How to sculpt a cloth doll face

Soft sculpture, such as creating the features on a cloth doll head, can be challenging the first few times you try it. Often you will develop a look that you like through trial and error so it is a good idea to make up several practice heads when you are first starting so that you won't feel pressure or anxiety to make the head perfect on your first few trials.

Select a head pattern you like (they are available free online). Cut out three to five sets of heads. Choose a tight fabric like Southern Belle Muslim in the shade you like. Wash and dye the fabric if the correct colour isn't available.

Place your sewing machine at its smallest stitch setting and sew the heads. Turn the head right side out and stuff with fibre fill. A firm head is a good place to start.

Draw the features onto the doll head using simple lines. This will give you a pattern to start with. Keep in mind that exaggerated features often look more real than small features.

Thread a 4 1/2-inch beading needle. These needles are often very thin and very long. The thinner the needle the less obvious the needle hole will be. Select a thread that is as close to the fabric colour as possible. Enter the head through a side seam. Bring the point of the needle up along side the bottom of the nose.

Shape the bottom of the nose by determining how far apart your first stitch should be. The wider apart the stitch the more defined the bottom of the nose will be. For a doll head about the size of a golf ball, the bottom of the nose stitch should be one-quarter to three-eighths of an inch apart. Pull your needle out of the head and pull the thread until the end of the thread disappears inside the seam.

Press your needle into the fabric two or three threads away from where your needle came up the first time. Bring your needle up directly across to the other side of the bottom of the nose or about three-eighths inch across the face horizontally. Pull on the thread until the nose just starts to pull together. Because you cannot start your sewing with a knot, your stitching at the beginning should be careful so that you do not pull the entire thread through. After a few stitches the stitches will act like a knot.

Move your needle three threads above where it exited, pierce through and under the nose fabric area bringing your needle up three threads above the last stitch on that side. This time you can pull the thread a bit more tightly and see the bottom of the nose taking shape. Continue stitching up the nose gradually shortening your stitches as a nose tapers and is smaller at the top than at the bottom. You will quickly get the feel for how wide or narrow to make your nose.

Sew your eyes with the same type of under stitch from one corner of the eye to the other. This will contour the eyeball area. Some artists also satin stitch along the lash lines. Add dimples by sewing from one cheek, through the head to the other cheek with several stitches. Contour the mouth by starting in the middle between the lips, to one corner, back just beyond your middle stitch and not quite to the corner. Continue and this will allow you to pull the middle line of the lips back.

Shape each lip by undersewing from the top of the lip to the middle or from the middle to the bottom of the lower lip. Use the understitch to round the lip areas. Shape the ears by understitching the top of the ear first and then by making a bigger lobe. Do your ears last so that you will have the most practice before you reach them.


The understitch is the stitch inside the doll head. The stitch you see on the doll face is the anchor that you are using to pull the understitch thread which is where the contour takes place.

Things You'll Need

  • Head pattern
  • Southern Belle Muslin
  • Sewing machine
  • Fibre fill
  • 4 1/2-inch beading needle
  • Mini pliers
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About the Author

F.R.R. Mallory has been published since 1996, writing books, short stories, articles and essays. She has worked as an architect, restored cars, designed clothing, renovated homes and makes crafts. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with bachelor's degrees in psychology and English. Her fiction short story "Black Ice" recently won a National Space Society contest.