Sunday, December 18, 2011

How to Stain or Dye Fabric

Thinking about using coffee or tea to stain fabric for your doll’s costume; maybe to tone down a too bright color or make it look older? They both work, and are ‘free’, but may eventually compromise your creation because of the acid. It is essential to dip the fabric and rinse, rinse, rinse some more to remove all trances of the coffee or tea.
An alternative to consider is using RIT dye (in the color Tan).  The reasons are that it is made for dying fabrics so it works better, there is no acid to affect the fabric later on and does not cost very much. Just follow directions on the package.  

Another tip: iron your fabric prior first. When a fabric has wrinkles they may absorb more stain or dye and leave streaks.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sculpt A Santa Head

Friday, September 2, 2011

Using Sculpey Mold Maker

One of the Sculpey products I really like is called Mold Maker. It is designed to create permanent, flexible molds and is soft enough to shape around even the most intricate details and, after baked, can be used with polymer clay. You can make your own body-blank molds.

Some doll makers use it to condition or soften firm clay. However, what I find most interesting about Mold Maker is that it makes polymer clay slightly flexible. Simply pinch off a pea size piece and knead it into a pound of polymer clay until thoroughly mixed. Some doll makers add a tiny (TINY) pinch to the clay they are going to use for sculpting hands. Caution! Too much makes the clay mushy.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Working With Wide Lace

In miniatures of all kind, scale is everything. That applies to all the trim you use on a doll's costume; buttons, buckles, ribbons and lace, etc. Because lace is so useful for costume construction, you will need to be especially careful of its scale. The YouTube video below demonstrate how to cut wide lace down to a usable scale.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Proportion Differences By Gender

Noticed that some dolls dressed as male look female and vice versa? Take a look at this video about facial proportions that demonstrates the difference by sketching the two facial proportions side by side.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Note About Durability

There is no such thing as a perfect, permanent doll medium! All doll mediums are fragile:
  • Porcelain can break and mildew.
  • Wood can dry,crack and mildew.
  • Cloth can rot, discolor, decompose and when exposed to sunlight can fade.
  • Paper can turn to pulp when wet.
  • Wax can melt.
  • Rubber can disintegrate.
  • Compositions decompose.
  • Polymer clay can shatter and when exposed to ultraviolet light can decompose.
We do know that plastic and resins are not biodegradable, so it looks like polymer clay dolls will be around for a long time.

The durability of a doll depends on how it is treated. Most damage or deterioration is likely caused by hard handling or storage where the doll is subject to extreme temperature or humidity variations. A doll is more likely to be soiled by dirty hands, falling and breaking or being chewed by the family pet than it is likely to fall apart because the material was not permanent.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Avoiding Problems When Baking Polymer Clay Dolls

1.       To help keep heat even in a small oven, place pieces of ceramic inside wherever there is space; bottom, on a tray, back, etc. The less the heater element cycles off and on, the less chance of scorching tiny bits of polymer clay, such as nose and fingers.

2.       Bake doll on a glass dish or ceramic tile and pad with a thin layer of poly batting or cotton on the bottom. Never use the metal tray; it may scorch the polymer clay where it touches the metal.

3.       The padding sometimes leaves marks or fibers on polymer clay so lay tissue (such as Kleenex) over the batting.

4.       Polymer clay tends to sag when heated so brace your doll with cotton balls or small glass, metal, or other objects. Remember to pad objects where clay touches, just as you did for the bottom.

5.       Small parts sometimes fall over, so make a jig to hold hands and head upright.

NOTE: There are many ways to fashion a jig. For ideas of how to make and use baking jigs, see photos of some jigs made from cork, wire and a magnet in the WIP galley at:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Making Curls

I like this photo tutorial that demonstrates how to wig a doll and how to make curls. A picture is worth a thousand words!

Wigging Tips

A good resourse to find answers to lots of your questions about wigging miniature dolls:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fabric Doll Stand

Here is a tip I want to share with you about doll stands. Many years ago I saw a method of making a doll stand upright on its own, without the aid of a metal, acrylic or wood stand, but I can’t remember where or who shared this method.
This method is only suitable for dolls with long full skirts. It is made from fusible webbing and stiff interfacing, such as Pellon and WonderUnder (find them in craft and fabric stores) plus the fabric to be used for your doll’s underwear. It is placed on the doll, underneath the doll’s petticoat.

To make the doll stand:
1. Fuse 2 pieces of stiff interfacing together with the fusible web to make a stiff ‘fabric’.
2. Then fuse a piece of the underwear fabric to each side of the interfacing ‘fabric’.
3. Cut out a cone shape from the layered/fused fabric. Allow for an overlap at the side. No hems are needed with fused fabric.
Note: If you need to make a pattern first, shape one from paper and fit it to your doll before cutting the stiff ‘fabric’. The cone should fit at the hips, be rather narrow at the bottom and the bottom edge should touch the ground.
4. After you have assembled and dressed your doll in her drawers, do a fitting of the cone to your doll’s hips and adjust as needed. Glue the overlap area about 2/3 up from the bottom and let dry.
5. Place cone on your doll and glue it to the dolls hips, not at the waist, to reduce bulk.
6. Trim the bottom edge as desired.
7. Make another regular soft fabric petticoat to go over the stiff cone shaped one. Glue it on top of the cone one.
8. Finally, costume your doll in her dress and petticoat as you normally would.


