Thursday, December 9, 2010

Armatures For Polymer Clay Figures

Have you created a doll body from polymer clay and then have it collapse while baking in the oven, have small parts break after baking, or use so much clay that it is too thick for baking? For these reasons you must use a better internal structure to support the clay and to reduce bulk.

Think of the internal structure as the strong, sturdy skeleton for your doll. The wires for an armature can be aluminum, brass, stainless or galvanized steel.   Small scale doll armatures can be made from 14, 18, 20 and 22 gauge wire. Some use gold wire to strengthen tiny fingers. Small brass rods and tubes can also be incorporated.  The armature  wire can be extended beyond the limb it supports to provide a way to mount your doll to a base, or to secure it to an accompanying figure or object.

You can add aluminum foil or sculpting epoxy, such as Magic Sculpt, to your wire armatures. They are used to reduce the amount of clay needed to complete a doll body and has the added advantages of reducing curing time and making the doll body stronger. I

Some dollmakers say that it helps to apply polyvinyl glue, such as Sobo glue, to your wire armatures before applying clay over the wire to provide a strong bond between metal and clay. Some wrap the metal wire with masking tape and some cover the doll's wire armature in fabric and stuff with batting.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

About Permanent Waterproof Fabric Glues

Doll makers use 2 types of permanent waterproof fabric glues for gluing fabric to fabric:

     1. Solvent-based adhesives (such as Beacon’s Fabri-Tac)
     2. Water-based urethane adhesives (such as Aileen’s Fabric Fusion).

Both say they will dry clear and flexible. Both will soak into and through fibers if applied too heavily. The difference is in the dry time, glue thickness and how fast it will ‘grab’.

Use this type of glue to hold polyester fabric seams together and when you are planning to wet the fabric for draping.


     • Wash fabric with sizing to remove the sizing prior to applying any glue.
     • Do not use any fabric softener after washing the fabric to be glued.
     • Usually, a thin line of glue is sufficient …but when covering a larger area, try applying glue with a brush to get a smooth, thin, application.
     • Glue does not need to cover completely but use enough to hold in place and always on the edges.
     • Use a paperclip or a thick pin to make a hole in a glue bottle…or use a fine tip applicator bottle or syringe.
     • Let water-based glues dry for 2-4 hours (it is not completely washable for 48 hours)
     • Solvent-based glue is quick dry and quick grab
     • All glues will ‘thicken’ as they age in a bottle that has been opened and come in contact with air. Refer to the manufacturer to learn how to thin too thick glue.

For more information: 
Aileen’s brand of fabric glue at (click on products; fabric glue) and
Beacon brand of fabric glue at

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hats for your Dolls - Fun and Easy

All hats are a combination of basic shapes plus trimmings. If you need a hat pattern, you will find lots of patterns for the basic shapes of many types of hats. Trimming is the fun part! Lace, braids, feathers, ribbons...let your imagination be your guide. The basic hat shapes are made using the following 4 methods:

1. Gathered Fabric Hats: are made from a circle of fabric; fabric may be either single or double and then gathered to fit your doll’s head.

2. Stiffened Fabric Hats: made from double bonded fabric or fabric covered card. Crowns are either soft gathered fabric or stiffened shaped fabric

3. Straw Hats: made from very narrow hat straw. Straw is dampened and its thread pulled to curve it, then stitched in overlapping rows.

4. Molded Hats: made from felt, buckram or tapestry canvas. Fabric is dampened with warm water and shaped over a hat block, then stiffened with Stiffen It or Fray Check. When finished molding, it is dried on the hat block.

• Tacky Glue
• Plastic Wrap
• Rubber Band
• Lightweight Card
• Fusible Web (such as Pellon’s Wonder Under)
• Stiffen-It and/or Fray Check
• ¾  inch Hat Blocks: you will need a round and a flat top form (such as a round bead, a bottle cap or make one from polymer clay). As a rule, a 3/4 inch hat block is used to shape hats but because all doll heads vary slightly and your doll’s hair may be thick, each hat must be custom fit to your doll’s head. Cover your hat block with plastic wrap and hold it in place with a rubber band prior to forming your hat.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Introduction to Draping

Why drape? Because if we don’t use draping techniques on our doll’s costume it will look unrealistic and rather shapeless. In real life, fabric is shaped to fit our bodies and the fabric drapes from the weight of the material. On a small scale doll the fabric has hardly any weight so we have to simulate the way fabric looks in real like.

