What sewing tools do you need to sew a doll?

I love sewing tools, I've been seen jumping for joy when I found a nice pair of scissors, or frantically searching for the best tape measure on the market. Here, we take a tour of the tools necessary for the realization of the classic rag doll and some others that may be useful. There is already a lot of information in the pattern, you can refer to it at any time.


We won’t be cutting a lot of thickness so really basic fabric scissors will do the trick. If you don't have one or are shopping for a new pair, my two favorite brands are LDH and KAI. The former are beautiful, all stainless steel, they have a weight that I love and appreciate when cutting fabric. I use them to cut 2-4 layers of fabric, no more, they are great for hobby sewing shears. The second brand offers a variety of quality and length, I use these scissors to cut a lot of thickness. I used them more when I sewed batches of toys for markets and shows. If I only have one doll to cut, they will stay on the shelf since I find they offer less precision for this kind of project.


Definitely not necessary, if you have them at home they can speed up the notching step. They can also help with the finishing in the doll clothing, helping the seams unravel less. I use the LDH brand.


To cut out the pattern, after this first step you can put them away.


I like to use a stick to help me with turning and stuffing. A Chinese chopstick, or a large straw is perfect. The eraser side of a pencil pushes the wad well because it sticks a little bit (a new and clean eraser). I have used a paint brush before for the same reason, the bristles grab onto the fill fibers and help push them into place. Finally, we will see later how to use two sticks to turn the members of the doll.


I don't know how I managed to work this long without hemostat style clamps. This tool has really been an eye opener for me. Besides helping to turn toy parts, it's super useful for stuffing. Serger pliers can also help with this step, so if you have them, take them out.


Although the pieces you sew are small, pinning helps keep everything in place. I like the thin ones with glass balls since they go easily into the fabric and are quickly spotted. What you have at home and are used to using will do just fine.


Three kinds of needles are needed to make the classic doll. A regular sewing needle for closing the openings and securing the hair, an embroidery needle for the face, and a doll needle for attaching the arms. The better the quality of the needle, the easier the work will be. Try to choose needles made in England or Japan. I also find great vintage needles in thrift stores and second-hand stores.


It should be about 5mm high to fit through the hem of the garment.


The market is overflowing with options to mark your fabric, and if you have your favorite products that's great. For the face I like to use a felt pen that disappears in the air since it is precise and not permanent. Be careful not all fabric markers are created equal, I tried several before stopping on this one. That being said, it's always good to test on a scrap to make sure the ink reacts well with the fiber. If I can't find my marker (with a messy workshop, it happens), I sometimes opt for a mechanical pencil to mark the face. The lead is fine and not too dark, but it's not erasable so you have to be sure. To trace the outline of the pieces I use a multitude of chalks and pencils, I like wax fabric chalks, the powder roulette or simply a fine crayola marker.


I found mine in the wardrobe of my first apartment, left by the former tenants. It's old (vintage!), blue, white and orange, super powerful and I love it. An iron is essential for sewing, without it everything is uglier. If you don't have any, my advice is to try to find an old one in a thrift store, they are often of better quality.


Same as for the irons, I prefer my sewing machine old and made of metal, if they are colored it is even better. They are simply indestructible. I find nice sewing machines regularly in thrift stores for $ 25-50, a little drop of oil and they are often ready to sew. Check that the belt is in good condition or replaceable before purchasing a used machine and find out about local repair shops for cleaning or adjustment.

To sew the classic rag doll you need a machine that straight stitch, the reverse stitch can help with the stopping points.


This is completely optional, personally I like to give my dolls faces a little color. Several mediums work so choose what you have on hand. A pink wood pencil can make cheeks and hold a few washes. You can also use a wax pencil and fix it with the iron, the heat will melt the wax and cling to the fibers of the fabric for a more permanent result. If you have pastels, that also works, but you will have to redo the cheeks once in a while. I more often use blush for rosy cheeks and the nose edge of my dolls. On the other hand, it is not permanent and you have to do it again from time to time.


Because I love my sewing scissors heavy, I tend use a thread cutter when sitting at the sewing machine instead. Smaller scissors will also do the trick. I love the LDH brand wire cutter, it is beautiful, sharp and can be sharpened when dull.


We always wish we didn't have to use it, but mistakes happen all the time and to everyone. I discovered seam rippers without the little red ball a few years ago and I'm a fan. I call it my little billhook. In addition to using it for unstitching, I use it as a sewing tool. Sometimes it helps me bring delicate pieces of fabric under the teeth of the machine. Or to hold the fabric in place in the more difficult stages almost like a pin. Finally, if my machine is having difficulty with the layers, I help it by pushing the fabric down with the seam ripper blade.

(pssst, I am developing a Dansereau seam ripper with my brother, keep your eyes open).

Next step: how to print, glue and cut your pattern.

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