits your taste, stick with one tone colored fabrics, safest solution. If you want to find fabrics with small patterns there is a wide variety in fat quarters for quilting. As a bonus you get plenty of designs that can mix well together (that's the main purpose of fat quarters) so you can make a truly outstanding outfit.

If you want to master some new techniques on sewing then take a look at these books

Couture Sewing Techniques, Revised and Updated
Couture Sewing Techniques, Revised and Updated

Why not try some haute-couture for your doll? This book is an excellent guide for you to get that most needed inspiration to create some astonishing outfits for your doll .

Couture Sewing: Tailoring Techniques
Couture Sewing: Tailoring Techniques

Learn the tricks that tailors and seamstresses use and create unique outfits.

The Sewing Machine Accessory Bible: Get the Most Out of Your Machine---From Using Basic Feet to Mastering Specialty Feet
The Sewing Machine Accessory Bible: Get the Most Out of Your Machine---From Using Basic Feet to Mastering Specialty Feet

A must have for both the novice user and the more advanced. Time to pick up your sewing machine and start sewing!


Dressing the doll

You can either dress your doll by attaching the fabric with some super glue (tiny bits of glue in some not so obvious places) or stitch like a real outfit (machine or hand sewed) . Or you can do both!

Again try not to think like you're making a real-life outfit. If your doll is baked with arms and legs attached you can't dress it like a real person, you have to think ahead. For example, make the sleeves separately and at the point where they meet the bodice attach a narrow ribbon, or some organza .

For starters, it's best to go with minimal clothing and work your way from there. If something doesn't look right, discard it and do it again. It would be a shame to stick with an outfit that doesn't look good just because you didn't had the strength to do it all over again.

Test the fabric with your sewing machine. Some fabrics (especially the lightweight ones) are notoriously difficult for machine stitching, especially for beginners. Choose a short length stitch, a thread color that suits the overall color scheme of your fabric and a machine needle as sharp as possible (size 60/8 will do just fine).

If you can't use the sewing machine try hand stitching, though the end result may not look so professional (depending on your skills) .For small pieces of fabric that cover just a small area of your doll, the best solution is applying some instant glue to hold it in place. Beware of instant glue, as it bonds skin instantly and can cause severe damage if it gets in your eye. Also, instant glue leaves a dark, wet-like spot on some fabrics, especially silk and tafta, so use it sparingly and in places that are not in plain view. Test the glue with your fabric first!!

I never follow a ready made pattern to dress my dolls as it is almost impossible to tailor it to the specific doll, and it also takes away the joy of creating something completely out of scratch!

Geisha's kimono

OOAK geisha polymer clay doll
OOAK geisha polymer clay doll

Here is "Madame Butterfly", a OOAK polymer clay geisha. Her kimono is silk fabric , which was a nightmare to tailor at this scale, but I think the end result was good. I made it with my sewing machine and pined it directly on the doll's body. I didn't use instant glue, as it stained a lot the fabric.

An interesting book

In this book you will find numerous patterns and ideas to get you going. You can enlarge or shrink the patterns to suit the size of your doll. It also has tons of info on sewing and special stitches, a must-have for any doll dressmaker!

A final word of advice

-keep it simple. Unless you are making a specific doll that calls for extravagant clothes, don't overdress your doll.

-Experiment (a lot), and you may be surprised by the outcome. Most of the times the final outcome is not what we originally had in mind but this can be a good thing.

-Mistakes CAN happen and they are welcome as you can learn a lot from them.

-make a polymer clay doll that will be your mannequin ,with a straight posture, on which you can try the outfits just to get an idea of how they will look on your doll. It doesn't have to be detailed, just get the proportions of the body parts right.

-Doll-dressing is supposed to be fun and relaxing. Keep it that way. Don't get frustrated if something doesn't work out, get inspired and motivated to keep going!

Fabric clothes or polymer clay clothes?

How do you like to dress your doll?

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Comments, Suggestions, questions?

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    • centralplexus profile image

      centralplexus 4 years ago

      @nifwlseirff: I know what you mean, trust me! But the end result can be very rewarding, once you get it right. Thanks for stopping by!

    • profile image

      nifwlseirff 4 years ago

      I'm not sure I'd have the patience to use a sewing machine on such tiny detailed clothes - my own are frustrating enough!

    • centralplexus profile image

      centralplexus 4 years ago

      @flinnie lm: Thanks for the positive feedback, I appreciate it!

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 4 years ago from Alabama USA

      Hi I like dolls, great info on dressing them.

    • centralplexus profile image

      centralplexus 4 years ago

      @LadyDuck: Thank you very much for your kind words, I'm glad you liked it! Take care!

    • profile image

      LadyDuck 4 years ago

      Very good lens and great tips to make dolls dresses. Your geisha kimono is really beautiful.

    • centralplexus profile image

      centralplexus 4 years ago

      @renagirl: I'm glad you liked it, thank you very much!

    • renagirl profile image

      renagirl 4 years ago

      Love your dolls .Awesome lens