My First Tilda Doll

Perfection is very difficult to achieve in a human being – but in a Tilda doll, everything is possible.  Making my first Tilda doll was the start of what I know will be a long and happy journey.  Let me inspire you to make your own – or – contact me and request a custom order made just for you.  All my profits are donated to charity and everything I create makes good use of up-cycled waste materials.

Project Overview

Tilda dolls were invented by the very talented Norwegian fabric designer Toné Finnanger back in 1999.  The original dolls never have a mouth or eyebrows – their beauty is in their pretty hair and elaborate layered dresses and accessories.

Tilda dolls are intended to be “perfectly imperfect” – they are whimsical individuals and each has her own personality and attitude to life.  You are quite likely to find a pair of wellies tucked under an elaborate layered ball gown!

A handmade doll takes hours of patient work and attention to detail.  When you are aiming at achieving a perfect result, there is no room for compromise.  The great thing with sewing is that you can usually fairly easily undo your stitches and start over if you want to, so there is no excuse for creating anything less than perfection.  If you want to make your first Tilda doll, I hope my tips and tricks section will help you create an heirloom piece that you can be really proud of.  Keep her yourself, giver her away as a gift to someone special, or – have a heart and donate her to raise much needed funds for charity.

I have a confession to make – this wasn’t actually the first Tilda doll I have ever made.  My very first doll was pretty enough, but I made every mistake in the book creating her and learned such a lot in the process.  Sharing all those tips and tricks with you is what I hope makes this website a useful resource.  So – take the creative journey with me and discover how I made my first Tilda doll – well the first one I think is good enough for sharing anyway.

If embarking on a complex project like this isn’t quite your cup of tea – or you don’t have the time available to devote to it just now – then contact me and let me make a doll for you.  Or visit my Etsy shop – if you are lucky, there might be a doll sitting on the shelf there just waiting to find a good home!

This doll will, I hope, be the first of many.  Keep reading to see what future dolls will look like and where life will take them…

 

Turned Tilda doll - ready for stuffing
Turned, pressed and ready to stuff
Tilda doll ready for dress
Now - what SHALL I wear?
Tilda Doll almost completed
So cute - FaceTime please?
Tilda Doll Hair
It's FaceTime ...
Tilda Doll Feet
Dancing feet ...
Tilda Doll Finished Face

What You Will Need

Step-by-Step Guide

Time needed: 4 days

This was my first Tilda doll – I am hoping I might get quicker with practice, but creating something this beautiful is not something to be rushed.  Take your time and enjoy yourself!

I used the Tilda Summer Ideas book to make my pattern – available from Amazon.  This book has lots of other lovely patterns in it and some good tips and advice too, so well worth the investment I think.  When I find something particularly helpful on Amazon, I like to include a link to it so you can find it easily.  I use affiliate links, so if you buy any of the products in my posts by clicking on the links directly, Heart Up-Cycling earns a small commission which I can donate to charity..

