Tilda dolls are so beautiful – but they aren’t suitable for babies or small children, for safety reasons. I wanted to make a gift for a friend of mine who has recently had a beautiful baby daughter – little Lila – so I adapted one of the patterns in the Tilda’s Summer Ideas book to create my own version of a baby Tilda doll.
I wanted to keep the doll very simple with none of the beads/ribbons/embellishments that you would normally find on a full scale Tilda doll. It is so tempting to add these once you have finished all the hard work of making the doll, but they are not baby friendly, so I resisted.
I love the way handmade dolls are unique – each has her own character. Their character starts to form as soon as you begin to pick out the fabrics and trims you will use to make your doll and develops further when you get to the tricky part of making the face and adding hair. Making a doll as a gift is always such a great pleasure for me. I had great fun imagining all the games that little Lila might play with her new friend as she grows up.
My doll is off on her way to Lila now, looking for a lifetime of love. Happily, I have no doubt that is exactly what she will find.
All the tips and tricks I included in my first Tilda doll post also apply to making a baby Tilda doll, so I won’t repeat them all here. Here is a link to the original post if you want to refresh your memory. There are a few extra tips for making a baby Tilda doll though which I have included on this post.
I have also included a short video on this post which I hope gives you a little more detail on what I think is always the trickiest part of making a doll – the face and hair.
The best part of making this doll for me was that I didn’t need to buy any new materials for her. She is made entirely from scraps leftover from making the large version of the doll. Heart Up-Cycling!
Watch a Baby Tilda Doll Come to Life ...
Time needed: 1 day
This was my first baby Tilda doll. I think. with practice, I could easily make one in half a day – but what’s the rush?!
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..
- Remember to add 1/4 inch seam allowances throughout!
- First decide how to place your fabrics to achieve the finished result you want for your doll. I allowed 3cm for her feet/shoes, 7cm for her legs, 6cm for her bloomers and 15.5 cm for the rest of her body, but you can play about with different lengths according to your doll’s character and what fabrics you have available to you. How you place the fabric determines whether you doll will have gloves and boots to match, bare shoulders or covered etc.
- Attach your fabrics together. Decide on your fabric layout, cut your fabric into strips to suit accordingly and then stitch them together allowing 1/4 inch seams throughout. Make sure your pattern can be placed in line with the straight grain of the fabric scraps you are using so your doll holds her shape nicely. You will need two sets of joined fabrics – one for her back and one for her front.
- Press the seams open on both sides.
- Pin your pattern onto your joined fabrics. Place your joined fabrics right sides together and pin your pattern in place according to your design. I always pin or hand tack the seam lines together before I place the pattern on the fabric to make sure that they line up precisely when the doll is turned out.
- Sew all around your pattern pieces. Sew all around your pattern pieces on the stitch line, allowing a 1/4 inch seam and being careful to leave an opening at the side so you can turn your doll out afterwards. The arms are sewn separately and attached to the body later. This really is the very best tip I can give you – cut AFTER sewing, not before! With a tiny doll like this, I find I can sew all around the pattern itself while it is pinned to the fabric. This ensures I am stitching in exactly the right place and takes out the faff of using marker pens. Clip curves with small, sharp scissors to aid turning.
- It’s time to turn her out… Use 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 – on both sides.
- Now bring her to life – making use of your re-cycled stuffing. Using re-cycled stuffing makes this bit a little more tedious because you will need to fluff the stuffing up before you can re-use it (see the video in the tips and tricks section below). It is great for small projects like this though. Stuff using tiny pieces of stuffing and your haemostats. You are aiming for a really firm finish. When you think you really can’t get any more stuffing in JUST KEEP ON GOING. Feel where more stuffing is needed by closing your eyes and feeling with your fingers.
- Give her some shape. I love the way that the full size Tilda dolls have knees. If you want to give your doll more shape (as I did), stop stuffing when you reach her knees – 6cm up from her toe. Stitch across each knee on your sewing machine living long threads at each end which can be pulled through to the onside of the doll to conceal them and securely knotted. Then sew across the hip seam – 13cm up from the toes.
