HOW TO MAKE A MINI DOLL FROM POLYMER CLAY
 
CLAY:  You can make a poseable doll from wire and polymer clay.  A wire armature allows the elbows, knees and waist to bend.  The head, hands and feet are made from clay.  If you've never worked with polymer clay before, you may want to do a little research there first...this project assumes you already know the basics.  Cook the clay in a well-ventilated area...if the clay is overheated, the fumes can be toxic.  If clay gets too soft as you work with it, put it in refrigerator for a while.  If anything needs explaining, post your questions on club message board. or come to next chat.

(hint:  use old toaster oven from garage sale for baking  - keep separate from food utensils)

TOOLS:  A clean, smooth work surface (watch the cat hair!!).  Baby wipes to keep hands clean (unless you WANT doll to have dirty face!!).  Wire, 20 gauge for body and 26 gauge for wrap (or wrap with jewelry wire).   Wire cutters.  Needle nose pliers to grasp wire.  Sculpting tools such as cuticle stick, blunt pointed darning needle, old dental tools, round toothpicks and/or purchased tool set.  One cube of clay should do.  Have 2nd one on hand, just in case!  Most clays come in flesh colors (or mix yourself from W-R-Y-B).
 
Remember, the clay will DARKEN as it cures/cooks.  Do test sample for color & baking time.  Follow instructions on package for baking.  You'll also need some cotton for padding and some muslin or narrow bias tape.
 
ARMATURE:  Cut approx 14" length of 20 gauge wire.  Bend in center (over your finger or a dowel).  Make a loop for head & twist wire together at neck (see pattern).  Continue twisting wire for torso.  Use pliers to bend the wire for hips & feet (see pattern).  Cut off any extra wire.  Cut a 5" length of  the 20 ga wire for arms.  At center, bend around torso wire & cinch tight with pliers.  Bend at shoulders.  Length of arms will be adjusted after hand & forearm are complete.  For sturdiness, wrap the entire armature with the lighter, 26 ga wire.  Criss-cross several times at torso-arm joint.  Wrap arms also.    Clean hands!
 
HEAD:  Make 2 balls of clay, approx 5/8" each.  Roll these into cylinders & place on front and back of shoulder area.  Squeeze together to attach.  Smooth seam with cuticle stick (or backside of fingernail).   (The shoulder area is only needed where neck and shoulder will show under clothes and to hold up shoulder of clothes.)  Make 2 balls, approx. 1/2" each.  Place on front & back of head (wire loop) & squeeze together in general head shape, with face flattened out, we'll add nose later.   Add small pieces of clay for neck.  Add a little more clay to back of skull.  Blend & smooth everything together til you see no seams.  Adjust  proportion of head to rest of body, if necessary.  Top of head should be about !" from shoulder.
 
Hint:  Your hand, when stretched out wide, from thumbtip to littlefingertip, is the same length as your face, from chin to hairline.  Use this hand/head measurement to estimate proportions of doll.  Just like in "horse talk", your elbow to wrist is about 1 hand, elbow to shoulder=1 hand, waist to hip=1 hand, etc.  Check your own body for matching lengths!!  For  the 1:12 scale doll pattern, a "hand" is approx 5/8".
 
FACE MODELING:   (smooth & blend pieces of clay together after EACH step! - no seams!)
1.  Add small worm of clay, vertically, to center of face (to round out front) and blend into head creating a gentle roundness in front.
2.  Squeeze sides of head as needed to maintain shape.
3.  Add a little clay for chin.  Add another small worm to front for nose.  Centered vertically and horizontally.
Define indentation for eye area by gently pushing in the clay with the back of your cuticle stick.  (note: the face is 5 eyes wide; the distance between the eyes is equal to the width of one eye)
4.  Add another clay worm to define forehead/brow.  Add small worms to define cheekbones.
Flatten the bridge of nose some and add tiny ball for tip of nose and  tiny balls to each side for nostrils.  Poke open nostrils with blunt needle or round toothpick.
5.  Using a curved edge tool, a round toothpick or the flat side of cuticle stick, gently press in to open the mouth (like using a tongue depressor).  Just "open" mouth, no need to remove clay.
6.  Depending on the look you want to achieve, add teeny worms of clay for upper & lower lips.  Blend.  Define lower lip and chin by pushing in a little dent under lip.  Here you can add laugh lines (from nose to lower lip area), teeth, tongue, etc. to define your "character".  For closed mouth, after lips are done, gently push chin to close mouth.  If you add teeth, make them out of same color clay and make them out of one solid piece...not individual teeth.  After baking, you can paint teeth an off-white color.  Don't use pure white.
7.  Finish off the face by defining the area under the nose (keep mirror next to you); adding more to cheekbones, chin, wrinkles between eyes, etc. and adding tiny worms to build up eyelids.  Use a needlepoint or darning needle to define lash area and tear ducts.  Push down gently (with your finger) above eyes, near nose, to define eyebrow curve. (hint: Make & bake eyeballs separately (in advance) out of off-white clay.  Push baked eyeballs into indentation for eye area, then add worm of clay for lids.  Make a few different sizes for your first try, til you get size right.)
8.  Add small worms for ears.  Ears are centered in head (in profile), are about the size of the space from eye to nostril, and line up with eye to nostril area.  Press in appropriate indentations inside ear.
Apply denatured alcohol SPARINGLY (very carefully, it is a solvent & will melt clay) to skin area to smooth and create translucent "skin" effect when baked.  Never paint skin.   Before baking, use powder blush on the end of fingertip to add "blush" to cheeks or use powder eye shadow colors for eyelids, 5 o'clock shadow, etc.  Use Q-tip (twisted tight) to blush lips a natural color.
 