Wondering what to use for under garments for your doll to be historically correct? Check out this history of underwear site for information and illustrations:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sculpting Torsos For Fashion Silhouette

Seeing fashion silhouettes change through the ages is a helpful tool when you begin costuming. It is also helpful when shaping the torso from polymer clay to reflect the shape of the period as it is constrained by the undergarments worn.

The basic geometic shapes from 1500 to 1890 for male and female fashion can be found in drawings at this web site:

Click on the links to the pdf documents for female and male fashion silhouettes; a great reference when you are planning, sculpting and costuming a doll.

Another site with information about silhouette that is useful when planning your doll is

Painting - Using a Combination of Paint Types

This doll artist uses a combination of craft acrylic paint and heat set paint. Here is a link to her photo tutorial on painting a doll face:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Small Paint Brushes

Sometimes it is hard to find brushes tiny enough for painting features on a small scale doll. Look in your local hobby and art supply stores for Ultra Mini brushes. There are on-line source too; try Jerry's Artarama, Dick Blick Art Supplies and Micro-Mart. I'm sure there are others too.

We have found that synthetic filament works as well as natural hair with both acrylic and heat-set paint.

Not familiar with brush sizes? Ultra Mini sizes are labeled 10/0, 12/0 down to 20/0 (one of the smallest is 20/0 and is very hard to find).

Some shapes to look for are Filbert, Round, Spotter, and Liner.

Want to know more about art brushes?   Scroll down the page to read more about brushes.

Prices vary considerably from supplier to supplier. Shop around!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Painting Eyes With Heat Set Paint

Most members are trying heat set paints on their polymer clay sculpts. Using these paints is similar to using china paint as you 'set' the paint between layers. Layering is very effective when painting the eyes.

This photo tutorial (by Patricia Rose) shows some techniques when painting eyes using  heat set paints.   Try her techniques and see how they work for you.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

AIM ezine

If you have not discovered the on-line magazine called AIM, you might want to check out their back issues that you can view at:
The ezine is published monthly and contains photos of 1:12 scale miniatures and dolls that are useful for inspiration (I use miniatures as settings for dolls) as well as instruction for some accessories. The ezine sometimes has costuming tutorials too.
I enjoy seeing what other doll makers are doing and I'm sure you will too.

Some Answers to Questions About Clay

Here is a link to a web site that provides answers to many of the questions I had about working with polymer clay and that you may have too (my thanks to Jack Johnson).
I have found that there is a lot of misinformation on the web so my advice is to question what you read and be selective about information on the properties of polymer clay and how to work with it. You will find more links in past posts so be sure to check those too.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sculpting Eyes

These YouTube videos clearly demo sculpting eyes in a clay head.  It doesn’t matter what scale you are working in or what clay you are using,  the basic shapes remain the same.  I hope you find the information helpful.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Aluminum Wire

If you're having a difficult time finding small rolls of 14 and 17 gauge aluminum wire (it is sold as electric fence wire) try these suppliers:
  •  Farm/Tractor Supply stores carry it. 
  •  Hardware stores carry small rolls of aluminum wire.
  •  Home Improvement stores have it or can get it for you.
  • And if you can't find it locally, you can always order it on-line from web sites like Amazon.

Sculpting a Polymer Clay Body

The links below will take you to a 2 part video (by Nadiia Evans) that makes sculpting a realistic small scale figure seem soooo easy!

If you watch closely, it looks like this doll artist uses the series baking technique (notice the changes of clay color), an under-sculpt of polymer clay over a wire armature, and an under-sculpt on the head. She does a finial smoothing with liquid polymer clay (with a brush), a Kato clay mixture of translucent + white + flesh, and what looks like blushing with heat set paint.

Part 2

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Help! My Doll Looks Alien.

Having trouble with the canon for the head (that is, can’t make a HUMAN head and face)? The canon refers to the placement of landmarks on the human head and are, for our purpose, universal. Although all our sculpted heads are basically similar, it is the differences in size and shape of the facial features that produce an infinite variety of appearances.

There is a set of ‘rules’ about where landmarks fall on a human skull, regardless of whether or not you are trying to sculpt a pretty face or a character face. In order for your doll to be believable (i.e. not alien) these rules apply no matter what type of doll you are sculpting. For our purposes we are using a proportion of 8 heads for our 1:12 scale figures. For a doll that is 6 inches tall you will form a head that is ¾ inch from bottom of the chin to the top of the head and ¾ inch from the front to the back of the skull.