  1. Be sure to add a 1/4 inch seam allowance to your pattern before you begin!
  2. Then, wash and iron your fabric, so your doll is washable if she gets into any mishaps later in life.
  3. What to Wear?  Choose fabrics and trims (three skirts – two trims per skirt) to give your doll her own personality.
  4. Giving it some shape – trace out your pattern. Decide on your fabric layout,  cut your fabric into strips to suit accordingly and stitch them together.  Place your pattern pieces to correspond with the seam lines marked on your pattern (see the images below for guidance).  You’ll need 4 legs and arms and two heads/bodies.  How you place the fabric determines whether you doll will have gloves and boots to match, bare shoulders or covered etc.
  5. STITCH BEFORE CUTTING!  This really is the very best tip I can give you – cut AFTER sewing, not before!  Stitch starting at one side of the opening for each piece (dotted lines), so you can sew all round the pieces in one go.  Clip curves with small, sharp scissors to aid turning.
  6. The lady is ready for turning …  Use long handled haemostats to grip the fabric and pull it through – great for tiny arms and legs!  You can also use them to push the seams out neatly from the inside before you iron them flat.
  7. Now for the tough stuff …  Stuff using tiny pieces of stuffing and your haemostats.  This bit is SLOW – but makes or breaks the finished doll.  You are aiming for a really firm finish – not a wrinkly, lumpy looking doll!  When you think you really can’t get any more stuffing in – you can – trust me – JUST KEEP ON GOING.  Feel where more stuffing is needed by closing your eyes and feeling with your fingers.
  8. Legs 11 …  Attach the back of the legs to the front of the body and hand tack in place before stitching.  Leave a little room to add some more stuffing after you have stitched the seam.  Hand close the back seam using mattress stitch.  Take care with every stitch – what is the first thing everyone does when they are given a new baby doll to hold?  Yes – they lift up her skirt to see what’s underneath.  Your tiny hand stitch will be the first thing they see, so make sure that they are really neat!
  9. I’m still armless …?  Fold in the extra seam allowance on the arms and press in place.  Pin to the body all around to secure and hand stitch.  You have to be prepared wiggle and jiggle a bit and be careful not to prick your finger in the process.
  10. Now – for the really fun stuff! …  Trim your skirts and then sew with a French seam (right sides together, sew close to the edge, trim away the excess, then press and stitch again to enclose the raw edges).  This gives a really neat, professional finish – way nicer than using pinking shears.
  11. Trim and hem the top of the skirt, then gather to fit your doll using two rows of stitching (in case one breaks when you pull it up) and a long stitch width (e.g. 5).  Attach skirts using two rows of stitches – leave the gathering threads nice and long so there is plenty to use to sew the skirts securely to the body.
  12. Look at me – I’m just so cute!  Add trims to shoulders, cuffs and boots just as you wish – every doll has her own unique style.
  13. Time to put my face on!  This is where a doll really begins to become real for me.  Sew tiny beads onto the face for eyes – or use a small dot of black paint (e.g. from a Tilda Face Painting Kit). – or do as I did and use three strands of embroidery silk worked as a French Knot stitch.  You can push pins through the back of the head to get the placing exactly correct.  There are two schools of thought about whether it is best to do he face or the hair first.  I like to do the face first because then, she can keep an eye on what you are doing with her hairstyle later (?!) and also, if you use thread to make the eyes, you can make sure that the knots at the back of her head are completely hidden by the doll’s hair.  A dab of blush (your own will probably work just fine) and she’s all ready to face the camera.
  14. A hairdresser is a girl’s best friend. I used wool roving and a felting needle to make my doll’s hair.  It’s super easy to do – just push the needle into the wool and right through to the head to attach it.  No needles, no glue, no worries.

Your finished doll is finally all set and ready to go on her own journey – I wonder where life will take her …?

Heart Up-Cycling!

Heart Upcycling Logo
  • Stuffing made from re-cycled plastic bottles
  • Breathe new life into an old bed sheet – they make great underskirts for a dolls.
  • I used ribbons from my stash to decorate my doll. I save every ribbon – including those you get on a clothes to help them stay neat on the hanger which I find always stick out where they are not wanted unless you trim them off!
  • I used sequins which were once attached to this sarong to decorate the neck of my doll.  What will the rest of the beads and the sarong itself be turned into I wonder?  Keep reading to find out!
Beads from sarong - ready for upcycling
Upcycled pink bed sheet for Tilda doll underskirt
Polyester stuffing made from recycled plastic bottles
Sarong for Upcycling

Tips and Tricks

  • Square up your fabrics before you start pinning pattern pieces.  Use a rotary cutter and a cutting mat to cut off the excess fabric after you have squared up the selvedges.
  • Mark up your seam allowances using a cocktail stick to space your marker pen (measure 1/4 inch when you attach it with a rubber band).
  • Keep a small, super sharp pair of scissors for clipping curves right up close to the stitch line. I don’t use mine for any other task.
  • Your iron really is your best friend – set your stitches by pressing all your pieces on the front and back every time you stitch.
  • A mini iron is great for attaching the skirts – much easier than a normal sized iron.  
  • Pin your seam lines together before you sew – and hand tack, if you have time – to ensure your seams match exactly.
  • Long doll needles are really handy for attaching the arms – much easier than a regular sized needle.
  • Use good quality, strong thread with polyester and make sure it isn’t too old, as they do deteriorate.  This is especially important for gathering up the skirts.
  • Use a short stitch length to sew the doll – e.g. 2 – to prevent the seam breaking when you stuff – stuffing is really hard on seams!
  • If you want to get all your ribbon bows an identical size, use a bow maker.  I bought mine from the Dollhouse Draper years ago – a nifty little gadget for a tiny price.

Sources of Inspiration

I found a great source of inspiration in Salty Katie’s You Tube series on how to make a Tilda Doll.  Thanks so much for posting these Katie!

The official Tilda website is a great source of inspiration too.  

You can find free patterns here for other items in the Tilda range – click on the link to the website opposite.

Meet More of my Tilda Dolls

If you love Tilda dolls, you might like to read about some of the other dolls I have made.  There are new tips and tricks in every post.

Would you like a Doll made especially for you?

Request Printable PDF Instructions

A Printable PDF Instruction Sheet for making your own Tilda Doll is available incorporating all the Tips and Tricks of previous posts.  

Please contact me to request a downloadable PDF file (Subscribers only).

This Post Has One Comment

  1. lsmbwiki.busybear.fi

    Your style is really unique compared to other folks I have read stuff from.

    Many thanks for posting when you have the opportunity.

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