HAIR:  Fill in hair with thin, flattened pieces of clay or clay ropes and sculpt hair - or - plan on adding doll hair after baking (glued on).  Clay hair can be made of "flesh" color and painted after baking or can be made of "hair" color.  Try squeezing clay hair thru different kitchen utensils to get different hair effects, such as curly (or buy clay tool that does that).   If you use purchased doll hair, look for the tiniest little curls you can find.  Cotton may also be used for "Santa" type hair.
 
Don't forget to keep hands clean!!  Especially if another clay color is used.
 
BAKE: Head is ready for baking.  If you try to add feet and hands to wire armature before head is baked/cured, you risk messing up all your hard work!   It won't hurt to bake head again when feet/hands are added (as long as you follow your package instructions and don't overheat).
 
FEET & SHOES:  Adjust foot armature to finished position.  Add large worms of clay to feet/ankle area.  Up to just below knee if that part will show under dress, otherwise, just above ankle.    The foot is approx 1 1/2 "hands".  Decide whether you're going to make shoes out of clay or out of something else after doll is done.  If you are going to "sew" shoes, a general, blocked foot shape is adequate (clay can be trimmed some after baking).  Clay shoes can look quite realistic.  Make them right along with foot out of "flesh" (for painting AFTER baking).
 
It's very effective to make shoes of clay, and, when everything is done and painted, glue tiny bits of ribbed fabric around ankle for "slouch" socks or around thigh for knee socks.  For ultra-shiny shoes:  After baking and painting, coat with clear nail polish.  For fuzzy slippers:  Make general foot shape, then, after doll is done, paint bottom of feet flat black and glue chenille stems (pipe cleaners) around foot.  For "go-ahead's" and slip-on's, add appropriate clay shape before baking or just add sole before baking and then glue strip of fabric or ribbon across arch.
 
BAKE AGAIN.  Support figure on a scrap lump of clay to keep head & feet from touching bottom of pan.  They will melt and flatten as they bake if they are laying flat.
 
HANDS:   Mold a hand/wrist/forearm shape out of clay, about 3/16" thick, following pattern.  Little balls may be added for knuckles.  Make hand in a position that keeps fingers together or they'll be too fragile.  Press in fingernails with flat side of cuticle stick.  If doll is to hold an object, fit hand to object before baking to give it appropriate shape.  Stand the arms up to bake - impale arm onto one end of rounded toothpick and stick other end of toothpick into spare lump of clay.   When done, the arms will be glued onto armature.  The entire arm should be about 3 "hands" from shoulder to fingertip.  (Hands resting at side reach to crotch area).
 
FINISHING:
Place (don't glue) arm/hand onto wire to determine how much of wire needs to be cut off to result in correct arm length.  It may be easier to glue arm/hand onto wire AFTER dressing doll.  You decide.
Drop a tiny drop of clear nail polish onto eyeball (carefully!) for nice shiny eyes.  If glossy red lips are appropriate, shine them up too.  Paint fingernails with clear or colored polish.  Don't forget toes, if barefoot!   If hair is clay, gloss some highlights after painting hair color. Make teeth shiny.
Wrap entire torso with 1/4" bias strips  (purchased narrow tape or torn yourself from muslin).  Add small pieces of cotton batting (or cotton that comes in box in cosmetic dept) to pad/shape the body in appropriate places as you wrap.  Glue or stitch bias strips where needed to hold in place.  Don't add so much padding that doll can't bend to sit!
 
Add hair and clothing.  Some doll hairdo's work better if hair is glued on in "backwards" position, falling over face, then "combed" back.  You can use needle to comb.  You could make little hair rollers from clay and trim & glue hair to rollers.  Make clothes out of fabric that is light enough in weight to drape properly to scale.  An old, thin, wore out facecloth would make a nice shabby robe!  Clothes can be glued on - gluing sleeves separate from torso, etc.  If doll is to wear shirt & jacket, or more than one layer of clothes, only glue on part of "shirt" , or underskirt, or nightgown, that will show - no need for entire "shirt".  Hair spray will stiffen the "drape", if desired.
Doll should stand up by itself.  It may be necessary to sand bottom of feet a little.
 
This is a lot to explain and I hope I haven't left anything out!!  If you have any questions, post them on the Club message board .  Good luck with your project!!!   We want to see a photo when you're done!!

 

 

 

Send mail to webmaster with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright 2001 TMP Creations and Dollhouse Miniatures Club on Yahoo!
Last modified: June 20, 2001