I promised you more information about stuffing in my tutorial “How To Stuff A Doll (Part One),” and here it is! This tutorial is about taking control of the stuffing, rather than letting it take control of you. In other words, make it do what YOU want it to do!
But before I can talk to you about how to stuff, I really need to talk about the tool with which you’ll want to stuff. Here’s where I say, “ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY HEMOSTAT!” Seriously, it’s the best invention EVER. A hemostat is also called a “surgical forcep,” but don’t let that creep you out. It’s really just a handy pair of pliers with handles like scissors and the ability to clamp down on something, which makes it perfect for stuffing. Why? Because you can grip even the smallest amount of the slipperiest stuffing, insert it into your doll and put it EXACTLY where you want it. Brilliant, yes?
So, now that you know all about the Almighty Hemostat, it’s time to actually stuff something. Hopefully you’ve seen my previous tutorial, “How To Turn a Doll Right Side Out.” This tutorial picks up where that one left off, with a sewn and turned doll, like this:
Whether your piece is big or small, you don’t want to fill up areas all at once. Let me repeat that – whether you are stuffing a small arm as for the Happytown Play Sets or a big, round head or body for a doll like Matilda, Poppy or Rosie, the method is the same. The idea is to layer differing amounts of stuffing into each area, and to work section by section. For example, take a look at the turned doll in the photo above. I consider her head to be one section, her neck to be the next section, each of her shoulders to be a separate section, her chest and waist area to be another section, and then finally her hips are the last section. “How To Stuff A Doll – Part One” covers the info about small/medium/large amounts of stuffing. (Check that out if you haven’t already.)
So for this piece I would start with the top of her head, pushing each bundle of stuffing as far in as it will go. First I put some in the center, then to the left, then to the right. Then I put some in the front, then the back. The point here is to try to maintain symmetry as you go. No, it’s not going to look perfect immediately (you’ll see an example of that further down), but as you work on each area, at least attempt to make it even.
Once the head is really firmly stuffed, take a good look at it before you proceed to the next section. Does it look good from the front? From the back? Is one cheek smaller than the other? This is where the hemostat is particularly helpful, because once you have an area that stuffed firmly enough, now you can go in and direct small amounts of stuffing to fill up weak spots or even out an area like a cheek, chin or forehead. Don’t skip this step, because if you stuff the rest of her, are way down by her hips and THEN notice that one side of her face is flatter than the other, it’s really difficult…OK, almost impossible….to get back up to her head to fine-tune those areas.
In the photo above, I’ve worked on her head (and perhaps a bit of her neck and shoulders), but one side of her face is flatter than the other side. I might need to take out a bit of the stuffing in the neck so I can add more to the flat side of the face.
In addition to adding small amounts of stuffing here and there, you can also shape it with your fingers. Depending on the type of stuffing you use, this can either have a significant effect or not. But I always combine targeted stuffing and shaping as I go.
See the difference? Now she looks like she’s supposed to look – she has a nice firm head and rounded cheeks and even shoulders. And even though this piece (which is from one of my Happytown Play Sets) is not really very big (maybe about 3 inches tall at this stage), I still spent a little bit of time on her – enough to make sure she looks good.
I really, really, REALLY don’t like stuffed dolls or toys that aren’t firm. When they have caved-in sides or obvious weak spots, I know that with just a little bit more stuffing (and some attention to detail) they could be much, much better.
I hope this has been helpful for you. Next up will be a tutorial about which stuffing to use, so keep an eye out for that in the near future!
And you can find all of the patterns for the Happytown Play Sets in my Etsy shop.