Draping is the method of pinning folds and placing fabric in the position you want it, so that the fabric maintains that shape when it dries. To wet the fabrics, you use a water plus starch mixture, spray starch or light misting of inexpensive hairspray.

Check your fabric: As a rule, if you take a tiny sample piece of a natural fiber and dip it into a starch plus water mixture, the water will be absorbed; on synthetic fibers it beads up and is not suitable for draping. Synthetics work best for tailored costumes.

To begin, make a pinning board from a piece of 12 inch by 12 inch Styrofoam, ceiling tile or thick Foamcore and cover it with plastic wrap. You need some insect pins or silk pins and waterproof glue (such as Fabric Tac). To dry, you can use a blow dryer or let the costume day in the air. Place your doll in a stand or on the item where it will sit. Cut a corner of a sandwich bag to cover the head and fasten it in place. Begin constructing the garment.

To achieve the look of fabric falling in folds, you begin by gluing and sewing the garment parts to the doll so that it is tight and will hold the shape you intend after you wet it and it has dried. Small scale doll costumes are constructed in segments, from the inside out and bottom to top. As you construct each part, you glue, sew, pin and pleat the fabric to control the shape, reduce the bulk, and to drape. The fabric loses the softness of a sewn garment but we are more interested in the final appearance of our OOAK dolls. Other things doll makers use to control shape are tiny sewn-in weights and wire incased in hems.

There are lots of tricks and tips to draping. You will find information on-line and in books and videos.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Fabric - It's All About Scale

You can make your own fabric guide by laying your doll on a piece of paper, then trace around your doll's body. Finally, draw a rough outline of a costume, then cut the costume shape from the paper. Take various fabrics and hold them under the cutout area. Your eye will tell you if it is 'right'.

Friday, July 9, 2010

More On The Canon of the Human Head

I found these videos on YouTube that I thought you might enjoy. Simple rules to learn to make your sculpts better.

And this one about basic proportions:

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Photographing Small Items

Some of us are learning how to photograph our dolls and miniatures. There is lots of member chat right now about backdrops, lighting and sizing. If you know of web pages with more info, post your link as a comment.  Follow these links to find interesting articles about photographing small items:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More Info About Polymer Clay

You may be interested in this information about polymer clay from the OOAK Guild’s OG Library (Clay Articles): Mixing Brands of Clay and Proper Baking (2 pages). This article was written by a chemist who answered questions from doll makers.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Series Baking

Burned doll? Just so you know, I've burnt lots of dolls. Some got very dark brown, some just got a little darker and one turned greenish! I have learned from various tutorials and books to use series baking and watch the oven like a hawk. Timing varies depending on the thickness of the clay.

The most important thing you can do is pay attention to the recommended temperature for the type of clay you are using because different clay manufacturers (and clay types) state different bake temps and length of time to bake per 1/4 inch thickness!

Here is how series baking works:
Some say put your work in a cold oven, turn on to 230 degrees. When the oven temperature reaches 230, bake for approximately 9 to 18 minutes (time depends on thickness of clay). You must do a final bake at the recommended temperature to cure the clay when doing the partial bake technique. Some say put your work into a preheated oven and completely cure each time you bake. Every time you bake, when finished turn the oven off, open door slightly and then let piece cool completely before moving it.

At his stage you can smooth and correct the piece (see comments under "can you sand clay" post). Just remember that the piece is fragile if you did a partial bake. You can clean white scratches that you made while sanding the clay by using acetone but once you use acetone you are done. Acetone melts the surface of the clay. Use a tiny amount on a very small spot and be careful - you can ruin your work.

Sometimes, tiny parts (such as fingers) burn before larger parts are completely baked. Cover or wrap them with a thin layer of Polyfill before placing the doll, or doll parts, in the oven.

You will find the technique that works best for you. Experiment. And have fun; it's only clay!