First, make a ¾ inch ball of clay and press the sides to narrow them to 2/3 the height of the head, or ½ inch. Check the clay against your proportion chart and cut off the excess. Then, identify and mark the shape of the head from the side. You can make horizontal and vertical grid lines and identify various points to assist you, and then connect the points that shape the head. Following the lines you created cut off the excess clay. Check it against your proportion chart. You will end up with a basic skull shape. To see that shape, follow this link to a tutorial for a head under-sculpt by Mark Dennis:

The face grid is also made of both vertical and horizontal lines. First, identify and calculate the horizontal lines (eye line, the bottom of the nose, the mouth, and the chin, etc) and the vertical lines (the width of the eye, the sides of the nose and mouth) and put them on your grid. There are many tutorials available that will instruct you about this (see May and July 2010 posts about the canon of the human head for links to some tutorials) and check out Kathryn Dewey’s Landmarks of the Head for lots of detail:

Only when you have formed the basic shape of the head and identified the placement of the features, do you sculpt the individual size and shape of the features; ensuring that you are sculpting a doll that looks human.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Another Armature

Instructions for a simple but strong armature for a miniature doll can be found on Mark Dennis’ Blog. This armature can be made with both 14 and 17 gauge aluminum wire or 18 gauge galvanized steel wire and will be strong enough for our small scale dolls (and will work for dolls up to 14 inches). You will find it at:

Friday, February 25, 2011

How To Use A Push Mold - Baby

For Guild members that choose to use a polymer clay push mold to help them with their doll making, here is a you tube video that I found. It shows how to fill a mold, pull the clay out of the mold, refine the features and remove the flashing. The molded clay is series baked and then there is a demonstration about how to attach raw clay to cured clay (an excellent tutorial, thanks to White Gothic Studio). Check it out at:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Armature Tutorial

Check out this video tutorial on making a simple wire armature and an under-sculpt using a two part epoxy:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why Pre-wash Fabric?

When fabric is manufactured, threads are stretched on a loom, pulling fibers into an unnaturally straight position. Coatings are added to help stabilize the threads and keep them taut. Fabrics arrive from the manufacturer coated with sizing and other chemicals that give them a crisp feel and make them easy to rotary cut. Pre-washing relaxes the fibers and removes most of the chemicals from fabric.

How to Pre-wash Your Fabrics: Wash your fabric in cool water with a mild non-alkaline soap (like Ivory Liquid or baby bhampoo). If you have hard water, you can add a spoonful of borax. While rinsing, add a few tablespoons of distiled white vinegar to dissolve soap residue.

For cotton keep wrinkles to a minimum by drying fabrics with low heat and removing them from the dryer as soon as they are dry. Either press fabrics right away or press them when you are ready to use them. After removing fabrics from the dryer, use clothespins to suspend segments from hangers until you are sure they are completely dry before they are folded and stashed away. If you prefer to work with stiffer fabric, use spray starch or sizing to reintroduce body.

For silk fabrics, do not dry in your dryer as it can cause damage; heat dulls the fabric and may shrink it, and friction from the dryer drum might cause yarn breaks or white streaks. Most wrinkles can be removed by hanging the fabric in the bathroom during a shower. The humidity will do the work for you. If necessary, pres on the back side while the fabric is damp with the iron on the low heat or silk setting. Do not wet in spots as that will leave rings.

You will be glad you did not skip this step!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sculpting a Pretty Face

Most Guild members have a favorite tutorial that has helped them learn how to sculpt a doll’s face. My favorite one is a four page follow-along photo tutorial on sculpting a female face. I wanted to share these links with you. These pages are detailed step-by-step photos for you to follow along (many thanks to Patricia Rose for offering this free tutorial)

Don't forget to bring your sculpt for Show and Tell!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Got Moonies?

Moonies are imperfections on the surface of cured polymer clay. We have read that it is mostly trapped air and/or moisture. Moonies look like little whitish blisters (some resembling a sliver of a moon) on baked clay. Moonies seem to be a common problem for all polymer clay doll makers.  

We think it is best to try to avoid Moonies. Here are the many suggestions I have heard about on how to eliminate trapped air; be sure to press the clay tightly onto the wire armature ; when adding clay to the sculpt, press and roll the edges firmly; examine the clay surface carefully before baking and If you see a little pale spot on the sculpt, prick with a pin and press to expel trapped air; when using crumpled foil as an under-sculpt, be sure to compact the foil to expel all trapped air; and when using a press mold, push the clay halves together and seam firmly so that no air gets trapped inside. Some say that the longer the uncured sculpt sits around, the more you end up with dirt, Moonies and other imperfections that show up on the surface of the cured clay.

So what to do if you have Moonies? You may want to try to save your sculpt…First use a knife and carefully scrape out the imperfection. Then, wet the area of the repair with Liquid Sculpey. Fill the void with the same blend of polymer clay you used on your sculpt. Be sure to feather the clay into the surrounding cured clay. Then use your heat gun to set the fresh clay. Hold the heat gun about six inches away from the fresh clay and keep the heat gun moving to avoid overheating the clay (it only takes about 30 seconds). Sometimes you can cover a Moonie with the costume. Or, if there are many Moonies, you could paint the entire sculpt with several layers of heat -set flesh colored paint, covering them up. No solution that we  know of really 'fixes' Moonies.