How to Make an African Fabric Doll

Assemble a huggable doll using a brown dress sock, yarn and colorful African print fabric.
By: Tia Richardson
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Materials and Tools:

brown unribbed women's calf length dress sock
bag stuffing (for stuffing body)
polystyrene 1-1/2"- 2" diameter ball (for stuffing head)
small sewing needle
brown thread to match sock
black or light brown thread (for eyes)
chocolate brown fabric paint (for lips)
1/4 bolt (at least) of regular black yarn (for hair)
small store-bought or handmade beads for jewelry (necklace, bracelet, earrings)
thin metallic gold decorative string/thread (armbands and necklace)
.5 x .5 sq. yd. African fabric or African-inspired print
6" x 6" strong, sturdy mounting board (used for base of doll)
fabric glue
scissors
compass
chalk
small bottle of clear-drying white glue

Steps:

Arms

  1. Turn the sock so that the toe faces away from you. From the open end, cut vertically, lengthwise up the center of the sock approximately 3-1/2 inches. The two long pieces will form the arms. Finish cutting the arms by cutting across the entire width of the sock at the end of the last cut.
  2. Turn each piece inside out and fold it in half lengthwise to sew up the arms.
  3. Starting at the crease of one end, sew the edges together to form a closed. The entire width of the arm after sewing and turning inside out should be no more than 1/2 inch wide. If more than 1 inch, cut off the excess fabric outside of the seam with scissors. Leave at least 1/4-inch fabric outside of the seam.
  4. Turn right side in and stuff with fiberfill stuffing. Fill lightly. Set arms aside.

Head

  1. Wrap the polystyrene ball with polyfil, padding lightly and shaping as desired.
  2. Place the covered ball inside the remainder of the sock all the way to the toe. Add stuffing to the body up to 8 inches high. Add more stuffing to the base and shape so that it tapers inward from base to neck.
  3. Draw a 3-inch diameter circle on the mounting board with the compass.
  4. Cut out the circle with scissors. This will form the base for the doll.
  5. Put the circle base inside the doll and position it flat, perpendicular to the length of sock. Position it so the foot seam on the outside hugs the outer rim of the base. Cut off excess sock fabric.
  6. Hand-stitch the base seam along the edge of the base. Tie off.
  7. Thread needle with new thread and wrap it tightly three times around the base of the ball (head) to form the neck. Secure by sewing a knot into the sock at the neck.
  8. Attach the arms just below the neck. First, fold over the open end of the arm making sure all the stuffing is inside. With the open end folded under attach it to the body, sewing it closed in the process. Repeat for the other arm on the opposite side of the body.

Face

  1. To create a three-dimensional nose, thread needle with brown thread. In the center of the face begin by sewing a knot into the face. Insert needle and make a button nose by creating large stitches in the shape of a 1/4-inch square and pull firmly to desired shape.
  2. For eyes, embroider each eye in the shape of an almond using black thread.
  3. For mouth, using fabric paint create the top lip by applying one thick single application of paint. This must be done slowly to ensure paint thickness for full lips. Create the bottom lip in one thick application. Let the paint dry for 24 hours.

Hair

  1. Cut 30 to 40 strips of yarn 6 inches long. Fold each strip in half.
  2. Sew each strip into the head around the perimeter at the hairline. Each strip must be sewn close together to prevent the sock from showing underneath. Do this until enough hair can be pulled back into a ponytail. You may need more or less yarn depending on how you sew.
  3. Gather the hair into ponytail and tie it together with a strand of yarn. Let ends hang loose. For a bigger effect, pull each piece of yarn apart to let the hair hang.
  4. Trim hair to desired length. 

Dress

  1. From African fabric, cut 7" x 5" strip for the underskirt.
  2. Cut 18" x 5" long strip for the gathered skirt. 
  3. Cut two 4"x 1/2" strips for the sleeves.
  4. Cut 7-10" x 2" strip for the head wrap.
  5. Cut 5" x 4" long strip for the bodice. Fold in half lengthwise. Unfold. Measure and mark with chalk a 2-inch diameter circle with compass across centerfold. Refold. Cut a half-circle along the marks for the neck hole.
  6. Seal all edges of fabric by laying fabric facedown. Apply a thin line of fabric glue to all raw edges, including the inside of the neck hole.
  7. Sew both ends together on 5-inch edge, leaving at least 1/2 inch free from the outer seam.
  8. Bodice: Fold the short way, right sides together and sew both edges (waist) halfway up to leave an armhole.
  9. With the bodice still inside out, sew 7" x 5" strip inside out to the open edge of the bodice, gathering fabric while joining. Continue around the entire bodice. While gathering make sure to leave enough fabric to sew around the back.
  10. With dress still inside out, make sleeves by sewing and gathering the short end of one of the 4"x 1/2" strips (inside out) to the perimeter edge of the armhole. Repeat for other side.
  11. Turn the dress and underskirt right side out. Dress the doll with the underskirt first. It should fit snugly. Then place the dress over the head. It should go on snugly around the head.
  12. Head wrap: Find the middle of 7-10" x 2" strip and position it against the back of the head. Wrap the ends around the side of the head in opposite directions one to two times and tie a knot in front. Spread ends in a fan shape for decoration.

Jewelry

  1. Gold bracelets and necklace: Wrap gold thread snugly but not tightly as many times as desirable (4 to 5 times) around the wrists and neck. Cut and tie into a tight knot. Cut excess length short. Secure ends by placing a dab of fabric glue onto the knots and let dry. Bracelets may be further secured to the doll by needle and thread with one knot.
  2. Earrings: Choose two beads or pendants and secure to both sides of the head just under the head wrap. Thread knotted needle into the hole of the bead leaving knotted end loose. Secure the bead by doubling back through the thread and pulling until knot is snug against the bead. Secure to fabric by sewing tightly to head - not letting bead dangle by the thread - and knotting.
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