Explore Fiber is a collaborative website showcasing and exploring fiber as a fine art material.
Throughout history humans have engaged in sewing, either for function, decorative reasons, entertainment, or personal expression. Humans have attempted to replicate the human form and bring spiritual meaning into their creations.
Dolls are everyday object that have been used around the world to entertain and teach children. They come in all sort of sizes and decorative looks. People have felt the need to create a small version of themselves to entertain, infuse spiritual meaning, or represent aspects of their culture or lives throughout history.
This lesson aims to give students a change to learn a new skill; sewing, reflect on the human form, and think deeply about character representation.
Optional Writing Element: Students can discuss the process of storytelling and listening to stories. Challenge students to think about why we tell and share stories. This can be a family story, stories associated with their heritage, American history, or make up their own story. These stories can then be used to inspire the creation of their doll.
Step 1 – Instructor presents examples of art dolls, other resources for students to see a variety of approaches creating a 3 dimensional figure using fabric.
Step 2 – Instructor demonstrates how to create a pattern on scrap paper to use for cutting out fabric pieces for doll parts.
Pattern Note: Make sure pieces are big enough to be stuffed and have a wide enough neck to support a head. Demonstrate how to cut out of fabric, good sides out, how to pin properly, and how not to cut into the middle of a piece of fabric as not to waste materials. Large scraps should be saved for embellishment or other projects
Lay pattern on fabric
Pin pattern to fabric
Cut fabric following pattern lines
Save fabric scraps for use in other projects or other students’ doll details
Before stitching together, layout design for doll embellishment
Step 3 – Instructor demonstrates how to sew pieces of fabric together, demonstrating how to make a knot, and do a whip stitch over the two pieces of fabric. Oversees students as they learn the skill.
Using whip or running stitches, stitch fabric details to right side of doll body before assembling.
Students begin to stitch sides together of doll.
Make sure they leave an opening to put stuffing into.
Step 4: Deconstruct stuffing or batting to give it body and mass, then stuff their pieces.
Before stuffing their doll, turn it inside out, so details on the surface of the doll are facing out.
After stuffing, use a whip stitch to close up opening.
Basic body of doll is now complete.
Arms and legs can be cut out of cloth and stitched right sides together.
After stitching, turn arms and legs inside out. A safety pin can be used to attach to the fabric, then pull on the pin to turn the small tube inside out.
Chopsticks can be used to get the stuffing into hard to reach places.
Once separate pieces are stuffed, students can assemble the doll by sewing together the pieces. Regular sewing thread is fine for sewing fabric pieces together, but thicker embroidery floss is best for assembling the doll pieces.
Step 5 – Students can now use beads, ribbon, embroidery floss, etc. to embellish dolls. Clothing for the doll can be a creative stretch activity for advanced students.