- To make sure that your doll will be able to sit nicely when you have finished, it’s a good idea to complete the stuffing process with your doll in the sitting position. Otherwise, you might overstuff her and find that she can’t sit down!
- Hand close the opening. When you have finished stuffing your doll and you are happy with the shape, hand close the opening with tiny, invisible ladder stitches.
- Attach her arms. Turn in the seam allowance on the edge of the arms and persist in place. Use pins to help you place the arms in the right place. Pin all the way around and then sew using long doll needles. Sew through the doll from left to right and top to bottom to make sure the arms are really firmly fixed and will withstand what life might throw at them later on!
- Choose her outfit. This is where the fun really begins and your doll’s character begins to take on a life of its own. I made her dress from two rectangles of fabric 15.5cm wide and 17cm long and allowed an additional 4 cm for seaming. I always like a dress to fall below the knees. Sew a seam at the top and bottom, leaving enough of an opening at the top to allow you to thread through a length of embroidery silk so you can gather up the top of the dress. Sew the dress with French seams (see my previous Tilda doll post for how to do this). When the dress is finished, slip it onto your doll and pull up the thread at the top to fit it closely to her body, pulling it in nice and tightly around her arms. Secure your threads with a double knot and trim away the excess.
- Trim her dress as you prefer. I am experimenting with whether it is better to: a) attach the lace trim to the dress BEFORE stitching the side seams or b) whether to trim all in one piece after the dress has been sewn. Option a) is less fiddly, because you can lay the skirt flat under the sewing machine foot easily. You need to be really careful to match up the seams though so it looks as if the lace goes all the way round in one piece. Also, if you do option a), it is best to leave the trim short of the side seam to avoid having too much bulk – especially if you are finishing with a French seam. The jury is still out on which option is best.
- It’s FaceTime! This is always the best and the worst part of doll making for me. It’s great, because she comes alive and becomes her own person. It is scary though when you have worked so hard to create something beautiful to take a paintbrush to it and risk ruing everything! I like to practice on some scrap fabric first to build a bit of courage up. Her eyes are made from a French knot using two strands of embroidery silk and passing the needle through the loop 5 times. I used a large needle to get a good shape for the knot. Sew the eyes from the back of the head to the front, using pins to help you place them correctly. The knots at the back of the head will be covered by her hair later. The short video attached to this post shows this process in a bit more detail. You can buy special Tilda blusher for your doll, as I did, but you can probably use your own just as well.
- A trip to the hairdresser. 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. Making Tilda doll hair is a bit like arranging your own – just keep playing with it until you get a style and shape you like! If you go wrong – don’t worry – you can easily pull it off and start over.
Your finished doll is now all set for her new life. My doll is going to Lila – for a lifetime of love. Enjoy!
Tips and Tricks
- Sewing a tiny doll can be a bit fiddly, I found a couple of additional very cheap tools invaluable. I wished I had had them in my sewing basket when I made my first Tilda doll!
- A protect and grip thimble is great for sewing on her arms.
- A needle grabber is also a brilliant little tool – it just makes the hand sewing so much quicker and easier.
- Another really useful piece of equipment is a small sleeve board. This is great for pressing your doll’s dress after you have added trim to her bloomers etc. I bought my sleeve board many years ago when I made my own wedding dress – it’s really nice to get it out again for doll making.
- Remember to test out options for your doll’s face on a piece of scrap fabric first to make sure you are happy with your plan before you set yourself loose on the real thing!
- Always be sure to pin your pattern on the straight grain of the fabric. If you don’t, you will end up with a mis-shaped doll. When you are working with up-cycled fabrics, it is so tempting to ignore this and try to make the pattern fit the fabric you have available to you – but it is NEVER worth it! Read more about how to identify the straight grain of a fabric here.