Needle sculpting uses a long, thin needle and thread to sculpt features in soft-bodied dolls, and is not often used in the creation of commercially produced stuffed animals. Needle sculpting is considered a traditional or primitive method of feature construction because it requires only a simple cloth doll body. In this process, the facial and body features of the doll are created by pulling the stuffing into shapes and fixing them in place with needle and thread.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- Stuffed cloth doll body
- Long beading needle or doll-making needle
- Monofilament Thread
Hold your cloth doll firmly, then sketch the features lightly in pencil to create a guideline. Clearly mark the eyes, nose and mouth. Make sure that the features fit the face in size and shape. Create a guide for the nose by drawing two parallel lines of equal length between the eyes. Make two round nostrils of equal size. Add the end of the nose -- this can be rounded, angular or flat depending on the look of your doll. Create a guide for the mouth by drawing a capital "D" turned on its side. Add the bow for the top lip, and another curved line for the bottom lip. Erase mistakes.
Cut an 18-inch length of the monofilament thread. Thread the needle and tie a slipknot in one end. Insert your needle into the top of the head, snag a bit of the fabric, and then push the needle out. Slide your needle through the slipknot and pull tight on the thread to create a firm knot.
Push the needle through the top of the head and guide the point out through the upper part of the nose. Start the first stitch at the top of the left parallel line of the nose. Pinch the bridge of the nose and insert the needle as close to its exit as possible. Push the needle with a scooping motion to trap stuffing between the stitch and fabric. Pull the needle out on the opposite side of the nose.
Insert the needle below the exit point of the previous stitch, scooping under the fabric and stuffing, coming out below the stitch on the other side. Keep your stitches tight and close together while you stitch back and forth down the bridge of the nose. Continue until you reach the top of the nostril.
Insert the needle through the top of the nostril, scooping material and stuffing, and exit at the bottom of the nose. Stitch the nostril as you did the bridge of the nose, moving to the side of the previous stitch, scooping under the stuffing and exiting next to the stitch on the top. Stop after three or four stitches when your needle is at the top of the nostril. Loop around the outside of the nostril and insert your needle through the hole left by the previous upward stitch. Move diagonally to the top of the opposite nostril and repeat. Finish the nostril and push the needle through to the back of the head. Tie off.
Thread the needle again. Make a slipknot in the top of the doll's head, then push the needle through the head, emerging at the left corner of the top lip. Insert the needle close to the previous stitch, scoop fabric and stuffing and exit through the bottom of the lip. Move back and forth until you've completed the top lip. Repeat for the bottom. Insert the needle into the corner of the mouth and push it through the top of the doll's head. Tie a knot and cut the thread.
Tips and warnings
- Make another head to practice on until you get the features exactly as you want them.
- Do not rely on pulling the thread to create the shape of your doll -- pinch the stuffing and use the stitch to hold it in place.
- Do not pull the thread too tightly while you are sculpting or you will deform the back of the head.
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