Our weekly techniques challenge is to make a Spirit Doll. The idea of a spirit doll came from Barb Owen. She is a wonderful artist and a fantastic teacher. Barb has been one of my favorite you-tubers for a long time. She’s insightful, compassionate, and just a terrific person. I have been truly blessed by her work and her lovely, joyful personality. (And I love “the sponsors!”)
What is a spirit doll? My interpretation of what a spirit doll is might be different than many, but for me it is a way of focusing on a spiritual area I want to work on in my own life. I give my spirit dolls the name of the attribute or area of spiritual growth I am focusing on. For example: I may name my next spirit doll Understanding, as in being understanding in my dealings with others in my life. Another name might be Compassion. Or Wisdom. Strength. Peace. Gratitude. Love. Any of these might be a name for a spirit doll.
If the words spirit doll bother you, just don’t call yours that. Make your doll just for fun, or as a reminder of a loved one or person of influence in your life. You can make your doll look like a mermaid, an elf, a construction worker. Pick a holiday and make your doll based on that…There are countless things you can do with this project.
I sketched out a pattern on an 8 1/2 by 11″ piece of paper. I made the body and head larger than I wanted the doll to be, as you need some extra for the edges. If you prefer-you can skip the legs and arms and just make a triangular shaped body with a round head on top of it.
Now, once you have your pattern drawn-(there is a free pattern on Barb’s website if you prefer that one)-Barb attaches hers to a plastic sheet. You can use plastic leftover from one of the boxes toys come in. The heavy-weight, flat plastic. If you don’t have any, attach the pattern to a piece of chipboard. Use glue sticks or Aileene’s tacky glue to stick the pattern down onto the plastic or chipboard. Cut out the pattern carefully once it’s on the plastic or chipboard. Cut the face oval from clear plastic if possible, as you can see through it which is really helpful later in the process.
Barb has face stamps she uses for her dolls. I don’t have any of those, so I drew the face onto a scrap piece of thin pale fabric (larger than the oval piece) with my waterproof ink pen. (If you want you can find a copyright free face on line and use that as your pattern.) Use whatever color ink you prefer. (Barb used brown, I believe.) These are meant to be fun, happy faces.
Now, if desired, use some colored pencils or pastels to shade the face. Make the color slightly darker than the color of the fabric. Once you have the shadows on your face, add some highlights with a lighter color. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it does give your face a bit more life. Add a light cheek color to the balls of the cheeks and a slightly darker color on the lips. Add your eye color. You can lighten the color slightly in areas with some white. This gives the eye some life. Use a dark color for her eyeliner. Fill in the pupil with a waterproof black ink pen. You can add some eyelashes and eyeliner with the black pen as well. This needs to be a very fine tipped pen. With a very fine tipped white paint pen, add your highlight. Make sure they both point in the same direction so the eyes look like they’re looking at the same spot. Otherwise she’ll look cross-eyed or walleyed. Barb covers her face with workable fixative, which I don’t have. I sprayed mine with clear matte finish from Krylon.
Trace your dolls body over your fabric. I like to use Batiks for this. (Barb used fabric she made herself. I have made this fabric too, but I prefer to use my own scrap fabrics rather than the stuff I made myself.) Only cut the shape for one side of the doll, and use a square or rectangle piece for the second. Barb-who is a sewer and I am not-says this is way easier than trying to stitch the two identical pieces together. Leave an opening so you can stuff your doll. Stitch the body and backside together. Leave about an eighth of an inch from the edge of your fabric. Once you’ve stitched the doll, leaving an opening for stuffing, remove from your machine. (If you want, you can make several bodies for several dolls at one time. This is a great way to use up scrap fabrics, and you can combine any two fabrics you want. If you like batiks but find them expensive, use another cheaper type for the back side of the doll. Anything works with these dolls.)
Stuff your doll loosely with fiberfill or cotton batting. I used the white stuff you use for snow at Christmas time, which is what was handy. Don’t stuff her so full she’s stiff and hard. Once she’s stuffed, go back to the machine and close the opening where you stuffed her. Now trim off threads and the excess fabric from the back piece. Take your time to do this, there is no hurry.
Once your dolls body is finished, it’s time to add the face we made earlier. You can use Aileene’s tacky glue for this as well. I smear the glue on the backside of the face and add it to the face area of the doll. Smooth carefully, making sure you have good adhesion to the dolls body.
Now comes the fun part of the whole process. You get to decorate your spirit doll! Gather scraps of yarn, ribbon, trims, fabric scraps, beads, broken jewelry pieces, whatever you can think of for decoration on your doll.
Using our trusty Aileene’s Tacky glue, add your trims or fibers to your dolls head for hair. Use a clothespin to hold the hair in place until it dries if necessary. Add to the back of the head too if you want. Include beads as a headband or add a flower in her hair. Add bows or buttons on her body. Make jewelry for her wrists or as a necklace. If you want to add words to her, now’s the time to do that. Perhaps her name or her first initial. Play with your stuff and make her uniquely yours.
Let her dry completely and enjoy her.