Friday, June 27, 2008

TOOLS OF THE TRADE - Cloth Doll Making

I imagine every cloth doll artist has their own favorite tools and products they use to create their dolls. I thought I'd share information as to some of the tools, and other products I have been using for the past 10 years, in the creation of my fiber sculpted fantasy creations, and where they can be purchased. If it wouldn't be for these products, I would find it very hard to create any of my fantasy figures.

The first and most important tool, for me, are alligator forcepts, and hemostats. I have several different sizes in each category, and would be totally lost without them! They work like magic when turning my tiny bodies, arms, and legs inside out. They are what I use for stuffing all of my creations. They come in several different sizes. Below is a photo of only a few of the ones I use. I must have about a dozen different ones. The largest works for stuffing my 15" size creations. The smaller ones work great for arms, necks, and legs of my smaller size creations.

The next items I use for bonding are FABRI-TAC, and BOND 527. Fabric-Tac is indispensible for bonding fabrics to fabrics, silk flowers, yarns, and whatever other material in the fabric family. It grabs fasts and is quick to dry! It is a permanent adhesive, and the bottle states that it will bond not only fabric, but lace, trim leather and wood. I myself, wouldn't use it to bond leather or wood.

For that type of material, I use BOND 527. As an example, I use this product when gluing a pin's fabric face to the brass metal backing I use for the pin's back. It will also cement, my mermaids, to wood, or real starfish. It is fast drying, and once it drys will hold fast!! There are a lot of other bonding cements out there, but I have found this to be the VERY best, and have been using it for years. It drys clear! I even happened to leave one of my "fairy face" pins on one of my outfits, which went through the washer and dryer without any ill effects. The pins' face never came away from the brass backing! I NEVER use hot glue on any of my creations. Everything is hand-sewn onto the creation whenever possible, and then a dot or two of Bond 527, to really secure it in place. This product goes a long way, as you don't need that much to secure smaller objects.

I discovered 3D Crystal Lacquer quite a few years ago, and have been using it ever since. I found it gives my creation's eyes a wonderful "life-like", 3-dimensional look and shine. It really brings the face alive! The only flaw, if you could call it that, is you have to be VERY careful to make certain that the tiny needle applicator tip is entirely clean, or the tip will plug up. The applicator tips come two to a pack with a tiny "stick pin" to put in the tip to clean it. I found that it doesn't work all that great, and it is best to use a piece of 28 gage wire. See photo below. That way you can pull the wire back and forth to make sure it isn't sticking, and it is easier to pull out of the tip, when you want to use it again. If you haven't tried this product for your doll's eyes and lips...give it a try! It really makes a difference.

The next product that is essential to the creation of my fiber sculptures is "fabric coated floral" wires. This is what I use for armatures, in the bodies, wings, and tail fins of my mermaids. I also use it in the creation of my "butterfly" pins. The sizes I use the most are 18 gage and 20 gage. For my larger sculptures I use a heavier 16 gage size. I used to be able to find these sizes in most stores, that have a floral section, but the past year or so a lot of these places haven't been carrying this size of gages. I now buy them out on the web at:


They have a nice smooth finish, and are a better quality then some Ihave used in the past.

Another product that I would be lost without is the Micron pen! I use the .005 size for drawing the features on the silk, fabric face, and also, for the eyelashes. These pens can be found shops such as Michaels, or any art store. I sometimes by them out on-line if shops in my area don't carry the small .005 size I need. I've found over the last couple of years that some of the supplies I use on a constant basis are getting harder and harder to find in area shops. I do a lot of my purchasing of these items out on the web.

When painting the faces of my creations, I use the two types of brushes shown above. The black and red brush is one I've found to work the best. It is by Loew-Cornell - 18/0 size, called a spotter. I usually can pick these up at a Michaels store. The price is in the $4.00 range. The other brush is also a "spotter" and the size is 10/0. This brush is about $2.00.

Two of my favorite on-line shops which carry just about all the products I use, and a lot, lot more are:




I may be adding more products and suppliers to this post, so do stop back. If there are any cloth doll makers out there that have special products which they use in their creations, and would like to share them, please feel free to contact me at: I will be happy to add your ideas to this article, and also a link to a shop if you have one.

1 comment:

twenty pound tabby said...

We use a lot of the same tools, including my favorite brush - Loew-Cornell 18/0 spotter which I use my Hobby Lobby coupons to get quite often. But my favorite tool of all is the ear polypus! Our GP was surprised to see me using it to turn doll pins while waiting for my daughter.

Still searching for a glue I like as much as Grrrip.