There are lots of different types of fabrics that can be used to make dolls. Learn which doll making fabrics I like to use when making my animal doll sewing patterns.
People often ask me: “What is the best fabric for making dolls?" When you start making dolls the number of fabrics to choose from can be a little overwhelming. You are about to spend a few hours making a doll. The last thing you want is for the quality of the fabric to spoil how it looks or how long the doll lasts. Luckily for you, some good-quality branded fabrics are widely available and are the perfect fabric for doll making.
Fabric for the doll’s body
I have designed my animal doll sewing patterns to be made with linen or cotton or fabric made from a blend of the two. Cotton and linen are strong and easy to sew, making them perfect for beginners.
There are different types of cotton and linen fabrics. For doll making, you should look for a medium-weight fabric with a tight, even weave. If the fabric is too thin, it might not be strong enough to withhold stuffing. If it is too thick it could be tricky to turn the limbs right side out, and the curves on the body will not be as smooth and rounded. Some linen fabrics have a loose weave which frays easily, making them harder to sew and more likely to tear when stuffed.
When choosing a cotton fabric, opt for 100% cotton. It's tempting to buy poly cotton because it is cheaper, but it feels rougher and is stiffer. The doll won't be as cuddly, and the body won't shape as nicely if you use poly cotton.
I like to use Robert Kaufman Kona solid cotton fabric for doll making. It is 100% cotton and of excellent quality. It is widely available and comes in a wide range of colours.
My favourite fabric for making my animal doll sewing patterns is a blend of cotton and linen called Essex Linen. It is designed by Robert Kaufman and is easy to find. It is the perfect combination of soft and sturdy. It is available in some lovely colours, perfect for making animal dolls.
Finding a pure linen fabric suitable for doll making can be tricky. There is a lot of variation and a lack of a widely available go-to brand. Linen is generally more expensive than cotton, so I would recommend trying to buy it in a shop rather than online if you can. If you are buying online, ask the shop if they can send you a sample first.
Choose linen that is a light-medium weight with a tight weave. Avoid linen fabric that is rigid or very textured. Linen fabric from Eastern Europe is usually high quality.
Other body fabrics
People often ask me whether jersey, plush or fleece fabric is suitable to make the body. These fabrics are more stretchy than cotton or linen and would result in a different body shape. It would be impossible to design clothes that I could guarantee would fit dolls made with stretchier fabrics. For this reason, I do not recommend using these fabrics for making the dolls with my sewing patterns.
Fabric for the doll’s ears
Using plush or faux fur fabrics for the animal doll’s ears is fun. They feel nice, and the combination of textures gives them more character. The bunny and dog dolls look especially cute with fur or plush ears.
I like using plush/minky fabrics made by Shannon fabrics. They are silky soft and cuddly and perfect for doll making. Faux fur can be a bit more tricky to find. Some fur fabrics are designed for upholstery and have a thick, solid back which is unsuitable for making dolls. Instead, you want one with a thin, soft backing that will be easier to shape. If you can, go to a shop to buy fur fabric so you can see it yourself. If you are buying online, ask if it is a suitable fabric for making dolls and ask for a sample.
I often use felt to sew features on my doll sewing patterns. I recommend using 1mm thick 100% wool felt. If you can't find 100% wool felt, choose one containing as much wool in it as possible. Avoid felt made entirely from man-made fibres as it bobbles easily and can lose its shape.
Making doll-size clothes is handy because you can use leftover pieces of fabric or buy fat quarters. You can make the doll meaningful by repurposing clothing from a loved one to make the clothes. I love it when people use leftover fabric from making clothes to make a matching outfit for the doll.
Medium-weight cotton is easiest to make the doll clothes with if you are new to sewing. Patchwork or quilting cotton is perfect and comes in endless pretty designs. Some popular brands include Moda, Makover, Riley Blake and Lewis & Irene. Liberty of London is one of my favourites.
Light-weight cotton lawn fabrics make lovely doll clothes but are more tricky to sew and can sometimes cost more. Liberty Tana lawn fabrics are beautiful if you want to make an extra-special doll. Gingham, chambray and Broderie Anglaise fabric are also well suited to making doll clothes.
Keeping track of which fabrics you have used
It is frustrating when you fall in love with using fabric and forget what it is called or where you bought it! I designed these handy fabric swatches to keep myself organised. They can be printed in sheets and stored in a folder so you can quickly see your fabrics without needing to pull them all out. I like to cut them into smaller cards and place them side-by-side to see which fabrics work well together when I plan a doll.
Choosing which fabrics to use is one of the most enjoyable things about making dolls. There are endless possibilities to make your doll unique. What is your favourite fabric for doll making? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.
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